Dear Viv: My mum isn't invited to her father's funeral

On this week’s podcast, Viv discusses what to do when your family is falling out over funeral arrangements

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv,

My maternal grandfather passed away last week after a protracted period of illness. While his death was expected, it is of course a very sad time for me and the wider family, including his three children and wife (my grandmother).

My mother has a severe mental illness and was unable to maintain a relationship with me and my younger half-sister. I grew up from the age of 9 in my father’s house while my sister moved in to our aunt’s house 3 hours away. Our contact with our mother was sporadic and highly dependent on her condition. After a couple of years it became impossible to keep in contact with her because she would move house and change her number so regularly.

Our aunt and grandmother took this particularly badly and, despite her condition, decided to completely cut contact with my mother (when she was around). The family is very ‘sweep it under the carpet’ about difficult topics and very old fashioned in their attitudes to mental illness so her name was never brought up, except to criticise her. The only exception to this was my grandfather, who used to meet her twice a year and, I suspect, provide financially for her.

When it became clear that my grandfather was dying, I was very keen for my mother to know and, if she wished, say goodbye. My uncle and I managed to contact her, and he arranged for her to come and see him.

When grandad died, my grandmother told my uncle that he could not tell my mother, as she is not welcome at the funeral. 

I spoke to my granny and made it clear that my mother had a right to know of her father’s death. We have a good relationship and she accepted my viewpoint so I contacted my mother and told her the news. I also asked my mother if she wanted to attend the funeral. She said that she would think about it and let me know.

Ultimately, if my granny (who is organising the funeral) doesn’t want her to attend I have to respect that, but I think most of this decision is coming from my aunt. Plus, I think my grandad would have wanted my mother to be there.

I generally agree that I should just not get involved with things that don’t involve me… but in this case I feel very strongly that if my sick mother wants to attend her dad’s funeral service then that should happen. Due to the ‘adult’ role given to me my whole life, and the fact that I am her daughter, and she is sick, I feel like it has (ridiculously) fallen to me to facilitate this.

Sorry for all the dense context for what is a simple question. How do I, given this context, best manage the conversation with my aunt where I tell her that my mother should and will attend their dad's funeral?

Thank you, Viv.
Yours, Granddaughter born in the wrong time.

Hear Viv's answer to this question on her podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Got a question for Viv? Email her at DearViv@thepoolltd.com. The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately, Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

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