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Don’t want to attend your ex-father-in-law’s funeral? Here are a few things to consider.

Q. My husband and I divorced eight years ago. We have three grown children who are out on their own. Here’s my dilemma. My ex-husband’s father is very ill with terminal cancer and not expected to live much longer. I’m already wrestling with whether to attend the funeral. The thing is, he was unkind to me when he was my father-in-law and he made it clear on numerous occasions I wasn’t really part of the family, I simply married into it. In contrast, our children love their grandfather and their relationships with him were and still are very positive. If I follow my heart, I know I’ll stay away, but my brain tells me I should definitely go to his funeral – for my children’s sake if for no other reason.

Denise, Calgary


A. Listen to your heart. When the time comes, there’ll be nothing to be gained by pretending you’re mourning your unkind ex-father-in-law, so why bother. “‘Putting it on’ is sending the wrong message – and is frankly betraying oneself,” says Dr. Guy Grenier, a London, Ont.-based clinical psychologist and author. “The idea that you have to put it on because it’s family, well, I’m sorry but family is about behaviour as much as it is about blood. This may be a family in name, but it’s not in feeling. If you treat people badly in your family I’m not sure that gives you carte blanche.”

When I initially read your dilemma I must admit my first thought was you should suck it up and go the funeral as a show of respect and support for your kids, but after considering what Dr. Grenier had to say I changed my mind. “I can think of about 17 different ways to offer support to those three children that won’t involve putting on a mask or adopting a false pretense,” he told me, pointing out there’s nothing that precludes you from supporting your kids in other ways – ways where you won’t be left with a bad taste in your mouth. “This is called being true to yourself and acknowledging your reality.”

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