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Parent's partner being difficult about funeral

(24 Posts)
scotrose Sat 27-Aug-16 19:05:07

My mum died last Monday. She was 92 and had been suffering from dementia for many years. Her partner of 22 years, let's call him George (not his real name) because I can't and won't call him my stepfather, has been her carer during her illness, and I respect that but he can never replace my dad, who died 40 years ago. They never married.

George phoned me last Sunday night to say that mum had been taken to hospital, and I made immediate arrangements to travel down from Glasgow to Birmingham to be there to help and support. Unfortunately I arrived at the hospital just an hour too late to say goodbye. I phoned George to say I'd been to the hospital and received the news, and seen my mum, and that I would be with him first thing in the morning. What George hadn't told me on the phone was that mum had been in hospital for a week; he'd given me the impression that she'd been rushed there that day.

On Tuesday morning I went to see George, who had clearly taken things hard and wasn't very together. We all have our own ways of coping with grief and mine is to get busy, also mindful of the support mum needed after my dad died. He insisted there was nothing we could do until we had a death certificate, which being a hospital death would have to wait three days while the medics covered their backs. I made George tea, phoned the DWP to inform them and then phoned some funeral directors for quotes. We agreed on one that seemed a very good family outfit with good credentials. Then I felt I needed some space to get my head round the death of my mother. I know where I can get access to some very restful gardens and I offered to take George with me, but he wanted to stay where he was. That was the last I saw of him in the week.

The following day I repeatedly tried to phone him but he wasn't answering – he has no answering service, nor mobile, nor email. I went to the hospital to see if he'd been there – he had, so I left a message and went on to the funeral directors to see if there was anything that could be done informally before firming it up on receipt of the registration. He'd been there too, insisting again that he couldn't do anything until he had the certificate but had given a preferred date of 5 September. One thing we could do was book a time slot at the crematorium, so we did. It left me nearly two weeks to kick my heels so after a couple of days trying in vain to catch up with George in order to cooperate with him and support him, dropping a poem I'd like to read at the funeral directors, and having tea with a good friend I hadn't seen in ages, I came home.

Today I got a letter from George, ostensibly notifying me of the funeral arrangements but in fact berating me for interfering, being patronising and trying to turn the funeral into an ego trip. Now I'm really upset when I was coping in my own way before. What's a girl (I'm 62!) to do?

madgingermunchkin Sat 27-Aug-16 19:10:31

I certainly understand that you are grieving, and are going through a terribly hard time (him not telling you she was in hospital for a week is off, I'm with you on that) but I can to a certain extent see his point.

He is also grieving, just because he doesn't grieve like you, doesn't mean he isn't. Maybe he's insisting you can't do anything with out a certificate to give himself a few days to wrap his head around the fact he has lost the woman he has loved and cared for for over twenty years. I can also believe that he is suffering some small degree of both relief and guilt about her death. Relief that she is no longer suffering from dementia, and therefore guilt that he feels relieved that the woman he's loved for so long is dead.

Give him some time, it's a hard time for all of you.

QuiteLikely5 Sat 27-Aug-16 19:15:20

Were you trying to be helpful or are you happy to let Geirge take over the arrangements?

He was her long term partner and maybe it's kinder to let him organise things on his own?

Sorry for your loss flowers

Optimist1 Sat 27-Aug-16 19:26:33

So sorry for your loss. I can see nothing to criticise in what you've done so far, but in fairness to George he probably sees 22 years of devotion to your mother as giving him "husband" status. If they had married I think you would accept that he would be the primary arranger of the funeral, wouldn't you?

Not telling you when your mother went into hospital isn't good, but whilst I'm speaking up on his behalf it's possible that she made him promise not to tell you or (if it was one of a series of medical crises that I know the very elderly are prone to) he thought she'd be back home in a day or two. Try not to dwell on how things might have been different had he told you.

