Loss Overshadowing Life
Dear Annie: I have been friends with "Jasmine" for over 50 years. Jasmine has trouble dealing with loss, often grieving for decades. Last year, she lost her dog. She sits and cries every night. I understand that loss is harder for some than others, but Jasmine is so angry. She has cut off contact with long-time friends for saying things like, "You all outlive your pets," and, "At least you still have your family."
Jasmine says the dog was her daughter and she should not have to get over the loss. All Jasmine wants to talk about is how alone she is and how angry she is about what people have said to her about the loss. I have tried to be supportive and pointed out the positive things people have said, but she twists that into more negativity. She has cut off contact with friends who suggested she move on. She has even caused a problem in her brother's marriage because of her anger. She refuses to get help, saying she just needs her dog back. What can I do? -- Unsure
Dear Unsure: If she's refusing help and isolating herself from her community, there's not much you can do. She clearly needs to change her mindset, but she needs to want to make that change.
Moving on doesn't mean we forget about our loved ones -- even if it feels that way sometimes. Communicate that to Jasmine, and tell her to take the time she needs to process her loss. Let her know that you will be there once she is ready to rejoin her community, and then take a step back. You can have compassion for Jasmine while still setting some boundaries to protect your mental health.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Gutted Grandma," who was upset she wasn't invited to meet her newborn grandsons while her daughter-in-law's family was and is not currently on speaking terms with her son and his family, and it feels like a lot of things were overlooked. I myself gave birth to identical twin boys this summer. Immediately after, I was sore, bleeding, emotional and didn't want to see anybody. I'm not sure why the mother, who just went through a difficult medical procedure -- which is what childbirth is -- is not given more deference and thought is only given to, "I want to see the baby." The daughter-in-law's parents were there to see their own baby, who just went through this as much as the newborns. It's also unsurprising that in those first days/weeks, when recovery is the hardest, that she would want to be surrounded by those people she is most comfortable around when feeling so vulnerable.
I can also think of nothing so incredibly rude as announcing to new parents that you're coming to their house, family or not. I would've had choice words for anyone who would be so bold. It'd be better to ask when a good time is and accept that more and more people are asking for space to get into a routine. It honestly sounds like the letter writer has a history of boundary stomping and the daughter-in-law was preserving her peace how she saw fit. Kudos to her husband for having her back! And if the family has a history of oversharing online, it's hardly surprising the mother-in-law's family and friends have been cut off. The stories of families posting baby pictures despite the parents' wishes are numerous. I agree that Grandma should reach out, but I strongly think she has more bridge-building to do before getting regular access to the babies. -- Just Another Perspective
Dear Another Perspective: As a new mother of twins yourself, I really appreciate your insight on the "Gutted Grandma"'s situation. Thank you for writing in. Bringing children into the world is a beautiful and undeniably laboring endeavor, and the points you've made make complete sense. For whatever factors were at play in this scenario, I hope "Gutted" has since been able to smooth things over with her son and daughter-in-law and, together, celebrate as a whole family these two new blessings.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.