What Would You Guys Do.

Updated on September 06, 2011
J.S. asks from Green Cove Springs, FL
25 answers

My step uncle recently decided to stop his medical treatment and enter hospice. He has stage four cancer in his liver, lungs and colon. Let me start by saying I am not close to this uncle at all. In fact I may have seen him 12 times in my entire life. I am close to his mother (my step grandmother). Right now we live half way across the country from my family. My mom asked me last night if, after my uncle passes, we are going to try and make it to the funeral. I told her no, we really just can't afford to do it.

Besides that, I am going to a writers convention in Orlando next month, I have an interview with an agent about a book I am not even half way through yet, and I want to get as much done with it as possible. That and I have a completed book that I will be trying to sell, I really need time to get ready for that as well.

Here is my dilemma, my grandparents have talked about possibly paying for my and my daughters flight, if we want to come to the funeral. I am a bit torn, I want to be there for my grandma, but I really have a lot to do. Besides, it will mean a two and a half hour drive, then a three hour flight with just me and my very active three year old. That and I have no idea what I will do with my daughter for the funeral. My family will all be there, I don't know who will watch her. Theres is no way I can take her, if she can't sit still through the first 15 minutes of a wedding, I would hate to see what she would be like at the funeral.

Really I can't think of a workable way for this, but I still feel guilty about not going. So if it were you, would you go and just try and figure something out or would you stay home and just feel guilty about it?

Scarlett: I believe my mom brought it up to my grandmother that we weren't coming due to finances, so grandma offered to pay. I don't really know which way she is regarding it, I wished I did. I can't think of a single way to find out either! Somehow asking, "Do you want me at your sons funeral for you or do you think I want to be there? Because if you don't need me there I really don't want to go," Bah that sounds awful anyway you put it. But it's a good question, and it really could be for both reasons.

Cheryl: I am married, however like you said we don't know when he will pass and my husband is a chiro for the navy. He has to give at least 15 day's notice before he can request leave. Funerals are the exception, but his wifes step uncle, doesn't count. He won't be able to attend. We don't have anyone here in Florida that can watch her, we only moved her about a year and a half ago, and I am a stay at home mom, so the need just really hasn't presented itself. They want me to bring her anyway.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I am sorry, I should have added that he was on dialysis, when he came off they told my family he would be lucky to make it to the end of the week.

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answers from San Francisco on

Well, here's some food for thought. A couple years ago my BIL got married and we decided to just send my husband out for the event, My son was 3 at the time and I knew the flight would be hell, I knew that I would spend pretty much the entire trip standing outside with my son because he was being disruptive, or taking him back to the hotel because he needed a nap or it was bedtime, or to the park so he could get some energy out. I thought it was the sensible thing to do, after all it was my new SIL's day and I did not want to disrupt it with my very active and noisy toddler. It felt like a waste to make the trip if I would miss all the main events. Well, guess what.... it did not go over well and my new SIL has yet to forgive me for not coming.


Well, here's some food for thought. A couple years ago my BIL got married and we decided to just send my husband out for the event, My son was 3 at the time and I knew the flight would be hell, I knew that I would spend pretty much the entire trip standing outside with my son because he was being disruptive, or taking him back to the hotel because he needed a nap or it was bedtime, or to the park so he could get some energy out. I thought it was the sensible thing to do, after all it was my new SIL's day and I did not want to disrupt it with my very active and noisy toddler. It felt like a waste to make the trip if I would miss all the main events. Well, guess what.... it did not go over well and my new SIL has yet to forgive me for not coming.

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answers from New York on

Going to funeral services is more for the living than the dead - it's about comforting those who've lost someone dear to them. The person whose gone doesn't know or care if you're there or not.

that being said - when you have young children and live far away there really isn't an expectation for you to be there. I think a beautifully crafted note (not just a signature on a card) telling your grandmother how deeply you care about her and how you're sharing her grief, etc. would be a wonderful way to be there - while not able to be there. If you have a fond memory or two of this uncle - something silly or goofy he did when you were a kid, how he was always upbeat and friendly, something - share it with your grandmother. Remember in your note that thing about your uncle.

