To set the scene my family are very strict on the idea of family and respect.

However, I do not wish to attend the funeral for a few reasons.

  • I did not visit this relative for at the very least five years prior to their passing

  • I experience heavy anxiety in large crowds

  • I have never attended a funeral before
  • I feel it's almost disrespectful to go as I never intended on visiting them again in future. Not out of spite but purely as they live over 60 miles away and is not what I would consider immediate family.

In-fact in my entire lifetime I believe I have met the relation in question three times...

Although I have not yet expressed my concerns to my father he has an explosive personality and I can guarantee he will argue with me regardless of the fact that I am no longer dependent on him.

In this situation, how would one go about declining a funeral invite?

I'll also add that I've not been contacted directly (and didn't expect to be) the only person insisting on my attendance is my father.

Some other important information: From a young age I have been subjected to both physical and emotional abuse from him. Although I have moved away he is still only around a 10 minute drive away from me. He would happily disregard these arguments and say that I'm being disrespectful, self-centered, lazy etc. Possibly even driving down here to escalate to verbal and emotional abuse. It could be my anxiety making this worse but this has happened in a previous occasion under different circumstances. It's probably also worth mentioning that most of my anxiety also stems from my childhood which is why this is such a scary topic for me.

Post answer update 1:

I'll be honest I didn't see these answer's working out well for me. Over the three days I waited (for responses/formulating my reply etc.) he sent me four messages all of which were variations of or incorporating the next sentence into unrelated messages which I also didn't respond to.

***'s Funeral is on ****

A very smart tactic from a communication stand point as it's a direct informative message and allows for no indication of an 'invite' but simply a command. It implies the recipient is coming regardless. I've decided to go for my own safety. Three-four hours of anxiety is infinitely better than being at the very least harassed over the next few weeks.

Post answer update 2:

For the sake of future sanity and to avoid attending for the wrong reasons I decided against attending the funeral. I didn't quite follow the answers below as I did reply to him but it was only to confirm that I would be sending my condolences to the family. He has tried to emotionally blackmail me. However, the lack of response seems to have left him stumped for now. I believe moving away from the house has lessened the amount of control he has and honestly I feel safer for it. Although this thread has made me realise I probably need to seek some therapy for my past trauma.

Thank you stack exchange!

  • Hi. What is the desired outcome? Why is this NOT an option? "Hi dad, I just wanted to inform you I am not going to the funeral. Ok, I have to go now, bye, see you somedate"
    – Stian
    Feb 19, 2020 at 13:27
  • @StianYttervik - The desired outcome in a perfect world would be. My father understands, I message the direct family of the relative to express my condolences and we all continue on with our lives. This is not an option as my father is not that kind of person. This WILL be an argument... I'd like to mitigate this as much as possible...
    – Fireball
    Feb 19, 2020 at 13:37

3 Answers 3


Personally, I think that this is a sign of a much larger problem in your life that should be dealt with. I have a relative who decided that, for him/her to heal, he/she needed to cut the family out of his/her life. Then, and only then, could this relative start on the long path to recovery. We are some of the only family members that this person is in contact with and understand the need for detachment.

Given the history of abuse that you claim, and the controlling behavior that you describe, I would suggest considering this as an option. Absent that decision, I'd frame the interaction about the funeral like this:

Dad, I am not coming to the funeral. [X] and I weren't close and I just don't plan on attending. I understand that's what you desire, but I won't be there.

Then, if your father refuses to accept this, hang up the phone at the first outburst. If he comes to your door, don't answer it, don't acknowledge that he's there, don't do anything. If he calls, answer but cut off the call when he tries to argue with you.

People will only continue a behavior as long as it's productive. It may take some time, but eventually he'll realize that uncivil behavior will result in the phone call ending very quickly, and that you don't answer your door for him. He'll have 2 choices: either behave better, or stop trying to contact you. Either way, you come out ahead.


