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Modern Manners + Etiquette: When Divorced Parents Must Deal With a Funeral

Thursday, November 08, 2012


How can divorced spouses deal with the tragic burying of a child? Didi Lorillard has wise counsel.

What is the etiquette for taking your cocktail to the dinner table, how do I respond to a friend about my spouse's illness, do I have to send a 50th Anniversary present, the agonies of money after the death of a son, were all areas of concern beyond the political arena this week at Didi Lorillard's NewportManners.com.

Dear Didi,

When out on a date do I take my glass to the table when we leave the bar area to go to the table to eat? I never know whether to quickly drain the glass, take it with me, or leave it behind at the bar. Allison, Dover, MA

Dear Allison,

It depends on the formality of the restaurant. In a chain restaurant, you would probably have to take your glass to the table yourself, if you don't want to leave it behind. In that case, I would leave it unless your date takes it for you. When a staffer escorts you to the table, he/she usually carries the glass(es) or comes back for them after escorting you to your table - if he hasn't asked a server to follow with them. 

In a well-run restaurant, a server should take your glass(es) to the table. If you've actually been sitting at the bar waiting for your table, then a professional bartender would see to it that your glass was brought to your table.

Call me old-fashioned, but in an up-scale restaurant I wouldn't wander through rooms of seated tables with a half finished glass of wine in my hand. On the other hand, if I were at the local clam shack having a beer at the bar, while waiting for a table, I would take my beer with me. As they say, "When in Rome ..."  Didi

Dear Didi, 

How should I respond to a friend who asked me what the prognosis is of my sick spouse.  J.W., Coventry

Dear J.W.,

Your friend wants to know how much support you'll need to get through your spouse's illness. In other words, the friend may be looking to help you in some way. That's what friends do. They rally round to bring meals and comfort. Next time the friend asks, think of something they can do to help. Maybe staying with your spouse while you get out of the house to do errands or go running. There are all sorts of ways you can get a bit of help from a friend. Often the friend has had someone help them in the past and knows how much it means to have friends pitching in every now and then to give some relief. People can sound rather blunt when they really are just curious to know how much emotional support you'll both be needing in the near future.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,

My 22-year old son died recently. My ex-wife and I split the funeral expenses. She bought a very expensive urn without asking me. Now she is keeping the urn. I don't feel that I should have to pay for items she added on without my knowledge or approval.  I had almost no say in any arrangements or purchases, yet I am being expected to come up with half. And my family wanted their money gifts and cards to go to me, yet the funeral home locked everything in the office and wouldn't let me see anything addressed to me.  HELP  Thank You,  Dale, Auckland, NZ

Dear Dale,

There is nothing worse or more devasting that the loss of a child. Whether you and the child's mother are still together or not is a delicate issue. This is all about your child. This is not about your relationship with your child's mother. You need to separate your emotions. Pull back. Who cares about the money or the urn? I am terribly sorry for your loss. Your losses are many and deep, but please don't take it out on his mother. Who cares if your former wife gets the urn. Please, look at this tragedy in a larger picture. Both of you are holding fast to your son. Please, respect all the emotions involved here. My best advice is for you to try to make peace with this tragic situation by understanding where each of you are coming from and dealing with that. Fighting over an urn and money is not the answer. Try, as hard as it might be, to accept the pain of your son's mother as well as your own. Dealing with your own pain will help you to understand hers. Separate them. Seek council in a group therapy with others who are also experiencing similar emotions.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,

We are planning to send a card to our son-in-law's parents on their 50th anniversary. Do we need to send flowers or a gift? We never see them and rarely talk to them because they live three states away. There is not going to be a party.  A.J., Baltimore

Dear A.J.,

There is no reason to send a gift, especially if you didn't attend a party for your son-in-law's parents. By the time the 50th Anniversary comes around most people are in the stage of getting rid of "stuff." The last thing they want is another candy dish that they'll have to write a thank-you note for. Best to give them a lovely or funny anniversary card and add a personal note inside the card wishing them another great year.

You can also send them flowers they don't have to take care of and can throw out when they wilt, but a card would be enough.

I gave my aunt and uncle a 50th Anniversary commemorative plate -- only to find out years later that she hated that sort of remembrance. At the time, she had to pretend she liked it. ~Didi

Didi Lorillard researches shifting etiquette at NewportManners.com by answering questions on relationship dilemmas, wedding etiquette, business etiquette, entertaining, dress codes and manners. Or find Didi on Facebook,TwitterLinkedIn, or Pinterest after reading her earlier GoLocal columns, some of which are listed below.



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