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LornaLove's avatar

What is wrong with this person, if anything?

Asked by LornaLove (9931points) September 30th, 2014

My mother-in-law took to her parents death very badly, I think, and although it has been some eight years since they departed, still centers her life around their graves. I saw a question regards grave visits and have been meaning to ask this for a while. I could do with some insight as this is having a very negative effect on the family as a whole.

She visits both her mother and fathers grave on:

Their birthdays
anniversaries (for example their wedding anniversary)
Christmas day

and I think a few times a week to change flowers and tidy up. I know for example there is a vase rolling around in the boot of the car ready for new flowers.

The problem is, that on these special occasion visits, her mood alters drastically. She will hunt for days for certain flowers, and they have to be a certain way.

The negative vibe infiltrates the entire home for days, before the visit. Every one gets miserable.

The worse part is that the whole family has to be there at a certain time to leave for the graveyard. The most recent anniversary was on a Saturday morning, so my SO had to leave our warm bed earlier than usual to get there. My SO is not really told a time as such, he is just told to get up early and wait until she is ready to leave. So, he seemed to have gotten up too late this time as she left in a huff with his father. He landed up running up the road to try and get to the graveyard before them, so as to avoid admonishment. Personally whether he visits the grave or not on their wedding anniversary should be his decision? How on earth can he put this across to her?

She refuses to get grief counselling so all of these visits are making the family resentful and they are too terrified to just say ‘no’ they’d rather not go. Any insights and any advice? I have another question regards memorial type issues, which I will post up later.

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8 Answers

dappled_leaves's avatar

Wow, this sounds like an impossible situation. I know that personally, I would not have agreed to go – and the longer that people do agree to go, the harder it will be for her to accept their suddenly refusing. But this is something that your husband (and the rest of the family) will have to decide individually. It’s even possible that he does want to go, but can’t explain it to you. I think you should probably be a bit careful about complaining about her behaviour.

Part of what would make stopping the visits difficult is that she would likely interpret this as the family’s eventual reaction to her own death. Knowing that her son will visit a family grave for no longer than 8 years willl be very significant to her if she wants him to attend to her grave after she passes away in the same way that she attends to her own parents’ graves now. There isn’t going to be a way to make her understand that that isn’t going to happen.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Your SO has to determine whether the benefits of “playing the game” merit the effort. I suspect that the day will arrive when the weight of frustration and resentment will snap an abrupt end to the routine. Perhaps you who are least invested in the drill could make an effort to unify the family in combining to confront the mother’s neurosis. A unified firm insistence that she get help combined with a refusal to participate in visits until counseling is undertaken. might be the key.

rojo's avatar

I think a couple of generations back the visitations would not have been unusual. I can recall my mother talking about going to her fathers grave about once a month with her mother and siblings to tidy it up and add fresh flowers but for her/them it was never a forced or negative activity; it was a family outing and a family responsibility. Many times they made the day of it. They would also clean and tidy up the graves of other family members that were in the same cemetery and in return others would help maintain her fathers.

But this was at a time and place when families stayed in the area they were born and raised,death was more personal, likely as not occurring at home and cemeteries were a part of the local landscape and not hidden on the outskirts of town.

The negative emotions that you mention that result from the event are not normal and, I think, are detrimental to the well-being of those forced to participate. It is obvious that your M-I-L is still trying to deal with her own grief and not doing a very good job of it by herself. I agree those above who say it is time to say no to the forced attendance. It would be nice if it could be explained that visits will still be done but on your SO’s and other family members own schedule but there is a distinct likelihood that in you M-I-L’s state of mind no explanation will suffice.

My own father is buried three states over. I visit his grave each time I go to the town where he is, which ends up being once or twice a year. While not a joyous occasion, it is not an onerous one either.

Something else that might be going through her mind, and I mention this because of my own thoughts and fears, is that once she is gone, there is a good chance that visits to her parents graves will cease and they will be “forgotten”. It is a troubling thought that you are the last link to those you love.

janbb's avatar

It’s certainly up to your SO’s mother to do whatever she wants in mourning her family members but it is not ok for her to feel she can control others. This is clearly an issue that he has to handle with her as he wants to.

Pandora's avatar

He simply could tell her that he is willing to go once a year in honor of the love he has for his grandparents but that he doesn’t want his life to revolve around death. Maybe even twice a year. Like memorial day and Easter, if they are christian.
I have to wonder if she feels guilty about something. Like not being present and there for them when she was needed most. It’s been over 34 years since my dad passed away and the first 20 years involved a lot of guilt but I would’ve seen no point in visiting his grave all the time. It’s not like I’m thinking he would be there sitting around waiting for my visits and be disappointed if I was late or didn’t show up. Nor will he be heckled by other ghosts or envy those ghost who have visitors.
Grave visiting is more for the living but the reality is that you don’t have to go to a grave to still feel close to love ones you have lost. She should be celebrating the many wonderful memories they left behind.

I know as a parent, I wouldn’t want my children to feel obliged or to oblige someone to visit my grave. After I’m dead I simply won’t care. However, the living me would be happy to know that I am remembered with love every once in a while and that I left a legacy of love and happiness and fond memories for them to recall and not feel sad, but feel lucky to have had me in their lives. I don’t need flowers when I am dead. Though it would be nice to have my plot cleaned at least once a year. So other visitors will know that the remains in the coffin is not completely forgotten.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

It is something she has to work on herself. When it comes to grieving, each person has a different way of handling it. Noone has the right to impose his guilt on others.

Buttonstc's avatar

It’s one thing for her to carry her unresolved grief for years and years. It’s quite another for her to impose the obligation upon others in the family, demanding that they do likewise.

THAT is the part which is wrong (not the grieving in and of itself). However, each of them are full grown adults who are allowing themselves to be manipulated by her and continuing to go along with it.

They need to grow a spine and stand up for themselves. You are in an unfortunate situation because this is not something you can do for them. They need to grow their own spines, either individually or collectively.

This is especially tough on you because you had no choice in the matter. However, each of them does have a choice and at this point in time it’s clear that they’ve chosen to pacify her by acceding to her demands, even tho outrageous.

They can, at any time, make a different choice. But for whatever reason, they haven’t.

Sadly, there’s nothing much you can do. They are adults. They need to either act like it or continue in misery.

Coloma's avatar

After 8 years her behavior is very unhealthy. I would keep my distance for sure. gah….creepy and controlling and obsessive. The woman needs mental health help.

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