Daily Press (Sunday)

Do I have to go to the funeral?

- Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “ExEtiquett­e for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.” drjannblac­kstone@gmail. com

Dear Dr. Blackstone: What is my responsibi­lity when my children’s mother dies and there is a viewing and formal funeral? Ours was a 10-year marriage that ended in a brutal divorce because of her infidelity and remarriage 20 years ago. We had three children, now all adults with children of their own. I see them often and we are close. Will there be any adverse effects for my children if I choose not to attend the services?

Dear Reader: Funeral services are designed to offer respect to the deceased, but more importantl­y we go to funerals to support those who are left behind. Your kids are most definitely grieving at the loss of their mother, and although you didn’t support your ex-wife’s actions, you certainly want to help your children as they morn her loss. That would be the reason you would go to the viewing and the funeral — not for you or the grudge you hold, but for them.

At the funeral you would sit with your children, even if your ex’s husband is nearby because hopefully you will be able to put your difference­s aside during this very trying time to allow you to be there to support your kids. All eyes may be on you, so it’s important to be gracious and keep the drama to a minimum.

In terms of adverse effects, if you don’t attend the funeral, you will be missing a huge opportunit­y to offer strength and security to your children, plus it will be obvious to all that the grudge you continue to hold is far more important than your children’s welfare.

Remember that although how he came into your children’s life is questionab­le, by this time they may have developed a relationsh­ip with their mother’s husband. While his judgment was of concern 20 years ago, your children will still be witnessing his sorrow, as well as their own, and may feel pulled between the two of you. Someone’s death is often an incentive to put things behind you, plus the impetus to forgive — or at least let things go. If you find that it’s more important to stay home than offer a shoulder to your kids, it may be time for some soul-searching and counseling to help you get past your own resentment and anger once and for all.

Finally, being that your children are adults, don’t be afraid to simply ask them what they need from you and how you can help. Ex-Etiquette rule No. 2, “Ask for help if you need it.” If your discomfort is obvious, tell them the truth (Ex-Etiquette rule No. 8, “Be honest and straight forward.”) “You know I was very hurt by your mother’s actions, but I have always loved you and know you will always love your mother. I want to be there for you. What can I do to help you?”

Tell them that it would be your pleasure to accompany them to the funeral if that’s what they want, but it could be that they need your help behind the scenes. Asking for their direction will allow you to be the comfort they need. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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