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15+ Comforting Words for When You Can’t Attend a Funeral

15+ Comforting Words for When You Can’t Attend a Funeral

Naturally, you’ll start to feel guilty when you can’t attend a funeral. You may not even know what to say to the grieving family when you can’t attend a funeral to the grieving family.

There’s no perfect or right thing to say when someone is grieving, but there are wrong things. The purpose of this post is to help you understand what to say when you can’t attend a funeral and the things you should avoid doing when relaying the bad news.

Therefore, when you can’t attend a funeral, the family does not feel offended or blindsided by your absence. Let’s get started on what to say when you can’t attend a funeral:


Valid reasons for not attending a funeral

Your first tip on what to say when you can’t attend a funeral is proving a reason to the family. This prevents any misunderstandings and eliminates room for negative speculation.
Here are 6 of the most popular and valid reasons that will help you figure out what to say when you can’t attend a funeral:

01The pandemic 
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. This includes the staging of certain events such as weddings and funerals. Many countries have placed restrictions on the number of people who are allowed at funerals if they are even allowed to have one.
This becomes a valid reason in these extreme times if you are especially susceptible to the severe symptoms of the virus. You can also use this reason if you have contracted the virus, and need to self-isolate in order to avoid spreading it.


woman in black leather jacket sitting wearing white face mask
Photo by engin akyurt on unsplash


02Other illness
If you have a chronic or debilitating illness that disallows you to stand for extended periods, or limits how much you can travel, this is a valid reason for not attending a funeral.
You can also use it for conditions that require you to stay home to overcome or seek treatment elsewhere.


03Social issues or tension
If your presence at the funeral would cause a disruption, you can opt out of going to avoid making a scene. This can happen if you were in some type of altercation or bad situation with the deceased or his/her relatives. You don’t have to mention it if this is widely known.


04Children or ward
When you are responsible for taking care of someone, such as a child or sick relative, you can’t just up and go wherever and whenever you want. If you can’t find someone to fill your role, you have no choice but to stay with the person in your care.


toddler boy sleeping sick lying on mom s arms

Image from Free-Photos – Under Pixabay License


If the funeral is far away, across state lines or in another country, it can be difficult to arrange for travel, especially when the death is sudden. It can also be very expensive to travel for a funeral that is far away.


Not everyone has the luxury of taking the day off work to attend a funeral, especially if you have scheduled events like meetings or conferences. Others cannot miss work for financial reasons, or because they risk their job security.



The most important things/etiquettes to bear in mind when declining the funeral invitation  in a sympathy note

Before considering what to say when you can’t attend a funeral, there is proper etiquette to declining a funeral invitation. The purpose of this is to avoid any miscommunication, and to offer comfort and support.
Here are things to pay attention to when deciding what to say when you can’t attend a funeral:

01Mode of communication
Ideally, you should try to express this face to face, but this isn’t always possible. The next best way is to do it over a phone call so you can properly explain yourself. Your third option should be a sympathy card, text or email.


woman work from home macbook air write email to colleague while sitting on the bed
Photo by J. Kelly Brito on unsplash


Try to avoid seeming insensitive when telling the family that you can’t attend the funeral. Avoid words like “dead”, “death”, “suicide” and  which can trigger negative reactions. Instead, use euphemisms like “passed on/away”, “transitioned”, “left” or “departed.”


The mode of communication you use, and choice of words will be determined by your audience. If you are speaking to the parents of the deceased, and do not share a close relationship, remain formal and try to communicate over the phone or in person.


mom and son hug sad

Photo by Jordan Whitt on unsplash


04Your emotions
If you aren’t able to compose yourself, use modes of communication such as a sympathy note or text/email.


What to say when you can’t attend a funeral of a relative/friend


How to decline the funeral invitation for a relative/friend over text/email


01“Hi [insert name of recipient]. I just wanted to let you know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Also, I won’t be able to attend [insert name of deceased] funeral on Thursday because of a prior engagement. I’ll be back in town on Friday. Perhaps we can spend some time reflecting together then.”


flaming candles funeral ceremony indoor

Photo by Konstantin Tronin on shutterstock


02“Good morning [insert name of recipient]. I hope you’re doing well under the circumstances.
You’re one of the strongest people I know. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for myself/my neighbors/my co-workers at the moment because I/they have contracted COVID-19. I’m/They’re currently in isolation, but I/they feel a bit better each day. To keep you and the rest of the family safe, I/they have been ordered by my/their doctor to stay home. I/they hope we can set up a video link so I/they will still be able to take part in the ceremony. If there’s anything I/they can do from here, please let me/them know. “


What to say in a note with flowers if you can’t attend a funeral


03“As you know, I am currently overseas on a contract, and I cannot travel right now. Since I cannot lay these flowers on [insert name of deceased] grave, kindly do so on my behalf. Let me know if there’s anything I can have delivered to the house to help brighten your day.”


cementerio flor cemetery death purple flowers

Photo by vlanka under Pixabay License


04“As I send these off, I am reminded of how lucky I was to have him/her in my life. I hope this bouquet can return precious memories and remind you of all the wonderful things that made [insert name of deceased] who he/she was. “


