Grieving from a Distance

Grieving the loss of a loved one when you are away from home.

Grieving from a distance creates stress, pressure, and can prolong the grief process if not properly acknowledged. Death is never convenient, and there are a variety of legitimate reasons why you may be unable to attend a funeral. Perhaps distance, cost of travel, or the date of the service make it impossible for you to be physically present. If you know you cannot attend a funeral, it is still so important to pay your respects.

Express sympathy

Your close family and/or friends who are also grieving will greatly appreciate an expression of sympathy – from writing a letter of condolence, sending flowers to the services, or making a donation to your loved one’s favorite charity. If the death is in the family, it is important to support those most closely related, whether it be a spouse, sibling or even your own parent who is facing the loss of their sibling. Consider gifting them with something to demonstrate your sympathy, such as a photo of the two of them together, or a phone call asking them to share specific fond memories of their sibling.

Explain the circumstance

It will be much harder on you emotionally with an immediate family member whose services you cannot attend. Your first step is to acknowledge the legitimacy of why you cannot be there. Do your best to explain the circumstance that are preventing you from attending, as some people will not understand. See if someone can record the service for you, so you can witness the ceremony.

Share your love

Additionally, consider writing something to be read at the service, so that you are still playing a role in it. Finally, make an effort to plan for a memorial dinner or event for the future, where you can get together with your remaining family to share memories and grief together.

Take care of yourself

In these situations where you are unable to attend a funeral service,  it is important to find outlets to acknowledge your own grief and to focus on self-care. People attending the services will have access to a community of mourners that you will not have. Therefore, take personal time to care for your own needs.

Death can and should be a selfish event. You have experienced a grievous loss, and you need time and space to adjust. Take bereavement leave, a sick day, or PTO time if you can. Then, spend those hours engaging in things that make you feel good – walking, a good book, massages or simply sleeping. Perhaps even indulge your sudden urge to clean your apartment, bake late into the night, or go fishing.

Don’t hide

Let your friends and coworkers know what is going on, because if they don’t know they will treat you like everything is normal and fine. It’s normal to feel embarrassment when talking about your loss, and having to explain that you won’t be able to attend the funeral services. They will understand and they will comfort and support you – let them!

Provide an Outlet for Grief

There are a variety of legitimate reasons why you may be unable to attend a funeral, and there are numerous ways to show love and support to those who are in attendance. It is also important to take care of yourself throughout your mourning process. Grieving is never easy, and having to do it from a distance can add additional stressors and pressure. It is our hope that the tips throughout this article have provided some positive outlets for your grief, and ways to express sympathy from that distance.

Share this knowledge with your friends and family as well, so that they may gain insight into creating a community culture of support for those who are experiencing a death, especially from a distance.