My Partner Just Passed Away. Now, His Family Is Keeping The Ashes From Our Daughter

by Rebecca Endicott
Becca is a writer and aspirational dog owner living in NYC.

Life is a journey. No matter who you are, you will find your share of joy and challenges along the path.

When you hit a rough patch, the best thing you can do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and see if anyone is available to lend a helping hand.

That’s why we started the weekly Ask Becca advice column, to help provide another perspective when things get tough!

Every week, I go through our reader submissions and select four thoughtful questions that touch on major dilemmas lots of people must work through.

If you have a question of your own, feel free to send it my way by emailing!

Last week, we discussed a number of tricky topics, including mental health, paying the bills, raising a toddler, and what to do if you suspect someone of trying to hurt your children.

This week, we’ll take on a troubled marriage, distant grandchildren, an unpleasant stepfather, and the loss of a loved one.

Scroll through below for my very best advice!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Falling Out Of Love

<u>Falling Out Of Love</u>
Laura Caseley for LittleThings


I just had my 40th wedding anniversary. We separated five years ago but kept friendly, talked almost daily and had lunches at least once or twice a week, but no sex since 2008.

Now, he has decided he wants to be a hermit and cut off all communication with me.

I have asked for a divorce in the past, but I can’t get him to agree to it. It would be easy, since we do not own anything together.

He is verbally abusive and uses drugs, which is why I no longer live with him.

I am just tired of him cutting all communication off and saying that he will only talk to his therapist. He has been going to therapy for over 10 years and it seems like he is just getting more angry.

He is 70 years old and dreams of living in a VW and driving along the coast, then stopping when he gets tired and walking on the beach.

Now, out of 40 years of marriage, he did not work more than seven. I was lucky to have had a great job that supported us. I guess that was my mistake.

I should have run for the hills. But I was young,”in love,” and stupid.

I feel that I have wasted 40 years of my life that I will never get back.

I feel like just selling everything and just disappearing, change my name and never look back. The problem is, I don’t know where I would go.

Luckily, I am financially stable and only owe on my house and car. No debts.

Thank you for listening.

Lost Her Life

Dear Lost,

Nobody gets through life without a few regrets, but I don’t think that a 40-year marriage should be one of yours.

A marriage that lasts decades is a huge accomplishment, even if it ultimately isn’t the right thing for you or for your husband.

It might be easy to fantasize about all the other paths your life might have taken, but the grass really does look greener from the other side.

The life you led for the past 40 years may not have been perfect, but it was yours!

The next step you take? That’s yours, too.

To me, it sounds like you have reached a very clear crossroads in your life. Your marriage is over; it’s just a matter of making your husband see the big picture.

Sit him down and try to spell out the need to make the divorce final. You both want to move on with your lives. If he wants that RV-driving, beach-touring future, he needs to go out and get it — without you there as a safety blanket or a crutch.

If he won’t agree to the divorce, you may have to file a contested divorce petition in court. Check your state laws to learn what the policy is for your region. He can’t force you to stay married if you want to end things.

Since the two of you are estranged, I would certainly encourage you to move forward with the divorce and get clear of him. Whether you choose to maintain a friendship after that is up to you.

Once your divorce is complete, you have perhaps the biggest question of all to answer: You need to decide what you want from the future.

You talk about selling everything and changing your name. I think that switching identities is probably a bit extreme — but maybe a more footloose lifestyle is exactly what you need!

It sounds like you’re in a very stable place in your life and can afford to have some fun for once.

Maybe you should consider downsizing your stuff and focusing on the experiences you crave. Start by buying a ticket to a place you’ve always wanted to visit!

Perhaps the Taj Mahal in India, or the Eiffel Tower in France? It doesn’t matter how far away it is, just get on a plane and go!

If travel agrees with you, consider making it a habit. You can swap your house for a small condo and make that your base as you explore the world!

And if travel isn’t your thing, that’s OK. You have the rest of your life to figure out which experiences will make you happy.

It’s OK to have regrets about the last few decades. What matters now is that you don’t have regrets about the next few!

It’s a great big world out there. Enjoy it!


Estranged Grandparents

<u>Estranged Grandparents</u>
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Good morning!

I’m praying for some guidance in this oh-so terrible situation.

My husband has a 30-year-old son who is married to his second wife. They married in 2008 and have two children.

My husband and his son have always been very close. But since he has married, he has basically cut us off from himself and the grandchildren.

Nothing significant has happened to cause this situation, either. This includes the whole family, too.

It’s not just my husband he’s ignoring, but also his mom and his grandparents. He won’t answer the phone and refuses to talk to us.

We tried to go see one grandson on Grandparents Day, but was told we had better not to avoid a restraining order!

I cannot imagine being estranged from my children or grandchildren, so I am at a loss!

We have sat back for the past three years hoping he will change his mind, to no avail.

Any advice? We are completely saddened by this.


Dear Anon,

I’m so sorry to hear that you’re cut off from your grandkids; that’s a tough experience for any grandparent.

Still, I can’t help but feel I’m not seeing the whole picture here.

You write that your husband’s son cut off communication after he got married in 2008. That’s nearly 10 years ago now.

Nearly a decade of estrangement seems to hint that there is a big-picture issue under the surface, despite your note that “nothing significant happened” to launch this cold war.

You and your husband were threatened with a restraining order, so this is clearly a very tense situation.

I think if you look back through the family history, you will find that there is a root cause somewhere for all of this bitterness.

