As we all know, families, even when intact, are complicated and even more so after divorce and there’s no one-size-fits-all manual on what to do in delicate and emotional situations. No time is more tricky than a funeral for an ex-in-law, especially if you were part of the family for many years. So when someone you were related to by marriage dies, do you or don’t you attend the funeral? I am so glad you asked!
It’s Not about You
One of the first questions you have to ask is whether or not you should attend the funeral or celebration of life. I know, that’s rather simple, but there are things you need to weigh in making this decision.
First, will your presence be accepted or welcome? Second, will you be more of a distraction than an addition to the service? The most important thing to remember is that this day isn’t about you. It’s about a family and their grief. A funeral is an opportunity to find closure and offer a kind word and join in grieving someone. Your relationship might be complicated, but you’ll need to choose the right things for the entire family. If you and your ex parted ways amicably, then the feelings may not be so raw, so paying your respects may be the right thing to do.
Things Didn’t End Well, So What Should I Do?
In general, like I stated above, if you’re on good terms with your ex and the family, you should probably attend the funeral. You were a big part of your spouse’s life and of the family’s and even though you’ve gone your separate ways, the feelings, memories, and respect are still present. However, there are situations when your presence might not be appropriate. Here are a few circumstances that you may want to consider:
- If your presence will upset the family
- If your presence will increase the grief
- If the funeral is open to only close family members
- If you are no longer in touch on any level with the family
Should any of these apply to you, it might be best if you stay at home. There are other ways to show your support to your ex in-laws at this time of grief. Cards, flowers, or donations in memory of the deceased loved one are good ways to let others know you care without being present at a funeral.
Now What Do I Do?
So you’ve weighed your options and taken everything into consideration and you have decided to attend the service of your ex in-law. What do you do on the day of the funeral?
Unless you are asked to or are still close with the family, do not sit with the family. Remember, you were a member of the family, past tense. The drama you left behind isn’t part of you and your life anymore. So keep your distance at the service.
Needless to say, remain respectful; this is a time to put aside any past differences. Be kind with your words, and keep interactions with the family short and polite. To avoid any uncomfortable moments, avoid any reference to family rifts or why you left the family. It’s good to keep your involvement in the funeral to a minimum, too. Don’t make a long speech about the deceased, which may bring up difficult memories; pay your respects, give your condolences, and move along.