When a parent of an adult dies, Western society expects their children to attend the funeral. The deceased's friends and family may hope that an adult child pays their last respects and says their final goodbyes as a sign of respect.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Is It Wrong to Skip Your Mom or Dad’s Funeral?
- Common Reasons Why You May Skip Your Mom's or Dad’s Funeral
- What You Can Do to Honor Your Parents Instead of Attending Their Funerals
But there are many reasons why an adult child might choose not to attend a parent's funeral—everything from financial reasons or fear of funerals to inconvenience or impossibility.
Although attending a parent's funeral services creates an opportunity to find closure and help in the healing process, not every child has a need or desire to go. When a parent dies, their death creates a special kind of grief. Sometimes that bond was special and unbreakable, and other times, the relationship may have already ceased to exist, leaving the child to cope with the death of an estranged parent.
Is It Wrong to Skip Your Mom or Dad’s Funeral?
Funerals provide an opportunity to attain closure after the death of a loved one and to celebrate the deceased's life. However, when a self-absorbed and abusive parent dies, it's normal not to have cause for celebration or honoring their life.
Finding closure, in these instances, is often achieved well before a parent's death occurs when an abused child has accepted that their relationship with their parent is toxic and has already cut them off.
There's nothing wrong with not attending a parent's funeral if there isn't a pressing need or motivation to be there. There are many reasons why a person may feel the need to skip out on the funeral or memorial service. Admitting that you’d rather not go and pay your last respects to a parent who failed you caused you to suffer is natural and normal.
But not every instance of not wanting to go to a parent's funeral has anything to do with being victims of their abuse. At times, it just doesn't make sense to go for other reasons. Consider reading books about grief to help you sort through your feelings and emotions toward attending your parent’s funeral.
Common Reasons Why You May Skip Your Mom's or Dad’s Funeral
Before deciding to skip the funeral, consider how you'll feel about it later if you don't go. If you don’t go, ask yourself if it will impede your ability to find closure and put this part of your life behind you.
Ask yourself if you'll live with regret for the rest of your life. Personal feelings aside, there are many other reasons why you might not want to attend. Here are some of the most common occasions for skipping out on a parent's funeral:
- Lack of financial resources
- Creation of emotional triggers
- Complex, unhealthy relationships with others attending
People attend funerals, in part, to honor, remember, mourn, and find solace in others—none of which might be appropriate for a surviving child of an abusive parent. You don’t need an excuse not to attend, and whatever choice you make is your alone and doesn’t require validation from others.
Some common reasons you might choose not to go are emotionally based. The feelings evoked by attending an abusive parent’s funeral are at times complex and confusing. Take the following sentiments into consideration when deciding if it’s wrong not to attend a funeral.
Survivors of estranged or abusive parents have suffered from trauma that may leave them feeling relieved by the death. However, their death doesn’t reduce the pain and damage the parent has already caused.
Feeling a mix of relief and loss when an abusive or absent parent dies is a natural part of the grief process. Grief manifesting in feelings of relief is associated with the release of stress brought on by a strained relationship with a parent.
Each situation provides a unique way of mourning the loss of a parent. For example, healing from betrayal by a parent may manifest in bouts of anger for many years following their death.
Another reason why a child might feel angry at their parent's death is that their opportunity to spend time together is cut short. An adult child might think that they lost their parent way too soon and feel angry that they won't be there to share in life's significant milestones.
When dealing with the death of an absent, estranged, or abusive parent, surviving children often face significant emotional conflicts. A survivor can feel torn when mourning the death of someone instrumental in giving them life, as well as someone who died without taking responsibility for the damage they caused.
Feelings of loss, betrayal, abandonment, and resentment all manifest during the grieving process and are typical ways of coping with the death of a parent. Often these feelings of resentment lead an adult child to socially withdraw from others. Social isolation often keeps them from wanting to take part in a parent's funeral.
What You Can Do to Honor Your Parents Instead of Attending Their Funerals
Attending a parent’s funeral is a personal choice. The decision may leave you feeling conflicted or having a sense of remorse and regret later on as the years pass. Although the decision not to go seems presently fitting, you may change your mind and regret not going as you get older or as you begin to see things from a different perspective.
You can honor your parent’s memory in other ways that are equally as emotionally fulfilling and that might help avoid feelings of regret in the future.
Ask to keep or spread their ashes
When a parent's final disposition is cremation instead of burial, consider asking to keep either all or a portion of their ashes. If your parent had a last wish to have their ashes released in a specific area, volunteer to fulfill and honor their wishes. If there's a conflict with other siblings as to who gets to keep the ashes, ask for a small vial so that you can keep it with you or that you can spread it whenever you're ready to make peace with their death.
Refrain from adding to family strife
Skipping out at your parent's funeral is another way of honoring them when there's contention among the family members left behind. There's no reason to open the door to closed relationships with siblings or other family members at the time of a parent's death. Attending the funeral can inflict even more emotional pain on children who suffered for years at the hands of their parents, their siblings, or their other relatives.
Deciding not to go to a funeral that will cause you to suffer is a way of setting boundaries for yourself that will protect your emotional well-being. You’ll honor your parent’s memory by not participating in or adding to the ongoing family drama.
Set up an online memorial
Acrimony, dissension, and pain are enough reasons to keep from attending a parent's funeral. You can expect any of these feelings and emotions to come up at a funeral where a family suffers from dysfunction.
While not every family experiences this, chances are that if you're considering not going to a parent's funeral, there's some underlying reason not to go. Even if there isn't, and you can't make it for whatever reason, setting up an online memorial through social media is an excellent alternative to honoring the life of your parent.
You can process your grief by sharing favorite stories and photos of your parent with others. Ask your virtual visitors to also share in their memories to add to your parent's legacy.
Donate a memorial bench
A great way of memorializing and honoring your parent's life is by donating a personalized memorial bench to add to their graveside. A memorial bench plays a vital role in the grieving process and is a beautiful and thoughtful way of honoring your parent's memory. It encourages visitors to spend extra time visiting the gravesite by providing them a place to rest and reflect on the relationship they had with your loved one.
Memorial benches can be installed virtually anywhere that's allowed. They're not always found next to the deceased's grave. You can place one in each favorite place where your loved one liked to visit.
Consider placing one at a local park, a dog park where they frequently visited, or a favorite overlook. You may need to check if any local rules prohibit you from installing the bench or if you need to obtain any special permits.
Donate in their memory
Skipping a parent's funeral might result later in a lack of closure that prevents grief healing. The pain of a parent's death is no less when you're an adult or because your parent may have lived a long and fulfilling life. Society places an enormous amount of pressure on attending a parent's funeral as part of the expectations for processing grief and loss.
Funerals are not for everyone, and you don't need any specific reason for not going. Consider donating to your parent’s favorite charity in their memory to help yourself find meaning and closure in your loss. Donating your time, money, or other resources is a fulfilling way of honoring your parent and continuing their legacy.
When Skipping a Parent’s Funeral Makes Sense
Although you can't undo any emotional damage resulting from your parent's death, you don't have to carry additional guilt for choosing not to attend their funeral. At times, it simply makes sense not to go. Someone will always have an opinion judging your actions, and it's nearly impossible to please everyone in the family.
The decision to attend your parent's funeral is yours alone to make. As you work through your grief, you'll be able to come to terms and make peace with your decision to help you move forward in life.