Tell Me About It: Dad is giving my inheritance to charity

It is not really about the money, but a gesture of care from him would have been nice

PROBLEM: I’m from a family who are not very well off and never have been. There was always a bit of struggle when we were younger. We often never had enough, and that was difficult, but we all as adults managed to have good jobs and make do for ourselves.

My parents are elderly and I’ve never expected anything from them. They have never given me any financial help nor have I asked for any. As a person from a big family, you never expected any money, really.

My parents recently moved into sheltered housing and they have sold their place. It was in their will that their money was to be divided between everyone; I thought that was really lovely.

But I found out recently that my dad is going to give the money to charity; my mum has dementia so she is unable to make any decisions for herself. In the past, he has given lots of money to bogus charities.

It is not really about the money, but it would have been nice to have a gesture of care from him to his children. I went through a few really difficult financial years recently and never once did he offer to help out – give me any money to come home, take me out to lunch or anything – so a small gesture would have been welcome.

During that time I’ve bought him presents, making sure that I go home regularly and be the dutiful daughter, so it is quite hurtful not to have any acknowledgment.

I’m feeling very hurt but I don’t want to come across as a begrudging child who is just looking for money. I’ve been very independent.

I don’t know whether to say something or not; some of my siblings are upset and some don’t mind. While I know it is their money, it’s more about being hurt by something that would have been a nice gesture of care that has never come before.

ADVICE: Your yearning for love is a compound of loss and disappointment and it displays the pain of an unexpressed hope. Your wish for your father to demonstrate his love and care for you has gone unacknowledged for years and it seems that you have struggled to cope with the injustice of it.

It sounds as though you feel punished in some way and perhaps it is as important to express this as much as it is to express your unspoken love and loss.

However, you suggest that there is little hope for your father to come to a realisation of his children’s needs on his own and without your mother’s influence this hope may be slipping away.

Your letter shows that you are reaching for the gift of acknowledgement ambivalently and perhaps you already know that this is not something that you will receive.

To possess the money is not the same as possessing a father’s love and you acknowledge that it is not a sum of money that would increase security. It seems that even when you were in financial difficulty, your father was unable to see your distress and instead gave money away to “bogus charities” so you may be setting yourself up for further emotional pain by bringing up this subject with him now.

Even if he were to change his will and you were to receive some inheritance, I wonder would this solve the question of your relationship? You are mourning not just the loss of parents but also the loss of the possibility of mending those relationships.

Maybe it is now time to learn to let go: let go of the resentment, the aspiration for resolution and begin to embrace the coming end of life of your parents.

The loss has begun prior to the end of your father’s life and this is a very tough experience. While the pain feels singular and unique, it is something that all of mankind share in some manner; that of loss of parents, complicated grief and unresolved relationships.

Some of your siblings seem to be managing this better than others. What is the basis for their detachment? Could you talk to them and discover how they have managed to become free of need and resentment? This is no easy task as you do not want to shut off care and love for a father but it would be desirable to stop suffering as you seem to be doing continuously.

Can you accept that your father is a man who has not fully understood the responsibilities or joys of parenting? He has missed out on the connections that have been offered over and over again but this is mostly his loss. You have been dutiful, loving and giving to a father who was unable to fully reciprocate.