Originally Published: March 19, 2017 6 a.m.
Dear Annie: I have never written to an advice columnist before, so please bear with me.
My dad passed away in January 2016 from a tragic motorcycle accident. A driver wasn’t paying any attention and hit my dad. He died a week later in the hospital from his injuries. I got the call he passed on the morning of my 40th birthday. It’s been a year now, and my mom is still heartbroken. I realize people grieve in their own ways, and seeing as they would have been married for 50 years last June, I can understand that it will take time to heal.
However, what I need help with is this: She has turned bitter and hateful toward everyone. My younger sister and I are married and have families of our own. So Mom feels abandoned when we can’t come over every day. I have invited her to places, but she always cancels. She has alienated all her friends, including her best friend of 10 years.
Now she has moved on to my husband and my youngest daughter. She blames my husband for my not spending more time with her. Last summer, we went on a Colorado vacation, and he wanted it to be just he, our two daughters and I. Mom took that to mean that he feels she isn’t a part of our family -- which isn’t true. I go over there every week, and she refuses to get out of bed, giving one excuse or another. It’s come to the point that I have started lying to her about my work hours just so I don’t have to put myself in a situation of being disappointed anymore. She has started in on my youngest and says nasty things to my daughter’s face, such as, “You’re a waste of space.” My daughter is 12, and that really hurts her self-esteem. That is the last straw. I love my mom, but attacking my daughter and my husband is unforgivable. Please, any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated. -- One Foot Out the Door
Dear One: No matter how much your mother might be pushing people away, her behavior sounds like a cry for help.
First, it’s important that you not return her bitterness in kind. When she hurls nasty insults at you, simply tell her, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” She’ll be less inclined to lash out at you once she stops getting the response she’s looking for.
Second, emphasize that you’ll always love her unconditionally, but if you’re going to be part of each other’s life, she must find a therapeutic outlet for her grief, whether it’s counseling, a support group or a religious adviser. Visit the sites of GriefShare and Soaring Spirits International for more resources.
And no matter what, don’t feel guilty for healing. Continue taking vacations with your husband and children.
Your mother’s grief cannot hold your joy hostage.