What Your Question: is it wrong not to have a funeral?

whats your questionBack in September we started a ‘What’s Your Question’ series here on What’s Your Grief.  To those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for the next installment, the day has finally arrived . . . four months later.  Better late than never, right?   To be fair, many of your questions come in through comments and it is just so tempting to answer immediately, rather than wait for a post.  I know, excuses, excuses . . . on with it already.

Today’s question came in as a comment from one of our readers who asked, “is it wrong not to have a funeral?”.  Her concern was one I have heard echoed by many others, who are all worried that not having a funeral may hinder finding “closure”.

This is a complicated question, and the fact that we don’t have a whole lot of context for it makes it even more complex.  First things first – let’s talk about what a funeral is and what it is not.  Funerals are (often not always) a place to start the process of mourning with friends and family as our grief is first unfolding.  Funerals are not a place to find ‘closure’ (I could insert a whole post-within-a-post here on why I hate the word closure, but I will restrain myself.  I will keep it at this: we grieve forever in different ways.  What we find looks a lot more like integration and a lot less like closure).

If one is considering not having a funeral it is often for one of two reasons:

1)      The person who died expressly stated they didn’t want a funeral.

2)      Someone (or multiple people) in the family does not want to have a funeral.

Let’s tackle the first reason first (because that seems logical).  If your loved one expressly stated they didn’t want a funeral you may be feeling and one of a wide range of emotions, from fine with it, to downright furious that your loved one took this choice from you. If you are feeling fine with it (or just a little annoyed), but you’re worried extended family and friends will be resentful or won’t find ‘closure’, my suggestion is that you honor what your loved one wanted.  Your last act on their behalf will be honoring a wish that was important enough that they shared it with others.  If you and other family are still looking for a way to memorialize, there are plenty of other alternatives.  With a little thoughtful planning, you can find some alternatives that will fill that need for a ritual to remember and grieve, without having a traditional funeral.  We will be posting some alternatives in a follow up to this post, so keep an eye out.

If you are on the other end of the spectrum, all sorts of angry and bitter that your loved one is trying to slight you out of a funeral, you are not alone.  There are plenty of grievers who have been frustrated by funeral wishes that they didn’t have in mind, from cremation instead of an open casket, to no funeral at all.  I can’t offer you the perfect answer here, just a suggestion – think long and hard about whether you want to go against what your loved one wanted.  Here is a little personal rant to demonstrate why this is important:  I’ll be pissed if my family violates my wishes.  I’ll be super pissed, in fact, since I’ve gone out of my way to make my wishes known.  But let’s be real – I’ll be dead, so there won’t be much I can do about it.  If they can live with violating my wishes without guilt, because it is really and truly the only thing they feel will work for them and their grief, that is on them.  I sure hope they think long and hard about it first.

My suggestion to anyone standing on that treacherous ground is to really take the time to think it through – talk it over, give it a week or two, and don’t rush to make a decision.  Once you have violated their wishes you can’t take it back, so be thoughtful.  And keep in mind, if you’re thinking about wishes in an advanced directive, and organ donor designation, or signed paperwork for whole body donation, those are all legally binding and you can’t change those wishes even if you want to – so get used to them and start figuring out how to work them into a remembrance that will work for your own grief.  There truly are dozens of ways to remember and honor a loved one that can be meaningful for you without violating what your loved one wanted, so make sure you have considered all those options before rushing to meet with a funeral director.

Now, you may be thinking of forgoing a funeral simply because you can’t face the reality of it – the reality of planning it, the reality of attending it, or the reality that it is happening at all.   Don’t worry, when it comes to grief the “can’t I just bury my head in the sand and pretend this isn’t happening??” approach is not uncommon.  I think every griever has wished they could do that at one time or another.  Sadly, you can’t avoid it forever.  This brings me back to what a funeral is – a funeral is a place to start your grieving with those who will be grieving with you in the weeks, months, and years to come.  It can be a really important ritual and the first step for so many people, and as much as you may be dreading it, you may be surprised at the comfort you find in meeting people you may never have known were touched by your loved one in some way.

If you are dreading the whole concept of a funeral, keep in mind that a funeral will be whatever you make it.  It does not need to look like a traditional funeral.  If you don’t want it you don’t have to go the whole open casket, a formal mass, or traditional funeral home route.  A funeral or memorial is something that can happen in whatever space and with whatever format works for you and your family.  There is no need to rush to plan something, especially if some time will allow more people to attend and for friends and family to plan something especially meaningful.

If you are looking for some funeral inspiration, don’t miss this incredible video created by the Edmonds family after the loss of their son, Josh.  If it is the stuffy-old-funeral-tradition that has got you dreading the prospect of a funeral, this may get you thinking outside the box.

In summary, is it wrong not to have a funeral?  No! Will it prevent you from grieving in a healthy way?  No, not if you are at peace with it and have an alternative ritual that works for you.  Does this mean you shouldn’t have a funeral? No! It means, like with everything in grief, that you need to find what works for you.

We couldn’t cram everything into one to post, so subscribe to get our upcoming post on alternatives to a funeral.  Leave a comment to share how you dealt with conflict about whether or not to have a funeral.  Have another question you’d like us to tackle?  Leave a comment or shoot us an email to let us know!

March 28, 2017

60 responses on "What Your Question: is it wrong not to have a funeral?"

