Dealing with difficult mum(13 Posts)
My mum has become increasingly difficult since my dad died and it seems to have reached a head over recent weeks. She has a good social life but seems to be hostile towards us at times, particularly my dh. He was a huge source of strength to me throughout my dad’s illness and since his death so it’s very hard to now be stuck in between the 2 of them.
My mum collects our children from school one day each week and says that her relationship with them has changed and they don’t chat to her. On talking to our very sensible daughter she says that her grandma doesn’t really make the effort to chat with them. It feels like she’s going out of her way to distance herself from us and then turn it round to say that we don’t talk to her and everything is different to how it used to be. We make efforts to chat but it’s single word answers and her not engaging. She’s better when it’s just me and her but I’m not really sure where to go or how to deal with it, and I feel that I’m avoiding her.
She's bereft and I assume now on her own in a house after likely a lifetime and at a loss, I would only expect something like this. The elderly do not deal with these emotions well. Could you get her to try cruse bereavement charity?
She’s been having ongoing bereavement support for 12 months now. Things have worsened over recent weeks so this is a new situation. We have been a constant support since my dad’s death. If I see her with one of her friends she’s chatty and sociable.
Do you think by any chance that she thought she'd be moving in with you now that your dad is dead? Or that she'd be spending considerably more time with your family than before? It may explain her hostility to your DH (and possibly your DC), if she's blaming them for either of these not happening.
You say she has an active social life. Is it possible that she thinks you and/or your family may 'disapprove' of her getting on with her life? That she thinks you think she isn't 'respecting' your dad's memory by 'recovering' too fast? My late dad was very ill for a couple of years before he died and mum was his caretaker and was pretty much homebound with him other than when one of us would sit with dad. Soon after he died, she became very active in her church, formed a widow's 'canasta & lunch' group, and generally getting out and about. She asked me at one point if I felt she was doing 'too much, too soon'. I told her of course not I was so happy that she had made a new life for herself. And that dad was looking down and smiling to see her happy in that new life!
There's really not much you can do other than sit your mother down and tell her what you've told us and ask her why she seems to be pulling away from you? Only you know how that might be received.
AcrossthePond - she never expected to move in with us as we don’t have room, and actually she isn’t particularly keen to leave the house they lived in for over 50 years. She’s fairly local so I do see her several times each week so that hasn’t changed, but I can’t be there all the time and I’m not sure she would want that.
She also cared for my dad for over 12 months. It was very difficult but I supported her. In the early days she was full of praise for all the support we gave and now I’m not sure what has changed. She has mentioned feeling guilty for returning to the social activities she enjoyed before my dad died but I have been very clear that he would never have wanted her to sit and wallow at home. The whole situation is making me miss him even more than I was before.
Grief isn't a steady smooth journey from being bereft to being able to make a new life. Maybe she's only now coming to the full realisation that this is her life now, that he's not going to come back?
Grief is a combination of your feelings for the person, and how much of a part they were of your everyday life. You and she both loved your Dad, but she was looking after him for 12 months - she has a huge hole in her life.
I do know about bereavement and how it’s never easy. I just feel that she’s pushing us away so that she can then say that we’re not the same with her. She has been difficult in the past prior to my dad’s death so this isn’t completely new. We have tried so hard to include her in holidays, days out etc. but she nearly always refuses our offers. It’s just so difficult.
She has been difficult in the past prior to my dad’s death so this isn’t completely new.
Then honestly, I guess all you can do is simply offer what you can and ignore the rest. If she wants to feel herself put upon or sidelined, there is really nothing you can to to stop her. She obviously 'gets something out of it' or she wouldn't be doing it. All you can do is what feels right to you and have no guilt whatsoever to her reactions or lack thereof . Because it sounds to me as if nothing you do will be quite right or quite enough. I'm so sorry.
But maybe stop offering to include her quite so much? Seems to me that if you do she refuses, if you don't she complains. Lose/lose for you. Do you think if you start just telling her of your plans but not actually asking her along she'd be more likely to ask to go herself?
She would never ask to come along with us. I never really know how she’ll be when I speak to her. It’s certainly a tricky situation and it’s affecting my life significantly.
It certainly is. Have you considered counseling for yourself? Not grief counseling. It seems to me that you're processing your own grief pretty well. Of course, you still miss your dad but you're able to move forward. But counseling might help you to learn to accept the way your mother is and be able to put it to rest in your mind. It seems to me that you're trying to placate/please someone who simply will not be placated or pleased. At some point you're going to have to stop trying.
I have a feeling that it's been going on this way in your life for a long, long time. And perhaps your dad was a 'buffer' between you and your mum. Or perhaps his death has just brought it all into focus for you. But whatever it is, you deserve to be happy and not living under the cloud of your mother's (forgive me for being blunt) manipulations. Because that is what she is doing, emotionally manipulating you. To what end, I have no idea. But she's getting something out of it, of that you may be sure. We none of us do things for no reason.
Perhaps her grief is bringing out her extremes, pretty horrific for you
Don't take on her "bad" attitude/behaviour as being your fault or as a result of you doing something wrong I suspect she is just lashing out and not caring about those on the receiving end.
Thank you all for your advice and kind words. I don’t doubt that there is some manipulation going on. She told everyone how wonderful I was immediately after my dad died. I feel like she’s not that mother figure in my life any more as the advice she offers feels like criticism. I think she doesn’t like the fact that I’ve stopped seeking her approval as I know I can’t please her.
I think you're probably right. She probably does resent the fact that you're seeing her a bit more clearly and that her 'approval' is no longer worth all it takes to obtain it.
Our relationships with our mothers are so complex and they go through so many changes as we grow into mature women with families of our own. Some of these changes are good, some are often 'not so good'. But they are what they are. In the end what matters is what we think of ourselves, not what our mothers think of us. And if they don't understand or agree with that, then that's their own issue to deal with.
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