Funeral Etiquette: Funerals and Divorce
Funeral etiquette is complicated even under the most traditional of family circumstances, so when you throw in blended families and issues related to divorce and remarriage, things can quickly become tangled up. Is it acceptable to go to the funeral of an ex-spouse? What about extended family of your ex to whom you remained close? And what happens if you are footing part of the bill for the burial?
The most difficult thing about funeral etiquette when it comes to issues related to divorce is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Some families have better relationships than others. Grief sometimes gets in the way of sound judgment. And in many cases, it’s possible that the amount of time you’ve been divorced (and the presence of children) will dictate how appropriate it is for you to attend.
Rules Regarding Divorce and Funerals
There’s only one hard-and-fast rule when it comes to divorce and funerals, and that’s to be sure and communicate with the family in mourning. No matter how much you might want to pay your respects or how strongly you feel that the deceased would want you there, the immediate family is the most important consideration. Their feelings, their grief, and their desires should come first. If there is any indication that your presence will cause a strain, make an alternate plan to visit the gravesite at a later date.
If you aren’t in a position to talk to your ex directly, try to contact someone in the family you know on a personal level. He or she may be able to feel the family out regarding your attendance—but don’t push too hard for an answer, as the family may have other, more important decisions to make at this time.
- If you’d like your children to attend the funeral, but aren’t invited yourself, find a trusted (and welcome) relative to step in for you.
- Consider sending sympathy flowers or a sympathy card instead of attending. Avoid any displays of passive aggression in this type of gift.
- Don’t use this as a time to air grievances or make amends. A funeral is for mourning, period. Any other conversations that need to take place should happen at a later date.
- Keep things pleasant. If you do attend the funeral, sit in the back row and be pleasant to those you meet. Even if there are lingering negative feelings regarding your divorce or the family’s acceptance of it, your job is to pay your respects without putting yourself forward.
- Offer support however you can. Did you and the deceased have side-by-side burial plots that you’ll no longer need? Offer to sell it to the family or give up the space entirely. Does the family need someone to help with food preparation or cleanup? Maybe you can step in and provide support.
The most important thing you can do is always ask before you make any decision. Assuming you are (or aren’t) welcome can lead to more disagreements and additional strains in the future. To avoid misunderstandings and remain respectful, always talk to someone you trust.