Finally - my mom began getting hospice care in March - her oncologist told us in January we should expect 3 - 6 months. It's been 8 months - and she's not on death's door yet... so you never know - your uncle may still be on this side of eternity for longer than you think.

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answers from St. Louis on

Does your Grandmother really want you there as a support system for her, or is she offering to pay because she thinks YOU want to come and simply cannot afford it? The answer to this would affect my advice to you.

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answers from Dallas on

If you can, go. It will be hard for you but they will have just lost their son. I think sometimes we think it doesn't hurt as much when an adult child passes but it does. You wouldn't be going for him. You would be going to support his parents.

If you can't go, there is no reason to feel guilty. Call them and let them know. Then write a thoughtful letter and go see them as soon as you are able, like someone else mentioned.

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answers from Norfolk on

There is somewhat of a mad rush to support the bereaved in the immediacy following a loss. Then it tapers off and before long those left behind are dealing with two losses.... the death of a loved one, and all the people who supported them going on about their business.

The details of what else you have to do are fairly irrelevant and not something someone who is suffering a loss needs to hear a whole lot about. I would discuss with your grandmother that you feel she will be surrounded by so many who love and support her at the funeral, you would much rather visit or open your home for her to visit as soon as possible after a bit of time. If your grandmother is not in a state to have that conversations (she may be grieving too much already) express it to your mother and let her convey your sentiments.

I'm sorry for your family's impending loss.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You know, all you can do really IS all you can do.
I would thank my step-grandmother, via phone call, for her generous offer but explain that you just can't work out the details: your 3 yo, child care, etc. Send your SG something nice when the death happens. Flowers, fruit basket, etc.
Now, if you were close to this man, I can see possibly accepting the gift of airline tickets, but for someone not-so-close: no way. It would be a waste of her money and in general, it's best not to accept money from family.

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answers from Savannah on

It is totally true that you don't attend a funeral for the one that passed away, but for those left behind. Just from seeing things with my cousin, 2 grandmothers, an uncle, and my bff's parents in the last 9 years, I will say that it would be appreciated if you can to go. I had to bring my baby to my mother's cousin's funeral, and I felt very uneasy about doing so, worried that it would upset my great aunt to see a baby after just losing hers. I was not able to be in the service because he was awake, grunting, and "singing", so I sat in the hall wondering if I was stupid for having driven 8 hours to not even be in this ceremony......at the graveside I stayed far off in case he acted up, and so no one would think I was trying to steal a spotlight or whatever. My great aunt saw the stroller and came up, held and rocked my son, and had a nice time loving on him. When we were at the house, it seems like he was a nice "break" from the emotional stuff, and helped ease the time a little. I was surprised at that. However, I've also had to miss a funeral when I was 8 months pregnant with my 2nd child and didn't want to risk traveling 4 states away. At my grandma's funeral, my 4 year old son acted just like a little man and my dad said having him sit on his lap is what helped him get through the whole service. He went on and on about that for weeks. However, I was again sitting outside with the 1 year old who just wasn't going to sit there quietly for the service. But my grandpa sure did laugh, and laugh, and laugh when my 1 year old threw a temper tantrum hours later at the house. I was embarassed, angry, and going to take him out, but grandpa just thought it was grand and loved it. Little guy is his new "favorite" now, for some strange reason. I think people appreciate the fact that you show up in support whether you can "do" anything or not, and they often appreciate the distraction for a little bit.
On the other hand, if you really think you can't go, then I would call and say "I am so sorry about this upcoming funeral, but with the way things are out here right now, it is just not feasible for me to make this trip. My thoughts and prayers WILL be with you, and I would like to come out in 2 months to spend some time with you and help you with anything you may need (or whatever.....soon). Will that be ok with you? Because, if you care about your step grandma, she's losing a son......that is an unfathomable hurt, I don't even want to imagine what that would feel like. She will need love, and support. If you choose not to come now, and you're close to her, do come as soon as you can. It's true what some others have said about the visiting and the meals and the "support" tapering off after a little bit, so maybe you could be there to help stagger that out a little. But if the funeral would be next week, and you're not going to Orlando until next month, that shouldn't be an issue, right? (Especially if she's offering to pay your way?)

