My sister wants me to be a pallbearer at her funeral, but I don’t want to go at all

Posted by
Not attending a funeral when my sister wants me to be a pallbearer
Memorial flowers set in resin custom ring from Ravens Art Boutique
My sister has written to me asking if I’d be a pallbearer at her funeral. She is terminally ill with only a few months to live. I love her and have, over the past few years, travelled to see her, really to say good-bye.

I’m an emotional person, not very strong, and I’m afraid and the thought of travelling 12,000 miles round-trip to attend a funeral does not appeal to me. How on earth do I say no without hurting her feelings whilst she is still with us? Please help me — even if to say I should just be strong and attend the funeral. – S

I’m so sorry you’re losing a sister you love. That alone is enough of a stress to handle, let alone dealing with the decision to attend and be a big part of the funeral. I’ve personally always felt that, outside of honoring a person’s final requests, that funerals were mostly for the other people in their life, to mourn and find peace. There are certainly family and community politics that might affect the decision, but mostly not attending a funeral is a personal one that requires no judgment from anyone but yourself.

We heard from some readers in this post about explaining why you’ll not be attending a funeral. Here is some wisdom we culled that may be helpful…

I feel like one of the great things about being an adult is figuring out when we need to explain ourselves to others and when we don’t. Learning to make that distinction is a great exercise in setting boundaries. – Karen

There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to attend a funeral. I feel intensely uncomfortable at them, usually, and often it does nothing to help me heal. I attend, not for myself and my personal closure, but often to be there to support other family members/friends for whom this will help…. In any case, [if you decide not to go] I’d just apologize and say that you’ll be unable to attend, and if somebody pressures you for a reason why, say that the time/travel costs are too much for you right now, but you’ll be saying goodbye as well, from a distance. If anybody continues to pressure you, just apologize and say you’ve made up your mind, and you’d rather not have to continue discussing it. – Carolyn

Give as much or as little information as you would like, since there are many factors involved, but sometimes you just have to be “that guy” and say “no, not doing it.”

You can be as delicate about it as you choose to be. “I won’t be able to afford the journey,” or “I don’t feel comfortable mourning this way,” or “I don’t want to see X,” but, at the end of the day, someone may get huffy and that’s on them. You make your own decisions and live with your own consequences; family often forgets that people become adults and make adult decisions. – Rorsun

You’re an ocean away. I think this is one instance where you can say “I can’t make it” and no one will question you on it at all. I don’t think there’s much to gain from pointing out that you don’t want to attend, aside from hurt feelings. Gut-check who may need your support right now and give them a call. Let them know your heart is with them. Because funerals aren’t for the dead. – Dootsie

More responses here:

Normally, you could opt out of the funeral for any reason after the person has passed, but in this case, she is planning ahead and needs an answer for her pallbearer list. Here are some options with varying degrees of morality:

  1. Buck up and attend as a pallbearer, knowing it might be hard to do and an inconvenient and very long trip.
  2. Lie and say that you’ll be a pallbearer, then line up someone else to fill in for you after your sister is gone.
  3. Say you’ll attend, but cannot be a pallbearer for some reason (too emotionally hard, for example).
  4. Be honest and tell her you may not be able to attend at all, but will mourn her in your own way at home. If she knows how emotional you are, it will likely be understandable.

I’m not suggesting any of these necessarily, these are just the ways I can see this playing out. None of us can tell you what to do because families are complex and grief even more so.

Sage advice giver Captain Awkward has some wisdom that may also be relevant:

You can’t solve death, or aging, or dysfunctional families, but you can carve out some boundaries for yourself… First, I would like you to give yourself… permission to not decide about whether to go to the funeral until [your loved one] is gone. Give yourself permission to say, “we can’t really plan that right now.”

There are some circumstances where you don’t have to decide now and can say so. It may mean that she’ll have to line up a backup pallbearer, but you can offer your help in other ways while she is still around.

I put it to our readers to help…

Have any of you been in a similar situation where a dying friend or family member needs an answer? Can you offer any sympathetic advice?

Comments on My sister wants me to be a pallbearer at her funeral, but I don’t want to go at all

      • Definitely this ^^^^^^^^^^^

        I’ll be honest, you will only come off looking extremely bad and selfish in this situation if you tell your dying sister that you’re not coming to her funeral.