On a practical note, are you the executor or is George? If it's you, I can see how you would be feeling and your duties will require you to take control back from him at some point in the near future - possibly after the funeral? Either way, any kindness you can extend to him now will be a good investment.

scotrose Sat 27-Aug-16 20:04:49

Optimist1 - whether he was married or not I would expect the funeral to be arranged in consultation with the children. One further piece of information that may be relevant; I have a sister five years older than me so technically she is the nearest blood relative. But she had some falling out with mum soon after our dad died. I have no idea what it was about but she hasn't spoken to mum since and latterly she doesn't speak to me either though I went to some trouble to keep the lines open for many years. She has sent George a curt note and clearly doesn't want to have anything to do with the funeral. She has not acknowledged my messages about the funeral. So in effect I am next of kin. I don't really see why a step-parent, married or otherwise, can steal a parent from her children and deny that oh so important mother-daughter bond which persists into adulthood. He may have been her partner for 22 years but she was my mum for 62 years!

madgingermunchkin Sat 27-Aug-16 20:22:28

Yes, she was your mother for 62 years, but he cared for her through her dementia, which must have been bloody difficult, but it (quite understandably) probably seems to him that you left him to do the "dirty work" and yet are now riding in on your white horse to do the "dutiful daughter" bit.

Harsh as this may sound, you are not the only one grieving, and your grief does not trump his.

FiveGoMadInDorset Sat 27-Aug-16 20:30:35

To be fair to him did you ever discuss funeral plans with your mother?

You are both grieving but in totally different and incompatible ways, this happened with my Dad when he died in December, my brother was all for getting the funeral in before Christmas and my mother (his stepmother) wanted to wait until January, as it happened DDad didn't get home until a week before Christmas (he died abroad) that we did indeed wait until January.

I am really sorry for your loss but you need to seat from his perspective as well and give him some leeway.

Optimist1 Sat 27-Aug-16 21:46:44

I really didn't mean that George deserves the right to control the funeral arrangments entirely, just that he sees this as the last caring service he can perform for her. Consultation with you and your sister would be the right thing, I agree. Now isn't the time to compare their 22 years with your 62; no-one can say which amounts to more.

The situation with your sister makes things all the sadder; I hope that you and George manage to come to terms with the fact that you've both lost someone very important to you.

ImperialBlether Sat 27-Aug-16 21:53:45

The fact your sister is older doesn't make her more of a blood relative than you are.

I'm so sorry you lost your mum. It must have been heartbreaking to arrive just after she passed away.


Cocochoco Sat 27-Aug-16 22:04:27

I would suggest you try and get through the funeral without a massive fall-out. He's your mum's partner and takes precedence etiquette-wise so you should really let him take the lead in the arrangements. It's really sad that he doesn't acknowledge your need to say goodbye to your mum properly though.

And this may sound a bit calculating but presumably her stuff is with him. In time you will want to have family photographs and keepsakes - don't start a rift now that will affect you in the future.

BackforGood Sat 27-Aug-16 22:24:14

I'm sorry for your loss, but, like others, I don't really see what you are being angry about here, other than 'being angry' is a very normal, common emotion when you have just lost a loved one.
'George' has loved and cared for her for over 20 years - he too is devastated. He too is grieving. You don't need to make it into a competition. You have both lost someone you loved, and are trying to come to terms with it. Don't fall out over the fact you are doing things in a slightly different way from each other.

CotswoldStrife Sat 27-Aug-16 22:37:45

Very sorry for your loss, OP.

He is not stealing her - he has been by her side day and night for over 20 years. His place in your mother's life does not change or affect your father's place in her (and your) life. You have very different ways of grieving (presumably he is a similar age to your mother) so please give him some space and time to come to terms with it all. If he has been her carer he will have a massive change in his life to come to terms with, just as you do.

I suspect you are angry that he did not contact you earlier about her hospital admission but he may not have realised (or wanted to face) that the problem may have been as serious as it was.

I hope you can arrange the funeral without further distress to either yourself or George.

