#1067: “Boycotting my ex stepdad’s funeral.”

Dear Captain,

Longtime lurker, first time LW. Thanks for providing such a safe, thoughtful & humorous space for thinking through life’s issues.

My ex-stepfather (XSF) is elderly, ill & failing. I foresee him dying sometime in the next year or so. I do not wish to go to his funeral, but I believe many members of my family will view that decision as unforgivable. Allow me to elaborate:

XSF & my mom were married for about 13 years, but since their divorce they have had an on-again, off-again relationship. I lived with them both for six years, then left the state for college & grad school, never to return. He was financially generous (more than my bio father was able to be at the time), but that is the only positive thing I can say about him. My mom, who had worked since age 12 in a difficult industry, stopped working when I was in high school. XSF paid for everything: a beautiful home, clothing, vacations, etc. I accepted these things without question. He paid for half of college-I paid for the other half. I went on to borrow for grad school, pay for my own wedding & home, etc.

Unfortunately , XSF was and continues to be unapologetically misogynistic, racist, homophobic, alcoholic, verbally abusive, and paranoid. I grew up in a culture which actually embraces many of these qualities, & while I fled the state out of gut instinct to get the hell out of there, it was only with time & growth that I recognized that I needed to get him out of my life. This was pretty easy to accomplish because even when living in the same house, our relationship was managed through my mom. To give you a flavor of our relationship: XSF is fond of nicknaming people: one of mine was “Mouse” because I (uncharacteristically) was always so quiet around him. Another of my nicknames was “Sprout”, in reference to my developing breasts. Need I say how utterly impossible it was for me to have a real relationship with this man? My younger brother has always had a better relationship with him, since XSF had no other sons & my brother was eager to bond with a father figure (bio dad was largely absent).

Since the divorce XSF has made no effort to contact me. My long-suffering stepsisters (with whom I never lived) made minimal efforts as well, which was fine with me. At the time, it seemed to me that if my mother was allowed to divorce & not speak to him, I was also entitled to do so. It was a huge relief to not spend time with him during my brief visits home.

During times they have been back together, I made a few gestures (some big, some small) to reach out to him & establish at least a civil relationship, for Mom’s sake. She convinced me to invite him to my wedding (to a man of a race he frequently mocked while I was growing up!), because they were once again dating, & she wanted him there. Fortunately, he behaved civilly.

Since XSF has become more frail, my mom has become one of his primary supports: cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc. He is rude to health care providers, refuses basic supports such as physical rehab, & continues to be verbally abusive to his daughter & (probably) my mom. In short, he has not changed. Despite this, during a recent social event with friends, Mom characterized XSF as “a good stepfather” to my brother & me.

I fear that when the time comes, I will go to the funeral out of a wish to support Mom, be a “good” daughter, avert conflict, “pay my respects”, etc. I want to have a preemptive conversation with Mom, saying that I think it will be more awkward for everyone if I attend. She tends to believe in doing what is socially expected, rather than being true to oneself, but she fully knows how strongly I feel about XSF. I know she will be sad if I don’t go, but I think that sadness is really grief about the relationship XSF & I never had.

I guess what I need is a succinct way to explain to friends & family why I am not going, without coming across as a bitter, ungrateful, disrespectful grudge-bearer. They all know he is a jerk, but “he gave you so much!” In a culture where the standards for male behavior are so low, he is viewed as a “Good Ol’ Boy”. But….I just can’t.

Thanks ,

Ex-Stepdaughter
(She-her pronouns)

Dear Ex-Stepdaughter,

There is no pre-emptive conversation that your mom wants to have with you about your plan to not attend your stepdad’s eventual funeral, and no list of logical reasons that she will really hear or understand. Whatever he was to you, when he dies she will be grieving him. She already knows how you feel about the guy and will most likely want and expect you to be there for her anyway.

I say this not to pressure you to go but to say as strongly as I can: I think talking about your intention to stay away ahead of time will just make it all worse. You want to be kind and logical by trying to solve this now and help your mom plan for your eventual decision, but feelings don’t really work that way, and the longer you and your mom have to stew about it the longer it has to become an ongoing fight between you. Whatever statement you are making about your own relationship with the guy and your own integrity, she will not really get it. She loves him, or did once, and he is leaving. She will not be at home to your grievances just now, and the conversation behind the conversation (“But Mama, why did you marry somebody who was so awful and subject us to him for all these years?”) probably isn’t going to ever happen or be resolved. You can’t ask that question without shredding her and she can’t answer it without shredding you. The damage is done and now you gotta love each other the best you can around the scar tissue.

That doesn’t mean that you have to go to the funeral. Go, or don’t go, as you wish. If staying away is what you need to do to take care of yourself, then make peace with your decision inside yourself without asking for your mom’s (or anybody else in your family’s) blessing or forgiveness. (You can have my blessing if you need somebody’s blessing, and you can talk to friends or a counselor about all the shitty history and feelings that are coming up. The guy verbally abused you and everyone around you and it’s okay if you don’t miss having him in your life.) Let the whole topic of the funeral drop until there is an actual day on the actual calendar for the actual funeral, at which point you can say “I’m so sorry, I won’t be able to be there.” You say you live out of state, so, when the time comes you can make polite excuses about work or travel arrangements. You could get a ticket for the weekend after the funeral and just go be with your mom for a little while. Nobody can kidnap you and make you and nobody can make you tell them your real reasons if you don’t want to share.

If you don’t go and relatives pressure you to explain, try saying: “We had a very troubled relationship, and I said goodbye to him long ago.”

“But you should have been there for your mother!” “Mom knows it’s complicated and I can be there for her in other ways. I don’t expect you to understand.”

“Ugh I can’t believe you’re so ungrateful after all he did for you.” “I am grateful for some things and really ungrateful about others – but let’s not speak ill of the dead! How are you doing?” 

“Well it’s just unforgivable that you would stay away at a time like this.” “I’m not asking for anyone to forgive me. You don’t have to understand my decision, just know that it was the one I thought was best for me.” 

This is freedom: You get to not go. This is also freedom: People will have feelings about it and you can’t really control what they will be. They may displace their grief onto you, they may say things they later regret. Grief is weird.

If you are sure about your decision not to go, make it now with yourself and then do your best to stop worrying about it, especially while the guy is still hanging on. You can make the decision for yourself and let it be what it is without getting anyone to buy in at this time. If you do end up deciding to go in the end, it’s a few hours of your life that will mean a lot to your mom, and it won’t make you a hypocrite or mean that you forgive and forget everything that happened to you. “Going to the funeral of one’s enemy just to make sure he’s dead” has a long tradition.

Readers, did you skip a funeral you were expected to attend? What happened? Was it really “unforgivable”? Did you go to a funeral you were dreading? What happened?

 

 

204 comments
  1. Celeste said:

    The only reason to go is to support your grieving mother. Funerals are for the survivors. The dead don’t care. The day won’t last, and the ritual will carry everyone through it to its end.

    I am so sorry that all that he gave you had to paid for in painful ways to you. Truly.

    I think you have to stop planning for it now, because it’s only causing you pain you don’t have to have right now. Pre-emptive grieving and planning seems like it’s efficient, but all it really does is befoul days that could be good ones in your life. The time will come soon enough, and you can have at it then.

    I am wishing release for all of you.

    • GreenDoor said:

      I think the fact that he’s failing….but no on the verge of passing just yet gives you a perfect out to use later on. “His decline over the last year/s really prepared me for his death. I’ve done my grieving and said my good byes. Therefore, I don’t need to attend the service.”

      • Never underestimate the power of doing your grieving and saying your goodbyes ahead of time. Tread carefully, though – my (nice) grandma passed away after a long illness, and my mum came to terms with that so hard to the point that she didn’t cry at the funeral – earning herself a lot of flak from my other (horrible) grandma in the process.

        • crooked bird said:

          Crying at funerals is seriously overrated. I always thought it was significant that my mom was the only one of four sisters who cried at my (somewhat difficult) grandma’s funeral, till she described to me the sob-fest the sisters had on the plane on the way. Turns out my mom was the one most comfortable with public crying.

        • Emma9 said:

          That’s wretched and I’m sorry she went through that. Even if the full unexpected force of losing your grandmother had been hitting her that day, people still grieve in different ways and at different times. ‘But you’re not acting sad enough!’ Gahhh.

          • Yeah, my horrible grandma is a piece of work. She’s had it in for my mum ever since her and my dad got together aged 16. Total Jocasta complex.

        • I'll come up with a clever name later....maybe said:

          How well I remember the funeral of my great-grandmother. My grandmother and her sisters were raised in an orphanage because great grandmother wasn’t able to care for them after the death of her husband (she had a mental break down that she never recovered from). My grandmother had some health issues growing up that resulted in a lot of mistreatment from the nuns at the home she was raised in and as a result she was bitter and angry towards her mother all of her life. Great grandmother died when I was in high school and the entire family trekked to grandma’s hometown for the funeral. The entire way there we listened to my grandmother spew anger and rage out about her now dead mom. The moment we were in the funeral home and saw her all laid out something snapped. My grandmother started sobbing. Like full on gasping for breath sobs. My mom is one of 7 kids who were all there and all of them stared at grandma in shock because they’d never seen her break down like that before. It was awful and really so unexpected.

          • JeanLouiseFinch said:

            It sounds as if she was grieving, not for the mother she had, but for the mother that she realized she never could have.

      • M Dubz said:

        This works. My grandfather whom I loved dearly recently passed, but he had been very sick for a very long time. I was not particularly shook up about his death for this very reason, and everyone seemed to accept it as a good answer as to why I was holding up as well as I was.

    • OkeefemyKeefe said:

      Yeah every time the question comes up of whether my family would go to my estranged-for-good-reasons-aunt’s funeral, our answer is usually “Yes because we love her kids.” And depending on who we’re talking to and whether they share our morbid sense of humor: “we’ll finally get to spend time with them without her there”

      You can always go to support your mom. Or don’t go because “I’m sorry, I’m not able to attend” and be there for her during the planning, or after it’s over.

  2. Lumen said:

    Amazing what we think some people should get away with if they ‘provide’ (financially). The money a parent or step-parent spends to support and raise a child isn’t the price they pay for the right to be abusive jerks, but for some reason that idea seems to stick for many.

    • Nanani said:

      Also, paying for things is so EASY when the thing you’re paying for is within your means.
      Compared to the actual work of, say, deciding what to buy and remembering all the special needs of others, just footing the bill is very easy (again, assuming the payer has the means to do so – the labour of struggling to pay bills you cannot cover is real but it is not the point I’m making)

      “He puts food on the table!” yeah but he makes enough to cover 500 tables, he’s not actually making an effort, it’s just an excuse to lord it over and abuse others who are dependent on him.

      You shouldn’t have to eat shit just because shit is provided.
      Burn both capitalism and the patriarchy

      • Jadelyn said:

        My gods, can I frame this and put it on my wall or something? My (emotionally-abusive, alcoholic, now estranged) father always tried to hold the financial stuff over my head when I would try to set reasonable boundaries or call him out on his rudeness or verbal attacks. He’s a skilled professional in a specialized trade and has made six figures since I was a child. We always lived in nice houses in good neighborhoods, we had an in-ground pool in the backyard, we got to travel extensively – I’d been to Europe and Australia by the time I graduated high school – I was able to take lessons in expensive stuff like horseback riding, musical instruments, and flying, I had my own car when I got my driver’s license, all that kind of stuff.

        And I fully acknowledge I had a privileged as hell upbringing! I got opportunities as a child and teenager that many people never get in their whole lives. I am so, so grateful for that, and it has absolutely informed the person I’ve become as an adult.

        But it doesn’t negate his abuse. And every time I tried to set boundaries or call him on his behavior, he would use the opulence of my childhood as a weapon: “How can you say I wasn’t a great father? Look at all the stuff I provided for you!”

        And I was never able to make him understand that I can be grateful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had that came from his income, but still not be willing give him a free pass to be a complete asshole in any other way he wants. It’s like he thought he had basically bought a permanent get-out-of-consequences-free card by financially providing a good life for his family (without doing an iota of other work, emotional or otherwise, to support anyone’s well-being but his own), and he was mad that I wasn’t giving him the forgiveness and carte blanche for his behavior that he felt he had bought and paid for.

        TLDR thank you for saying that. It hit me hard, but in a good way, and I’m going to save it to go back to when I start doubting myself and weakening to his arguments that he wasn’t that bad.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          Providing for you financially was his JOB. As Judge Judy is fond of saying, that’s what fathers DO. He doesn’t get this and never will, but I’m saying it in the hope that it’ll lessen the effect of his next guilt trip.

          • MJ said:

            Yes! Buying your freaking peanut butter and bread is literally the LEAST a parent can do and still be called a “parent.”

        • I’ve been listening to this amazing book about the history of debt, and it points out that we really like to think of modern relationships as involving symmetric exchange. But a parent-child relationship is inherently asymmetrical and trying to make it otherwise just makes it weird. Things that your parents provide for you do not translate into debts that you owe them, or if there is a debt, it is so big that it can never be repaid. Like Cordelia Vorkosigan says, you repay your parents by providing for your own children or humanity in some small way.

          Your father is judging his quality as a parent on completely the wrong standard. Plus he is forgetting (or never recognized) that you are your own person and are free to like or dislike him no matter how good or bad a parent he is.

          • Amtep said:

            Is it “Debt: The first 500p years”? That book was mind-blowing. And heart-breaking.

          • Nanani said:

            “Pay it forward” seems like a healthier mindset all around.
            Anything else is loan sharking when it’s your kid, who did not ask for the things you bought them.

          • AnonBee said:

            “Things that your parents provide for you do not translate into debts that you owe them”

            Thank you. This is why I get uncomfortable when parents insist their children take care of them. I am not having children; I would rather pay money or other tangible goods to help the people (or robots) to take care of me when I can’t anymore.

          • orchestrali said:

            Amtep: yep, that’s the book! It is totally mind-blowing and I recommend it to everyone. It’s secretly about human relationships.

        • Working Hypothesis said:

          Hear, hear.

          My mother has, for much of her life, been a good mom. But there were a few years when I was a teenager and she was going through a rough time for other reasons when she became abusive and scary and we had a massive falling-out in which I moved in with my father and didn’t speak to her for some years. Once I was in college, she began to invite me to things with her that I couldn’t afford to attend on my own, and while occasionally I went (either out of desire for the thing or desire to cease the pressure on me to comply or both), I was still mad and hurt by the abuse. That didn’t go away no matter what nice things she could offer to take me to do.

          At one point, after a rip-roaring argument with her on the phone, I reported to my father, “You know — the usual. She accused me of thinking of her as nothing more than a deep pocket, and I accused her of trying to buy my affection.” My father, who has always had an eerie sort of detachment about most things, began laughing quietly and answered, “You do realize that both of you were right, don’t you?” I laughed too, and said, “Of course we were.”

          By now, I’ve forgiven my mom for the period in which she was abusive. But I could do that because she *stopped*.

        • Nanani said:

          I’m glad I could help *feather hugs if you want them*

        • Blooper said:

          You’re absolutely correct: his financial resourcefulness “doesn’t negate his abuse”. I find that including “and” helps minimize my guilt in these situations. My parent was good AND abusive. It’s a package deal. It shouldn’t be surprising that people have goodness inside them. Being a decent parent does not nullify abuse. Never.

          • wordsintheinterim said:

            I want to thank you so much for saying this, because I never thought of it this way. I’m LW #995, and the question of “are we good parents” comes up a ton. Unpacking the stuff around that will take a lot of time, but… it’s oddly freeing and relieving to realize that the answer actually is yes, but that doesn’t negate their abuse. I’ve had such cognitive dissonance around that, because I know how hard they worked and how much they gave me and how much they cared and tried, and I can’t dismiss that knowledge even while I also remember how much they drank and how hard they hit. They were good parents. They were also abusive. Holy crap. Mind blown.

      • Lumen said:

        Bingo.

      • miss_chevious said:

        We say it around here in other contexts, too: often, the easiest way to pay for things is with money.

      • Private Jane said:

        “Compared to the actual work of, say, deciding what to buy and remembering all the special needs of others, just footing the bill is very easy”

        Thank you so much for putting this in words. I have always been wondering why it used to hurt me so much when my mom asked me “What do you want for your birthday?” and then tell me to “go get it and I’ll repay you”. Your words helped me understand that it was a bait and switch – pretending to offer care and then delivering money.

        “I never lacked for anything material” should be set up in the Hall of Really Sad Things to Say right next to “He never hit me”.

