Is It Appropriate for an Ex to Attend Their Ex’s Funeral?

Yesterday I wrote about how my dad planned to attend my mom’s funeral. (Or, rather, I think the more appropriate term is memorial service since she wasn’t buried or otherwise interred anywhere after.) I had mentioned it to a neighbor and they expressed surprise.

“Is that appropriate? I mean, they had divorced. Does he really have any right to go?”

Same Reaction

When Wayne’s mom showed up to his dad’s viewing I felt the same way.

“Wow. She’s got some cojones.”

I remember feeling both appalled and furious that she had the nerve to show her face. I mean, not only had she dumped Wayne and his brother on their dad when they were young and just took off on them all, but she hadn’t been in their lives since. It was as much an insult to Wayne and his brother as to Mr. Pryor’s memory that she felt she had the right to be there.

The Crosses We Bear

But it was actually Wayne’s aunt Peach and his grandma, who I thought would kick his mom out, who taught me a valuable lesson.

They were extremely gracious to her. Not only did they invite her to the funeral service the next day and the reception that would follow, but they asked if she had a place to stay while she was in town –and were prepared to offer her accommodations!

Later I asked them how they could have been so kind to her given all the turmoil she’d put Mr. Pryor through. (Because of the divorce –which followed on the heels of him coming back from Viet Nam– he’d spent the rest of his life drowning his sorrows in Miller Lite. In the end, it was the alcohol that killed him.)

“We all have our crosses to bear in this life, Courtney,” his grandma said. “What’s done is done. She may not have been in his life the whole time, but she was in it for part of the time. As was he in hers. She needs to say goodbye just like the rest of us.”


Not everyone experiences bitter divorces like my parents or Wayne’s parents did. Some people split amicably, even stay in touch after, and wouldn’t think it at all weird to attend an ex’s funeral.

When it’s not amicable, however, and when an ex does show up, it can be startling. (At least for the loved ones left behind. Mr. Pryor did not roll over in his coffin, which was open casket, so I guess that means he was accepting of it.)

But I’ve now come to understand it’s not inappropriate.

Paying Respect

Funerals, viewing, memorial services…whatever way honors and celebrates someone’s life also lets others who have known them mourn their passing. Or bury hatchets. Or find closure.

Which is what life’s all about really. How each of us touches many lives, knows many relationships. Some end only when death comes, some end far before. Some end happily, some not. Some just sort of fizzle away without any pomp, circumstance, or formal farewell. But they all existed. They all impacted the people involved, sometimes in large ways, sometimes small.

It’s only right that anyone who wants to pay their respects to a person they shared moments of life with should be allowed. I get that now.

“Progress happens, one funeral at a time.” ~-Anon-~

Side Note

For those of you who were curious…Yes, my dad did go. No, my sister did not talk to him or even acknowledge his presence. Sad.

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