  1. I feel, if you weren’t there for me in Life, i dont want you there for me in death! When you make a choice, you have to be able to bare all consequences of that choice, and if you chose to not share my life, you cant hold any grudges and would have to live with the regret of not getting a chance to say goodbye, and in that hopefully future relationships will be improved as to avoid such an experience with those still alive!

  2. My mother died on February 10 th 2018 at 9:37 am. My twin brother, wife to be and I were there with her. She died quietly and we sat with her for hours went and ate and that was it. He got the card board box a few day later with her ashes. We are estranged I have not spoken to him since. He is not ok in my book he had problems with my mother. He wanted me to arrange the funeral yet I am in an impossible situation and have absolutely no means to accomplish arranging any funeral. He is in the position and has many people who could support him with arranging it. He is getting married in on aSeptember 27 th , and I think it is absurd and an affront to my mother’s memory. To celebrate a new beginning while never honoring where you began life. I was thinking of wearing black to his wedding. I’m not a big fan of him or his wife to be I think he is a monster: My question what do you think of what I may do in rebellion of his wedding , aside from my immature stance and statement -I’d be making by wearing black to his wedding. Thank you Nadine

  3. I do not want a funeral when I die. I simply want to be taken from the place of my death and buried. Funerals are nothing more than money making scams for those in the business, and performance centers for the phony, crocodile tear bearing relatives. If you love and respect a person, you show them that while they are alive to know about it and appreciate it. I have a relative who has sold off land that belonged to all of his siblings, yet, my mom was the only one excluded from reaping any benefits of her parents land out of all the siblings. My mom had been sick a long time with dementia and has now passed on. This same relative, only visited my mom when he happened to be in town for another reason, but never specifically for her. He only did it to save face in case someone should find out he in town. Mom spent the last week of her life in the hospital. He did not show up because he had decided that she was going to die anyway, so why make two trips, just wait for her to die then show up at the funeral pretending to care. However, he and all of the other phonies ended up being disappointed. Never caring to put money in the ground and knowing the phonies who would show up, I had long decided that a funeral of performance art would not take place. Now, the whole “family” is upset because they were not given the opportunity to travel from afar, put on their performances, show off their clothes, and brag about their lives. They are the same ones who disrespected her, sponged off her, and didn’t bother to visit. Now they’re so-called upset. This same relative who waited for her death thinking he’d show up at the funeral, has shown his true colors. Since her passing, he has told lies on me and to me. This only proves that I was right to not have a funeral.

  4. We don’t do funerals in my family. We never have. We might have some small only family get together to share memories of them or we may not, but they are never forgotten. Some people choose not to speak of someone after they’ve passed. That’s not true in my family. It may seem strange, but it works for us.

  5. I have had two brothers pass away within 2 months. And I’ve dug deep into my pockets to pay the cost for both of them. Because they were unprepared and no plans. Take it from me people,be prepared and have a map to take you where you want to go on your next Journey.

  6. I have had two brothers pass away within 2 months. And I’ve dug deep into my pockets to pay the cost for both of them. Because they were unprepared and no plans. Take it from me people be prepared and have a map to take you where you want to go on your next Journey.

  7. My father’s side of the family is Catholic – Irish and Indigenous – and quite large. I grew up with wakes, funerals, memorials, etc. and generally a very ritualized series of actions to follow a loss stemming from both cultural and religious roots. My mother’s family is small and without much tradition. I was always very close to my maternal grandfather who just passed away. His children opted to forgo any kind of funeral or ceremony, and it has shed tremendous light for me onto just how important these death rites are to the grieving process. I have experienced a lot of loss in my life, and many were far more tragic than the loss of an aged grandfather, but the lack of ceremony has made this the most difficult loss to cope with in many ways.

    My advice to readers is this – have a service. Include a reading of some kind and eulogy of some kind to reflect on the person lost and the nature of life and death. Have songs. They are such a special kind of memory. Let people gather – some people truly need a shoulder to cry on and won’t seek comfort on their own. Put your loved ones away with some regard, and add a page to your history. It WILL bring some measure of comfort to someone grieving, and that alone is worthwhile, I think. Most all intact cultures ritualize death and for good reason – it helps the living. I think these days people live with a lot of disconnect from themselves, the people around them, from life and from death, and that they sometimes shy away from what is vulnerable or hard. My grandfather’s children didn’t have a service because, I think, they didn’t know precisely what to do. But there isn’t a wrong anser. let people work together, and just do something. It does mean something, and it does help.

  8. My brother died three days ago, and he didn’t want a funeral or memorial service.

    This lack of a traditional gathering has made me feel lost, alone, and confused. It seems like something is unfinished and undone. I don’t know what to do. Should I send flowers? If so, to whom? Should I go visit people? Should I take food? Gifts? Should I plan some kind of get together at my home?

    It seems like the family and I are expressing our grief to each other on Facebook, via email, and the telephone. This digital funeral just isn’t cutting it. I need a human connection so that we can share memories and express our grief.

    If he didn’t want a funeral, fine. I understand. But I don’t get the lack of a memorial where the family could get together and celebrate his life.

