It’s All About Me! Your Dead Dad Said So!

by admin on January 5, 2011

I’m not sure if this is funeral etiquette submission, or nearly a “gimme pig” submission, given the offender’s need to make it all about himself.

My ex-husband and I had about as civil a divorce as we could have had under the circumstances.  But one notable thing, my ex always had to be the center of attention, good or bad.  Even after our daughter was born, the birth and the parenting were all about him, not our child.  If our daughter was given attention he felt he deserved, he would do his darndest to re-direct it.

A few years after the divorce, he moved 10 hours away, and I remarried.  Thanks to referrals to a headhunter, a couple of years after that I got my dream job, about five hours’ drive from the ex, and five hours’ drive from my hometown.

Not long after our move, my father passed away from an aggressive form of cancer.  It was devastating for all of us, but my daughter (then seven years old) was hit particularly hard because my dad had stepped in to provide us moral support.  Dad adored her and she adored him.  They took walks together, tractor rides, picnics… the last coherent day he had (the day before he passed), she danced for him in the hospital’s common room.

I informed my ex of my father’s passing, and my husband, daughter and I went to Dad’s funeral and then tried to get back into a regular routine.

A couple of weeks after Dad’s death, I got an email from my ex-husband.  While the email is long gone, the words burned into my brain pretty hard, and I’ll admit, I’m still bitter.  Basically, it said, “I am sorry for your father’s passing.  If it’s any consolation, I had a dream the other night that was he so glad you moved closer to me, so I could be a bigger part of our daughter’s life again. He told me in the dream that he always liked me, and was glad I could be there for her.”

My first inclination was to note that, 1) Dad gave me the retainer for my divorce attorney the second I came around and asked for help, 2) my ex in fact was the one that caused the geographic separation, and 3) the location of my new job was just blind luck that it was closer to him, so he can shut his trap. Instead, I hit delete.

Oh, and as far as him being a bigger part of his daughter’s life?  Only when it’s convenient and fits into his schedule.  He’s backed out on time more than once, and she wasn’t even invited to his wedding.

He also sent me a “congrats on your pregnancy!” email a month after I miscarried.  But that’s another story.   I swear, Etiquette Dame, I do a damn lot of tongue-biting.     1209-10

{ 81 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber January 5, 2011 at 6:03 am

Wow, sounds like this guy is definitely an ex for a reason. I think you handled it really well, for what it’s worth. Sometimes biting your tongue is the best way to deal with people who, though annoying or offensive, are really not important players in your life.

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Emmy January 5, 2011 at 6:51 am

Ugh, that is so rude, insensitive, and egotistical. It is just disgusting when people can turn somebody else’s great loss into something all about them.

Unfortunately I have a few similar stories. A friend had just started dating a new guy when her grandmother died. He said “your grandmother knew it was safe to go because you found a great guy”. I find that a rather nervy, inappropriate, and egotistical thing to say even under the best of circumstances. Not surprisingly, this ‘great guy’ turned out to have other major character flaws and showed his true colors shortly after.

In college, my boyfriend of over a year and I were on the verge of breaking up. He didn’t want the break-up to happen, but I was tired of him trying to control me and the constant arguing that occurred when he didn’t get his way. My grandmother was very sick during this time and as an argument to stay together, he said “your grandmother likes me and would be very upset to know that you are letting me go”. He also admitted to me that when he got pulled over for speeding, he told the cop he was on the way to see ‘his’ dying grandmother. Those arguments did nothing but make me more angry at him for trying to use a difficult situation in my life to his advantage.

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DGS January 5, 2011 at 7:42 am

OP, congratulations on escaping a narcissist, and I am truly sorry both for the passing of your father who sounds like he was a fantastic human being, and for your miscarriage. I wish you a wonderful, healthy, happy life with your second husband and your child. It sounds like your ex is one of those people who can’t truly empathize with anyone or make any given situation, pleasant or horrible, sorrow or joy, about anyone but himself. So, good riddance, and keep some distance from him – there is no reason for him to know of any details of your life until he absolutely has to and only in so much as it affects your child together. Continue to be civil (it sounds like he’s civil; just self-centered and uncouth) but stay away from him. And your daughter will learn soon enough that her father is the prime example of “everything that glitters isn’t gold”.

In my personal experience, many people can’t tolerate someone else’s joy or sorrow and have to make it about themselves and their suffering. After my husband and I lost our twins at twenty-four weeks gestation, and I almost lost my life, a girl friend of mine kept calling us in the hospital and at home, crying and leaving countless hysterical messages on my voicemail (needless to say, I was in no shape to pick up the phone, having just lost my children due to a double placental abruption) about how distraught she was at our loss. She drove to our house, clear across town, on the day that I was discharged from the hospital and showed up crying, weeping and lamenting. Other people, who were truly supportive, offered to stop by when it was convenient for us, would visit briefly when we could stand it, drop off some food and leave, but she was sobbing hysterically in our living room for several hours after showing up unannounced until my husband finally asked her to leave. She then proceeded to call other mutual friends to vent to them about how upset she was for us. We have since kept a significant distance from her because I, quite frankly, feel let down by her. At the time when we were in agony, she made a scene, hijacked our suffering and made it all about her feeling sad rather than our own grief. Distance, distance, distance. That’s the best way to handle those kind of people, as they don’t learn.

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gramma dishes January 5, 2011 at 8:43 am

There’s a saying that goes something to the effect of “The best revenge is to be successful and happy.” Sounds like you’ve achieved both, so good for you.

