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AIBU to think that grief can only explain behaviour not excuse it?

88 replies

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 16:29

I've namechanged just in case i'm recognised.

My DH's SIL has been really awful to me over the last few years because i could have children and she couldn't. I seemed to become her family punchbag and she seemed to go out of her way to hurt me and spoil every happy occasion we had.

Some examples are:-

  • Telling me i should have kept my 1st pregnancy a secret and emigrated.
  • Saying she wanted to slit her wrists and she'd done nothing but cry since she'd heard our news.
  • Calling me a fat cow and making lots of snide comments about my appearance whilst pregnant.
  • Deliberately telling us the a later time for a family celebration and not explaining that everybody else was meeting somewhere else first so we missed the b'day gift we'd paid for. This also made my FIL cry and shout at us for being late.
  • Sitting at my DS2 christening with a face like thunder and literally ignoring people who spoke to her after running out of the church sobbing.
  • Ignoring my children and ignoring their birthdays etc

I could go on but i've probably already outed myself if somebody who knows us reads this.

I should also add that this SIL has had alot of IVF attempts, has been pregnant twice with twins losing both pregnancies around 20 weeks, during one of which i was also pregnant.

Everytime i have been pregnant i have felt guilty, tearful, ashamed of my bump and it has been the elephant in the room (Or maybe i was Grin ). My pregnancies was never talked about by the family, no exciting announcements, no cheesy baby showers, no talk about things we would buy and names we might use. Every christening or birthday for my children was spoilt or ignored.

This story has a happy ending as after a long hard road she finally had a DD and is planning a huge 1st birthday party this weekend. [happy] [happy] [happy]

I am left feeling sad and bruised by the whole experience, i'm supposed to just forget everything she has done because they now have a baby.
I will never get those happy times back now and if i'm honest i feel bitter about it. I'm over the moon for them and my niece is gorgeous but everytime they have a big celebration i feel pissed off. They did the big announcement, emails of every scan sent to the family, big baby shower, non stop baby get the idea.

I have never discussed her behaviour with her or addressed it because to be honest at the time she was in pain and it wasn't the right time.

Just to clarify i have always been supportive, acknowledged the children she has lost, and been sensitive to her feelings. I completely get that this situation just have been hellish for her and i can't ever imagine how hard it must have been but does that mean it was ok for her to do what she did to me?

Is a person's bad behaviour ever excused by grief?

I'm going to press post now....
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InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 17:00

Acinonyx i can completely understand that, i'm pleased that you finally got your DD. It's just hard when you feel under attack and that's person's hate at the world is directed at you. Must have been difficult for you experiencing both sides.

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Acinonyx · 26/04/2011 17:04

I don't think your SIL's behaviour is actually excusable though. I've known plenty of people who have not behaved like that (myself included - which is partly why I get so Hmm at being on the receiving end now).

I also know what you mean about other kinds of unhappiness. It's not a competition in suffering - there are many crosses to bear and we should all be pleased to see anyone have some happiness without balancing it against their prepayment in misery.

holyShmoley · 26/04/2011 17:05

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Message withdrawn at poster's request.

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 17:20

Holy my family is small and a bit shite hence the 'not had the easiest of times' myself comment. I definately have the compassion and always have in this situation, we were all grieving too (Obviously not on the same scale as her). I'm just finding it hard to forget and smooth over it everytime there is another nice occasion.

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bb99 · 26/04/2011 17:31

i have lost 3 babies, 2 at 18 weeks, while trying to complete my family, plus taken a lot of drugs to stay pg with the ones I've thankfully kept. I have spent Christmas day, having buried one of my forever babies less than 6 weeks previously, watching my DH bounce my brand new baby nephew (now THAT was a tear jerker). A close family member has always either been pg or just had a baby when I've lost mine...possibly I could have been accused of having a face like thunder at times, although unintentionally and I may have ignored people speaking to me at times as I am deaf when seriously greiving Wink and while I cannot imagine how frustrating and distressing IVF is, surely this behaviour seems a bit extreme.

Despite our losses and the frustration at my PILS ignoring my pgs and losses - we got a 5 word text if we were lucky when the babies died and told by FIL that we weren't to discuss the pg last time around (which thankfully had a good result) we tried to be joyful (if very tearful at times) for other peoples' good news.

Try not to let this spoil the rest of the years you and your wonderful children have with your PILS and SIL and new cousin. Maybe you didn't need to feel guilty / tearful at HER losses when you were pg and could try to let it go now?

