If you’ve been invited to a funeral but are unable to attend you may be feeling bad. It seems rude and unkind to not go to someone’s funeral.

But even if you desperately want to go, sometimes it just isn’t possible. Life gets in the way. Be it illness, a family problem, work related or something else unexpected.

But what do you say when you can’t attend a funeral? How do you let the family know you won’t be coming to such an important event.

It can be really difficult finding the right words to explain why without sounding impolite or like you aren’t taking it seriously.

To the loved ones or family members of whoever’s funeral it is, almost nothing will be as important. Saying goodbye to someone so special is a vital part of the grieving process and finally letting them go.

But that doesn’t mean everyone else can just drop everything to make sure they are there.

So if you’re unable to attend a funeral and don’t know how to tell someone try the wording examples and messages below.

What to Say in a Card or with Flowers

One of the most common ways of letting someone know you aren’t going to be at a funeral is with flowers or a card.

Either way it’s important if you couldn’t make the funeral to let the family know. Explain why and apologize with these messages:

  • Please accept my sincerest apologies for not being able to attend the funeral. I really wanted to be there but I just couldn’t get away from work. I hope you can forgive me. All my love and sympathy
  • It’s with such sadness that I write this to let you know I won’t be at the funeral. Unfortunately I’ve caught the flu and just don’t feel well enough to attend. I’m so sorry I can’t offer my support and say my goodbyes. Sending you my love and sympathy
  • I really wish I was able to attend the funeral but my little boy isn’t feeling well. I will be thinking of you and praying for [the deceased’s name]. My deepest apologies
  • I desperately wanted to be there for support and so I am incredibly sorry I can’t make it. Please accept my apologies and know I’m with you in spirit
  • I hope these flowers will go some way to making up for my missing the funeral. You know I wouldn’t have missed it if it wasn’t an emergency. I’m so sorry though

sorry I can't be at the funeral message

SEE MORE: What to write in a Funeral Flower Message

What to Say in Person

Letting someone know you won’t be attending a funeral in person may feel a little daunting. Saying no to or rejecting anything is never very pleasant. You definitely don’t want to upset them at such a painful and sad time.

Offer your condolences and support alongside explaining why you won’t be there. Speak fondly of the deceased and show how sorry you are to not be at their final goodbye.

Use these speech examples for some help:

  • I heard about your dads passing and I am so sorry for your loss. It’s a tragedy and I hope you’re doing ok. I’m really sorry I have to say this but I won’t be able to make the funeral. I promised my sister I would look after her kids and I can’t let her down. Could I send flowers instead? I know it’s not the same but I still would like to make an effort and show how much your dad meant to me. Once again I’m very sorry
  • Learning of [deceased’s name] was such a shock. I won’t be able to come to the funeral unfortunately but will stop by sometime soon and be there if you need someone to talk or listen to. It’s so sad and we are all in mourning
  • I really wish I could be there on Thursday. I’m going to miss [deceased’s name] so much. It’s really upsetting to kiss saying goodbye but I’m sure it will be a beautiful service. I hope you can forgive me for not attending
  • My deepest condolences for your loss. I was all ready for the funeral but work have asked me to come in and I can’t say no. I hope you can understand why I won’t be able to come. I will be there in heart and spirit
  • I know this is pathetic of me but [deceased’s name’s] passing has hit me so hard I just don’t think I’m in the right place to be at his/her funeral. I don’t think I’ll be able to cope. I’m so sorry about this and hope you can understand how difficult it would be for me

sorry I'm unable to attend the funeral note

What to Say on the Phone

Some people prefer to speak rather than write a message or send a text. If so then try calling on the phone to explain why you can’t make the funeral. Use the examples below of what you could say as inspiration for your own conversation.

  • I know it’s not a good time to talk but I wanted to try and explain why I won’t be attending your mothers funeral. I’m having to cover for someone at work and they won’t let me leave early. I’m deeply sorry and hope you will forgive me
  • I wanted to call to let you know I won’t be coming to the funeral. It’s so disappointing but I’m not feeling well and my doctor has told me to rest. I’m terribly sorry and sad to miss it
  • I am just calling to say how sad it was to learn of [deceased’s name] passing. He/she was a one of a kind and will be missed greatly by so many. Unfortunately I just can’t make the funeral, but I will stop by for a chat next week and to see if you need anything
  • I am so saddened about your moms death. I will send flowers to the funeral as I won’t be able to attend in person. Please know that I will be thinking of you and your family during such a difficult moment
  • This is just a quick call as I know how busy you must be at the moment but I wanted to let you know I won’t be at the funeral. I’m swamped with

can't attend a funeral apology message

What to Say in a Text Message

Whilst a text message may seem impersonal it is now a common and acceptable way of communicating. From condolences, to saying happy birthday and get well wishes, text greetings are used more than ever.

So try these quick texts to let a family know you won’t be attending the funeral.

  • I’m so sorry I’m not going to be there. You will be in my thoughts
  • I am so disappointed to not be there. If could have you know I would
  • Sending my love from far away. I am with you in spirit if not in person
  • I know how hard today will be and I will be thinking of you and the whole family
  • Wishing I was there. Hoping you can get through it with ok

Email and Letter Examples

A letter or handwritten note is a very touching gesture, regardless of the circumstances. So consider one when explaining why you won’t be attending a funeral. An email is also acceptable (albeit less personal than the letter). Try the example emails and letters below if you need some help.

For more examples and help with writing a letter or email see our condolence email examples or sympathy letter samples

Dear ______,

I will was so deeply saddened to learn of [deceased’s name’s] passing. He/she was a truly special person and leaves behind a huge gap in so many lives. Although I won’t be able to attend the funeral I will be thinking of you and everyone there. Don’t hesitate to reach out if there is anything I can do or you need.

All my love,

________

********************************

Dear ______,

[deceased’s name] was such an amazing person. The memories I have of her/him will never fade and i shall treasure them forever. Although I find myself unable to attend the funeral I shall be there in spirit and heart. I hope you can say goodbye and find some peace amongst the grief.

With sympathy,

________

********************************

Dear ______,

It is with great sadness I write this note. I will miss [deceased’s name] so much and the warmth and love they brought to this world. I am deeply sorry to have to let you know I shan’t be at the funeral. I will send flowers and my love but I simply can’t find a way to be there. The distance is just too great. I hope you can understand and know that I will be paying my respects wherever I am.

My condolences,

________

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Conclusion

Not being able to go to a funeral is not a crime, nor is it uncommon. But it means you should make the effort to show you care in some other way.

Sending a note with flowers, card, or speaking via text or in person – whatever you choose you should try to explain why you can’t be there. But reaching out and saying something is the most important thing, regardless of the words, and will be appreciated by the grieving family.

what to say when you can't attend a funeral messages

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