It is very possible that there is conflict between your husband and his son that the two of them aren’t willing to talk about.

Ultimately, I think there’s only one way to soften the relationship and give you the opportunity to see your grandkids: You and your husband need to take the high road.

Start by trying to figure out what caused the friction in the first place, then have your husband apologize (even if he’s right), or the whole argument is ancient history.

Sometimes, you just have to be the bigger person and say sorry (even if you aren’t sure what you’re apologizing for).

Next, try reaching out with kindness. Send thoughtful cards, call every Sunday, “just to say hi!” Do whatever it takes to help thaw the ice.

Eventually, the kids’ parents should mellow out and let you back into their lives, bit by bit. It’s not fair, but sometimes that’s the only way forward.

Unfortunately, even if you’re sweet as sugar, there’s no guarantee. They may not relax, and you can’t force them to let you see the kids.

All you can do is find the underlying wound, whatever it is, and try to heal it to best of your ability.

Good luck, Grandma!


Slimy Stepdad

<u>Slimy Stepdad</u>
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

My stepdad has been in my life for about 17 years. He isn’t a very good guy.

He has three different kids with three different women. Besides that, he can’t hold a job for very long.

On top of that, he is abusive mentally, emotionally, and physically to my mom — and mentally and emotionally abusive to me.

When there is any money that comes into the home, it’s his — even though his name is not on the check or account.

I have tried to save up money to leave or get somewhere to live, but he takes my money.

Then, when he doesn’t work, he spends money on drugs and alcohol, taking them all at the same time.

When he does that, he becomes more aggressive to me and my mom.

Is there anything I can do to make it stop, or should I try to get him away?


Stressed Out

Dear Stressed,

I’m very sorry to hear that you’re stuck in such a scary and tense situation.

It can be incredibly painful to watch someone you love, like your mom, choose to stay with an abusive partner. She might be scared to leave him, or unable to get out of his grip. However, she isn’t out of options, because she has you.

First and foremost, you should talk to your mom about your stepfather’s behavior.

If he is hurting her physically or emotionally, she needs to know that you see his behavior, and that she’s not all alone with this terror. You see her, and you support her.

She also needs to know that she has options if she needs to leave. Almost every city and region in the country has domestic-abuse organizations that help women get away from their abusers. Track down your local organization, and make sure she knows that there’s a way out.

However, you need to be prepared for the possibility that your mom won’t leave, at least not right now.

Sometimes, it falls upon the child to act like the parent. You can’t force her to do anything, but you can do your best to redirect her.

In the meantime, I encourage you to report him to the police. Report his pattern of abuse, so that it’s on record at the station.

Follow that up by reporting all of his misdeeds from now on. If he steals money, report him. If he hurts your mom, report him. If he uses illegal drugs, report him.

Make sure that the police have a case and a record against him. Eventually, the jaws of justice will close down on him.

Take care of your mom, and try with all your might to get a domestic-violence organization involved. They are trained to get women out of bad situations as safely as possible.

With love and support,


Meddling In My Mourning

<u>Meddling In My Mourning</u>
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Dear Becca,

I just lost my boyfriend of almost five years to what I believe was an overdose of his pills.

Before this happened, we had some problems, but we got through them.

My family hated him, and now it’s like all they want to do is tell me what I should be doing.

They say that in a way they’re happy, because now I can, in their eyes, “get away.”

It’s awful that they are trying to make me get over it so fast, like my feelings don’t matter and I should be over it and moved on by now.

It’s also difficult that my late boyfriend’s family now wants to act like they care, but have not really been around the past few years.

His uncle gets to say what happens to him because we were not married at the time of death.

I asked him what he is doing with the ashes, and he said, “I don’t know. I did pay for everything, so I might just keep them.”

I feel that my boyfriend’s ashes should go to me and to our daughter.

I am so lost and need advice. Please help if you can.



Dear Heartbroken,

I am so very sorry for your loss; losing your partner is devastating under any circumstances.

We live at a moment in history when overdose deaths are an epidemic. Opioid deaths from substances like oxycodone, heroin, and fentanyl reached their all-time high in 2015.

You don’t specify which pills your boyfriend was taking, but if they were prescription opioids, the odds were against him from the beginning.

It’s easy to look at the opioid epidemic and blame it on addicts with a lack of control. Perhaps that’s how your family looked at your boyfriend.

It’s important that you know that addiction is not a matter of willpower.

Addiction is a disease, and this particular outbreak started in the 1990s and 2000s, when ordinary doctors overprescribed opioids for pain at alarming rates. Hundreds of thousands got hooked on the pills, and the disease spread.

Your family might not understand the complicated backstory behind the addiction epidemic. That could be why they seem so unsympathetic right now, in your time of need.

They may never really understand, but you may be able to find a listening ear at a local free clinic or at a support group for people who lost loved ones to opioids.

I agree that your mourning process might be easier if you and your daughter can be more involved in laying your boyfriend to rest.

Your boyfriend’s uncle is probably a reasonable man, even if he grew apart from his nephew.

Maybe invite him over for a meal or coffee and explain your case to him. Tell him that you would like your daughter to have her father’s ashes to remember him by.

You could also propose dividing his ashes. That way, a piece of him could stay with his parents and uncle, and another piece of him could go to his daughter.

You may not have been married, but this man was your partner and the father of your child. I think his family will understand why you want to save his ashes for your little girl.

Warm wishes and love during this difficult time,


Laura Caseley for LittleThings

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