  9. My sweet mom has passed. I am her only girl and she lived with me most of the last few years if her life. She went to visit a brother, fell ill, & never was strong enough to make the trip back to me and my family who lived her deeply. On the other hand two of my brothers and their wives did not like my mom. They have taken control of her remains. Failed to allow access or information for the last week since her death. They are refusing to inform me of plans for her burial and denying me and many other family members any type of ceremony prior to her burial. Many relatives and friends have wanted to travel to celebrate her life and grief her loss but are being shut out of this opportunity. My heart is breaking. She gave so much and so many want to pay their respects to this special lady. It appears that these estranged brothers will bury her out of state with nothing and nobody. What a tragic failure to honor such a remarkable lady who touched so many. I need to find a way to support those who ❤️ are actually grieving her loss, loved her and be able to find a dignified way to show my own respect for my dear mom. I remain 😳 shocked by the callous disrespect of my mom, me, & others by their handling of this important life event.

    • My heart breaks reading about your mom’s passing & the way your brothers have handled this situation. Shame on them! Your mother sounds like a very wonderful & sweet lady and it’s too bad that you were not given the God given privilege to mourn her death in the way in which you do needed & deserved. Bless you🙏🏻

  10. Thanks for this.

    My dad died so suddenly. My mom chose cremation for him. Honestly, I myself did not want to go through the whole funeral process. I couldn’t accept that dad’s gone. Also, I remember my dad trying to hide away from people he knew before. He worked as an OFW and only returned for my graduation. But then not long after, he died in a heart attack.

    His family ridiculed us, judged us, said bad things, bullied us even. But honestly that’s all they did, to be bad people to us who already lost a husband and dad. They insisted it’s because of money and judged us, even when we told them politely that dad didn’t care about people. And even then, they never truly offered any help. My dad hated being stared at, looked at, talked about. Mostly because he’s the kind of person who doesn’t have friends and doesn’t trust much. He thought people are hypocrites and hate assholes. Turned out the family he grew up with would be the biggest assholes in our lives. In the saddest moment of our lives, they added and inflicted more pain and that’s why now, we honestly do not want anything to do with them.

    Some moments I actually worry we made the wrong choice. But then, I guess not. Because I love dad. And now he’s gone. In the end, it’s his memories that we think about.

  11. IF YOU’VE OUTLIVED YOUR FRIENDS & YOUR SON HAS INFORMED HIS WIFE THAT HE NEVER HAD A GOOD DAY IN HIS LIFE WITH ME, WHY WOULD YOU HAVE A MEMORIAL MASS ?

  12. My husband just died 2 days ago after a short but devastating illness at age 78. My children are grown and like me, don’t want a big funeral. Just a private scattering of ashes. My husband was well liked, family on both sides all get along. His family is catholic and want a funeral and mass. They are willing to travel across the country to attend. Friends and past co-workers want to come. I don’t want a public service because I don’t want to deal with the attention and interactions. Also it is expensive. My husband and I talked about lots of things but not the funeral ideas. With his religious background he probably would like a funeral. The kids and I dread it big time. I’m wondering if I am being too selfish.

  13. What a great topic. My mom was clear she did not want a funeral. Her words were something to the effect of not wanting a “pity party.” Instead I waited until there was a date when we could have a celebration of life gathering in her state where her friends were. It was difficult planning everything long distance but everything was so wonderful and I felt it would have made her happy. No pity party. People sharing good memories and i was able to hear stories from her peers that I didn’t know. So glad i knew what she wanted.

  14. I’m not having a funeral for my mother. Because I truly believe that we should love and celebrate people while they are alive. Who needs people coming from every where pretending to care when a person is dead but while they were sick for years no one shows up or even calls. Now I’m suppose to put myself under extra stress planning and putting together a funeral for people who acted like my mother didn’t exist when she was alive. The devil is a lie. I don’t want to hear all those fake people make untrue statements like, “If you need anything let me know?” Hell the person is dead now. People if someone means something to you don’t wait until they are dead to show up and act like you care. Show the person while they are alive. It’s insane to pop up at a funeral and you haven’t even talked to the person in 30 years talking bout, “I’ m sure gone miss Sally.” Get out of hear. Show love while they’re alive and you’ll never need to say it.

    • I agree with you 100%! If you really care for someone, while they are a live, spend some time with them! I want my flowers while I am alive!

    • Hi Laurie
      Your comment reflects exactly how I feel. I am 56yrs old and have suffered illness most of my life, the last 20yrs I’ve mostly been housebound, I’m naturally a social and empathetic person, however, I never hear from people from my past now, only the odd few who I tend to phone etc. My illness is sort of invisible ME/CFS and struggle most days with simple things etc. I’ve decided when I die I want a ‘Private ‘ funeral with just immediate family. I absolutely hate the idea of people turning up when they weren’t interested in me when I was alive, to me that is being false and two faced.
      Jacqueline

    • Hi Laurie
      Your comment reflects exactly how I feel. I am 56yrs old and have suffered illness most of my life, the last 20yrs I’ve mostly been housebound, I’m naturally a social and empathetic person, however, I never hear from people from my past now, only the odd few who I tend to phone etc. My illness is sort of invisible ME/CFS and struggle most days with simple things etc. I’ve decided when I die I want a ‘Private ‘ funeral with just immediate family. I absolutely hate the idea of people turning up when they weren’t interested in me when I was alive, to me that is being false and two faced.
      Jacqueline

    • All the right
      Work I’ve been saying and looking for in this post .
      I don’t want a funeral Sorry not Sorry. Like you said people be sick for years and not one phone call. Some people go to funerals to even judge .. it’s a show for many. When I was younger I thought 💭 if I die. I want a grand funeral. Will keep a big insurance policy just for this occasion . I’m glad I didn’t die young. I want to live my life and when I live this earth 🌏. I Don’t want a funeral period !!!!!! I don’t want a viewing of my body !!!!! I want to go straight from Morgue to Buied at grave site . I do however love ❤️ flowers 🌺. They are more than welcome to have a honorable celebration in my name. All the pictures and people can talk about me Have a program paper 📝

  15. My dad passed away recently. Nobody gave a eulogy at the funeral. I thought the pastor was going to talk more about my dad. He hardly mentioned him. This has bothered me ever since. We had a photo slide show during visitation. But I feel like without having a eulogy we didn’t tell that my dad’s life mattered. I feel tremendous guilt.