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answers from New York on

Just a thought... you aren't attending because of the fact that you have things going on in your life and you were not close to the person who passed away. If this was someone important to you, you would find a way to be there or take the offer without thinking.

The ONLY reason you are struggling with this is because you are getting pressure from your mother and grandmother.

I would stay home, but plan a trip to visit your grandmother in the next six months or so. While you are there, go to the cemetary or to church with her. Send a card and flowers to the funeral home.

People have a need to rush to the grieving family, but having experienced significant deaths in the last two years... it is appreciated, but a blur. Having people visit after the ceremonial part reminds the grieving that people care.

My husband's cousin died several years ago. I had never met him and my husband hadn't seen him in nearly 20 years. He struggled with mental health issues and was in-and-out of group homes. We never knew where he was at any given time. When he died, we did not attend the funeral. My MIL was very angry at my husband, but he called his aunt and simply explained that he couldn't take bereavement time so soon after another death and that he was really sorry that we couldn't be there. We made sure to take a trip to visit her a month later and spent time with the family then. The funny thing was that his aunt understood and appreciated his phone call and the flowers we sent.

You do what you can do- you can love and support from a distance too.

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answers from Columbus on

Call your step grandmother. Tell you you truly appreciate her offer to pay for your plane tickets. Tell her that while you were not very close with Uncle X, you know that she was and that you want to do everything you can to support her. Then tell her you would rather take the money she is offering for the plane tickets to plan a longer, more in-depth visit with her, to provide support and to visit, in 6 months. You can tell her that you know she will be surrounding by caring loving family and friends, but that you'd like to be there for her after the funeral, when she might need it more. Also tell her, though, that if it's important for her that you be there at the funeral and that that is the best way you can support her, then you will rearrange your schedule to make it.

If she says, yes, she wants you to be there, then start calling local (local to Uncle X/funeral home) family & asking for advice/assistance in watching your 3yo. I'm sure one or more can recommend a babysitter for the couple of hours of the actual services. You might even be able to convince one or more other family moms to go in together to pay for a sitter for the young kids.

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answers from Redding on

Funerals are sometimes disguised as family reunions.
I have an aunt that was just put in hospice care yesterday.
I see a funeral in my fairly near future and I HATE going to them.
It's my moms sister tho, and I'm sure I'll be making a 5 hour drive to take my mom.
There are always crying toddlers at funerals, it's kind of expected.
However, if this was a step uncle that I wasnt close to, I would not be going.
Thank step grandma for offering to pay, and tell her you are so sorry that your schedule wont allow you to attend.
Send some flowers.

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answers from Phoenix on

You're kind of in a pickle. It really is hard to have a 3 year old at a funeral. When my granny passed, I left my son with my mom while I went to the funeral.
The family and friends may understand that with a three year old it will be challenging and they probably won't mind if you have to give extra attention to her while the service is going. If she gets too disruptive, then you can excuse yourself and step out, or if you're at the gravesite, then you can walk a bit further away from where the service is.
Your grandma probably wants you there for her, for the comfort. Since you are really close to her, if it were me, I would probably go. :-)

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answers from Austin on

I was always taught, the highest respect you can show is to attend the funeral.

This will be only chance to show support in honor of him.

Of course I do not live your life and I also believe you know what you can handle and what you can't.

Maybe your mom or grandparents can find someone to attend the funeral and watch your child outside or at the house.

Some of my strongest memories of family are the funerals we all sat together at and were truly a family. We may not all have been close to the relative that died, but we stood together to comfort those that were.

I never regretted the effort, but did have a few regrets I was not there for those I was not able to attend.

