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When a toxic parent dies

(37 Posts)
Whyaremyfeetsofat Sat 22-Mar-14 15:30:00

Long time lurker here, trying to make sense of the muddle in my head.

My mother died very suddenly last Sunday - literally dropped dead as she was getting ready to go out.

We weren't NC but we were mostly estranged due to a lifetime of EA. She lived in another country and I hadn't seen her for 2 years as she wasn't able to come to the UK (ill partner) and I made no effort to visit her as I didn't want to spend time with her. We spoke only occasionally, again due to my reluctance to engage with her. I wasn't strong enough to go NC as there wasn't anything big enough to justify it.

I don't know how I feel, I keep crying in little bursts but not sure why. It's been nearly a week and haven't yet had a single moment of feeling sad or bereft, it's just shock and maybe a tiny bit of relief. A colleague sent me flowers and I felt a total fraud, she's trying to sympathise but it's not a normal 'devastated at the loss of a parent ' situation.

Due to legalities, her memorial service (in lieu of funeral) isn't likely to happen for another couple of weeks, and I don't know whether to go. I won't get any comfort or closure, and it'll be a lovely opportunity for various family members to point out what a total failure of a daughter I was (she was a classic narc, and very plausible when telling people how she tried so hard but I was just cold and horrid to her for no reason). I can't shake the feeling of obligation, as if by not going I'd be embarrassing her which is just completely irrational.

I've talked it over with DH and he'll support whatever I do. If I don't go my brother won't forgive me which means that relationship is over - but due to differing views on mother we've barely spoken for several years anyway, and I'm not sure that having him back in my life would be positive for me. I feel guilty though, like I'm letting him down and being very selfish.

No point to this really, not even sure why I'm posting - maybe to give poor DH a break!

aylesburyduck Sat 22-Mar-14 15:37:27

I would say put yourself first. You don't have to go to the memorial service, just do whatever you feel is right for you.

I am sorry you're going through this


Nomama Sat 22-Mar-14 15:47:45

Do put yourself first.

I am no longer ashamed to say that when MIL took her own life I went into coping mode and didn't really 'feel' anything. But later, I still couldn't grieve. Now, a decade or so on and I am still a little guilty as my main feeling is one of relief.

OH went through an horrendous time and his siblings basically abandoned him, but his life is so much less stressed without them all.

Feel whatever you feel. Do not become obligated to be someone you are not. When the worst is over remember to thank your DH for his support. I remember being very emotional when mine thanked me for being supportive of him.

Whyaremyfeetsofat Sat 22-Mar-14 15:58:44

Thanks - I was bracing myself for criticism and I should have known better. I just want the memorial and everything else to be over, it's hanging over me. I feel in a constant state of panic/anxiety and I don't know why.

It's all so mememe when I read back, and that's not normal for me. I just don't seem able to be anything other than self absorbed.

DH has been amazing, and I have thanked him, will make sure I do it again. DS (15) has also been brilliant - thankfully, because of distance and lack of interest on her part they weren't close but even so he's a little conflicted because of the way she treated me. His comment to D H last night was that at least she wouldn't be able to make me cry on Christmas Day again - a reference to two years ago, I didn't even think he'd noticed.

Nomama Sat 22-Mar-14 16:02:41

If your DS has been supportive then you are not being mememe at all. You are just being confused.

Self absorbed is fine... think it through and go with whatever feels right for you. It sounds as though you have the support to make a sensible decision an not to regret it.

Good luck for the next few weeks. Hopefully the panicky feelings will lessen.

Charley50 Sat 22-Mar-14 16:09:12

I didn't feel sad or grieve when my EA dad died. If colleagues etc expressed sympathy I had that fake / fraud feeling so I told them 'it's sad that I don't really feel sad but he didn't treat his family well at all and didn't act like a father so the sadness just isn't there'
Do and say what's best for you.

NMFP Sat 22-Mar-14 16:15:21

Personally, I'd go.

I think it could give you some closure (at the very least it will help you to process the news) and it will give you a chance to see other relatives. You can still be you.

I also think that you are still in shock - especially as you had no warning.

Changeasgoodas Sat 22-Mar-14 16:15:47

This thread is not me, me, me at all - and wonderful that you have a DH and DS who care for you.

I expect there is at least one of your relations, if not more, who understand that your mother was the problem, not you.

mrsnec Sat 22-Mar-14 16:19:18


I was estranged from my father for years. Similar reasons to you. He just wasn't a very nice person. He died a year ago this week.

I was shocked at my reaction. I was really upset and everyone kept saying to me what's the matter with you, you hated him, and my explanation was that I was grieving for something I never had but its been awful. I didn't go to the funeral, I don't live in the uk, I was recovering from an illness and my dh couldn't take time off, but I don't feel any guilt for not going. I think I upset some of my family as some have been very off since but I wasn't the only person who didn't go. But I found the whole thing odd anyway as there were people that had never met him that went instead and people he hadn't seen since school, when I heard about it afterwards it sounded fake and I would have found it very difficult.

It still feels odd, and I'm not over it but can't explain why,for example, it bothered me this week that nobody did anything to mark the anniversary, not that I would have done but he had a lot of people close to him that didn't do anything and it surprised me.

Your dh sounds very observant and supportive all you can do is be honest. I know it's a cliché but talking about it has helped me, some people on here were more use to me than my friends and family. Thinking of you.

