Dear Richard Madeley: My sister never got to say goodbye to our Grandad – and I’m feeling guilty

Woman looking after dying man
'My dad didn't want to stir family drama on Grandad's deathbed' - Getty

Dear Richard

My grandfather recently died after a short illness. I had a brilliant relationship with him. My sister, on the other hand, had fallen out with him over some trivial disagreement, as she has with most of the family at one time or another. I have as little to do with her as possible.

A couple of weeks before Grandad passed away, I recommended to my dad that my sister should be told about him being ill and in hospital in order to give her the opportunity to say goodbye and maybe say sorry. My dad disagreed: he said she had told Grandad she didn’t want anything to do with him, and that was that. (I think he didn’t want awkward scenes by the bedside.) I still felt that this was a time for family politics to be put aside, and that my sister ought to have the opportunity to settle things with Grandad. I didn’t tell her, though, as I didn’t want to go behind Dad’s back.

Now Grandad is dead and my sister never got the chance to say goodbye. I know he still loved her, and I’m feeling guilty for not having told her and risked the backlash. I really wanted Dad to put his issues with her to one side and do the right thing: I suspect there was an element of spite involved in his decision to keep her out of the loop.

I want to put this to rest, but I don’t know whether I should talk to Dad about it, try and reach out to my sister or just hope it all blows over. What is your advice?

— M, Lincs

Dear M

My advice is simple, M. Put it to rest. Your grandfather has died, so he has no feelings left to hurt. Unless you think he’s looking down from somewhere on high, sorrowfully shaking his head, which I personally don’t believe is true (and if you did, and you were so close, you’d have a pretty good idea of what he wanted you to do – and I imagine you wouldn’t be writing to me).

If you tell your sister that your father ignored your pleas to inform her of her grandfather’s imminent demise, she’ll either be enraged or indifferent. Either way, I can’t see the slightest point in stirring this up now. If your grandfather were still alive, I’d have different advice.

Similarly, what would be the purpose of upbraiding your dad for ignoring your wishes concerning your sister? There’s nothing he can do about it now, is there? He’ll be defensive and feel that you’re judging him unfairly. Which – with respect – you may well be.

Which brings us back to the central difficulty in all of this: your sister. We reap what we sow, M, and, judging by your letter, she has sown a great deal of discord in your family. If her father judged the breakdown between her and her grandfather to be so toxic he felt it better to keep her away from his deathbed, who’s to say he was wrong?

I strongly advise you to let this lie. You can comfort yourself that you did your best by your sister, but you can’t control all outcomes, M. And maybe this outcome was for the best. Move on now.

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