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Need advice about a family situation - TW child death

38 replies

Pancakepipsqueak · 23/04/2021 08:51

This might be outing, but bollocks to it I guess. It's also long - sorry but I didn't want to drip feed.
My son died in 2019. He was nearly 6 months old, and had a heart condition. It was heart breaking, and the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Initially, my partner and I completely retreated mentally and physically from nearly everyone in our lives to deal with our grief - we were "lucky" to get 6 months off together, which we spent basically going to therapy and making sure we ate and showered. We live near my family, whereas my MIL and BIL and family live about 300 miles away.
MIL has not been very well mentally and physically for most of my partner's life. My partner has always been a bit of an emotional crutch for her since he was a teenager. Obviously after the death of our son he retreated from this as had to manage his own mental health (and still does - we're both on anti depressants to manage depression, anxiety, PTSD and OCD).
MIL didn't react well to this. She was dealing with the death of her grandson, which triggered her depression and anxiety to another level. From what I understand she had to be admitted for a short period to get it under control. My partner couldn't deal with this and retreated further, only communicating with her via text and the occasional video call (this was supported by our therapist as every time my partner and his mum would talk the effect it had on him was obvious).
On occasion we wouldn't hear from her I would text SIL (BIL wife) to check in that she was ok, but other than that we had to leave them to it for our own sanity.
For a period of about 3 months we didn't hear from BIL at all. I encouraged partner to get in touch and he did, asking BIL how he was. BIL messaged back something to the effect of 'I'll text you when I'm not at work. I was waiting until I wasn't mad at you any more but I guess that's not happening any time soon'. I looked over and my partner was sobbing at his phone at this (this was 6 months after my son died and 2 weeks before his first birthday so it was quite an emotional time anyway).
To summise the exchange - BIL was angry at 'the state his mum was in' and that my partner didn't care about her, and the situation my partner had put him in. My partner was angry, said something to the effect of 'well I'm sorry for taking the time I needed after my son died'. They haven't spoken since.
Since then we've been blessed to have a daughter, who is now nearly 7 months old. Partner speaks to MIL infrequently, with occasional texts. I send her pictures and videos of our daughter regularly.
Partner and BIL have not spoken since September 2019. I've encouraged but the way my partner sees it is he reached out last time and got his head bitten off, and has never received and apology.
MIL has mentioned it to him, usually defending BIL but that just makes partner angry and so she has stopped.
Over this time I had bought cards from BIL, SIL, and nephews and got partner to sign and send them. I also bought and sent Christmas presents for nephews, got partner to write a Christmas card, and printed off pictures of our daughter and our dog to include. I also send SIL regular (monthly ish) videos and pictures on WhatsApp of daughter. I barely ever get a response. I've tried to encourage visiting when it's allowed and staying in a hotel and to see MIL for a walk or meal so she can meet daughter but partner thinks it would be dramatic and awful (it probably would be tbh).
My question is - would you continue as I am? Sending pictures and videos and accepting no response from MIL and SIL? Encouraging partner to write cards? Encouraging visits? I feel a bit like I'm flogging a dead horse sometimes.
So as not to drip feed, I have been accused of 'not having the best relationship' with MIL by BIL. We're very different people but never had a full argument to my knowledge but MIL can be very bitchy (used to bitch about BIL and SIL to us so can only assume she did the reverse back to them). I'm worried that they might be not replying and thinking that I've encouraged partner to cut ties with them when the opposite is true!
If you read all this - thank you!
YABU - leave them to it and stop the messages/cards/mentioning visits
YANBU - continue as you are

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?


You have one vote. All votes are anonymous.

mumonthehill · 23/04/2021 08:58

Step back. You need to have an honest chat with your partner about what he wants to do. Trying to constantly keep him in touch with his family may keep reminding him of the hurt he feels from their actions. You have tried, they are not responding, give yourselves a break from it all and enjoy your dc.


SeventyNineBottlesOfWine · 23/04/2021 08:59

I'm so, so sorry for the loss of your son.
Personally, I feel you've been treated abysmally by your BIL and SIL.

Losing a child has to be one of the most horrific things anyone can experience and for them to behave the way they have whilst you were deep in grief is unforgiveable.

I would stop all contact with BIL and SIL. They're not worth your time or energy.


JustLyra · 23/04/2021 09:00

What does your partner want to do?

If he doesn’t want to keep contact then stop pushing it. It’s really got to be his choice as they’re his family and they let him down massively when he needed them most.


romdowa · 23/04/2021 09:03

I'm so sorry for your loss and how awful your in laws behaved during that time. I'd suggest you stop the contact, you've tried your best to facilitate a relationship and they've continued to behave badly. Focus on continuing to heal and enjoying your daughter. You've done your best in the most difficult of circumstances, far better than I would have.


