Dear “Oh Carol:”
My son’s mother-in-law, Mary, has cancer and has only 6 months left. She’s a sweet-heart and this is so sad. I think she’s mid-60’s. Her husband has been a real trooper helping her with every need and no complaining. But recently some have noticed he’s acting a bit too friendly with some of Mary’s friends. Especially the single ones. They are feeling uncomfortable. Emily is Mary’s daughter, my son’s wife, and she’s asked me to tell her dad to tone it down, man-to-man. I’m hoping she’s making assumptions that aren’t valid, but I want to support her, as well as her dad. What do you think? What do you suggest?
It’s Never Easy, Is It?
AFL’s OH CAROL Answers……
Dear “It’s Never Easy, Is It?”
What a sad situation, my thoughts go out to all of you.
I am sure it must be the most difficult on Emily and her Dad. Losing one’s Mom is never easy and losing one’s spouse, I imagine, is like losing half of who you’ve been for x amount of years. We can only imagine what grief they are experiencing.
We must never compare how people grieve (or in this case pre-grieve) because some people wear their heart on their sleeve while others remain stoic. Some people kid around or act inappropriately (in the eyes of others) while others just sob. This is because they just do not know what to do with all of these feelings. Sad, scared, relieved, nervous, worried, Illness, doctors, loss, what to do after their loved one passes, who’s going to clean the house for all the people that will come by after the funeral, what will we feed them… you get the point. It’s a constantly spinning wheel of emotions and thoughts.
Emily’s Dad hasn’t been alone in (I’m guessing ) approx 30 years. How does one deal with losing a love, a partner? I am sure the prospect of facing life without her scares him to death. If they had traditional male/female roles, thoughts like “I can’t cook and don’t know a thing about shopping” may appear selfish but they’re very real. They’re also subconscious ways to distract someone from dealing with the imminent loss ahead. I am sure his perceived flirts are just his way of coping and don’t mean a thing.
Emily is also trying to deal with a loss of her dreams. I am sure she’s imagined her Mom as a Grandma to her kids, being present for their birth, baby sitting and being her ‘go to’ person for parenting advice. While her Dad is losing a long past, Emily is losing a future. The idea of her Dad being with some one else has crossed her mind many times and each time she shakes it off. So in her state of sadness she perceives her Dad as acting “too friendly” whereas he is drowning and probably just seeking comfort.
You asked for my advice on this and my advice it to keep quiet. Emily unfairly put you in a very precarious position. I understand that she isn’t thinking clearly but if you were to approach her father with this (especially at a time like this when emotions are high) you risk alienating him and potentially others.
Perhaps some male companionship might do him well. A drink, a dinner, a pat on the back. I’m thinking of advice from Billy Joel when he says “These are the times to remember ’cause they will not last forever” and that is VERY real to him. Carpe diem is my advice to Emily’s Dad. And to you, be a good ear and shoulder for your daughter-in-law and maybe share some of my words with her. It might help her perspective.
Wishing you all an easy time through this.
Yours for Love, Carol