(My answer is quite along the line of @baldPrussian's answer, consider this an addendum)

Stop arguing, and start saying

Is a sentence I use a lot. I work a lot with group and team dynamics at work, I facilitate and coach as a living. Through my work and observing / learning from others I have experienced that a lot of conflicts are perpetuated by enabling the conflict to happen. We do this a lot, we are social beings and we have both needs to show the reason behind our thoughts and to be heard, to be understood and perhaps in some cases we like conflict. Now, I am not a psychiatrist nor a therapist - but often conflicts are the last remnants of friendships and relationships and it is hard to let go, because we miss the friendships and the relationships. Not saying this is relevant in your case, but it is something to consider.

Now, because we want to argue, we make rational statements:

This because that and that leads to this.

But when we communicate like this we are opening up for arguments. Rationale can be dissected and counterargued:

No, this because something else, thus it leads nowhere.

So making a rational argument is a poor way to communicate if what you want is to avoid conflict. So, you have reasons for not going - great. But don't use them when you inform your father you are not going to the funeral. Just flat out refuse to counter-argue. It is also important to remember (and hard to actually manage) to not have a body language that screams conflict. Don't ball your fists, don't raise the shoulders, don't furrow the brow - these are all signals saying "oh yeah?! come on, lets have it!". Instead, answer either a) with silence. Silence is golden - if you can manage it! It is pretty unpleasant and it quickly ramps up. First one to speak loses. Or b) by reiterating your statement.

The way you describe your father, he sounds like a hothead. That is why I wouldn't try this, but it is also a way that could work in many other cases - and that is by Active Listening. Just ask why over and over and over again, ask him to clarify, to reiterate, to repeat and read back your understanding. It totally kills conflict. But that requires a lot, it is very hard to do when you are emotionally invested in the situation. But it is a nice method to know of.

A semi-long answer that basically says the same as the accepted answer, but it was an angle that I thought could use more coverage. Don't argue - just say. Good luck.

  • 1
    This is important in that it more clearly demonstrates an interpersonal skill of not arguing than my response did. Feb 20, 2020 at 21:17
  • Active listening can work with a hothead. However, one needs to really be careful of how one phrases ones questions to not sound like an attack. That said, I'd also not recommend starting to use this technique with an adversarial parent. My own experiences with an
    – Ed Grimm
    Feb 26, 2020 at 13:27
  • @EdGrimm Yes, it can - if the listener manages to withstand the stress. I don't think this is such a situation though - no offense meant to OP. Sometimes it is just difficult - and ruptured family connections certainly make it so...
    – Stian
    Feb 26, 2020 at 19:16
  • 1
    @StianYttervik that's kind of what I was attempting to state right before I managed to accidentally submit the comment as I was closing my laptop. :/ I wanted to state that it's not impossible to use in hostile situations, just harder, so people wouldn't rule it out completely forever, but also wanted to clarify my experience suggested hostile family situations are the hardest to manage this. Yes, it's possible, but asking the OP to would be not quite as bad as asking someone who just heard about mountain climbing to scale K2, but still bad.
    – Ed Grimm
    Feb 27, 2020 at 3:31
  • @Stian Yttervik - Unfortunately, from experience I know that the "don't argue just say" is a terrible scenario and you would be surprised, hotheads can make an argument even if the other party says nothing. I've worked customer services for 5 years and without blowing my own trumpet, my active listening is decent. However, this just makes him physical as I should just 'do' as I'm told and he shouldn't have to explain himself. It's my fault for expecting an easy answer for a very personal and difficult question. Thank you though!
    – Fireball
    Feb 27, 2020 at 15:17

experience-based answer:

I think your reaction is totally understandable. I did not attend my father's funeral as he was a really nasty person to whom I had not spoken in years precisely due to his abominable behaviour and his inability to see that it was unacceptable conduct. I felt it was hypocritical to attend to pay respect to someone whom I did not respect. I think that this should be your answer. It was the one that I gave, and people in that orbit did actually agree with me. There were lots of people at that funeral whom he had not seen in years and who did not care enough to talk to him when he was alive.

I do not think that you can mitigate the issue with your father; there will be a storm but it will blow over in time. I suggest that you follow @styan's excellent suggestion to deal with this.

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