Grief has a way of doing all sorts of terrible things to us, to how we behave, and to the way we think.
But if we see someone moving on faster than we are, we shouldn’t try to stop them, confided the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor CarefulSeries2857 was shocked when her former mother-in-law approached her preteen daughter to discourage her from getting her new stepdad’s input, as he would never “be her parent.”
When her new husband reminded her everyone was still grieving, the Original Poster (OP) wasn’t sure how to remedy the situation.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for telling my former MIL (Mother-in-Law) to leave my house?”
The OP remarried after her late husband passed away.
“I married my late husband ‘Benji’ in 2008 and we had a daughter together [now 12].”
“In 2020, when she was 9, he unfortunately passed away.”
“I remarried in 2021 and to be honest, I’m much happier. My marriage with Benji was actually very rocky, though of course his extended family and my daughter do not know this.”
“We are of course still in touch with Benji’s family, particularly my former mother-in-law (FMIL).”
The OP tried to be understanding of her former mother-in-law’s grieving.
“FMIL attended my wedding and professed to be happy, but she’s always been a bit concerned about preserving her son’s memory.”
“For example she made an impromptu speech at my wedding, saying that this was what Benji would have wanted for me and my daughter.”
“Benji was an only child and my daughter is her only grandchild, so I do understand, and she’s not really a bad person, just grieving IMO (in my opinion).”
“After Benji’s death, she wanted to share more of Benji with my daughter and my daughter was happy to hear stories and see photos.”
“I found it helpful for her to have that anchor and encouraged it.”
“I myself was not that close to FMIL even in Benji’s lifetime so we only spoke sporadically.”
But then things took a negative turn.
“But the further I’ve gotten into this relationship, the more strained things have become.”
“Months ago, I invited FMIL to stay with us for a few days. But in hindsight, her relationship with my daughter was already shifting and it shifted much more in the interim.”
“My daughter is definitely pulling away.”
“I think it’s a combination of settling in here, feeling increasingly distant from her old life, growing closer to her stepdad, and just becoming a teenager.”
“I also think it’s more about her evolving relationship with her father/grief than about FMIL herself.”
“Maybe she’s also picked up on how much happier I am, but I sort of hope not.”
“But FMIL came to visit as planned. It’s not gone well.”
“She made a few subtle comments indicating she thinks I’m alienating my daughter from her biological paternal family.”
“Which, to be fair, I did move her across the country, and I do encourage her relationship with her new stepdad, but I’m also not trying to erase her dad.”
But then her former MIL said something the OP thought was unforgivable.
“On the second day, my daughter said something to her grandmother like, ‘My parents said I could…'”
“She was using it more as a shorthand, but FMIL snapped, ‘He’s not your parent,’ and my daughter was embarrassed.”
“I took her aside and called her out on thinking I was alienating my daughter and reminded her she was my daughter and also she was making her own choices.”
“My FMIL said my daughter was ‘playing right into my hands’ and then suggested that my SO’s (significant other’s) closeness with my daughter was somehow suspicious.”
“I flipped out and told her to leave my house.”
“She stomped out and I just know she’s telling the rest of Benji’s extended family how terrible and cruel I am.”
“My daughter seemed ambivalent but my husband thinks I was overly harsh and should have understood that she was grieving.”
The OP felt conflicted.
“I feel like it’s very hard for me to be unbiased and I must admit that part of my reason for being upset at my FMIL is because I want her to be happy here and have a good relationship with her stepdad.”
“I mourned Benji too, don’t get me wrong, but I feel very differently about him to how my daughter feels.”
“If it wasn’t for her, I’d make very little effort to keep his memory alive or be in touch with his family at all.”
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 said the FMIL was wrong to meddle in the new family dynamic.
“You have been very gracious about her need to keep her son’s memory alive but she’s crossed a line by trying to prevent your newly blended family from moving forward.”
“Not to mention also trying to prevent your daughter from seeing her stepdad as a part of her family, trying to force your now pubescent daughter to stay 9 years old (she wasn’t going to be interested in photo albums and repeated stories forever) and, finally, suggesting, with no foundation, that your husband’s affection for your daughter is something unwholesome.”
“You did the right thing.” – rapt2right
“NTA. This is a pretty clear case of your FMIL dismissing your parenting and disrespecting you. It’s fine for her to disagree, but ultimately this is your child and not hers and it sounds like she refused to accept that.”
“Furthermore, her grief is her problem. You can and should be sensitive to a point, but enough is enough… is enough.” – Cheezslap
“NTA. She was totally out of line. For me, the ‘he’s not your parent’ line was a full-on deal-breaker.”
“If I were in your shoes, I absolutely would have clearly and without room for misinterpretation explained to her that if she ever said anything like that to my daughter again, that would be the last time she ever saw her.”
