General Question

canidmajor's avatar

Would you go to either or both of these end-of-life events?

Asked by canidmajor (13393points) October 7th, 2017

If you estranged yourself from your one living parent (for solid reasons, physical and/or emotional abuse and such like) and most of your family because of that, would you break the estrangement if they asked to see you from their deathbed, and/or would you attend their funeral or memorial service?
Why or why not?

I am just curious with this question, I am not seeking advice. I want to know what you think you would do, or if you have had to deal with this, what you did do.

Thank you.

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20 Answers

BellaB's avatar

I do not have contact with one of two relatives I have in North America. My life has been remarkably better since contact ended. I will not go to their deathbead/funeral/memorial service.

I attended (under pressure) a bar mitzvah they were also at. Left me mad, sad and furious for weeks. I’m not putting myself in that position again.

muppetish's avatar

I’m going to work through this question from a few different perspectives. This is a thought experiment that my partner and I return to on a regular basis given our relationship to his parents. Perhaps that may seem morbid to some.

(1) My grandfather died when I was in middle school. I never met him, because my father stopped speaking to him for being a neglectful husband and parent. I don’t know whether my father regrets this decision because he refuses to talk about his father, but I often wonder whether or not he wishes he had attended the funeral.

(2) My parents drive me nuts sometimes, and we vehemently disagree on quite a few issues, but, at the same time, I cannot imagine being estranged to them at this stage in my life.

(3) I hate my partner’s parents. It’s mutual. I haven’t spoken to them in over five years. If they requested to see me on their death bed or to attend their funeral, I would only be inclined to do so in order to spit in their faces. I don’t generally consider myself a petty person, but they continue to abuse someone I love and hold dearest in my life. Why would I honor their wishes or forgive them simply on the brink of death’s door when they dedicated so much of their lives to destroying the emotional wellbeing of their children?

That said, I understand that my partner would be much more likely to go. It’s not even necessarily about forgiving them as they die, but to work through his own feelings about their abuse, and this continued sense of obligation that weighs heavily on his conscience as a direct result of that abuse.

As a result, I don’t feel like I can confidently say that if I was the one with abusive and neglectful parents that I wouldn’t do the same in his position. It’s easy enough for me to say now that I would rather spit on their faces than attend to their wishes. Based on what I’ve observed in my partner, however, I’m inclined to take a step back and wonder how much harder it would be to deny that request if made by my own parents.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar


I’ve had 30 years of therapy, so I’ve been able to work through the trauma that resulted from abuse as a child and adolescent. There were family members involved whom I speak to cordially but not intimately. I will go to their funerals. There were non-family members whom I will never speak to again. I will not think about them for a fraction of a second when they die.

This is a very personal decision to be made by each abuse victim. The only right answer is to do the hard work of healing. It’s very hard work.

canidmajor's avatar

I am grateful for your stories, thank you. Every situation that would lead to this decision is fraught.

ragingloli's avatar

I would go, only to reaffirm my hatred for them at the moment they expire.

rebbel's avatar

I’m in the fortunate situation that I don’t have to deal with said events, but knowing people that have had similar relationships as the ones you speak of I think I can say that I might go to someone’s funeral, if that could be of comfort to the family/friends that are left behind and did have a loving/good relation with said person.
I think I could make the distinction between saying my farewell to the asshole and paying my respects to the bereaved.

kritiper's avatar

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. If you cut the ties that bind, they may be better left cut. They want to contact you about something, they can write a letter.

janbb's avatar

It’s difficult. I have had an off again on again relationship with an abusive relative. Right now, I am willing to see them at family gatherings but not to be alone with them. I try to use as a guide what will best serve my emotional well being in any given instance with them but it does get muddy at times. I would probably honor a death bed request to see them out of curiosity but I would go well-armed and with my boundaries in place. But I wouldn’t judge anyone else who didn’t.

Zaku's avatar

I think it’s a personal question that’s for each person to answer. i never felt that way about my own parents. I did feel that way about other people’s parents, and was amazed when even some of the strongest ones said something like, “I can’t hate him forever”. I think I could choose to shut off a parent forever, but maybe that’s partly because my parents have been so good to me.

As for the “what if”, it would depend. I could see not going. I could also see going (particularly for my own sense of concluding the relationship), but I think I would tend to be very forthright and not curbing my behavior for politeness if I did. And of course I’d not be surprised if they continued to be awful, or to try to get one last dig or manipulation in.

JLeslie's avatar

I am not completely estranged from anyone in my family, but I have family members who are estranged from other family members.

I think this is so individual, because it matters why you are estranged, and each individual is different.