        If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to do it, I certainly wouldn’t tell her! Why make her last months more uncomfortable? You can make up an excuse to the other family once she’s passed if you absolutely can’t make yourself go.

    • :S I wish there was an “un-THIS!” button. I get the whole “suck it up and fulfil a dying wish” thing… but at the same time, I absolutely hate when anyone applies that logic to me for anything. Telling someone to suck it up, pretty much always just hurts that person’s feelings, and increases any guilt they may already be feeling.
      Instead of her needing to “suck it up”, and pop some pills or booze to help numb her enough to do it… I think her sister would be A LOT happier knowing the truth, and not placing her sister in a position that would ultimately make her grief harder to manage. A dying wish is all well and good, but I really don’t think that she would have made that request if she knows how badly it would make her sister feel. Likely she was just thinking about who she would like to fulfill that role, and hadn’t (yet) considered how hard it would be on her sibling. If the two sisters talk it out, and the sister who is dying still says it would mean the world to me, I need to have you there… then that’s a different story (though I still don’t think anyone should be pressured into attending funerals), but until then, there is NO need to place extra guilt onto someone who is already in an impossible situation.

  1. I am so sorry for the pain you and your sister are going through.

    I don’t know you and your sister, so my advice may be worse than useless, but if it were me and my sister in that position I’d think the request for me to be a pallbearer came from a place of wanting to acknowledge the importance of the relationship between us, and to have me be there at the “very end”. I’d look to meet that need without doing something I couldn’t cope with.

    That might look like “Sis, I’m so honoured that you’d ask me to do this. I wish I felt that I could, the problem is I think I’m not going to be in a position to travel that way whilst I’m grieving for you. What I would like to do is to write a few words about what you have meant to me, which I can send to you and then you can choose whether or not you’d like to have them read them at the funeral. I’d also like to crochet a bracelet [or some other small discreet craft I am capable of] which can be with you as a representation of the fact that I am there with you in spirit. I intend to grieve privately for you [by x, y, z, if you’ve thought about it]. Would that be OK?” Is there anything else you would find meaningful for me to do?

    • I lost both parents (expected deaths. They were sick with cancer). I traveled via plane each time to their funeral. Did it suck? yes, especially since their funerals were in an area people vacation to. So everyone else on the plane was happy happy. It is called being an adult. You have to do things like go to funerals, especially for close family members like your sister. While I can’t speak for your personal finances, which might be an issue. Not going to a funeral because of obvious reasons (stress, emotional outbrusts) is silly. People are expecting you to be stressed and emotional.

      Pallbearers are also family members or close family. Guess what?! You don’t think they will be grieving too?

      I agree with the 1st poster, take some and go.

      • Yes, Mitzi, well said. My mother’s sister is the type to always want to get out of things like visiting her dying parents and brother in the hospital or going to funerals by saying “I don’t like being in hospitals” or “I feel so uncomfortable at funerals” and it drives the rest of the family crazy. NOBODY likes going to funerals of loved ones or spending time in hospitals, but when it’s someone you love, you just suck it up and be an adult and go.

    • I couldn’t agree more (with the original comment…. NOT the insensitive responses) WOW some people need to stop with the angry guilt fest.
      A) What you (Pemcat) said is perfect! Have an honest talk with sis and find a way to fill that role, without being put in a position that makes you feel like you can’t cope

      B) No one should ever be forced into attending funerals, going to hospitals etc.. Some people simply can’t cope with seeing their loved ones like that. If it’s a case of you being the only person available, ok that’s more reasonable to have a “suck it up and go” mentality… but it’s still wrong… If her sister has an entire family to be at her funeral, why force the sister to make this trip against her will? It makes no sense, and serves no purpose.

      C) There is a BIG difference in burying your niece, or burying your sister / daughter etc.

      D) These comments just prove the exact reason why I’ve made it clear I never want a funeral. Just cremate me ASAP, no viewing or anything… just have a memorial with my urn if you have to do something, plant me under a tree, and go on with your lives. I have never seen a funeral actually make anyone feel “better”…. and I don’t think that you should have to be in a specific spot, on a specific day, for society to feel as though you’ve properly grieved.