    • Hi, just wanted to say that I can relate. We didn’t give dad a funeral. Now his ashes are at home. Though mom’s actually telling me we should keep him not at home since it’s bad to have the dead in your house.

      What I’m trying to say is, it’s okay. You know what’s important is that you shared his life with him. And you loved him. And when you remember him, you think of the good things, memories that brings a smile to your face (even if they also make you cry sometimes). We loved our dad because they loved us. Once upon a time, when they were alive, they loved us and we loved them back.

      I’m sure our dads wouldn’t want us guilty. If anything, because we are their daughters, they would tell us to screw the judgers and just let ourselves be happy. We are the living. And right now, it’s our chance to live and be happy 🙂

  16. My wife is dying. She has little time left. Her family will be furious they realise that we’ve opted for ‘no funeral’. However, given that no-one from her clan has ever been to visit or show any concern then the whole ceremony would be nothing more than a ridiculous circus. The only possible reason for a family to attend the funeral would be to keep up appearances. So, I shall deal with the formalities without fuss or celebration. I intend to gather a few friends and dine in the warmth of beautiful memories and gentle conversation. After forty years of marriage and years of caring for her without support, there can be no other way.

  17. My personal opinion is: funerals, memorial services, etc. are for the living. I will be gone. I want my children to do whatever they feel they need to do. If they want to cremate me and split me up – that’s fine. If they want a viewing and burial – that’s fine. It is up to them and they know it. It will paid for by my life insurance so they will know what they have available financially. That’s just how I feel; I’m not pushing my opinion on anyone else.

  18. Totally agree with no funeral or service,im not keen on religion or tradition either,so why woud I participate in either,and its a waste of good money as well,just keeping the funeral business going,id rather leave the small amount I have to my family,so they can maybe get a holiday or something after I’m gone,a more fitting memorial to me,id rather they sat with a few glasses of champagne on holiday than watch my body get lowered to the ground,x

  19. I want to leave my body for whatever spare parts may be useful to others or to medical science. I really don’t see the point in any sort of memorial service, though there are a few pieces of music I’d like to have my loved ones take time listen to and hopefully appreciate. I’ll be compiling these onto a CD, and setting aside what a funeral would have cost, so they can all go off to a villa in Spain for a week and have a jolly good holiday, possibly (their choice) with a few fond memories of me thrown in.

    • I like your thoughts….I have no money to offer….I’m just looking to get out of all the silliness…no matter what they will have to deal with their demons. No matter where they go. I’m not sure how to die without dealing with the funeral and all the nonsense…I wish I knew a serial killer so I could just dissapear.

  20. I’m single and retired. The only family I have are my brother’s 2 ex-wives that hate each other. Through the years they have put me in the middle forcing me to choose them and my nephews. Whenever one find out I visited the other one, they go out of their way to punish me by mean and hurting me. Although I love my nieces and nephews, these women pulled them to their side and I’m left alone. There is no pleasing them and I have just learned to stay away. I’m almost 70 and in good health but do think about when I die. All I want is to be cremated and have my ashes spread at sea. Who will do it? I have friends but in other states.

  21. I am 55 old mother of 3 and not happily married. I love my children to bits and they know the circumstances of my marriage. My parents got divorced when I was 8 and we ended up in boarding schools all our lives. I always wanted to be happily married but it was never mend to be. At this stage I feel hopeless and alone and life does not have any meaning. I am thinking of committing suicide and wish not to have a funeral. I want to spare my kids explaining to family members the married life I had.

    • W, If you are having any thoughts of hurting yourself please seek help immediately. You can walk into your local emergency room or call the suicide hotline 1 (800) 273-8255 (if you are in the US) and +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (if you are in the UK). If you are elsewhere just google suicide hotline and your country name. It is so common to feel as if there is no way out other and suicide but please know there are ALWAYS other ways. You are not alone – you have children you love and, though being stuck in an unhappy marriage can feel helpless, hopeless, and consuming suicide is not the only option. I would encourage you to connect with a therapist right away as well, which a suicide hotline or emergency room can help with. When we are so stuck in the midst of a life situation it can feel impossible to find hope or any way out. A therapist may be able to help you consider how to move forward. If you have experienced or are experiencing abuse/domestic violence in your relationship please know there is a tremendous amount of support. Beyond just counselors and support groups there are domestic violence shelters that can provide you safe transitional housing. This website has a locator for services. https://www.domesticshelters.org/. Please take care and seek help and support right away – the world and your kids deserve to have you here. I know it may not feel like it, but there is life beyond your current situation. Please tell us what other support you feel like you might need and we will see if we can connect you with the services you need.