CodyKing Sat 27-Aug-16 22:41:41

Is disagree - you are next of kin and its your responsibility to arrange the funeral and deal with legal documents etc like a will or property etc

My sister organized my fathers when he had a long standing partner - I didn't get involved - but it fell to her

As did the paperwork etc

I think he needs to step back and engage in conversation

blueistheonlycolourwefeel Sat 27-Aug-16 23:03:51

How close were you and your mum?
I think that after nursing your mum and being her partner for 22 years that he deserves some say in what happens.

Horsemad Sun 28-Aug-16 20:44:44

If he was not her husband then I think you are perfectly within your rights to be in charge of the arrangements.

By all means try and involve him but ultimately you are the NoK, whether he likes/agrees or not.

StopMakingMeLogOn Sun 28-Aug-16 21:03:04

I think it was very wrong of him not to inform you that she was in hospital, unless she didn't want you to be told. Given that she had dementia, I think she might not have been able to clearly say, in which case as nok you ought to have been informed.

As for the arrangements, your mum did not marry this man - if she had wanted him to be her nok then she would presumably have married him or left a living will to that effect. Since she did not, I would view that as a clear instruction that she wanted her children to act for her in this situation.

While I don't want to minimise his grief, you are her daughter and her legal nok (along with your sister) and nobody should be minimising your grief either. If you want to go ahead and make arrangements then that is your right. Yes you should share this with George if possible but ultimately it is your place.

How are things set up legally for your mother's estate? Do you need George's cooperation to access sentimental items like photo albums etc.

blueistheonlycolourwefeel Sun 28-Aug-16 21:38:53

Is the OP actually next of kin? You can choose next of kin to be anyone you want and not just because you're related?

junebirthdaygirl Sun 28-Aug-16 22:13:29

I'm sure there are lots of people on here who are with their partners for over twenty years but not married who would be shocked to hear they shouldn't have much day in their dps funeral. I know you're upset about your dm but it's important to give George his rightful place.

StopMakingMeLogOn Sun 28-Aug-16 22:37:57

June, if people choose not to get married or leave legal instructions naming their partner as nok then the reality is that in the event of a death long term partners have no more 'rights' than a short term boyfriend / girlfriend. Marriage confers certain rights and responsibilities and I think it would be wrong to hand over those rights and responsibilities without that choice having been actively made by the deceased.

I think we have to assume that if long term couples haven't married (esp older couples for whom marriage was the norm for their generation) then it is presumably because they want to maintain the rights of their children from previous relationships.

Optimist1 Sun 28-Aug-16 22:59:28

Stop, it's entirely possible for couples to have legally declared each other to be next of kin and executors of their estates without being married. I know of two couples who've made such arrangements; OP hasn't replied to my question asking who was executor, nor PP's about who was named as next of kin.

StopMakingMeLogOn Sun 28-Aug-16 23:11:45

Yes it is possible and if the OPs mum has done that with her partner then it does give the partner more say. I'm assuming the OPs mum didn't but it would be helpful if the OP said either way because she would get more accurate advice.

scotrose Thu 01-Sep-16 14:36:19

Thank you for your posts on this. It's good to see a different perspective on these things. I haven't had any communication with George since I got his letter and I left him to repent at leisure. I must have done the right thing because the minister called this this morning – apparently me and my pome are back on the order of service, as is my partner's flute (the Sarabande from JS Bach's Partita in A minor – I get the impression that the minister is accustomed to a rather limited selection of music and wanted to know if I was sure this was Bach and not Handel! I was never conventional about these things; forty years ago when I married for the first time I shocked the family by going up the aisle to John Stanley's Voluntary in C and going down again to Henri Mulet's Carillon Sortie)

The funeral is on Monday. Do wish me luck won't you.

StopMakingMeLogOn Thu 01-Sep-16 14:52:59

I hope all goes as well as it possibly can for you flowers

Musicaltheatremum Sat 03-Sep-16 11:31:29

I hope all goes well. I also hope that you and George can settle your differences and see that everyone is different. flowers

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