Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman who's fallen out with her niece and another worried about her fiance's stag do.


My niece is my only living relative and all through lockdown, she has been visiting me regularly with her husband. We've always been careful and met outside or in my garden, then, as the weather worsened, they've still come and we've talked through the window.

Somehow on her last visit, we got talking about death and she asked me out of the blue what sort of funeral I wanted. I was so shocked, I burst into tears and accused her of wanting to get rid of me. She tried to tell me that wasn't what she meant, but I was very upset and soon afterwards they left. Since then I haven't spoken to her. I am 71 but very fit and healthy and have no intention of dying for quite a while.

I miss her and would like to see her, but I am so upset by what she said. I don't know how we are ever going to get over it.

M. F.


People have very different attitudes to death. For some, it is something to be feared, for others it is another step on a path that must be taken. Perhaps your niece has no anxiety at all about death and thought you felt the same way. Although of course, people can still be fearful and anxious about death, but seek to have conversations around it.

For me, it's something I've always talked about with my family - my children have known since they were very little how I'd like my funeral to be. I don't know how young your niece is, but this may be a part of it. You say that it came 'out of the blue' but you were already talking about death. Could you have, perhaps, overreacted a little? Once you were on the subject of death, talking about funeral arrangements isn't really a big step further.

You say your niece is your only living relative, so this is something she does, at some point, need to know about.

Presumably she cares a great deal for you - which is clear through all the effort she's made in keeping up the visits - so she would want to know that you were being buried in accordance with your wishes. Not knowing what these wishes are can be quite stressful on the person left behind - and again, her being your only living relative suggests she has had to face bereavement in her life already.

You feel hurt and confused by what was said, but I expect your niece may feel upset too. She probably thought she was acting for the best and didn't mean to upset you, and now doesn't know how to make things right again. Getting over any disagreement always requires someone to act, so why not let that be you? Give your niece a call and say that perhaps you were a bit over-sensitive but that you would like to see her and her husband again.

I do suggest though that this is something you might like to discuss with your solicitor. If you've made a will you can record what you want to happen after your death as a part of it. If you haven't, then I would actively encourage you to do so. Dying without having made one could mean leaving significant financial problems for the people you care about to resolve. Telling someone what you want to happen isn't enough. If you don't leave a will, your estate is shared out in a standard way defined by law - which might not be what you would have wanted.

Many charities offer a free will-writing service in conjunction with various solicitors; they are hoping that, in return, you'll make a donation or leave them something.

There is no obligation to do so but if a charity is paying for your will, it will cost them money, so do please seriously consider leaving them something. Free Wills Month ( happens each year in October and March. Obviously, you've just missed one but do think about it now, ready for next year.

Meanwhile, please do make peace with your niece - you say you have no intention of dying for quite a while - but what if something happened to her? None of us know when our time is up!


My fiance and I had to cancel our May wedding this year and we've postponed it until spring 2021 (hopefully, all being well in the world again). I'm really looking forward to it - but I am getting more and more upset about the plans I'm hearing from my fiance's brother about for his stag night.

Don't get me wrong, I really love my fiance; it's just what's being planned that's worrying me. His brother has apparently arranged for a stripper and all sorts of other unpleasant entertainment. My fiance and his brother are very different and while he says he'd really prefer something quieter, he says he feels he has to go along with it, otherwise everyone will be disappointed.

The thought of it makes me feel quite ill and there have been times when I've felt like cancelling the wedding because of it. I know some people will think I'm a prude because it seems this is perfectly acceptable practice to do this sort of thing on a stag night, but I can't help it. How can I make my fiance realise that I am serious about this?

W. M.


Have you talked to your fiance frankly about your feelings? From what you say, he is finding the pressure from his brother difficult, and if you were to back him up and protest the arrangements, it might help.

Some men seem to regard this 'last night of freedom' as licence to do all kinds of tacky things - his brother clearly falls into this camp. Apparently, though, your fiance doesn't, but he doesn't feel as strongly about it as you do.

Whilst some women can just shrug it off as harmless - others, like you - are upset by it. Has he explained to his brother how much it is worrying you? Perhaps, if he were to do so, his brother would understand how much this is upsetting you and at least tone down the planned 'entertainment'.

To be honest, although this is supposed to be HIS stag-do, it sounds as if his brother is planning it more for his own fun, than that of your fiance. If your fiance were to be more assertive, he might manage to have the kind of stag-do he'd actually enjoy, rather than having something he feels he has to go along with.

The idea of being dragged into strip parlours, attached naked to streetlamps or ending up in police custody is far from what most of my male friends would enjoy, so I'd encourage him to speak up.

If you trust your fiance, and it sounds like you do, that's the bottom line here. If his brother doesn't listen to him and he is dragged along by his drunken mates to a strip club, then try not to be too hard on him. He may be under a lot of pressure from his mates to have a session like this, and he could find it easier just to go along with things for the sake of peace. I'd talk to his brother yourself though, so he knows what you'll think of him and how it might affect your relationship with him in the future!


People think I'm lucky to have a loving family, an interesting career, a fine home and a good figure.

What they don't know, though, is that I stay thin by making myself sick after every meal. I've been doing this for three years now and have managed to lose a lot of weight.

I am terrified of getting fat again and I'd like to lose a bit more still. When my make-up is off, I know I look pasty and that there are big shadows around my eyes. It's the only way I can keep my weight down but when I confided in a friend about it, she suggested it might be dangerous in the long term.

M. D.


It sounds like you've developed a real fear of putting on weight and have adopted an unrealistic target weight for yourself. I suspect you know that what you're doing can't be healthy, otherwise you wouldn't be writing to me.

Extreme weight loss and/or forced vomiting can cause hormonal disturbances and affect a person's health in a great many ways, so I think you and your friend are right to be concerned. But your weight is only part of the issue - as eating disorders can, and do, affect people of all weight ranges, and there's often more to it than just your weight. Making yourself sick after every meal is a clear sign of bulimia, an eating disorder, and it's important to seek appropriate support.

Please contact Beat - the eating disorders charity ( This organisation can provide information and advice about the condition and the treatments available. I would also urge you to contact your GP. Treating eating disorders isn't just about addressing the behaviour in question - such as the vomiting - it's also important to ensure you get the appropriate psychological support you may need both now and in the future.

Stopping this pattern might seem really hard right now - but it is possible to recover from and overcome eating disorders. Please do listen to your friend and seek support.


Hello Fiona, I wonder if you can help me. My husband beats his dogs. Can I discuss this with my GP?

C. S.


What do you feel you could achieve by talking to your doctor? If you want to protect the dogs, then I would suggest you contact the RSPCA ( Cruelty to animals is illegal and their contact number is there to report offences against animals, and you can speak to them in confidence.

If you think your husband is suffering from a mental illness of some kind, which is causing him to mistreat his dogs, then yes, perhaps you could speak to your GP too. I would be very cautious though - if this is how he treats animals, it shows a lot about his character. I fear it might be only a matter of time before he goes from beating the dogs to beating you. I don't know how long you've been married to this man for, but safety should be your first consideration. Personally, I would get out of there and not let him know where I was going! Please make sure you are safe, whatever you decide to do.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.