Your brother passed away a week ago. You’re scrambling to make funeral arrangements. As your sending out emails and invitations, it dawns on you that your Uncle Pete who you haven’t talked to in 7 years is unaware of the passing of your brother. You debate about sending him an invitation, but eventually decide it will be less of a headache to just not invite him. You won’t have to make amends with him or resolve any bickering. Instead, he will be kept in the dark about the whole situation.
You have the funeral and everything went smoothly. Until Uncle Pete finds out that he wasn't even notified of your brother’s death, let alone invited to the funeral service. Now the situation between family members is more hostile than before.
Suddenly you realize that you denied Pete a chance to say a final goodbye to his nephew. Who knows, maybe he was going to use the funeral as an opportunity to remedy the broken relationship you both have with each other.
Bonds Formed in the Wake of a Tragedy
It’s amazing how families, communities, and even nations can put aside their differences and come together to mourn a tragedy. When the topic of conversation is death, all the bickering and arguing seems unimportant. Everything takes a backseat to the topic of death and mortality. Because it is such a heavy topic that pushes everything else to the side, it provides a great way to bridge the gap between family members and overcome differences.
Another way to view the situation is through the eyes of the recently deceased. Would they want to see their own family’s bickering intensify? I would imagine that most people would love to see a family's bond get stronger after they pass away. Being as open and honest as you can with your family is the best remedy for any kind of situation. Even if you haven’t talked with certain people in your family, it is still your job to notify them if someone in the family passes away. They may not care, they may not be interested, but they now have the opportunity to act. If they do want to show appreciation and support at the funeral, they have a means to do so.
Deciding Who to Invite
Ultimately, everybody who wants to pay respects to the decedent should be invited. It is a powerful feeling being at a packed funeral home or church for a funeral service. Seeing so many people affected by the death of one person is a beautiful thing, and provides a testament to the positivity and happiness the decedent brought to so many people.
You may not want to invite a specific family member to the funeral service and post-funeral reception, but you need to keep in mind that the funeral is not about you. The funeral is meant to commemorate the life of the recently deceased and THEIR relationships with other people. Not re-ignite old conflicts and bicker with estranged family members. Everybody deserves the opportunity to pay their last respects and say their final goodbyes.
All It Takes From You Is Sending a Single Text or Email
By simply initiating contact and sending an invitation to someone, you show good faith in them. You open the door to a better relationship. They may not want to attend the funeral but by inviting them, the gesture alone speaks louder than any words ever can.
Tragedy Forges Stronger Bonds
People bond in the wake of extreme stress and tragedy. Ask any soldier and they will tell you that the other soldiers in their squad are like family. In fact, many veterans who return to civilian life have a difficult time readjusting, largely in part because they lack the camaraderie they had while in combat. According to the Pew Research Center, this lack of camaraderie is one of the leading factors that cause depression in veterans returning from deployment.
Humans are wired to make connections with other people in difficult times as a survival mechanism. It is why we form families, and it is why families come together and form communities. Living with other people has proven to be an effective way of coping physically and emotionally with a tragedy or stressful situation.
Look At What Really Matters in Life
It is important to realize that bickering with family over frivolous things just ends up hurting both people in the end. It can be difficult opening up a conversation with an aunt who you have had ongoing arguments with for years. However, when you both are faced with a very sad, and stressful event (like a funeral) it can put silly disputes into perspective.
In today's age, it has never been easier to connect with other people. There's really no excuse to not inform more distant relatives of a death in the family. Overall, there is little to lose and so much to gain by providing relatives of the deceased a place to find closure.
If you are interested, check out How to Plan a Funeral from Beginning to End: A Step by Step Guide for helpful funeral planning information.