What to say in a note with food if you can’t attend a funeral


05“I know things must be hectic at home right now as the funeral approaches. I am very sorry the pandemic is preventing me from coming to help. I hope this casserole provides you with all the nourishment needed to get through this week.”


white ceramic platter with mac and cheese

Photo by sheri silver on unsplash


06“The first time [insert name of deceased] went on a date, he/she ordered [insert name of dish]. One of my best memories featured the smile on his/her face as he/she gobbled it up. I hope it makes you happy too. “


What to say when sending a sympathy card/ signing a virtual guestbook


07“Though I am unable to physically attend, I want to leave these words for the family: In life, we meet the most unique and interesting characters. [Insert name of deceased] was one of them. Thank you for raising my best friend to become the man/woman he was.”


person in black long sleeve shirt holding white paper writing

Photo by cottonbro under pexels license


08“Life is very precious, and unfortunately, we don’t usually appreciate that until it’s too late. [Insert name of deceased] was a special character who brought joy to a lot of people’s lives and that is something to celebrate. During this time, let’s focus on the positives and all [insert name of deceased] added to our family dynamic. May his/her soul find eternal peace.”


What to say when you missed a funeral


09“I know I said I would be there on Friday, but unfortunately, the babysitter canceled at the last minute and there was no one available. Although I was not present for the ceremony, my thoughts were with the family, and I will continue to lend my support where possible. “


family laying flowers on grave

Photo by on shutterstock


10“Everyone who knew [insert name of person], knew he/she was an angel living on Earth. Now that he/she has departed, I regret not being able to attend the ceremony, but I will always have him/her nestled in my heart. Please accept my sincerest apologies and condolences.”


What to say when you can’t attend a funeral of a colleague/acquaintance


How to decline the funeral invitation for a colleague / an acquaintance in an email


11“Thank you for inviting me to [insert name of deceased] funeral. I worked alongside him/her for nearly a year and he/she was always kind and helpful. Regrettably, I have been scheduled to meet with a client around the same time and will not be able to make it to the funeral. Send the family my regards and well wishes.”


sad mature businessman thinking about problems in living room wearing suit and eyeglass

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio under pexels license


12“I am honored to have known such a titan in this industry. My heart goes out to you and your family during this time of grief. I am currently in [insert name of place] on a business trip and will not be able to attend the memorial service, but there will be representatives from the company on behalf of all those who will miss it. “


What to say in a note with flowers if you can’t attend a funeral


13“It came as quite the shock that [insert name of person] had passed, as we contracted COVID-19 at the same time. I understand this is a scary experience, but if I know anything about [insert name of person] it is that he comes from a strong family. I trust that you will all recover and continue to honor his/her name.”


flowers bouquet white roses

Photo by algria under Pixabay License


14“When I heard the news, I could not comprehend that my colleague would no longer be around the office. I hate the way things ended between us because we once shared a thriving, competitive, professional relationship.
There has never been and will never be another [insert job title] like [insert name of deceased]. People like that come around once in a lifetime, and I am just lucky to have experienced him/her.
Kindly accept these flowers as a token of my love and well wishes to you and your family in my absence. “



What to say in a note with food if you can’t attend a funeral


15“Luckily, I have a great memory, and I remember hearing from [insert name of deceased] about how much you love [insert name of dish]. While I am no expert or top chef, I whipped up an old family recipe that is sure to warm your heart. I’m sorry I cannot make it to the funeral, but I’ve received instructions for the live stream so I can be a part of it all the way from here.”


halloween cookies on cookie tray wooden spoon wood
Photo by Cayla1 Under unsplash license


16“Just like [insert name of deceased], my schedule is work, work, work, and Wednesday is one of our busiest days, so unfortunately, I can’t make it to the funeral. I can however help make things easier with the gift card I have attached to this note. It’s for dinner at your favorite restaurant. Don’t forget to treat yourself despite everything.”


What to say when sending a sympathy card/ signing a virtual guestbook


17“The first day I met [insert name of deceased], I can safely say we did not click, nor did we on the second day. As time passed though, I grew to respect everything he/she brought to the table and his/her expertise in the field. My wish is that one day, I can be as noble as he/she was.”


votive altar church south german historical empty guestbook white paper

Photo by rudolfgeiger on shutterstock


18“Please accept my sincerest condolences in your time of loss. [Insert name of deceased] was a force to be reckoned with at this company. My biggest regret is spending the time we had together at odds rather than admitting how much I respected him/her. I will spend his/her funeral service at home reflecting on the man/woman he/she was. “


What to say when you missed a funeral


19“I had all the intentions of attending [insert name of deceased] funeral, but I had a family emergency to tend to. I’m happy to have heard the service went well. Please extend my apologies to the rest of the family.”


cropped view man touching woman mourning black attire

Photo by LightField Studios on shutterstock


20“I’m sorry I could not make it to the funeral as I am so far away and in a different time zone. I was, however, able to watch the live stream and I must say it was a beautiful service. [Insert name of deceased] would have loved it. “



Not knowing what to say when you can’t attend a funeral is no reason to ghost the grieving family. You know what to say when you can’t attend a funeral now, so send your well wishes and apologies for missing it.
Your next step is to make up for it, whether by being a shoulder to lean on or through gifts.