Thursday, July 12, 2007

The letter

My husband and I have had strained relations since M died with two of his family members, that we were previously close to. I'll call them A and N. It's hard for me to put into words, but to get down into the nitty gritty of it, the problems arose from them acting like nothing happened. They came and saw me in the hospital, and acted like they were visiting me at my house. I remember wondering why they came at all. Luckily, they didn't stay. That was the first clue. Then, as time went on, they made it worse and worse. I remember seeing them about a week after giving birth, and they expected us to be the same. It was very obvious. At one point, A had to come over to pick something up at our house, and she was so uncomfortable. She literally could not handle being at a house a grief. I remember she brought a friend and that angered me, I was in no condition to see people outside the family at that time. I couldn't believe this person, who we use to be close to, now couldn't see us without the protection of a friend.

So, time went on. About 6 months after M died, I started encouraging my husband to talk to them. This is how I deal. Some things in life you have to face head on, open up the dicussion, and clear the air. Especially with family, because unless you move away, it's pretty hard to avoid them. I felt it was better to let them know how we felt, how hurt we were, in order to have something of a relationship with them. At family gatherings, it was pretty obvious there was strain between the four of us, even though we smiled, hugged and said hello to each other. Better to get it done with, then let that fester, was my opinion. Did this talk ever take place? No. Because how my in laws deal with things is very, very different. They don't talk. They will just let it fester, including my husband. And, it not being my family, and not feeling in control of the situation, I let it go. I just figured we would never have much of a relationship with these two people ever again.

Yesterday, my husband received a letter from N. To sum it up quickly, it basically said she was sorry she wasn't there for us. So, of course, hubby and I had to have a discussion. He said we should try to talk to to them. Okay, but I think we need to clarify our thoughts. What would you say? Why are you angry with them? is what I asked him. I asked this because over time I started to suspect that my reasons for being angry with them varied slightly from his, though we never really sat down and dissected it. He told me he was angry because of all the people he thought would be there for us, he thought they would. That at least they would come talk to us after our loss.

This is where it gets complicated for me. See, my reasons for being angry with them have more to do with general acknowledgement. They acted as if nothing happened. Nothing at all. Tra la la....its another day. And in turn, they never acknowledged M. At all. Ever. In the year and half since he died, I have never once heard them utter his name. Hubby and I have made if very clear, in many ways, that we do talk about M, that he is a part of our family, that he is with us everyday, and that we will spend the rest of our lives keeping his memory alive. On his 1st birthday, we made a card. The card was not sad, it celebrated his memory and the happiness he brought us. Not a word about it. We invited them to a walk in remembrance our support group puts on. Did they come? No, and everyone else in the family did. I told hubby last night, it feels as though I only get to have a relationship with them if I don't make them sad and uncomfortable by mentioning M. Well, no. I will always choose my son over anyone else. I am not saying I'm right, or that my take on the situation is very mature, it is just my feelings. In fact, it feels downright immature to me in some ways, the way it feels like choosing sides.

His take was that they didn't know what to say, so they acknowledged nothing. That I needed to remember that they are a product of his family, and anything emotional they basically don't deal with. I can see that this is true. I was under the impression that the relationship I had created with them, let them overcome that a bit, at least with me. Even if they would have come to me saying they had no idea what to do at all, but at least just talked to me, I could have accepted that. I guess I was wrong about the relationship I thought we had. Plus, I told hubby, sometimes in life you just step up. Especially for the people you care about.

Before you think this is all about me, (too late, right?) the other part that hurts is they are M's family too. If not for me, can you act like you care that he died for him? For the relationship you would have had with him and are now missing out on? Part of what make their behavior so obvious is that there are young children in my in law family. They, these young kids, including some teenagers, the most notoriously selfish age, has shown more interest and care in M than A and N. They have asked to see his pictures, came to the walk, and just in general bring him up sometimes. If I ever have a living child, I know these kids will be comfortable when that child mentions an older brother. Because they think of M as their missing family member too. And that makes A's and N's actions hurt even more.

