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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....
OP posts:
pink4ever · 26/04/2011 19:02

I am [shocked] that people on here are calling the sil a "bitch" and "evil". The poor women was obviously mentally ill!! Show a bit of fucking compassion. I have been through this alot(see pregnancy threads if your interested). 3 times when I lost my babies(late in pregnancy) the same family member was pregnant and went on to have 3 healthy babies.It was hell for me and yes there were times when I couldnt be in same room as them.
OP -yes its a shame that you werent able to fully express your joy at your pregnancies but at least you didnt have to bury your dcs. No matter how mnay dcs your sil goes on to have those lost babies are going to haunt her forever.

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 19:11

pink4ever i'm sorry you have lost three babies.

I can understand and relate to alot of what you have said but what makes you think i haven't experienced really awful things that don't haunt me? I don't want to go into it on this thread but i have had some awful experiences myself but then who hasn't? I don't think for one minute that just because they now have a baby that that magically takes the pain of their losses away.

Your post sums up my point really that she can do and say what she wants because of what has happened to her. I fully expected that me having my children would make her feel sad and that she would struggle to control her feelings.

Reading some responses on here has made me feel a sad because i do feel protective towards her but i also feel that i didn't deserve the treatment i got.

Please don't think i'm not compassionate to her feelings, if i wasn't i would have said exactly what i wanted to no holds barred...i didn't!

OP posts:
onepieceofcremeegg · 26/04/2011 19:12

Invisability I understand a little, and I think that your sil sounds quite an unpleasant person.

I had a similar (but to lesser extent) situation with dh's db and sil.

They had a child before us (their dd, she is lovely, healthy, 8 years old now)

Unbeknown to us, they wanted another child but struggled ttc.

Pils knew this, and were supposed to tell us, but didn't/chose not to so we had no idea.

We have 2 dds. I had a terrible first pregnancy, and I suspect the ils esp sil hoped/assumed we wouldn't have another.

We announced to pil at Christmas 4 years ago that we were having another child. (almost 4 year gap) Mil deliberately didn't tell us of sil's anguish and we broke the news to them later in the day. Sil was devastated, mil smirked in the background and I felt awful. Fil suggested to dh and I that it wasn't "our turn" to have another baby!

Sil is a difficult person generally. However had I known their difficulties, and had mil not chosen to try and play one brother against the other (her favourite game) I would never have broken the news to them at Christmas.

We have all moved on now - they had a baby boy 2 years after our dd2 was born. Yes sil is difficult/awkward in many ways. However in our situation mil is a big nasty manipulative factor as well. I try not to think about it now. I have 2 healthy dds so I don't let myself get caught up in worrying about sil and how difficult she was towards us at times.

onepieceofcremeegg · 26/04/2011 19:13

Invisability I identify with what you said later on. I have had some very traumatic childhood experiences of my own. If I was that way inclined I could use them as a reason/excuse to behave unkindly/nastily towards people. However as an adult I choose not to.

CheerfulYank · 26/04/2011 19:13

She was obviously mentally ill with grief, but she should not have spoken to you as she did or acted in that way at all. She didn't have to go to the Christenings, etc. I think anyone would understand if she said "this is a bit too hard at this time," and stayed home.

Could you speak to her? I don't think there would be anything wrong with having a talk about it so you could put it behind you.

WhereYouLeftIt · 26/04/2011 19:17

OP, you can't change what happened in the past, but you can influence the future. The best I think you can do is to draw a line and regard the SIL-of-the-past as a different person, one with mental health issues. But your relationship with her now and in future is new, and dependant on her behaviour towards you and your children. Any crap she pulls now, stand up to her and call her on it. And if she objects, tell her you put up with it in the past because you felt sorry for her, but that won't work any more and you demand that she now takes full responsibility for her own actions.

EveryonesJealousOfGingers · 26/04/2011 19:30

Great post WYLI - wise words.

caramelwaffle · 26/04/2011 19:32

Absolutely WhereYouLeftIt

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 19:37

I think you're right WhereYouLeftIt, that is all i can do. Sometimes when you're in a situation and emotionally invested in it it's hard to know if your feelings and actions are right. I was hoping to get some clarity and honesty by posting here and i have Smile

Thanks for all your opinions, i honestly expected a host of YABU responses!

OP posts:
littletreesmum · 26/04/2011 19:38

This reply has been deleted

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fastedwina · 26/04/2011 19:51

maybe she'll read this thread and see how you feel anyway.

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 20:05

fastedwina maybe she will

OP posts:
tholeon · 26/04/2011 20:30

i think some posters have been a bit harsh on your SIL, it is such an awful grief and family occasions can be very difficult. But she should have stayed away from them, of course.

