Ex-Spouse Funeral Etiquette and Guidelines

Published September 1, 2020
mother and two children at a funeral

Whether it's appropriate to attend your ex partner's funeral will depend on various circumstances. Before making a decision, consider ex-spouse funeral etiquette and take time to process the situation and evaluate if this is the right choice for you.

Ex-Spouse Funeral Etiquette

Deciding on whether to attend your ex-partner's funeral can feel overwhelming. If you do opt to attend your ex-partner's funeral:

  • Don't expect to sit with your ex-partner's family unless you remained very close and they have invited you to sit with them.
  • If you would like to attend, but aren't sure if it's appropriate, reach out respectfully to someone in the family who you've remained in contact with.
  • Don't draw attention to yourself or make the funeral about you; solely focus on paying your respects.
  • If there's wake and/or reception, reach out to a family member who you've remained in touch with to make sure your attendance is appropriate.
  • If you do attend a wake or reception, bring an appropriate gift or card to give to the family and/or host.
  • If you do attend the funeral and experience a strong emotional reaction, take a moment to step outside. While an emotional reaction is perfectly normal considering the circumstances, it's best to try to keep the focus off of you at this time.

When Should You Not Attend the Funeral?

If you aren't sure if you should attend your ex-partner's funeral, consider whether your attendance would be welcomed or stressful for the family and friends in attendance. If you feel your presence would cause an issue, consider sending a card and/or gift to the family in lieu of attending the funeral. You should not attend the funeral if:

  • You are not close with the family and feel they would not be comfortable with you there.
  • You feel like your emotional reaction may distract from the funeral service.
  • You had a complicated relationship with your ex-partner and the family would feel confused or upset about your presence at the funeral service.

What if Your Ex Remarried?

If your ex partner remarried and you feel that your presence would be uncomfortable for them, then it may be best not to attend. If you have somewhat of a relationship with your ex-partner's spouse, you can consider reaching out to them respectfully to see if your attendance would be appropriate. Consider saying:

  • I am so sorry to hear about the loss of (insert deceased individual's name). I just wanted to check in with you to see if you would feel comfortable with me attending the funeral. I respect your decision and don't want to cause any discomfort.
  • I was saddened to hear about (insert deceased individual's name) passing away. While I would like to attend the funeral service, I wanted to make sure you would feel comfortable with me doing so. Please let me know if this would cause any discomfort for you.

If you do end up attending and are not close with the family, be sure to sit in the friend section and leave the family section open for family only, unless you are invited to sit with them.

What if You Share Children?

If you share children:

  • If they are young and need you to accompany them during the funeral, check in with the family to ensure that your attendance is okay.
  • If you share adult children, they can attend on their own without you present if you are not close or aren't on great terms with your ex-partner's family.
  • If you have tween or teen children, they can most likely attend on their own depending on their maturity level and comfort, but if you opt to go with them, it's best to check in with someone in the family first.
Man carrying a sad small child

What to Say

If you do end up attending the funeral, you may want to connect with your ex-partner's family briefly after the service to pay your respects. Keep whatever you say short and simple, as they will likely be speaking with a lot of the individuals in attendance.

Etiquette Guide for Your Ex-Partner's Family's Funeral

Regarding your ex-partner's family's funeral, it's important to check in either with your ex or their family before attending. If your ex-parter has passed away and you are still close with their family, you may still want to touch base with the family before attending a funeral. Doing so is respectful and ensures that everyone is comfortable with you being there.

Attending Your Ex's or Their Loved One's Funeral

It's up to you to decide whether your presence is appropriate for your ex-partner's funeral. If in doubt, check in with someone in the family to make sure it's okay with them. Know that whether you attend or not, you may experience grief related emotions. Be sure to take care of yourself during this time and allow yourself to process this moment fully.

Ex-Spouse Funeral Etiquette and Guidelines