Can't cope with Mum's grief

(13 Posts)
MummyDoItUnderTheMistletoe Thu 27-Dec-07 13:54:53

If you're having a happy holiday, please don't read this as I don't want to spoil anyone's Christmas with my moaning but I could really do with some opinions and advice.

If you've seen me on other threads, you might know that my Dad lost his five year battle with cancer at the end of November. He was only in his sixties and my parents had been together since they were teenagers, more than forty years. Obviously, Mum is going to find it hard to cope with life without him and, of course, Christmas was bound to be difficult but we - my siblings and I - are having trouble coping with the way she is grieving. Maybe anyone here who has lost a partner or a parent can tell me if she is behaving normally or not. I am loathe to say she is grieving 'excessively' as who am I to judge the level of her grief but she talks constantly of her life having no meaning without him and how she wants to be with him. She says she wants him to come back and take her with him, that there is nothing in her life any more yet she has four children and eight grandchildren. Don't we mean anything to her?

The irony of it is that, before Dad was ill, they were at each other's throats all the time. Hardly a day went by without a row and they made our childhoods a misery with their constant arguing. We never dared bring friends home in case there was a row. Mum was constantly belittling Dad and putting him down yet to hear her talk now, you'd think they'd had the most perfect relationship in the world. I wonder if part of her display of grief is guilt at how she treated him in the past.

I guess there are two things that bother me particularly. One is that she does not acknowledge our grief. We have lost our father, and he was always a brilliant Dad to us, yet we're not allowed to talk about our feelings as, in her eyes, we can't possibly be grieving anywhere near as much as she is. That hurts because, as a mother, I can't imagine not wanting to comfort my children, no matter how grown up they got and how much I was grieving myself. The other thing that bother me a lot is that she keeps saying they 'only' had forty years together and their time together was cut short. He was only 63 so that is a fair point but I really wish she wouldn't say it to me. Regular MNetters might know that my DH has the same cancer Dad has just died of and life expectancy is usually less than five years, often only a year or two. We'll be lucky if we reach 14 years together, let alone 40. At least Dad got to see his children grow up, marry and have children of their own. Unless they come up with a miracle cure, my DH won't see any of that. There are other brave, brave ladies on here who have lost their partners or face losing them to illness and any of use would give anything to have as long as 40 years.

I guess in terms of her grief, she has to grieve in her own time and her own way and we must respect it, even though it is upsetting that she seems oblivious to our feelings. That part I can accept and deal with. My big question is should I ask her not to talk to me about 'only' having 40 years together or would that be unkind? I don't want to hurt her feelings in any way and I want her to feel free to talk about Dad and her feelings but the conversation I had with her yesterday upset me so much. We're doing our best to ignore DH's cancer and have a bloody good Christmas yet every time I speak to her, she reduces me to tears and brings back all the fear for our future that I try so hard to put out of my mind.

Sorry this is so long and miserable and thank you for reading.

OP’s posts: |
katwith3wisemen Thu 27-Dec-07 14:10:22

Grief hits everyone differently doesn't it ?

I lost my FIL suddenly back in April, so this is the first christmas we have had without him being around. Its a really wierd feeling knowing they are not here.

The funny thing is I dont think my MIL is showing enough grief and is taking it all in her stride. They had nearly 50 happy years together, 4 kids and 9 grandchildren so she has a lot to be grateful for and I think she knows that. I respect her for her way of coping as I'm sure you do your mum likwise. However, I do think your mum is being totally insensitive about your DH ( and I'm really sorry to hear about his condition)and if I were in your shoes I know I would have to say something.

Hope you can enjoy the party on New Years Eve. Best wishes.

MummyDoItUnderTheMistletoe Thu 27-Dec-07 14:17:08

It does take everyone differently and I need to remember that. When my grandad died, my grandma never mentioned his name again, ever. Refused to talk about him, even though they'd had a long and happy marriage. Very odd.

Mum has always been a bit of a martyr and drama queen. During Dad's illness, she refused any help from the district nurse or Macmillan nurse but complained constantly about how hard it was nursing him by herself. She is a difficult person to deal with at the best of times.

We live a long way from my Mum so don't see her often so we've been able to have Christmas by ourselves and will have a happy New Year with friends. I do feel very guilty about not going to see her over the holiday but she has my other siblings with her and I really, really couldn't take my DH there and force him to listen to her. Dad's death hit him very hard and it certainly wouldn't do him any good to have to deal with her grief.

OP’s posts: |
hippocampus Thu 27-Dec-07 14:29:37

I'm so sorry about everything you're going through at the moment.

My Dad died 7 years ago, he was 57. Despite the fact that they'd been divorced for a few years my Mum sudddenly began acting as though she had beeen widowed, and was envious of attention given to my sister and I, who had been living with him at the time. It was hard to deal with as I didn't want to hurt her or tell her how to feel, that would have been wrong, but I did have to distance myself from her a little, and find other people outside of our family to talk to. If I ever try to talk to her about him or his death, she will always turn the conversation around to her feelings and is genuinely unaware of her insensitivity.

Sorry for rambling about myself, but I think the only thing to do is accomodate her grief to a certain extent, but find someone else to share your memories and sadness with. Can you arrange to get together with your siblings to do this, or find a friend who will let you vent for a while?