  2. I’m team #3. If you aren’t sure you will be attending tell her you aren’t emotionally up for being a pallbearer. I wouldn’t tell her you aren’t sure you will be able to travel. First, you might be able to and second, I don’t think there is any way to soften the blow of “I won’t be at your funeral.”

    • Agreed – if you can’t do it, you can’t do it, but you should give her the respect of being honest about it and not passing it off as if you can’t afford the time/money for the travel – lying to her about it is really not cool in my books and more of a slap in the face than being honest and saying straight up that it’s too hard, I can’t do it.

      Personally, I’d suck it up. It’s going to hurt and it’s going to be hard but I’d go. I’d make sure I had some sort of personal support system there (a friend or partner who wasn’t close to my sister but is close enough to me to help me through it) because anyone else at the funeral will likely be grieving as well and not necessarily in the right place to help hold me up (either figuratively or literally). I’d also make sure I had a concrete plan for myself should the situation get too difficult (i.e. a quiet room I know I can escape to for a few minutes before or after the procession, etc.), and whatever supplies I need to ground myself (food, reading material, music – whatever calms you).

  3. Wow. This is heavy.

    My first gut reaction was that the OP should absolutely honor the dying wishes of the sister. Serving as a pallbearer would offer a tangible way to say goodbye, and allow others the comfort in seeing the OP in such a meaningful role. Also, of COURSE it’s not “appealing.” It’s not supposed to be. I find that statement rude and uncaring.

    However, logistically, the trip may not be feasible. Unless the OP has a large savings account or a bunch of airline miles saved up, last minute international travel can be very cost prohibitive. I’m a travel agent, and the worst (read: most expensive) fares I see are the ones for international travel within a week of the booking date. Unless the sister knows when she’s planning to pass on (unlikely), she’s asking the OP to shell out quite a bit of money to pay last respects. Given this, I’d probably tell the sister that as much as I want to honor her memory, a trip like that may not be logistically possible.

    Skype with her, chat with her, and make her feel loved. Tell her how honored you are that she wants you involved in that, but that since you’ve made X number of trips in the past year to see her, you simply don’t know if you’ll be able to afford the ticket. Tell her you’ll be at the service if you can, but can’t to commit to being a pallbearer.

    • It may also be worth saying that you used up (vacation time, travel money, etc.) to spend as much time with her while she is alive, and can’t be sure there will be any left for the funeral. Emphasis on how much you love her and love to spend time with her may soften things if you do not think you can be the pallbearer/go and need to tell her. Like others have said, focusing on why your sister would ask and finding a way to honor that reason may be a good way to go.

      Depending on your sister and your family, this tactic may also work on relatives who will be managing the funeral to avoid them being in the lurch with pallbearers if you can’t do it and can’t be more direct with the reasons why you can’t (and your grief being too much to manage doing it is certainly a legitimate reason.)

  4. I usually think honesty is extremely important, but in this case I think lying is an ok way to go. She won’t be here anymore – so if it gives her comfort NOW to hear you will be there then say it. Don’t agree to be a pallbearer because that will create difficulties with logistics when you don’t show up.

    It may create problems with living relatives for you though. If it creates pain for those people (and they are relationships that are important to you) then you may want to go. But don’t put yourself in a tough place for the sake of someone who will no longer be here. Wherever she will be I would hope they are above holding grudges like that.

    I think the biggest thing here is to be REALLY sure you are ok with whatever decision you make. This is a one time thing and there aren’t any do-overs. My husband and I attended the deathbed of a relative (and later her memorial service) and visited another this summer (and then my husband attended that service in early fall). All of this was honestly incredibly emotionally, physically, and financially difficult for us – but we didn’t want to ask “what if” later and regret our decisions. You are a different person and you may absolutely 100% know you will look back and regret it if you go. Just be sure of that answer when you make the decision.

