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Who pays? And should a young child go to a parent’s funeral?

(62 Posts)
Fishandchips Mon 30-Oct-17 17:43:39

I’ve just learned that my daughter’s ex-partner is in a hospice. He is 52 years old and has cancer (he’s been a chain smoker and cannabis user for many years).

It was a very acrimonious split which happened when my granddaughter was just 16 months old; he treated my daughter very badly, controlling, jealous and eventually became violent and threw them out of his flat which was in his name only. He is much older than my daughter (fairly close to my age, I’m still in my 50s) and he’s always disliked my husband and I because he knew we were uncomfortable with their age difference and lifestyle choices.

Since he ended the relationship (then wanted her back, but she refused) she has struggled financially, never receiving any maintenance for their daughter. Her ex-partner has been estranged from his own family since before my daughter was in a relationship with him.

My granddaughter sees him one day per week as directed by a Court order and handover via a third party. She does love her dad and has been to see him in the hospice.

My daughter has a couple of concerns and I don’t know what to suggest, so perhaps someone could advise?

1. As far as she knows, there is no next-of-kin, apart from their daughter (she is under 10) so what happens about arranging a funeral and funeral costs - will it be my daughter’s responsibility? He is an atheist afaik.

2. My daughter is very upset, obviously thinking of the love they did once share and has gently explained to my granddaughter that he is dying and they both cried. His pet dog died recently so I think she knows a little about death/dying. However, my daughter has never been to a funeral and when the time comes, she thinks that she should take her daughter too.

I am not sure what to think about children at funerals; I certainly was not allowed to go when I was a child, my granddad died when I was nine and I went to school as usual but then back to my gran’s house where all the funeral attendees went for tea and cakes. The first funeral I went to was when I was newly married and my FIL died, it was a cremation and I was shocked when the curtains parted and the coffin moved behind them on a conveyer belt.

Is it generally thought that a young child should go to the funeral of a parent? I imagine that it would be a cremation, perhaps it would be traumatic for her?

I haven’t been to many funerals but I don’t think I’ve seen children at them, but it’s possible that there may have been one or two present.

I live overseas and if my daughter wants me to go over to be with her I will.

BlueBelle Mon 30-Oct-17 17:59:20

My grandchildren lost their much loved Daddy when they were 4 and 6 my daughter took advice from various children’s breavement helplines and all seemed to say it is often in the child’s interest to attend the funeral if possible as often they don’t believe they are really dead if they don’t go .... but at the end of the day, even at their tender ages she asked what they wanted to do explaining it would be upsetting, but they did both want to go They kissed their daddy goodbye, they did get upset but sometimes the tears are better out than held in They walked behind their Daddy and at first the little one was skipping along in the sunshine They did both cry during the ceremony as did many ....they are now teenagers and seem well rounded and have never shown any signs that wished they hadn’t gone
Obviously different people will have different views but I hope this has been helpful from my personal experience

Willow500 Mon 30-Oct-17 17:59:52

Sad situation and I don't know the answer to the financial side of it but I'm sure someone will be able to answer that. My own boys went to my aunt's funeral when they when the youngest was about 8 - I felt they were old enough to understand and had thought a lot about her. My granddaughters went to all 4 of their grandparents funerals - the youngest would be your granddaughter's age when my dad passed away and they were very close to my parents. I think they cope very well and I believe it isn't something they should be shielded from - death is a part of life after all. Do explain all that will happen though so she understands the process.

Iam64 Mon 30-Oct-17 18:04:43

It seems children are more likely to be involved in funerals than when we were young. My parents were I believe, over protective, somehow believing if we didn't go to our loved ones funerals, we wouldn't be as upset. As BlueBelle says, the advice these days is to allow children to take part - at 9 and with the deceased being her father, it seems right to me that she should be supported by her mum at this funeral. If her mum is there, she'll be able to protect her if that's necessary and also comfort her and explain things. It also means they can talk more easily about this loss as time passes.

Daddima Mon 30-Oct-17 18:13:22

My father’s family kept the deceased person in the front room until the funeral, and the children were all milling about, drawing pictures and picking flowers to go in the coffin. They also attended the funeral, no matter how young they were, and they didn’t seem to have the horror or fear of death. Our children were older when our parents died, so they were happy ( well, you know what I mean!) to go to the funeral.

lemongrove Mon 30-Oct-17 18:30:02

Hard to know about the child attending the funeral, as you don’t say what age she is exactly, but the cost of the funeral has to be payed by whoever arranges it.
If nobody came forward to do that, the State pays for it.
If your DGD is seven or over, I think it would be good for her to be with her Mother at the funeral, but it’s a personal decision.