“Sounds to me like you reacted rather tamely and with more poise and understanding than was necessary. Grief is not an excuse to be an absolute a**hole like your FMIL was.” – Zaplingfire
Others thought the OP’s daughter and FMIL needed very different things right now.
“NTA. I am a widow, my husband passed away when our son was 14. The grief of each person in this story is different because the relationship with the deceased was different.”
“When your husband dies, you become a widow. When your parents die, you become an orphan (yes, even as an adult, there is a loss). When your child dies, there is no word for it because it’s not supposed to happen. Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents.”
“With a spouse passing, you are going to process those feelings and move on, because you have to. It’s not healthy to stay as a widow when you are in your 20s, 30s, etc.”
“The love is different with any new relationship. Your feelings on your marriage to your late husband is not a discussion to have with either your child or your former MIL.”
“By the way, there is no word for in-laws when your spouse passes… I still struggle with it 10 years later because they aren’t exes since there was no divorce, they are not quite current because there isn’t a marriage, so the former is probably the closest…”
“Your daughter to varying degrees wants to remember her dad, but it wanes over time, because she has to move on also.”
“She will always remember her dad and the times they shared, but as she processes her grief, she will not want to talk about it all the time, and there will be a reason when she does. She will be triggered by certain things and it is difficult to predict what or when.”
“So, you need to be aware of when she gets triggered (emotional reaction remembering the loss vividly brought on by a sight, sound, or event) and help her through that. It is helpful for you and her to do check-ins and let her guide you on how she refers to her stepdad, etc.”
“Now, your MIL, for her the grief is going to be vivid and never dull. It will never wane. She lost her only child. She wants/needs to relive his life through her granddaughter.”
“She doesn’t want to move on, she doesn’t want her granddaughter to stop talking about her dad, because she fears she will forget or she will erase her dad from her life. She is going to fight every perceived attempt to not highlight her son to your daughter even if it causes your daughter pain.”
“She has no awareness of her granddaughter‘s needs because she is consumed by her own grief. She doesn’t want you with a new man, because that new man will take the place of her son.”
“So, I went through all of that explanation so you understand why I am saying what I am about to say.”
“You need to discuss with your daughter what she wants and needs from her grammy. She needs to say whether she is comfortable or uncomfortable. She needs to know that she is not MIL’s emotional support person. Her job is to take care of herself, and your job is to take care of her and make sure she is getting what she needs.”
“I would suggest that MIL needs a timeout. She is getting overly involved and nitpicking her granddaughter in her quest to ensure that her son is not erased from her life.”
“I would suggest to you that you need to tell MIL that her son will always be your daughter’s father. That you will make sure that your daughter always knows how special her dad was to her. However, your daughter needs a bit of space to process all that has happened and to start looking forward to the wonderful life ahead of her.”
“I would put MIL on a 1-3 month timeout because MIL also has to find a way to accept your new husband, that you will always cherish your late husband, but that you have found love again.”
“You can’t have MIL trashing your new husband to your daughter, and she needs to think about this. The timeout will allow your daughter to settle and you to discuss with your daughter what she needs without MIL upsetting the apple cart.”
“Hope this helps.” – Buttercup303
“OP’s FMIL has just lost her son, which is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to someone and is something that those of us it hasn’t happened to can’t really understand. Parent or spouse can’t even compare, even though they’re closer kin legally.”
“OP and her daughter are healing, and FMIL never truly will. She might become more desperate to constantly keep her son’s memory front-and-center as her granddaughter’s memory of him will recede.”
“She probably won’t ever want to hear the hard truth that granddaughter’s memory will become hazier with time (I hate to tell her, but my Nana passed away when I was her granddaughter’s age, and I don’t remember that much about her anymore).”
“On top of that, what must have been FMIL’s worst fear has come true. She’s kind of lost her grandchild as well, because OP moved away, and she’s probably never going to see her regularly again.”
“OP should shield her daughter, but try to do it with kid gloves.” – Pale_Cranberry1502
“I had a stillbirth and I’m talking about my daughter when I can because I don’t know how else to process it. Losing a child is a pain I can’t describe well. And it is horrible tbh that there is no word for parents who experienced the loss.”
“Honestly, I think your mil needs grief counseling. But I don’t think she’s at a point where she can hear this suggestion (at least from you).”
“Hugs. You’re doing great, OP.” – Divine18
While the OP felt conflicted after the latest visit with her former mother-in-law, the subReddit understood the situation was complicated.
On the one hand, it was wonderful to see the OP was happy, and her daughter was moving on. But it seemed her former mother-in-law was far behind them and wondering why they weren’t sharing in her feelings much more closely.