Should You Attend the Funeral of an Ex-Spouse?

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Monday, May 29, 2023

When a loved one dies, it can seem obvious that you should attend the funeral. However, when it comes to your ex-spouse, it can get trickier. Divorces and separations can drastically affect the paradigm of your relationship with the individual and their family. While it may seem like a good idea to go to the funeral, you may have to consider the feelings of the deceased’s family. This article will discuss navigating the funeral etiquette and grief involved in attending the funeral of an ex-spouse. Ultimately, you should answer the question of whether or not you should attend. However, your own feelings of grief and loss can make this complicated. 

Determining Factors

When determining whether or not to attend the funeral, it is important to factor in the feelings of yourself, your children, and your ex-spouse’s family. 

Your Relationship With Your Ex

Your relationship with your ex should be a major factor in determining whether or not to attend the funeral. Consider the factors that led to the separation or divorce. Has your relationship improved, worsened, or stayed stagnant since then? If your relationship with each other was bitter or toxic, it might be best to consider not attending. However, if things had calmed down or were civil, it might be a good idea to pay your respects. 

Being There for Your Children

If you and your ex-spouse had children, it may be a good idea to go and support them. The loss of a parent can be incredibly difficult to process. Being there to lend a hand, or a shoulder to cry on, can be important for your child’s healing process. If for nothing else, being there to support your children during a difficult time can be reason enough. If you have younger children, you may need to attend regardless of anyone else.

Your Relationship with Their Family

Not every relationship ends well. Moreover, not every relationship ends the same for all participants. It is not uncommon for ex-spouses to be on good terms with their in-laws after a divorce or separation. When considering whether or not to attend the funeral, consider your relationship with your ex’s family. Will your presence be welcomed by them? If not by all, are there people in their family that you still connect with? 

Current Spouses

If you or your ex remarried, it may make them uncomfortable for you to attend the funeral. You may want to consider their feelings before deciding to attend. 

Your Own Grief

While this one is put last here, it is by no means the least important. Grief can be a strong driving factor in determining whether or not you should attend the funeral. This is a personal matter, and there will most likely be conflicting feelings involved. Understand that there is often no right answer on whether or not you should attend. Funerals give us an opportunity for closure and final goodbyes. Understanding what you need in this situation is important in determining which course of action to take.

Making Your Decision

After weighing the factors, you will need to make a decision to attend the funeral. The below sections will discuss funeral etiquette for whether or not you attend. 

If You Attend the Funeral

If you choose to attend the funeral service, understand that the etiquette is going to be different than if you were attending the funeral of a family member. Because you are no longer part of the family to the same extent as you once were, there are different expectations of your attendance. Generally, ex-spouses will sit with friends of the deceased, rather than the family. The exceptions to this would be if you need to sit with your young children, or if you are specifically invited by the family to do so. 
Keep your condolences brief. Try to express your support without making it about you. If you are asked to speak, focus on good memories. Generally, try to keep your involvement in the service to a minimum.

If You Decline to Attend

Overall, you should consider the feelings of your ex-spouse’s loved ones when deciding whether or not to attend. However, there are still a number of ways to express your sympathy. Consider sending a condolence letter to their family. Additionally, you could send flowers or make a donation in their name to a charity that was close to them. 

Acknowledging Your Grief

Whether or not you attend, it is important to acknowledge and address your feelings of grief during this time. Even if you and your ex split into bad terms, your grief is still valid. It is completely acceptable to ask for help and support if needed during your time of grief. No matter the terms of your separation, losing someone that was once such an integral part of your life is never easy. Additionally, consider reaching out to a therapist or grief counselor if needed. 

The author of this post is not a professional therapist or counselor. For assistance in finding a grief counselor that is right for you, there are a number of resources out there. For our Grief Resource center, written by Dr. Bill Webster, click here
For almost 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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