Almost a third of Britons have missed a funeral

22 October 2015

Our recent survey revealed that almost a third of Britons have missed the funeral of a family member or friend.

Funeral flowers

81% of these people subsequently regretted their absence from the service. Not being able to face going was voted as the main reason for not attending. This was ahead of living too far away and being apprehensive of feuds amongst attendees.

We polled 2,216 British adults during the study, all aged 18 or over. To qualify for the survey, all respondents had to have lost a friend or family member within the past three years. We conducted the survey as part of ongoing research into the British public’s attitudes towards grief and funerals.

Initially, all participants were asked whether they had been to the funeral of their friend or loved one who had passed away, to which 68% said they had. The rest said that they had not attended the event and were then asked to provide the reason or reasons for their absence. We found out that the most common reasons were that they:

  1. Couldn’t face going – 46% 
  2. Lived too far away from funeral destination – 39% 
  3. To avoid family feuds/didn’t get along with certain guests – 32% 
  4. Unable to secure leave from work – 24% 
  5. Was away on holiday at the time – 15%

We then asked all those who had missed a family member or friend’s funeral whether they had ever been to a funeral at all, to which half said that they hadn’t. We then discovered that the average age of those who had missed a family member or friend’s funeral was 31.

Finally, all of those who had missed a funeral were asked whether they regretted not attending the funeral of their family member or friend. The overwhelming majority (81%) of them said that they did.

When it comes to a final farewell, there are many factors which influence whether or not friends and family members of the deceased are able to attend. As an extremely difficult time in anybody’s life, we weren’t surprised to see that grief hits so many so hard, that they aren’t able to face attending a funeral. It was also interesting to see that so many people are concerned about feuding at funerals.

As a funeral is a final farewell to loved ones and friends, it’s easy to see why so many people who don’t attend actually go on to regret their decision. When there are situations that are unavoidable, non-attendance is understandable; however, we’d urge all those who have the choice to do their very best to attend. Funerals are often upsetting situations, but they can be positive, celebratory, life-affirming and sometimes heart-warming, so not always as difficult as they may initially seem.