  5. I hope this doesn’t come across too rude but I can’t believe anyone would entertain the idea of telling a dying loved one that attending their funeral would be “unappealing”?? If you can’t go for financial reasons that is understandable but that wouldn’t be decided until after she has passed and won’t hurt her, but telling her in advance you won’t go? If I were in the position of the sister I would be heartbroken, you’re forcing her to spend her last time on earth dealing with your wants and needs, it is just beyond selfish. If you can literally not suck it up and go, do the kind thing and lie to her, it’s the least you can do.

    • I have to agree with Babs on this. The challenges and hardships we meet as adults can be tough beyond comprehension. They are also at the core of adulting at its worst. But living up to our responsibilities as adults is just the way to go. There really is no way around it, it’s part of being a decent human being, no matter what your beliefs and values are. We have to be able to count on our loved ones to step up when we need them the most, and if this is not such a situation, when is?!

      Say yes, and deal with the finances and realities of attending later.

      Secondly: you don’t have to be strong or feel comfortable. That’s not what funerals are for. They are a legitimate open forum for being absolutely heartbroken and devastated. They are probably not very appealing no, but they are rites of passage, offering you a place to grieve and share your sorrow.
      I think the odds are; that you are more likely to regret not attending, than you are attending and spending to much money. Money can be re-earned, long distance flights tolerated, but the death of a beloved is a one time only thing. And i say that as one who has probably attended more funerals than the average person

  6. This is tough and I’m sorry you are in this position. I can only speak to my own feelings, but perhaps another perspective will help (and not only serve to muddy the water).

    I cannot fathom not going to the funeral of a loved one. NO ONE likes going to a funeral. It’s not meant to be easy. Every second of it should be expected to suck, but there are often some amazingly bright moments that will blind you with their purity. A side of your sister you never knew, as told through a friend or partner. An act of incredible good will from a total stranger (who knew your sister). A moment that will give you peace when the shit hurts so bad you don’t know how to get through it.

    I speak from experience. I had those moments at my father’s funeral. Seeing all of the lives my father touched brought me closer to him.
    The one thing that really hurt, the twist of the knife already in my heart, was my friends who didn’t show. Who refused to show. There are a few who I never spoke to again. Not because I was mad or I cut off ties, but because after they didn’t come to my dad’s funeral it closed a door, a very big, very important door, in my heart. I’ve tried to open that door, after the hurt healed a little (and let me tell you that took almost 10 years alone), but things were never the same.
    I fear that if you choose not to go, you will close yourself off from support that could mean a great deal.

    “Always go to the funeral” has become a life-lesson I try to pass on. I found out that the grandmother of an estranged friend died, and I went to the funeral. It means something when you go. It means something, too, when you don’t.

    I hope you find an answer that works for you.

  7. I am so sorry I’m trying really hard not to sound harsh or judgmental, especially since you must be in a lot of pain. But it does seem like you’re putting your own feelings ahead of those of someone who is dying. Yes of course losing someone you love is terrible and I cannot imagine how hurt you must be, but your sister is dying I can’t imagine how hurt and sad and afraid she must be. If knowing you’ll be there for her funeral takes away a little tiny part of that fear then I think you owe it to her. Her feelings come first in this instance because she’s the one who has to say goodbye to life 🙁

  8. I agree with the first commenter on here – take a few deep breaths and a chill pill, and go. Sometimes, it’s not all about you.

    That being said, if it’s a cost issue, then deal with that when it comes and I’m sure your family would understand. But your main concern should be that your sister feels comfort in her final months that her wishes are fulfilled.

  9. My thoughts go out to you both, losing a loved one SUCKS.

    I personnally don’t think I could deal with myself if I had point-blank to her face refused to attend my sister’s funeral.

    Side-note, I did not attend a friend’s funeral who died unexpectedly of a car crash. I just felt I couldn’t, it was too much. I can tell you now many many years later that I was overwhelmed by his passing, not the funeral, even if that is what I thought at the time. I couldn’t accept he was gone and thoughts of attending the funeral created overwhelming anxiety and grief. Well, those feelings were still there, even if I didn’t attend, and they lasted years and years. Not attending the ceremony did not stop the pain. I now make an effort to attend at least part of funerals, even if I leave before the end or the inevitable lunch after. So in your case I would call my sister and have a heart to heart. Maybe not be a pallbearer, but definately make an effort to go.

    May you both find serenity.