        • /amqueue said:

          Wow. This has just informed me about my feelings on a very different topic – why it bugs me so much when people ask me for a list of things I want, in order to buy them for me. I need to copy paste this somewhere so the next time I have this discussion I can remember how to phrase it. Thank you.

          • I really hope you don’t expect people to read your mind, and then get upset when they don’t get you the exact thing you want? Wish lists can actually be a really great tool when you’re trying to take care of someone. I love picking out something from a person’s wish list, whereas I find the expectation to mind-read to be borderline abusive.

      • I have complicated feelings on this topic, but the relevant part here is that I think this statement in and of itself is a red flag. ANY time you find yourself saying “but… [something money-related]” there is something deeper. Because *good* parents don’t mention the money, they are not making an investment in you they hope pays off one day in love and affection, they’re doing what they consider to be a moral obligation, and take ample joy in it.

        I grew up in the latchkey kid wasteland of an affluent suburb with some low-rent apartment areas, the post-nuclear wastelands of middle america where functional families were rare in the extreme. My family had its own malfunctions (and they were poor too! I didn’t even get the consolation prize!) but I noticed it early in my life “but at least we’re not poor” was the rallying cry of the dysfunctional suburban youth.

        The kids that were raised by good parents never have to think “but at least I never went hungry” or “at least I had a Nintendo 64 and that cool electric drum kit and a real paintball gun” (wow I’m really dating myself now! I suppose it’s okay, no one else wants to date me!). Sure they HAD the stuff and the clothes and their own bedroom in a half-million-dollar house TOO, but that wasn’t ever what they fall back on when asked. When asked their parents’ best qualities “ability to provide” and the quality of the love-bribes only entered into the equation when there was nothing else nice to say, and they were scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for anything.

        Now this isn’t to idealize poverty as some sort of moral rectifier and virtue. There’s no shame in being poor, but it’s not exactly an honor either. And poverty and poor parenting can go together just as well as wealth and loving parenting, there’s no correlation. But from what I’ve seen you never see the children of functional households mentioning their parents finances as a virtue of theirs unless there’s a severe paucity of other things to laud.

        And parents that want credit for paying the bills are like men that want credit for being a “nice person” or people that want credit for not beating their spouse: That’s the **basic** minimum expectation! You’re supposed to support your kids, you’re not supposed to beat on your partner and you’re not supposed to treat anyone like crap! what do you want?! A cookie? Congratulations, you successfully meet one of the few very basic minimum requirements of being a decent person!

    • Bread and Circuses said:

      By law, a parent has to provide the basics of life to a child.

      So no child should ever feel guilty or obligated to a parent who fed and sheltered them. It’s not some great beneficent gift–it was a legal requirement.

      • Hilliary said:

        And it is not a moral requirement for you to feel beholden to a parent who decided to have kids because of their needs or their lack of using contraception. They were the one with the choice! The kid didn’t have any, so the kid should not be tasked with impossible emotional demands….

      • Purple snowdrop said:

        You just blew my mind.
        Thank you for that thought. It will help me untangle my guilt and obligation.

      • That’s how I feel “you successfully fulfilled your legal obligations, what the hell do you want, a cookie?!”

    • Biancasnoozes said:

      It’s amazing how powerful that message is, though, when it is coming from the person who raised you who does not view any of their actions as abuse, and is confirmed by the rest of the family, who never witnessed the abuse.

  3. Just J said:

    There was one line in the letter that caught my attention. LW said “It may be awkward if I attend.” Why would it be awkward if you attend? It would be awkward if you go and make the situation about you and how XSF treated you. So don’t do that. Make it about being supportive for your mother. Stay on the sidelines and be Team Mom.

    I have elderly relatives in my life from whom I am estranged and don’t really like. I will still probably go to their funerals. I may not like that relative, but they have people (my cousins and aunts and uncles) that do like them. I will go and it will be because I want to be supportive of my other relatives. Also, because it is well known that I am estranged from those relatives, I may only go to the viewing, or maybe only the funeral. I will probably not attend as post-funeral luncheon or attend any graveside ceremonies. That will, hopefully, limit the exposure to the gossips in the family who will say, “my gosh, look who had the audacity to show up.”.

    • It is profoundly awkward to attend the funeral for someone who was deeply problematic and listen to everyone embrace the unspoken requirement of speech regarding the dead: nihil nisi bonum.

      When my grandfather died, I went to the funeral, and it was extremely awkward for me to hear everyone say nice things about a man who was in actuality a terrible human being. He was a very bad father to his children in a variety of ways, and was not a nice grandfather or a nice man.

      It’s acceptable that you think that you will attend the funerals of relatives you are estranged from and dislike, but your gesture of goodwill is your decision and not something you can or should push off on other people. If OP wants to attend her former stepfather’s funeral and gut it out like I did my grandfather’s, I support her. If OP does not think she can go and listen to people telling her how wonderful he was and how lucky she was to have a stepfather who gave her a nickname as a child about her breasts and verbally abuses her mother and his children, I support her.

      And if you decide that you would rather not waste time and money on attending a funeral for someone you don’t like just so that relatives you also don’t seem to like much will say slightly different shitty things about you than they would say if you didn’t show, I support your decision as well.

      But let’s not “but faaaaaamily” or “but conveeeeeention” people, hey?

      • ames said:

        There’s externally awkward and internally awkward, and I think you’re each talking about a different one. I read Just J’s comment as asking why it would be awkward for other people if LW came, and your response as explaining why it could be awkward for the LW.

        Either or both are possible.

      • RabbitRabbit said:

        Not speaking ill of the dead is certainly very common, but not entirely required depending on the situation. My father-in-law was deftly eulogized by a priest who did a superb job of describing kindly but clearly what a pain in the ass he frequently was to the priest and the church, and acknowledging the family’s own mixed feelings. I was impressed.

        • SIlamy said:

          Props to that priest. The line between tactful and honest is sometimes pretty hard to walk.

        • M Dubz said:

          They taught us to do this in seminary, because sometimes you have to eulogize someone who was an abuser.

      • I'll come up with a clever name later....maybe said:

        “When my grandfather died, I went to the funeral, and it was extremely awkward for me to hear everyone say nice things about a man who was in actuality a terrible human being. He was a very bad father to his children in a variety of ways, and was not a nice grandfather or a nice man.” This part reminded me of the funeral for my aunt. She was a nasty, bitter, angry woman who never did something for anyone else unless there was something in it for her. EX: aunt had eye surgery. My sister went to stay with her for a week to take care of her – for free. Aunt had a bit of shopping problem with Columbia house and had several hundred movies on VHS. My sister asks if she can watch some of them while aunt is sleeping. Aunt says no because she wants to be the one to open the cling wrap on them and watch them the first time.
        Anyway fast forward about 15 years and aunt has died. Someone wrote this eulogy that was so glowing and love filled that the entire group gathered for the funeral started looking at each other in shock. My mom’s childhood friend ended up yelling out “Hey! Check that paper because I don’t think you’re reading the right eulogy. You’re definitely not talking about her! It’s the only time I’ve ever seen people clap in agreement at a funeral.

      • KellyK said:

        Seconding that. My grandmother was manipulative and emotionally abusive. She was also extremely sneaky about it. She’d be sweetness and light when my dad was in the room, then make veiled nasty comments to my mom or, less often, to me when there were no witnesses. They were often subtle enough that *you* knew she meant it as a dig, but someone who had only seen her in sweetness and light mode would insist that she couldn’t possibly have meant it *that* way.

        The point at which I had to go hide in the bathroom to sob during my grandmother’s viewing was when the second or third person told me how she talked about me all the time and how she thought the world of me. “Why,” I thought, “didn’t she say any of that *to me*?”

        That’s a really different kind of abusive than what the LW is describing, and it sounds like XLS’s nastiness is on full display for the world to see, but he’s in a culture that gives most of that a free pass. But, I can attest to the fact that people telling you how much someone loved you—when you didn’t feel loved by that person—messes with your head a lot.

        I think ames is right about external versus internal awkwardness too. It’s less awkward for everyone else if you’re there like they expect, but potentially more awkward for you.

        • My two cents said:

          My family is well known for the ‘being heavily critical to you directly, yet speaking glowingly to everyone else’ problem. It’s why we now try to tell each other “Hey, X said that they really appreciated what you did for them the other day”. This isn’t so much an issue for the younger generations, who now recognise the problem, but we do keep it in mind when dealing with the elders.

          You also reminded me of a dealing with one particular family member who is sneaky about criticism, as they are openly critical to those of us whom they are now related to by marriage, but would never make the comments around their spouse (our family member). We now ensure that there are always multiple people in the room together, which includes coordination of arrivals for meals so that no one is alone. It’s a reasonably easy solution, and effective for this situation, but it makes me shake my head that we even have to worry about such things.

    • like an angry apple tree said:

      >>I have elderly relatives in my life from whom I am estranged and don’t really like. I will still probably go to their funerals>>

      Same, primarily my narcissist manbaby father (still here, but realistically, someday…) I did the same for his narcissist mother. I said nothing about the deceased and let the bereaved say what they needed to say, because I was there for *them*. Yeah, it galls me that my presence can be read as supporting the deceased. I can’t control the narrative.

      Your mom loves this guy. You don’t have to. You don’t have to understand why she does, or convince her you’re right, because IMO that just does not work. Nor can you stop her or others from getting judgy about your decisions. They’ll do and say what they will.

      • myswtghst said:

        Your last paragraph really sums up my thoughts. There are no magic words that will make LW’s mother understand, or make friends and family not judge the LW for not going, so the LW should focus on making peace with the option she chooses, whatever it might be.

    • Ex Stepdaughter said:

      Ex-stepdaughter here: everyone in XSF’s family knows that we are estranged. I am concerned that my being there will be uncomfortable in some way for them. When I put myself in their shoes, I can imagine my presence as a distraction, or as a spotlight on his bad characteristics. Hope that helps explain what I meant.

      • Bagpuss said:

        That could be your ‘out’ is anyone is critical of you for not going. “XSF and I were not close, and as his own children / family know that, I felt my being there might be a distraction for them”

        also, I think this is the kind of situation where a white lie can be useful. For instance, if you feel that people will be critical of you, then things like ‘I wasn’t able to get the time off work’ or ‘I wasn’t able to be there’ can work well. (even if the reason you were not able to be there was that you didn’t feel comfortable, or that the reason you were not able to get time off work was because you didn’t ask for it.!)

        Sometimes a kind lie is better than the unvarnished truth .

        I think it is fine for you to decide in advance what you will do, but also agree that it probably won’t be helpful to discuss ahead of time what you will do. Partly because circumstances might change, but mostly because you could then end yup having exhausting conversations with your mother from now until the funeral.

        (I also think that if you decide to go *to support your mum as she grieves* that you can do that without it implying that you are yourself grieving, so it may be much less distracting that you think, for your step-siblings, but obviously it is a very personal decision for you, and you would certainly not be wrong to stay away.

      • BTDT said:

        You are on the right track here. My estranged aunt showed up at my Father’s funeral. In the midst my immediate family’s grief we had to deal with all the unpleasant memories of the things she had done to cause the estrangement. How you feel about the path you have chosen may be very different from how the people who loved him feel about it. No matter the rightness of your choice they don’t need to deal with it on the day of their loved ones burial

    • hbc said:

      So you have your own line on what you will attend and how much support you will give versus how much awkwardness (in terms of gossips) you’ll take. The LW is free to draw her own line there, just like I hope no one would pop out of the woodwork to say you’re being unsupportive by not going to the luncheon.

      And not that you can analyze it this way, but if there were math to do on how much support people are owed, I think the mom who kept around the guy who commented regularly about her daughter’s breasts has probably drained that particular account. I defy someone to come up with a situation where an abuse victim is morally obligated to console someone else over the death of that abuser.

  4. Melewen said:

    I attended a memorial service for a boss who passed away unexpectedly. I did not think he was a good boss, and I had issues with the way he managed (or didn’t manage) problems. I went to the work memorial (which was separate from the family funeral) because I knew, professionally, I needed to show my face. However, I was inwardly cringing throughout. I survived, but it made me angry to hear people talk about how wonderful he was, knowing that he didn’t help me when I begged him for help. I’m sure the people that loved him miss him, but I do not.

    This is obviously not a parallel situation, but for your own emotional well being, I support your decision to not go to the funeral.

    • Ex Stepdaughter said:

      Thanks so much for this, Melewen & others who have made this point. I actually had not thought of this at all, & it is a good point. I am not sure I want to fly four hours & spend at least a couple of days out of my life for a heaping helping of that.

  5. jumblejen said:

    My stepfather passed away last year. We were not close. He was racist and misogynist. My mom was how we knew what was going on in each other’s lives. He died after a year or so of battling an incurable cancer. I too worried about the funeral, about what to say, about how to reconcile the bad parts with the good. In the end I decided to go to the funeral for my mother. And I tried to focus on the good things that were there (he taught me to drive, he taught me how to throw a punch). For me it was very freeing, because he was dead and I didn’t have to hear him say anything awful again and I could miss the man he was in those good moments. Somehow I found release in the ritual of funeral homes and services and graves and I could be 100% there for my mother, 100% not ok with the things he did/said in the past and 100% not pretend he was a saint or a different person than he was. But it helped me lay some of my anger with him to rest along with his body. So sometimes going can give you a way forward. But please take care of yourself first. I did this for my mom, because I knew it was what I needed to do for myself. If this isn’t the case with you, you do not need to go. This is your choice. What do YOU need in order to deal with his death? You may not be completely sure of the answer until he actually passes. I am wishing you so many good thoughts and good things.

    • Hans Meyer-Brunel said:

      Thank you for that one jumblejen. Made me think.

      HMB

    • OkeefemyKeefe said:

      This is such a good point – often the grief you feel at someone’s passing is the grief for what might have been, not just who they were. And that’s OK and normal.

  6. Jenna Cox said:

    LW, I had a not-great relationship with my mother’s husband as well. The funeral isn’t nearly as important as being there for mom once all the casseroles have been eaten and the cards stop arriving. When that initial rush of sympathy dries up, she’s going to need someone willing to sit with her while she deals, maybe help keep her busy, or just exist in the same space while she grieves however she needs to.

    • darthtrina said:

      Seconding this. My friends who are widows tell me the most important is people showing up after the crowd has left. So Captain’s suggestion to go the weekend after, or two weekends after, is great.

    • Ice and Indigo said:

      You know the best thing about this? It’s the perfect excuse not to go to the funeral.

      Here’s the line you can take: ‘Hey, Mom, the most important thing to me about this whole situation is supporting you. Oh, for a private jet and an independent income! But I can’t manage to fly down more than once, so here’s what I meant to do: I’ll send some flowers to the funeral to pay my respects, and the weekend after that, after the first rush of support and casseroles have dried up, I’ll come down to be with you. I’ve heard a lot of people say that’s the hardest time for the widow, and I really want to be there for you then.’

      If she needs you to mark convention somehow in order to feel supported, that’s the sending flowers bit. You’re paying your respects to the feelings of the mourners you like, not the man himself, but you don’t have to mention that. It gives her a bit of a shield if busybodies at the funeral ask where you are: ‘Oh, LW’s coming down next weekend and we’ll visit the grave together, she said she wanted to support me in the aftermath. But she sent those lovely flowers.’ It’s a bit unconventional, but it is at least paying a public tribute to convention rather than openly defying it. And while it involves a bit of pride-swallowing on your part, it also means you don’t have to be around for the funeral.

      If you’re going to have a conversation with your mom:

      a. Do it after he dies. The last thing you need is him getting involved in the drama. Imminent death can make the best of us angry, and if you give him something accessible to fight when he can’t fight death, that could get into a whooooole lot of pain.

      b. Give your mom enough tributes to convention that she doesn’t feel like you’re leaving her to face awkward questions from mourners without any answer to give them. Her own fears of how to deal with public judgers might be a big factor here, so focus on ways to help her deflect them. That puts you in alliance, not in conflict. Having to tell people ‘My daughter didn’t like him, so she isn’t here’ is a burden on her; being able to say, ‘My daughter’s paying distance respects today and coming to support me later, isn’t she thoughtful?’ is a lot less stressful.

      Sorry this is the situation you have to deal with!

      • Thursday Next said:

        I really like point b. LW, you can give your mom scripts to use when people ask questions if you don’t go. That could go a long way toward alleviating any anxiety she might have about being judged for your absence. And these don’t have to paint him with excessive kindness–phrases like Ice and Indigo’s “distance respects” are really helpful ones to have. “Supporting Mom once the ceremony is over and everyone else leaves” (echoing darthtrina) could be another.

