AIBU to think MIL's grief is a step too far?(105 Posts)
Bit of a long one but please bear with!
2.5 years ago my MIL left FIL for another man. It turns out she had been having an affair with him for about 6 months (that we know of, I suspect it was longer).
Other man was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years before she left FIL for him. Despite knowing that he had less that 18 months left, she moved out of the family home and set up on her own.
They split the week by living together partly at hers and partly at his home.
They were engaged less that a month after she left FIL.
I know I'm going to sound awful here but when he died she sort of went a bit OTT and grieved somewhat unaturally.
She postponed the funeral so that she could "spend more time with him" and visited the Chapel of Rest everyday for up to 6 hours at a time. This was at the height of summer and used to joke about when the staff told her they must "put him back in the freezer before he started to defrost".....
She moved all of his belongings from his house over to her small flat and hung up all his clothes in her wardrobe. She has refused to get rid of anything and now her flat is full of boxes( literally floor to ceiling). You can't sit on her sofa as it's got all of his books/ newspapers etc on it. She sits on a dining chair in the middle of the room infront of the TV as that's the only place that's free from the junk.
She has printed off photos of his body from after he died in hospital and has got them plastered all over the walls.
His son has asked for his ashes to be buried but she has denied him having any say in what happens to them. They are currently sitting on her bedside table as she "doesn't like to sleep alone".
She has now had part of his ashes made into earrings.
I know everyone grieves differently and that they should have the right to act/feel/do what they see fit but I feel like after 10 months it is not getting better and that she is wallowing in it.
She laughs about constantly turning up late for work and missing staff meetings because she struggles to leave the house in the mornings. I'm seriously concerned that she will start to jeopardise her job.
She also demands to meet us every weekend-sometimes twice. And then cries/strops if we say we are busy as she doesn't like to be alone.
DH agrees that her grief is unnatural but just thinks we should leave her to it. MIL and I have had a somewhat stressed relationship as of late but I am getting seriously concerned that she is on a downward spiral of self destruction.
Any advise would be highly appreciated!!
She sounds like she was very much in love with him and they left it to late to get together.
She isn't hurting anyone. Let her be
Well, the word 'unnatural' is unhelpful but she could certainly do with bereavement counselling as she seems in a great deal of pain.
It would be nice if her son got some say over his dad's remains.
I think she knows if she accepts this guys death she has Nothing left in her life. It's awful she won't give the ashes to his son.
Did she actually marry him because I doubt she is entitled to keep the ashes or any of his stuff if they weren't. She needs therapy and yes, I'm surprised she hasn't already jeopardised her job
It does not sound a straight forward grief and she would benefit from bereavement counselling. I would advise her to seek this and help her to find out where she could get it from.
I can only think your poor poor MIL, my heart ached reading your post.
She knew this man was dying and there was no possibility of a long term relationship with him - and yet she still gave up the life she had for that short time together.
Everybody grieves differently and there isn't a set timescale as to when people start to expand their lives away from the person who died, and nothing to say that some people ever will.
When you meet with her at the weekends is there any way that you can gently start to expand her social circle? Bringing other people into the mix or doing things that involve meeting new people. Not all the time or every time, but occasionally.
I don't think that you sound awful at all. I do think that your MiL is in trouble.
Whilst no-one can say how grief "should" be and everyone grieves differently, this sounds like more than that. She sounds very depressed and in need of help. She may also be grieving for the loss of her marriage, indirectly.
Some of the things that you have said are worrying. She will need the support of her family. Could she be persuaded to see a GP or a grief counsellor?
One thing I couldn't work out was quite how long her partner had been dead, I think about 18 months? Is that right?
This is clearly beyond your expertise and patience. Suggest proper grief counselling to her? I think Cruze offer it.
There's no right to grieve the loss of a spouse, and sadly lives often fall apart over it.
Loving support and kind distractions can help a lot, but it may be that she's not getting much of this because their relationship came out of an affair. But if you want to offer support (your choice - some DC would entirely side with their DF/FIL over the affair and feel unable to give support) then it can't be 'this is unnatural' (ugh). It's actually entirely natural.
Poor woman. Shes clearly besotted with the man and utterly devastated.
It sounds like she could be having a mental breakdown to me. We all grieve differently, but this has gone to levels that I personally feel is abnormal... the hoarding, plastering pics of his dead body all over the wall, missing work and meetings.
I think she should see a grief counsellor/GP as she doesn't seem to be coping with it very well.
I lost sympathy for her when you said she cut his son out any say 9n wjat happrned to his ashes.
Agree with pp that unless she was his wife or his will expressly stated it, she has less right than his dc to make these decisions.
I would stop the weekend visits tbh - it isn't fair to take over your life. Must be hard for your dh - mil needs to remember that she left your dh's dad for this man. Her grief should not be made into your dh's problem.
The hoarding is very indicative of a mental illness which needs to be properly diagnosed and treated.
I do feel sorry for the partner's son - he should have a say over the ashes.
Abnormal now, on top of unnatural? Nothing I read in the OP sounds unnatural or abnormal.
Shes actually doing well to be working at this stage at all.
MIL is struggling and needs help but I don't know how you can talk her round into getting counselling.
I know this wasn't the main thrust of your thread but how is your FIL doing? Do you see him much?
I agree with somer - there's no right way to grieve. Whatever you think of her actions, she gave up her life with FIL to be with this man and must now feel utterly alone. I'd steer her as much as possible towards grief counselling.
As to your interactions - don't visit her at hers if the place is overwhelming, but do invite her out. If she's trying to guilt you into meeting more often than you want to/can, then a firm, "MIL, we have other plans on that day, we will see you next Saturday" is needed IMO.
She sounds seriously unwell. Will she see a councillor? If she won't there isn't much you can do - but you don't have to cave into her demands to see her all the time - you can show you care in other ways.
* His son has asked for his ashes to be buried but she has denied him having any say in what happens to them. They are currently sitting on her bedside table as she "doesn't like to sleep alone"*
I am afraid that whilst I emphasise I have a real dislike for step parents that pull this shit. what a selfish woman, she would lose me for that
Somerville Most people have to work far sooner after a partner has died.
Unnatural grief is a counselling term, it simply means grief that is complicated in some way. There are lots of elements that make your MILs far more complicated than a partner's death usually is.
Somerville not printing out photos of the dead body to put on the wall? That's unusual to say the least. That is a person who needs counselling.
I don't know that there is a natural way to grieve. Before I had suffered true loss I knew some people who were behaving in a similar way to your MIL and I did find it unusual.
A woman had died of cancer and afterwards the door to her room had just been closed and her husband took down all photos of her from the house. She was young and they had children but it was as if he just closed the door on it. There was even a handbag with an open pack of cigarettes in it in the room as if she was still using it.
A woman who just hoarded her partners things in boxes and the house was falling into disrepair.
And a friend of my nans who took her husband's suit to the dry cleaner every month even though he'd been dead for many many years.
When I lost my nan the absolute gut punching sorrow that would randomly come over me was something that I really wasn't prepared for and it made me understand a little how and why people behave the way that they do.
If you are concerned about her health, mental or physical then of course you are not being unreasonable to worry.
But sometimes people just have to find a way to deal with what has happened. As for the boxes, going through a deceased loved ones things is very difficult and emotional and she will probably need a lot of support to do it if and when she chooses to.
I'm sorry you are all going through this and I hope in time things get better for you all x
Yanbu. I think she needs urgent professional help. I know people grieve differently but she really could do with speaking to someone. No doubt you'll be met with a wall of "I'm fine" or hostility if you dare suggest this to her.
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