  10. I really think that you should go. This isn’t a distant relative that you haven’t seen for years. This is your sister. I know it’ll be awful, but it clearly means something to her to have you there. This may be the last thing you’ll ever be able to do for her.

    As far as being a pall bearer: there isn’t much to it nowadays. The coffin is on a trolley type thing so you don’t need to lift it at all. Just walk next to it.

    I think you should do what you have to do to make this happen for your sister. I’m sure she’d do it for you. If you don’t go it’ll eat you up inside for the rest of your life. Be brave one last time for your sister.

  11. I’m so sorry that your sister is dying and that you have to make this difficult decision. I find some of the responses above very dismissive and judgmental. You absolutely do not have to go to this funeral or be a pallbearer if it will really be too hard for you, no matter how sad it might make your sister. I hope you go to Captain Awkward and read more advice over there, which will support you in doing what is right for you and not acting out of guilt or what strangers on the internet think.

    I love Pemcat’s response–honor your sister’s request and the intent with which she made it, express love and support, and be honest with her about what you are able to do. See if you can find another way to respond to the feelings and needs she is expressing–but you actually don’t have to meet her needs. If it will really have a huge impact on your health, finances, or life in any way, and it doesn’t feel like a supportive part of your own grieving process to go, you do not need to suck it up, you do not need to take literal or figurative pills, and you are not a bad person if you do not go.

  12. I personally would deeply regret it, for the rest of my life. We’ll just chalk that up to painful life experience. If you’re sure you *won’t* regret it and (like me) spend the rest of your life in sporadic self recrimination, then simply tell her, “I’m sorry, I just can’t.” Don’t offer other explanation. When you offer explanations, you invite argument as to why your reasons are wrong &/ or other efforts to change your mind.

    I’m terribly sorry for your loss.

  13. My father committed suicide when I was a teen. His funeral was one of the most gruellingly hellish days of my life. BUT I learned so much about him from the other mourners, things that I cherish to this day.

    A couple of years later, his father died. I was devastated, and I missed his funeral. I was ill, but I likely could have soldiered through if I had really pushed myself. I had thought I was protecting myself from further pain (after my father’s death I struggled with serious depression and suicidal tendencies, I was terrified of backsliding). Even now, I feel like I had good reasons to stay home that day. However, decades later I still deeply regret missing his funeral. Even though I know why I made the choices I did. Even though no one has EVER even hinted that I did something wrong. I missed my very last chance to bid someone I loved farewell before he was laid to rest and it left me with a wound.

    A few years back, a friend of mine died and her nasty abusive family decided to exclude all of her friends and chosen loved ones. They had a private, secret ceremony and refused to give her a grave marker, keeping the location of her remains ‘private family knowledge’. The grief I feel for her is intense, even now and all of the people I know who were friends of hers feel the same way.

    Funerals are brutal, and raw, and painful… but they are important for *most* people to navigate the grieving process.

    No one has ever been EXCITED to be asked to be a pallbearer. It is a somber, tragic duty, one that should be served with honor and compassion. Unless you are absolutely unable to find ANY way to honor your sister’s dying wish, you should accept that duty. It is something concrete that you will be able to do for her when you feel lost and helpless. She wants you to be one of the very few people charged with safeguarding her remains as she goes to her final rest. Be very wary of rejecting that, because I have never known ANYONE who regretted being a pallbearer, but I have known plenty who have regretted not doing everything in their power to pay their respects.

  14. Don’t go if you don’t want to. I disagree with everyone who says to suck it up because if funerals are for the living to say goodbye, you should do so in a way that feels right to you, traditions be damned. It’s ok to put your own well-being first. If you don’t, no one will do it for you.

