Q. A couple who were very close friends did not attend my husband’s funeral because they were booked for a vacation in Hawaii. The flight left the day before the service and the package was nonrefundable. Part of me understands their choice, but another part feels angry that they didn’t change their plans regardless. What are your thoughts?
This is a complicated situation, involving a mix of expectations, practical considerations, values and priorities, and perhaps even communication. The first issue is the kind of relationship you and your mate had with the couple. The words “close friends” can cover a lot of territory and mean different things to different people, especially when money is involved. Some friends may be there for you at difficult times as long as they don’t have to make costly sacrifices. In this case, they were going to forfeit thousands of dollars if they stayed home. Even if they were very wealthy and could afford the expense, they might not be willing to do it—although the choice might be different if an immediate family member died.
Another question is whether you really needed their in-person support. If so, did you tell them how important it was to you that they attend? Often the bereaved feels, “I shouldn’t have to do that. They should do the right thing.” However, from their perspective it may seem that you’ll have enough support around you without their presence. They can see you before and after the trip, and talk to you by phone as well.
These friends may also have obligations to others accompanying them on the trip. If they’re going with another couple, four people’s vacations would be spoiled. Or perhaps they really needed this time away for health reasons. Whatever the scenario, chances are the couple felt guilty about going ahead with their plans, but not guilty enough to cancel. If the situation was reversed, would you have cancelled your trip for them? This was a big deal financially and emotionally, not just an ordinary previous engagement.
In the end, the question is, is it more important to continue a relationship with these people or stay angry? Friends are not perfect people. Sometimes they may disappoint you, and it hurts. That’s life. Can you accept that and put it behind you? Only you can say.
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at email@example.com.
Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author—and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.