Stress, Grief, Loss and Craziness

You remember Jody from the “Step-MIL” post a month ago? Good. Her story continues – this time as the DIL.

At first, it couldn’t have been easier, couldn’t have been better. Jody’s husband, Chester, had grown up in a country where it was common for families to have maids attending to most of the household duties as well as caring for the children. Chester’s mother, Penelope, spent her time and energy baking and entertaining, things in which Jody had little interest or proficiency. This, Jody surmised, might have been the reason they “got on” so well – no competition. They were “so different” from one another, each having skill and accomplishments in completely different realms.

Then, all that changed.

Jody and Chester birthed their first child, moved thousands of miles away from family of any sort, and Chester’s father passed away. A trifecta of “significant life changes”, scoring over 200 points on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

Have you experienced a tsunami such as this in your own life? What happened to the “you” that was you?

Jody reports that her MIL began making unkind comments. While shopping together one day, Jody asked the shopkeeper a question. To Jody’s surprise, Penelope leaned toward the woman and said conspiratorially “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I’ll tell you what she needs.”

This behavior continued for a number of years during Penelope’s infrequent visits which were paid for by Chester & Jody. Things “came to a head” one day when Penelope made what Jody says was an especially critical comment to her son, Trevor, age six. After that, Jody could not even bring herself to sit at the same table with Penelope. She was so upset and hurt by what she saw as her MIL’s meanness. Visits across the ocean have altogether ceased in the past eight years as the desire to facilitate Penelope’s transit has evaporated.

“Was it something you did or said that caused the conflict? I inquired. Jody could think of nothing and mentioned that she had noticed that her MIL’s relationships with her other DILs had soured earlier.

Did she think about confronting Penelope about the situation – seeking to uncover the cause of the “about-face” in her attitude?

Nope, that wasn’t Jody’s style. Would it have cleared things up? One can only guess.

Chester’s take on his mother’s behavior? “She’s gone crazy.”

What happened here? Was it the move, the great loss of her husband? Was it the arrival and “loss” of a grandson? Did Penelope realize what was at stake and how her words were wounding? I wondered as I nibbled french fries and sipped a Lemon & Paeroa.

What role might grief have played in these situations? They do say that when you grieve such a significant loss, you go “a bit crazy”.

We humans are complex beings and our relationships are naturally complex. More often than not, there are no simple answers.

Do you see yourself on either side of this situation? If so, what will you do differently now that you’ve had a “birds-eye view”?

If not, what, without judging, are the “take-aways” that will improve our own MIL/ DIL relationships?

Your thoughts?

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