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Convoluted family issue involving a funeral.


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We go to my parents every year (about 4 hours away) from December 30-January 1st or 2nd. We do a late Christmas celebration and I run a local race that does a New Years Eve/New Years Day two day event. This will be my 6th year to run the race. It's important to me that I get to run.

My aunt's second husband just died. They've been married for 10 years. (Her first husband died previously and she had a really difficult time before remarrying.) My kids have seen her less than 5 times in those 10 years. I'm not sure if my six year old has ever met her. None of them are confident they really remember who she is. They may have only been around her twice, but I can't remember exactly.  She is probably going to move in with my parents. She has a lot of anxiety even when she's not in the midst of a crisis. She is already staying with them in their living room because she has a sick dog and wants to be close to the back door.

The funeral is Wednesday. We are supposed to be staying in town from Sunday - Tuesday. We are going to stay until Wednesday so that I can go to the funeral. I told my mom we would get a hotel room. She is ADAMANT that we stay with her. We have four children who are ages 6-13. Our 6 year old is completely obnoxious. (I love him, but he will not be sitting quietly in corner reading a book.) I think this seems like a bad idea. My parents have said she has been sobbing constantly. Saying she wishes she was dead. I understand she is in the midst of a traumatic event, and I am not faulting her reaction. I just think spending the night there doesn't sound in anyone's best interest. Some of my kids sleep in an upstairs gameroom that opens up to the downstairs. There will not be walls and doors between everyone at any point.

My mom thinks the kids being there will be a good distraction for my aunt. My aunt has never had children. My mom also thinks it will be good for my kids to see people dealing with grief. I have a hard time believing that them seeing a relative they do not know falling apart is a good "intro to grief". My mom also thinks they should attend the funeral. I disagree. They do not know him. They do not know any of his family.

If we don't stay at my parents, this will start drama. I'm not particularly excited to drop hundreds of bucks on a hotel on a non-vacation trip either. WWYD?

Please don't quote... I'm probably going to delete this since the internet lasts forever... 

Edited to add - This trip was arranged and the race paid for before the death occurred. We will still be staying at my parents some during the days... I'm just wondering if we need a place to be able to retreat to.

Edited by staceyobu
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Could you send your spouse home with the kids, and you stay behind for the funeral?

I agree that staying with your mom while your aunt is in deep grief sounds like a bad idea.  

It sounds like there will be drama no matter what you do.  If all of you stay at your mom's, there will be drama (kids freaking out? Aunt freaking out? Everyone freaking out?).  If you don't stay, there will be drama (Mom throwing a fit?).  So I'd pick the option that sucked the least for you and your little family. 

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Get the hotel room or go alone. You, as the mother of your children, have right to decide what’s best in this situation. If your mother has a problem with it, deal with it after the funeral. She can’t make you stay with her. Shut her down if she brings it up. “Mom, trust me this is best. Where’d the dog go?”

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Get a hotel room. I can't imagine what your mother is thinking, but sometimes people don't think clearly when they are grieving.

Get a hotel room, give aunt some space when she needs it, and definitely go to the funeral on your own while your husband watches the kids. I might also reassure your aunt that you are very happy that she's staying with your parents and has support. I just wouldn't want her to feel guilty about displacing you and your family.

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I would definitely get a room. If three nights isn’t in the budget, maybe you could arrive Monday instead of Sunday. Or maybe you could send your husband and the kids home after one night and then you stay with your parents.

I think you know your kids and if they barely know their aunt, being around her while she’s grieving isn’t what is best for the kids. I wouldn’t have them attend the funeral either, only the visitation if you think they should participate in some way. They can make an appearance and then leave.

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I’d be reserving a hotel room that will allow you to cancel if you find that your aunt actually does seem to enjoy having other people around. But honestly I wouldn’t count on that happening. She’s grieving while everyone else is celebrating looking forward to a new year. It’s not going to be a fun visit. 