OP you sound like you have done a good job so far of being the bigger person and focussing on what really matters: your beautiful children, and now your niece. I'd carry on, forgive the past on the grounds of her being driven ill by grief and sadness, and deal with any future issues as and if they arise.

takethisonehereforastart · 26/04/2011 21:02

invisibility thank you. It is scarily and sadly much more common than anybody thinks, and of course when it happens to you it can feel like you are the only person ever to go through it. That perhaps explains your SiLs behaviour a little bit but again, in no way does it excuse it.

pink sorry for your losses too. I think anyone would understand a person who has been through a loss staying away from a christening or baby shower etc to protect themselves from feeling hurt, but the SiL went along and caused trouble, was rude, lied, made offensive comments, suggested they keep their child a secret and emigrate. Yes she may well have mental issues relating to her loss but that is still horrendous behaviour.

There were days and days and weeks after our daughter died that I sat at home alone, didn't eat or get dressed or move from the sofa, when I just cried and cried and refused to answer the phone or see anybody and my DH was shipped off to the other side of the world for six months the week after we buried her. I was a mess but even at the worst I knew that for other people, including my SiL with her pregnancy/newborn, life was going on as normal and that's how it should be. I didn't want anyone else to go through what we were going through or think that they were luckier than me because their children were alive. I didn't like being the one everyone tip-toed around because my children were dead and I was mental.

Except perhaps my MiL, who wins awards for tactless, deliberate nastiness but that's a whole other nightmare story. She could have tip-toed a bit more and saved a whole boatload of trouble for everyone.

But I didn't want my grief to be my Get Out Of Jail Free card, my passport to behave like a bitch for any reason I felt like being one. And I did feel like being a bitch, frequently, I wanted to scream and shout and rant that my children were dead and make someone pay.

But you have to stop yourself don't you? You have to tell yourself that you can't stay on the sofa in manky pyjamas, bawling your eyes out and hating the world, especially the pregnant world and the new mums and the people who don't know how fucking lucky they are because none of their children are dead.

And there are times when I avoid people even now, with my LO here with me. I had to ask some friends not to send me their updates and scan pictures automatically by email and just hold them until I felt brave. But I would never have told them to leave the country to make me feel better.

There's protecting yourself and there's being the bad fairy in the corner. I'd be interested to know how the SiL behaved before all of that happened to her and how she behaves now.

And I'm not saying that she will automatically be fine now she has a living child. It doesn't work like that, the losses and the pain is always with you once you lose a child, and a new baby doesn't fix it, nor should it. But again, her losses did not give her the right to treat anyone so badly either. I understand her to a point, I sympathise enormously, but still I feel for the OP and admire the way she tolorated that behaviour because it was very, very wrong of her SIL no matter what she was going through, because it was so prolonged and spiteful, even though, as you so rightly say, grief can make you feel mentally and physically ill and there is no coming to terms with the loss of a child, no way to accept or rationalise it, because it is so unnatural and wrong.

PavlovtheCat · 26/04/2011 21:15

Her behaviour is not excusable. Grief does not turn you into a horrible person. It accentuates traits already there.

My best friend has had several unsuccessful attempts at IVF and has tried for a long time to conceive. She finds it very hard around people who have just had babies. Two of our friends have just had babies, one of which was IVF and born at the same time my friend's IVF treatment would have resulted in her baby if successful, we went to the beach and those friends turned up with their babies. One was announced and she was ok with that, the other, came with her two week old (IVF conceived) and she was really upset at listening to baby talk between the new parents. She quietly and discretely took herself off for a walk, and I joined her, and she had a good cry. She said she did not want them to see, as she did not want to stop their enjoyment of their miracle, she just hurt and could not hold it in.

My friend is a kind, caring, sensitive person who is desperately sad at not having a child and feels she has missed her chance now. Her traits come out through her grief, she has taken my children and made them her own, she is their aunty in ways my own family are not.

However, my sister used her grief at the death of my mother as an excuse to behave like a complete bitch, and treat those who she alleged to care for with such horridness she alienated herself completely. Problem was, she was only demonstrating nasty traits that were there all along.

A nasty person becoming nastier through grief, can just let go of any control over their behaviour and have a 'justification' for it. which is bullcrap.

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 21:59

takethisonehereforastart i just wanted to say thankyou for sharing your story because it does help and i know it must be hard. Thanks to everyone who has replied really.

I suppose my feelings are still wrapped up in my own sadness, we grieve for those babies too. I still cry when i think about the whole thing it was an awful time for the whole family, made so much worse because they were so wanted.

It's a bit like on MN when a poster says 'My mother has done X, Y or Z and i'm really annoyed...' and then other posters say 'You don't know how lucky you are, i wish my mother was here to complain about....'.

It always feels like i should just put with whatever she does because she has lost her babies. She has been much better and now does all the things she used tell me off for like moaning about sleepless nights and how hard motherhood is etc Smile

OP posts:
smallwhitecat · 26/04/2011 22:02

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 22:52

I think i have been sympathetic smallwhitecat because i don't think alot of people would have allowed her to behave in this way without addressing it. I can't do into details about all thre things i have done to try and help her and ensure she feels that her babies are very much missed by the family because i'd hate for anyone to read this and recognise me in real life.

I've been nothing but understanding, sympathetic and non confrontational often to the detriment of my own feelings. I don't think she is a vile person but she has done some awful things.

