Is my daughter too young for her mum’s funeral? (Alamy/PA)
Is my daughter too young for her mum’s funeral? (Alamy/PA)

My wife is dying – is our seven-year-old daughter too young for the funeral?

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a father who is preparing to say goodbye to his wife

Fiona Caine
Tuesday 17 August 2021 11:02
Leer en Español

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.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in