My sister cut off from my father years ago, and my sister and I were extremely close, so I know a lot about her thought process, and I grew up in the same house she did. My father did not physically or sexually abuse her, or anything close to it. Not a spank, not anything nearing any of that blatant type of abuse, and she would agree. The cut offf has everything to do with what she sees as verbal and psychological abuse. Many many people have told me that she should find peace with my father before he dies—for her. These are people who have family members who did not do that, and now regret it. Even deathbed reconciliations seem to be worthwhile according to some people.

I really think it matters the why and the what, and the individual. I do think she would have a big weight off of her shoulders if she could have a “forgiveness” moment, and understand our dad, actually both of our parents, did the best they knew how. That they loved and love her, and some of the things they did that hurt her were out of their own anxiety and fear for her.

What I presume is, I don’t think she would visit his death bed for him, unless it was to tell him one last time he was horrible. Extrenely doubtful she would attend his funeral even if his death brought her relief, and I think she believes it will. I don’t think she wants to hear people say nice things about him. She also is wound up in knots about her inheritance, so she has created anticipatory stress with that too.

Honestly, witnessing the estrangement between my father and sister, I would say visiting his deathbed or funeral is too late to help her feel better, it needs to be now. My dad worries a lot that my sister is damaged from their relationship, she also says she is. She would never believe he actually cares about her healing, but she is completely wrong.

If I had been physically abused I think I would have a really hard time doing anything that was for that person like a deathbed visit, even if it was supposedly to help me too. I’ll never forget a client of mine saying that when her grandfather died her mom and grandmother danced on his grave. They weren’t estranged, but he was abusive, a tyrant, and they finally were rid of him. I would think many people who cut off family members for physical abuse would be just fine to see that family member die, and not feel any obligation to do anything for them.

My inlaws temporarily cut off from each other all the time. They won’t talk to a sibling for 3 years, or stay angry for 7 years not completely avoiding each other, but obviously a grudge is being held, and they don’t interact with each other. I know they absolutely would drop the estrangement in almost every case and show up at a deathbed or funeral. Their estrangements have to do with a relative stealing, or not following through on a promise, or something said that really upset the other. In almost all cases, from my perception, it’s misunderstandings and miscommunication. In a few there really was a serious bad deed done.

canidmajor's avatar

Folks, I appreciate all the posts, but I am specifically curious about what you would do, not what you think others should do. Yes, it is a very individual thing, but that’s what I’d like to hear about.

seawulf575's avatar

Go see them. Forgiveness is for you, not for them. And who knows? Maybe you will find they are repentant.

canidmajor's avatar

@seawulf575, you would go see them and forgive them even if there was a nasty nasty history that drove you away in the first lace? Why would you think they might repent?
Does forgiveness, for you, equate to putting yourself back into a position of potntial emotional harm?

seawulf575's avatar

@canidmajor I have lived it. If you harbor anger and hate, it only hurts you, not them. It doesn’t allow you to heal emotionally…not really. You might hide, but it is still there. The only way to get rid of it is to forgive. As for why they would repent? Who knows? Death nearing causes changes in thoughts, reflections on actions. And if the one who caused you all the pain is the one dying, you might find the rest of the family had similar feelings or concerns as you. Removing the source might open them up as well. Again…I don’t know all the details, but speaking from my history, it can happen. As for forgiveness equating to going back to the same stuff? No. Forgiveness to me is you releasing the hate and anger you have. It does not mean that what they did was ok or that you should fall back into the roles that allowed it to happen. You have grown, you have learned. But you also need to stop holding their wrongs in your heart.

canidmajor's avatar

@seawulf575, I can only assume that you speak of your own experience, which will differ from mine, which will differ from @BellaB,‘s and so on.
In my case, I have already forgiven, but that doesn’t mean putting myself back into the line of fire.
Repentance? Nah, even if someone wishes to repent on their death bed, it is more appropriate for their religious counselor to grant absolution.
I have made peace with my decisions in this matter, which would seem to be different from yours.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I tell you for a family member I have put my differences aside and attended their service, my step Dad who I disliked greatly, I did it for my mother.
And have not for friends that I have fallen out with.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I hold a bad grudge until I die. Their death is ultimately irrelevant to me, as if they are someone I truly begrudge, they are already dead.

There is some subjectivity to this, of course, but if I have reason to not speak to someone their strife is inconsequential to me.

Life’s too short to worry about the bad people. I’d rather spend that time I would have spent with them hanging out with a person who I do care about.

canidmajor's avatar

Guess we kind of drifted drifted away from the “one living parent” thing, huh…

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Well. I guess I misunderstood the q. I thought that was like an example. I was in a bad way with my father at one point, and we didn’t speak for months. Had he died in that span, I wouldn’t have attended his funeral…

canidmajor's avatar

Thanks, @MrGrimm888, that’s exactly the kind of thing I wanted to know.

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