It’s his brother in law, they’ve known each other 60+ years, I feel horrible not being able to spend time with him and given Covid there is no way my father can attend the funeral. How do I break this to him?

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Does your dad remember tomorrow things you told him today? If not, don't tell him. Every time you have to remind him the BIL has died will be like the first time, and that can be devastating.

A number of relatives have passed away since my mother went into a nursing home. She doesn't even remember my dad died less than two years ago, so I'm not going to burden her with the deaths of other relatives, too. I have a hard enough time convincing her that her best friend ISN'T dead. That realization makes happy, and that's what I aim for these days.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to MJ1929
disgustedtoo Sep 11, 2020
First time for everything! Funny that you have to convince her that her friend is ALIVE, not dead! Usually it is telling or avoiding telling someone that another has passed on that is the issue!

Even better is that when you do convince her that her friend is alive, it makes her happy! Your post brought a smile to my face too!
My mom was one of 11 children; by the turn of the millennium 4 were left. My mother “hung out” with her 2 sisters; another brother lived in another state. These 3 sisters went everywhere together - Mass, Flea Markets, McDonald’s, stayed at each other’s homes, etc. They had lots of fun together.

One died in 2007. She was 76, mom around 80, other sister 85. We were all together when my Aunt Elinore passed away. The other sister lived to be 93 and passed in 2011. By this time both my mom and this sister were in NH. The brother was still living and passed 2 yrs after my mom.

I travelled to NJ from MD to tell her in person about my Aunt Anna’s passing. Mom was 87. My mother still knew who her family was at that time. My mother was upset but, as was her norm being part of the Greatest Generation, she was naturally stoic. While I was there she pretty much coped with it herself in her own way. But I felt she needed to know as they were very close.

Break it to him gently. As others stated it depends on your dad’s mental acuity and memory of the person. If dad can’t remember him and you think it would really upset him, then don’t tell him. Just make sure no one else does as you’ll be the bad guy for not telling him.

Just because folks are elderly doesn’t mean they can’t handle grief. Their generation was strong plus they’d seen their parents die and some have weathered their spouses pass away. They are tougher than you think.

I hope this works out with the best outcome for him and you. It’s so difficult keeping a balance and not upsetting the Apple cart. But I knew my mom would have preferred to know so she could pray for her sister.
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Reply to Shane1124
disgustedtoo Sep 11, 2020
"Just because folks are elderly doesn’t mean they can’t handle grief. Their generation was strong plus they’d seen their parents die and some have weathered their spouses pass away. They are tougher than you think."

If we were only talking about an elder, I don't think anyone would be suggesting not to tell him. As long as cognitive abilities are mostly intact, then go for it, no matter what the topic is.

When we get into memory issues, it becomes a decision that has to be based on their ability to retain and process new information. In the earlier stages, it might sink in, they might remember, at least for a while. It isn't about how "tough" they might be, it's about retention and causing grief/pain over and over unnecessarily.)

My mother's dementia wasn't really very bad, just enough to need to be in a safe place, but otherwise she could still do a lot of self care, etc. However her memory was like a sieve - she could repeat the same statements, questions, etc over and over in a matter of minutes. Telling her something that might cause grief, but wouldn't be retained, might be attempted once, at that stage. IF she didn't retain it, I would see no point in repeating the bad news. She's beyond that point now. She has asked about her mother (gone 40+ years ago), father (when I was about 10), a sister (unsure how long ago she passed, but definitely several years, maybe as much as 10 years ago.) That discussion about her sister I can peg easily to be about 40 years ago as well, so to tell her now that her sister is dead would be cruel.

Again, it wouldn't be about toughness, but rather how much pain and grief I would subject her to, again and again and again. There's no need to put anyone through that multiple times, tough or not.
When my mother had Alzheimer's, she was advanced and had very little cognizant memory. So when two of her 5 children passed away (my siblings), we, in concert with her physician suggested we not tell her, as it would not add anything to her life/memory and perhaps be a negative memory (if any).