It's not easy being pregnant when somebody close to you loses their much wanted baby, it goes with out saying that it was a million times worse for her. My own PIL felt said that they'd wished we'd lost our baby because at least we already had one and they deserved their baby more because they'd tried harder to get it through IVF.

I think she is one of the bravest people i know and she has been to hell and back but she wasn't the only person hurting. At times i felt like my PIL were right Sad

OP posts:
porcamiseria · 26/04/2011 22:55

Oh dear, you are never going to be friends are you . yanbu to feel upset. can you just accept that she's a bitch to you, and try to not let her impact you? how often do you see her?

I really would try to distance yourself, be civil but dont allow her to impact you so much, is that feasible?

and I dont thionk you like her, she may deep down be OK but she has hurt you too much, and my guess is you cant say it to her cos her (awful) experiences will always trump it..

so cut the calls, cut the emails, cut the texts (if there are anyway) and slowly get to a situation where you are civil, but thats as far as it goes.

can you do that??

InvisabilityCloak · 26/04/2011 23:14

porcamiseria we are friends as odd as that sounds. I sort of put her bad behaviour in a box and get on with it.

I'm not sure if i'm getting this across well really, she has hurt me but i don't brood about it ever waking moment. It just comes to the fore everytime there is a family occasion like this birthday party on Saturday when i think about it and feel sad.

I think as has already been said, i need to draw a line from now and not tolerate any future bad behaviour. Hopefully i will get an opportunity to discuss with her how i feel about it in one day. I doubt she realises everything she has done.

OP posts:
wook · 26/04/2011 23:15

I just can't even imagine what burying two sets of twenty week old twins would do to my head but it wouldn't be good, if my violent loathing of any old stranger with a double buggy in the park after I had two relatively early mcs ttc dc2 is anything to go by!! But then again, I am not especially nice generally so probably I was just giving free reign to already unappealing thinking! Smile

Seriously, I can understand that this SILs behaviour could have been hurtful to the OP. I just think it's clear that she (the SIL) was hurting most of all, and it was probably a very raw and painful hurt, and the experience of seeing the OP's happiness with her dcs was probably a bit like being dragged over gravel repeatedly. She quite probably knew she was behaving badly, felt she couldn't help it, and just added that to her list of things she hated herself for/ felt she'd failed at at that time?

In contrast to most people here I would say that really raw grief DOES explain AND excuse some poor behaviour, though of course not all.

Now that all is well and both of you have lovely dcs, can't you just all move on and have a good time? In our family, when the cousins get together it's just brilliant. You have to look to the future- there's no escape from family!

wook · 26/04/2011 23:20

Just read again though and the ignoring of birthdays is not nice at all... does sound as if she was ill to me- you never know, she may apologise to you at some point?

DontdoitKatie · 26/04/2011 23:31

I think she sounds like a bully, and her losses are no excuse for scapegoating and bullying you.

"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's understandable to feel compassion, but you didn't "steal" her turn, so you had nothing to be guilty for. That's not how pregnancies work. She had to have her own babies in her own time. Bullying you because she was suffering is just a horrendous way to deal with it. The whole thing sounds very traumatic for you. Like you also say there were other women getting pregnant in the family and they weren't picked on, just you, so it isn't about uncontrollable grief, it's about who was the easiest target.

jellybeans · 26/04/2011 23:33

I have never had fertility issues as such although with one it took us about a year to concieve and was awful waiting. However, I have lost 2 babies after 20 weeks and they were the most awful heartbreaking experience ever. In both cases it took me at least a year, and having a subsequent successful pregnancy to feel even near normal.

With my second late loss, I was much more 'bitter' and devastated to be around pregnant women and babies. It felt like they were rubbing it in my face and how easy it was for them. It just reminded me of my 'failure'. Of course now I can see that it was the grief and sheer pain which was excruciating and only someone who has been through it will understand. I was never rude to anyone but I did avoid pregnant friends when possible and missed a couple of parties of babies that were born around the time I was due. I found dealing with people who had babies around the time I was due were the hardest to deal with, it was agony just seeing them. I literally would be upset he rest of the day.

With my first loss, I was pregnant again the month after but the second time, it took over a year which made things harder in many ways. You could never replace the child but I felt desperately empty.

So YANBU to be pissed off but YABU in a way as the suffering she has been through has obviously been very great and more than any upset she may have caused by her remarks etc. So I would let it go. In time she may see how she behaved. I feel bad now about some of the thoughts I had about people at the time but under the level of despair you really cannot control all your feelings to sensible rational ones.

Serenitysutton · 26/04/2011 23:39

I'm not sure about mentally I'll- she could just be emotionally immature. It's a horrendous thing to go through but some people handle their problems with more self control than others. None of us could know if she was mentally Ill ( doesn't that make it unlikely drs would've continued fertility treatment until she was more stable?) anyway i agree you can only go forward. You can only control youself, not her - I'd take a step back for a while. Maybe the hurt will diminish over time.

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