Floralnomad Sat 22-Mar-14 16:28:05

Do whatever feels right to you ,when my grandmother died we were just relieved ( we being me ,my mum,my sisters and my aunt) ,we were not NC but she had literally spent her life using everybody . The lady at the coop funeral place had never met such happy people arranging a funeral .If we could have just not bothered with a funeral we would have done but unfortunately she had some elderly sisters who we needed to take into consideration.

Whyaremyfeetsofat Sat 22-Mar-14 16:29:04

The thing about seeing other relatives at the memorial is a big part of the anxiety I think - my mother was exceedingly good at painting herself as the injured party, and I've already had little swipes from my uncle and brother which makes me think that spending time with them can only cause me more upset.

It's useful to think it through here, grateful for all thoughts and opinions.

mrsnec Sat 22-Mar-14 16:36:57

That was true in my situation I felt like I was protecting myself by not going. My dm told everyone it was because of my illness. I did kind of want everyone to know the truth but she was probably right and I know people still judge me for not going. My thoughts were that you go to a funeral to pay respect I didn't have any to pay. I'm sure whatever you decide will be right for you.

Whyaremyfeetsofat Sat 22-Mar-14 16:42:07

That's it, it's the judging - but really, I don't care what any of them think so I guess they can judge and condemn all they like.

My brother's already pissed off because I said I wasn't prepared to speak at the service - 'one of us has to do it, and you're the eldest'. Not happening, there's no way I could stand up and say the expected nice things about her.

The poster who said I was still in shock may have a point, I don't feel like its sunk in at all.

monkeynuts123 Sat 22-Mar-14 16:44:02

In similar circumstances I shed 3 tears at my fathers funeral and none since. I don't feel sad but feel relief, relief that I don't have to pretend anymore that I love him or that he was a good father. He was a selfish cruel man and I'm glad he's not here anymore to think about. Feels great to be that honest, I have been that honest in rl and people are a bit horrified.

aylesburyduck Sat 22-Mar-14 16:55:08

None of you have to speak at the service. It's not obligatory and your brothers reasoning that you should do it because you're the eldest is only his point of view.

Ignore the digs (easier said than done, I know) you are perfectly entitled to do what is best. I also agree that the news has come as a shock and may take a little while to sink in. In the meantime, post here and gather support from your DH and DS.

Nomama Sat 22-Mar-14 16:59:53

Speak at the service? I am sorry, but that has brought back one of those memories...

... when much reviled SFIL died his daughter made the family speech. His kids were brought up in France so she gave her speech in French, it sounded soulful and lovely. But I speak French... she was vile, very honest about him and his failings but also very foul about his 2nd wife, my OHs mum. Utterly foul.

As we left the service I was not the only English person to thank her for her 'kind words' in faultless French. She did have the grace to blush!

Don't let the rest of the family push you into anything. Let your DH be your guide.

LondonForTheWeekend Sat 22-Mar-14 17:07:31

Gosh NoMama that sounds like funeral an a half.

Nomama Sat 22-Mar-14 17:10:22

It was! Which is why I would no longer go to one for duty's sake and would wholeheartedly support anyone if they decided not to attend one.

But I do apologise for grabbing too much of the thread!

cozietoesie Sat 22-Mar-14 17:13:06

I was in a similar situation to you. I went to the funeral and was glad later that I had. It finalized things for me. I didn't speak, however, and if you don't feel like doing that then you simply shouldn't.

I wouldn't worry about how other people will be at the service. People at funerals tend to behave in a certain very formal way once they actually get there and on the day, you would likely be swept up in their prescribed reactions.

I would go if I were you.

Wrapdress Sat 22-Mar-14 17:14:35

I am already worried about this and no one has even died yet! If we pass in the right order, I will attend, just to chat up the relatives, be friendly and kind which will be contrary to what they have heard about me. Our 15 years of a NC relationship has been the best relationship we have ever had!

Also, I think if I attend there will be no lingering judgments from the relatives. Not attending will always be a "thing" but if I attend there will be no lingering "things" for the relatives to complain about. They would throw a no-show in my face for years to come! Just a few hours out of my life will stop that from happening. Short term pain for long term gain.

weirdthing Sat 22-Mar-14 17:14:39

Don't go to the service. Why would you?

Scarletohello Sat 22-Mar-14 17:15:12

You don't have to speak at the funeral. My mum died recently and we met with the minister a week beforehand and told him info about my mum. He did a lovely tribute to her, much better than any of us could have done.

SDTGisAnEvilWolefGenius Sat 22-Mar-14 17:19:42

I am going to go slightly against what's been said on here, and say that you are being a bit mememe, Whyaremyfeetsofat - but I don't think there is anything wrong with that, in your situation. On the contrary, I think it is absolutely the right reaction.

You deserve to put yourself first. If other people are going to say cruel and hurtful things at the memorial (even if they are only doing so because they have been so totally hoodwinked by your mum), you have every right to protect yourself by not going, if that is your choice.

Be kind to yourself.

Charley50 Sat 22-Mar-14 18:18:33

It's completely normal for the vicar / priest to speak at the funeral. Your brother is putting you under unnecessary pressure.

cozietoesie Sat 22-Mar-14 18:25:33

I would suspect that the OP's brother also has his own issues with speaking - perhaps he had difficulties with the mother as well?

And yes - it is completely normal for a third party to speak on behalf of the relatives. That could be a religious representative or - what we tend to do in our family - a humanist representative who is engaged for the service. The close relatives don't need to speak unless they actually wish to.

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