    • suicide would really hurt your kids this is not the way put them first please

    • To W. (and anyone else who may be thinking about ending their life): Please don’t do it. Your children love you, and more importantly, God loves you. You are precious to him. Don’t let the circumstances of your life dictate your value. You are infinitely valuable to God and to this world. He has a purpose and a plan for your life. You are not here by accident. There is help and there is hope.
      Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil..”
      Whatever difficulties you may be going through, suicide is not the answer. It is just a lie from Satan, who has come to kill, steal, and destroy. Jesus has come to give you life more abundantly (John 10:10)
      Please make use of the resources mentioned above, but more importantly, ask God to make himself real to you and to surround you with his love. I prayed for you today.
      John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.” God loves you so much that he gave his only son for you. All you have to do is believe, ask him to forgive your sins,and trust in Him. He is our only true hope.
      My family and I have experienced this recently, when my Dad suddenly passed away in March of this year. We miss him a lot and we are grieving, but we have hope. We know that the separation is temporary and that we will see him again. We are experiencing the Lord’s amazing comfort, provision, and peace throughout this difficult time. My hope is that this testimony is an encouragement for those of you who are dealing with grief. The pain is real, but God is much more real. He is more than willing to give you comfort, peace and healing. All you have to do is turn to him. If anyone has questions or you just want to talk, please let me know.

  22. My daughter passed away at two months old from a blood clot in her heart. She was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and many more heart defects. Had surgeries and more surgeries to find out she declined from a blood clot. Anyway, we chose to have her cremated, the funeral home offered free services but we declined them. Instead we had a celebration of life sort of gathering for all of her supporters, and family. We didn’t bury her, we kept her ashes in a little urn and some in urn necklaces and she will be buried with us when the time comes.

    • I think that’s lovely you’ve kept your wee daughters ashes to bury with yourselves when the time comes. X.

  23. I’m Catholic and I’m not having a wake, funeral Mass, or committal service. I’m having a direct cremation with no services of any type. There will be no obituary. There will be no newspaper announcements. My son will be responsible for getting my ashes to my niche. This is all set up legally so my wishes have to be followed. Why? This is what I want. In this case it IS all about me. I consider funerals to be a total waste of everyone’s time and in this case, my money. What I consider a much better use of my money is to make sure as much of it as possible goes to my son. He’ll need it more than I will. He’s the only family I have. Yes, my parish priests aren’t happy with me but they’ll respect my wishes. Friends aren’t happy but agree that it is my choice and they’ll respect my wishes. To each his or her own. If having a service helped you that’s great. Funerals have never been important in my family. They’re not at all important to me and as I said earlier, they’re just a waste of time and money.

  24. As a funeral Director I will say this… A ritual to mark the end of a life need not be traditionally religious at all but a ritual is the way cultures in all times and places have marked significant events in their communities. Religious holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah carry traditions that have been around for generations. Babies are often christened or dedicated. We gather to celebrate the marriage of friends. Birthdays call for cake and candles. Why would we allow the death of a loved one to pass without ceremony? Rituals are not optional to a healthy culture: they tell us where we’ve been, they bind us together and they give us courage for the journey ahead.
    The ritual of the funeral or the memorial service has several purposes. First of all, it helps mourners recognize the loss as real and to acknowledge the death not just in fact but also in feeling and even for just the short time of the service we give ourselves permission to experience the loss and grieve.
    We also gather to celebrate the life that is now gone from us, to recollect and to remember, as in “to make whole again”. I have to remind families all of the time THE SERVICE IS NOT FOR THE DEAD, IT IS FOR THE LIVING. If the service is done well, the service will bring at least a partial sense of closure to the void that one feels at these times. The purpose of all ritual is transformation; we come to the service in one state and we leave in another. ( we come as “bereaved” and leave as mourners” there is a transformation that takes place. So again, the service is not for the deceased it is for the living. I do not feel as though it is fit for someone to tell their family they do not want a service, it is not for them it is for their family and to make a family member feel guilty about having a service because they need it to heal is not just wrong, but immoral. Allow your friends and family a chance to say their peace whether they were there for you in life or not. Furthermore in my experience professionally and personally, problematic people are the most difficult for survivors to release in death. These mourners who must now give up hope that the loved one will ever change or the relationship will ever be better. These brokenhearted ones are the ones who need to grasp a larger picture of the deceased in order to forgive and move on. A service can sometimes help them move in the direction of healing.
    Now speaking personally as a griever I am 29 years old and lost my mother November 16, 2014 and then my father January 26, 2016… I will say this.. I found the planning of my mothers service to be very therapeutic. It forced me to address the fact that my mother was gone… it was very real for me. I got to hear stories from her friends that I had never met, I got to see her estranged best friend weep over the loss of a wonderful woman there was forgiveness in that. I found healing in a service for her.
    I’m not saying you must, must, must have a funeral but i am saying you must, must, must do something to recognize that person and acknowledge your grief. whether it be a full fledged funeral or a beer in the park. You have to do something for your own grief.

  25. Please comment on a situation whereby a few key members in a family decided to not have a funeral for their mother because in life she embarrassed them due to her excessive drinking. This decision left the remainder of the family without any chance to begin closure.

  26. My kids know I don’t want a funeral, but if I talk about it they just say ‘don’t be daft. I am the only one of my generation, so I’ve been to all the funerals for all the grandparents, parents and relations.. I DO NOT WANT A FUNERAL! If they want my body for experiments or spare parts, they can take them, I’m not going to need them!

