Content Warning: Grief, widowhood
Grief is a terrible, ugly thing, and it can take a lot of work to move past it.
So much so, sometimes it takes the risk of losing something else before we really attempt to heal, confessed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Few_Delivery_4909 had been helping her cousin-in-law through her grief ever since her cousin had passed away in an accident more than a year ago.
But with four kids who still needed their mother, the Original Poster (OP) finally gave her cousin-in-law the reality check she had been needing during her grieving period.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for telling my cousin’s widow I will no longer be supporting her emotionally or physically?”
The OP’s family went through a terrible loss a year and a half ago.
“I (32 Female) am from a small, tight-knit family. There is my family of four, my parents, my grandmother, my aunt and uncle, their two kids, and their families.”
“We all live in the same area and will do whatever we can to help each other.”
“My cousin, Derek (28 Male), tragically passed away a year and a half ago from a drunk driver. He left behind his wife, Monica (27 female), and four kids, all under the age of eight.”
“It was devastating and Monica completely shut down.”
The family all stepped up and tried to help.
“We all understood and started caring for her and the kids.”
“This included me no longer charging her rent (they lived in a house I own, next door to me), helping prepare meals, taking care of the kids, helping with appointments, school work, shopping, etc.”
“I can’t tell you how many times I was her shoulder to cry on. She let me put the kids in therapy but refused to go herself.”
The OP felt it was time for Monica to start living her life again.
“As I said, it’s been a year and a half… and she is still completely shut down. She doesn’t work, she doesn’t cook or clean, and I have been raising the kids along with my two.”
“This isn’t sustainable. The kids miss her. They lost their mom the day they lost their dad.”
“I sat her down the other night and was trying to be empathetic towards her, but nothing was getting through. She just kept crying and saying she couldn’t do it without Derek.”
“I told her she didn’t have a choice. She has four kids who need their mother.”
“She still wasn’t listening but I had had enough. I told her she had a week to get an appointment with a therapist (just an appointment SCHEDULED) before I stopped supporting her and went for custody of the kids.”
“She ran out crying.”
The family was divided over what the OP had done.
“The rest of our family thinks I’m being cruel because she loved my cousin deeply, but I think this is what she needs.”
“She can’t live like this and can’t keep putting her kids through this!”
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 reassured the OP that she was not wrong to give her cousin a reality check.
“Monica is clearly suffering from depression and trauma, and needs help. It may be near impossible for her to fully realize this in the course of a single conversation ‘wake-up call.'”
“You’re NTA for wanting to make sure she can get help and so she can be financially and emotionally stable for herself and the kids.”
“Ultimatums are challenging. You’re not wrong for wanting her to self-support, but you may need to give her a list of therapists who deal with trauma/loss of loved ones who are available and taking new patients, and even driving her to the appointment.”
“With a bit of compassion and gentle pushing (vs. a hard shove), she might be able to start turning the gears to get help. Depriving four small children of their mother after losing their father would hardly be the best outcome for all concerned, especially and including you.”
“EDIT: It does sound like OP has offered to drive to therapy, pay for it, etc. I would suggest OP actually make an appointment with a family counselor, which includes her/Monica and eventually the kids, and start the gears. Someone this depressed and basically unwilling to live might actually need someone to force the beginning of changes.” – Independent-Length54
“NTA, and anyone that tells you that you are, send them an itemized list of all the s**t you pay for, all the running around you do, and how much her rent is monthly, and tell them how grateful you are that they’re offering to take over completely for you since you’re so cruel and see how quickly they shut the f**k up.” – Manager-Trough
“I lost my husband to cancer four years ago. You have to pick yourself up and move on. Apologies, but providing that level of support for a year and a half is probably contributing to your SIL (Sister-in-Law) not recovering.”
“Duty and taking care of your responsibilities, like children, gives you the strength to carry on. It is a tough situation, but if you don’t make her start taking care of her family, you are encouraging her to not recover.” – ApothecaryWatching
“Oh, it hurts like h**l losing someone you deeply loved. I can’t believe the people that say a year and a half is enough time to go through the loss. I’m gonna tell you it’s not and she is going through h**l right now.”
“But you’re NTA. It’s your time, your money, and you have the right to decide what to do with them. This woman, however, needs professional help, peace of mind, and time to get back on her feet. A year and a half seems like yesterday for her. That’s just devastating and she is lost right now.” – Funny-Rain-3930
Others agreed and felt the mother was not providing for her children.
“The only one depriving these children of the love and support of their mother is THEIR MOTHER.”
“OP has ensured that mom should have been able to concentrate on getting herself and her children through that first terrible year. She went even further and did most of the love and support of four children herself when the mom proved incapable.”