  15. I’m a grief counsellor, hospice volunteer, and I’ve written for Offbeat Home on death issues in the past so please take this advice as someone that deals with grieving families and dying people every day. I think there are underpinning issues that need to be addressed. You are crossing two different issues and talking around the third 1. being a pallbearer and 2. attending the funeral altogether, and 3. how much you have processed your sister’s death and your relation to it. Forget the flight or your physical strength for a moment. This isn’t about the social protocol of attending a function. This is not about keeping up with the Joneses’ and traditions. It is about how you want to say goodbye to your sister. Your sister is coming to terms with her imminent death, she is facing that reality head-on and making plans because that is an extremely important step for those that have the blessing (and yes it is a blessing) to know the end is coming and to be able to prepare. Sure most of us would like to live forever but that is not possible. Short of that, we all want the Good Death and your sister is trying to not only come to terms with her own end but have her Good Death. Regardless of whether you attend or are a pallbearer your job as her sister is to help her get to that Good Death and that will require communication, love, honesty, and service on your part.
    Asking you to be her pallbearer isn’t like asking you to be her bridesmaid. She will have no control over her body once she is gone and wants to ensure her wishes are respected and she is safe. Looking to the family for reassurance and protection is normal and carrying her body to the grave can be as loving and impactful a moment as holding her when she was a child. Asking you to perform a task in the funeral is also a way of honour your relationship and she may be trying to give certain family members tasks to make sure that they are ok. Having tasks to do can comfort some people in the first few days after a loss when the impact of it threatens to cripple them.
    I’m not going to be prescriptive and tell you what you SHOULD do but I will say the two things you definitely SHOULDN’T do on ethical grounds are 1. not talk about it 2. lie to her that you will do it knowing you won’t even go. You both deserve far better. You need to talk with your sister, not just about her funeral plans but about her death and the impact it will have on your life. Tell her your concerns but be aware that someone that is dying may have little sympathy for “This is emotionally hard for me and a really long trip”, so be sensitive to her. Remember how hard it is for her. She is the staring character in her own death and if there is ever a time for people to stop accommodating the schedules of others, it is when they are dying. Ask her what matters to her now and when she passes, how can you honour her and help her be at peace. Maybe she doesn’t care if you are a pallbearer, she just assigned you that role because you are her sister, but maybe the idea of you not being there is upsetting. Maybe she doesn’t care if you are at the funeral but she wants you to call her every day while she is still here. Maybe she will feel honoured by a bicoastal memorial service, or she is ok with you skyping in. Regardless of the permutations, you have to be brave and talk with her, as well as with family and a counsellor if needed. You must be brave and let your sister know she is loved to the end and beyond, everything else is coordination details. Your sister is facing her death head-on, are you?

  16. Apparently unpopular opinion, but…

    Funerals are for the living. If you don’t want to be a pallbearer and/or don’t want to go to the funeral, don’t. Find something else that will give you comfort. The narrative around grieving needs to change. We don’t all deal with it the same and if there’s something else that will help you process it and the traditional route won’t, do what you need to do. People who are (wrongly) upset with your way of grieving are the problem, not you.

    If you think telling your sister the truth will hurt her and add pain to her last few months, lie or evade. Causing her more pain, to me, seems like a greater offense than lying.

  17. As someone who has lost a few family members, I can tell you, the last thing you want to do is hurt her now. It may seem like a normal sibling-argument now, one of the thousands you have had, where your sister wants you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. If you love her, her death will hit you harder than you can imagine right now, no matter if you attend her funeral or not. Really, you don’t know what it is like before you have experienced it. And if you hurt her now, it will come back to haunt you again and again, it will be inevitably mixed with your memories of her, every time you think of her, it will be tinged a bit by that last large argument.
    That being said, if you are really unable to go, not just for inconvenience, but for financial reasons or whatever, I would rather pretend I am planning to go than hurt a dying person. There is no such thing as a ghost, but I believe souls who leave the body are all-forgiving and all-accepting. But the living still feel the pain of rejection.
    Yes, she may have just added you to the list, because she thought you want to play an important role in the family etc. If that could be true in your relationship, I would ask her, if it means a lot to her if you come, because it’s a great financial strain etc., but that you would be willing to do all that’s necessary if it means a lot to her.

    Suck it up, for your own good, is what I am saying. It will make you stronger, it will be a memory you can look back on and know that you were able to bear it and grow larger than yourself. If you don’t go, it might become one of those memories that make you shrink a little, those memories filled with excuses that you just know don’t ring true, looking back.