  27. When my dad dies I want to give him a private, immediate family only funeral. Because his family (my extended family, likes my uncles, aunts, cousins) are complete jerks and have treated my mother and I like crap for many years. I don’t even speak to them so why would I want them there??? Also his church “family” are awful too, real “christians” and I want no part of them. He is not going to be there, he’ll be dead. Maybe he wants a huge funeral, but honestly, isn’t the funeral more for the surviving family members than the deceased? And if that’s the case why on earth would I want horrible people around me at a time like this??? I don’t think you “owe” it to anyone to have a big public funeral. Maybe people should learn to be a little more kind then things like this wouldn’t have to happen.

  28. To Angelalala,

    I tried to reply and couldn’t, but thank you for your post. I took care of my husband for three years with very very little help from friends or family. When he was nearing death they got very pushy about what I should do and not do. Not only was I emotionally devastated, but I was physically exhausted. I wanted just to bury him by myself. They pushed for everyone ro be there, even his “friends” who were being mean to me, and trying to take advantage. OK, made it through that. Now, six months on, they’ve all decided to have a big memorial for him. Great. Do it. Cool. But am I going? No, thank you.

  29. I am sorta autistic, when people die it is sad but life is so hard for me it fills like a load will be lifted when we die and all feelings Will be expressed with out anymore difficulty, so what is the big deal.

  30. Janey… I agree that funerals are for the living. So… I’d only attend for myself, or my brother, or my children, my mother… or heck I might even go for my father’s neighbor’s great nephew… but I’d never go just because “etiquette’ seemed to demand it.

  31. (sorry, posted too quickly, so to continue…)
    …I want a private viewing, quick cremation, and a private intermnet. Nothing more”. Dad was very very insistent on that. I put the words in capital letters above because that’s how he sounded, it was that emphatic. Well, Dad passed 3 weeks later and sure enough, the first question was “do we enbalm Dad?”. I said “NO” and related the above to both siblings. All was understood. We had a private family viewing, then a cremation. The day afterwards, my brother said, and I’ll quote as best as I can “Well, funerals are for the living and Mom wants a funeral so we’re having a funeral”. I said that I wouldn’t be part of a funeral as that isn’t what Dad wanted. This was at the beginning of September. I’ve had no word on where Dad’s remains are nor their disposition until 20 minutes ago, when I got an email saying “Dad’s funeral service and memorial service are on x day at x time at x location”. Less than a week away. I really don’t think it would be right to attend a funeral as this is not what Dad wanted. Mom has Alzheimer’s, has no recollection of the family viewing nor cremation, and is very confused about the upcoming events. I have no idea what a funeral service and a memorial service will be on the same day at the same time. I don’t want to call Brother as he has psychiatric issues and no good ever comes from calling Brother (there is alot more going on with respect to Dad’s estate and his refusal to acknowledge that my Sister and I have legal responsibility for Mom’s health and not him, but that’s another story for another day). Bottom line is this: Dad did not want what is being planned. I’m torn, as I really don’t believe I should go, but on the other hand, it would seem etiquette wise out of place not to be there. Husband is all for honoring Dad’s wishes. I don’t need the “closure” as I spent the last 12 weeks of his life caretaking for him and Mom and had a chance to say my goodbyes and we parted on exceptionally close and loving terms. Any thoughts out there?

  32. Currently in a bind about this exact topic. Before my Dad passed, he specifically and expressly told me, point-blank, that Mom had a certain view of what would happen when he passed. He said and I’ll quote as best as I can “Your mother thinks that when I go, she’ll have a big funeral with a priest saying nice words at St. Joe’s Church. I DON’T WANT THAT.

  33. I too do not want a funeral. I have be unwell for a long time.
    I do not get any support from my friends or family.
    What is the point of a funeral, when all they will do when I am gone is to shed crocodile tears and enjoy themselves at the reception. It is a total waste of funds.

  34. Wow. I thought a funeral was explicitly for viewing a body; and that a memorial was for a cremation but also a confirmed death. Even though you don’t see the remains in a cremated person, you know that at least someone did before the rite took place and the information comforts you, especially in light of knowing someone who never had any confirmation. That’s why my family didn’t have a funeral right away for Eric, who died in the World Trade Center. We had to wait and wait and wait to have ANY kind of service bc we were expecting the arrival of “evidence to confirm a physical death.”
    It’s coroner talk. There are also unconfirmed deaths and that’s what ours eventually became; none of the DNA samples we gave to them ever matched any of their evidence.
    I learned of other people who had loved ones who died on September 11 and they went through similar experiences. One person’s son’s remains were identified on Valentine’s Day 2002 but his daughter-in-law was still missing so they didn’t do the service until they found her remains (along with her unborn child.)
    When we finally decided to go ahead with a service anyway, bc it didn’t look like they were going to find anything by 2004, my daughter and I tried to give the eulogy. I say attempted bc we dried up in the middle of the service even though I’m such a talkative head on every other occasion. Nobody in my family would believe I could run to a trickle of words and then dry up but I did.
    I wish I would have read that post about how to write a eulogy before this happened. Then we wouldn’t have needed his brother to fill in the silence by saying “There’s a suite of fiery rooms in hell waiting for Osama bin Laden.” Whatever else it did, at least it broke my daughter’s silence and she started talking again. I was too surprised to say anything at first.
    My daughter ended the speech by making a quote: No weapon formed against us shall prosper.
    I don’t know if that qualifies as a funeral but it was a service and I’ve found nothing even remotely like “closure,” “integration,” or a feeling of “goodbye” in any of this grief work but I haven’t done the full workbook I got from Grief Recovery Method either.
    I feel like I’m still waiting for him to return and say there was no body bc he isn’t dead. That must sound silly to most people (it sounds odd to ME at times) but the feeling persists with a singular discomforting relentlessness.
    I still have nightmares about him too. After they found Osama bin Laden my night horrors disappeared for over 4 years. A week ago all of it returned. No idea why but it’s given me a feeling of desperation bc I worry it’ll never end. The dreams are hideous. Stephen King couldn’t think up the horrors that visit me in my sleep.
    I did the only thing I knew and asked for prayers, although I don’t believe in such a thing anymore.