It doesn't sound like reasonable behaviour, and grief does not IMVHO exscuse it - it wasn't your fault she was having problems etc etc, so being irritated is not unreasonable, letting it spoil the rest of your and your childrens' lives is.

Even if you confronted her about being a twat, would she listen, or would it just cause YOU problems?

Good luck - I have a really irritating SIL, but for completely different reasons Grin

redexpat · 26/04/2011 17:32

YANBU. I think you have behaved impeccably in testing circumstances.

Does DH (or anyone else) acknowledge that her behaviour was inappropriate? I have an IL who is pretty awful. I made some comment about her to DH who then said I was rude, I calmly pointed out the effort I had made to connect and her reactions (literally listed them), and he quickly acknowledged that she was the one being rude. His acknowledgement has meant so much to me and made her behaviour easier to ignore.

takethisonehereforastart · 26/04/2011 17:40


I lost two babies within the space of eleven months, our son was stillborn and our daughter was premature and only survived for a short time.

And I've been the person who watched the same SiL give birth to her third and fourth children as I was losing mine. Her fourth was born six weeks after our daughter died and one year and one day since our son was stillborn. I've stood in the hall at the naming ceremony and cried quietly in private when it all got too much, thinking I would never have a living child of my own.

But never, ever should grief or frustration be used as an excuse to behave as badly as your SiL has. She has had no right to be so spiteful towards you just because she has experienced loss and difficulties.

I think you have been very understanding towards her and she's lucky that you have tolorated her nastiness. You'd have to be a saint not to feel a bit piqued now, that after ruining all your celebrations and special occasions she is allowed to have hers go off without a hitch.

The best thing you can do is let it go because the only person suffering at the moment is you, and it wouldn't be right to indulge in tit-for-tat behaviour. But if she dares to behave badly at your next occasion you will know that she was using her grief to hide and excuse her nasty nature and you will be well within your rights to complain long and loud about her.

bemybebe · 26/04/2011 17:43

I think you were very understanding under the circ. You SIL was not. That said, what do you want her to do now, not have any "big" parties?

I think the best way forward is to acknowledge that her infertility problems have affected all in the family and just move on.

hairylights · 26/04/2011 17:43

Yanbu. I think the behaviour is appalling (I speak as someone who has lost three very much wanted babies in the last year). I adore my 4 month old nephew, two yr old neice and my sil is expecting again. I bear her no Ill will.

Becaroooo · 26/04/2011 17:47

She sounds hateful.

What does her family (your PIL, yoru dh and other siblings think of her behaviour???)

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 17:58

bb9 i'm sorry for your losses, i don't think any of the behaviour you've described is horrible. We always ensured that the first meeting of our babies with my BIL and his wife were at a time chosen by them and had nobody else there at their request. I can't imagine you pain you must feel seeing your DH hold another baby, i understand that.

It's hard not to feel guilty when you're being told you've 'stolen my turn' etc and let's face it she had to look at me and i couldn't hide being pregnant.

It hasn't spoilt my life but it has tainted what should have been the happiest memories of my life, i can't help feeling a bit bitter about that.

For the record i have never said or done anything in response to her behaviour but it was hard not to feel singled out and attacked. I wasn't the only other person in the family to have a baby but i was the first. Interestingly she didn't act like this with her own sisters just me the wife of her BIL.

Other family members did see what was happening and my own dad told me i was being a pushover but nobody ever said anything to her. I think she probably realises she acted unfairly and we text and speak weekly but it remains unaddressed. She did have counselling but it only reinforced her idea that her feelings were paramount and she should do whatever she needed to. Part of me thinks i should just suck it up and move on but as with anything easier said than done!

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InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 18:05

takethisonehereforastart and hairylights i'm sorry you've experienced losses too, this whole experience has made me realise how common this is Sad

bemybebe i'm not saying i don't want them to have any big parties, i started this thread to see what other people's take on this was. Sometimes you wonder if your feelings are justified. I'm very happy for them and love my niece.

I just feel a bit damaged by it all really, like i said maybe it's just tough shit and i need to chalk it up and get on with it whilst quietly seething in the corner at every family celebration Wink

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RunAwayWife · 26/04/2011 18:13

I think your SIL is just a vile person

FattyAcid · 26/04/2011 18:15

You have had an awful time and are grieving yourself for the times you wanted to have had with your children.