Your mom can visit w the kids during the day and can come to the hotel in the evening if she wants to. She might like that, though I’m sure right now she doesn’t think she will. 

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3 minutes ago, Rachel said:

I would definitely get a room. If three nights isn’t in the budget, maybe you could arrive Monday instead of Sunday. Or maybe you could send your husband and the kids home after one night and then you stay with your parents.

 

I'm considering this. It sucks a bit because we will have to take two cars there. I've also considered looking at flights to just see if there is some chance I can get a cheap flight home. 

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I bet your mom and dad are dreading the endless tears and would be happy for your crew to be around to cut the drama. 

However, if I were you, I’d get the hotel. Your mom’s not going to be happy no matter what you do, but your aunt probably wouldn’t know to control herself in front of the kids and that’s not something I’d want my kids to be enclosed with. Seeing it at a funeral gathering is one thing. Listening to it while you’re lying in your bed trying to go to sleep is another. 

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I’d use the hotel, but I lean towards bringing the kids to the funeral.

It’s good for kids to have not-too-intense contact with funerals before they have to deal with the deaths of their actual loved ones. It’s also good for (most) grieving people to simply be aware that children exist. It helps them see a bit through the bleakness. I involve my children in the funerals of all of our churchly aquaintences and their loved ones: even the ones they haven’t known.

While the hotel choice might be disappointing to your mom — I doubt anyone has much drama to waste on you. It will probably work out fine to see them in the daytimes.

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There is enough grief in the world without exposing your kids to this now. Your mom is selfishly hoping aunt will hold it together in front of children, and she won't.  You are right. At least a hotel, though if you want to just have YOU go for the race and reschedule a vacation at a later time so the kids can see Grandma apart from the stress of this event, that might be an option.

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If you can, I'd definitely get a hotel or an AirBnB. Your mom is also in crisis mode. She's probably not thinking quite straight. Emphasize to her that this won't be the new normal if aunt moves in with them. But this one particular time, you feel it's the right call.

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If you can afford it, I'd probably stay at a hotel.  You can still spend your days with family, but this way you have a place to retreat to, or your dh can go back to the hotel with kids, etc.  Maybe you can find a cheaper rate on airbnb.

On the other hand, if staying at a hotel feels too expensive and if you'd have your own room to retreat to at your parents', you can always be gone during the day and then come back in the evening (for some family time over dinner) and then off to bed!

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I agree with trying to stay someplace else.

However, I would think about taking the kids to part of the services.

My bil just passed away unexpectedly. His 19 year old son, my nephew had never been to any kind of funeral service. He had never been inside a funeral home.  His mother kept putting it off.  So, my kids had been to great-great-aunt Sue's funeral but my nephew would stay home with a sitter. It was awful to watch him cope with both the loss of his father and the unknown about the events of the day.

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unless she normally engages in a lot of melodrama - wishing she was dead, is NOT "normal grief" and I would tell her dr , and  wonder if she needs a sedative.

 

her being sedated would probably make your mother feel better, as her drama is probably making her nuts.  and while your mom wants aunt to be distracted (so she'd stop with the melodrama?), I doubt it would go how your mom hopes.  I would absolutely find a hotel.  I'd tell her - mom, I love you - but this isn't realistic.

you could invite your mom to join you at the hotel.

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35 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

unless she normally engages in a lot of melodrama - wishing she was dead, is NOT "normal grief" and I would tell her dr , and  wonder if she needs a sedative.

 

her being sedated would probably make your mother feel better, as her drama is probably making her nuts.  and while your mom wants aunt to be distracted (so she'd stop with the melodrama?), I doubt it would go how your mom hopes.  I would absolutely find a hotel.  I'd tell her - mom, I love you - but this isn't realistic.

you could invite your mom to join you at the hotel.

 

Under a doctor's care and taking medication. And, I agree. This is not a normal situation. I think my parents are worried the stress could literally kill her.

Edited to add - I also doubt my mom will step away. I think she views it as her responsibility to sort of carry her little sister through this. 