  7. Audrey said:

    I missed my two of my grandmother’s funerals. In my case, I loved both of them, but I had a lot of demanding projects at home, and I don’t like funerals much anyway.
    The sky did not fall, and no one questioned me (to my face, I guess). None of my relationships with my relatives were impacted in a negative way. I thought it would be a much bigger deal than it turned out to be.

  8. I went to my husband’s grandfather’s funeral. To put it mildly, I despised the man. he refused to meet one great grandson because he was part Hispanic, and when his granddaughter (the mother of this great grandson) married a Black man, he never spoke to her or acknowledged either her children or husband. He would angrily yell at people at his assisted living center for bringing him grits or greens because that’s “n word” food. But he was a heroic WWII bomber pilot etc. etc., so the whole family pretty much forgave his awfulness, which wasn’t limited to his open racism. My mother in law broke down crying because he was going to hell (not being a member of her very fundamentalist branch of Christianity). Despite all that, the funeral served as a family reunion, and I coped by hanging around the least objectionable of the extended family and soothing my husband, who was grieving deeply. I try to remember during funerals to mourn *out* and support *in*. In other words, if I am further away emotionally from the deceased, I provide support to that person. If I am closer to the deceased, I reach out for support. In this funeral, I was clearly providing support to people who cared about the man, and sticking to my role helped a lot.

  9. faraway said:

    I did not go to my father’s funeral. He had disowned me when I was 17 (and then spent the rest of my life acting like I was still expected to be a loving daughter) and was increasingly infuriating over the last years of his life.

    I did not visit during his long illness. When the funeral came, I told everyone I would not be able to come, and when they asked why, I said “It’s personal. I’m not comfortable discussing it.” I said that even to my stepmother and my brother. People could interpret that however they wanted – as a personal issue with my father, as an illness, as some other personal issue in my life – up to them.

    It was 100% the right decision for me. I have never regretted staying away. My stepmother has never understood but is still happy to talk to me. My brother has never understood but after he likewise wrote me off for a while he’s been back in my life.

    It really was liberating to realize that I didn’t HAVE to go. It would have been traumatic for me and I would have needed a long time and a lot of work to recover.

    Ex-Stepdaughter, I hope you will do what’s right for you, and take the best care of yourself that you can.

  10. lauren said:

    I am a funeral shower-upper. I was not always this way. I’ve come around to it later in life and I’ve been mostly more at peace with the result. This may be different for you, but I’ve found that in this case regrets flow mostly in the direction of “I wish I had gone” vs. “I wish I hadn’t.”

    You can spend the rest of your life working through your grief, loss, thoughts and feelings about this man and what you wished he had been (and it may take this long! It may never happen. I feel like we may have been raised in the same culture – this all sounds familiar.) You have your whole life to be honest about who he was (a jerk) and what he meant to you (not much) to anyone who asks. You even have your whole life to open a nice bottle of wine on the day he died and toast the fact that he’s gone, if you so choose.

    You will only have one day to attend his funeral. If you don’t go, you can’t go back and go. If you decide later that it wasn’t worth it not to go, you’re stuck. If you decide later you wish you’d gone for your mom, or you come to know the man differently through the buffer of years, or even if you decide the hassle of defending your decision has far outpaced the satisfaction, well. Most of the time when I make a decision out of anger and spite, no matter how righteous, it tends not to feel as good later than it does in the moment. These types of moves don’t age well.

    To echo the captain, attending a funeral is not an endorsement of the life and times of the deceased. I’ve gone to a lot of funerals of folks who I barely knew, folks I knew and didn’t like, folks I knew and didn’t like but meant something to people I love, etc. It’s a community coming together for the last time to acknowledge that someone lived, to comfort those left behind, and to mark a passing. You don’t have to stay the whole time. You can show up to the calling hours for 15 minutes, squeeze his family’s hand, be present for a moment in their grief, and leave.

    I’ve loved imperfect and even probably bad people, too – and when they died, I appreciated everyone who came not because I thought they loved that person. In fact, I knew they didn’t. I appreciated that they loved me.

    You will make the right decision for you, but this is just my well-worn perspective of many years of funeral trial and error.

    • winter said:

      I appreciated everyone who came not because I thought they loved that person. In fact, I knew they didn’t. I appreciated that they loved me.

      Well said (and made me tear up a little).

      Of course if you can’t stand to be there, don’t go. But sometimes being there to support someone, not to endorse the deceased, makes sense.

    • kate said:

      Very well said. My mom taught me at a young age to be a “funeral shower-upper”. I’ve been to many many funerals of people I’ve never even met – if a friend, family, or co-worker is grieving a close loss then I try very hard to show up for them. And I MUCH appreciate the friends who’ve shown up for me in times of grief. (As a weird aside, I also have found that getting used to attending funerals can help the pain and discomfort of attending a funeral of someone you truly love. I’ve have a couple friends who had never attended a funeral until they were adults and it was someone close to them and I think it was much harder for them to get through said funerals because of that. Of course, everyone is different so YMMV and all of that).

      Back to topic, I definitely don’t think LW is required to go to the funeral, but if it were me, I would try thinking more in terms of “should I go to be there for my mom?” rather than “should I go to honor stepfather”. Stepfather will be dead so his feelings don’t count, but Mom’s do. If you can’t bring yourself to attend, then I second the recommendation of visiting your mom after the funeral and trying to be there for her.

      • postitnote said:

        A lot of people are expressing this sentiment. I’ve picked your comment to reply to, because I think you’ve expressed it most clearly. I mostly agree (though how does everyone find all of this time?!), but I think there are some really important dynamics in play that make the LW’s situation quite different.

        The LW was a child when her mother married this person, so even though she never developed a relationship with him, people might still believe that she’s there, in part anyway, as stepdaughter. I think it would be really hard to have to deal with that pressure and try to navigate other people’s assumptions about what my relationship with the deceased was or wasn’t.

        Attending a funeral as a grieving family member is totally different than attending the funeral to support a friend or coworker or even a parent who remarried when you were an adult.

        If the LW goes, she’ll be attending to support someone, but some of the people in attendance might think she’s in need of support (and one of the children of the deceased, no less). There are probably scripts on this very site to help navigate that if that’s the route she wants to go. I just think it’s a different level of emotional investment and stress and maybe not quite as straightforward as go for the living.

        • Lavinia said:

          Thank you for this. I’m a little disturbed by all the comments along the lines of ‘you can go to a funeral for the living’ or ‘you can never go back and go if you skip the funeral and you might regret it!’. LW clearly said she doesn’t want to go to the funeral. She is looking for scripts to respond to people who will give her flak about that. To instead give her food for thought about why she maybe should go, despite having specifically said she will not be going, feels to me a lot like being the people she is asking for scripts for. I really don’t mean to offend anyone, but this element in some of the comments has been really bugging me.

          FWIW, I am a funeral goer. My husband does not attend any funerals. I go because funerals help me, he doesn’t go because they do not help him. Sometimes I hear grumbling through the family grapevine about him skipping a funeral, but I do not ever ask him if he’s sure he doesn’t want to go to and that he might regret it if he doesn’t. I respect from the outset that he doesn’t want to go, I tell people at the funeral that he just doesn’t do funerals, and everything works out just fine.

          • Amanda Grimm said:

            Yeah, this comments section is disappointing. LW did not ask for advice on whether to go.

    • mobuy said:

      I agree that most of my regrets are NOT things I’ve done, but rather things I haven’t done. I don’t have much to say on OP’s specific situation other than that. Of course this must be a personal decision.

    • S said:

      “I appreciated that they loved me.” This is so so important.

      When my (much beloved) mother in law passed away a few years ago my sister came in for the funeral, my parents and my father’s co workers sent flowers, and my friends from home, who had only met her once, sent a basket and a card. I know that none of this was because they had a deep bond with her. But they understood that I did, and that my partner did, and this was a way of supporting us. Okay i’m crying now.

  11. Sabina said:

    The Captain gave good advice. You don’t need to talk to your mother about this now, or even make a definite decision now You can decide now that you will make a decision when he actually dies and then try to let go of worrying about it. In my experience people who are “elderly, ill and failing” can hang on for YEARS. Don’t torture yourself in advance (don’t torture yourself at all, actually).

  12. GreenDoor said:

    Stand your ground. There’s more than one way to express grief and/or support for others who are grieving. If there is anyone in ESF’s family that you do care about, send them a card with a heartfelt message. Something like, ‘I know how important he was to you and I hope your grief is lessened soon” both acknowledges their grief and doesn’t force you to lie about him being a great guy. If you’re able, you might visit your mom a few weeks or months after his passing specifically to check up on her and make sure she’s doing OK. Sometimes grief doesn’t really hit us until much later. When my gramma passed, a friend send my grandfather a greeting card on the date of their wedding anniversary and wrote “I know today might be hard for you, your first anniversary without Helen at your side. Just know I’m thinking of you.” So….maybe sending good wishes during times in the coming year where your mom or other relatives might be having a harder time (anniversaries, holidays, etc). is also a thoughtful way to support the grieving.

    And all of these show that you are compassionate about their grief despite not attending any funeral activities. Bonus: None of them require you to lie about or fake your feelings for ESF.

  13. MK said:

    LW, there is one thing I would like to point out: you say you would like to premptively excuse yourself from the funeral by saying to your mother that it will be more awkward for everyone if you attend. That… sounds patently untrue; your mother apparently thinks it will be expected for you to be there (and it sounds to me as if “people” think you have a civil relationship, or at least are willing to pretend so), your brother will probably attend, your stepsisters are unlikely to find your mere presence at the funeral bizarre, considering that your mother is a primary caregiver to him, etc. The only person who will find it awkward is you; the rest will think your attendance natural. It’s more likely that your not attending will cause some awkwardness for your mother, who will be presumably be asked why you didn’t show up. That is not to say that I think you should go, but it’s not a good idea to offer unlikely justifications to your mother, either beforehand or at the time of the funeral.

    • Dear LW,

      This internet stranger thinks not going is fine.

      I didn’t go to my uncle’s funeral. The world didn’t end.

      I did go to the funeral of a cousin by marriage, because my brother and I like his children, and to represent our mother.

      I don’t know if I’d go to XSF’s funeral, if I were in your shoes.

      Jedi hugs if you want them.

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      I dunno. I wonder if there are not other potential awkwardnesses going on than supporting the literal eulogizing of a man with whom she had a problematic relationship. Is someone likely to start something about her interracial marriage or other non-negotiable parts of her life, causing drama and making the funeral about something other than comforting the dead? Is there weird infrastructure-y fambly stuff that will make someone feel obligated to fly at her in a rage for accepting food and shelter without also accepting hatred and abuse, because they can’t fly at cancer in a rage and she’s the designated cancer-rage substitute? Will the presence of LW serve to change the service to being about horrible LW-type-lifestyle-havers and how they “let Satan in by the back door” and caused XSF’s illness? (It happens. Ask me how I know.)

      Only LW can decide what’s best for LW, and at that, really only future LW, who has the benefit of hindsight, and does not exist, can. We can explore her options and share our personal experience (perhaps from her position, perhaps from Mum’s) and support, but we cannot truly fairly judge.

      FWIW, going to hateful racist rage-minister uncle’s funeral became more about reconnecting with people I had not seen in forever and making sure the dishes were appropriately refrigerated, for me. I’ve also supported my mother through the funeral of a stepfather I personally liked, but who had done very wrong by my mother right before his sudden illness. His children were hostile and horrible, and I was very glad that I could run interference and offer support, but that’s a job you should choose, not one to have thrust upon you.

    • Emmers said:

      I agree with this.

      LW, it is 700% okay if you decide not to go to the funeral. But don’t kid yourself that it’s about making things less awkward for others. It’s not. It’s about making things less painful FOR YOU.

      And that is OKAY. Not to go all Ayn Rand on you, but sometimes it’s actually okay to be selfish.

      You do want you need to do. I like the idea above to go down after the funeral.

      • Fantasia said:

        Oh, I love Ayn Rand on selfishness. She’s bang on. You can’t take care of anyone till you’ve put your own oxygen mask on.

  14. I went to the funeral of someone I did not like and did not respect. I went because he was my sisters’ father (my mother’s first husband). I went for my sisters. In my case, at least my sisters recognized what he was, and the eulogy kindly reflected his difficulties without completely whitewashing them and making him sound like a saint. Doesn’t sound like you’d have that. You could go for your mother’s sake and later vent like hell about all the fake bull that was spewed about how “great he was” to a therapist or trusted friends, or you could not go for your own mental health and instead choose to support your mom the following weekend or some other time as the Captain suggested. The funeral won’t end your mom’s need for support. Key here is to ignore what other people think or say about your choice. Their thoughts, YOUR choice.

  15. FrolickingElf said:

    As someone who has a long-standing “awful” behaviour of dodging out of every single funeral-related tradition… the jabs and the pokes will always be there… not that I want you to stress about that fact, but more be aware of it. I find guilt-trippers who can’t manipulate me to do their bidding will use those same perceived-disappointments later when criticising me for the next slight against “them”… Even decades later “well, you didn’t even go to X’s funeral, so it’s not like [add jabby condescending poke about whatever perceived slight against their moral compass].” That said, thanks to Cappy’s scripts, and some well-worth-the-money therapy, learning to mentally add “you think that” to those jabs has been instrumental in not taking on anyone else’s perceptions. If they cared about YOUR feelings, they would ask how you are doing, instead of just demanding you do X because of Y.

    It’s not that I don’t love/cherish/respect the person who has passed, I am just a socially-anxious empath who can’t possibly take on an entire room of grief and survive intact, let alone be expected to play the part of support for other loved ones. There are so many OTHER options to show love and support to your Mom… for example, I have stayed behind from funerals at so-and-so’s house and ensured all the food was ready for the post-funeral get-together, or after things have settled, take your Mom to visit the grave and bring a lovely bouquet of flowers for her to lay at the head-stone. You aren’t a hypocrite if you do this by YOUR values, you are just being a support-system for your Mom, and (in my antho-perspective) participating in western traditions of dealing with the deceased.

    I’ve even offered to pack and help clean out the person’s possessions (depending on your time and financial situation). It’s comforting that another pair of hands is carefully handling precious heirlooms and helping to manage the stacks of old magazines and dusty junk in the basement. Alternatively, take Mom for a massage or spa-day, just the two of you, and just be with her while she grieves. My comfort is knowing that your Mom will have plenty of family support at the actual funeral, it’s not ALL up to you. I’ve learned that sometimes, being there for a loved one is just that, being there, in whatever capacity YOU can manage while maintaining your own sanity, dignity and self-worth. Captain has her advice right on the nose. It took a while, but I have stopped feeling guilty for not attending funerals, but still, in my own way, offer support any way I can…. and just have an internal eye-roll at the jabby-jabs (mostly from people who I don’t see regularly anyways). I am very glad you live far enough away, that physical boundary will be instrumental for you. Good luck, self-care for the win!

    • like an angry apple tree said:

      >>It’s not that I don’t love/cherish/respect the person who has passed, I am just a socially-anxious empath who can’t possibly take on an entire room of grief and survive intact, let alone be expected to play the part of support for other loved ones.>>

      Thanks for this. I am not an empath, but I took some really harsh verbal stuff from family (called a monster, etc.) as an adolescent because I didn’t like(????) going to funerals. i.e. I didn’t know how to help the bereaved, just lacked the emotional intelligence at that age.

      So anyway, it’s a different story, but I appreciate that I’m not the only one who finds it painful for reasons other than literal grief of my own.

      • B said:

        People are so weird. When I had to do ICU, there was family of a dying person there, one member had a full blown panic attack seeing their relative like that. I took them out and helped them calm down. Then another family member started /berating/ the person for leaving and how they “owed it to be there”. Owed it to be another body in a room full of people surrounding an unconscious person? I used full MD creds there to say they did NOT need to go back in the room and their support would be just as appreciated in the waiting room, or wherever else. (I said it in nicer words but made it clear I wouldn’t let the upset person back in there and that they hadn’t done anything wrong, they’d already done everything they could)

        • I think many people have a tendency to over-value the things they can do, while under-valuing ways they would find more difficult. If a person makes a great casserole, then they will think bringing food to the grieving is a very important element, while another person is all about “showing up.”

          Just a marriage shouldn’t change a good relationship, so someone passing away doesn’t change their relationship with those left behind. The stepfather’s passing should be treated as any other transaction for LW; it’s about how it affects the people she does care about, and how LW can best work that for herself.

          I love the idea of being the one to show up after the crowd. It’s very valuable.

      • FrolickingElf said:

        Very interesting perspective, thank you so much for sharing. Different story, but I feel a connection with you all the same. I truly believe that children should not be expected to carry the wounds of the parents. And as adults, we all have our own way to process emotions, and shouldn’t be held to the obscure standards of others…

    • myswtghst said:

      “If they cared about YOUR feelings, they would ask how you are doing, instead of just demanding you do X because of Y.”

