August 9, 2018 Brigitte Ganger

Minimizing Family Drama at the Funeral Service

Remember the life of your loved one, without feeding conflict at the memorial

Minimizing Family Drama at the Funeral Service
Not all conflicts can—or should—be resolved at the funeral service. At a memorial, it's best to avoid issues and focus on sharing positive memories of the person who has passed. (Shutterstock)

Let's face it: Funerals can be a hotbed of family drama. Though we prefer to think of a death in the family as a reason to band together with fellow mourners, often the opposite occurs. Though it's not a problem for all families, unfortunately even the closest of kin experiences tension during funerals. 


Tension is normal in families, and at funerals, but if it leads to a confrontation or argument, the day becomes more about the issues of the living than remembering the dead. How can we mitigate the conflict that can occur amongst relatives during a highly emotional event, like a funeral? Today we're exploring some strategies you can employ before and during a funeral service to diffuse family tensions. 


Show respect to all


Whether or not you respect the actions of family members, they are grieving too. Everyone deserves their chance to mourn. You may disagree with their choices, attitudes or approach to life, but now is not the time to express your thoughts. 


Validate others' grief. Remember that you're all in it together. A funeral is a highly emotional time. If problems arise, family will likely remember it for a long time. Don't be the cause of drama. Once the funeral is over, you'll be able to retreat from family and grieve in peace. 


Enforce your boundaries


Showing respect to others does not mean letting them treat you poorly. When it comes to family, many people feel their boundaries are less respected than with friends, colleagues or acquaintances. For some, this is just part of being a family. It's essential to maintain your boundaries with family members that aren't respecting them. 


This shouldn't transpire in an angry confrontation. Stating your expectations in a private conversation, creating distance or reacting in the moment by clearly explaining how you feel disrespected.


Obituaries matter


Some of the most lasting family drama is created in the obituaries section of the newspaper. In a typical obituary, the deceased person's predecessors and survivors are listed by name. This includes direct family members, partners, and special friends of note. Space constraints often cut these tributes short, but some obituary writers also choose to omit the names of kin. 


Sometimes this is at the request of the deceased person or by accident, but it's common for personal beefs to play into who is remembered in the deceased person's life story. If you are hoping to mitigate family drama at the funeral and beyond, make it a priority to include every survivor—and make sure their names are spelled correctly too. If this is not possible, some families will only list the most direct family members, and include a line that includes everyone else. For example, "Bill is survived by daughters Marissa and Bonnie, and a host of beloved grandchildren, cousins and lifelong friends."


Create an Obituary


Plan arrangements wisely


The way the funeral is planned makes a difference, if family matters are causing tension. Consider hosting a reception at a neutral location like a community hall or other venue. In some cases, families separate after the funeral service to do their own smaller receptions. It's better to avoid potentially volatile situations than cause a scene on the day a loved one is laid to rest. Plan wisely.


Be on your best behavior


It should go without saying that everyone should be on their best behavior on the day of a family member's funeral service. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Remember that you can only control how you act. Be discreet, kind and avoid conflict wherever possible. 


Don't go overboard ingratiating yourself to difficult relatives, but do try to speak highly of those in attendance. It's appropriate to acknowledge shared grief, thank folks for their help planning the funeral, and appreciate them for their good qualities. Refrain from speaking about points of contention, and keep your composure if others don't afford you the same level of respect. 


Avoid gossip


After the funeral, there will be much to discuss with your closest loved ones. The process of unpacking difficult emotions is an important one. But reserve your most private thoughts for those who are trustworthy. Creating gossip in the aftermath of a funeral is just as damaging as creating drama at the funeral. 


A final word


Any conflict between the living only robs the dead of their chance to be remembered. Even if you're in the right, the day of a funeral isn't about winning arguments, settling differences or stirring up drama. 


Stay as low key as possible. Remember that these issues are more than likely temporary. You wouldn't want a temporary issue to mar the memorial of your loved one, or your continued relationships with relatives. Rise above, and you'll be able to preserve special relationships. 

Your loved one had a remarkable life. Tell their story, and we’ll publish it online for free.

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