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Difficulties with Widowed Mother

(44 Posts)
HostofDaffodils Mon 14-Nov-16 06:27:20

My father died over nine years ago. In his lifetime I'd have said I got on better with my mother.

My father was very withdrawn and could be angry and violent. Looking back it seems entirely possible that some - though not all - of his difficulties were caused by high-functioning autism which meant he was unequal to being an engaged husband and parent.

My mother worked very hard to - in her eyes - keep the family together and had a very difficult time caring for my father in his final illness. His selfishness meant he made huge demands on her. Out of a feeling that it was right to support her I took her to see my father in the hospice at the end of his life. When the end was very near, I also slept in the private room they had moved him to so that he didn't die alone. On the next day - which was his final day - I was the one sitting with my father when he died. Other family members who'd come earlier had gone by then.

This was the first time I had been with somebody when their life drew to an end.

I had initially expected that my mother, when she came to the hospice, would ask me if I was okay. One part of my mind very quickly understood that she would be dealing with the loss of her husband, so that her feelings as a wife would be at the forefront of her mind. Any wish to check if I was alright would come later. In fact the only emotion she seemed to show towards me was a flicker of anger - when I greeted her I was a bit unsure whether I was meant to ask her to see the nursing sister first or take her straight to my father. I think she felt I was - somehow - in the way.

To cut a long story short I spent some months trying to be a good daughter to my bereaved mother, and listening during that time to accounts of how difficult parts of her marriage had been. However, I spoke about the fact that I too had found him difficult, she would cut me off and tell me what a good father he had been.

She has never once asked me what I felt about him or thanked me for trying to support her - and him - at this time.

I am angry and hurt, though I also in the last year or two begun to think that my mother has 'something missing'.

I just wondered whether other people had experienced something similar. That feeling that the death of one parent has, in a sense, led to a feeling that both parents have been lost.

summerainbow Mon 14-Nov-16 06:50:21

Do you or your kids have autism ?

HostofDaffodils Mon 14-Nov-16 07:12:52

The short answer is no. Am curious as to why you asked.

I am affected by my upbringing as we all are. But would be inclined to say that many of the past difficulties are likely to spring from being a fairly 'normally wired' daughter of 'differently wired' parents.

GirlsonFilm Mon 14-Nov-16 07:20:10

I have a different situation, but can see your point about losing the remaining parent after the loss of the first.

My df died last year and my mother has become the merry widow, to quote her she's "having the time of my life!" It's like I don't know my dm anymore and our (admittedly alway tricky) relationship is deteriorating.

timelytess Mon 14-Nov-16 07:32:31

It's not about you.
You think it is, but its not.
Your post says 'I was good, mother should have paid attention to me.'
Your mum has lost her husband. That's her priority. Dealing with that is her main issue. Your mother does indeed have 'something missing' - your dad.
You need to find a friend or counsellor to talk to so that you can come to terms with your own feelings about the loss of your father and that your mother isn't meeting your needs.

Oh, and read up on HFA. There's nothing 'missing' in me.

HostofDaffodils Mon 14-Nov-16 08:05:21

I'd say that the ability to express empathy is not hugely apparent in your post timelytess. Though, doubtless you have a great deal to offer us all.

It is also unwise to assume that just because people don't express themselves in quite the way you would choose, that they have not taken some time and trouble to gather information about High Functioning Autuism..

There are certain abilities and skills - a type of imagination and expressiveness - I have which my mother lacks. I think she has 'a bit missing'. She may, of course, perceive matters very differently.

I think many parents might at some point - express some thanks or show some affection - to a daughter who had done their best to support them through their spouses's final illness and in their bereavement. It was a difficult task but I did it because it felt like the right thing

However, my mother did not at any point in the nine years since my father's death, thank me, show me any support or enquire about my feelings towards him - and that has weakened whatever affection I might feel for her.

