Do I attend funeral of my ex?
August 19, 2006 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Should I attend my ex's funeral (she's very ill and close to death)? Kids are 16 and 21, they live with her, i've had minimal contact with them (my choice) past 5 years because i wanted nothing to do with her, even by phone; they live 100 or so miles away.
posted by america4 to Human Relations (45 answers total)
 
You know how sometimes you go to funerals of people you've never even met because it would mean a lot to someone you care about to have your support? Think of it that way; go to support your kids.
posted by ferociouskitty at 9:12 PM on August 19, 2006


Nobody says you have to sit up front, but yeah you should go and be there for the kids.
posted by ilsa at 9:13 PM on August 19, 2006


Ask your kids? If you've had minimal contact with them for years, maybe they don't want you there.
posted by meerkatty at 9:15 PM on August 19, 2006


this is a person you most likely once loved. that alone should be a reason to attend.

but do ask the kids. please do.
posted by krautland at 9:26 PM on August 19, 2006


Yes, because you are still their Dad.

You state that you had minimal contact with them because of her. You didn't say that you do not have feelings for them.

They could use you there I am sure. It will definately decide for you whether you will remain having minimal contact with them.
posted by vidarling at 9:29 PM on August 19, 2006


Since they're probably going to be living with you afterwards, I would think it would be a good idea for you to start renewing ties with them now. Irrespective of the entire issue of any upcoming funeral, I think maybe you should be getting in touch with them.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:30 PM on August 19, 2006


You cut off contact with your children because you didn't like your ex?!! Really?

By all means go, but unobstrusively as possible. If your kids abuse you sit and take it, it is no less than you deserve. Maybe this can be the start of becoming a better person.
posted by LarryC at 9:31 PM on August 19, 2006


Funerals are not for the dead, but for the living. Your kids will likely appreciate you being there for them.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 9:34 PM on August 19, 2006


go!
posted by brandz at 9:35 PM on August 19, 2006


100 miles away? Dude, that's like an hour and a half drive. That's like driving from the north side of Atlanta to the South side, or just rush hour traffic in DC.

Oh, and you've had little to do with your children for the past 5 years because you couldn't behave like an adult with momma?

Like it or not, you're still 'family'. Be a man a go be there for your kids.

Jeez... straight people.
posted by matty at 9:40 PM on August 19, 2006


Oh, and yeah... ask the kids.
posted by matty at 9:41 PM on August 19, 2006


to echo "Funerals are not for the dead, but for the living."

went through similar stuf with my grandma and my dad.

go. really. ignore other stuff and go.

if asked to leave, do so, but you will have been there.

much less painful than any regreats which will eat away for yeas to come.

"not being there" is one of the biggest things folks can toss at you. and being there gives you a chance to "be there" as needed.

it is hard. blessings and such go to you.
posted by jeribus at 9:43 PM on August 19, 2006


It would help if we knew more of the backstory here. If there was really bad blood (like a bad betrayal) between the two of you, I can understand the inclination to skip the funeral and any attendant drama. We also need to know if you anticipate more contact with your kids after your ex dies. If so, taking an interest in the funeral is more for them than her, and you should do it. But given the history of non-contact, the least you should do is call them ahead of time to let them know you're planning on being there, perhaps even giving them a chance to tell you not to bother.
posted by mediareport at 9:44 PM on August 19, 2006


Don't go.
posted by Jesco at 9:45 PM on August 19, 2006


Here's a thought - unless there's some other arrangement that you haven't told us about, you'll be the legal guardian of the 16 year old.
posted by matty at 9:46 PM on August 19, 2006


Not only should you go, but damn, dude, she's dying. Whatever other bullshit went on in your past, you once cared about her enough to have two children. Go now. Let go of your anger and say goodbye to her. If that's not possible at least suck it up and be there for your kids.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:07 PM on August 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Go only if you are willing to start a more meaningful relationship with your kids.