      This is so important, and such a good reminder for the LW regardless of what they choose to do.

  16. Melvildewey said:

    My father died before his mother (my grandmother). After he died we had a major falling out because she accused my mother of “stealing” our (the kids) inheritance. (Mom inherited a shipload of medical bills and had to sell the family home.) I defended my mother and my grandmother never spoke to me again. I attended her funeral because I cared for the rest of my family who were grieving, but to this day (30+ years later) I never cried and I do not feel guilty for the rift. I felt I took the high road.

  17. Funerals are for the living. If you were to attend, it would be for your mother, not because you have a burning need to say goodbye to this man. If you do attend, know that it in no way nullifies your feelings about who he is/was as a person; and know that if you don’t attend, it’s because first and foremost you need to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. I will say that now is not the appropriate time for you to tell your mother that you won’t be attending the funeral (if you ultimately make that decision).

    • notadoctor said:

      Hey LW, I am curious if depending on your family’s religious/cultural traditions, there will be ways other than the funeral that you could show up and support your mom and siblings? Maybe you offer to hang back at home and get the food ready, if there is a culture of home gatherings after funerals. Maybe you skip the funeral but sit shiva. Perhaps reminding yourself that you’ve got options other than “funeral or no funeral” will help you to feel like you have a little more breathing room. Good luck!

  18. diathena said:

    I had sort of the opposite situation not long ago, where I loved the deceased but really didn’t want to see the fellow mourners.

    I’ve been no-contact with my parents for a few years, but I went to my grandma’s funeral last year, even though it meant seeing them and having to interact with them.

    My grandma meant a lot to me, and she was the grandparent I’d been closest to. Nobody pressure me to come to the funeral – I wanted to be there, maybe sort of in a stubborn, “just because my parents are awful doesn’t mean they can keep me from saying goodbye to my grandma in the way I want” kind of way.

    I’m glad I went, overall. I was able to take a keepsake from her house (everything was up for grabs before an estate sale), and I did get a sense of closure from it, even though I’m not religious and it was a super religious event. I did have to put up with my parents and their lack of boundaries, including unwanted hugs, unwanted attempts at conversation, etc. all with a big audience, which made me uncomfortable being blunt with them.

    So, a very mixed bag, but I’m ultimately glad I went.

  19. Dino said:

    I have two anecdotes for you, Letter Writer.

    I went to the funeral for my uncle despite my initial decision not to go. I didn’t want to go because my uncle was a racist, sexist, xenophobic asshole who wouldn’t stop staring at my breasts when I was 13 years old at a cousin’s wedding. I also didn’t want to go because at the time of the funeral I was disowned by my grandmother (uncle’s mom) after my other uncle’s family created all this drama because I came out as a lesbian. Eventually, my then-fiancee (now wife) convinced me to go to support my dad, who had taken the death really hard. In the end, I’m glad I went. The relatives with problems with me avoided me and I avoided them; I was expecting drama but I think everyone had more important things on their minds. I was able to be there for my dad, and I didn’t have to fake any feelings toward my late uncle. It was a good decision for me to go, despite my initial reluctance.

    A few years later, the second husband of the grandmother who disowned me died. i didn’t attend that funeral but a few weeks later my parents, sibling, my wife and I were doing a family trip and we decided to visit my grandmother on the way down to help her sort through her late husband’s things and help her with tasks around the house that he had been planning on doing before his passing. I was nervous about how it would work out and was truly dreading it but didn’t back out. those few days started awkward but we got through it and was able to chat with her a bit more freely about casual things and helped her in the kitchen and whatnot. Then we left and went on the rest of our vacation. Not long after, my grandmother started asking my dad for updates about my life and by the next year, I was no longer disowned by her. Turns out that my other uncle and his family had come down soon after my family had left, but none of them helped her deal with the death or expressed condolences. They just wanted a cheap vacation and used her house like a hotel. My grandmother said that she realized that although I might be “flawed” I at least had more of a heart and showed up when it counted. She’s still pretty horrible in other ways and I firmly follow the Captain Awkward strategy of leaving after she makes bigoted remarks, but it’s nice to not be shunned.

    I definitely didn’t think that signing up for potentially awkward interactions with shitty family members would lead to us finding some level of peace between each other. I committed to being true to myself and my feelings (aka I didn’t speak ill of the dead but also didn’t lie about the kinds of people my uncle and step-grandfather were) and decided that I was showing up for my dad, not for my uncle. With the visit to my grandmother, I did the same thing. I didn’t lie and say how much I missed her husband, and I didn’t kiss her ass. I decided to treat her as if she was a stranger going through a hard time, which was essentially a true read on the situation.

    I tell you all this because I learned that going to a funeral for someone who has done you wrong and giving your support to the bereaved in a less fraught way after the funeral is over are both positive choices that can help mend/maintain complicated relationships. You can support your mom without switching into people-pleaser mode or not being true to yourself and your feelings. Only you know what’s right for you, but I wanted to offer empathy and also an example of how showing up can still turn out well.

  20. Hans Meyer-Brunel said:

    Caveat: i have not spoken to my father in over 7 years.

    I understand this is super hard, and a major part of that is judgement in service of guilt. I have felt deeply insulted when people suggest that my behaviour is an overreaction, or when they just say ‘… but its your FAMILY’

    IMO anybody but your Mother who comments negatively sits in judgement of you, and you can explain to them that it is none of thier GD business. Do they purport to understand the depths of your relationship with XSF? Are they concerned about the social fabric’s required behaviours and just shifting the emotionl work onto you?

    ‘But after all that he did for you…’ actually means ‘look at all the cash he gave you and your Mom’. Parsing how much of XSF’s relationships were trannsactional vs relational ill leave to you.

    Trying to make a truly independant decision in that environment is challenging, and i, for one, think your Mother is being quite selfish here. She cares only for herself, XSF, and some weak illusion of happiness. Maybe she wasnt strong enough to kick a ‘white knight’ to the curb when he dropped his wad on the kitchen Table, but the consequence was your abuse.

    Now THAT is judgy. I just wish you the best navigation, sometimes i try to think of the person i WANT to be, thin about what that person would do, then muddle through that as the person i am.

    Best, HMB

  21. Shifrah said:

    Dear LW, it’s so hard to have negative or ambivalent feelings about family members, especially when they are ill. I understand and respect your feelings about your step father, and I understand why you would want to get the funeral plans sorted in your own mind in advance of his passing. One thing you might want to consider, though: Your letter addresses your feelings about your step father, but not any of your feelings about your mother. Is it possible that part of your planning about not going to the funeral has to do with your own feelings about her part in your past family dynamic?

    As Celeste said, funerals are really for the survivors more than the deceased. If I were you, I would try to think about what your absence would be signaling (to your mother, to yourself) about your feelings regarding HER grief and HER relationship with/enabling of your step father.

    Maybe you’ll think about this and decide that, in fact, this is all about him and not about her. Fair enough. Or maybe you’ll think, “You know what, I am really angry and there’s no better way to say that than to avoid the funeral,” or, “You know what, I do feel really ambivalent about my mom right now, and while I want to support her, I don’t think I can safely do that at the funeral.” Those would be completely legit outcomes. I just think that it will be better and easier for you if you’re as aware as possible of what feelings might be underlying this decision.

    You might decide that you do want to be as supportive to your mother as possible at what will be a difficult time for her. If you decide to attend the funeral, see if you can frame it in your own mind, not as a statement about your step father or a signal about your feelings for him, but rather as a statement about your mother and your relationship with her. If you do feel ambivalent about her role in all of this, there might be better venues to express that than your step father’s funeral.

    • Ex Stepdaughter said:

      Thanks so much for this, Shifrah. To avoid turning my letter into a novel, I omitted some things like the fact that two years of therapy helped me to let go of my grudge against my XSF, come to an understanding & empathy for his underlying issues, etc. I think you are correct about ongoing issues with my mom, however, which I have tried, unsuccessfully, to work on with her. As a result, one of my coping strategies is to try to protect her from uncomfortable situations, my anger, etc. This approach sometimes backfires. Your comments were helpful in reminding me that I do need to take these things into account.

      • Fantasia said:

        Two years is often just the start. I speak from long experience. If you can push on with therapy, you’ll stop protecting the mother who should have protected you from a stepfather who gave you a nickname based on the size of your breasts. I’ve been there and I wish you all the luck in the world freeing yourself from this net that’s been thrown over you. xx

  22. The Captain is right, not to discuss this preemptively. Funerals are for the living, but if you still find it awful to contemplate attending, maybe you can do this? You can be the wonderful, helpful daughter who stayes-home-to-guard-the-house-from-burglars. This is true, or at least and urban legend that houses where everyone is at a funeral get targeted for theft. Your mom has an easy answer. You can be there for her, but not attend the funeral.

  23. I’ve missed a number of funerals (mostly my DH’s family– he’s gone but I haven’t) not because I had anything against the person or the family but because life happens and it’s hard to get plane tickets/childcare/time off work/etc. It has never been a big deal.

    • Sarah said:

      Ditto to this. I was wondering if it’s cultural, but I’ve missed some important funerals for no reason other than life got in my way, and no one has ever said a thing about it that felt critical. Or maybe I just didn’t take it as such — the obvious response to my aunt saying, “We missed you at Grandma’s service” was just, “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to see you there.” I never worried about whether my absence offended people, because mostly I don’t think people care. And if they do, I’m not sure I care about their opinion. If my aunt was offended that I didn’t make it to my grandmother’s funeral (and I’m really quite sure she wasn’t), how would that affect my life and why would it matter to me? Her feelings are her problem, not mine.

      I certainly regret more the funerals that I missed than the ones I went to, though — as lots of other people have said, they’re not about the deceased, but about the living. And a funeral can be a nice way to find closure and to let go of feelings that you’re carrying around. Not, I suppose, if you feel trapped into pretending someone was a saint, but a service can signal the back brain to release resentments that are officially pointless, I think.

      • OkeefemyKeefe said:

        Same here – most of my family lives long distances from each other, so no one is ever expected to attend a funeral. We all hope we can all come, and we feel sad for the ones who aren’t able to make it, but the only person ever judged harshly was my cousin who lied pretty outrageously about why he couldn’t make his aunt’s wake/funeral. Time and money are perfectly acceptable reasons not to go to something (that’s not usually planned months in advance, on top of being emotionally charged).

  24. Manattee said:

    The Captain’s advice about not bringing it up before hand is spot on. I also don’t think you need to explain it to friends and family. When the time comes, don’t make a big song and dance about it. Send condolence cards to anyone you feel is appropriate (maybe any surviving parents he may have, his daughter), maybe send some flowers to your mom if that would be appropriate, and either don’t bring it up, or just simply say something like ‘so sorry I won’t be able to make the funeral, but I’ll be thinking of you’. Funerals are, by nature, fairly last minute things and often there will be family members who can’t make it for various reasons (travel, work, finances, childcare, school and so on). That’s normal. I’ve never been at a funeral where anyone’s absence was begrudged, or missed a funeral where my absence was commented on. Lots of employers don’t even let employees have time off work to attend funerals unless it’s immediate family. It also sounds like your younger brother will likely go as they were much closer, so try to take comfort in the fact that your branch of the family is represented and that your mom will have him for support on the day. I think checking in and maybe spending some time with your mom after the dust has settled might be more helpful.

  25. Alias Grace said:

    tw: abuse; sexual abuse

    Dear LW,

    As usual, the captain has some great advice. Her scripts will be particularly useful if/when you inevitably get pressure or questions about your decision not to attend. You might consider practicing them aloud ahead of time.

    I agree that attempting to have this conversation with your mother in advance of the funeral has a high likelihood of increasing tension between you two rather than lessening it.

    It sounds like you have given careful consideration to your decision and the reasons behind it. If I may, I’d like to offer a perspective based on an experience I had a few years ago. I had a man in my life who was also, as you describe XSF “unapologetically misogynistic, racist, homophobic, […] verbally abusive, and paranoid.” This was someone I’d had a pivotal and quasi-familial relationship with my entire childhood, but whom I had limited contact with as an adult. Like XSF, he was abusive – verbally and otherwise – in ways that were embraced or tolerated in the culture I grew up in. He also abused me sexually as a child. I heard reports of his failing health over the years before his death. I knew I would want to visit his grave at some point (something along the captain’s “Going to the funeral of one’s enemy just to make sure he’s dead” line), but I DID NOT want to attend his funeral. Until he died. At which point I was overcome with a searing certainty that I needed to be there.

    I attended with a friend who knew my history, and sat in the back in case I needed to make a quick exit. It involved putting on my fancy clothes and going to church (which I avoid whenever possible) as well as seeing A LOT of people that I had limited my contact with, all of whom would be SO SAD at the death of this hateful, abusive man. I knew many of them would misunderstand/misread my presence, and I made my peace with that in advance. It was a terrible, painful day and absolutely the right thing for me to do.

    I think it is good that you’re thinking all of this through ahead of time. I know I did that, and it helped me feel like I had some control over the situation, which also helped lessen my anxiety. However, when my abuser actually died, my response was quite different than I had anticipated. I suspect this experience is not entirely unusual, as our emotional responses to death & grief are shifting and complex. All of which to say that while it is probably useful for you to plan and anticipate, it might also be useful to give yourself room to change your mind, which will be all the easier if you haven’t already announced your intentions.

    Please disregard if this is not applicable to your situation. Or, if you think there might be some slight possibility you’ll change your mind/feelings about this, you might want to think through what that would look like, and how to create boundaries and some safety nets in that scenario. Some of the captain’s scripts would still come in handy as a way to say essentially, “I’m here for my own reasons and to support my mother” without feeling pressured into the celebration of life/the person aspect of a funeral.

    Best of luck, LW. Whatever you decide, please be sure to activate your Team Me and other support systems, and to make plenty of time for self care.

    • atma said:

      I agree with this. The main points here; it’s your decision what to do, it is quite possible to attend only to support loved living persons, and int this reply – it is hard to predict our own feelings

      I’ve been in a very different situation not at all connected to death and funerals – in my circles we discussed reactions to unfaithfulness i relationships, and I THOUGHT I knew how I’d react, and my thoughts were accurate in regards to how I THINK. My emotions though? They live in a totally different part of me and came up as a complete surprise!

      So it’s good to plan and think about the situation in advanced, in order to be prepared. Please leave room to change your mind based on how you’ll actually feel at the time

  26. sam said:

    Agreeing with pretty much everyone else here. If you don’t want to go, don’t feel obligated to go, and there are a hundred relatively polite/benign ways of making excuses for not going that won’t serve to compound your mom’s grief in the moment.

    But if you want to go for your mom, just try to reframe it as being a day about her, and her needs, rather than him. On the flip side of not going to funerals for people who have done you wrong in life, I’ve gone to funerals for people I’ve barely known, because I was close to one of their surviving relatives, and wanted to be a support to that person – the dead person was almost just the catalyst necessary for me to go be there for that friend.

    Lastly, I don’t know what sort of pre/post funeral events exist in your culture/neck of the woods, but in mine (jewish), we sit shiva for a week afterwards. That’s the time for everyone to show up and bring food. SO MUCH FOOD. And for some reason it usually involves pickled and smoked fish. True love and support is my italian friend who showed up with a baked ziti after we spent three hours trying to air out our house from an utterly pungent batch of pickled herring that someone had delivered to my parents’ apartment after my mother died.

  27. JustKate said:

    Case study #1: I went to the funeral of a man I had *extremely* mixed feelings about (he had creeped me out with inappropriate attention a time or two, and I found out that I wasn’t the only one – and even aside from that, he was a wildly annoying person), but I did it for his wife and daughter. I won’t say that I regret going because I know his family was touched that so many of us came, but it was hard, hard, hard sitting in that sanctuary hearing what a wonderful man he was when all the time I was like “Eww.” (In fact, a good friend of mine who also knew him but knows nothing about the creepstering still from time to time talks about what a great guy Creepster McCreepy was, and my reaction remains “Eww.”)

    In balance, I’m glad I went for his family’s sake, but yeah, it was hard. All those accolades were really difficult to swallow.

    Case study #2: My husband had a very distant relationship with his father (long story) who lived several states away, and when FIL got ill, husband and husband’s brother fretted for a long time what to do when he died – to go or not to go to the funeral. In the end, FIL was buried literally two days after he died (apparently he had a phobia about embalming?), there was no time for anybody out of state to get there, so husband and BIL didn’t have a choice – they couldn’t go. And in balance, I am confident they’re both pretty happy that it worked that way, because that would have been an even more fraught funeral than Creepster McCreepy’s.

