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Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Go to My Grandfather’s Funeral if it Would Cause Family Drama?”

Dear Wendy,
I’m a long-time commenter, so I’m sure the regulars will know who I am.

Believe me, I know this sounds very selfish, but maybe it is my diagnosed anxiety which is making me worry about these things which will come to pass.

I recently lost contact with my bio dad and stepmother, and more recently his sister and her family. During the holidays, they — my aunt, her husband, and my cousins – started questioning me and harassing me about my dad late at night over social media, and I blocked them on all platforms. I only met them in 2017, so we’re not close-knit, but there are important reasons why I have little contact with them.

Now my beloved grandfather – my bio dad and aunt’s father – is dying. I spoke to him yesterday on the phone and told him how much I love him and how much having a relationship with him (despite his son) has meant so much to me—-all those things and more. He could hear me, and he told me he loved me over and over. He and his wife have Covid, but he’s been sent home now.

Last night my aunt got a mean and manipulative text through to my smartwatch somehow. I know she is suffering, but she’s taking the anger out on me and I don’t need to have things taken out on me. I have had a lot of abuse in my life. I feel at this point, although I did want to go to his service when he goes, I shouldn’t. She’ll be there. She’s a handful and will probably be making things miserable anyway, but I know if I were to go, it would be much worse. I’d set her off by my presence.

This whole thing is hard. I mean, I had aspirations maybe of reuniting with my aunt – if she ever apologized but, . . . I really cannot see how we can move forward or how I can go to a funeral without my poor grandfather’s memorial services turning into a giant family mess.

I do regret not going to my grandmother’s funeral, but I couldn’t see my dad then. Not much has changed, even though my grandmother died a decade ago. I’m not sure if it would have been good if I had gone, though. I think I know what is the best thing to do, but I’m curious what you and/or the DW community think I should do. — Anonymousse (DW name shared with permission)

Don’t go to the funeral, and don’t waste your energy feeling guilty about not going. There are three reasons to attend a funeral: to say goodbye/pay respects to the deceased; to support a friend or loved one who was close to the deceased; to take part in the ritual of communal grieving as an aid in your own grieving process. Because you are estranged from the family who will be at the funeral, you are relieved of the obligation of supporting any of them through their grief, and you wouldn’t feel supported through your own by being with them. That leaves saying good-bye and paying respect to the deceased, and you don’t necessarily need to attend a funeral to do that. I think the conversation you had with your grandfather yesterday, while he was still lucid and could respond, was the good-bye you both needed and an expression of the respect you’d want to pay him.

I actually had a similar experience when my grandmother passed away a few years ago. We had about a week’s notice that my grandmother’s death was imminent, and though I am not estranged from any family members, I do have a tense relationship with a cousin whom I wasn’t excited to see at the funeral. There was drama between us when our grandfather died a few years earlier, and I just didn’t want more of the same with my grandmother’s death. I was very close with my grandmother and I knew that her death would make me really emotional, and I worried I wouldn’t have the emotional reserve to deal with any drama. At the same time, I didn’t want to disrespect my grandmother by skipping her funeral. It was a conundrum.

My grandmother was deaf to the point in her final years that she was unable to carry on conversations on the phone, so all of my communication with her was through letters. I wrote her a letter in the last week of her life telling her how much she meant to me, detailing some of the specific things I was thankful for that I hadn’t told her before. I am told that the letter arrived on her last day alive. My aunt read the letter to her before she went to bed, and she died a few hours later. I will always be grateful that my letter made it to her in time. I was especially grateful because, as it turned out, I got shingles that week and was in way too much pain to even contemplate getting on a plane and attending the funeral, so I missed the whole thing.