MrsBertBibby Mon 14-Nov-16 08:18:21

Never mind Host, you've obviously turned out pretty wonderfully, so I'm sure you will overcome your disappointing mother.

flapjackfairy Mon 14-Nov-16 08:21:32

I understand what you are saying host. My son has aspergers. He is grown up and i love him to bits but he doesnt have the ability to connect on an emotional level the way others can and it is hard.
It hurts my feelings at times and i have to tell myself that he is not doing it on purpose but genuinely cant help it. That helps me to accept it . It may be your mum cant help it either and i really do feel for you because it is hard. Perhaps an independant counsellor would help.

Penfold007 Mon 14-Nov-16 08:35:28

Perhaps your mother was angry with you? Maybe angry that you were with him at the end her or that you seemed to have taken charge, perhaps she didn't want that. You were the critical of her recently deceased husband that may have deeply offended her. You expect thanks but have no idea if your 'help' was needed or wanted.

HostofDaffodils Mon 14-Nov-16 08:44:02

She asked me to accompany her to the hospice one day during his final illness. I drove eighty miles up the motorway, went to the hospice with her - my father was comatose and didn't speak - sat with her there for four hours and drove her back, then returned down the motorway.

When she rang me to say his death was near, my husband drove me up the motorway again. Other relatives, who lived nearer, went home. I stayed. If there was any selfishness in my behaviour it was more a feeling that my father shouldn't die alone in a room. If he cried out I would have been able to summon help. I would be able to assure people that he did not cry out in pain.

Yes, it's possible that my mother experienced my having been there at his death as a muscling in. On the other hand, she was the one who was elderly and tired, and had asked to be driven home.

The only times since my father's death when I have been critical of his behaviour to her, is when she opened discussions about his difficult character. When she shut me up I stopped.

He was physically abusive.

Thanks to anyone who has expressed understanding of my pain. I ended up driving past the hospice yesterday after a visit to my mother. (It's not on my usual route.) It brought some bad memories back, but I'll deal with them.

Penfold007 Mon 14-Nov-16 08:51:42

Do you think you might benefit from some counselling? Sounds like you've had a tough time.

timelytess Mon 14-Nov-16 09:06:18

I'd say that the ability to express empathy is not hugely apparent in your post timelytess
That isn't the case. I just cut through the nonsense and got to the heart of your problem. You think its about you. You need help with that.
Oh, and my mother died a couple of years ago. My father certainly hasn't thanked me for the support I have given him - nor do I expect him to. So I know the situation fairly well, I just view it differently from you. A perspective which you seem to need to hear.
You might want to be less sneery with people. It will help.

blackhairbrush Mon 14-Nov-16 09:16:01

I don't know why people are giving you a hard time. It sounds to me as if you have done everything expected. I also have a DM (and DF) with "something missing" - my DC are old enough for me to know that her continued selfishness and self absorption in her relationship with her own DC is not the norm, but it is a part of her personality. Your DM sounds similar and your father's death has just highlighted what was already there. I don't have any words of wisdom except to say that it's shit to have a parent like this and being an adult doesn't stop it hurting. flowers

LostSight Mon 14-Nov-16 09:49:24

Perhaps, if she spent a lifetime fighting to keep the family together, she sees herself as having sacrificed her life in order that you could have a father. Perhaps she can't face the fact that the sacrifice she felt she made wasn't worth her while, because you are telling her now, he wasn't a good father either. Perhaps you aren't meant to agree, 'yes he was a bit shit'. She may only want to hear, 'you made so many sacrifices for us, mum.'

She didn't remove you, a child, from this abusive situation. If she accepted now that he wasn't a good father either, there would be a lifetimes worth of guilt that she has never faced up to. Unlikely she is emotionally rounded enough to do so at this stage.

Guilt often leads to anger. Maybe, she felt guilty you had to be with him when he died as she couldn't face it? The anger would be turned upon you, so that this would be anyone's fault, but not hers?

This is all 'perhaps' of course. Just one possible take on the situation. I would echo those above who suggested counselling. You can't change her, you can't change the past. You can only change the way you deal with it.