I also think it would help if you could find someone other than you to talk to your mum, the issues are far too upsetting for you to have to carry her problems around.

I hope you can overcome this and enjoy the time you have with your DH

JeremyVile Thu 27-Dec-07 14:33:06

Oh, this is such a difficult and upsetting situation for you.

I'm sorry, I dont have much in the way of advice but is there a chance that you could speak to your siblings and ask them to sort of bear the brunt with your mum - spend more time with her than normal so you csn take a step back and remove yourself just a bit from her, at least for a little while? (hopefully she will find her grief becomes less all-consuming).

Fwiw, you sound so brave and you are obviously trying to be mindful of your mothers pain.

Stay strong x

MummyDoItUnderTheMistletoe Thu 27-Dec-07 14:39:53

Hippo - it actually helped to hear that you had a problem with your mum too.

JV - my brother and one of my sisters, both of whom live near my mum, are already bearing the brunt. They see her every day and have been with her over Christmas. My brother said on Christmas day that he couldn't wait for it to be over and my sister spent half an hour yesterday venting to me about how awful it all was. I feel very, very guilty that I'm not really taking my turn in dealing with her in person. DH thinks I should take a step back and not ring her every day which I have been doing since Dad died but I kind of feel obliged to 'do my bit'.

Having said that, all my siblings are very sympathetic to my situation and there has certainly been no suggestion from anyone that I ought to be doing more. It's just in my own head that I feel guilty. I know Mum is expecting me to stay with her in the New Year or she will come and stay with us and I am dreading it, absolutely dreading it.

I'm just hoping that things will settle down a bit after New Year, though January will bring Dad's birthday and their Wedding Anniversary so there are two more big milestones to get through.

OP’s posts: |
onlyjoking9329 Thu 27-Dec-07 14:50:21

i so wished i had some wise words for you Mummydoit. i guess we all deal with grief differently and dealing with our own grief and someone elses too seems too much for any of us to bear.
don't feel guilty that you didn't do christmas with her she wasn't left on her own. all this stuff must be so difficult to face whilst having to live with the worry with your own DH and still doing all the everyday mummy stuff.
know that i am thinking of you.

hippocampus Thu 27-Dec-07 14:50:44

I know you must feel like you should phone her every day, but if it is wearing you down, reduce to at most every other day and then every 3 days. She can call you if she is desperate to talk to you.

I would insist that she comes to you for new year, I don't know how old your DCs are, but it will probably help her to get caught up in family life, she will see what you are having to cope with at home, and also you won't have to tiptoe round your Mother's grief as you will if you go to her.

Hope things get better for you soon x

MummyDoItUnderTheMistletoe Thu 27-Dec-07 16:46:00

I think I will definitely cut down the phone calls. I haven't called today and won't. Yesterday's phone call was the worst I've had with her and I'm still upset by it. Been on edge all day and have just had a yell at the DSs (who, admittedly, deserved it for the appalling mess they just made). I'm also in a bit of a bad mood (and don't laugh at this!) because I'm annoyed DH has cancelled a night out tomorrow. He was supposed to be going out with some mates and I was sooooo looking forward to a quiet night in by myself. Not to do anything special - just watch my choice of programme and generally chill on my own. DH hardly ever goes out these days and I was really looking forward to a rare treat but it's been cancelled and I'm so disappointed. I guess that's part of the reason I'm feeling so sorry for myself today. I'm sure I'll snap out of it soon.

OP’s posts: |
NotEvenHopingForAWhiteXmas Thu 27-Dec-07 21:29:45

I lost my dad 11 years ago and my mum went to pieces. Even now she guilt trips us saying how lonely she is. She also threw a major wobbly on what would have been their Ruby Wedding, saying how unfair it was.

Reading your OP I would say your mum is suffering hugely from guilt and this is exacerbating her grief. But WRT feeling her loss is worse, mine did this, and she was encouraged to do so by everyone. A friend of mine also went through this when her dad died, with people constantly asking her how her mum was coping but ignoring her own grief.

To my mind my grief was worse because while you can replace your DH you can't replace your father (sorry if this is insensitive, bearing in mind your own situation)

But in answer to your question, I was say that yes she is behaving "normally" for a recently bereaved widow of her age. I don't suppose that will make you feel any better but it might help you to know that others have suffered the same response.

MummyDoItUnderTheMistletoe Fri 28-Dec-07 09:11:05

It does reassure me to know that others have reacted in the same way. My mum is such a difficult person, even in normal circumstances, and always reacts excessively to everything that it's difficult to judge whether her reaction now is normal or 'typical mum'. I guess I can handle it better if I know it's normal.

It hadn't occurred to me before but you're absolutely right. Everyone does ask me how mum is coping and how she is doing but no-one asks how me or my siblings are. How strange that there should be a 'principal mourner' and everyone else has to take second place!

OP’s posts: |
Jackstini Thu 03-Jan-08 11:05:52

Hi Mummydoit - spotted this thread and just wondered how New Year had gone for you?
Do come back if you need to vent - so sorry for the situation you are in

Lcy Thu 03-Jan-08 22:21:27

MummyDoItUnderTheMistletoe - sorry to hear about your dad. How are you doing now? I have been in your position and used to silently scream in my head "what about me - he was my dad too". Hope you get some space to grieve x

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in