MrBond · 23/04/2021 09:04

Maybe send a Christmas 'letter' where you summarise the year you've had and include a few pics, instead of the frequent WhatsApps. I might also moonpig a card for birthdays (bog standard though, no pics) if it were me, but that'd be the limit.


MrBond · 23/04/2021 09:05

I don't know why I put apostrophes around the word letter.

But anyway, a Christmas letter.


chipolte · 23/04/2021 09:09

I’m so sorry for your loss.

At a time when you needed your family most, they not only let you and DH down, they made it all about them. Everyone deals with grief in different ways but your MIL and BIL’s behaviour has been appalling. The contract your DH has with his family obviously hurts him so I would drop it now.


FlorenceWintle · 23/04/2021 09:09

You’ve tried and you can always have that comfort, knowing you did the right thing. Time to move on from them.


Merryoldgoat · 23/04/2021 09:11

You lost your son. Where was the support for you and your partner?

They sound selfish and unreasonable.


MindyStClaire · 23/04/2021 09:14

I know it won't have been easy for BIL and SIL caring for MIL, who sounds a difficult character at the best of times. But christ, your DP stepped back for a reason and if they can't see that then it's not a relationship worth persuing.

Take your lead from your partner, but I think a note in a Christmas card about how you all are and wishing them well would be plenty.


DrinkFeckArseBrick · 23/04/2021 09:15

Your poor husband, what a horrible lack of support from his family, he must feel so let down. Why don't you ask your husband what he wants to do? I know you want to fix things but it doesnt sound like that is possible, I doubt BiL is going to turn round and admit he was an arse, it doesn't sound like has enough empathy to see if from anyone elses view. It might be better for your husband to cut contact and stop being reminded of the reason for the fall out etc.
Do they do the same back around texts and presents? Do you get any acknowledgment? Otherwise could you reach out to SiL and call her to say something along the lines of obviously you are not going to agree about the past, do they want to draw a line under it and move forward, and if so on what basis, or do they effectively want no contact (if your husband is Ok with this).


Pancakepipsqueak · 23/04/2021 09:15

@JustLyra My partner is conflicted - he's past angry at BIL now but feels bereft at the relationship breakdown and guilt that our daughter won't have a relationship with her cousins and misses his nephews of course! We used to have fun and get on and he misses that. BIL is also a link to his dad who they lost when my partner was 19
@MrBond I knew I forgot something - it's funny you mention a Christmas letter because Christmas 2019 (our first without our son so another horrible occasion) SIL sent partner a letter, telling him how sad they were this year and how hard it had been for them and MIL... urgh. Maybe you're all right.

OP posts:

Pancakepipsqueak · 23/04/2021 09:19

@DrinkFeckArseBrick first - I love your Username made me laugh.
SIL sent a card and present to DD (after I sent a present to nephews so it came late but I appreciate the thought anyway).
At the time the argument happened I texted SIL saying 'Please speak to BIL. He's angry with DP. it's nt fair or right and now DP is sobbing. I would text BIL directly but I'm so angry with him I may burst. If you're free for a chat on the phone later would you let me know. If not no worries though xxx'
She texted back saying that she hadn't given it her full attention and didn't know what BIL had said so maybe speak tomorrow. I said to speak the next day but she never rang me so I have tried to speak to her on the phone before but she's never been really willing.

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MargaretThursday · 23/04/2021 09:23

Sorry for the loss of your son Flowers

I don't think you've done anything wrong at all, and I wouldn't blame you for just walking away from your ILs totally.

My baby dn died around 15 years ago. I think about him regularly, all sorts of things remind me, and some of them still bring me to tears. I know my grief is nothing like my siblings, never was, and never will be.

My dm was quite traumatised, she's never had mental health problems and I know she struggled with this more than anything else she has every struggled with. She hid this from my sibling, and it was the right thing to do; my sibling had more than enough to deal with. I don't think my sibling knows how badly dm was effected by it, and I would never tell them either.

If your bil feels that your mil was hiding it from you, and then if, as you suspect, your mil was moaning about you there may be a lot more to it than just your bil being a twat.
I'm certainly not saying your bil is right, but if he was trying to support his dm and she was bitching about you, then he may feel that you used his dm when she didn't have enough to give back. He's then lashing out at you (the wrong person) which isn't fair, but I can see how it might happen.

I'm not saying that he is right, but just trying to give you a potential situation where this has arisen.

In all honesty, if your partner is happy, I think I'd cut totally back on your bil/sil. Send your mil a photo/little update, but don't expect anything back. A bit like you might to an elderly aunt who would like to see it, but wouldn't have the energy to respond.
Don't mention your bil/sil to your mil at all, keep the focus on "what a lovely little dd we have". Give her nothing to gossip over. let her bring up the suggestion to visit if she wants that, then meet at a neutral place.

