How Do I Deal with this Anger

Question: Dear Luise: My father died just two weeks ago, my mother- in- law never sent a card, a phone message to my mother, nor did she send flowers to the funeral, or money to St. Vincent Hospice, or phone me and console me after my father passed. I never heard from her until the funeral. One year ago, her husband died, and her son and I did everything to help her out. I even went with her when buying the flowers for the casket, she remarked on this fake flower arrangement in the store/ I decided to make that from our family so she would always have it. I had it delivered that very day. How do I deal with this anger I feel towards her. My friends and family say, forget it, she is the one with the problem. Any advice? J.

Answer: Dear J.: It is easy to get stuck in what you see as the right thing to do and to feel neglected when others don’t do the same. To you it seems natural and in the situation you have described, you have even demonstrated how to be supportive to your MIL when she faced a similar situation.

The trouble is we can’t place our expectations on others with any assurance that they will perform. The lady is the way she is, for whatever reason. Wanting her to be different is an exercise in futility.

Losing a parent can be a devastating loss. You may be particularly vulnerable, as well as critical, at this time. Anger is often part of the grieving process and you have the perfect place to focus it. Your friends and family are right…her insensitivity is all about her, not you…just as your anger is all about you, not her.

If you can let go of your indignation, you may be better able to get in touch with your grief instead of externalizing it. She was wrong. There is absolutely no doubt about that but her behavior is not really the issue. Loss is the issue and it’s terrible. I think you would be wise not to complicate it further.

I live in a large retirement center and have, over the last decade, watched countless neighbors lose their spouses. I can’t imagine it. I just can’t. My husband is 98 years old and so the odds are that I will have to face the same thing. It amazes me that, one by one, they all recover and go on. I will too, and so will you. Blessings, Luise

One Response to How Do I Deal with this Anger

  1. M. June 26, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    J, I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you are on the road to coming to terms with it as much as you can.

    Just my 2c of course, but could it possibly be that this is still just too hard for your MIL to deal with? I mean, her loss is still very raw to her too, a year is not very long, perhaps she is just worried about herself – and that if she gets too involved in your own grief it may re-ignite hers?

    Perhaps she just feels so helpless following the loss of her husband that she feels unable to help anyone else.

    To be honest the way she completely avoided the situation sounds more like she was finding it too hard to deal with herself than that she was being mean to you. I agree with your family in that it IS her problem, however I don’t feel its one you should be angry at her for.

    Again, this is just my opinion based on what you have said above, but maybe she just is not coping as well as you think, and is still so focused on her own loss that its hard for her to help you with yours as well. No doubt you will find that a year down the line your pain is just as raw and hard to live with, but you just have learned to deal with it a little better.

    Try not to feel anger towards her, instead try to understand that you are both going through pain, and that perhaps you can both understand each other a little better as a result. M.

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