The sticky question of whether you should attend your ex’s funeral is raised again by the death of Presidential candidate John Edwards’ wife Elizabeth. Although they were on the point of divorce because of his infidelity, Elizabeth’s estranged husband was at her bedside when she died.
That’s a very personal decision I’d guess most divorced people wouldn’t choose to emulate.
When you divorce, death is the usually the last thing you’re thinking of. You’re too busy worrying about how you’re going to get through to the end of the week. But as the years pass, you notice you’re attending funerals where there is more than one spouse present, and sometimes more than two.
Tricky Social Etiquette
I attended a recent funeral where two ex-wives and an ex de facto wife were present, and one ex wife and at least one other ex-de facto were absent. They handled themselves with decorum, but it can’t be easy.
My friend was a better father than he was a husband – something that has also been said of John Edwards – and this caused some mirth at the funeral. A male friend was paying tribute to what a “ladykiller” his friend Tom (not his real name) was – and mentioned he had not realised he had been married once before he married woman who became the mother of his children.
Said mother piped up from the front of the chapel loud enough to be heard to the back rows: “Neither did I”. The chapel erupted in tension-defusing laughter.
Contrasting Ways To Do It
I guess it’s very much a personal thing whether you attend your ex’s funeral, the decision governed perhaps by how amicable the separation was, how long ago it was, how much of a relationship has been maintained post-divorce and whether both partners have gone on to build new families afterwards.
Jill Brooke commented in the Huffington Post that she found it heart breaking the way Joan Kennedy, Senator Ted Kennedy’s wife of 25 years, was marginalized at his funeral.
“All the accolades and support were channeled to his second wife, Victoria, and hardly anyone mentioned the mother of his three children who quietly attended the funeral.
“How difficult it must have been for her to hear how Victoria was the love of Ted Kennedy’s life? Joan had spent 25 years with him, shared wedding china, holiday vacations, school recitals, medical hardships and campaign victories.
“They fell out of love but that didn’t mean that there hadn’t been love. Ted was also the only husband she ever had.”
If you are going to attend your ex’s Joan Kennedy was a model for how to do it – with quiet dignity. Cher’s performance at Sono Bono’s funeral was a textbook case of what not to do. Her tearful eulogy completely upstaged Mary, Bono’s wife at the time of his death and the mother of two of his children.
How About You?
If you are divorced or have split from a long term love, have you ever given thought to whether you’d attend his or her funeral? Would you want them to attend yours? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this tricky topic, and any suggestions for the best way to behave if you do attend…