    So it can go either way. In a case like this, I’d be inclined to go for my mom’s sake, if logistics made that possible, but I would absolutely understand if the LW feels differently. Because Creepster’s funeral was hard.

    And I’d also like to echo what others have said about not worrying about this now and about definitely not discussing it with your mother until you must. Worrying about it before you have to will do absolutely no good, and anyway things could change (not regarding your stepfather but in regards to your life), so I’d recommend waiting until you *have* to make a decision before *trying* to make one.

    • My two cents said:

      I realise that this is probably not possible in the LW’s case due to timings (it’s hard to book a flight for the next day, and might also be awkward not to stay for the funeral), but in situations such as these I would try to go to the visitation (usually held a day or two before the funeral). That way I show my support to the person whom I care about (as others have said, funerals are for the living), and avoid having to hear the presented lies about the deceased’s wonderfulness. Now that I think about it – visitations are almost always full of “How are you doing?” “What are you up to these days?” “Thank you so much for coming / your support” and almost no talk about the deceased unless I made a point of wanting to tell someone how much that person meant to me.

      • JustKate said:

        That’s a good point. Visitations are often far less fraught than the funerals themselves.

        • This is such an interesting perspective, I feel exactly the opposite. At the funeral there is no real expectation of interaction, and the visitation is just the opposite. (and this comment is colored by the fact that when my mom died and my grandmother showed up at the wake my husband had to stand behind her like a bouncer because he was sure that I was going to body slam her).

          • My two cents said:

            As with many things, funerals vary quite a bit between cultures, so I would expect that visitations are similarly different depending upon where you are. It’s very likely that my experience isn’t typical outside of my culture, and I think it would also depend on whether or not your problem was with the dead, or with the living who will be at the visitation.

  28. Swistle said:

    We did not go to my father-in-law’s funeral. I thought this was a shocking thing to do, but it’s my husband who was affected by his dad, of course, and I considered the decision up to him. One relative was shocked, and even she only mentioned it once and didn’t make a huge deal of it. If anyone else was shocked, they didn’t say anything about it to us and we haven’t heard anything through the family grapevine either.

    I think a lot of us raised in the “We do what is expected of us socially” environment are raised to think that other people REALLY REALLY DEEPLY CARE what we do, and that’s why we feel the stress and pressure. But I don’t think other people DO care all that much: I think their supposed caring is just used AS THE PRESSURE to make people do things.

    On the other hand, I am also of the “funerals are for the living” point of view. I think it is possible to go to a funeral only out of love and caring for the living person you DO love and care about, without it having to mean anything about your relationship with the person who has died. That is, I think you could go because you love your mom and want to help her through this, without it conveying even a tiny bit of support or love or approval for the guy who died and who won’t even know if you were there or not.

  29. oscarhomeslice said:

    Dear LW,

    Long time lurker, first time commenter. I’m not certain this will help, but I do have experience missing on funerals in cases where family believes you should 100% be there… “or you’re a terrible person”. I live in a different country from the rest of my family and missed both of my parents’ funerals (both unexpected and about 7 yrs apart). I also have a different experience from the other side, in that I had a great relationship with both. However, I chose to prioritize getting some time-sensitive things in order that were necessary for my future beyond the immediate grief. In both cases, dropping everything to fly back would have actually meant going back for good as they were immigration related.

    That’s just the setup for some context. The main thing I want to communicate through this is that… it’s okay. I think thr Captain’s suggestion of going to your Mom after the funeral is a good one. I made it back to my family as soon as I could. Within a week for my mother, but it took over a month before I could secure the assurance that I could leave the country I was in and return to my job, apartment, partner, etc without problem.

    This was not without familial pressure. Grief pulls up powerful impulses. I have a large family and there were many voices saying, “Drop everything. Get back here.” Well meaning ones. This is several years of hindsight (and several years of therapy) talking, but my conclusion is that it was more about surrounding yourself with love and loved ones in a time of sadness than about the actual act of a funeral. My hot take, I guess.

    I had opportunities to connect with family after the actual funeral that were just as meaningful to me. In my case, it was reminiscing, crying, hugging, pouring one out (what have you). In your case, it could just be about a daughter supporting a mother through her grief.

    People made their judge-y remarks when I made my decision. Except for one person — out of 8 sibs and a multitude of nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, in-laws — no one gave me shit about it. It was my dad’s sister and she complains about everything. Most were comforted just by me being there when I could get there… the rest (except for said aunt) got over it (and I got over her).

  30. stellanor said:

    I hate funerals. They don’t work for me. I don’t really do grieving in a group. They do not afford me any kind of comfort or closure. They’re a few hours of my life where I put on uncomfortable shoes and go be uncomfortable while a bunch of people emote in public.

    I’ve been to funerals for relatives who openly disliked me, funerals for people who I knew to have abused family members, and funerals for complete strangers. (I’ve also gone to funerals for people I loved but I didn’t want to go to their funeral anyway because I hate funerals.) I didn’t go to any of those out of respect for the deceased (I don’t believe in an afterlife so in my view the deceased doesn’t care) — I went because in each case it meant a lot to some other (alive) person that I be there, and that was more important to me than a couple hours of mild to moderate discomfort.

    I’m not saying I think you should go to funerals you don’t want to go to. I am saying that even if funerals are not your jam, or this SPECIFIC funeral is not your jam, you have to do your own cost-benefit analysis on going versus not. How difficult will it be for you to go? If you don’t go, how will that impact your relationship with people who had close relationships with the deceased? Is it really important to someone important to you that you go? In the case of the funerals I’ve been to for abusive assholes, in each case their victim wanted to go to the funeral and the victim found it comforting to have me there so I gritted my teeth through people eulogizing someone I knew to be scum.

    So far I haven’t hit an instance where going to a funeral would be so damaging to me emotionally that it wasn’t worth going to support other people I was close to. Maybe someday I’ll hit one of those. Maybe this is that funeral for you, LW. I agree, though, that no good will come of trying to litigate this before XSF actually dies — that just means the argument will start now and continue until some point after he’s in the ground.

  31. I went to my husband’s father’s funeral – the one who told my husband not to marry me because I was a golddigger, the one who disliked me because I ate bacon wrong, who told my husband to get me “in line,” who told my husband he was a bad son because husband was not going to their house for Christmas, who punched my husband when husband was a 90-lb teenager and dad was a muscular, 200-lb adult – only to make sure he was dead.

    And because my husband wanted me there.

    It was not out of respect or liking at all.

    • flrpwll said:

      He sounds like a total charmer.
      How do you eat bacon wrong?

    • Rhoda said:

      Did you bring a wooden stake to drive through his heart, just to be sure? 😀

  32. livingandcorporeal said:

    Chiming in that I wouldn’t say anything ahead of time. Trying to explain why you won’t attend just gives your mother a chance to try to pressure you NOW, and continue doing so for however long it takes for him to die. It also removes any plausible deniability you might otherwise have when the funeral does arrive and you say, “oh no, I just can’t make it, my work won’t give me the time off [on such short notice (if it is short notice)]”.

    • Nanani said:

      Isn’t it always though? Even if if the doctors say he has X time left, you can’t exactly book the exact date of a funeral in advance.

  33. Lurky Lurkerlson said:

    “Going to the funeral of one’s enemy just to make sure he’s dead”
    Some funerals include an interment, in which the dead person is put in a box and the box is put in a hole in the ground. Some attendees throw a clump of dirt into the hole on top of the box with the body inside. A person with…complicated…feelings about the deceased might find that tradition comforting.

  34. I missed a funeral of a close relative, who was a victim of the same abuser I was. That abuser organized the funeral/memorial service in such a way (timing, location, etc.) that I would be made deliberately unwelcome and ostracized. I know that sounds paranoid and unlikely, but it’s true, it was blatant, and other relatives who witnessed this were horrified and all supported me in not attending. I haven’t regretted it.

    There’s also this link that I reflected on at the time, and have recommended to others since then facing similar situations. http://www.luke173ministries.org/655609

    One section:

    “While some respondents believed they would probably be criticized for not going, the majority did not anticipate this, and several indicated that was because others knew the deceased was an abuser and so would not fault a former victim for staying away. This made an interesting point about the Silent Partners in abusive families. Normal folks seemed to understand the logic of not attending the funeral of someone who wasn’t speaking to you. Normal folks also seemed to grasp the hypocrisy of memorializing abusers, lying to make them look good in death, and pretending they lived their lives well.

    “But the Silent Partners in abusive families don’t seem to get this. They actually expect you to mourn for someone who abused you, or who was no longer a part of your life, perhaps for many years, and they just can’t wait to criticize you if you don’t. Even if you feel like mourning, you can’t just do it in private. You have to put on a show for them. They want to SEE you mourn, or it doesn’t count. This is because they are sadists who enjoy seeing you suffer. That’s why they stood by silently all those years while you were abused. If you don’t cry in front of them, they feel cheated, because you are depriving them of something they get their kicks from. In an abusive family, there’s no such thing as everybody dealing with their own grief in their own personal way, because personal boundaries are not acknowledged. You have to grieve in the way THEY want you to grieve, in the way THEY deem to be acceptable, or you will be criticized and gossiped about for years to come. Yes, abusers and control-freaks think they have the right to dictate even this. Nothing is sacred, not even mourning.”

    I know exactly where you are coming from and how you feel and what you fear happening if you don’t go, or if you just don’t go and don’t get permission. The abuser, and the one(s) who supported them and helped them organize the funeral/memorial (and yes they deliberately knew I was being intentionally excluded and punished in the way it was organized–they admitted it, in writing) felt it was unbelievable, unconscionable, that I didn’t go; I was meant to go, humble myself, and suffer.

    I didn’t go. I don’t regret it. It was the right thing to do. And those relationships are broken and will be forever.

    • Ice and Indigo said:

      Fair warning for those who had a rough time with religion growing up: the author in that link quotes a lot of pretty blood-and-thunder sections of the Bible.

      • It is on a religious site. I’m not religious myself and had no problem with it, but fair enough to warn people who might.

        • Ice and Indigo said:

          It’s not so much the being religious, it’s that the sections it quotes from the Bible are often quite grisly! Lots of perishing and smiting and dead bodies going on.

    • Clarry said:

      I can’t agree that the Silent Partners in abusive families are sadists who enjoy seeing you suffer. It’s too sweeping a statement to be true in all cases. It’s also possible, even likely, that the Silent Partners are continuing their old pattern of sweeping abuse under the rug and pretending they didn’t see anything because that’s been their pattern all along. They may have been abused themselves, afraid, ashamed, cowed, unsure not known how to speak out or whom to speak out to. I don’t say any of this to excuse them, only to suggest that there may be a lot more going on than sadism.

  35. Clarry said:

    There’s a difference between “supporting your mother” by being present, understanding her grief, helping her through what’s a difficult time for her, and “doing what your mother wants” because that’s what she wants. I believe given the circumstances that it’s possible to achieve the latter (you could show up) and impossible to do the former (you could be there but your presence won’t give any real comfort). I don’t believe anyone nowadays thinks that showing up at a funeral means the attendees liked the deceased. Your family may be different, but for many, attending a funeral is a little like attending any other family gathering. People go for the food and company. Statements are optional.

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      I am underlining and starring this.

  36. cleo said:

    I’ve done both. And in my experience at least, I cared more about my decision to attend or not attend than anybody did.

    I had a difficult relationship with one set of grandparents – my grandfather abused 2 generations of girls in our family (including me and my mother) and my grandmother was either oblivious or complicit and it’s something that’s never been addressed publically (partly because we’re WASP and partly because this is how this kind of abuse works).

    My grandfather died first and I chose to attend his funeral – it was a combination of “make sure he’s really dead” and wanting to be there for my mom. I lined up A LOT of support ahead of time and took good care of myself.

    When my grandmother died, I was going through a particularly difficult time and I wasn’t up to dealing with my incredibly dysfunctional extended family. I decided not to go at the last minute and while I kind of agonized about it, no one pushed back.

    I did send flowers and those were specifically for my mother – so she’d see them and know I was thinking of her and so she could point them out to anyone who wondered where her daughter was.

  37. bopper said:

    The OP may also not want to “go for her mother” because her mother was an enabler of the behavior of the step-father.

  38. vanadiumoxide said:

    Captain, this is a beautifully crafted response. Particularly this line: “You can’t ask that question without shredding her and she can’t answer it without shredding you. The damage is done and now you gotta love each other the best you can around the scar tissue.”

  39. Biancasnoozes said:

    I’m 98% sure I will not be going to my mother’s funeral. Even though she paid my college tuition. I made this decision recently, after realizing that a HUGE amount of anxiety was around the event of her death/funeral and how I would get through it. I then had an epiphany–I can skip it. I can just not go. That is the thing that will keep me safe and OK when she dies. I don’t have to go to her funeral simply because there will be one and she was my mother. I know that this decision is the right one for me.

    I’m sure my other family members will be APPALLED. They don’t know the extent of the abuse she subjected me to, though. They do know she is a huge jerk, but in their eyes, she still falls on the side of “lovable jerk,” rather than “jerk who subjected me to a lot of abuse.” They were not the objects of her abuse. They did not have her as their only mother.

    What I plan to do is to write a letter to the priest (my mother is a churchgoer and I’m sure the funeral will be held at her home church by a priest who knows her well) explaining that I will not be there, and to let her know that my other family members may be having feelings about that.

    I will not be discussing my plans with my other family members prior to the event, because in my view, doing so opens the topic up to discussion. This topic is not open to discussion. When you do something that you know is going to offend someone, letting them know ahead of time that you are going to offend them doesn’t lessen the offense, and it is unlikely that they will ever give you permission to do so. Sometimes we have to take actions for our own well-being even if that means offending someone, and that is OK, but it also means we have to own the offending action and can’t manage how other people handle it.

  40. Twitchy said:

    Funerals are for the living, but you’re the living too, LW. It’s not just your mom, and I think her right to claim your support and emotional labor on this issue is pretty limited. Whatever support she was entitled to you with regards to your horrible stepfather, she burned through it years ago.

    And I disagree with the captain that you can’t ask her why she subjected you to him. It’s understandable if you don’t want to, but if you do want to ask, you don’t owe it to your mother to coddle her feelings of shame about putting you in an unsafe situation when you were a child. You don’t have to love her around the scar tissue. You can let her be shredded.

    • Twitchy said:

      *entitled to from you

    • The Captain’s point about the LW not asking her mother why is that there is no way for the LW’s mother to end up shredded without the LW herself also ending up shredded. Sometimes, we either decide to love people around the scar tissue in order to avoid opening up OUR old wounds, or we realize the wound itself is too deep to properly scar and make that bridge.

      The LW loves her mother or she doesn’t, and what shape that love takes is between them. LW can ask if she wants, but if she does she has to be prepared for the old hurts to go all ways — to her mother and from her mother, to the LW and from her.

      • Twitchy said:

        I understand that. In my experience, that’s been the healthier and ultimately less painful route. I put myself through a lot of unnecessary suffering because I was trying to avoid some painful conversations, and now that those conversations have been had, things are better.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Also, loving someone and being able to be around them aren’t always synonymous. I love my mother, but I still limit my time with her, because she can’t be around me without hurting me. So I love her from a distance in a way that keeps us somewhat connected but also lets me protect myself while not expecting her to be different than what she is.

        • Right there with you, Cmd. Banana.

    • KellyK said:

      You can ask, but I don’t think while she’s dealing with his illness or grieving his death are the right time to do it. Also, before you ask, make sure you really do want the answer, because you can’t unhear it.

  41. adios pantalones said:

    LW,

    I suspect you have made the funeral your mental load-bearing repository for all your feelings about this man’s death. The good news is, the funeral isn’t the only opportunity to help your mother. The bad news is, the funeral isn’t the only thing you have to worry about.

    As the captain pointed out, is that you can skip the gesture of attending the funeral, knowing there are other opportunities to support your mother. But the other side to that is that the funeral is not the only place you’re going to have to hear people remember the man fondly or go on and on about how “great” a dad/stepdad he was. Your mom and others in your circle will probably continue to speak that way about him for a while after he’s gone. You’re going to need to figure out how you’d like to deal with it.

    On the other hand: Not everyone supporting a person in mourning has to fulfill every role. You can set certain limits on how much of that talk you want to hear from your mother (though I think it would be cruel to bar her from speaking about him in your presence entirely). You can be the person who helps grocery-shop, cook, clean the house, choose distracting and fun activities — you don’t have to be the #1 Feelings Processor.

    Good luck and peace to you.