If not, don't bother.
posted by SoulOnIce at 10:19 PM on August 19, 2006


"Not only should you go, but damn, dude, she's dying. Whatever other bullshit went on in your past, you once cared about her enough to have two children. Go now. Let go of your anger and say goodbye to her. If that's not possible at least suck it up and be there for your kids."
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:07 AM EST on August 20


Amen.

And, there is a reason for attending funerals with a generous spirit:

Eventually, each of us is the one being buried.
posted by paulsc at 10:22 PM on August 19, 2006


Don't ask, just go. Don't be surprised if you catch some negative vibes from the kids, but don't let that stop you.

By the way, who is going to care for the 16 year old when your ex passes? (you don't have to answer that here)
posted by caddis at 11:39 PM on August 19, 2006


(I read this the first time as the kids being hers, but not yours. Hmm.)

My mom died when I was 17; she and my father had been divorced for five years, he was remarried, and we hadn't seen him in months. He had virtually no impact on my daily life at the time, and he had (what seemed to him) valid personal reasons for not coming around. So, he didn't show up to the funeral or the burial.

I have NEVER forgiven him for it, and I probably never will.

It matters, even if you don't think it does. Go.
posted by timetoevolve at 12:31 AM on August 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


I agree with "ask the kids" - or actually, "it depends on your relationship with them".
They may indeed not want you there... you probably know what your relationship is like with them (do they resent you for your absence? if you and your ex had such a difficult relationship they may have sided with her etc)

I for one wouldn't have accepted it if my father had turned up at my stepdad's funeral, and I wouldn't want him at my mum's either.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:03 AM on August 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


If my father had blown me off for five years and then showed up unannounced to my mother's funeral, I'd presume a lot of things, including that he was there to make light of the fact that his enemy, my mother, was dead.

Talk to your kids first. You presence may be completely unwanted. You've walked away from them for the most specious of reasons for the last half decade, they very well may not need you or give a damn about you or whatever feelings you may want to process regarding their mother's death.
posted by Dreama at 1:32 AM on August 20, 2006


When I first read the question, I agreed with what Dreama eventually said, but now I think perhaps there is something to be said for attending.

However, I think that you should ask the children, and if the woman is terminally ill and knows it, perhaps you should ask her what she thinks about your attending.

I would also like to add (even though it wasn't asked) that you consider reconciliation with the ex before she dies. Or at least contact such as I mentioned above. Obviously we don't know the backstory, but one thing we do know is that you won't get the chance to reconcile (for your sake, or the sake of the children) after she is gone.

Good luck, this can't be easy. But it may just give you a chance to make something better for someone before it is too late.
posted by terrapin at 5:08 AM on August 20, 2006


Definitely. Just keep your mouth shut as much as possible.
posted by JamesMessick at 5:43 AM on August 20, 2006


Another one for asking the kids. My parents had been divorced for ~25 years, mom hated dad but still showed up (uninvited) to his funeral. What should have been a time to celebrate his life and mourn his passing with those who loved him was co-opted by her drama-queenery. We joked later that she'd only turned up to make sure he was dead, but I'll always resent her having been there.

Your kids might want you there, or they might prefer that time without you. Find out how they feel, and then respect that.
posted by NsJen at 5:56 AM on August 20, 2006


For what it's worth, if you were my father and had abandoned me that way, I'm pretty sure you're the last person I'd want to see in a time of trauma.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:13 AM on August 20, 2006


There is a very real chance that by attending you are putting yourself in a position where you will have to step up and help out now that your children are effectively without a parent. If you are prepared to deal with this then I think it outweighs CunningLinguist's issue. You have to think long term and not just short term.
posted by furtive at 6:22 AM on August 20, 2006


Do not go unless you ask the children. It's not all about you. It never was.
posted by bim at 6:24 AM on August 20, 2006


Ask the children.

I would also like to add (even though it wasn't asked) that you consider reconciliation with the ex before she dies. Or at least contact such as I mentioned above. Obviously we don't know the backstory, but one thing we do know is that you won't get the chance to reconcile (for your sake, or the sake of the children) after she is gone.

Seconded.

