Author Topic: How do I forgive my family?  (Read 776 times)


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How do I forgive my family?
« on: July 16, 2017, 02:26:24 PM »
It's been over 4 months now, but I'm still upset with my family (mostly my mom) over the way they handled things. The day after Sam died, I was scheduled to fly to Colorado and visit my parents on vacation. When I got the news, I called them intending to say that I couldn't come, but they insisted that I come anyway, and I was too much of a wreck to argue. I lasted two days there and it was awful. On the second day I told them "I want to go home." They agreed, but insisted on driving back with me, which took two days. I was in contact with my in-laws via phone calls the whole time, but they still made all the arrangements without me because I wasn't there. I wasn't there when they packed up all of his stuff, either.

I was uncomfortable with my parents being there for the funeral and everything leading up to it, because I felt that they made it all about what they wanted instead of what I wanted. I needed to be with Sam's family and just focus on him, but my parents needed to be around me, whether I wanted them there or not. So I found myself constantly comforting them, instead of the other way around.

We stayed in town for about a week and a half, and my parents decided that I needed to leave town and come back to Florida with them. I fought them on that, because I knew our relationship would become even more strained if I went back with them, but I eventually gave in because I didn't feel like they actually gave me a choice. And I was right- the drive across the country was miserable, and so was the time I spent at my parents' house. My mom said a lot of really insensitive things to me in the beginning, to the point where I just don't tell her anything about what I'm going through anymore. She was also weirdly jealous of my MIL, who I talk to regularly and who I feel actually understands what I'm experiencing. She's the only person I can talk openly with about Sam's whole complicated story, and in the beginning that was all I wanted to talk about. I tried to be honest about all of this, but my mom heard it as me not loving her anymore and preferring my in-laws over her and my dad. So I gave up on trying to convince her otherwise, and now I talk to my parents about twice a month, and I don't share anything about my grief. We just talk about work and other things like that. I don't even like talking to them anymore. It feels stressful and fake.  I'm angry over the way they handled everything, and I also still haven't forgiven my mom for not wanting me to marry Sam in the first place. I can't help thinking she got her wish. But they're family, and I want to fix this somehow. How do I let go of everything I'm upset about and rebuild my relationship with them?
Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while." --The Princess Bride


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Re: How do I forgive my family?
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2017, 03:30:48 PM »
Hi Monique
I'm sorry to hear you are having this hard time with your parents.  I know for me at 4 months I was pretty raw with my emotions.  How about just giving it some time and see what happens?  I certainly understand your anger with your Mom that's for sure.
As for your in-laws, I'm not surprised that you can talk to you MIL and she can relate.  She sounds like a very compassionate woman and she too is in immense pain as well.  Maybe that's why you can talk to her with ease.
Be gentle with yourself and take things slowly.  You'll get there all in good time.
I don't want it to be his legacy that his death destroyed me.
I need to honour his life by rebuilding my life.


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Re: How do I forgive my family?
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2017, 03:32:59 PM »
Accept that they won't change, only your reaction to them will. You may need more time and space away from them. There was a period of time that I didn't speak to my family, because I wasn't setting good boundaries and they weren't respecting my shitty boundaries.

The reality for me was that my parents couldn't listen to me cry about how much I missed my husband. They had no idea how to deal with my grief. I started leaning on my wid friends and therapist for that. Now, I rarely speak to my parents about my husband. Instead, there are so many more things that I can connect with them on, and my husband isn't one of them.  I respect what they are capable of handling and what they aren't.
Gone but not Squish.

Miss you forever baby girl, my Pru!


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Re: How do I forgive my family?
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2017, 05:00:01 PM »
That's about where I am too MS. I just don't want to cut off contact with them because I know all too well that I won't have them forever. But at the same time I feel like only with time and distance will I be able to get over my bitterness and feel more comfortable talking to them.
Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while." --The Princess Bride


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Re: How do I forgive my family?
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2017, 09:37:53 AM »
Are you in therapy?  That's my advice.  To figure out how to navigate this, to figure out how to stop patterns that are damaging to you, etc., etc.  (Maybe especially to discuss the feeling that your mother "got her wish" by DH dying - that's one of those big ones.)

I had a less pronounced, less extreme struggle (and this is years ago for me now, and as always - take anything with a grain of salt, use what's useful, and discard the rest).  My mother often (and still) talked to me about how hard it was for her, which has always blown my mind.  (THIS!!!!! )  I would try to do something less extreme than cutting ties, and think of a different way to distance and set boundaries for yourself.  But I don't know you, or anything, or your history with your mother.  Early in, I realized that talking to my mother about my sadness was not beneficial for me, and so for the most part, I stopped.  Our relationship changed.  We'll always be their children, but separating ourselves, as adults, is necessary, and it becomes so magnified when they don't deal supportively with this situation.  It's like an accelerated crash course in that idea that our parents are as helpless as we are (and are some of them emotionally immature and are some of them too self-centered to be able to show real, socially clear empathy), and sometimes more so, that we can't always look to them for comfort and safety anymore. 

