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Is it wrong to be unable to love my dying grandmother...?

(33 Posts)
Jemimapyjamas Mon 07-Nov-16 11:05:06

I will try and be brief with the background info first - my parents split when I was 2 and my mum remarried, her husband adopted me and I didn't see my 'real' dad until I was 15, or even know he existed until I was 12. I didn't meet his parents until I was almost 18 as they decided when my parents split that they wanted to sever contact as that, in their view (both teachers) was apparently far more sensible than remaining in touch. Its a long story, but I am now not in touch with my 'real' dad either.

When I did get to know them both, my 'grandfather' T was great but I found my 'grandmother' E hard work, as do both her son's. T died 15 years ago and E is now on her own.

E can come across very sweet old lady but is actually incredibly judging and controlling. Nothing is good enough, she ALWAYS know's better or more, and she tries to control things by offering money (e.g. she offered to give me an allowance of £200 a month at uni but then wanted a say in what course I did or she would withdraw, likewise if I didn't get the grades she thought i should be getting - I declined this offer!) She makes massive assumptions about me which are always negative and also either complete rubbish or wildly exaggerated (I am bad with money apparently or she has never met anyone as messy as me - both are untrue and not based on anything) and she sits and makes comments like this a lot.
She doesn't have an easy relationship with either of her kids either due to her nature, and she doesn't socialise much as she decided she didn't want to do the things that people invited her to (plays at the theatre she decided were 'rubbish', parties are 'dull') and the invitations gradually dried up. Since she came to my flat when I lived in London and I caught her looking in drawers at bank statements I have been reluctant to invite her over to our house since. The times before she had come everything seemed to be 'wrong' or sneered at anyway, as, of course, she knows best. So now we meet once or twice a year and have a stilted and awkward lunch somewhere neutral where I don't really want to share anything as it will be criticised or used negatively at a future date!

Now E has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has been given a prognosis of a few months. I have sent flowers and regular cards (I live 2 hours away so it's not simple) but not yet seen her since her diagnosis in August. I feel awkward turning up anyway (the chances of me being accused of being after money are high) but I also feel very sorry for her as she is on her own pretty much. But, I cannot suddenly undo history and, and I realise this sounds awful, it doesn't make me suddenly love her and drop everything to be at her side. By contrast, if it was my maternal grandma the difference couldn't be more stark!

Is this awful? I don't feel as if she is my 'family' anyway, I feel as if your family are the people you grow up with and can depend on, regardless. E is not someone I warm to, and I suspect she doesn't with me either but Im almost all she's got (my dad lives abroad and his brother doesn't get on with her as she judges and disapproves of his girlfriend as she is Black and is still cold to her after 26 years.) I think her situation is very sad, and we will visit at some point, but it won't be regular and I don't think I will miss her.

timelytess Mon 07-Nov-16 11:07:45

No, its not wrong, its not awful. Go with what you think, feel, believe and can cope with.

MargoChanning Mon 07-Nov-16 11:15:35

No it's not awful to not automatically love someone who isn't very nice deep down. It's quite reasonable actually!

Jemimapyjamas Mon 07-Nov-16 11:20:38

Thanks for your replies and, I suppose, agreeing with me! It it difficult as it goes against everything I would do for a member of my proper family but I can't help it.

I felt upset the other week as she had apparently had awful side effects to the drugs and her face had swelled and she was hallucinating and it must have been awful for that to have been happening when she was on her own. But, I can't escape the fact that she is on her own for a reason! (She thinks its because she is a widow, something she said that I didn't question further!) Also, I was upset but not upset enough to drop everything and rush over!

Hoppinggreen Mon 07-Nov-16 11:28:05

Why should you love her? There are very few members of my family that I would say I actually love and a couple I really don't like.
Just because she's related to you it's not compulsory so don't feel guilty

SomeonesRealName Mon 07-Nov-16 11:30:04

No you are perfectly entitled to feel as you do.

