Treat yourself and family members gently at the funeral.

How to Deal With a Judgmental Family at a Funeral

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

A funeral’s purpose is to express love, respect and appreciation for the deceased, while sharing the grieving process with family and friends, according to “Funeral Etiquette” on the Perry Funeral Chapel website. Grief can bring emotions such as anger, guilt, irritability, and regret, according to Cath Duncan in "When Grief Turns Your Family And Social World Upside Down." Grieving can raise angry behaviors between you and judgmental family members.

1. Focus on the Deceased

As much as possible, keep your focus on the main reason you are all at the funeral -- to honor the person who died. This isn’t the time or the place to resolve family issues, try to change your family’s mind about your or the choices you have made. Grieve and mourn the loss of your friend or family member. Put distance between you and judgmental family members if someone chooses to use the opportunity to criticize or hassle you.

2. Share the Loss

If you can, help family members stay focused on celebrating the deceased by asking a family member to share favorite memories with you. Offer up some memories of you have, suggests the “Helpful Guidelines” from Barile Family Funeral Homes. Keep the conversation off the topic of you and revolving around everyone’s love and respect for the family member by asking questions such as, “What will you remember most?” or “Can you imagine how much we will miss…” inserting a beloved trait. Quietly and gently remind family members that any other conversation dishonors the memory of the deceased. Be patient with your grieving family member, suggest Barile Family Funeral Homes, realizing that family members may behave inappropriately out of grief.

3. Believe in Yourself

Take pride in the choices you have made in your life and realize that your family might not understand you, suggests Leonard Felder, Ph.D., in his book “When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People.” If asked, tell your family how well you are doing or how happy you are with your life. Don’t allow their disapproval to make you uncomfortable or cause you to make excuses for your choices. Your life might not make sense to them, but if it works for you, the choices you have made are right for you.

4. Follow Up

Send cards to family members after the funeral that recognizes their grief. Your overtures could help end the rift you feel because of their judgment. If you continue to hear critical and negative responses, confer with them after you have all had time to process some of the grief you feel. Your peaceful and loving behavior might help them reassess their beliefs and see you in a different light someday..

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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