“If the mother isn’t willing or able to love her kids, especially after all the support she’s been given… It is time to address at least temporarily taking custody of the children for their own good. This allows the mother to admit herself to care if necessary and actually fully concentrate on herself.”
“But she seems unwilling to do even the bare minimum of beginning the healing process and her children do not need to be exposed to her disfunction any longer. It becomes detrimental to them to be immersed in an environment where she is actively disengaged.” – IAdoptedTeens
“Not to diminish anyone’s grief, but life MUST go on.”
“To even have the ability to be ‘completely shut down,’ is a privilege that the vast majority of parents don’t have.”
“NTA, I feel for the mother but she has four kids that she is absolutely failing.” – AmountGlum793
“NTA. You have been more than gracious and helpful. Her situation is tragic; however, no matter how she grieves, she has four children to take care of, and she seems more than content to let everyone else do it. You’re doing what is best for those kids.” – many_hobbies_gal
“NTA. You spoke the truth and were not malicious. Those who disagree with your approach can step up and take over the duties you do on the daily.”
“You are not cruel. She can love your cousin deeply, but he is not here, and she must create positive change no matter how small. Best to you!” – DesertSong-LaLa
“NTA, everyone grieves in their own way and time. But she needs to step up for her kids. She needs therapy to help get through this and if she isn’t willing to try that. The kids would be better with you. She isn’t emotionally stable. Hopefully, therapy can help her.” – TheHappyKids
But some empathized with the mother and were grateful for the OP’s help to her.
“Trying to sort out help for depression when you are the one who has depression is an enormous challenge. That’s why it’s important to get Monica in front of a therapist and OP, or another family member, may have to do the work to make that happen because Monica’s brain may not be capable.”
“Getting custody could start ongoing challenges for Monica and the kids. Starting with therapy for Monica is a better first step. If someone sorts out therapy and Monica just refuses to attend, then at some point OP does have to force the issue, but giving Monica a chance to try therapy and improve first is actually in the best interest of those kids.” – Ijustreadalot
“Grief is normal. Two years of severe grief is normal for the loss of a spouse. It would only be the six- to twelve-month mark that she’d be reasonable to see a therapist. Yes, it’s excessive that she’s done nothing for her kids that long, but when I did psych, I had to assess way too many people marched in by loved ones a few days post-loss and we had to explain grief isn’t a mental illness.”
“There is a phenomenon called pathological grief, and she likely does fit that diagnosis, but the sudden death of a young person is really hard to process, and I speak as someone whose parent died at a youngish age in a similar way.”
“She has been fortunate to have the support she has had, and it’s unreasonable to expect it to continue. I’m not against OP, she’s done above and beyond, and it’s likely doing the widow no favors by allowing her to continue to do nothing job and children-wise.”
“However, I just wanted to say, in response to some comments that grief, particularly post-sudden death, takes a lot longer than the non-bereaved realize. It’s not just the loss of her partner, her future and that of her children have been torn away. She may have PTSD from the accident, even if not present.” – DazzleLove
“Grief has no timeline, and honestly, the second year is often harder than the first. Grief is not a disease to be cured either, just something that needs to be worked through.”
“Mom clearly needs therapeutic support, but unless someone has lost a spouse people just can’t imagine how awful it truly is. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
“Being so young, she’ll have a harder time meeting widows her own age who really ‘get it.’ I know finding a group of women and men in my age group helped immensely. There was at one time a woman in our group who had given up her daughter to be cared for by her sister for four years after her SO (significant other) passed away. I couldn’t fathom doing that but honestly, not everyone is cut out for this kind of grief and the pressure and uncertainty that comes with it.”
“I’m not saying I agree with the mom not working toward finding a therapist and working on her grief. She NEEDS to, for herself and her kids who need her. But, bear in mind her brain is not working the way it did before, either. Loss like this is akin to a TBI (traumatic brain injury). I felt like an absolutely crazy person after my husband died. She is literally not in her right mind.”
“OP, my son and I attend a family grief program. It’s free and targeted toward kids who’ve experienced a traumatic loss. The kids go to age-appropriate groups and the parents go to their support groups. We’ve found it very beneficial, perhaps there is something similar near you. Good luck!” – Illustrious_Truck623
The subReddit felt terrible for the mother who was still grieving and struggling to live her life or be there for her children. But it was clear that if she wanted to keep her children in her life, she needed to do something to start some semblance of healing, likely beginning with grief counseling.
While the OP was only trying to help, this likely felt like a threat to take even more from the mother than she had already lost. Hopefully, it would serve as a wake-up call to her to start doing something for herself, rather than another reason to shut down.