Should I cancel the trip or miss the funeral?
February 22, 2010 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Should I go home for my friend's mom's funeral? More details inside.

One of my best friends' mother passed away this past Friday. She had been sick for several years, so though the death was not totally unexpected, it still came as a bit of a shock. I knew her mother, though not well. My friend and I are in our early/mid 20s. Her funeral is this Friday, back in my hometown (c. 500 miles from where I live now). There is no wake, but instead a reception to follow the funeral.

Here is the problem: I have a vacation which I have been planning for months (which my friend has been involved with, giving me tips, etc) which I am supposed to leave from on Friday, from where I currently live. I can't change the flights to either leave later or leave from my hometown - I called and tried everything I could, but they basically told me my options were either to go, or not go, but that I would be charged the total fee (c. $2000) either way.

What should I do? I was thinking about flying down on Thursday, seeing if I could see her and her family for a few minutes Thursday night, even if it was just to hug her and tell her I love her and that I'm thinking about her, and then fly back up here Friday morning before my flight Friday evening. But I don't know if it would be a bother to her - I don't want to make her feel like she has to see me just because I came all the way home.

Questions: Should I just cancel the trip, and call it as a loss? Should I go down Thursday and be there for her if she needs me? Should I call her and tell her I'm sorry I can't make it, and that I'll try to come visit her soon? Have you lost a parent? What would you want/ expect in this situation?

I know I should talk to her about it, but I don't want to put undo pressure on her - I am not asking her to make this decision for me, because I know that she would just tell me not to come, and not to worry about it.
posted by CharlieSue to Human Relations (14 answers total)
I would visit before or after the funeral. Maybe drive/fly on Thursday. Or the week you come back from your trip.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2010

Send your condolences, and do what you can to see her soon. Thursday if you can make it, promptly after the trip if that doesn't work out. Spend time on the phone with her while you're on your trip if she would like. This is a lot of money to go unrefunded for someone of your age, and there will be lots of people to comfort her there. I would hope some of your other friends can make it. Your comforting her afterwards and in the years to come will be a much better show of friendship.
posted by lizbunny at 10:10 AM on February 22, 2010

If you really don't want to put undo pressure on her, then go on your vacation and be available by phone. If I knew that a good friend canceled a $2,000 vacation just to give me a hug I would feel flattered but also under a lot of pressure to keep him entertained, etc during a very difficult time. And I would feel bad about it. And I would wish he had asked me first.
posted by amethysts at 10:10 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

Should I call her and tell her I'm sorry I can't make it, and that I'll try to come visit her soon? (CharlieSue)

That's what I'd do. And I'd make it clear that I'd be thinking about her while I was away, and that I'd be available for whatever she needed me to do when I returned.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:15 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Chances are there will be people around for the funeral already. Don't underestimate the value of having people around in the days and weeks following the funeral.
posted by Solomon at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

2nd what Solomon said.

To me the funeral is not the hardest part of this. It's the vacuum afterwords.
posted by French Fry at 10:22 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Should I call her and tell her I'm sorry I can't make it, and that I'll try to come visit her soon?

I'd go this one better and make a time to come visit, so instead of "see you soon" I'd say "will be there on March 17" or something. It can be nice to have something pleasant on the horizon when someone is having a rough time, and I'd be a little wary of saying "I'll try to make it" if there's a chance you may not manage it. I think it is fine to go on vacation, send condolences and flowers but feel okay with not losing 2K because of bad timing.
posted by jessamyn at 10:37 AM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]

I remember the people who came to my mother's funeral. And I was really touched that they would make the trip. However, what I remember even more vividly are the people who, weeks or months after her death, followed up with me to see how I was doing. People sort of expect you to get back to normal right after the funeral, and grief just doesn't work that way. I'd take your vacation, but be sure to schedule some quality time with your friend after you get back, in the time when most people are going to be forgetting that she's going through terrible grief still.
posted by decathecting at 11:28 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you were close enough to the deceased that you personally wanted to go, you'd cancel the trip. In this case, seems like you're closer to your friend and that's the reason you might want to cancel.

Your friend will probably want your support, and some kind words... it helps to know people are thinking of you and supporting you through hard times. But it seems like you can accomplish this by visiting beforehand, going on your trip but being available by phone, and then calling again when you get home.

You have to judge in your mind. I know there are certain friends I'd cancel anything and go home for. There are others I'd call/email and send flowers. It seems like in this case it's the latter, but you're feeling guilt at the possible faux pas. Unless there's a certain reason why this friend in particular would be offended if you didn't come ("You're my best friend" or "She was like a mother to you"), then it doesn't seem to be offensive or something to be guilty of.

Tragedy happens, and it's often not convenient. You should be respectful, supportive, etc. But going on a long-planned trip doesn't *have* to mean that you're being insensitive. It's situation dependent, and it helps to view it from the other person's point of view. Would you be offended if the other person wasn't there? If they came the day before, but were not there the day of? It helps to reason these things out.

Good luck. Hard decision.
posted by jumpfroggy at 12:30 PM on February 22, 2010

I have lost both parents and my youngest brother. I do remember the funerals some of the people but honestly, you are such shock, who is there is not really on your mind. All 3 were deaths after illness so yes it was expected like your friend but it is still your mother/father/brother/sister who is gone. Everything is sort of surreal.

Seeing her afterwards would be wonderful.
posted by shaarog at 12:45 PM on February 22, 2010

It's very kind of you to consider missing your trip. I'm sure your friend will understand your absence. I'd either send flowers of a donation to a specified charity, with a condolence note saying that you are so sorry not to be there.
posted by theora55 at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2010

I was also very touched by old friends who came to my mother's funeral to support me, but I would never have expected anyone to cancel vacation plans for it. She's probably busy preparing for the funeral now, organizing photos and answering calls. If there was going to be a wake Thursday, you could certainly go to that, but I wouldn't fly down for the day if there isn't an arranged event going on.

I strongly second the above suggestions to visit her at a later date. Especially if you know that she'll need to be in town to do any sorting through belongings. Having a friend at that time would be a huge gift.
posted by saffry at 3:07 PM on February 22, 2010

My beloved mother-in-law recently passed away. The viewing/funeral was all on one day, a Monday, so I was surprised to see a close high school friend of Mr. Adams stop by. Mr. Adams hugged him and the two cried together, but a few days later when I was helping with the thank you notes I happened to say "Wasn't it nice of K to take time off work to stop by?" Mr. Adams had to think for a moment before he remembered..."Yeah, he even dressed up in a suit and tie..." I guess my point is that things are so convoluted during the wake and the funeral that even though your friend would appreciate your presence if you attended, she will also very much appreciate it if you sent a very nice letter of condolence expressing your sympathy and chatting about some of the memories you have of her mom. We spent two weeks after the funeral with my father-in-law, helping him tie up various loose ends, etc, and he cherished every card, note, letter that was sent and kept them in a portfoliio thingie the funeral home gave him.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:30 PM on February 22, 2010

In the future, definitely think about travel insurance as I believe this is the sort of thing that is covered by some policies. You could either get refunded for the trip or the cost of changing the flights.

Not everyone can make it to every funeral. The point is to let them know that you are in their thoughts. Sending a card or flowers to their address would be a nice gesture. I know that food is always something that's helpful to the immediate family, so perhaps you could find out if there is a catering company or similar that could deliver something like a casserole to their hous.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:56 PM on February 22, 2010

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