Hope you find some closure.

summerainbow Mon 14-Nov-16 18:44:13

Hi host
The reason I asked about wherever or your kids have autism is that I believe autism is hereditary. So the reason you find out your parents siblings or partner have autism is because your kids have and then you recognises the traits
I have just worked out that mum has autistic traits and you I realised why I married ex as I married someone who show love the same way (not at all) as I thought it normal.
It is hard but therapy has really help me ( it help me work though alot)

Prawnofthepatriarchy Mon 14-Nov-16 18:58:01

You have lost your DF. You didn't like him and I imagine he didn't leave a gaping hole in your life. Your DM has lost her life's partner. He may have been a far from wonderful DH but she's probably very lonely now, and missing him on a daily basis. The two positions are very different: her loss is far greater than yours, but I'm not sure you register this.

You were kind and supportive. What do you want, a medal? Isn't that what most adult children do when a parent is dying? Was your DM unkind to you? As for discussing his failings, many of us will complain about our DH, DC etc but will snap at anyone who agrees with us?

I think you're being a bit unfair to your mum.

daisychain01 Mon 14-Nov-16 19:31:03

Without meaning to sound harsh, why do you feel you need your mum to thank you?

It seems a strange thing to need. Wasn't the stuff you did for him before he died, for him?

Maybe she doesn't have any idea you want her to thank you and that's why she hasn't.

fc301 Mon 14-Nov-16 19:37:12

I think some are being a little unfair to you, but of course we are all coloured by our own experiences. Host you did ask if anyone had experienced anything similar so I'll talk about my DPs, which I'm just trying to make sense of myself.
There is certainly enough evidence from what you say that DF was dysfunctional/abusive. Also that your DM put all her efforts into dealing with his difficult personality.
I now feel that my DM was emotionally unavailable to me. I think my DF just takes everything she has got - to the point now after 50 years that he dictates her reality. She cannot 'meet my needs' at all, which leaves me feeling unloved and bereft.
A (psychologist) friend said to me (about my Dads personality) " she can't afford to 'get it'" which I found very helpful. If your DM accepts that your Dad was deeply flawed then she also has to accept that she has lived a lie AND let her children down.
I think you need to accept that you will never get what you seek and find ways to move on in a positive way for you.

junebirthdaygirl Mon 14-Nov-16 19:43:09

I am a bit confused too about why you needed your dm to thank you. You did what you did as any daughter would in your circumstances. You choose to do it and that's good but nothing to be thanked for. I did lots for my Df before he died and lots to support my dm at the time but it was never mentioned again as that's what families do, row in and help. You obviously have some other issues with your dm as l don't see her doing anything wrong there. Also carrying an issue for 9 years is a waste of your life. Let it go. Accept what happened and move on with your own life.

rawsienna Mon 14-Nov-16 19:48:25

Why would you expect her to thank you?
You are a close relation. You are family. She probably took it as given that you would want to help and that's why she has never thanked you.
You are not a colleague or a friend or someone who stopped to help. People like that you make a point of 'thanking'.
Close family not so much
I think you are dwelling too much on something that happened years ago and some counseling would be of benefit.

vjg13 Mon 14-Nov-16 19:52:16

Take comfort from the fact that you did the right thing, supported both your parents when they needed it and were there.

Your Mother may be full of regret that she wasn't there and you were and not able to appreciate that he wasn't alone.

SeaEagleFeather Mon 14-Nov-16 19:54:08

I think you're entirely entitled to feel how you feel.

You can't do much about emotions anyway, it's how you handle them that's the important thing. But it sounds like your mother has shut you out and is not allowing you to either grieve yourself (complicated grief when a relationship was abusive) or to acknowledge that it wasn't easy for you. It sounds like there is no generosity in her at the moment to see your point of view. Or for the last nine years.

It would have been reasonable of her to acknowledge that you did go to some effort at some point in the last nine years!

From what you say, every time you have been the slightest bit critical of your father she's shut you down. Have you ever had anyone you can talk this over with? Other adult survivors of abusive childhoods?