Good luck, Stay well,

Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Bearly

I wouldn't tell him.
If he has memory issues, he isn't going to remember anyway and it will just make him feel unnecessary pain.
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Reply to bevthegreat

This is a hard situation and I feel for you. Naturally you would want to visit and stay with your dad after delivering such sad news and you aren’t able to.
However as you don’t indicate that your dad has dementia I am thinking that he would appreciate being treated as an adult. That comes with joys and sorrows and a lot of boredom at this time in his life.
I also think if he has other family or friends that call and speak with him that they may need him to share this loss with. It gives him an opportunity to live past experiences with this special friend he has known so long whether it’s on the phone or through cards and letters or photos of his friend.
A warm hug would be nice but not possible. Life goes on.

Yesterday was September 3. It was a childhood friends birthday. She died over twenty years ago and I spent a good portion of my evening looking at photos of her and her now grown children and marveling over the life she lived. I haven't thought of her in a long time.
A death can be a bittersweet time. Often a time of “laughter through tears” when we remember a person who meant a lot in our lives.
Calling others and saying “don’t tell dad” is like burying him before he’s gone ... to me.

You know your dad best.
I am only saying what I would do and have done with my elders.
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Reply to 97yroldmom

Depending on how much he understands and RETAINS should be the determining factor in the decision to tell him or not.
If you decide not to tell him please make sure that all the other family members that might visit or talk to him are aware that is has not been told and that you wish to keep it that way.
How often does your dad either talk about or to his BIL? If they have not spoken in a long time, or if he has not mentioned him this may be a non issue.
If he does ask about him just say "Bob" is not feeling well right now, he will call when he feels better.
I would let the staff know so if somehow your dad finds out they can be on the look out for any changes in your dad.
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Reply to Grandma1954

Dad has memory issues? How advanced are his memory issues? How long is he able to retain information? Can he understand and reason with every day things?

My mom did not remember her parents (65 and 10 years ago), a sister (70 years ago) or my dad (50 years ago) passing. A couple times when she would want to call them I was truthful with her. Not anymore. Each time was like it was new information. The last time I tried to straighten her out (I am embarrassed to say I didn't know better) she got vert angry asking why nobody told her.

Do not tell him at all if he cannot process the information. If he can telling him onc is enough. Services? Of course not. If he asks about it simply tell him they will be later.
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Reply to gladimhere
gladimhere Sep 6, 2020
Covid makes it difficult. No visits, etc. No need to say anything about it now. Just wait, until later if at all!
Sorry for your loss. Don’t tell him. Since he has memory loss, he probably won’t understand. Also it might send him in a spiral and worsen his condition. When I was a toddler my uncle (my dad’s brother) passed away and my parents decided not to tell my grandmother because it would have killed her off instantly.
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Reply to Zsb415

I so agree with Grandma1954. Your decision should be based upon the CURRENT connection of your Dad and the BIL. Does he ask after him often; or does he just mention him ongoing in reminiscing about the past? If it comes to his someday saying "Why don't I HEAR from Earl?" you can tell him of the passing, and tell him that you hadn't wished to bring it up in the middle of all the chaos dealing with Covid-19, that there was no way he could have traveled to nor attended a service, and that you thought to spare him, whether or not it was a good decision. I would be guided by how good your Dad's mentation is. If it is good, then he recognizes now more than ever that we do lose people, and while he may be sad (it is WORTH being sad) he cannot attend services in any case. You will know I think which way to go, and I don't see it as a "right way" or a "wrong way". I always believe that for the most part, no matter their condition, people have the dignity and right to our honesty, but there are times that "not going there" is sparing.
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Reply to AlvaDeer

Depending on your State, I doubt there will be funeral as such. May just be immediate family at graveside.

It will all depend on how far his Dementia has progressed. I may tell him once. If he wants to go to the funeral, tell him it was private. Little white lies are better sometimes.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to JoAnn29
InFamilyService Sep 8, 2020
My dad passed in June and in Florida we were only able to have 20 people attend.
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