EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


November 18, 2010

Dear Abby: Naming former spouses sets record straight in obituaries

Dear Abby: "Surviving Son in California" (Sept. 20) sought your advice regarding proper protocol in mentioning all surviving relatives when parents had been divorced. You said, "After a couple divorces and one of them dies, the name of the former spouse is usually not mentioned in the obituary." I think your response needs a little tweaking.

My siblings and I faced this same scenario after my father passed away. My parents divorced when I was in grade school, and each parent had remarried by my freshman year in high school. Although their divorce was painful, they remained on friendly terms throughout their lives. I was adamant that my biological mother be listed in my father's obituary for two reasons: First, the obituary serves as a historical document. Second, I did not want people reading the obituary to think my siblings and I were children from my father's second marriage.

An obituary should serve as a historical account of our loved one's life — not a battlefield.

Leslie In Port Angeles, Wash.

Dear Leslie: Thank you for pointing out your valid reasons for including former spouses in an obituary. Allow me to share a few more. Read on:

Dear Abby: I've worked in newspapers on the East Coast for the past 11 years, and I can tell you that mentioning a divorced spouse's name is totally a matter of individual and family preference. It is becoming more common to see "So-and-so" was the former wife and good friend of "the deceased," which is a nice development. It is the right of the surviving family to decide the contents of the obituary. Because some people even include pets among survivors, you would think an ex-spouse would receive the same consideration.

Name Withheld In Connecticut

Dear Abby: Genealogy researchers often use obituaries to find the parents or children of families. Here in Iowa, it is common for the obituary to show that a couple married, had children and were divorced. I understand how some children might decide to omit a parent if the divorce wasn't a friendly one. I was left out of my first husband's obituary, but I got over it. — TWO SIDES TO A STORY

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