Bridgeit Mon 30-Oct-17 18:39:53

So sorry to read your predicament Fish&chips, I do know that you cannot be made to pay for a funeral, ( don't sign anything or register the inevitable) the state will eventually take care of this but it takes a bit longer than normal.

suzied Mon 30-Oct-17 18:44:14

Definitely involve the child in the funeral. My 4 granddaughters ( aged 2-8) went to their cousin’s funeral and it was a positive experience as far as it can be. I wouldn’t have liked to exclude them. Maybe she could make a card or choose some flowers to go with the coffin, send a balloon into the air to represent her Dad and saying goodbye.

silversurf Mon 30-Oct-17 18:51:52

My adored father died when I was ten and I have always resented the fact that I wasn't allowed to attend his funeral. I would ask the child gently what she would like to do.
So sorry for the situation your DD and DGD find themselves in.

CherryHatrick Mon 30-Oct-17 19:03:48

If he is in a hospice then presumably he knows he is dying, and if he is still competent, one would hope he has made a will and employed a solicitor to execute it and arrange his funeral. If he was a homeowner then he will have an estate, and the cost of the funeral should come from his estate.

FarNorth Mon 30-Oct-17 19:03:49

The deceased person's estate is responsible for paying for the funeral.

Grandma70s Mon 30-Oct-17 19:06:23

I don’t think it’s a good idea to take young children to a parent’s funeral. I was advised not to when my husband died when my children were still at primary school (in fact one of them was still an infant) and I don't regret not taking them. What would it have done to them to see a box containing their father slide through curtains to be burnt? Better at that age not to know. They’ve never expressed any regret.

I avoided funerals myself until I was an adult. I think they are depressing and don’t help at all, but I suppose it depends on your attitudes towards ceremonies of this type. When I was 8 I knew perfectly well that my grandmother was dead without going to her funeral. I’m so glad nobody put me through that at such a young age.

I know it’s fashionable now to take children, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea.

Bridgeit Mon 30-Oct-17 19:11:29

Only if they have an estate , many people unfortunately die penniless.

Anniebach Mon 30-Oct-17 19:18:32

Forty years ago but my daughters were then five and seven and did not attend their fathers funeral, they went to school as usual where the teachers took great care to watch them. It was a very large funeral , police lined the route from church to cemetery and there were several lines of them at the grave to salute the interment, it was too much for me, I shudder to think what it would have been like for two little ones . I wouldn't advise yes or no.

GrandmaMoira Mon 30-Oct-17 19:25:19

When I was young I wasn't allowed to attend grandparents' funerals but nowadays most people do. When my DH died, his DGD all attended, the same with other relatives who have died in the last few years. It is your daughter's choice, but I think it would be better for your DGD to attend, especially if you and your DH can be there to support.

TwiceAsNice Mon 30-Oct-17 19:26:08

I've worked with children and adolescents in grief work for a long time. Research shows consistently that children have a better outcome if they go to a funeral. I have spoken to many many children and none of them have said they regretted going to a funeral, far more were resentful and distressed when they weren't allowed to go.

I took my daughters ( at the time 8 and 15 months to their brothers funeral ( he was 4) and at an older age both went to their grandparents funerals and we're glad that they had. My FIL died suddenly at home and my daughter aged 13 kissed him goodbye at the house before the undertakers were arranged. Death is part of life and children don't need to be shielded they are resilient and matter of fact as long as a trusted adult supports them and explains everything. Use everyday language not euphemisms and allow them to grieve as they wish. Children opt in and out of grief but feel is just as much as adults.

I still remember how at 14 my father wouldn't let me go to my grandmothers funeral and I was very cross about it especially as my aunt let my cousin who was two years younger attend.

Grandma70s Mon 30-Oct-17 19:41:31

TwiceAsNice, I wonder why you wanted to go to your grandmother’s funeral. One of my grandmothers died when I was 14. By that age I was considered old enough to go, but luckily someone was needed to look after my little cousin (aged 4 or so), so I did that. I was very pleased I didn’t have to go.

GrandmaMoira Mon 30-Oct-17 19:47:15

Regarding payment, there is funding for a public health funeral paid by the local council (what used to be called a pauper's funeral). I don't know what the criteria is to be eligible for this but I'm sure hospital/registry office/funeral directors between them will have information.

M0nica Mon 30-Oct-17 20:18:41

It is not the children's age that matters, it is the way the adults around them behave. In our family children do attend funerals and everyone treats it as perfectly normal, so the children accept it as totally normal as well.