  35. Hey Tracie I am still really broken over loosing my wife in Jan 12 accidental overdose (probably) then her cousin our lover and I struggled to hold each other together but she had 6 children that her ex took from her with a unrelenting series of dhs calls over one hundred attempts at custody till she who whas disabled phisicly and mentality and fought Ss disability for 8 yrs before winning.( to late) her children had been poisoned against her by there father who couldn’t stand seeing her happy. She was at 26 drug Free her ex was using steroids and was out of control. She had us and we were all at times very very happy and totally in love. Lyd was bi- polar( unmedicated for first 10 yrs) I according to her was her rock and could never show emotion or it made her uneasy. Heather was very depressed and would go manic in bed with me not the three of us. She would get out of control wanting to feel and give pain. I had to try to keep control several times I had to take her to Dr afraid I had hurt her but I guess a baby causes more damage. Well around December she told me she was suicidal and had a plan that was failproof when she couldn’t do it anymore she would n gone. We had an agreement because the girls were the way they were and after I found lyd did CPR for 45 min till the ambulance came. Fought the sheriff cause he wouldn’t do CPR and I thought he should. I am trained in first aid CPR and should have known it was way to late. Somehow expected a mirical I guess. The local police attempted to charge me for murder which on top of everything else is the worst feeling in the world to have this whole area of corn and CSI addicts gossiped about me killing my soul mate. Heather n I spiraled out of control went thru all my savings and lyds life insurance all on heroin close to 400,000 cash on dope in 3 yrs. A pretty intense binge. All the dealers wanted me bad enuf to suck my dick.lol. I didn’t leave heather alone for 3 months and we were clean for two weeks. Not sick she seemed happy I swore all danger was past I was asked to so some family a favor the next morning I asked her again if it were okay if I left for a bit she said she was going back k to bed to wake her later. Left came home in I think 4 hours she was under the table dead for they said 2 he’s I struggled thru her vomit and gave her CPR to no avail I got vomit in my lungs and in my attempt to overdose the next two months I got punmonia and as every other time was not successful in overdosing using 4 to 10 times enuf to kill a basketball team. Now I’m in a methadone clinic seeing if I can do the world some good to make up for my girls. If u want hit me up with a text [email protected] I’ll send u my number. Maybe we could help eachother somehow. I’m just a broken miserable mess who knows a Lil about hurt. I’m so desperate for something anything to make a difference in someway. Seth. Hey one thing to consider. You don’t want anyone u give two fucks about to find you its something they will be fucked up forever over and mad as hell at u. You would deserve it too. Its just inconsiderate of anyone who took time to plan something out and was to lazy to drive across town and let some other poor asshole have nightmares over your purple face he can’t forget. I don’t believe in much so praying would be pointless. I wish u luck honey

  36. It’s no one concern or business. It’s all just conventional tradition.Do what you need to do and what the person you knew and loved would understand.

  37. Litsa, I am putting it in my Will that I want no funeral service. My family isn’t here for me now and the thought of crocodile tears at some funeral circus is extremely unpleasant. I have been to funerals for several family members and friends and those events only made the situation worse for me. Seeing my Dad looking like a wax figure in a box is something that haunts me to this day. I think funerals with the sad music, the rituals, the hokey ham sandwiches in the church basement and the expense only makes people feel worse. Funny how we lasted thousands of years as a people without the word “closure”. Memories are there for us. Going through some odd man-made farce isn’t necessary for all of us.

    • S Check, I think it is great that you are making your specific wishes known in your will. I am sure you are well aware of this, but do make sure you make your legal next of kin or POA aware in advance, as many times a will isn’t referred to until after funeral decisions are made unless family is aware there are funeral wishes expressed in the document. I absolutely agree that the standard funeral ritual just isn’t right for everyone. I have completely blocked out seeing my dad in the casket at his service, though I know I did. Unfortunately I have ‘wax figure in a box’ images burned in my brain from several other funerals of family and friends. I have told my husband many times, donate whatever someone can use, cremate the rest, and find a really nice picture to remember me by 🙂

  38. I am going to be committing suicide in the near future. I am leaving the decision to have a funeral to my children, my boyfriend, my sisters and my Mother.
    I have made it known that I want to be cremated. I would then like my ashes to be buried and a marker with a vase so my family will have a physical place to visit. I’m terribly narcissistic and self centered. Can urns be buried at a cemetery?
    Thank you.

    • Tracey, I am so unbelievably sorry for whatever circumstances have made you feel that your only option is suicide. As hard as it is to believe, there are many people here on this page, and well beyond, who have been through the times where they felt their only option was suicide and managed to, slowly but surely, work though to a place where they could find some hope again. If you plan to hurt yourself in anyway, we beg that you please seek professional help right away. You can always just walk into your local emergency room, or you can call the suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255). If you have a counselor, call them.

