Grief is an ugly entity that presents in each person differently, and we all have our own ways of dealing with it.
But a person’s process of grieving also should not hurt someone else, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Bride_Singer_23 had been with her husband for years before he lost any family members, but when his father and sister passed away, his mother changed so much due to grief.
When his mother’s grief began to impact every area of their life, including their upcoming wedding, the Original Poster (OP) knew it was time to set new boundaries.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for leaving up a picture that angerls my MIL (Mother-in-Law)?”
The OP tried to sympathize with her mother-in-law’s grieving process.
“I (25 Female) married my husband Joe (27 Male) four months ago. We dated all through high school and college, so we have been in each other’s lives and in each other’s families for quite some time.”
“Joe’s father died when we were seniors in high school, and his sister Jill died three years ago (about six years after his father).”
“Since then, his mother, Jean, has been, in my opinion, unhinged. I cannot imagine her sense of loss and I know everyone has their own grief process so I really try not to judge, but she makes everything about her grief.”
“She didn’t come to our college graduation because she would never get to see Jill graduate from college.”
“We try to be especially kind to her on Mother’s Day, but she spends HOURS at the cemetery and gets very irate if we leave before she’s ready to. She insists we give our first child her husband’s name as a first or middle name and gets angry when we say we’ll name our future children as we see fit. There have been other incidents, too.”
She’s done so much to push Joe away while also relying on him for emotional and sometimes financial support. They have a very unhealthy relationship now.
The situation became worse while the OP and her husband were wedding planning.
“It came to a head when we were wedding planning. I invited her to go wedding dress shopping with me, my mom, my grandma, and my maid of honor.”
“I told her she did not need to come if it was going to be painful for her, but she said she would be happy to.”
“To all of our surprise, she came and brought a wedding gown that Jill had purchased to save for her own wedding someday.”
“She said it would help her if I tried it on and I did, which made her cry, but then she insisted that it was my dress and I didn’t need to get another one.”
“After multiple refusals, she pouted the rest of the time. It was so awkward for everyone.”
This impacted the wedding day, too.
“This led to a lot of drama, to the point where Joe (and me, but mostly Joe) did not want her at the wedding because we couldn’t trust her to not cause some kind of scene and because we thought it would be terrible for her mental health.”
“We asked her not to come and she agreed not to. I got to have a dance with my dad, and my mom surprised Joe by stepping in for a mother’s dance with him. They smiled and laughed the whole time. It was the most special part of our wedding, to me.”
Jean later struggled with what the OP shared about the wedding online.
“I recently changed my FB cover photo to a picture of Joe and my mom dancing and laughing. Jean saw this and has been coming at us for it, saying it’s just a reminder that she was excluded from her son’s wedding day.”
“I told her I’m not taking it down and that if she doesn’t want to see it, she can simply not look at my Facebook.”
“She says I am inconsiderate of her feelings and that I am an AH for this because ‘it drives another wedge’ between her and her son.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some sympathized with the mother-in-law (MIL) but insisted she needed therapy.
“At this point, I think you should use it as a bargaining chip. You guys need to keep her at arm’s length until she gets into grief counseling with a therapist and meets with a therapist long-term.”
“Until she is working with a grief therapist, every event will become like your wedding did. You want this dealt with before a child is in the picture. Truly.”
“NTA.” – Adventurous-Try1728
“Has she always been like this, but to a lesser extreme? mostly with her husband? Grief is a tricky thing, but something seems off enough that I don’t think this is just grief. I’m a widow (seven years) and sadly so is a long-time friend (three years), and neither of us has behaved close to this.”
“Another close friend died of cancer this past August, and her boyfriend has called because I get it, same for him. I also lost my brother to cancer in June. It’s been a f**king lot. A lot. I still haven’t behaved like this at all.”
“Some of this sounds like what you might expect, but… it’s hard to say. Grief isn’t an excuse for s**tty behavior. I imagine it had to be that to get disinvited. I feel bad for Joe. He didn’t get to have his dad, sister, or mom at the wedding. That had to hurt, yet his mom isn’t even recognizing that and making it about her. That’s why I ask if this has been around, but maybe FIL had been a buffer that isn’t there anymore.”
“Either way, I agree she needs therapy. Hopefully, she can come around. I also want to suggest Joe think about therapy, too. If he has to cut out his mom, it’s a lot like death and involves grief. I had to do that with my dad at 18. That’s a lot for him.”
“NTA. That’s your Facebook page. She is 100% responsible for her behavior and responses, even when grief is involved.” – Blurby-Blurbyblurb
“Your MIL needs therapy to help her deal with these tragedies. She’s obviously hurting very much and doesn’t know how to deal with it.” – Substantial_Jaguar41
“At some point, MIL becomes the reason for her behavior, and not the grief.”
“However sorry you feel for what she’s been through, there comes a time you will have little to even no empathy left for her situation. That’s absolutely a normal response, as you or your husband are not and cannot be responsible for her happiness and well-being. You can do nothing but gently guide her into understanding she needs therapy to maintain a relationship, but the rest is fully on her.”
“To be blunt, her mental health is above your pay grade, and you aren’t her therapist. When her mental health becomes a reason for such personal distress, often the only option is to eventually go no contact (NC).”
“Your husband needs therapy to help deal with this realization. Know that his therapy will likely lead to NC if she refuses to get her own help. If your husband doesn’t go to therapy, it’s going to tear him apart bit by bit.”
“I’ve been there, it’s exhausting, it’s draining and I had a complete burnout because of it. Healing takes years from a parent who, in all honesty, is employing tactics of emotional blackmail.”