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answers from Washington DC on

I would go, and thank grandma for paying for your ticket. Think of it as an investment of time in the other members of your family. You can be there for them while they are going through this emotional time. And about bringing your daughter, she will be a ray of sunshine in that room. Maybe during the funeral service itself you can be ready to walk around in the lobby with her, and during the burial too, but don't be surprised if she keys in on the somber mood and sits quietly. Afterwards, at the sitting around at someone's house and eating casseroles part of the funeral, everyone will be so happy you and your daughter are there to liven things up and divert the conversation.

Also - this sounds morbid, but I think it's good to expose kids to the idea that people die, ideally by going to a funeral of someone they were not personally close to. That way they see what is going on, without being traumatized by it. I think that later on, when she has to go through the experience with someone she really knew and cared about, it can help to have been to a funeral or two. She can see that people are upset, but that this is part of life, and that we honor our dead and then try to move on...this is a learning opportunity for her.

As for your book - you can do both. Maybe you can get a little writing done while your daughter naps, or after she is in bed. And it's just a few days anyway. Best of luck with making your decision, and I hope you get some good info from this meeting with the agent.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Los Angeles on

J., I'm so glad you have the intellect to write a book. That's tremendous.

I used to work at a mortuary. (My wife and my first residence was up stairs in a mortuary.) But you aren't going to the funeral for yourself or for your uncle. You are going for your mom and grandma. If you love them and want to support them, then go. The funeral is not for the dead, its for the ones left behind.

Even if your daughter misbehaves and you have to leave the chapel for a little bit, your being there is what is important. If you don't go it will be felt as if you don't care about your mom and grandma. If you go and have to leave the service for a crying baby you will be the good mom supporting her mom and grandma and helping her child.

Good luck to you and yours.

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answers from Raleigh on

I can't say what you should do. However last summer when my Grandma died I took my 2.5 yo son and he really surprised me. It was like he knew from the way everyone was to be calm. Also there was a room at the church where we could take him if he acted up. If you feel like you should go then go don't worry about your daughter.

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answers from Houston on

Has she asked for you to be there specifically? If not, consider not going.

I would send personal apologies to your step grandmother. Explain how much you want to be there, b/c of work commitments and childcare conflicts you can't attend. Don't go into detail unless she asks.

I would also plan a special trip to see her at a later date so you can truly be there for her.


answers from Washington DC on


I am confused - does your Grandma think you have a closer relationship with her son than you really do? Or does SHE want you there?

People can last a while after deciding not to continue treatment. So it's hard to say WHEN he will die. We know it's going to happen - we just don't know when....

Talk with your Grandma and find out HER desires. Make sure you communicate to her your issues - who will take care of your daughter (I thought you were married??? can your husband watch or if not married - can her dad watch her?) IF it's important to your grandma that you are there...

While you have a lot going on in your life...you should talk with your grandma to see what she wants...if he dies when you are not in Orlando maybe you can do it...I don't know....I'm sorry I'm not being better help to you!!


answers from Los Angeles on

Here's what I would do....
I would call Grandma and/or Mom and explain to them that you would love to be there but you can not take your daughter to the actual funeral and it wouldn't be very respectful to your uncle. Really make a point of that (in a nice way). Instead tell them you would be more then happy to help with the preperation of the celebration party and visitors after the funeral.
That way you get to stay away from the actual funeral, you are still supporting the family and are there for your grandma and mom, BUT they may just tell you to stay home because you *can't* go to the actual funeral.
Hope that helps.
Hope everything works out for you.


answers from Houston on

I would try and go if you can. It not just the uncle, but how many relatives will be there that you haven't seen or won't be able to see again all congregating in one place? I know it's sad, but in these busy times it seem most family 'reunions' happen at weddings or funerals. If your daughter is acting crazy, just take her out to the waiting/entry area for a while. However...