HummusForBreakfast Mon 07-Nov-16 11:30:47

I have a set of grand parents with similar relationship with you.
One of them died and I didnt go and see her. TBH her death affected no
more than the one of a stranger. Yes it's sad but then it's life too iyswim
My grand father is still alive at 95yo living at home with his wife.
Situation is similar and no I wouldn't go out if my way to see him in those circumstances (and yes the money inheritance would be raised too).

It's very sad for them but these are people who are in effect reaping what they have sown. If you want people to be nice to you as you are getting old and/or dying, if you wasn't them to go the extra mile, then you need to be nice to them in the first place.

Floralnomad Mon 07-Nov-16 11:32:06

Don't feel guilty and it's not necessarily because you didn't meet her earlier , we had lots of contact with my mums mum , she was an alcoholic and frankly all of us were more relieved than upset when she died because of the general chaos she caused in later life .

HummusForBreakfast Mon 07-Nov-16 11:32:23

Btw it's not because someone is dying that you are suddenly supposed to love them!

furryminkymoo Mon 07-Nov-16 11:34:12

You can't rewrite history and change how you feel about her.

However you say that her diagnosis was August, I wouldn't defer going to see her, it will be Christmas soon enough, why not take over a gift and see her briefly. The need to visit Its clearly hanging of you, do it sooner rather than later?

LuckyBitches Mon 07-Nov-16 11:38:34

Quite reasonable not to love a person like your grandmother, in my opinion! I understand the anguish you might be feeling around this though. Disliking our relatives is something of a taboo, but is very common.

Cherylene Mon 07-Nov-16 11:44:38

It sounds like you are going the right way about things to me. KOKO wink

Sometimes we just have to stay in touch with our relatives but not particularly like them. Sometimes you end up finding out more about them and why they are like that and where they come from. Sometimes not. Who knows.

Jemimapyjamas Mon 07-Nov-16 11:48:41

I think I mean that the diagnosis still hasn't prompted me to think more of her than I do. I do feel sorry for her but that's about it. As a contrast, my sister is very different to me. I don't understand any of her life choices, we have very different tastes and things, and very different outlooks. She can also be a pain when she wants to be! Very argumentative and stroppy. However, I have a bond with her because she is my sister. I grew up with her, and we have a history together. I don't have that with E, I feel as if it is more of a uncomfortable background that a family history !

We have been talking about going to visit a few times, but she is either been having an extended stay in the hospice or I haven't been able to get hold of her first.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 07-Nov-16 11:50:27

No its not awful at all to feel like you do and your feelings are valid.

HummusForBreakfast is dead right here and this poster's comments bears repeating:-

"It's very sad for them but these are people who are in effect reaping what they have sown. If you want people to be nice to you as you are getting old and/or dying, if you wasn't them to go the extra mile, then you need to be nice to them in the first place".

I felt very similar actually when my paternal grandmother died; I never got the full force of her ire but other people did and she was an inveterate snob. When my FIL died I did not miss him either. I felt more sorry at the time for my DH because he also knew that his dad was a real rubbish example of a parent.

Jemimapyjamas Mon 07-Nov-16 11:50:40

Cherylene funny you should say that! Apparently, her mother was also very controlling and critical. She's too used money as a way of influencing things. Nothing E did was ever right. I see a lot of these traits now in E and clearly how mother must have had a big influence on her life.

Jemimapyjamas Mon 07-Nov-16 11:52:03

It's so good to hear that this sort of situation isn't uncommon!

I am very close to my mother's side of the family, which I think makes this situation more apparent.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 07-Nov-16 11:58:52

No, there's no reason at all why your feelings towards this woman should change. It's probably a good thing that you can analyse them like this.

Nobody is owed our love, except our children. Some people I guess we may feel we owe a duty - I'm not sure that this should necessarily apply to E but you probably do feel that way. So, visit out of that duty, don't feel guilty that you don't like let alone love someone merely because they're a relative. If there's anything practical you can reasonably do to make her last months a bit more tolerable, do it because you're a good person not because she particularly deserves it.

