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When a family member or friend is going to a funeral for someone they deeply hated (and have practically been celebrating their death), what do you say to sign off a conversation on the topic? Have Fun? My Condolences? Congratulations?

Some of those feel extremely crude, yet the traditional thing to say feels like it misses the mark, too.

TI: I personally have mixed feelings about the death, and mostly want to show my support for this other person.

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    Hi there! Your question seems a bit broad - it's difficult to answer generic issues. Could you tell us more about the relationship with the deceased? Which part of the world does this take place in? (I suspect the answers will likely be based on cultural aspects). – avazula Jan 7 at 13:05
  • @avazula I'm not 100% sure yet how much personal detail any of the parties (living or dead) would be comfortable having online. I CAN say that both the deceased and the 'bereaved' are Dutch and living in the Netherlands. I'd hardly call this a generic issue, regardless... – Weckar E. Jan 7 at 13:07
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Since the two of you know each other quite well and this is a private conversation, I see no need to stick with "traditional" lines of condolences. I speak from personal experiences in which friends supported me through difficult situations in untraditional methods, since that was what I needed at the time. As they teach in client-centred therapy, the important thing is to support the person in need of help. In this case, you illustrate a person who has had a very difficult relationship and who therefore feels liberated by the person's death. I felt the same when my mother died, since she engaged in lifelong emotional abuse. Friends allowed me to say that the best thing she did for me was die.

Yet it also felt like the bottom dropped out; a restriction and oppression that had hemmed me in all my life were suddenly absent. One reels from sudden release of that, and feels guilty to express relief and liberation. Thus, the person who "celebrated the death" of this relative will most likely need reassurance that their response is okay. For all these reasons, I suggest that the important thing is that your friend feels you understand and that you don't judge.

I forget the exact words my friends used for me, but the following examples are the spirit in which I have been supported. To sign off the conversation, you could say something along the lines of:

  • One doesn't normally say this to a person who is going to a funeral but in your case, this will put closure to a sad chapter and mark the beginning of the new.
  • I am happy that life will be better for you.
  • I look forward to hearing what life is like in six months when you get used to this new situation. I bet it will feel so liberating in ways you can't yet imagine.
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A close friend of mine recently had a parent die that they hated. Around the time of the funeral I privately wondered whether they would at some stage rethink their hostility towards this parent, and wanted to leave them space to be able to do that. In the end, this was unnecessary because if anything their views and feelings simply hardened during and after the funeral.

So I agree with Sarah Bowman's answer, but would like to offer an alternative if you're not willing to write something that sounds too flippant, which is to simply to sign off by wishing them luck and requesting more information, something like:

  • Well, good luck at the funeral, let me know how it goes.

I feel like this is supportive without having to write something which feels jarring. But overall I would go with Sarah Bowman's approach if you can.

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