Husband’s Girlfriend at a Funeral


7 years, 6 months ago

My husband and I have been separated for 2 1/2 years but not officially divorced. His mother died a few weeks ago, I was with her an hour before she passed away. We were married for 23 years before the separation and I was considered a family member for close to 30 years, if you count the years we were dating. When my ex told me that his girlfriend of 6 months would be attending the funeral mass I asked him if she would consider just going to the wake because I wanted to attend the mass. At first he said that she would most likely be accommodating to my needs but later texted that she could only attend the mass because she couldn’t get away the night before (the night of the wake). I was stunned when she told me that his girlfriend said she would not be uncomfortable if I were in attendance. I felt incredibly disrespected. His girlfriend had never met his mother and I had a relationship with this woman for close to thirty years as her daughter in law. I couldn’t stomach the thought of sharing a church pew with my ex and his girlfriend so I opted to go to the wake the night before and not attend the mass. When I told him how I felt about sitting at the church with him and his girlfriend he said that the church was big and I would have plenty of places to sit. In other words I would not sit with the family but rather I would be relegated to the back. My relationship is still fairly close and I know that they still consider me family. Was I wrong not to go to the mass? Am I being too sensitive or was it in fact insensitive of him to bring her? I can not help but feeling like I’ve been slapped in the face.

Jennifer Lane
7 years, 6 months ago


First, I am very sorry for the loss of your mother-in-law as it sounds like you were close to her over many years.

Now, to answer your question – let me first say that you were in a very tough spot. Funerals and divorce are messy, but a funeral in the middle of a divorce is very messy and complicated. You are still married until the divorce is final and if we just look at that, then your husband’s new girlfriend had no right to bump you from attendance, and she should have deferred to you on attending the mass if she objected to both of you being there. I totally understand why you feel like you’ve been slapped in the face.

But let’s look at this just through the lens of honoring the deceased and supporting the immediate family. Funerals are about celebrating the life of the person who has died, and showing the surviving family that you care and are supporting them. When it comes to funerals and divorces, we have to reduce the complicated nature of this messy situation to one simple question: When considering whether you (as the soon to be “out-law”) should attend the funeral or not is to ask yourself if your presence would be helpful or a hindrance to the grieving family? (As it stands, you are part of this family still, so don’t discount your own grief.)

It’s complicated. If none of the other family would be upset by you attending, I think you could have attended the mass, although probably not wise to sit in the same pew with your husband but that doesn’t mean sitting in the back either. You never want to call attention to yourself in a negative way in these situations (because, remember, it’s not about us – the focus is on honoring the life of the deceased.)

So, you could have attended, but your question is should you have attended?

Only you can really answer that, but I would offer this as a guide: If you had attended the funeral mass, would you have been able to focus solely on celebrating the life of your mother-in-law? I’m guessing no, since your husband set the stage for drama – inappropriate for a funeral – by telling you that his new girlfriend (who never met his mother) would be upset by you being there. That’s his bad, but don’t beat yourself up over your ultimate decision to not attend. You were in tough spot and likely did the right thing by your mother-in-law and the rest of her family to avoid any potential drama at the mass.

Cherish that time you had with her just before she died. That is a true gift to you and her both and I am sure that meant very much to her. Do what you can to help the family through their grief, while working through your own grief too.

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