Edited by staceyobu
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Normally I try to show my kids what death looks like, what grief looks like, what community ritual looks like, etc, as it naturally comes up in our lives. I believe it takes away some of the fear of the unknown, because someday they will have to deal directly with it.

But that is NOT what's going on here. Your mom wants your kids trapped 24/7 in a grieving stranger's face, with no private space, no place to retire to when it's too much. I think that would freak anyone out, and probably affect the kids for a long time. I wouldn't want my kids to get it into their heads that wishing you were dead is a normal response to death. And finally, people who are in deep grief can sometimes do really off-the-wall things. They don't need to be exposed to any of this.

Definitely do a hotel or similar.

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Definitely get the hotel room.   If it turns out that spending more time at your mom's house is good for everyone involved, you can always check out early, but if not, you'll have a safe retreat.  

I am also one who was glad I had taken my kids to the funerals of someone they didn't know well BEFORE they had to deal with a close family funeral.  But you are the parent, and if you feel that your kids wouldn't handle this particular funeral well, then I'd send them home early with your DH.  If possible, I'd make arrangements for them to go home early, but leave the option open to change your mind once you get there and assess the situation.

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19 minutes ago, SebastianCat said:

I am also one who was glad I had taken my kids to the funerals of someone they didn't know well BEFORE they had to deal with a close family funeral.  But you are the parent, and if you feel that your kids wouldn't handle this particular funeral well, then I'd send them home early with your DH.  If possible, I'd make arrangements for them to go home early, but leave the option open to change your mind once you get there and assess the situation.

 

I think the general drama surrounding this has made me more hesitant to let them experience this as a first funeral. I'm not sure if I'm being overprotective or if it's reasonable.

 

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1 hour ago, staceyobu said:

 

I think the general drama surrounding this has made me more hesitant to let them experience this as a first funeral. I'm not sure if I'm being overprotective or if it's reasonable.

 

 

Children don't need a first funeral just to experience it, especially when it involves someone they didn't know and won't miss.  Funerals are to say goodbye to someone we loved or at the very least saw regularly.  It's a form of closure that's important to those who are grieving, it's not a rite of passage to rush through.  They don't need to go.

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2 hours ago, staceyobu said:

 

I think the general drama surrounding this has made me more hesitant to let them experience this as a first funeral. I'm not sure if I'm being overprotective or if it's reasonable.

 

My kids have been to funerals, from what you have described, I agree that this doesn’t sound like one they need to attend. 

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Hotel, definitely. You can still visit every day, you just won't be stuck there. 

I have been known to mitigate the hotel drama by saying that we told the kids we'd be at a hotel and they're excited about it. Which is true, even now that they're in college. We live a simple life, we all get excited about hotels 😄

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Oh, and I'd let the kids skip the funeral. I have no problem with kids at a funeral in most cases, especially if there's a common area in addition to the visitation room, but they don't need to be there to support a great-aunt they barely know. Particularly when there's dramatic grieving and obnoxious six-yr-olds involved 😂

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Apparently I can't complete a thought today. As others noted, try AirBnB to control costs, or maybe a campground with cabins. I would hate to spend the money on a non-vacation also, but your mom sounds like she really wants to 'involve' the kids in grieving and such, and I'd be wary of her expectations. And the kids at least will probably have a blast. If the money was there, I'd be tempted to go ahead and get a hotel with an indoor swimming pool, bring some board game and whatnot, and turn it into as much of a vacation as possible. 

If you decide on the hotel/cabin, don't debate it with your mom. Just tell her you considered what she said but decided this was better, and it's what your going to do because you are the mama. Reasonable people can disagree on the best thing to do, and that's okay. 

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If it were me, I'd probably go alone, and have the rest of the family skip this trip, and just meet up again in a few weeks. Or, have the family come, but go home a day early and I'd stay for the funeral. 

If the family comes, an AirBnB sounds great, because it's more homey. You could have the Christmas celebrations there. Although... do you think people will be feeling festive?