Cherylene Mon 07-Nov-16 12:04:20

It can be interesting to see where they have come from.

My MIL was a saint who had all the elderly relatives over throughout Christmas every year and did their council forms and prescriptions and things. She had a good way of doing the right thing from a duty point of view, caring, without being too involved and without feeling personally responsible for their bad traits (and without being a doormat). I have no idea how she did it - I couldn't manage it myself.

You are on the outside looking in. I would thank my lucky stars that I have been spared their dysfunction until I was of an age to cope with it a little better. Maybe what they did was the right thing by not seeing you when young, although overly harsh.

HandbagCrazy Mon 07-Nov-16 12:05:30

YANBU to feel the way you do and there is no rule anywhere that says you're feelings should be different. You are not a bad person ans you shouldn't feel guilty.

When my grandmother was dying, the family rallied around her and there were rows because I didn't. I couldn't, I didn't feel anything. I didn't feel sad, upset, worried that I'd miss her. I literally felt a black nothing-ness.
The truth was that she was a horrible woman - she could be cruel, she was judgemental and selfish. I'm sure she had nice qualities as some people genuinely seem to miss her, but I never saw them.
It took a long time to come to terms with the guilt I felt because i didn't care about her, but I've done it now and I feel a million times better about it.
I hope you can do the same OP flowers

Jemimapyjamas Mon 07-Nov-16 12:08:48

Handbag I think I feel similarly to how you felt. Like others have said, I will help in ways I can because I feel sorry for her but it's not because I love her. That's more selfishly, I would feel very guilty if I make no effort at all so perhaps this is just as much for my benefit.

Finola1step Mon 07-Nov-16 12:10:05

I had a very strained relationship with my GM. She was in fact my DM's step mum and made sure that my mum spent decades feeling grateful that she had come along a "saved" her. My DM spent many years prioritising that woman over everyone else (including her own dc and husband) whilst being criticised at every turn.

My GM died in her 90s. I was at work when I got the call to say she had passed away. I was stacking the dishwasher in the staffroom. I thanked the caller for letting me know, then just carried on stacking the dishwasher. The only emotion I felt was relief.

Go and see your GM if you want to. But do not feel beholden to her.

kaitlinktm Mon 07-Nov-16 12:18:04

Really I can't get past this statement in your OP:

I didn't meet his parents until I was almost 18 as they decided when my parents split that they wanted to sever contact as that, in their view (both teachers) was apparently far more sensible than remaining in touch

This is so chilling - how could it be "more sensible" to sever contact with your grandchild until she is an adult? Most grandparents would move heaven and earth to be a part of their grandchildren's lives - what yours did was definitely not normal.

She made it clear when you were two years old that she didn't much love you, so I can't see why you should feel guilty about not loving her now.

kaitlinktm Mon 07-Nov-16 12:18:50

BTW - is there a significance in your eyes in the fact that they were both teachers?

Jemimapyjamas Mon 07-Nov-16 12:34:31

Kaitlin I think their idea was weird too. I see no significance in their being teachers other than that E appears to think this means she is more educated / intelligent etc. T, husband, worked in a school with children who had learning difficulties. Apparently a lot of these children also had chaotic home lives, and their parents were usually separated. While I still think it is peculiar, I think this must be the reasoning behind their decision. Weird isn't it!
By contrast, I am extremely creative and artistic. I find traditional academic subjects such as mathematics tedious and incredibly dull. I am also crap at it! This is one of the many things that E appears to find a disappointment. Not that I especially care! I think she had in her head and idea of what she wanted out of a granddaughter, and she got something very different. I am not particularly alternative or weird, but I don't fit in with what she would like. She used to try and influence my decision is by offering money towards it, but I had to put a stop to that a long time ago

ErrolTheDragon Mon 07-Nov-16 12:41:31

'I would feel very guilty if I make no effort at all so perhaps this is just as much for my benefit.'

Yes, honestly that's why you should. It's better to be clear and honest with yourself. You've no reason to feel guilty either way, but you'll feel better if you behave in the way that feels right.

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