  18. In 2003, my little 4year old brother passed on. He was sick but I didn’t expect him to just die in the middle of the night. We had spent most of the previous evening together, carrying him around on the back. Then he just up and died. I was miserable and furious. He was laid to rest the very next day–Muslims bury their dead quickly. My mom knew how I felt, told me to sit beside his bed, say goodbye. I ran away, came back in the evening to find a fresh mound of dirt in the backyard. That’s when the realization that he was gone hit me. It’s over 15yrs now and I still wish I had sat in that bed, kissed and said goodbye to my little brother. I’m not saying your situation and mine are similar, but if I were you, knowing clearly I’m losing and will never see this person I grew up with, loved, laughed with and though we are worlds away now, I’d sell out if I have to and race to her deathbed–let alone her funeral–just to hold her one last time and let her know that I’m loving her to the very end. Believe me, your sister wrote to you not just because of some pall bearer job, she misses you and wants you close to her, if not when she’s alive then when she’s gone. Remember once gone, they don’t come back and years without her will feel like sacks of corn piled on your shoulders, one after another

  19. Some commenters are being very judgey and going on about funerals as “something we have to deal with as adults” and something that you owe your sister. I call bullshit on that. Funerals are for the living and we don’t owe the dead anything. However, in situations like these it’s much more likely that you would regret not going than to regret going. There’s also the rest of your family to think of, and whether or not you may feel you owe it to them.

  20. First off, whatever you decide is what you decide – the internet commenters’ thoughts be damned. But I hope that you will talk to your sister, and I hope that you’re both granted the time to find a little peace.

    I will say, that I was very present for the death of a close family member and I acted as a pallbearer at the funeral. It was the most fulfilling thing I could have done; shepherd my loved one to his grave. I’m usually prone to emotions to the point of hysterics, I’ve actually run out of a funeral before… I understand the instinct to run and hide. But I also understand the benefits of facing it head on.

    Only you and your sister can really hash that all out.

  21. I do feel your pain, losing a loved one is never easy. As someone who very unexpectedly lost my dad when I was ten, my uncle who was the closest person I had to a dad a few years ago and one of my grandmothers, I do recommend attending the funeral or cremation if at all possible. I did not wish to attend my dad or my uncle’s cremations or my grandmother’s funeral either, but I went, and looking back, I am glad I did. In both cases, the ceremony and the support of the other attendees helped me come to terms with their passing.
    Last rites are, in the Western world, not meant to be appealing. They’re about:
    1) making sure the deceased person is laid to rest in a dignified manner and
    2) to offer comfort to the mourners
    It sounds like your sister truly wants 1), to make sure her body is cared for, and probably 2) as well, for you and the rest of her family and friends.
    If I found out a family member of me had lied to a dying relative, I would immediately and probably forever lose all respect I had for that person. So my advice would be: whatever you do, do not lie. If you truly, truly, are not up to being a pallbearer, gently say so and OFFER another way to be involved with the funeral.
    About attendance: I really recommend attending the funeral, at least for the actual burial with the laying to rest of her body. Things like wakes and simular rites are in my opinion mostly for the living, and as such more optional.

  22. I’m honestly heartbroken at the callousness of a lot of the OBH commenters here. Normally y’all are so inclusive and supportive, and understanding… and then the topic of death comes up, and all of a sudden it’s Guilt trips and shame almost across the board.
    I have to give MAJOR kudos to the few people who have managed to type of actually helpful responses that would help. Especially when in relation to such a painful topic, the world needs more people like you.

    With that said, I’m also in their camp… I do not believe your sister would be asking you to do this, if she knew how much just the request was effecting you. She is trying to plan for her death, which is not something anyone really can prepare for, and I think she’s just doing this the best way she knows how. Also, like some have said, she may feel that by giving you a task… something to focus on.. that day, that it will help you. If this is not the case, you need to be honest with her.

    Talk with her, cry with her, and make her feel loved in any way that you can… but you are under NO obligation to attend her funeral. If you feel up to it, go for it, if you don’t feel up to it, find another way to process and say your Good bye’s. In the end, you are the only person who knows what you can, and cannot handle… and no one has the right to make you feel crappy about whatever it is you decide to do.

    I am so sorry that you, your sister, and your whole family are going through this, and I hope you are able to find peace, with whatever you decide to do.

Join the Conversation