Etiquette for Ex Mother-in-Law's Funeral

Should I Attend My Ex Mother-In-Law's Funeral?

Grieving Father and Daughters
Show compassion to immediate family members of the deceased during a funeral. Rich Legg / Getty Images

Has your ex mother-in-law recently passed away? Do you wonder whether or not you should attend her funeral? This is a common dilemma with complications based on a variety of issues related to your relationship with your ex's family because there's a good chance you'll be in the position of having to say something to them.

Splitting with your spouse has a rippling effect on the family. You've probably established relationships with his or her parents as well as other extended family.

This makes it difficult to know what to do when there is a funeral for a member of your former spouse's family.

If your former mother-in-law has passed away, you may be concerned about whether or not you should attend her funeral. The key component in your decision should be based on your relationship with her, your former spouse, and the needs and desires of your children. If you aren't sure about what to do, try to have a conversation with your ex spouse. If that isn't possible, you should remain in the background and do whatever it takes not to pull attention from those who are in mourning.

Your Relationships

In most instances, the answer to the question of whether or not to attend someone’s funeral is pretty clear in one’s heart. If you have to ask, and you are feeling the nudge to go, you should probably attend as long as it doesn't compound the grief of immediate family members. Most people attend a funeral out of respect and honor for the deceased, but you don't want to cause anguish among those in mourning.

Consider the message you might be sending to your former family members, children, and perhaps grandchildren if they perceive you have snubbed their beloved Nana. If you know that you aren't welcome at the services, explain to the children that you and their other parent are no longer married, and some of the other relatives might be uncomfortable if you attend.

Answer their questions in the least accusatory way possible. This isn't the time to air your personal negative feelings about your ex.

Angry or Bitter Divorce Considerations

In some cases, where there has been a bitter or nasty divorce, you probably want to refrain from attending an in-law’s funeral service. You should consider whether your presence will cause discomfort or confusion during an already very emotional time. If you believe your being there will cause extra anxiety or frustration in the situation, choose instead to send a heartfelt card along with an appropriate floral arrangement to the family. 

Consider the Children and Grandchildren

You should always consider your children. If you have children together with your ex and they are going to attend, inquire as to whether or not they would like for you to accompany them. Their needs should outweigh any personal vendettas or agendas for both sides. Let your ex know your children's feelings. However, if being there will create a scene, sit down with your children and explain that it is best if you don't attend, but you will be there for them after they return from the funeral.

Different Role

Remember if you do decide to attend that you may have a different role than you would, had you still been the daughter or son-in-law.

If your former spouse is still unmarried, this may not cause much disturbance at all. However, take your cues from the grieving family. Although you may feel that you are still one of them, they may not have the same opinion.

Offer your help and be gracious during the service, and if you sense that there are hard feelings, you may want to bow out gracefully immediately afterward. You should probably not expect to ride in the limousine during the procession. However, if you have small children who need your support and comfort during the ride, show the courage and fortitude necessary to accompany them without apology.

In your children the two families became one; their emotional needs trump attitudes and even preferences during this stressful time. You still need to be sensitive and be extremely careful about what you say.

Most Important Consideration

During grief, the last thing you want to do is make people feel worse than they already do. Weigh each decision carefully and choose the path that causes the least amount of pain for the immediate family members. Never discuss hard feelings during the wake, visitation, or funeral services.

 

Edited by Debby Mayne