DD was 9 when her grandfather died, we took her and her slightly older brother to the funeral. Neither of them made any comment either then or since.

vampirequeen Mon 30-Oct-17 20:21:10

The state will pay for the funeral if there is no estate. Tell your daughter not to agree to anything. It's not her responsibility.

I think your granddaughter should go to the funeral if she wants to. Funerals are about closure for the living and even though she's only a child she may need that closure.

Fishandchips Mon 30-Oct-17 21:41:50

Thank you all for your replies.....there is a lot to think about.

I’ve heard that the Irish are brilliant at doing funerals, it is a big - almost jolly - event with a wake to follow and the English are dreadful at them.

My dad’s family were originally from the north-east and when his older brother died I remember that the coffin was kept in the lounge the night before the funeral. My dad and his siblings then kept the corpse ‘company’ by staying in the same room overnight. (I thought and still think it’s pretty weird).

My dad died two years to the day after Princess Diana and had just turned 61 years of age. He was walking with my mum and had a massive heart attack. At that time my spouse, myself and children were on an expat posting in south east Asia. We had spent the Summer holidays in England and had only just returned to the Far East as the new school year was just starting, when one week later I had the phone call.

I returned on my own and although was not close to my dad, I did sob quietly on the 13 hour flight back to the UK. I went to my mum’s house and in my jet-lagged state heard her make an almost unearthly wail....they had been married almost 40 years.

I went with my mum and brother to the funeral home and they pulled the casket out for a viewing; I could barely look at my dad’s body, he was wearing some kind of white robe which my mum had chosen. On reflection I wonder if my reaction was because I had never been near a corpse before (or since) as I had never been exposed to one before and I was then 38 years old. I still don’t like to go near dead animals. Come to think of it, my dad’s funeral is the only one I’ve been to where there has been an internment, the other funerals were for cremations.

My mum has spoken with my daughter and is pressing on her not to take her great-granddaughter to the funeral....but then again she never let me or my siblings attend funerals when we were children. I’m leaning towards thinking that perhaps my granddaughter should go so there is some (and I dislike this term) ‘closure’.

My daughter is going to send a message to her dying ex-partner to see if he is willing and able to arrange some kind of ‘memory box’ of his life and family history.

The ex is destitute; he gave up his tiny council flat and left behind a trail of debts when he moved into a touring caravan and followed/stalked my daughter when she moved to another part of England when he turfed her and their daughter out.

I once asked him about his family when my granddaughter was a newborn as I thought it would be nice for them to meet her but he told me that he didn’t know where they lived and didn’t know or care if they were alive or dead...! I have no idea if the hospice has been in touch with any of his family.

I just hope my daughter doesn’t feel responsible for arranging for his funeral for her daughter’s sake and borrows the money to pay for it....she barely gets by herself and my spouse and I help her out when we can.

Nelliemoser Mon 30-Oct-17 23:15:23

Well has any one thought to ask the poor child what she wants to do? How old is she?
I am with this concensus here let her go. It is not scary unless relatives have made her think so.

Grandma2213 Tue 31-Oct-17 03:23:07

When my father died I asked my DSs if they wanted to go to the funeral and they all said yes. I was estranged from my husband at the time but he also wished to attend. In the event my middle DS became distraught and could not face it so stayed behind with his dad.

Shortly afterwards my MIL died and again DSs wished to attend. On this occasion oldest DS could not face the ceremony and waited outside with my ex's new partner (whom he had never met before). My DSs were between 12 and 16 years old at the time.

I believe that children should have the choice and should be gently told that it can be upsetting but that is OK to show their emotions. I have learned also that every funeral is different and that they should be allowed to 'back out' at any time if they wish to and no one will think any the worse of them.

Nelliemoser I agree. It should not be 'scary' . After all it will happen to every one of us in the end.

Imperfect27 Tue 31-Oct-17 06:18:36

Fishandchips I am sorry that your DD and GD are facing this close loss.

I cannot answer re financial questions, but in our family, children have attended funerals of grandparents. We avoided using terms such as 'asleep' , 'gone for a while.' Children do need to learn that death is a final parting and I think being at the funeral can be a helpful part of this process.

GD can be reassured beforehand that she will not see a dead body and that people are/will be very sad so she may see adults cry and that is ok.

I think it is very healthy / natural for children to see grief expressed.

Condolences to you all at this very sad time flowers.

downtoearth Tue 31-Oct-17 06:57:02

My then 5year old GD attended my daughter,her mothers funeral which had to be held 11months after she died,e explained and asked her what she wanted to do she chose to go, at 18 she is glad she was part of it all and would have resemted it if unable to go ,we kept explanations child appropriate.