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Woman Asks If She Was Wrong To Tell Her Husband To Stop Grieving His High School Sweetheart

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Grief has a way of sneaking up on us when events we weren’t expecting occur.

But sometimes what we wind up grieving can hurt other people’s feelings, confided the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor griefisstrange was concerned by how her husband became fixated on his high school girlfriend after she passed away.

But when he reacted poorly to her comments, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she was wrong to encourage him to stop grieving.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for telling my husband to stop grieving his high school sweetheart?”

The OP and her husband had a difficult year.

“I’m pretty sure I’m the AH in some sense because of course grief is unpredictable, but there’s also something about it that feels… insincere? (Lack of better word).”

“My husband and I have been married for 4 years, together for 6. We’re expecting our first child in April.”

“We’re excited, but it’s also been a rough year because we lost his mom to cancer at the beginning of the year. My MIL (mother-in-law) was an absolutely lovely person and her passing was hard for all of us.”

“My husband’s not emotional. He’ll share his feelings when I ask him, but he doesn’t always talk freely.”

“For instance, when his mom died, we’d just make an effort to spend extra quality time together (alone and with his dad/siblings), but he didn’t talk directly about his mom.”

The OP’s husband then received more bad news.

“Then, this Thanksgiving, his former high school sweetheart passed away. It’s pretty sad— she was the same age as us (31) and died in a car accident.”

“Suddenly flood gates opened.”

“She and my husband dated as teenagers (15-19yo or so) and were each others’ firsts for a lot of things. Up til now, I never ever felt jealous of her— they stayed in touch til their twenties but had mostly stopped talking by the time he and I got together”

“There were maybe a few happy birthday texts exchanged since then, but that was it. She wasn’t a hovering presence.”

“I honestly didn’t know too much about her because she was a figure of the past and didn’t come up much.”

The OP didn’t know what to do at first.

“But all of a sudden it feels like she’s haunting our house.”

“He talks about her nonstop, digs up old things that remind him of her. He talks to old friends who knew her and is now having long conversations about her.”

“He wasn’t like this with his mom. AT ALL.”

“I tried to be comforting, especially when he got emotional— he cried a few times (only cried once when his mom passed).”

“I get that grief is not linear or logical but I feel like I’m now by myself: I’m trying to move forward, stay focused on our baby, and make plans for our expanding family while he sits around moping.”

“I didn’t say anything when he took an old framed photo of his ex and put it in our (shared) home office with our other family photos.”

The OP felt the need to speak up.

“Then, yesterday, I was painting the nursery and when I went to find him and ask for his help, he was instead sitting in the office, going through old memorabilia of his ex, emotional.”

“I kind of snapped. I yelled at him that I needed him to be present and focus on the future— me and our baby— and to stop fixating on her.”

“I also brought up how he wasn’t like this with his own mom and that he should cut out the childish act.”

“I don’t want to use the ‘I’m pregnant and hormonal!’ excuse, but I admit my own emotions have been especially up and down lately.”

“Loss sucks, but it feels like an overreaction, especially when comparing it to his mom’s passing.”

“AITA for telling him to stop mourning his ex?”

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 suggested the husband had transferred his grief.

“NAH. Honestly, it sounds like he’s transferred the grief of his mum to the ex-girlfriend because she’s a safer person for him to grieve.”

“If he grieves her directly, he sort of has to admit that mum is gone forever. Might not be ready for that, yet.”

“And memories of mum are wrapped up in memories of the ex because of that shared history and all those ‘firsts’ so yeah.”

“Look up some resources on complicated grief.”

“It’s….. complicated.” – Educational_Earth_62

“When my dad died, I stayed strong for my mum my siblings. Being the eldest, I felt a sense of duty. I tried to arrange everything and stay strong.”

“A couple of years later when my dog died I fell to pieces. I obviously loved my dog but I never really cried publicly about my dad even though my heart was broken in a way id never experienced before.”

“To anyone else watching me, it would seem like I moved my dog more than my dad.” – F**kyourslipper

“The tears aren’t about the high school ex as much as the realization that things and people he took for granted sometimes disappear, and there’s nothing he can do about it.”

“That includes his mother, his former classmates (he was talking to people about the ex who died), and his childhood/adolescence.”

“OP, please apologize for snapping and ask him to share his thoughts with you. This ex’s death isn’t a red flag, it’s another blow in a hard year for him.” – worstpartyever

Others said the OP needed to allow her husband time to grieve.

“So the thing is … If his family loved this girl and thought well of her, but didn’t continuously mention her this was likely out of respect to you. This is a positive, not some malicious secret.”

“There is nothing wrong with them admiring her, they did the right thing and accepted you. Your husband is grieving, and I know it’s tough to witness but he will get over it. Just try and remember he chose to marry you. NAH.” – DellaMcG

“It could also be that someone your age has died so unexpectedly.”

“This is going to come out wrong but you expect people to die from illness and old age. When people your own age die (especially from accidents) it can hit home even more about how fragile life can be. So with that thrown into the mix, it just makes grieving weird and harder.”

“I can understand him reminiscing – it probably feels ‘safer’ than thinking about his mother because they’re memories from so long ago and she wasn’t a presence in his everyday life. I do agree I’d feel a bit perturbed by the picture in the office though.”

“And you should absolutely have help with the baby stuff.” – TheWelschMrsM

“Soft YTA – he deserves more empathy than what you are giving him right now. You titled it like she died back in high school and he’s still hung up but this just happened three weeks ago!!”

“Have you ever heard of the straw that breaks the camel’s back? That’s what happened here after he’s been silently struggling all year with the death of his mom and now one of the people that knew his mom really, really well is gone and so are her memories of mom.” – kairi79

The subReddit was torn over the OP’s reaction to her husband’s grief.

On the one hand, it might be concerning to see his level of grief, especially after how he grieved his mother and with them having a baby on the way.

But on the other hand, grief is complicated, and when we seem to grieve “the most” is anyone’s guess.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.