What I learned from that experience is that the letter I wrote to my grandmother – which an aunt read at the funeral, with my permission – was the good-bye that we both needed. I wasn’t left with any feeling of unsaid business between us. I said what I needed to say. And I didn’t really miss the opportunity to grieve with family at a funeral when I knew that the funeral would also bring me anxiety. I have had plenty of opportunities over the past few years to reminisce about my grandmother with family members I see regularly, and I think keeping her memory alive is a way to continue paying respect to her. Missing her funeral did not rob me of my only opportunity to say good-bye or grieve; I don’t regret that I had to miss it. And in a similar way, and because you’ve had a chance to talk with your grandfather, I don’t think you will regret missing his funeral when the time comes. By avoiding the funeral, your final memories of your grandfather won’t be muddled by the anxiety you would experience being around your manipulative and estranged family members and getting caught up in the drama they are sure to create.

TL;DR: Protect your energy, especially when it’s being spent grieving. Skip the funeral.

***************
Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

8 comments… add one
  • H January 11, 2023, 5:47 pm

    This is excellent advice. I am in a similar situation, which I have stressed about often, and I found Wendy’s answer very useful and clarifying.
    Thanks Wendy, and all the best to you, Anonymousse. X

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  • ktfran January 11, 2023, 8:14 pm

    Absolutely agree with a Wendy’s answer.

    The only other thing I’d add is to see if you could possibly see your grandfather prior to his passing, but it doesn’t sound possible.

    I’m glad you got a lovely call in! Im so sorry and sending your good thoughts and peace.

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  • Anonymousse January 11, 2023, 9:39 pm

    Thanks so much for answering my letter, Wendy. And for the kind thoughts, H and Ktfran.

    I was going to drive overnight to see him, but I know now that she is there. So I am going to sit out. I’m naturally very indecisive and this has been really hard for me, even during the day today, while I was working, I was swinging back and forth between going and not.

    I may visit his wife afterwards. She isn’t the “real” mom, she’s also no big fan of my aunt.

    I can’t tell you guys how much I appreciate this site. I wrote a deleted a similar letter a few times but I just knew I wanted to know what W would say and the group, so I typed it all out again (thanks for cleaning it up, Wendy) Thank you all.

    He’s a great man, he’s had a incredibly long life and I’m glad I got to talk to him while he still lucid and could respond and hear me. I’m very, very sad. But he’s also very, very old. He’s been a blessing.

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  • LisforLeslie January 12, 2023, 6:32 am

    You may also want to reach out to his wife now to tell her that you won’t be visiting now, but you hope to find some time afterwards.

    Once your grandad passes, his wife is going to feel alone, and taking some steps to alleviate your loss and hers will be a kindness.

    The two of you can visit his grave if you’re up to it.

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  • Passing By January 12, 2023, 8:08 am

    If going would make you feel better, I’d suggest going. If anyone bothers you, feel free to walk away.

    If you feel like you’re only going out of a sense of obligation, I’d suggest staying home.

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  • Anonymousse January 13, 2023, 9:47 am

    So just an update, I do have a close relationship with his wife, I called her and we cried a lot together yesterday. I’m going to visit her in two weeks and stay overnight and just be with her. She’s been through a lot. My aunt has always been really rude to her for being the “second wife.” Most of the family congregated, my aunt refused to have the service now because it is her birthday week, which fine, we’re going to wait until May for his birthday to have a celebration of life.

    My dad called me last night to tell me his father had died twelve hours earlier and he said, “I love you,” and despite my impeccable (har har) manners I said, “Do you?! I haven’t heard from you in what, ten months? Sorry, I’ll not do this now.” And he hung up.

    I would like to believe we’re the most dysfunctional family but I know evnough from this site that we aren’t.

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    • Avatar photo

      Copa January 13, 2023, 11:48 am

      Nothing to add but my condolences. I’m sorry for your loss, @Anonymousse. I’m glad you were able to talk to him by phone before he passed. I hope your visit in a couple weeks with your grandfather’s wife will be healing for both of you.

      Dysfunctional families are hard. (To state the obvious!) Mine can bring out the worst in me even when emotions aren’t high.

      Anyway, I’m thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way.

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      • Anonymousse January 13, 2023, 1:16 pm

        Thanks a lot, Copa.

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