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Dear Fiona: My Wife Is Dying – Is Our Seven-Year-Old Daughter Too Young For The Funeral?

The problem…

“My wife has terminal bone cancer. She’s only 38 but she’s dying and there’s nothing that can be done. I’m devastated, as you might imagine, as she’s the love of my life.

“Between us, we are managing to put a brave face on things, even though we know it won’t be long now.

Together we’ve talked to and tried to explain things to our seven-year-old daughter, who obviously gets upset at times but is mostly being very strong and thoughtful.

“My wife has planned out her funeral and she’s deliberately involved our daughter in the arrangements. 

There have been tears, but it’s actually been very helpful as she knows she’s doing something positive to help her mum. She’s helped to choose the words and the music that will be used, and I think she feels proud of her contribution.

“When I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, she was horrified that we wanted our daughter to come to the funeral at all. She said she thought it would be cruel to put her through such an ordeal. She has obviously discussed it with other relatives because, since then, I have had several phone calls from other relatives, all going on in the same vein.

“What should I do? I don’t want our daughter to suffer more than she will anyway. Now she’s been involved in choosing the ceremony, I think she would be devastated at being kept away.”

Fiona says…

“I am so sorry that you are facing such a tragedy, and very much admire the way you and your wife have had the courage and sensitivity to be able to include your daughter.

Children have vivid imaginations, and if she did not know what was going on, she might think she was in some way responsible.

A staggering number of children do feel they are in some way to blame when a parent dies.

“In the same way, I think to exclude her from the funeral might also mean she imagines something terrible is going on.

You have, presumably, explained to her that the event won’t just be about the words and the music?

She presumably understands that it’s an occasion when people will say their final goodbyes to her mother? If she understands that, then maybe she should be given the option on whether or not she wants to go.

“You can explain to her that it will be a sad and tearful occasion – that you, yourself, may well be upset and unable to comfort her.

While they are distressing occasions, funerals can also provide comfort and support and I am sure she will feel this – despite the opposition from relatives you are facing about this.

“Perhaps talk to some of the relatives who have not voiced their opposition, and I am sure you will find some who are supportive.

When the day finally does come, it would be a good idea if you asked one of those she trusts from the supportive group to pay special attention to your daughter.

It may be that your own grief is such that it becomes too much for you, and it would be good to know your little girl is being looked after by someone she is comfortable with.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice.

All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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