Now, if you don't really care about all that and won't know anyone, I have another great idea that is probably better. Instead of going to the funeral, make arrangements for you to go and be a support to your step-grandmother right after your writer's convention. She will have a lot of support that week of the funeral. But once the flowers die, the family and friends go home, she will feel the loss and everything very hard. I know when my dad died, people only checked on my mom the first two weeks, after that, she was utterly alone and everyone else had moved on with their lives. So by helping her out during that time, you would be doing the most good for both of you and your daughter as well.



answers from Wausau on

If you are determined in your mind to make it not work then you will...you can do a lot of things if you put your mind to it...so YES you CAN make it work and go to the funeral...you really just don't want to. You can play ring around the rosie or either bite the bullet and go or bit the bullet and tell them why you want to go. I would go one way or another or live with guilt for a long time.



answers from Seattle on

As someone who writes, also has a child, and was in the military; let me suggest a possible plan:

- Look into Base Daycare for the hours your husband is working
- Dad takes your 3yo for those days, dropping her off at base daycare for anytime he's working
- You take a 'working' "vacation". (I don't know about you, but I write in my head while driving... and any child-free hours to myself; plane, hotel, etc... I can get more done in big blocks of time all at once, than I can in a couple hours here, a couple there.)

This hinges on a couple things, of course. Your husband not being out to sea, for example... and the base daycare having a slot for 3 days... And staying in a hotel... so that you can be there for your grandmother, but also have your own time and space...and being firm on it being a solo trip, and not a joint mom&daughter exhaustion-palooza.

* Speak to MWR & the Navy Wives Club about short term emergency childcare for while your husband is working so that he can take care of her while you're away.



answers from Washington DC on

Here's the thing about funerals. They aren't for the dead. They are for the living. I have attended funerals for people I didn't know well to support the friend I did.

I would give a head's up to those that need to know that you may have this complication and will inform them what will happen when you know more information. If you cannot attend, then make that decision when you know when the funeral is. If your husband cannot attend, consider an appearance on his behalf.

There have been funerals we did not attend, like DH's cousin that we weren't close to who died and then we were scheduled to be at a conference 7 hours away - and it wasn't til AFTER we'd been there 2 days that arrangements were announced...for the next two days. We sent our regrets to his aunt, who we are close to, but did not attend. There was also another funeral where only DH went because it was sudden and we had no time to find a sitter for our 3 yr old. DH was closer to the deceased.

So I think that while it's complicated, take a step back and see if there's a middle ground and if the attending would be important to people who are important to you.

One of our friends went into hospice and wasn't expected to make it past the first few days. He died last night, almost a week later than expected. You really don't know when someone will pass on, even in hospice.

If you don't go, cite your conflicts simply, but don't go on and on about it and make it sound like his passing was inconvenient. With the cousin, we simply told people that we were unable to attend, but were very sorry about her passing and offered our sincere condolences to the family. We also made it clear that if there was anything after the funeral that we could do (like help clean out her house) to let us know. If you have anything like that you want to offer, that letter would be the time to do it.



answers from Chattanooga on

If you don't spend time with the person when they are living, why attend their funeral? The funeral is not really about the person who has passed...it is for those who have been left behind. Your grandmother will have others around her to support her...call her and explain the situation. She will understand. Anyway, don't feel guilty. Visit your grandma another time when you can spend some quality time with HER before SHE passes. Or invite her to use the airfare to come down and visit you in a month or so...it will cheer her up and be a better use of the money.
I personally have been to funerals where people who hardly knew the deceased used the funeral as a social gathering to get together with other people whom they haven't seen in a long time...they sit around whispering, giggling, & chit chatting at the wake and then go eat some food and leave. That's why I've made it clear I don't WANT a funeral when I die. Respect me and visit me while I'm still alive, thank-you-very-much!



answers from Dallas on

Honestly, if you have enough of a relationship and they are willing to pay, I'd ask them to pay for you to visit him. Funerals are for the living, and I agree that taking a 3 year old and having to deal with that would be no fun. But visiting him NOW while he is alive and giving him a chance to see your daughter and enjoy the life and joy she brings would be a bigger blessing for you and him. Hope that helps.

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