Most of all what strikes me is that she tells you he was a good father ... but he wasn't. He was violent and abusive. She's not acknowledging that. Which means you have no space to come to terms with him. Is she actually being ultra-defensive? There's an awful lot of threads now where women are criticised for staying with an abusive partner because of the impact on the children. Your mother stayed. She didn't protect you.

If these questions prod painful spots then I'm sorry. But it seems to me you need her to acknowledge that it was damn hard for you as well as her, growing up, and that you did your very best with a difficult and selfish man.


That feeling that the death of one parent has, in a sense, led to a feeling that both parents have been lost.

Yes, myself, though I was much younger.

HostofDaffodils Mon 14-Nov-16 19:55:20

These are deep waters.

I am not sure than anything I did for my father before I died was 'for him'. I suppose that at the very end I was doing what I hope I'd do for any human being if I found myself in that situation. Trying to ensure that they didn't end their life frightened and alone.

I was also in the last few months of my father's life very much trying to help my mother. She was absolutely exhausted as a frail, unassertive elderly person having to deal with my father's increasing 24 hours demands for her to be his nurse and servant when he was at home.

She was terrified that the hospice would agree to his request to be discharged in order to go back home - and very relieved when his condition deteriorated so they ended up keeping him in.

On some level, yes it was quite hard to keep watch over a dying man and to witness his last breath.

I don't think I wanted the Victoria Cross for doing that. But at some stage, at some point to have been asked, 'Did it affect you? Are you okay?' or yes, 'Thanks for what you did' would have felt like an act of ordinary human care.

I was very grateful to those who did offer me support at that time, and also to those here who have pointed out - kindly and with insight - that in this sort of situation, it's no good going back to bash my head against a brick wall.

MrsSpenserGregson Mon 14-Nov-16 20:06:09

I think you've been given a surprising lack of support / understanding on this thread Host.

"Accept what happened and move on with your own life." Yeah, it's that easy!

I, too, felt that I lost my mother when my father died. My mother turned into a demanding, selfish, critical, unsympathetic shrew when my father died, and got worse and worse until her own death a few years later sad. On one memorable occasion she screamed at me that it wasn't fair that my husband was alive when hers was dead....

My husband was 34 years old at the time.

She used to turn up unannounced at our house at all hours of the day and night; refused to go to counselling; rang me or visited me every single day to talk about my dad and never once asked me how I was doing (I'd lost my dad, was caring for my young baby AND my childlike mother, and had gone back to work after maternity leave a month before dad died - this was back when maternity leave was only 6 months - so life was tough for me too, not as tough as for her, but still tough).

It was as though all her motherly feelings had been wiped out with my dad's death.

I'm an only child. I did everything I could to support my mother after my father died, as did my DH, while friends and cousins / aunts etc drifted away once the funeral was over. Yet nothing I did was enough. Mum wanted me to replace my dad, and do everything that he had done. She would ring me at 3am to tell me that she needed me to go round and fix something in her house. Or, if I was at work, she would turn up at reception and ask to see me. It was horrendous. She lost all sense of perspective. She was unwilling or unable to show me any motherly love. I needed time and space to grieve for my father, yet my mother needed the opposite, and demanded all my time and emotional energy. She stifled me. A year after he died, I had a breakdown. Mum's response: "when are you going to get better, I need you to do Xxx for me."

Btw she was only 63 years old, and in very good health, when she was widowed.

I remember having a conversation with her about an acquaintance whose child had sadly died.
Me: "there's nothing worse than losing a child...."
Mum: "no, losing your father was worse."

I still can't forgive her for that, TBH.

I can't forgive her for choosing to stop being my mum.

If my DH dies before me, I will do everything in my power to reassure my children that I understand that they are grieving, and that I love them.

Being widowed does NOT justify ceasing to be a parent to your children. Of course the grief is different; when you lose your partner, your whole life changes and there is a gigantic, lonely, scary void where they used to be. But you are a parent for life. Your children are still there.

So - OP, I understand.

MrsSpenserGregson Mon 14-Nov-16 20:07:47

And along came some more supportive posters while I was writing my essay!

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