Jump to content
Grief Healing Discussion Groups

I'm not following Mom's last wishes, and I feel terrible

Recommended Posts

My mom (63) died two days ago at home.  I love my mom more than anyone else in the world, and I am beyond devastated.  I still can't believe she's never coming back.  I feel loopy.


Most of the responsibilities revolving around the death were left to my dad, but my mom left me a list of very specific things she wanted after she died with the understanding that I would make sure Dad enforced these wishes.  First, she wanted to be buried in a certain sundress with no other clothes and no makeup.  She said she wanted to be comfortable.   Then, instead of laying on her back, she wanted to be laying on her side, slightly curled up like when she slept.  She didn't want a full funeral with lots of people.  Just the immediate family would bury her.


Unfortunately, no one in my family had talked a lot about what would happen immediately after Mom died.  We'd moved a fair drive away from where she had already paid for her funeral services, and both were far away from the burial plot she'd paid for.  So a local funeral home (1st funeral home) would pick up her body and then transport it to the funeral home she'd already made arrangements with (2nd funeral home), and then they'd transport it to a funeral home near the cemetery that would hold her until she could be buried (3rd funeral home.)


When the time came, I didn't want to watch her body being removed from the house, so my brother and I shut ourselves away and watched mindless YouTube videos.  I was pretty much in shock and not thinking clearly for the rest of the day.  The next day, I'd gotten ahold of myself a little more, but I still wasn't doing great, and I scheduled an emergency appointment with my counselor.  Dad needed to go to the 2nd funeral home to hammer out the practical matters.  With the long drive there, my appointment, and feeling like I was falling apart, I agreed to let Dad go alone.  After all, we'd agreed he would handle these things.  However, I triple and quadruple checked with him all of Mom's wishes and made sure he knew they were important.


Before Dad left, he did ask about if we wanted to do a viewing of Mom's body, just him, me, and my siblings.  We agreed we wanted to do that.  The first snag came because one of my siblings lives far away, closer to the cemetery, and it would be a hassle for them to come to 2nd funeral home for a short viewing only to go all the way back for the burial.  Also, this sibling apparently informed some of the extended family, most of whom live closer to the cemetery, and they started organizing in droves to come to the viewing.  Dad called and discussed it with me, and I agreed to a second viewing at 3rd funeral home for my sibling and just for the few extended family members Mom was really close to.  It was easier than trying to deal with a bunch of determined, uninvited family members.


When Dad came back, he told me the 1st funeral home was the one who had done a lot of the preparation of Mom's body, so while it wasn't confirmed, there's a possibility she was wearing makeup.  I wasn't thrilled about that, but I was the one who hadn't stayed and talked to the funeral home people, so that was on me.  Next, after discussing it with 2nd funeral home, they decided to lay Mom on her back because it was easier for the viewings.  Dad and I had discussed this before he left when we discussed doing a viewing at all, and I'd suggested a few compromises, including having the funeral home having her on her back for the viewing and then rolling her on her side after.  I obviously wasn't there for the discussion, but apparently no one thought there would be a good way to have her on her side at any point, so now she's going to be on her back.  Okay, the point was for her to be comfortable, and I know she could be very comfortable on her back, so I'm very unhappy, but it's not the end of the world.  Then Dad said her dress didn't cover one of the cuts the embalmers made, so today I need to pick out a shawl or a scarf or something to cover that.  Oh, and the guest list for the second viewing and the burial has expanded by a lot.


I let him know in no uncertain terms that I was unhappy and uncomfortable about how far from Mom's wishes we'd drifted.  I COULD go into full battle mode and fight to make sure Mom's wishes are followed exactly.  However, after taking some time to calm down and think, I have decided not to.


Mom was always of the belief that once a person dies, their body is no longer them.  It's just a shell that's left behind.  As such, I don't think she would regard anything we do with her body at this point as unforgivable.  Mom also always taught me that any funeral arrangements are for the benefit of the people left behind, not the person who died.  Part of the reason she wanted to do things so informally is because she knows that was the best format for me and my siblings.  However, my Dad is more traditional and could use something closer to a traditional funeral for our area.  He told us siblings in advance that we could be as involved in the second viewing as we'd like.  Most of us aren't going to that, so we're following Mom's intentions in spirit, if not to the letter.  Finally, the expanded guest list includes more people from Dad's side of the family, and I think he could use the support.  I want to support him, but I'm falling apart myself, and as his youngest child, there's only so much he's willing to lean on me for support in any case.  I've fought for Mom for years, but she doesn't need me to fight for her anymore.  Dad does need me, and I don't want to fight with him.  I've communicated my views clearly and calmly, and the rest is compromise so he can grieve the way he needs to.


Still, I feel horribly guilty for letting this happen.  Mom asked for some very specific things, and I'm letting her down.  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dear, from what you've described, it doesn't seem to me that you've let your mom down ~ not at all. So much of what has happened here is way beyond your control. As for feeling horribly guilty in the aftermath, you would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Just because you feel guilty, it doesn't follow that you ARE guilty as charged.

Surely your mom knows how much you love her, and she would be the first one to understand how little control you have in all of this.

You'll find links to a number of helpful articles on this matter of fulfilling the last wishes of the dying at the base of this post: Deathbed Promises: Honoring A Mother's Dying Wish  🧡

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You made her wishes known and beyond that it's out of your control, I figured the funeral home would have some say about back or side as how the body fits in the casket...a shawl or something to cover the incision sounds like a good compromise.  Hon, you did your best.  I am so sorry for your loss!  I know myself when I've had a loss of this nature (I lost my closest sister, I was her caregiver, in March) it's the hardest thing, we're in shock for some time, grief fog setting in for quite a while, I mean it's hard to focus during this time!  I have no idea how I got through loss of my husband, that was super hard.  

Your mom is in that "better place" now and very comfortable, it is you and your dad that are suffering now.  Sending you comfort and prayers...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...