  42. CommanderBanana said:

    LW – the Captain’s advice is spot-on here. I have a very strained relationship with some of my family, both immediate and extended, and I’ve struggled in the past about attending or not attending events.

    You can’t control how your mom or other relatives feel about you not going to your XSF’s funeral or how they’ll react, and you won’t be able to present a perfect argument that will make them understand your decision and feel the way you want them to feel about it (and I agree with the Captain that having a conversation about it with your mom now probably isn’t going to have the outcome that you want, and it might even be a little cruel to preemptively tell her that).

    When my paternal grandfather died I didn’t attend the funeral. I’d only met him twice in my life, once as a small child and once after his memory was pretty much gone. He didn’t know me and I didn’t know that side of the family. My father went, and one of the ways I supported him was not unloading the emotional labor of my decision not to go onto him.

    I don’t attend a lot of family events now, for my own reasons, which I don’t share or justify. If there’s an event I can go to, I go, am a gracious guest, and if I can’t/don’t want to go, I don’t, and that’s that. I no longer attend events at two relatives’ houses because of the way they’ve treated me in the past, but I don’t need to tell them or anyone else that. My extended family just accepts that I may come to one event out of three, but I always show up with food or a gift or flowers, a smile, and they don’t seem to mind.

  43. LW, I’m another one who doesn’t do funerals. I grieve in my own time, away from people who I can’t trust with my own vulnerability. You don’t have to go to ESF’s funeral if you don’t want to. There is a lot of good advice here about how to best survive emotionally during the event if you DO decide to go, but you don’t have to.

    There is always the time after, when everyone has left your mother alone, and she will need someone if you think you can be that someone. Help her go through and get rid of his things, when she’s ready.

    But I think you want to be careful about putting the cart before the horse: frail is not the same thing as dead, and in the interest of right now I, personally, wouldn’t bring up the possibility of ESF’s funeral because that means you’re thinking about his death. And that’s either going to put you somewhere on the road between being Mom’s Feelings Processor about his upcoming death/current health issues and The Terrible Person who can’t wait for him to die.

  44. Donna said:

    Hi Ex Step and Captain! I have an elderly relative who was really abusive and icky. I too am preparing for when she passes and still don’t know if I will go to services (if I’m even made aware). I do know I was taught that funerals are for the living and not for the dead, so going or not has to be about me (and you!) not anyone else attending via car or coffin. Like you I didn’t want to hurt anyone but if going makes me hurt, well then technically someone is hurt, right? It’s a complicated family triangle in our cases but we need to take care of ourselves before we are able to care of others properly. Do what is healthiest for you. I’m with you!

  45. Matilda said:

    I did not go to my grandmother’s funeral because she protected someone who sexually abused me when I was a CHILD. No one gave me any grief for it. My family were fine with it. I think some other members of my extended family were shocked, but no one confronted me about it. I loved her when I was a child, but the person I loved died for me when she protected an abuser over multiple grandchildren. I was able to be there for my family, and support them in practical ways, but I am glad I did not go to the funeral. I would advise you to stand strong, and do what you want to do letterwriter. Jedi Hugs and supportive vibes if you want them.

  46. Jen said:

    I’ve bailed out of several funerals I probably should’ve gone to. In each of them, the people who mattered didn’t hold it against me. Those who I didn’t have much of a good relationship with beforehand likely thought worse of me. You can’t really change how people will think of you, so I guess, in a sense, I’m done trying to make people see/think/react to me a certain way.

    Let me unpack: the one funeral was a relative I just couldn’t afford to fly out for. Our car never would’ve made it, either.

    The other one was a parent of an ex-parent. This person (the ex-grandparent) wasn’t pleasant to be around and blamed me for a lot of my bio-parent’s failings. (Not to mention the fact that I was a persona non grata because my SO never wrote them a thank you note.) It was a situation I couldn’t do anything to diffuse, and my bio-parent really scorched a few bridges on their way out, so to speak, when the relationship ended with ex-parent. I stayed away since, to be honest, the ex-grandparent wasn’t anything more than an acquaintance, and I was done being the black sheep and scapegoat in their fantasies.

    Maybe it’s callous of me, but if someone is going to make me into their personal scapegoat, there isn’t much I can do about it. I can, however, remove myself from that situation and associate with people who aren’t going to be toxic assholes.

    And, slightly unrelated, but there’s a lot more than just material things to make a parent. The bare minimum is a roof over a child’s head, food, and clothing. These are the parents’ responsibilities, and children don’t owe parents for the bare minimum of care. I’d go so far as to say that parents really don’t owe their parents anything, at all–care is the responsibility of the parents. It’s not a transaction to be paid later.

  47. When my grandmother died, my mom gave us the option of not going- and I opted not to. I didn’t want to deal with a bunch of strangers telling me how sorry and sad they were, and I knew it wouldn’t bring me closure. I told my mom if she needed me there I would come but I didn’t want to go for me. Same deal when my grandfather died. I don’t regret it.

  48. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend said:

    My mother had an XSF that sounds very similar to yours. She only went to the funeral to negotiate with family members to get some of her late mother’s belongings back that XSF had when he died. They agreed to send her the stuff, she said hello to a few more people, then she left. She doesn’t regret it. I did not attend his funeral. I drove my mom there and sat in the car in my PJs waiting for it to be over. I don’t regret it. No one has said anything to us about our presence/absence since then.
    I also skipped my grandmother’s funeral. She was one of the most important people in my life and I loved her dearly, but the thought of having to interact with her children at the funeral (one of my aunts, mostly), made me want to punch a wall. So I didn’t go. I don’t regret it. I grieved for her in my own way, privately. My uncle checked in with me after to make sure I was okay with not going, but he wasn’t judgmental when I told him I couldn’t go for personal reasons, and he didn’t push me to explain why.
    Whatever you decide, I wish you the best.

  49. Rhoda said:

    One way to support your mother without actually going to the funeral is to offer to stay back at the house while the funeral is going on. Houses are sometimes robbed by thieves who read obituaries.
    The people who really know what he was like will understand why you don’t want to go, nobody else matters.

    • K.Bedford said:

      There are many ways to be supportive. I remember the kind, supportive people who helped me in the days following my first husband’s suicide just as much as those who went to the funeral. Those colleagues who tucked a casserole in the freezer, those who helped me move, those who took my me and my two young children (aged three years and 11 months) to the park for an afternoon… I still remember them, and it’s nearly thirty years later.

      If anything, a funeral is easy; it’s just a couple of hours out of your life. Being there after, when everyone else moves on… that’s when a grieving person really finds out who their loved ones really are.

      If it were me, I suspect I’d go, but only to support mom. I’d pretend I was Jacqueline Kennedy; calm, cool, a model of grace. Particularly if people know you had a fraught relationship, they’ll be impressed by you being there for your mom. And you only get one chance to do this for her.

      But if you cannot do this… perhaps you have an out. Thieves often time their break-ins during the funeral, so it can make sense to have someone remain at the house (if there is a house). Sometimes the theft occurs later: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/war-memorabilia-wadden-macdonald-stolen-sydney-1.4479374. So being there for your mom in the days and weeks ahead will be useful too. Just don’t pre-discuss this with mom; it will become a wall between you two if too much time elapses between your discussion and the funeral. And if this succeeds in creating a rift between you and your mom, then this mean man wins, doesn’t he?

      • Rhoda said:

        Reading that news item that you linked to, it sounds like an inside job perpetuated by someone who was familiar with the house. Perhaps some relative who wanted those items but wasn’t sure of being mentioned in the will.

  50. goddessoftransitory said:

    Funerals are for the living is a cliche but for a good reason–the person at the center is dead.

    For that reason, going or not can’t let him “win” or “lose.” Because he will be dead. He will no longer have any goals or opinions. He will never know if you came or not.

    So if you go to support your mom, etc., that’s why you’re going. Not for him. Because he’s dead.

    If you don’t because you need to not go, it’s not because he kept you away. Because he’s dead.

    Death is going to change your relationship with him, your mom, and yourself in ways you can ponder but not truly guess until it happens. Don’t bother too much or too long about what will finally happen–Death has that covered.

  51. Lizards80 said:

    I hear you on the desire to do something now to resolve the tension you feel – do I go or don’t I go; how do I mitigate the impacts on me if I go or my mom/others if I don’t.

    I think working on ways to come to peace with your decision, without discussing with your mom or others who may have Opinions, may be a productive pre-emptive action you can take.

    You will still have to deal with your feeling about other people’s feelings…I think coming to peace with all that internally will help.

  52. Noemie said:

    LW, whatever choice you make will be the right one. Sometimes we attend funerals out of love or respect for the dead and sometimes we attend them to show our support for the living. And there are other times when it’s better to stay away, especially if you think you can’t bear to go through an eulogy full of lies. If you decide not to go, you can be there for your mother without attending the service.

    I don’t think it would be productive to discuss your future choice with your mother now. It will only result in hurt feelings for the both of you.

  53. halfmanhalfshark said:

    I did not go to my paternal grandmother’s funeral five or six years ago even though I generally have positive feelings/memories for and about her because doing so would have put me in a very vulnerable position vis a vis other people I hope to never see again. There was definitely pushback from some of those very same people but my general attitude was that they could all take along walk off a short pier. I’ve never regretted it. Depending on what you believe, my grandmother either understands why and forgives me or has entirely ceased to exist and doesn’t care.

    One day, my father (son of same paternal grandmother) will die and right now, I not only don’t plan to attend his funeral but am mostly indifferent to whether he lives or dies. (I acknowledge I may feel differently when the occasion actually arises, and if that happens, me and my therapist will figure it out then.)

    There’s a lot of talk about regrets when this subject comes up, but in my experience, you’ll know immediately if the decision was the right one for you. Even if you travel to where the funeral is happening but decide to stay in a hotel (I don’t know your logistics) at the last minute, that is the right decision for you. If you decide to take yourself out to brunch and get hammered on mimosas, that is okay, too. If you decide to clean your mom’s house from top to bottom and fill her freezer with grief lasagna while she attends the service, that is good. Don’t worry about second guessing yourself about whether you’ll regret the decision – if it’s the one you know is right for you, you won’t regret it.

  54. H.Regalis said:

    LW, I have to say, please don’t bring this up to your mom ahead of time, especially months or years ahead of time. That is not a good idea. As much as you hate this guy, she doesn’t, and being the primary caretaker for someone you care about and having people bring up, “Well, after so-and-so dies, [plans]” comes off as really callous. I’ve been in that position. Breaking this to her ahead of time will cause nothing but arguments between the two of you, and she’s probably already really stressed out from daily caretaking and emotionally processing watching someone she cares about slowly wither and die.

    If you don’t want to go, don’t. Hash it over with people less emotionally involved in the situation if you need to, make a decision ahead of time if you need to, and then, whatever you decide, let it go until the time comes.

  55. Sarah said:

    I went to the memorial of an abusive ex, who was also deeply troubled and likely took his own life. I’m not sure whether it was good or not to go–on the one hand, it was a concrete event and a peaceful ceremony, and on the other, people were weird to me in ways that still make me angry. I’m not sure there are any lessons in my story, but I felt at the time that I would feel worse if I didn’t go than if I did, come what may. My suspicion is that in your case, as it was in mine, there is not going to be any real satisfaction of “I did the right thing and I feel unequivocally good about it.” And that’s fine, although it can be hard to cope with.

  56. Brigitha said:

    My bio father, didn’t speak to me or my sister for about 10 years after he and my mother divorced. He re-married a truly awful woman, had a daughter with her, and then they also divorced. I have a friendly but distant relationship with my half-sister, who I met when she was 6 years old. After my grandmother’s alzhiemer’s diagnosis, fifteen years ago, she pleaded with me and my sister and father to re-connect.

    Ten years ago, I went to that grandmother’s funeral, and my grandfather’s funeral the next year. I endured some truly awkward moments. My ex stepmother was there, and she snubbed me in the bathroom. I did not know how to act around everyone who knew my family history in broad strokes, but acted like the relationship between my father and I was totally normal. I didn’t know how to respond when distant relatives or family friends asked me why I hand’t been around lately. I barely recognized many people, and created a couple awkward moments by confusing a couple family friends I hadn’t seen in over a decade.

    But I’m glad I went. I loved my grandparents very much, and because my little sister wanted to be there, I’m glad I was there for her. I’m also glad I went because after the ordeal, I didn’t feel like I had any further obligation to the extended family and friends. I felt the loss of my grandparents keenly, but also felt a weird kind of relief and freedom from this side of my family and that tangle of complicated emotions.

    Whatever decision you make about this future funeral, there will be positives and negatives. There’s no way to know which set of those will equal a higher number in the end. You just have to make the decision and gird yourself for what happens next. And either way, whichever decision you make will be the right one for you.

  57. Notlookingatyoukid said:

    I did not go to my father’s funeral. He was a sadistic physical and psychological abuser to his wife and children, and he didn’t even have the excuse of alcoholism: he just enjoyed the power, the %^*&$# control freak that he was. As a dutiful daughter, I put up with a lifetime of mistreatment, but when he turned on my kids, I said never again: it was like a switch was thrown. I made it clear to my family that I and my own nuclear family will never be in his presence again, and we weren’t. Twenty years later, when he died after a long illness, I did all I could to help my mother, but skipped town just before the funeral. She never even asked if I planned to attend – and didn’t say a word about it afterwards. Nor has anyone else, for that matter.

    I *needed* to be absent from that funeral, and I *needed* everyone to notice my absence. Funerals are about “paying respect”: since I felt zero respect for the monster, I couldn’t fathom sitting there listening to a service extolling what a wonderful man he was (he wasn’t). Of course it’s a dose of ugly reality when an offspring (a conventionally normal, successful member of society) refuses to acknowledge, never mind honour, the passing of a parent. I think I actually did my mom and everyone else a kindness by not attending, because my most likely response to any well-meaning condolence would have been “thank you for your kind words, but I’ve been wishing the monster dead since I was 5 years old and I’m happy he’s gone at last”, and that would probably have upset a few people there (you figure???). So mom got to host a nice respectful funeral, and I got to poke my finger in the dead guy’s eye: a win-win!

    So, to turn to your own situation, LW, just do what you want to do in the moment. Don’t over-explain, don’t foreshadow, don’t over-think it. Just do it. Do what feels right for you, not for others. And, if you choose to be absent and if people try to make you feel bad about that, you can reply in good conscience “he treated me very badly; I can’t pay respects to someone for whom I feel no respect”.

  58. Cat said:

    LW, I will say this: I don’t know you, your family, or your family culture, but I would think really seriously about how badly your mother might take it if you do not come to the funeral to support her, and if those consequences are worth it to you. A few commenters have mentioned that this isn’t a big deal in their families, but I honestly think that someone who did not come to a funeral of one of my very close loved ones without an exceptionally good reason–or even with one–is someone who would then have a much more damaged relationship with me, because of how badly this would make me feel. I think you have every reason to not come to this funeral, but also I would caution you that it might be worth it to come to support your mother, and that it might be really, really Huge Deal for your mother if you do not. Missing a funeral is a very very big thing, the sort of thing that can create huge family rifts that last for decades, and while that might be ultimately what you want or what you’re willing to live with, it might also really really not be.

    I would also add that going to a funeral to support the people grieving is a very normal thing, and might be seen as noble by others. It’s not odd at all, especially when the funeral isn’t going to help your grief/your lack of grief.

    • I'll come up with a clever name later....maybe said:

      I wholeheartedly disagree with this. If I were the LW, the feelings of my mother wouldn’t amount to hill of beans if the abuse I’d suffered by her husband was strong enough. The only person who can determine if the level of abuse was strong enough is the LW and it seems that she feels it is. The assumption that the mother’s grief somehow trumps the hurt, anger, and whatever else the LW has for this man is wrong. Looking to my future there are two funerals on the horizon that I will not be attending. These are the parents of my husband, the man I love most in the world. We’ve had conversations about this. He wishes I felt differently but has been a witness to the verbal and emotional abuse I’ve dealt with from them and understands that I will offer my support to him in a place that won’t involve all of their friends and family. FYI, he also told our kids that he will respect their wishes as well if they decide not to attend when that day comes.

      • Cat said:

        I can completely understand your decision, and it’s not up to me to comment on it, but I will say I think that’s a perfectly valid and sensible response. There are some funerals I plan on not attending, and some I will only go to to comfort certain future bereaved friends myself.

        My comment was more to highlight the fact that while the LW’s mother might understand the LW not coming to the funeral or supporting the mother in different ways or at different times, or the LW’s mother might be relieved if the LW doesn’t come, the LW’s mother might also be deeply, irrevocably hurt, and the consequences of not going might be really, really permanent and long-lasting. She could react by completely cutting off the LW or being angry at her for the rest of her life. I don’t know what the consequences would be either way, or whether even the kind of rift that could result is fine with the LW–I just wanted to point out that this could mean a complete dissolution of the relationship.

