Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Should She Attend the Funeral?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I hope you get this and answer it in time before it’s too late.  My former mother-in-law just died and I don’t know if I should go to the funeral or not.  She and I maintained a close relationship even though I divorced her son six years ago.  It was an ugly divorce and each time my ex-husband and I see each other, we’re at each other’s throats.  I don’t want to cause a scene at this mother’s funeral, but I loved her and I’ll miss her.  Please tell me what to do.

Confused ex-daughter-in-law

Dear Confused,

First of all, let me say that I’m sorry for your loss.  I know you will miss her.  Please let God comfort you with His love and tender mercy.  Now, regarding your question—only you can decide what is best for you to do.  Here are some things to consider before you make your decision. 

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  You said that when you and your ex-husband see each other, you’re at each other’s throats.  Keep in mind that emotions are stronger in grieving individuals.  You may hope that both of you will be civil with each other in such a solemn and public situation, but only you can determine that likelihood.

What would your mother-in-law have wanted?  Would she have wanted you to place yourself in what may be a very vulnerable position in which hurt and humiliation may be added to your grief?  Consider this—if there is a scene, as you fear there might be, the grieving family may consider you the outsider who is causing problems for the family at their relative’s funeral.  Is it worth taking that chance?

You didn’t mention whether or not you and your ex-husband share any children.  If so, you would need to consider whether or not their presence at their grandmother’s funeral is important for healing their own grief.

If your decide to go, ask yourself how you will be able to avoid your ex-husband as much as possible and how you will handle the situation if a confrontation becomes likely.  Some pointers:  “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15: 1).  In order to keep peace, use the broken-record technique.  Just keep repeating, “I’m sorry for your loss.”  If you ex-husband tries to provoke you, do not try to defend yourself.  Instead, turn the conversation back to his mother’s good qualities.  If you feel yourself starting to get upset, leave!  You won’t regret keeping the peace.

If you decide not to go, you could ask the funeral director to record the service for you.  Then ask yourself how you can meet your need to grieve in some other way.  Perhaps you could write a letter to your mother-in-law, plant a tree or a rose bush in her memory, start a scrapbook of your memories, or make a donation to her favorite charity.  Finding comfort in your pain and loss is more important than your physical presence at her funeral. 

I hope this helps.

God bless and comfort you,
Aunt Dara