It is not you or your dp's job to create relationships in the family when it is the others in the wrong. Support him in what he wants to do, but don't expect anything from the others.


LBTM · 23/04/2021 09:24

I'm so sorry about your son. We lost our baby DD and had a similar family break-down with my brother and SIL. I've gone for still messaging and sending presents for their DCs so that I feel like I have the moral high ground. At first I got very frustrated by their lack of response but I manage to switch off from that now most of the time. DB is getting much better at responding now and I assume messages and presents annoy SIL which gives me some satisfaction if I'm feeling crap about the situation.


GrumpyHoonMain · 23/04/2021 09:26

I think you need to step back. If your DH isn’t ready to resume contact then you should support him - your mil’s behaviour can be explained by her Mental illness but nor your bil’s. His comments are terrible and not something I would expect to the father of a child who had just died. Your DH is clearly used as some kind of scapegoat in the family and in his family I would cut them off entirely


provencegal · 23/04/2021 09:26

Sorry I pressed the wrong one, and should have YABU.

Op I am so sorry for the horrendous time you have been through, and you have already done more than enough for your dh's family.

Time to step back, stop the communication and encourage dh to enjoy his new family (you and dd) They sound incredibly damaged and broken, and I suspect triggers your dh every time he has any contact with them. It sounds very unhealthy.

They are making no effort, so I would absolutely stop. No more cards or photos focus entirely on the family and friends that are there for you.

You and dh have done absolutely nothing wrong, you deserved proper support when your ds died, and received nothing but anger. It is not unreasonable now to step back, and look after yourselves. Your dh needs the chance to heal and properly recover from the double blow of his childhood and his loss, op. Flowers Keep on with the therapy and move on from them.


LadyCatStark · 23/04/2021 09:27

They should have been rallying around you and giving you the support you need! Personally, I’d shed them both a scathing letter explaining that they weren’t there for you both when you needed them and they can used you more damage and then never, ever speak to them again.


parietal · 23/04/2021 09:33

Yabnu to think that they should be the ones supporting you.

why not reduce the level of contact but keep sending the odd photo / card to MIL but not BIL. no need for complete NC here.


RampantIvy · 23/04/2021 09:33

My goodness, they have been making it all about them. How utterly selfish and self absorbed can you get?

I'm so sorry for what you have both been through Flowers
I agree that you need to step back and leave them to it. Utimately they are the ones losing out.

It's a pity that there isn't a third party who can step in and tell them how unreasonable they are being.


Pancakepipsqueak · 23/04/2021 09:36

@MargaretThursday I'm so sorry about your DN. I understand what you're saying - but unfortunately MIL has never hidden any of her feelings from DP. Before he reduced contact she would regularly tell him how depressed she was and how she wanted to kill herself. She tells him of every scan she has to go for for her physical health (she's been diagnosed with ME) and always catastrophes it (thinks she's got cancer - she doesnt).
Meanwhile, my dad has been diagnosed with MS and cancer, but never wants to bother us and puts on a brave face, so that's what I've always expected parents to do for their kids I guess?
I definitely think you're right in that BIL was overwhelmed by MIL though and blaming my DP as obviously he is the one who dealt with it for so long.

@LBTM I'm so sorry you lost your DD and had a similar situation. It's truly shit.

OP posts:

Pancakepipsqueak · 23/04/2021 09:37

@LadyCatStark I have definitely wanted to tell them exactly what I thought of how selfish they were being, but I just feel like that would give them more ammunition to hate me. Not that I care particularly, but if DP ever did want to reconnect with them I wouldn't want to be a factor in why he couldn't.

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Thatisnotwhatisaid · 23/04/2021 09:38

I’m so sorry for your loss Flowers.

You need to step back. It’s up to your DP to forge a relationship again with his family if he wishes, if not then that’s his choice.


Wildswimming3 · 23/04/2021 09:38

Sorry about your little boy, cant imagine how you must feel. I would continue to send photos etc of your daughter to your MIL, as you you say she has mh issues and although she doesnt respond she maybe thrilled to get them. I dont think id bother with the cards and presents to my BILs family, your DH must decide how to go forward with his brother.

I think you sound lovely, your daughter is very lucky Smile


Pancakepipsqueak · 23/04/2021 09:39

@RampantIvy Ohhhh our therapist (we see her jointly and she's been amazing at opening DPs eyes to his family's behaviour) has wanted to speak to them but obviously never would. I'd love to see it though if there was ever a world that that could happen.
Their behaviour has taken us to some dark places, and taken the focus off our son which is has been heartbreaking at times. Our therapist would get us to a good place and then we'd get a letter off them or a text and we'd be so low again. She's definitely wanted to rip them a new one at times ha!

OP posts:
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