  59. Msconduct said:

    My grandmother with my mother brought me up. She was an extremely difficult woman who…well, too complex to go into, but when she had to go into care for Alzheimers it was a profound relief. When she died my mother was overseas, on a “trip of a lifetime” she richly deserved after a lifetime with my grandmother. I refused to ruin that for her, and so I chose not to tell her until after the fact and I organised the funeral myself. (My mother was grateful, BTW.)

    This was hard. I was 22 and was the only family member in the country. The funeral itself was incredibly difficult. Some of that was because of people constantly asking why the funeral was held where it was (in a suburb not where we lived as it was cheaper and I was conscious I was spending my mother’s money). And it didn’t help that my then boyfriend said to me on the way to the funeral “I don’t know why you’re upset, you never loved her anyway”. (Wrong, because families are complex, and that was that for that relationship.) It was a miserable experience. And some of it was because my grandmother was who she was. But I’m still glad I did it. When I talked to the officiant before the service, he asked me for memories of my grandmother to include, and I had to think about the positive side of our relationship. I ended up with a more balanced view and was able to come to terms with it in a way I hadn’t achieved before. It gave me peace about it. And I’m still glad I was able to give that gift to my mother.

  60. Cyberwulf said:

    Hi LW. My only advice is that you don’t say a word to your mother about how you don’t want to attend XSF’s funeral when he dies. You live out of state – that’s a beautiful gift. When he goes, you can tell her a nice white lie about how you just can’t make it. It happens. People die suddenly and relatives/friends aren’t able to come to the funeral because of distance, money, short notice, illness etc.

  61. Jenny Islander said:

    LW, you don’t owe anybody an explanation because you don’t owe anybody your attendance. I firmly believe that nobody has to go to a funeral, because funerals are where people tend to lose the plot, triply so when the deceased was toxic and some people didn’t want to face up to it. You can say, “I prefer not to go, and my reasons are personal. Can we change the subject please?” And if people talk smack about you, then that’s what they have decided to do.

    I see that you fear that you will do something you don’t want to do when emotions take over after the death. So here are some questions to ask yourself now, so that you can have a clear answer written down on a piece of paper and taped to your bathroom mirror or something.

    1. Who can support my mother? Does it have to be me? Can I count on somebody else stepping up? If I ask this person to please support my mother when the time comes, can I trust them to say yes and follow through?

    2. If I do go, what are the chances that I can control my expression and what I say? What bland and noncommital things might I practice saying ahead of time?

    3. Even if I can behave 100 percent as socially demanded, are there going to be people there who would attack me on sight regardless? If yes,
    don’t go. (When considering this question, keep in mind that funerals in dysfunctional families tend to make the survivors go nuts. If somebody doesn’t like you very much, they are really going to think you kick puppies and eat kittens on the day of the funeral. If you owe somebody $50, it’s going to be $500,000,000,000 and they need that money as of three hours ago to save a busful of nuns from death.)

    4. If I choose to go, and I can pretend that I’m watching a mildly interesting nature documentary, and nobody flips out at me…do I have my own transportation, on which nobody else will be relying, so that when I have had it up to the teeth I can make my excuses and leave?

  62. JayneCobb said:

    Don’t let other people decide your funeral attendance status. You get to choose that for yourself.

    My family did not want me to attend my grandfather’s funeral out of concern for my own health (I was dealing with some major issues at the time). While I wanted to attend out of respect and felt that I could handle it, I let family basically bully me into staying home. I have regretted not putting my foot down ever since then.

  63. Longtime reader said:

    This man was officially in OP’s life for six years, years ago. So her M visits and does chores for him; that’s not a relationship requiring her presence at his anticipated funeral some day. Please don’t assume that her M needs her support via OP’s attendance at said funeral activities. Nor that such “debt is owed”. Jeez

    • Ex Stepdaughter said:

      Thanks for this, LTR. To keep my letter shorter than a novel, I omitted a few things. Mom has not lived with XSF for over 20 years so their relationship is somewhat unusual & definitely also a strained/ambivalent one. Yeah, so complicated!

  64. Iris said:

    My story: When my father died I hadn’t spoken to him for many years and had no desire to go to the funeral. However my brother wanted to go so I went with him to support him.

    I won’t sugar coat this – it was awful, really awful. But I will never regret going because if I hadn’t gone my brother would have gone through that alone.

    Go, or don’t go, it’s entirely up to you and okay either way.

  65. Branwen said:

    I skipped my sister’s funeral. It was just too hard to go grieve in public for me at that time. Processing someone’s death is never easy or simple. But, it is your own grieving process, whether you liked the person or not, and it doesn’t require an explanation. Do what you need to do, save your emotional energy for the quiet spaces where you can be with yourself and your childhood. If you don’t want to go to the funeral, don’t, and just say that -I wasn’t able to be there.

  66. I'll come up with a clever name later....maybe said:

    I skipped my paternal grandmothers funeral. I didn’t hate her. I didn’t feel anything for her to be honest. Growing up she played favorites and my sister and I (products of her son’s second marriage) never made the cut this role. I would see her maybe 6 times a year – she’d sit with her son having tea while my sister and I sat in her tchotchke filled living room trying desperately to stay entertained without actually moving (because good girls sat quietly and were clean at all times). I also hate her son (my father) with the fire of a thousand suns. I was also getting married and had time off scheduled for my wedding just a little more than a month later – and I was a temp so all time off was without pay – and I lived over 150 miles from where she had lived and was being buried. All that lumped together made it easy for me to send a card with my condolences. At that point I hadn’t actually seen her or any of that side of the family for 10 years. They’d all just RSVP’d no to my wedding if that gives you an idea of our closeness. I did hear later that my half-brothers (the favored first marriage children) were badmouthing me for not showing to the funeral. These days they are friendly with my sister but have refused to have anything to do with me. I don’t lose any sleep over my decision all these years later. It’s sad that her passing left a hole in the lives of others but I am not one of those people and won’t pretend to be.

  67. Amy said:

    OP, if you choose not to go, what is the worst that is likely to happen? From what you’re saying, it sounds like the main potential consequences are A) your mom might be sad and miss your support, and B) your mom’s community/your community of origin might gossip about your absence.

    In regards to A, your mom will have other support, and I think you’re likely right about the origins of your sad feelings on this. I think she’ll be okay without you on this one. Also, you can also support her without actually going to the funeral–grief isn’t a thing that ends with a single event, after all.
    You won’t be a bad daughter if you choose to save the support you offer her for a time when she doesn’t have a bunch of other fellow grievers around anymore.

    And B: Yeah, people might gossip. But it sounds like you’ve intentionally distanced yourself from that community! Do you care what they think of you at this point? I mean, beyond the background desire for family approval that I think most people feel–will there be any real, meaningful impact on your life right now if they’re surprised or confused by your choice? If not, I’d like to give you full permission to do whatever the heck you want and not even worry about what you’re going to tell them. Something like “I chose to say my goodbyes privately” is all you really need to say on this; no one deserves details on your complicated relationship with your XSF, or whether those ‘goodbyes’ might have consisted more of ‘phew, I won’t have to deal with him again’ than tears of grief.

  68. wondering said:

    I have missed 2/3 of my grandparent’s funerals and many family weddings. “I can’t miss that much school/I can’t get the time off work” are perfectly legitimate sounding answers to have on autorepeat if anyone questions you.

  69. pit love said:

    My dear LW, I did go to a funeral I dreaded. It was my father, and I was 35. Other than my mother and sister, the attendees were my father’s partner, and their friends who I never met. At the time, I felt I absolutely had to go. The funeral itself was not bad, as it is not a time to interact much. I am still bitter about the lunch afterwards. My father’s friends came up to me and told me what a great father he was. He wasn’t. I responded as briefly as possible, but it was upsetting to force myself through someone else’s misguided views of the man I loved. I had to leave a bit early and Dad’s partner thought even that was surprising. My memories of the funeral are good. Sadly, my memories of that day are dominated by the nausea and upset I experienced during the lunch.

    My advice, for what it is worth – if you don’t want to go, don’t go. Also don’t announce any earlier than absolutely necessary, and don’t explain. Continue not going to any post-funeral get-together. Tell your mama you love her.

  70. pit love said:

    My dear LW, I did go to a funeral I dreaded. It was my father, and I was 35. Other than my mother, sister, and father’s partner, the attendees were my father’s friends who I never met. At the time, I felt I absolutely had to go. The funeral itself was not bad, as it is not a time to interact much. I am still bitter about the lunch afterwards. My father’s friends came up to me and told me what a great father he was. He wasn’t. I responded as briefly as possible, but it was upsetting to force myself through someone else’s misguided views of the man I loved. I had to leave a bit early and Dad’s partner thought even that was surprising. My memories of the funeral are good. Sadly, my memories of that day are dominated by the nausea and upset I experienced during the lunch.

    My advice, for what it is worth – if you don’t want to go, don’t go. Also don’t announce any earlier than absolutely necessary, and don’t explain. Continue not going to any post-funeral get-together. If you do want to go, arrive as late as possible, leave as early as possible, and don’t go to any post-funeral events. Tell your mama you love her.

    *hoping this is not a double post. sry, having posting trouble*

  71. PartTimeJedi said:

    For what it’s worth, I agree with Captain on this. There’s no need to publicly announce that you’re not going to XSF’s funeral. When the time comes, you can just… not go. Funerals have a funny habit of not being on a predictable time frame. Whenever it happens, you can just manufacture a reason why you can’t travel to the funeral at that time. It happens all the time, even in cases where the person who died isn’t an ass.

  72. It wasn’t that I boycotted my aunt’s funeral, I literally could not go. I was 18, she was my mom’s twin sister, and so much about her last months was fucked up. Her husband was cheating on her, my father in a drunken mood told me he was keeping my mother “inebriated” to “help” her, and when my aunt did pass, everyone took the sedative pills they had on hand for the moment.

    I didn’t know about the cheating until my uncle married his hoochie two months later. I just froze and couldn’t go.I had never seen a dead body and I didn’t want to see my dead aunt. My mother tried shaming me and it didn’t work. My uncle (the cheater) called me and told me I didn’t have to go, he was the only one to say he understood that I was overwhelmed and couldn’t handle it.

  73. J said:

    Didn’t go to my abusive mothers funeral. Yes was criticized even though this drug addicted woman would disappear for days while I was in school (middle and high school) leaving be alive to take care of two younger siblings, one an infant. I missed so much school today eventually had to make arrangements to be able to make up tests without a nite bc the spiteful ‘mother’ got a kick out of hurting my GPA. And getting me into more trouble. I was able to forgive her the countless abuses after therapy and yrs of distance but forgiveness does not mean we allow toxic people back in. It means we let go. Funerals are for the living. Not the dead. You go if it brings you something: peace, closure, whatever. You stay away if it helps you find peace, closure. Your moms story isn’t yours. She has her reality and you have yours. I’m sorry she didn’t support you in this toxic poop of a relationship. My vote = do what you will ha e wished you did 5yrs from now. Don’t let it get people write your story. It’s YOURS

  74. My dad was also a very difficult man, and my sister didn’t come to his funeral. I honestly don’t blame her – I understood the impulse very well. No one else at the funeral seemed to blame her either. We all knew what the situation was. So I don’t think you’ll automatically be a pariah for not attending. OTOH, I personally found a strange satisfaction in knowing that I had done what was socially needful for him, and what he and my mother (already dead by then) would have approved of, but when the time came I found that I was able to do that. If you just can’t do it, then don’t do it. You’ll have years (hopefully) after to talk honestly to your mum about why not when everything else has had time to settle.

  75. Lily said:

    When my sibling died, their best friend (who was informed by the cops) posted online: “Thanks a lot for the visit of the cops yesterday evening. I told you I wouldn’t attend your funeral if you killed yourself. I won’t.”
    To be clear, it was not somewhere where my family could see it. But an acquaintance told me about it and expected me to be mad. I wasn’t. She didn’t attend the funeral. Everyone is okay with that, I thought she was totally within her right to express her grief (and anger) that way. I’m still friends with her.

    • Lily said:

      Oh, and my mom tried to force Younger Brother to see the dead body “so that he won’t regret it later to not have said goodbye”. I found very clear words for that.^^ I think she really meant well, but seriously.

  76. Ice and Indigo said:

    Just a tip from my experience of the time surrounding the funeral of the chief Difficult Person in my family: if XSF used money to influence relationships, it’s not impossible that there may be drama over his will. Even if it seems like his will is perfectly fair and shouldn’t be an issue. People are quite capable of inventing histories to suit their own wishes when it comes to legacies, especially if money was a source of power in the family, and grudges can carry on for decades. I don’t think ours are going to disappear until at least two generations die off and the next generation down grows up simply never having known their cousins – and that was over a fairly straightforward will. There were ill feelings before, but the will got turned into the battle standard and is still flourished by some as a justification for pre-existing enmities. There is still nasty treatment meted out to those perceived as traitors to the cause. (Fortunately I’m in the branch of the family that isn’t acting that way. It means there are people on the other side of the breach that I don’t know, but hey, there’s other people in the world to love.)

    As far as you can, sit that stuff out. If you have to stand ground or take sides, prepare yourself to stop caring for ever about what certain people say about you. When money equals power in a family, inheritance can equal massive emotional mess. Keep your expectations of people’s reasonableness low; silly behaviour gets a resigned shrug, anything better than silly behaviour is a gift.

    I hope it doesn’t happen for you, of course. I guess I’m just saying that if it does, you won’t be alone in the experience and don’t take it personally!

  77. M.J. said:

    I went to the funeral of my adoptive grandfather (father of my adoptive father). He was an abusive ass that basically hated my mom for meeting my dad and “preventing” him from having “real” grandchildren. We barely ever saw him because my mom wanted to shield us from that. It was weird but attending the funeral meant I could get money to travel home to see my family at a time when I was missing them so I rather spitefully called his funeral the one good thing he ever did for me (not with family, but with friends when it’s come up).

  78. Clarry said:

    Something that I don’t think has been brought up yet– Funerals and memorial services vary widely from family to family, from different religious traditions, to different regional customs. In some, only the clergy speak. In some all family members are expected to speak. Some are formal. Some are informal “parties” where people joke as they remember the dearly departed, etc. For some, just being there is all that’s expected. In some situations talking about everything except the dead person is considered a comforting distraction. I personally dislike feeling like my sobbing is a show for others to watch. In some funeral situations, it’s considered admirable to be so good about “holding it together” or “being strong.” In other words, NOT sobbing is appropriate. Tons of variables here that could influence LW’s decision whether or not to go.

    • Clarry said:

      More variables: Speaking or not at a funeral might have more to do with comfort with public speaking in front of large crowds. Sharing comfort at an after-funeral get-together might have more to do with the introvert/extrovert divide and how one feels about having a lot of people around. There are TONS of extraneous reasons for going or not going that have nothing to do with how LW feels about support, mother, step-father, etc. All of these can be implied excuses. Let the busybodies think that LW couldn’t attend the service because she was “too overcome” or whatever else they want to dream up.

    • Nanani said:

      This. Plus different individuals will react differently. It is entirely possible to be both praised for keeping it together by fellow mourner A and then told by mourner B that there must be something wrong with you because you haven’t shed a tear.
      15 year old me had exactly that happen. B exited my life fairly quickly afterwards fwiw.

      • Clarry said:

        Actually, even being praised for a mourning style rubs me extremely wrong. Fellow Mourner A may have meant well, and 15 year old you can decide that it was a kind comment, but from my standpoint it still smacks of an outsider giving an appraisal of something that’s deeply deeply personal.

  79. Madb said:

    My father’s mother died last year. I despised her. I haven’t used “grandmother” to describe her in twenty years.

    I didn’t go to the funeral. What I did do was go down with my father to see the old snake several times before she died so that he wouldn’t be alone with her and her abuse+dying… benefit of the doubt here, contrition. Maybe she really did have a change of heart. Don’t know, don’t care.

    The point is what other people have been saying: there are other ways to show your loving support for those who do grieve, even before the funeral. Dad had other people there when she was eulogized, he had me before and after. He has never once complained about my choice. I hope your mother/family would be so understanding.

  80. duaecat said:

    LW, whatever you decide, take care of yourself and make sure you have support too. I have found in my own life dealing with the deaths of those I had awful relationships with were in their own ways harder than those I loved dearly. The loved ones I grieved for them. The ones who hurt me I grieved for what might have been, I was angry with them, I was angry and felt betrayed by those who I felt were legitimately mourning their passing as if they hadn’t done so much to hurt me. And it was difficult to find comfort because many people didn’t seem to understand that neither “Of course you’re sad, you loved them!” and “Why are you sad? You hated them!” were correct.

