On Wednesday of this week, I just attended the funeral of my 93 year old ex-mother-in-law. I've been divorced from my ex-husband for 18 years, and have not seen my in-laws for about the past 6 years, as I'd moved away and started another life for myself. I am well aware of the tension that existed among these family members for years - who likes to create drama and stir the pot, who likes being bossy and who is genuinely kind. My ex has been estranged from his own family for the past 12 years that I'm aware of...he was living overseas for quite a number of years. He's back in the area and elected to not attend the funeral. Only 1 person asked me if I was ever in touch with my ex, and I quickly pronounced that we hadn't been in touch for many years. This stopped any further probing.
Our 31 year old daughter has tried to have a relationship with her Dad's family over the years, but in her opinion, "everyone still treats me like I'm a kid, and always wants to tell me what to do." She also has been criticized by them for her choices in life. No one has been involved enough to know the difficulties that she's worked hard to overcome over the past 12 years. In the past 5 years, she's elected to stay away from their drama, but still went to visit her Grandma when she was able. They were very close when she was young, as Grandma babysat for me for the first 5 years, until she went to school.
So, now that you have the background....I wanted to pay my last respects to this woman that I used to be close to up until the time my ex and I separated. She blamed me for our problems, without ever asking what was going on in the marriage. After that, I was on friendly and civilized terms with her, but we lost the closeness that we once had. (She used to refer to me as the daughter that she never had.) I was a nervous about attending...not knowing if I'd be welcomed or ostracized. My mind was going in many directions, trying to cover all of the bases of potential conversations.
I hope to reassure you, that what you build up in your mind, is usually far worse than what happens. As it turned out, it was a very subdued affair. I saw so many people from my past, who also came to pay their respects, that I never even thought that I'd see. They were genuinely happy to see me, and we shared very sweet and meaningful conversations. My ex-brothers in law and their wives were polite, shared smiles and hugs, and kept the conversations very light. I got the distinct feeling that no one wanted to dredge up the past or talk about anything that was unpleasant. Within an hour or so of being at the post-luncheon, I was able to breathe and carry on casual conversations with everyone.
My daughter was so glad that I went as a support to her, and I was glad to honor the memory of my late mother in law. It helped that I kept that as my focus, and to remember that no matter what happened, that the day was all about remembering the good times that we shared, and truly sharing my sadness with the family for their loss. I left feeling happy and proud of myself that I went, and the bonus was that I got to teach my grandchildren about the funeral process.
I don't know if any of this is helpful to you...please remember that you do have the choice to walk away from any uncomfortable situation. You can be polite and just say, "I don't want to get into any of this today." Be firm and true to yourself. Look into your heart and honor what you feel is right for you.
Best of luck to you! Please let us know how it turns out.