Death in the family: an etiquette question

My grandfather died yesterday.

Unfortunately, I’m not very close to that side of the family – communication with my father and his parents has been sporadic, and I hadn’t talked to my stepmother in several years before she called to give me the news. For a variety of reasons – many emotional, a few pragmatic (I can’t really spare the $450 or so it’ll cost to get there, not to mention a room) – I’m not interested in attending the funeral.

I feel kind of bad about that, but honestly, that’s my response.

What sort of stuff can I do as an estranged member of the family? I’m about to call my grandmother and my father. I’ll tell them that I love them, and support them however I can. But what’s appropriate behavior from a family member who can’t attend the funeral? A card seems minimal, flowers appropriate, but what else?

Any advice would be appreciated. I’m okay – I feel sad, of course, but I’m not collapsing in grief. I’d just like to handle my family as well as possible.

A nice long letter. Written, not typed.

Second the letter, and of course the phone call, with a bit of “if there’s anything I can do…” to it. A small charitable contribution is a nice gesture if there’s an appropriate charity (one supported by your grandfather, or one possibly related to what he died of, that sort of thing). But a letter is far more personal and indicates a lot more effort on your part than just the card you send with flowers.

Is your family Jewish? I mean, will they be sitting shivah? If so, you could try to find a bakery/deli near where they are and see if they’ll deliver a platter of some sort. I don’t know if this sort of gesture would be equally appreciated in families that aren’t Jewish.

The letter: on the must-do list.

saramamlana, no, my family isn’t Jewish. Thanks for the thought, though; food is still an option.

The previous advice seems good to me. Flowers definately, and the letter.

If I may (and I certainly don’t want to intrude), I’d like to urge you to reconsider going to the funeral. I made this mistake when my grandfather died. I could not afford the time off or the cost of travel. So I did not go. I have regretted it ever since. As you say, not falling down with grief or anything, just sort of a last chance to pay respects to a man who loved me very much.

And no letter or phone call can replace a simple hug.

Thanks now I have to go have a cry:smack:

I reached my grandmother and the rest of the family by phone. As it turns out, my grandfather had decided that he didn’t want a funeral. (Although, pervert, I had been ready to go if she’d said she wanted me to come.) The only memorial gathering was this afternoon, when the in-town family gathered together at my grandmother’s place.

I’ll send flowers and a letter, call again later in the week, and check into a good time to visit within the next couple of months.