Should I go to Dad's funeral even if my family say I'm not welcome?

Giordano asked...

I am grieving and feeling depressed and helpless and powerless. I know this is the bottom of the emotional field. My father is dying and my sister insists that she be alone with him when he dies. She and my 2 siblings put dad and mom into a home because of mom's Alzeheimer's disease. Dad had stopped refilling her meds, the house was filthy and no one wanted to deal with helping them stay there except me. My mother's greatest fear was to die in a home like her mom did.

Within the 1st year she broke her hip, then broke it again 5 days later. My dad was supposed to be watching her and fell asleep. Dad hired a girl to walk her around the compound (he is very capable of walking her around but wanted to "rest") This person tied my mom to a wheel chair and locked her in a lighted closet for 2 hours a day - until she got caught. She lost 75 pounds and died terrified and with terrible bed sores. Dad cried and mourned for about a year. I was angry beyond belief.

After 2 years dad and I healed our relationship (it was always hard) but then the war in Iraq started and I started lobbying to stop it. My actions were reported to my dad with every step. It got to be that if anyone had an abortion, I was there. If anyone marched against the war, I was there. If anyone who was gay got married, I was there. Of course that's all nuts but dad was constantly bombarded with this nonsense. Finally I started working to help Barack Obama get elected. You would have thought I was personally responsible for the down fall of the entire country. On top of that my sister is in a religion that says you cannot get into heaven unless you confess in front of the whole congregation. I've been in the Episcopal church for 30 years. My dad is Russian Orthodox. Still, she presses the issue that I could not be close to God with all of my "past".

I finally stopped trying to get in touch with siblings and just talking to my dad. Two years ago he got where he could read well, his cataracts got too thick. After that none of my letters got to him. I sent pictures of he and I in the past enjoying each other, with my mom and my children, they never made it to him. He never got another birthday or father's day card from me again. In spite of it all he did not take me out of his will.

I don't know if he has a lot of money or not. I am not privileged to that. But I know my siblings are mad as hell about it. Therefore, they have refused to send me info on how he is doing. He is in hospice care now. He has esophageal cancer. I've gone down to visit twice and he smiles and is happy to see me. We even had a few laughs. But my sister doesn't want me there. She ask hospice to ask me to leave and they sent the social worker and a minister over to talk with me. AFter the interview the minister said I should have 1/2 of the hours of the days I was there with my dad. She also asked that someone call me twice a week when I couldn't be there (I live in Canada and cell phones don't work on the island). Since I am not on the HIPPA form I can't really get any health questions answered. I believe the hospice social worker has made a judgement about me because of things my sister told her (event though I tried to clear some of that up, she continues to believe my sister).

I'm in so much emotional pain and no meditations or affirmations are helping. My husband and my son have gone to bat for me. Our daughter places both sides of the game - that is a great dissappointment to me. Finally, my brother-in-law has told me that the "entire" family does not want me at the funeral. He is angry about the minister's judgement and said it's "only because you are so pretty and have a sweet smile, they don't really know you". Believe me, I'm not that pretty. I've always made a good life for my kids (single mom until 6 years ago - both kids are in their 30"s now). I have friends from church and from political work. I have a healthy family by marriage - they can't believe all of this is happening and are, of course, helpless in doing anything.

Should I count my blessings and skip the funeral. Maybe have something private with my family? Should I go anyway because it is my right? It's a long convoluted mess but I would appreciate any thoughts from others on this blog....

Expert Answer

Shelly Beach, MRE, is a seminary graduate; instructor at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan; author of seven books; and contributor to The NIV Stewardship Study Bible. She speaks nationally on faith, writing, and caregiving and is a host on the website Help for My Life in roundtable discussions on care issues. Beach's most recent release is Ambushed by Grace: Help and Hope on the Caregiving Journey.

I understand your frustration over the conflict with your family regarding attending your parent's funeral. Your circumstances are certainly complex.

It's important to honestly consider your motive in attending your father's funeral. If your motive is to pay your final respects to your father and to honor his memory and your relationship, I would suggest you go and perhaps ask someone respected by other family members to accompany you. But whether you go with a friend or alone, be sure that your motive is to honor and pay respect to the memory of your father. You should not be going with a secondary motive or hidden agenda to make statements to family members or to try to confront past family issues.

It would also be wise to consider a graceful exit strategy, should family members want to confront you about sensitive issues. Whether or not you choose to attend the funeral, I would suggest personal counseling for the many unresolved and painful issues that have touched your life. Finding help in dealing with those painful issues will help you move forward as you deal with your grief.