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March 29 at 12:00 AM
DEAR AMY: My mother passed away recently, and my sisters and I are planning her “celebration of life” gathering.Mom was a loving and generous woman with seven siblings. The one surviving sister hadn’t spoken to Mom in over 20 years. She says mean, destructive things to all her nieces and nephews and their children. She has caused so much hurt that I have been asked to send her a note telling her not to attend.What should I say? “You haven’t spoken to my mother in over 20 years — not to mention your malicious, judgmental ways. So why would you want to come to her funeral?”Please help me find the words. — Hurting Daughter

DEAR HURTING: I am so sorry for your loss. This extra family challenge doesn’t make things easier. The way you’ve worded your note to your aunt, however, frames it as a (rhetorical) question. Questions, of course, beg to be answered. Because you don’t want an answer, you shouldn’t ask.

You can choose not to inform your aunt of the memorial service and hope she doesn’t find out about it. Or if she already knows, you can contact her to say, “We are mourning our mother’s death. Because of the estrangement between the two of you and your often expressed negative feelings toward the rest of the family, we think it would be best if you didn’t attend the service.”

Prepare yourself as well as you can that she might see this as a challenge. If she shows up, accept it. But if she gets out of hand, ask a friend, spouse or the funeral director to firmly and politely escort her to her car.