Should Out-of-Towners Attend Your Spouse's Funeral or Visit Later?

Q. My husband has been desperately ill for a long time, and I’ve been told it’s only a matter of weeks now. Close friends who live far away have asked whether I prefer they fly in for the funeral – or visit me afterward. They can’t do both, because of finances and work commitments. I’m not sure what’s best. What do you suggest?

You’re not the first person to raise this issue. We live in a society where our “near and dear” may live on another coast or even in another country. Because grief is debilitating and you need all the resources you can muster, consider asking the question: “When will their presence will be most valuable to me?” For example, how much emotional and practical support do you have nearby? Will you be surrounded by family members, friends and/or neighbors who will provide solace and help you deal with the details and decisions that are sure to arise around the time of the funeral? If the answer is yes, you may prefer a visit later on. Or, you may want these friends with you at the services, regardless of the local resources available. There is no right or wrong here.

One widow told me, “It’s a no-brainer. The funeral and aftermath is a mob of people – and then they leave. It was so nice to know friends would arrive in a few weeks. You need people later on.” Another widow felt uncomfortable being alone in her house after the hubbub quieted down. (Anxiety can be part of the territory after your mate has died.)  She looked forward to the company of out-of-town friends, who stayed with her for several days. They had their own memories of her husband and insights to share. Their visit was another chance to pull out the photograph albums and reminisce. It was an opportunity to “hang out” and talk about issues beginning to emerge, such as whether to sell her house and consider an apartment. They accompanied her to the cemetery.

Only you can decide which choice works best at this time of extreme vulnerability and fragility. You’ve already been through a lot as caregiver to your husband. I do urge you to be honest about what you need. In your place, I’d sleep on it and then go with my gut.


If you have a question for Florence, please email her at

Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist,author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest SympathiesWhen the Man You Love Is Ill,What Do You Say When and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, Robert Lawton

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