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