(I'm repressing a lot of things I'd like to say because of "Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer.")
posted by languagehat at 7:01 AM on August 20, 2006


If you do go, I don't recommend hanging around afterwards for the reception (or whatever it's called for funerals), especially if there'll be alcohol. Make a graceful exit after the funeral itself.
posted by cillit bang at 7:05 AM on August 20, 2006


I'd go, it'll mean something to the kids.
posted by disclaimer at 7:39 AM on August 20, 2006


+1 on asking the kids.
posted by WCityMike at 8:14 AM on August 20, 2006


I would also like to add (even though it wasn't asked) that you consider reconciliation with the ex before she dies.

Um...if I were dying and was worried about leaving my children (one underage too) behind, the last person I'd want to see would be my ex with whom I'd had a tumultuous relationship. Talk about upsetting.

Sorry to say, but showing up now seems a bit selfish to me. Leave the ex-wife alone and don't show up uninvited to the funeral etc.
posted by bim at 8:29 AM on August 20, 2006


I would disagree a bit with most of the above comments; you should go, but not for the ex or for the kids; you go for yourself. Funerals are for the living. You knew this woman. You have a right to be there, for yourself, for your own closure of a chapter in your life.

Your children may or may not appreciate you being there. Too bad for them. You have an independent right to be there, and you should be.

Your relationship with your children is a different kettle of fish, and outside the scope of your question. You'll have to deal with them later. But regardless of what they think of you now or whether they want you there, you should go.
posted by jellicle at 9:10 AM on August 20, 2006


If my father had blown me off for five years and then showed up unannounced to my mother's funeral, I'd presume a lot of things, including that he was there to make light of the fact that his enemy, my mother, was dead.

Wow, what a horrible way to look at the world.

You should talk to your kids again now to give them support. They may not take well to it, though, after five years of distancing yourself. If they're not opposed to it, you should go to the funeral.
posted by Dasein at 10:12 AM on August 20, 2006


I haven't lost a parent, but one of my best friends died when we were 28. Nothing cut through the pain of the wake like looking up and seeing both my parents walk into the funeral home.

I was 27 years old, not a kid anymore, but the minute I saw them I felt better -- I knew they would know the right thing to say to her bereaved parents, to my other grieving friends, to me. They didn't have to go to the wake and funeral, I didn't ask them to, but seeing them there was an irreplaceable gift.
posted by GaelFC at 10:57 AM on August 20, 2006


I had a similar situation, My child who I hadn't seen for 15 years (but monetarily supported) was getting married and sent me a letter inviting me. The main reason for not having a relationship with the child was my inability to be around her mother without getting angry and upset. I had had some limited contact with the mother during this time and it was clear we both thought the worst of eachother.

Though I was extremely nervous about it and afraid of her response, I went to the wedding. I went prepared to admit where I had been at fault and to own my share of responsibility for the breakdown of our relationship and the harm it had caused our daughter and her.

For that day, my ex and I were able to put our disputes on hold, be civil to each other and even have a hug for old times sake. I made amends for my side of the street and moved on. And most of all I was glad I could be there for my daughter.

Although her imminent death is a far different situation, it might be worth your while to make contact, own your own stuff, not mention her shortcomings, and go to the funeral in peace.
posted by Xurando at 11:25 AM on August 20, 2006


In defense of the poster -- it's unfortunately not that extraordinary for a custodial mother to alienate the father after divorce. Doesn't always come down to him being a deadbeat. I've known some cases where the custodial mother was basically borderline, and it was better (or at least understandable) that the father stayed out of the picture.

Go to the funeral if your kids are ok with it. If not, go visit them in the near future and figure out how to start reconstructing your relationship.
posted by footnote at 11:49 AM on August 20, 2006


Yes.
posted by punkrockrat at 1:08 PM on August 20, 2006


I don't think that asking the kids is necesssarily a good idea. It's perhaps not fair to put the responsibility of making this decision on them. You may think of it as "is it okay to see me?" But they're now have to decide how they feel about their dad/ex-stepfather (your relationship to them is not clear from the question) in addition to figuring out how they feel about their mother's death. That's a lot for a grieving 16 and 21 year old.

