12 Etiquette Rules To Follow When Ex-Spouse Dies

Etiquette When Ex-Spouse Dies
Express your condolences, communicate with the family, and ensure you are respectful at the funeral services. Don’t sit with the family at the funeral unless you share children and offer a helping hand to the family.

1. Expressing Condolences

When your former spouse dies, expressing condolences to the family and friends of your ex-husband or ex-wife may seem a bit daunting. However, make sure to keep them brief and always be kind.

Never bring up past grievances, even if you didn’t end on good terms. A funeral service is not the time or place to express those feelings.

There is no specific rule on what you should say to the mourners, but here are a few ways you could offer your condolences:

  • I’m so sorry for your loss.
  • My thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.
  • If there is any way I can help, please let me know.
  • [Ex’s name] was a wonderful person and will truly be missed.

2. Funeral Etiquette

After the death of an ex-spouse, funeral etiquette will be a bit different than that of other family members’ funerals. Remember that this day is not about you, and getting up and sharing memories may not be a good idea, especially if the relationship didn’t end well.

If your ex remarried, offering a quick, caring word to the new spouse may be appreciated. However, if you have issues with your ex’s current spouse, then avoiding them is best.

Wear proper funeral attire, which would include dark, reserved clothing that is respectful. Never wear bright colors or revealing clothing.

There are some scenarios in which you should not attend your ex’s funeral, which include:

  • If you are no longer close to the ex-spouse’s family
  • If your presence will upset the family of the deceased
  • If the funeral is only open to close family

3. Seating Arrangements

people sitting at funeral service
People sitting at funeral service

At the funeral of an ex-spouse, you should not sit in the family section. The only exceptions to this rule are if you are still very close to the family or share children with your ex-partner, especially if they are young children. If they are adult children, then you do not have to sit with them if you do not want to.

If you share children with your ex but do not feel comfortable sitting in the close family section, you can ask a member of your ex’s family to sit with your children during the services. If neither of these applies to you, it is best to sit in the friend section during the memorial service.

4. Communication Is Key

Though everyone’s family dynamics differ, it is important to communicate with your ex’s family during this time of grief. If you are still close with your ex-in-laws and your ex’s immediate family, then you should probably go and spend some time with them.

However, if you are no longer close with your ex’s family, expressing your condolences differently may be more appropriate. Offering kind words or offering to help with arrangements may be appreciated, but make sure you respect the family’s wishes and do not be too forward or pushy.

A simple phone call or sympathy card may be a good way to communicate with your ex’s loved ones without being too overbearing.

5. Paying Respect

This should include offering your condolences to the family of your former husband or former wife but remaining quiet and respectful.

Offering kind words to the family as you enter the funeral home is a good way to pay your respects. However, speaking in front of all of the guests may not be appropriate if you are no longer close with the family or if your breakup was anything less than amicable.

6. Sympathy Gifts

In some cases, sending flowers, a sympathy card, or making a charitable donation in your ex-spouse’s name may be appropriate. However, grand gestures should be avoided as they can make family members and current spouses uncomfortable.

If you are still close with the family, writing a card may be more intimate than just sending flowers. However, if you are not still close, then a gift of flowers is perfect.

7. The Grieving Process

Navigating your grief after an ex dies is not always black and white. This is especially true if you had children together or were still close. Finding support may be a good way to do this, as you never know what emotions may come up after the death of your ex-partner.

Finding someone to talk to, such as a therapist or even a support group, maybe a good way to move through your grief and express it healthily.

What you should absolutely not do is try to manage grief on your own, as this can lead to unhealthy ways of expressing yourself or even outbursts.

Also read: Jewish Funeral Etiquette (Tips for Non-Jewish Included)

8. Supporting Children

If you and your ex had children together, this difficult time would be even more difficult. Supporting your children through the loss of a parent is hard, but communication is key, especially when dealing with young children.

It is important to speak highly of your ex-spouse to your children, even if you were not on good terms. The last thing they need is to hear someone speak poorly about their deceased parent during this time that is already very hard for them.

You can also offer to take them for counseling, as everyone deals with grief differently, but talking about it usually helps.

9. Handling Personal Belongings

If you and your ex-spouse shared any personal belongings, it is best to wait until after the funeral and things have calmed down a bit to bring it up to their family. If both of you had split a while ago and all of those affairs had been settled already, then you shouldn’t have anything to do with the handling of their personal belongings.

It is always important to communicate with your ex’s family about any personal belongings that may belong to you, but do so respectfully, as they are still mourning. If there is a conflict, try to remain calm and considerate and talk to them about it before getting an attorney involved.

10. Lending A Hand

The time after the death of a loved one is extremely difficult and is often made more difficult because of all the arrangements that must be made. Help may be greatly appreciated if you are still on good terms with the family.

They might appreciate your help by preparing meals for them, contacting any friends or distant relatives you may still be in contact with or knew at one point, or even helping with the funeral or cremation arrangements if you were still a part of the family’s lives.

However, don’t overstep. Offer your assistance, and if it is turned down, let it be. Do not insist or go behind their backs and do it anyway.

11. Posting In Memory

We live in a world run by social media, but you should always be mindful when posting about an ex’s death. If your ex remarried, you should wait to post anything until after the current spouse has posted.

Be respectful, avoid anything considered controversial, and never post anything inconsiderate of your ex-spouse or their family.

12. Don’t Forget About Yourself

Take care of yourself during this hard time. Though you and your ex had separated, this does not make the situation much easier. The end of life for anyone is difficult, but having been so close to that person at one time or another makes it very difficult.

Ensure that you are taking care of yourself and healthily managing your emotions during the grieving process. This may look different for everyone but may include things like:

  • Talking to someone (perhaps even a professional)
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Exercising or going outside for walks
  • Taking time for self-care

Margaret Dunn

Margaret is a passionate writer based in Costa Rica, though she was raised in the southeastern US. Being from the South, good manners and proper etiquette were ingrained in her from a young age and she has always been fascinated with etiquette in different settings and places. When she is not writing, you can find her exercising, reading, or spending time with her family at the beach.

Recent Posts