I think it's somewhat normal to feel closer with MIL at this time - she's a connection to DH, she understands the depth of your suffering, you have a deep bond.  I spent tons of time with my ILs in the months afterwards, even though in general, I didn't really relate to them.  They were who I needed to be with: people who loved him, people who hurt like I hurt.

Something I also can relate to: giving in in the early days to things I didn't want to, because maybe I didn't feel strong enough or present enough to say no, or to understand that it was good for me to say no - I was (understandably!) distracted by the chest-crushing, soul-crushing devastation.  The people who try to take care of us don't always know how. 

For me, forgiveness isn't my goal.  I've said before that I don't believe in forgiveness (I know it's an unpopular position).  For me, understanding and acceptance and moving forward from whatever happened is what I try to do, learning to try not to repeat it in different ways.  Accepting what occurred, why it occurred, that it wasn't ok, but that there also was not malice. 
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 09:40:59 AM by Mizpah »
widowed 2011 (DH 28)


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Re: How do I forgive my family?
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2017, 07:19:46 PM »
I found an article on the ring theory a few months ago, and it resonated with me as well. That was exactly my complaint about my family- they expected me to be concerned about how they were affected, which was just more than I could handle in those first days. All I could keep saying was that they didn't HAVE to be affected at all. They could go home and go back to work and get on with their lives as if nothing had ever happened, but MY life was changed forever. They did try to be supportive, but that just wasn't the dynamic I was used to, and it didn't work for me. I had been there for my mom when she lost her parents, and I was accustomed to her coming to me for help, not the other way around.

I currently live 5,000 miles away from my parents, so there is definitely some quite literal distance in our relationship. It makes things easier, but also makes me feel guilty. I'd like to have a better relationship with them, but it feels really superficial a lot of the time when we talk about the weather and work, and not about this huge, life-altering, devastating loss that actually takes up most of the space in my mind on a typical day. Maybe I can learn to view talking with them as an enjoyable distraction, the way I do work or time spent with certain friends.

I did have a bit of a breakthrough in my thinking the other day, as I realized that even if they had made every decision exactly the way I would have and done everything I asked (or didn't ask for but still wanted), my life really wouldn't be much different or better. Sam would still be dead, and nothing that anyone said or did in those first days would actually make that easier to handle. So there's really no point in being angry about it. Doesn't mean I'm not still angry and bitter some days, but it does help a little to remind myself that being angry doesn't change anything that happened.
Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while." --The Princess Bride

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Re: How do I forgive my family?
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2017, 12:38:26 PM »
Families are too fucking complicated. I wish I had some advice.
Peace ~ Bear

Laurie RIP (Married 1980 .. Widowed 2005)

"Grief can destroy you -- or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn't allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it."
~ Odd Thomas (Dean Kootnz)


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Re: How do I forgive my family?
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2017, 03:20:40 PM »
Have not read the whole thread so forgive me if I miss the mark.  Unlike you, I live a mile away from my parents as the crow flies and share my home with the person who was - until my niece (who lives in San Diego - we are in southeastern PA) was born in December - the only and most beloved granddaughter.  My mother is a complicated person.  She is cold and emotionally unavailable; she can be generous in the extreme and an extreme martyr.  She's been telling me what's wrong with me my whole life; not in a constructive or kind way.  ANYWAY, when Scott died, she was the pits, yet they're pretty involved in our lives because of my daughter.  My parents became very critical of my parenting and also just plain old invasive (found my mother rooting through drawers in my kitchen one night when I got home from work....that kind of thing).  Anyway, I had to put some distance between us.  I've felt guilty about it and they were PISSED.  I sort of think I broke my father's heart (he is, unlike my mother, a real softie) but it needed to be done.  It has taken them some time to adjust to these new terms - a couple years, in fact, and my mother still occasionally says and does bat shit crazy, unkind things but they're easier to absorb now.  We had a second traumatic death in our family shortly after Scott died and its been amazing how empathetic they are to my aunt and uncle in a way they never, ever were to me.  I'm far enough along now that I, too, only feel empathy for my aunt and uncle and am glad my parents are supporting them but its been odd to watch.  I sometimes think seeing their own child in so much pain was not something they could engage so I had to stop engaging with them until I got my footing again.  Its been a process.  Just wanted to share part of my story and say that you shouldn't feel guilty.  You have to protect yourself emotionally and lean on the people who can handle your hurt right now.   Out of my loss some wonderful, unexpected friendships were born in sharing mutual losses or just because some people have more empathy than others.  My mother is a decent human being; she's just not ever going to be that person for me.  Hang in there.  It gets better. 
« Last Edit: July 28, 2017, 03:23:31 PM by TooSoon »