If I were you, I'd go. Take the high road, show up for the service, skip the reception if you want. Also, what paulc said.

Now, if you go, just tell the kids that you're sorry for their loss, and let them take the lead on whether or not they want to talk to you further. Put your phone number/e-mail in the card, so they don't have to ask you for it.
posted by desuetude at 1:24 PM on August 20, 2006


It's perhaps not fair to put the responsibility of making this decision on [the kids].

That's a fair point. I'd still call the kids, though, before the ex dies, to check in, see how they're doing, and let them know that I was/was not planning on attending the funeral.
posted by mediareport at 5:03 PM on August 20, 2006


Best reason to attend a funeral you are ambivalent about: because you can never later prove why you didn't attend. However thoughtful you may be (it would be too hard on the kids if I was there, it would be distracting...) they will come to their own conclusions about why you weren't there.

This is an occasion for being the bigger person. Go to the funeral. Be quiet and low-key, and do not expect to be treated as "family". There is a reason it's called "paying your respects".

You didn't ask us anything about restoring your relationship with your children - but if that is something you want to do, same advise applies: Be the bigger person. Make contact with your ex-wife and kids now, even if you get turned down, you never have to explain why you "never called while Mom was sick".
posted by AuntLisa at 11:32 AM on August 21, 2006


I've written three different things and deleted them. It's just impossible to know what could work without knowing what "minimal contact" is and what relationship, if any, you have with these kids.

If you can be supportive without layering your bullshit onto their already tough situation then you should do it. However, and I see no nicer way to put this, clearly you couldn't find a way to do that when the woman was alive if the only choice you could may was to be scarce, so it's hard to believe you could do it now.

If I had to give an answer with the limited information I'd go with "send flowers and a simple condolences card and stay away." The time of their mother's death is not when you should suddenly make an overture to be a part of their lives.
posted by phearlez at 11:59 AM on August 21, 2006


This question has been weighing on my mind since you posted. It is painful in a way that I had to stop reading. You have performed an act of awesome selfishness, and I think you know it. How you could abandon your children just to remove yourself from the clutches of your ex strains the imagination.

So what. We all make mistakes. Some little, some huge. Life is about moving beyond the mistakes and living for the present and the future.

For your own psyche, and for your children's, you need to mend some fences with them. It probably won't happen this year, or perhaps even this decade. Attending the funeral, and not making any unwanted reconciliation gestures, but just showing up, is an important first step. They probably don't want to see you, but frankly, they probably don't want to not see you either. You will need to apologize for your very, very heinous sin. A little apology at the funeral is a start but the apology will take years. You are a cad who needs to beg for forgiveness. If you succeed, perhaps you will escape this life with only a modest scar.

I could be all wrong, and if so then ignore this. However, I implore you to look into your heart and question whether your children deserved to have you removed from their lives. Now is your chance to begin the process of inching your way back. If not for you, you need to do it for them.

The pain of having a parent deny their love is perhaps the deepest of childhood scars. Help erase that by showing that the weakness was you, not them. They were fine and worthy, you were shit. You were beneath contempt. Now you seek forgiveness, not love, which you do not deserve, but nothing more than forgiveness for your abject poverty of spirit and for your nearly inexcusable neglect.

At the funeral you ask for none of this, you just show up. The healing starts later and takes years. Good luck to you and to your children.
posted by caddis at 6:02 PM on August 21, 2006


Call your ex now. She can tell you whether to come or not. If you can, and if you'd be welcome, go see her. She might even tell your children for you.

If you speak to your children before their mother's death, it might be kindest not to talk about funerals. You know one's coming, and they do, too, but to a 16-year-old you might sound both cruel and presumptuous to bring it up, like you were saying, "See you when your mom dies."

Chances are, no matter what you do, someone's feelings will be hurt. Maybe yours. Your kids might not even talk to you. But they will notice if you are there, and whether they admit it now or not, it will mean something.
posted by Sallyfur at 11:21 AM on August 22, 2006


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