      In terms of your question, yes, urns can be buried in a cemetary. For some families having a place to visit is important, so this is a way someone’s wishes to be cremated can be honored while also offering a shared place to come visit.

      I know you did not post this comment asking for help regarding you thoughts of suicide, but please remember that you’re not alone in the feelings that you’re going through and, as hard as it is to believe, it can get better. I wish we had a magic answer to the pain – we don’t. But we do know that with time and help things can and do get better, even when it feels impossible. And, in the words of To Write Love On Her Arms, you cannot be replaced!! Please consider seeking help. I am going to also send you an email – please email us directly if we can help you find help.

  39. I just found WYG .My husband Jim died very suddenly on January 18,2014. I am still trying to wrap my heart,soul and brain around it. I could not have a conventional funeral as I knew my Jimmie very well. He did tell me he wanted to be cremated. I have a very private shrine of my own in our home which I keep adding to as I continually keep finding important memories and items of his and those we shared together.Yet , still I feel that some type of memorial for Jim’s friends,family and those who I do not even know he knew can say goodbye and honor his amazing presence in their life and mine.The one year anniversary of his death is on my heels,January 18,2015. I do not feel I can do it on this date.His 68th birthday is February 9,2015. Then it is Valentines Day. Why am I having such a pull with this ? Jimmie and I were together for 27 years and I still think he is going to walk through the door. I have seen a therapist once a week since his death and also a physiatrist .Any thoughts or ideas for me out there in “grief land”? Jim and I are/were very unconventional,into nature and never any type of organized religion.I feel I am still Jimmie’s wife and not a widow. I hate that word “widow”.
    I am just 59 and it just does not suite me or my personality. My Jimmie would definitely agree with me. I have tried to speak with his two older brothers and they will have nothing to do with me,even though Jim spoke with them several times a week. They said they had to go to Florida last January when I asked if they could make it to a memorial for him.This makes me very sad for my Jim,he adored his two older brothers.

    Many heartfelt thanks,
    Victoria

    • Victoria, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband. I am sure the holidays must have been incredibly tough, especially so close to the anniversary of losing Jimmie. If you feel like you need some sort of memorial then I think you should absolutely do something. I have a good friend who does an annual dinner on her mom’s birthday at a restaurant that was one of her mom’s favorites. It is nothing overly formal, but just a simple way to get people together to remember her mom. It is typically not extended family, but just a handful of her friends and her moms friends. It is a beautiful but totally low-stress tradition. I suggest this not because it will be right for you, but just to say that a memorial doesn’t have to be something super formal and it doesn’t always have to involve a huge number of people or extended family. Everyone grieves differently, so what works for you may not be right for his brothers. Sometimes we have to focus on doing what works for us and realize it won’t work for everyone and that’s okay.

      What you describe about thinking he will walk through the door is so common. If you haven’t read it already, I would recommend the book The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. It is an incredible memoir on her experience after the loss of her husband. It is one of the few grief memoirs I recommend to people who have lost anyone, but especially someone who has lost a spouse.

      Take care and I hope you do spend some time on our site and find some support here!

  40. My husband died after a four year steady decline. He’d been a robust military office who became a thin profoundly disabled quadriplegic who could only move enough muscles to… blink. When he was first diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) we moved to his hometown. He wanted to be surrounded by his childhood friends, his brother, sisters, parents, aunts and uncles. They were all so close he said. They’d be a huge help he thought. He had a family who knew what love meant. His parents came to our house once a week. On Sunday. For an hour. His siblings might have come twice each. In four years. And that includes the day he died because the hospice nurse insisted. Aunts, uncles, friends… not once. In FOUR years. There were never any falling outs, no harsh words, no issues at all. They were just all busy. Jobs, lives, Saturday nights out, Fridays to the movies. Places to go, people to see. Etc. When he died… they were all shocked when I refused to have a funeral. They needed closure. They said. They needed to show their respects. They claimed. But for me… the wife who had loved that man, held his hand, cared for him, faced his coming eternity with him… there was no way I could stand at a funeral and watch ONE of them file past his casket, wiping their eyes, wringing their hands… and exclaiming “what a good man he was” or “how much he’ll be missed.” He’d spent four years learning things about all of them a dying man should never have to learn. I walked away from that grave without a funeral… with my head held high. I didn’t always have everything he needed… he got EVERYTHING I did have… and that was enough closure for me.

    • Angela,

      I’m so sorry about your husband’s illness and death. Being a caretaker and watching someone you love slowly lose their health is such a stressful and painful thing, I’m sorry it sounds like you went through all this with very little support. Your story is heartbreaking and I understand your rationale for not wanting a funeral.

      Eleanor

    • I agree. Have told my husband I do not want a funeral service etc. Folk do not bother with me now while I am alive, so guess what, I don’t want then around pretending to be sad when I am gone.

      • Gwen, I am in agreement with you. I do not want a service and hope that my request will be honored by my spouse. I do not want any of his family members involved with my decision and hope that my wishes are honored.

  41. An interesting topic, Litsa ~ thank you for discussing it here.
    Your readers might be interested in seeing Bill Hoy’s take on this same subject: “The Dead And Their ‘Remains'” http://j.mp/Mgbuwp

  42. Thank you. As my love one died on 12/17/13. I find these post so helpful.
    Perhaps you can steer me in the direction of grief-bereavement counseling referrals. I am in NYC.

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