“Remember that a lot of people who are abusive are people who have mental issues, and don’t necessarily set out to abuse the others around them. They just can’t help themselves. There’s plenty of personality disorders that lead to abuse of others around them.”
“But we still recognize their behavior as abusive. I have a feeling MIL’s behavior starts to qualify, especially as seen from the perspective of your husband, who was never given the chance to grief and had to step up as his mom’s therapist.” – Call_Me_Aiden
“My sympathies to all of you, even including MIL. She SOOOO needs intensive grief counseling, as she’s clearly off the rails.”
“Good luck to all of you.” – Tight-Shift5706
Others pointed out that the OP’s husband, Joe, was in need of help, too.
“Joe needs to push HARD for grief therapy for her. And if she won’t go then HE needs to go to therapy to learn how to deal with her because this is no way to live.” – Adventurous-Try1728
“Joe is grieving his father and sibling, and he probably has very little space to do that himself because of his mother’s expressions of grief, and he has to grieve his mother, while still finding the strength to set boundaries with her.”
“Of course, MIL needs therapy, but it’s striking that the post and comments are so wholly about her wellness instead of Joe’s. I don’t mean that as a dig at OP, like she’s oblivious to her husband’s pain, but maybe Joe needs to be refocused on his own wellness.” – yet_another_sock
“It’s not like his mom going to grief therapy is going to magically fix everything overnight. It’s going to be months if not years before there’s any meaningful progress considering her grief has been left unchecked for a decade, and Joe needs the tools to be able to set boundaries with his mom while she works to get to a healthier place.”
“Oh, and she has to want to do the work and put in the effort for therapy to work. Therapists aren’t magicians.” – verdantwitch
“I’m sure Joe is also to a point grieving the loss of his mom from the past, the one that used to show him affection, cause it seems she is so in her grief despair that she is literally pushing away the only child she has left, which is really sad.”
“As one day she is going to come to the realization that Joe doesn’t have the same feelings and love for her as he did due to how she acted… NTA, OP.” – Empressario
“Therapy for the people who have to deal with people who refuse therapy is often how it goes (unfortunately).”
“I vote NTA, but mate, you’ve got some work to do to find balance in your own lives away from this poor lady who is wilfully pushing her son to breaking point. Her grief is hers to deal with, it’s such a shame she seems to only see what she’s lost and not the joys life has given her (your family, future grandchildren, etc.)” – Efficient-Emu-7776
Malicious or not, some pointed out that the Facebook photo was a problem, too.
“I get why she chose that photo, but I also see why the MIL would be hurt by it.”
“I would take it down myself and exchange it with something else (maybe a pic with them both, but NOT one specifically with her mom in the role the husband’s mom would usually fill), but I also haven’t been dealing with the situation she has, and I wouldn’t judge her for keeping it.” – ChickenBossChiefsFan
“Gentle ESH. She sounds annoying AF and very self-centered.”
“But per the photo, I think it is (hopefully unintentionally) spiteful to put up a picture where your mom served in his mom’s place at the wedding. Yes, she misbehaved herself out of an invitation, but she kept her word and agreed not to come.”
“In her place, I would think it’s pretty mean of you to display a picture that will always remind her that she wasn’t part of such a big day in his life, especially because it’s YOUR Facebook photo of your husband and mom. A family wedding photo where she isn’t there is more justifiable.”
“I don’t know, I think it seems petty.” – tsweetsie
“Here’s where I’m at with this. The whole situation sucks. It is tough because her MIL is poorly treating the child she doesn’t treat properly, she is probably still blinded by grief and cannot see what she’s doing. However, it is not an excuse for her or a free pass since grief counseling exists, or even just listening to what her son is telling her.”
“While my future MIL hasn’t had any children pass, she constantly acts as if she is in competition with me and he’s breaking up with her. It’s been a long road and she plays the victim when any boundaries are set, but I do not think I would post a photo like this on my social media to show the world.”
“While I understand it’s a tender and emotional moment, it would probably be better displayed within the home. Putting it up on Facebook, even as a cover photo, is basically announcing to the world that the mother of the groom was not at the wedding, a walking advertisement that there is a family drama. I say this as someone who does like to poke the petty bear every once in a while. This was probably toeing the line.” – Mindless_Ad_6275
“In all other ways, I’d say the OP is NTA… but she is the a**hole for posting this picture as her cover photo. It’s a weird choice even if things were normal and his mom was in attendance, but it’s worse by drawing so much attention to it.” – Due_Emphasis_6653
“Why wouldn’t she choose any other pic but this one? I think it’s an amazing gesture that her mom stepped into the mother role on the wedding day. But why the f**k do you need to put it on Facebook? Just put a pic of her dancing with her dad if she needs a wedding pic as her main pic. Pretty disrespectful, even though the mom sucks.”
“Sounds almost like OP is willing to do anything to get her MIL triggered and make her freak out. I’d just keep the MIL at arm’s length and keep visits with her to a couple of hours at a time. Preferably once every few months. If the son wants to visit her go ahead, but he needs to keep a safe distance too, and not get sucked into his mom’s grief.”
“It’s been nine years, and she needs major help.” – pimpinaintez18
The subReddit deeply empathized with the OP and her husband about what they were going through with their mother-in-law. It wasn’t their fault that she was grieving, and her level of grief was far above their pay grade.
That said, there were still things they could do to help her, even if that meant taking down a Facebook photo, as some encouraged the OP to help keep the mental peace.