Why Wasn’t I Asked to Help Plan the Funeral?
When a loved one dies—whether it is a parent, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, or a close friend—it is natural to want to participate in the funeral planning process. Your relationship with the deceased was unique and special, and the best way to strengthen that bond is to be in the room where the important burial decisions are being made.
However, unless you are the next of kin (defined first as a spouse and second as the closest living blood relative) or have been named as the executor of the will, you might not be asked to help with the funeral plans. Depending on your relationship to the deceased and his or her family, this may cause hurt feelings, emotional strain, and additional grief.
Who Decides about Funeral Plans?
Ideally, the deceased will have made pre-arranged funeral plans or written a will that clearly lays out who is responsible for the funeral planning process. In these cases, most of the funeral plans will be already decided on—and paid for—so there is no need for outside input or influence, no matter how well-meaning it is.
If the deceased did not put advance funeral plans in writing, there is a chance they discussed their wishes with those closest to them. This is usually a spouse, partner, or adult children responsible for their care. Although you might feel that your presence would help ensure that the funeral plans are properly laid out, discussions may have happened outside of your knowledge. In order to keep things streamlined and simple, the family may keep the circle as small as possible.
Not to mention, it is fairly common practice for the person paying for the funeral to make most of the funeral decisions. If you are being asked to financially contribute to the funeral plans, then you should be included in the planning process. Unless you are footing the bill, you might not have any legal or ethical right to participate and should respect the family’s wishes accordingly.
The one exception to this is when a romantic partner is being excluded from the funeral plans because the family has cultural, religious, or personal biases against the relationship. This can be an incredibly painful situation in which the partner has no legal standing to help plan the funeral even though they were the closest to the deceased. While some states will recognize cohabitation as equal to marriage and act accordingly, this can take time to accomplish (usually long after the funeral is over). The best way to protect against this type of situation is for both partners to make a will or advance funeral plans.
Alternate Grief Options
If you have been excluded from the funeral plans and are feeling hurt, there are ways to address your feelings. Although nothing can replace a formal funeral, you can:
- Create an altar
- Erect a plaque
- Donate money to an organization that was dear to the deceased
- Hold your own memorial service at a later date
- Process your grief through a creative activity like journaling or scrapbooking
- Create a memorial website
- Invite friends and family to a “favorite recipes” potluck
- Host a dinner or annual gathering
- Visit the grave on your own terms
You should also seriously consider attending the funeral even if you were not part of the planning process. Remember—everyone is grieving right now. This a time to be gracious and kind, and to recall that everybody has one big thing in common: your love for the deceased.