Funeral etiquette can be tricky to navigate, and even more so when you are grieving the death of an ex-spouse or partner. Although this person was once an important part of your life, family dynamics shift after a separation. Even as you are grieving, it’s important to consider whether your presence might distract or even upset others in attendance. Here are some important things to think about when deciding whether to attend the funeral of an ex-spouse.
Consider Your Relationship with the Family
One of the main things to consider is the current state of your relationship with your ex-spouse’s family. Depending on the circumstances of your separation, you may have kept in touch with the family or avoided each other completely. If you are still close with your ex-spouse’s family, it might be appropriate to attend and express your support. If your presence would upset the family, it might be a better idea to express your condolences from afar.
Has your ex-spouse remarried? If so, consider your relationship with the new spouse. Although you are both currently grieving the loss of the deceased, they are experiencing grief in a different way. Be considerate of their feelings and try to put aside any ill will toward them during this difficult time.
Finally, if you have children with your ex-spouse, that significantly changes the circumstances of the funeral. Depending on the age of your children, they might need you there to support them. If you have young children with your ex-spouse, you will likely attend the funeral service regardless of your relationship with your ex’s family. Adult children, on the other hand, may prefer to attend the service on their own.
Attending the Funeral
If you choose to attend the funeral service of your ex-spouse, keep in mind that the etiquette will be different than if you were attending the funeral of another family member. You are not part of the family in the same capacity that you were prior to your separation. Do not seat yourself in the family section, as it is more common for an ex-spouse to be seated with friends of the deceased. The only exceptions are if you need to sit with young children or if you were specifically invited by the family.
While you are at the funeral, express your support for your ex-spouse’s family without making it about you. Keep your condolences brief. No matter what, do not bring up grievances of the past. A funeral service is not the appropriate time to express those feelings.
It is also not a good idea to get up and speak if there is time to share memories, particularly if you and your ex-spouse split up on bad terms. You are there primarily to support the family of the deceased. Your involvement in the funeral service should be kept to a minimum.
Declining to Attend
Consider the feelings of your ex-spouse’s family above your own when deciding whether to attend the funeral service. If you need closure, but know that it would be upsetting to your ex-spouse’s family for you to attend the service, there are still many ways to express your sympathy. Sending a condolence letter is a thoughtful way to do so. You can also send a gift, such as flowers, or make a charitable donation in the deceased’s memory.
Even if you do not attend the funeral of your ex-spouse, it is important to acknowledge and express the grief you are feeling. If you are struggling to find closure, it’s OK to reach out for support even if you and your former spouse split on bad terms. The grief you are feeling is still valid. With Bevis Funeral Home’s online grief support, we are committed to helping you through this difficult time. Whether you need resources or online counseling services, you are not alone. Click here to access our Grief & Healing resources.