Bitterness though will be bad for you - why not get some counselling so that you can move forward and enjoy the present and the future properly - you deserve to.

anonacfr · 26/04/2011 18:16

Do you think you could maybe invite her out for a coffee and try to explain how you feel or would she go mental on you?
If so it might be worth doing to clear the air a bit.

Main thing is you can't let it ruin your life- just focus on your beautiful children and try to not let it upset you- it's not worth it!

bemybebe · 26/04/2011 18:17

cloak I do realise you don't mind them partying, but did you formulate to yourself what exactly you think should happen now? Do you need to have a heart-to-heart chat to bring it into the open and, hopefully, open the next chapter in your relationship?

FriedEggyAndSlippery · 26/04/2011 18:18

I agree with everyone else.

I can only imagine how awful it is to go through such losses - I am so sorry, to those of you who have faced them. MN really opens my eyes to how lucky I have been.

I have no idea how I would cope with that but I'd like to think that I wouldn't take it out on others.

IngridFletcher · 26/04/2011 18:23

Even if we assume grief is an excuse there is nowt stopping her apologising now is there?

smallwhitecat · 26/04/2011 18:23

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Message withdrawn

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 18:27

FattyAcid it is a bit like grief i suppose, you have this daft fairytale notion of what being pregnant and having a baby will be like. You don't think about the hardwork a baby brings, you think about the exciting things like the big announcement, choosing maternity clothes, picking out things for the nursery etc. Don't get me wrong i've had the reality check and i know it's not a fairytale Grin but i do feel a bit cheated and doubt i'll have anymore babies now.

I don't feel bitter all the time, just have little attacks of it when i feel they are having the fairytale version i should have had. That aside i do get how lucky i am and wouldn't swap with her for all the tea in china, she has had a truly awful time of it. I'm just glad it had a happy ending for them.

anonacfr i do hope one day we'll talk about it and clear the air, and you're right my children are beautiful Grin

We actually get on really well and we are my Niece's Godparents, they said they asked us because of all the support we have given them. I am over it in a way it just niggles me now and again, i'm not consumed by it just a bit saddened. It's been good to get the MN perspective!

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plupaschalrelief · 26/04/2011 18:35

Well, certainly decrease the frequency of your talking and text contact with her, as every time you speak to her or hearfrom her, you will be reminded of other shitty things she's said to you and done to you.

I am surprised the rest of the family hasn't made

It sounds as though you need friends, as well as family, as it sounds like both your and DH's family have let you be unhappy and have not supported you. Interestingly enough, they've let SIL be unhappy, too, and have supported the worst of her reactions to her sorrows. Hmm

whomovedmychocolate · 26/04/2011 18:38

YANBU - some people feel grief gives them the right to have zero compassion or thoughts for others.

They expect everyone else to rally round and support them but are completely blind to the fact that everyone has things in their lives that are painful and there is no rating system for feeling bad.

The combination of righteousness and grieving (ie my pain is greater than you, or anyone else's) pain, is a very common affliction and drives people apart. You did very well to hang in there. :)

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 18:46

plupa i do take things to heart so maybe the family felt i should just ignore the behaviour which is hard to do depending on your nature.

WWMC it was exactly that! I should have just posted this on out pauling thread Wink

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emptyshell · 26/04/2011 18:50

You can't understand what she's been through - but there are other ways of handling it... I'll be honest - I hate my sister in law (there are other reasons as well btw - mainly the fact she became and utter bridezilla btich while getting married but that's another story) because she's the lucky one - I just go into total and utter avoidance mode, dont cause any confrontations or scenes or hysteria - I just stay the fuck out of the way because I know there's a chance I WOULD probably flip out and make a scene... now if she had an issue with that - she'd be a bitch and I'd tell her to fuck off... but behaving how this one seems to be - that's not on and that's precisely WHY I stay away just in case.

Thankfully (with the odd outbreak of bricklike insensitivity) the rest of the family understands my need to steer clear (tough shit if they don't really).

But yep, you can't understand the sheer level of grief and anger - and to be honest, being pissed off at how shite it all was was the only thing that propelled me out of bed at some points (came very very close to suicide at several points).

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 18:59

emptyshell i have never said i understand how she feels or what she has been through. If her anger got her out of bed in the morning and keep her going, great i'd rather that than her commit suicide and i don't doubt she felt suicidal at times.

I would have totally understood if she'd have avoided me but to make me the focus of her anger was unfair really. I did nothing but be supportive and get on with my own life. It wasn't my fault this happened to her, the same as i don't take my anger out on those who had a better childhood than me.

I've no idea what i want really, nothing will change it now

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