Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Dad's death revealed family secrets

Published:Wednesday | June 3, 2015 | 6:00 AM

Q My father recently died. I was hoping that my father's death would have brought the family together, but, instead, it opened old wounds. Our family could be described as dysfunctional. Our parents had three girls. I am the youngest daughter. There was the accusation that we did not do enough for our father when he was alive and when he needed the best medical care. There was talk about which one of the three children visited him most when he was sick. When we were planning the funeral, my siblings' children gave tributes and selections while mine did nothing. It was claimed that their children were older and more talented.

When we were searching our father's papers, we saw his will and discovered that he left money in a bank account for an outside child which he denied he had. It was embarrassing to find out that he paid for school for this 'bwoy' until he graduated from university, and in the will referred to him as his son. My sister does not want to help with the funeral expenses because she wants the money in the bank to be used so that the son gets nothing. I had used my credit card to underwrite a substantial part of the bill with the understanding that everybody would stand 25 per cent, inclusive of our mother. Finally, there was a minor incident at the church in that my sister told my 'brother' and his family to move from the second bench. Some people noticed and wandered what was happening, and it was then that some persons knew my father had another child because the eulogy did not mention him. How can I re-unite the family?

A It is sad that when you are going through your grief and experiencing one of the most stressful periods in your life you have to be dealing with so many issues. It must be understood that planning a funeral can be difficult because there are competing thoughts of what to do and who to do what. It is good when participation is as wide as possible. However, everybody cannot do something and the most important thing is to host a funeral service that reflects the work and contribution of your father. Once that is achieved, it is not so important who did what.

Furthermore, you played a significant role by underwriting the cost associated with the funeral expenses. Since there is an issue about equity in paying, perhaps your brother (and he is your brother) could make a contribution so that all five of you give 20 per cent each. This could also help to acknowledge him as a member of the family and he might feel a sense of acceptance.

It was unfortunate that your brother was moved from his seat. But who told him to sit where he sat? Perhaps he should have been more sensitive. It was unfortunate that he was not mentioned in the eulogy since your father recognised him as his son in his will. However, your father did not handle this situation honestly and timely. Your mother might be having it hard to find out that her husband was deceiving her all these years. She needs special support.

Talk with your mother about the issues and ask her to lead with restoring the family and pledge your support in this venture. And if you cannot manage then seek external help to resolve the issues.

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