Tips for Handling a Bullying Relative at a Funeral

Most people who attend funerals are there to support the mourners or pay their final respects to the deceased person whose life is being celebrated. Unfortunately, a small number of people go to funerals while thinking only of themselves. Sometimes you may find that relatives you otherwise love turn into bullies under the great pressure of a funeral. If you encounter a bully at a funeral, you may be tempted to match their rudeness with an equally emotional reaction, but it is best to step back and evaluate the best ways to respond in your unique situation. Follow these tips if you encounter such a bully at a funeral.

Dig Deeper With Open-Ended Questions

Sometimes people are inadvertently inappropriate at a funeral, and they may display bullying behavior because they don't know another way to convey that they are upset about the situation. If you think that the person may respond to a dialogue about their behavior, try to ask open-ended questions to get to the bottom of the bad behavior and distract the person from what had them so intent on bullying. Some questions you may ask include:

  • Can you please clarify what you said? People may have misinterpreted that.
  • What is your purpose in saying such a thing at a funeral?
  • Can you please rephrase what you said after considering that this is a memorial service?
  • What would you suggest that people can do to solve the situation that has you upset?

You can also consider your own open-ended questions that can help you encourage only respectful behavior at the funeral.

Diffuse the Situation With Humor

If the person is being very aggressive with their bullying behaviors, you may try to stop the situation with a touch of humor. Since it is a funeral, you are not likely to get people ready to laugh like they would at a comedy club, but people can appreciate that you shut down bullying to provide comfort in the form of laughter. For example, if the bully is mocking the deceased or making fun of those who are trying to honor the person's memory, you may offer a sarcastic comment on how inappropriate the antagonism is, and then suggest a better solution than the bullying.

Finally, keep in mind that being bullied is not okay. You don't have to simply take the abuse lying down just because you are at a somber event. If you are bullied at a funeral, consider the above tips, and ultimately do what you need to do to protect yourself. You can also talk to the funeral director about how they've handled similar situations in the past to get more tips.