    I do think, if you are very set on not going but worried that you’ll get “but faaaambly!” pressure when you’re vulnerable and cave, see if you can tell a trusted friend your fears and have their support to help you not give in when the time comes? Preferably one who can help you figure out the nuance between “Now that the time is here, I have decided I do want to be there for my mother and I’m able to handle the emotional baggage that is going to come with.” and “I really really really don’t want to go but Auntie Guilt just called me up demanding to know what time I planned on arriving and I fell apart and couldn’t firmly say I wasn’t coming and now maybe I have to go or I lied?” and everything in between.

  81. HLocke said:

    LW, I loved my dad, but I Did Not want to attend his funeral because I knew that it wouldn’t help me in any way and it was likely to be stressful for me. Especially, the feeling that I had to “perform” mourning a certain way. I was pressured into attending to support my mother and for appearances’ sake. This was a mistake. I remember the day less as The Day We Buried My Dad and more as The Day I Was Very Close to Shouting at A Priest. I was also spectacularly bad at both performing mourning “correctly” and supporting my mother. So…boy, do I wish I had stood my ground on this.

    Years later, I opted out of attending the funerals of his parents (my grandparents. I hadn’t had good relationship with that side of the family in ages anyway. I have zero regrets. I mourned the loss of any lingering could-have beens in my own way and in my own time.

  82. Lapis Lazuli said:

    I think that no matter what you do or say, declining to attend the funeral is gonna put you on everyone’s shit list.

    Death and funerals have this thing where everyone has to attend, everyone must be polite, and everyone has to love and cherish the deceased. It is truly the “but we’re FAMILY” events and one mistake makes you the black sheep forever.

    Weddings can be the same, depending on if you were invited or not.

    I feel that these two events make or break families cause of that awkward tention that teeters on thin ice, like that board game “Don’t break the ice”. One little chip too many and then out comes ALL the family drama.

    So unless you go, pretend to grieve, and possibly make a speech… your family is gonna shit on you.

    So in honesty, the question should be how to get out of the funeral— but rather do you WANT to be out of this funeral? If you truly believe you do want out for your health’s sake, then don’t attend. Consequences be damned.

    But if you feel you need to attend, just to be your mom’s shoulder for her to cry on since she DOES love him… then go on autopilot: greet the guests, accept condolences, provide your mom tissues.

    • TO_Ont said:

      I think this very much varies from family to family. In some families and communities funerals are an expectation. In others they’re something you’re welcome to go to but certainly not expected (and in some cases if you’re not close to the person it woulr be unusual).

      Personally I have been to four funerals in my entire life (I’m 36). And none of those were related to me – two were personal friends and one was a family friend, and one was the mother of an elementary school teacher, when I was a child.

      That wasn’t because I specifically avoid funerals, either.

  83. Druidspell said:

    A lot of commenters have given advice about going to the funeral anyway to be there for your mom/brother/whoever might genuinely mourn the man, but that’s not what you asked for, LW. Here’s my suggested script:
    “Thanks for your concern. I can’t make it to his funeral (‘because I don’t want to go to his funeral so I won’t be making arrangements to do so’ can be left unspoken) but I appreciate your kind thoughts. I’d really rather not talk about this difficult topic anymore, I’m sure you understand.”
    Now, they might not be concerned. You probably aren’t thankful for their input. Their thoughts may not be kind and you may not actually appreciate them. But given how you describe your XSF as a “good ol’ boy” I’m guessing you’re some flavor of southern, and these polite fictions to grease the wheels are what keep things moving smoothly when you don’t want a knock-down drag-out. Sometimes neutral lies like “thank you for your prayers, he’ll be missed” (by someone who is not you) are what preserve your reputation, and that can be vital to future opportunities.

  84. descoladin said:

    Here is my experience with two funerals: my grandfather and my step-grandmother. Both of them were horrible, really abuse-level horrible, to my dad, and less horrible to my sister and me (because my mom kept us Well Away from them, so they didn’t have much of a chance) but step-grandmother hated us and grandfather followed her lead (and even on our very limited contact my sister has a couple of bad memories).

    I went to my grandfather’s funeral and skipped step-grandmother but sent a nice note to my half-uncles expressing sympathy for their loss (because even if she was a demon incarnate she was their mom and they loved her, but although when I send sympathy notes I try to say something nice about the deceased I totally didn’t for that one, just said I was sorry for them) and offered to send flowers (they declined but appreciated the offer). I went to grandfather’s funeral SOLELY to support my dad, whom I love and who had very complicated feelings about his father. If my dad hadn’t gone there is no way I would have gone. My sister, who lives closer to my parents and sees them a lot more often, felt that she could support him quite well from her home, thank you very much, and she hates grandfather more than I do and refused categorically to go.

    Both of us feel great about our decision.

    Dad also went to step-grandmother’s funeral (because he is a glutton for punishment) but I didn’t feel that he needed my support for that one because honestly all of us pretty much felt, good riddance. I thought about going, and my mom (who hates them but has a strong case of “What Would Other People Say”) tried to pressure me and my husband said, “I’ll support you either way, but… why would you go to the funeral of someone who hated you and your family?” And I realized he was right.

    I feel great about that decision too.

    I guess the point of this is that you can make different decisions based on your situation and feel good either way.

  85. Ex-Stepdaughter said:

    A quick, general THANK YOU to everyone (including CA) who read my letter and provided such thoughtful and personal feedback. It has truly been very helpful to me. I am a funeral-goer, and am (because of my profession) used to dealing with death, grief and the family dynamics thereabouts. Even so, we all have our blind spots and our sad, sore areas. Your comments have helped me see some of mine a bit better. I am grateful for this community!

  86. I think that a lot of the people commenting “funerals are for the living” are missing a big piece of what that really means. Yes, funerals are a chance to support and comfort grieving loved ones, even if we didn’t care for the deceased. But they are also a chance for enablers to reassure themselves that the abuse wasn’t *really* that bad, for toxic family members to pat each other on the back and reaffirm their twisted social values, for victims to be pressured into papering over their painful reality, and for still-living assholes to reassure themselves that their bad behavior will be overlooked in favor of family unity. Of course, LW can’t stop any of that from happening, but it seems perfectly reasonable that she might not feel comfortable participating in it. Her mother has already described her abusive XSF as “a good stepfather to you and your brother” despite knowing full-well the problems between them. I could definitely see being concerned that the funeral will just be another way for various enablers and bigots to gain catharsis and reassurance that maybe LW doesn’t want to provide for them.

    Yes, funerals are for the living. But let’s not focus only on the good, kind-hearted, caring parts of that while ignoring the ways that the living can use funerals for bullying, erasing, and excusing bad behavior as well.

    • sometimeswhy said:

      Related, so I’ll tack it on here: Another facet of “for the living” can be not being in a room full of people who cherished someone who hurt you and who are there to celebrate that person’s life or mourn their passing or both. It may be FOR the living but it’s still ABOUT the departed.

      The last time I went to a funeral of someone who harmed me because faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamily was a terrible experience and the last time I ever will do that.

  87. Convallaria majalis said:

    Dear LW,

    I am so sorry for the things you had to go through with your ex-step father – and I really like the thoughts of The Captain. I have never quite been in the same position you are in but may quite possibly be in the future, so I have given a lot of thought to this issue myself, too. I have also had to organize one funeral, for my mother.

    In my culture here in Northern Europe missing a funeral is not usually frowned that much upon; work is in high priority here and if work or possibly illness demands, people do not attend. Of course, this varies greatly from family to family. Usually, if one is unable (or unwiilling) to attend a funeral, one sends a condolence card (I am not sure if this translates right; in here condolence cards are large and quite expensive; buying one often supports a charity; they are also read aloud in the memorial service which is considered a difficult task and usually the calmest family member does it). People here are so private that I have never heard anyone commenting on whether people were crying or not – that would be considred horribly rude in here. So, if condolence cards are a thing in your culture, I would see that as a good option: just like The Captain says you could make a vague excuse and send one (for example a card for charity against racism or supporting women – that would make a point, at least to you).

    If condolence cards are not a thing in where you live, how about if you show your support to your mother in beforehand and/or after, just like The Captain suggested? Is she organizing the funeral? If yes, could you help and support her doing it? Organizing a funeral is harrowing, at least it was for me. My mother was not exactly like your ex-step father, but she was overtly demanding and always considered what other people thought more than my well being. She also made a number of her not deserving a funeral in a very annoyingly passive aggressive way so I had to wrestle with her wishes and the wishes of her loving relatives and my own wishes. In the end I quickly decided that the wishes of the living and grieving were more important and I organized her a funeral as beautiful as I possibly could. After all, I though, what I did and how I behaved was more about me than it was about her. I have never regretted the funeral for one second and I am still happy for what I did: ordered her favourite flowers for every table in the memorial room so that each guest family could take one home with them, to remember her (they were white hippeastrums), ordered a cellist to play her favourite melody etc. When I finally found my mother’s notes and wishes about her own funeral after the funeral I just shrugged. Her plans were clearly her way to show her own self hate, not what I – or anyone of her relatives and friends – needed.

    So, what I am trying to say is: do what is best for yourself – and I know that is not an easy thing to decide. After all, your ex-step father’s bad behaviour came between you and your mother and possibly also between you and your siblings. So, when he is finally gone, what do you want to do about those other relationships? I do not see that this coming funeral is only about making a statement but it is also a way to care of your family. How important would your going be to your mother and to your siblings? Would it patch things up between you or help you to talk about things and establish a new connection with them?

    I understand well why you do not want to go – but just like The Captain, I also believe that this might not be the right time to make the choise. After all, he is not dead yet – and after he has really died, your feelings might be different. Give yourself time and space to make a choise which will help you in the future. Also, could going to the funeral give you some closure?

    May you have much strength, dear LW!

  88. Not Australian said:

    I skipped a wedding I was expected to attend. In fact I never had any intention of going, and I can’t believe the couple actually wanted me there anyway – they just invited me because it was ‘the thing to do’. It would have involved a long drive anyway, and as it happened the weather on the day was dreadful, so it was easy enough to have ‘car trouble’ and just not be able to get there; I’d sent the present on in advance anyway. Nobody ever said “Oh, it was such a pity you couldn’t make it, we missed you!”, which reinforced my feeling that they were just as happy with me not being there, but I did make a big fuss about seeing the pictures afterwards and hoping everyone had a wonderful time. I know it’s not directly analagous, but a tactful combination of last-minute transport difficulty and apologies might well work just as effectively for the OP.

  89. Hj said:

    The day my abusive parent dies will be liberating (finally he will really be gone) and also sad, because he’ll never answer for what he did and will die with the good rep that my silence bought him. I really struggle with this.

    What helped me is to write a very honest, very real eulogy, and get all the rage and hurt out. Don’t send it or share it with family, the point is to get the emotion out in the open. I notice my mind gets stick ruminating on my abusive parents funeral because I haven’t had justice. My family have denied and covered it up. I have missed other family funerals because abusive parent has made them dangerous for me to attend. The profound unfairness of that is what is at the root of my funeral feelings… and that is ok. I’m allowed to feel bad and go or not go.

    If you could get up and explain to your mother/relations/make that eulogy, what would your words be? Go write it, feel it, validate your own truth.

  90. Fantasia said:

    Your mother picked a guy who gave you a nickname based on the development of your breasts. I don’t see her as the person needing support here.

  91. Angiportus said:

    I have an aunt who is over 100 and about to croak any minute, who I am not close to at all because she thinks introversion is a disease. When it’s time for the memorial, I mean to go, trot out some harmless anecdotes about when we got along, stuff my face and then be inconspicuous if I can. Being there for my mom will be a bit more of a challenge–we are close but still fraught over various ancient foulnesses she didn’t protect me against.
    I really like what Jadelyn and some others said some ways upstream about children’s supposed indebtedness to abusive parents. If the hand that feeds you also hurts you, bide your time and then *CRUNCH* that hand.

  92. Claire said:

    I decided not to go to an older relative’s funeral due the presence of other very toxic family members. I did feel a bit bad, but I just couldn’t subject myself to their abuse. The relative who died also had a very narcissistic wife. My decision not to go to that funeral had long term consequences….the family of the deceased never contacted me again. And, if I am honest, that was a relief….they were self interested bores. Over the years I’ve discovered not going to funerals and also not inviting people to weddings is a tried and true way of swiftly ending bad relationships.

  93. Well that’s just mean and I’m sorry it happened to you. Funerals are one of the few places where people should behave how they need to (within common decency laws, but you know what I mean) and not get judged. I didn’t cry at the funeral of my (awesome, beloved, utterly missed) father. I unexpectedly fell to pieces and blubbed uncontrollably at the funeral of a close friend. Thinking about it, we were expecting my dad to die (though never “ready” for it) whereas my friend died out of the blue – so maybe there is something in that. OP, you’re expecting your XSF to die soon. There’s no surprise or shame in being reconciled to that, or at least prepared, when it happens.

    If people judge you for how you are *seen* to react – and it’s just how you are seen, nobody knows how you truly feel inside – then that’s pretty bad of them.

    I’m so sorry for anyone who has felt they have to behave a certain way at a funeral. OP, I wouldn’t go – especially if you won’t mourn the guy. You’ll maybe be judged for not going but it sounds like if you do go you’ll still be judged.

    I like the Captain’ s suggestion to visit your mum after the funeral. Many people offer support while someone is dying, when they have just passed, and up until the funeral. Then they tend to fade into the background and go back to their lives. A week after the funeral would be a great time to go and give support, and maybe help with routine tasks (like cancelling the dead person’s phone contracts). If you need to, maybe say that’s the only time you can get leave from work?

    But OP I agree – wait til it happens and then manage it from there. And to the commenter I’m replying to – I’m sorry for your experiences 😦

  94. Betty said:

    LW, you asked for advice to explain WHY you are not going without being an ungrateful grudge-bearer. I concur with the general sentiment that what you actually need to do is explain THAT you are not going in as bland a way as possible.

    I would encourage you to think of a culturally/familialy acceptable way of acknowledging that the funeral is happening (rather than ignoring it altogether) and that your mum/general relatives are sad (rather than that you are sad). For me, that would probably involve sending flowers to the closest relative to the deceased with a card along the lines of “I won’t be able to attend the funeral but I wanted to let you know I am thinking of you in this difficult time”.

    People are unable to go to life event things ALL the time for ALL sorts of reasons. Money, distance, work commitments, illness… And funerals tend to be much more short-notice than weddings! You don’t need to explain in great detail WHY you are not going, especially not to nosy extended family. But doing something culturally appropriate to acknowledge the existence of the funeral and others’ grief will give your mum a way to save face when she goes.

    I also agree that it would be very kind of you to provide your mum with a simple script SHE can use when she attends the funeral. “LW wasn’t able to come, but she sent [relative] flowers instead and wanted me to let you know she’s sorry not to have been able to see all of you at this time.” Or whatever seems adequately true to you.

  95. Rhoda said:

    I suppose I’m lucky. My mother never had a funeral for my abusive father, choosing instead to have a small memorial service at their church and scatter his ashes in one of the city parks where it’s allowed. I suppose she suspected that my sister and I wouldn’t come and didn’t want the embarrassment of anyone asking where we were. (Outward appearances being more important to her than protecting her daughters and grandaughters). I sent a card about a month later and we’ve reconciled in a very limited way, now speaking perhaps once or twice a year. (Well – she talks endlessly and I more or less pretend to listen.)
    I don’t know what I’ll do when she passes. Since my sister is now caring for her I guess I’ll just ask her what she needs in the way of support.

  96. My father died a few years ago. He was an utter asshole and we were mostly estranged for many, many reasons. It made me healthier to keep myself and my family away from him. My sibs, especially my brothers, believed the gaslighting and lies my father used, which meant that they chose to be estranged from me as well.

    When he died, I lived 1300 miles away from him. I used that as my excuse to not go to his funeral, especially from those well-intentioned people who kept reaching out to me. They didn’t need to know that I wouldn’t go anyway. For family or close family friends, I told them that not going was a gift from me to my sibs, since me going would cause a lot of tension and stress, and it would make an already difficult and painful time harder for them.

    Funerals are for the living and for people to say goodbye. But here’s the thing, you aren’t required to say goodbye to everyone in your life, especially if you have already managed to say goodbye to them in some way while they are living. Your mom is going to need a lot more support in the time to come after the funeral in the days when she is grieving. That’s the time you can go visit or reach out to her.

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