As the conversation between hubby and I went on, I got in touch with some anger feelings towards him for not trying to take care of this a year ago. Now, he is gung ho to "make up" and meanwhile my anger has gotten worse. I just feel frustrated because I am not sure at this point a talk will do any good. I don't think they have any clue about the acknowledgement issue. N's letter sure didn't indicate that. At one point, she brought up a time when she called us, months after, where she said, if there is anything I can do...Gee, thanks. And how heartfelt is your letter, when you feel the need to mention the ONE call you made? I can't force them to acknowledge their own family member, but for me, that is the big problem. This has made me really see them in a new light, how truly hard they try to avoid the emotional. Its actually sad. I now have seen they will never have anyone truly close to them. How can you in that state? I'm sorry I sound so angry, but, I gave up on them.

I can't help but feel that if the relationship resumes on their terms, it is a betrayal. Again, that is not a mature outlook, but I can't help it. I am overly protective of M in a sense. After our relationship died, I remember having feelings of, well, if I did have a living child, I certainly hope they don't think they are going to get to coo and be happy for me. I felt you take all my children or none. I know, know, how bad does that sound? So childish, yet, those are my feelings, bad or good, right or wrong.

The letter has thrown me. I was so ready to "save" the relationship long ago, but now I feel as though I have just seen an ugly side to them. I don't know that a talk will do any good. I'm not sure what the right thing is. Even in my own blog, I feel I have to defend my feelings. So on that note, lest anyone reading thinks they were not so bad, there were more things that happened that I didn't mention. If you did actually read this long, sad rambling, thank you. I know it is more of a personal vent/diary post, but I really needed to get it off my chest.


Catherine said...

Instead of focusing on who did what to whom...why don't you try focusing on the future? Is there anything these people can do that will make it all right in your eyes? Or do you feel that your relationship is irretrievably broken?

Only you know what you want/need in your life (don't waste your time justifying yourself to anyone). It seems as if your husband, for whatever reason, wants to rebuild a relationship with these people. If you and your husband can't see eye to eye, then maybe you just need to agree to have separate relationships with them.

I offer this from my own experience with my mother-in-law (not written about and only complained about privately). She has done things that have caused me to cut her out of my life completely. My husband still has a relationship with her (albeit a strained relationship). I have to respect his desire to communicate with his mother even though I do not like it. But it has worked for us and I am much happier not having to deal with that woman myself. :o)

Good luck to you.

niobe said...

Well, it does sound as if they're finally acknowledging that they didn't do enough to support you. Of course, they aren't really recognizing the other ways in which they've let you and your husband and M down. I know you said there are other things that happened, so I might not be understanding the full situation.

But just because they've apologized for part of how they hurt you doesn't mean that you have to have a close relationship -- or even any relationship, depending on how close knit the family is -- with them in the future. Especially since it sounds like their inability to talk about M or do things to remember him are ongoing problems. As you point out, it might just be the way they are. Some people (like me, for example) have a lot of trouble dealing with strong emotions.

Anyway, these thoughts probably aren't very useful. But, even if our situations are different, I know how hard it can be to deal with family member who just don't seem to understand.

ms. G said...

Thank you for your comments. And reading that long saga! I just felt so overwhelmed with anger when I read the letter.

Yes, I suppose it is possible for my husband to have a relationship with them without me. I think he would have a bigger problem with that than I would, because he sees us as a united front. I don't know if I can have a relationship with them, I think that is where a lot of my emotion comes from.

I do understand that some people don't like the emotional stuff. I think some of my anger comes from the relationship we had prior. We were close, (i thought) so I never saw the "no emotions" thing from them coming. Like you said, the not remembering M thing would be a problem for me, as I feel people should let the parent take the lead, and then follow. If they want to talk about their baby, they should be able to, if they don't, they shouldn't have to.

Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts, you guys have given me some things to think about.

Monica said...

Ms. G

I completely understand your frustrations and anger towards your family members. I have not spoken to my father and step mother in over a year, because they didn't acknowledge that my son and their grandchild had died. It hurts when you expect someone so close to you to be sensitive and supportive of your situation and they are completely blind. Your emotions play an important part in your grieving process, so do what makes you comfortable and happy. That may or may not include your in-laws. Best of luck to you! I'm sorry to hear about losing M and I wish you comfort and peace in this pregnancy.