Sorry this happened 😞 

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Your mother is wrong about all the issues you list.  My guess is that she loves drama.  The thing about drama is that it requires an audience to keep going, so don't be the audience. 

It's not her place to have any say or opinion about where you stay-you're an adult who knows best for yourself and children.  Do not discuss with her where you're staying.  If she brings it up, matter of factly tell her you're staying in a hotel.  Do not engage further.  Don't answer, explain, justify, repeat about staying at the hotel no matter what she says or does.  It's none of her business. Change the subject or end the conversation.  Hang up the phone, don't respond to texts/emails on this topic.  It's decided. 

Grieving people don't need distractions, especially a houseful of kids, they need to focus their mental and emotional energy on grieving.  Grief is a healthy process that should be respected and made room for. If she's outside the normal range of healthy grief then she needs professional intervention, not a bunch of kids around.

No, there's no need for your kids to attend the funeral of someone they don't know.  It's optional, but not required.  Any child you think is unable to get through the whole thing without being obnoxious should be left at home.  This is a time for people to remember the deceased and provide attentive support to those grieving, not to see some poor kid who is unable to handle such a situation causing problems.  You're being very respectful and sensitive by honestly recognizing your kid's limitations at this time in this aspect of life. Good call.

I don't get the dry run suggestion.  No one needs a practice stranger's funeral so they're prepped for a loved one's funeral.  Jeez, they're not aliens trying to blend in with a completely foreign society or removing landmines.   If they've learned basic manners in other situations they'll be able to handle a funeral of a loved one without any practice funerals beforehand.

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16 hours ago, gardenmom5 said:

unless she normally engages in a lot of melodrama - wishing she was dead, is NOT "normal grief" and I would tell her dr , and  wonder if she needs a sedative.

 

her being sedated would probably make your mother feel better, as her drama is probably making her nuts.  and while your mom wants aunt to be distracted (so she'd stop with the melodrama?), I doubt it would go how your mom hopes.  I would absolutely find a hotel.  I'd tell her - mom, I love you - but this isn't realistic.

you could invite your mom to join you at the hotel.

This woman has lost her second husband. That has to be incredibly painful. Grief is painful, physically painful at times. 

It is not outside the realm of normal for people to say ...they wish they were dead, ....they wish it had been them instead, ....they don't know how to go on,.... it hurts too much... in the first hours and days after a huge loss. This is concerning and she should be monitored so her language doesn't change to ....I'm going to kill myself...I'm should just...<insert suicide plans>.

And it also not recommended to be sedated or drugged after a loss. It delays the grief process and just prolongs the inevitable work the mourner has to work through.

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16 hours ago, staceyobu said:

 

Under a doctor's care and taking medication. And, I agree. This is not a normal situation. I think my parents are worried the stress could literally kill her.

Edited to add - I also doubt my mom will step away. I think she views it as her responsibility to sort of carry her little sister through this. 

 

20 minutes ago, unsinkable said:

This woman has lost her second husband. That has to be incredibly painful. Grief is painful, physically painful at times. 

It is not outside the realm of normal for people to say ...they wish they were dead, ....they wish it had been them instead, ....they don't know how to go on,.... it hurts too much... in the first hours and days after a huge loss. This is concerning and she should be monitored so her language doesn't change to ....I'm going to kill myself...I'm should just...<insert suicide plans>.

And it also not recommended to be sedated or drugged after a loss. It delays the grief process and just prolongs the inevitable work the mourner has to work through.

I guess you missed the OP's follow up, that even she - and it's her aunt - is under a dr's care and taking medication.   and that she thinks this is not a normal situation.

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1 hour ago, gardenmom5 said:

 

I guess you missed the OP's follow up, that even she - and it's her aunt - is under a dr's care and taking medication.   and that she thinks this is not a normal situation.

I didn't miss it. I disagree with your post, not hers.

My advice is pretty much standard practice for grief counseling...yours isnt.

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