Your ex sounds like a real work of art. You and your daughter are so much better off without him. He’s simply proof that you made the right decisions for both yourself and your child.

But at least he didn’t claim that your Dad actually said those things. He just said he “dreamed” it. It sounds like he was having a wishful retrospective thought or two. But an even bigger jerk would have said that conversation had actually happened!

I’m so sorry about your father’s passing. It sounds like he was a wonderful and supportive Dad and Grandpa.

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Bunny January 5, 2011 at 9:14 am

*eyetwitch* You are a much stronger woman than I am. But you’re right, deleting is the best option around.

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bookworm January 5, 2011 at 9:23 am

Perhaps it wasn’t any of your ex’s business what your family life is like, especially when it doesn’t involve his only connection to your family, i.e. your daughter. I say you were asking for something dramatic in return when you sent that email.

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Just Laura January 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

The OP demonstrates the patience of Job. Plus the story was well told and easy to follow.

My fiance’s father unexpectedly passed away a few months ago while doing some volunteer work out of state. In addition to being very involved in community and university, he was a huge figure in his sons’ lives. My fiance’s brother is a good guy, but has a child with a woman who is like the ex of the OP. Three days after his father died (the funeral hadn’t even happened), she was incessantly texting the brother about how he wasn’t paying attention to her feelings properly (they were no longer together – her choice!), she wanted him to quit his job and move back in with her (but she didn’t work), she wanted him to call her to ‘check in’ more than twice each day… etc. I finally took his iPhone and wrote as if I were him, “I’m sorry you feel this way, but it hasn’t been one week since my father died, so please allow me to deal with that first before focusing on your feelings.”

Some people.

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littledynamo January 5, 2011 at 10:24 am

@bookworm

Not sure what you’re referring to. The only e-mail the OP sent was the one informing her ex of her father’s death.

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Amanda January 5, 2011 at 10:30 am

@ Bookworm – I don’t understand how the OP was asking for “something dramatic in return” for letting her ex know of her father’s passing. It certainly involves his connection to the family – it’s his daughter’s grandfather. And certainly, in cases where the divorce was amicable (as the OP states this one was), it would be one of those “I thought you might want to know” things. I don’t see how she bears any fault in this at all!?!

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Shiksagoddess January 5, 2011 at 10:50 am

OP, I’m sorry your ex continues to hurt you. I also wanted to say how very sorry I am for your loss. Gentle hugs to you.

– the shiksagoddess

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Allie January 5, 2011 at 10:52 am

What e-mail, Bookworm? The poster says she informed her ex of her father’s passing, not how, and she thought better of responding to his e-mail and deleted it. I’m guessing what details he gets of her life are through their daughter.

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Rattus January 5, 2011 at 10:55 am

@bookworm, not only is it common courtesy to inform anyone of the passing of someone said person has had a relationship with, even if the relationship is over, it is also a good idea to let the other parent of your child know of a traumatic event in that child’s life. So no, OP was not asking for drama, she was being courteous and a sensible parent.

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Hanna January 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

You’ve divorced this man. Maybe one reason was because he is a constant attention-seeker? But nevertheless, I assume you divorced for peace. For the sake of your daughter, woman, STOP THE BICKERING. You’re divorced. Quit carrying it out. Get over it.

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gramma dishes January 5, 2011 at 11:03 am

bookworm ~~ I don’t understand your perspective at all! OF COURSE the OP was going to inform her ex of the death of their child’s grandfather. It was a life changing situation for the daughter.

And she doesn’t indicate whether she told him by phone, in person, or by email or some other means. Whatever means she used to convey the message, I hardly think that she was “asking for” anything dramatic. She was simpy informing him of a quite significant change in their child’s life, something she should certainly have done.

A grown up would have said something to the effect of “I’m so sorry to hear about your Father’s death. I know he was very important to both you and our daughter. ” End.

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Louise January 5, 2011 at 11:16 am

OP, you are a model for gritting one’s teeth. I’m sorry you have such a ghastly ex-husband, but I’m glad he’s at least an ex. I’m sure it’s tough to refrain from saying all sorts of things to him.

@bookworm: I didn’t understand your post; which e-mail of the OP’s are you referring to?

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Goldie January 5, 2011 at 11:16 am

#6 bookworm, wow this comment just made my head spin. First of all, this is his daughter’s beloved Grandpa. Since Dad sees the daughter on a regular basis (every other weekend?), he would pretty much need to know that she is grieving over the loss of her grandfather. It’s not like the OP told her ex about a great date she’d had – IMO she communicated some pretty important and relevant family business that involved him, too.

Second, personally I had a great relationship with all of my in-laws. Just because I divorced their son/brother, doesn’t mean that I am now dead to them, and they to me, especially since they’re still blood relatives to my children. I would definitely appreciate it if my ex keeps me informed of major events in his family (though at this point, I don’t know yet if he will or not). I know many people that feel the same way about their ex-in-laws. Nothing dramatic about it.

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Jillybean January 5, 2011 at 11:22 am

@Bookworm – huh? You don’t think she should have notified her ex that her father passed away? You don’t think the loss of a grandparent didn’t affect his child (as you put it, his only connection to her family)? You don’t think a divorced father has the right to be aware of his own child’s grief simply because he’s not biologically related to the person that she lost?

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AS January 5, 2011 at 11:25 am

OP, first of all, I am sorry for the loss of your father and having a miscarriage.
You handled the situation with your ex well. I find such people quite disgusting, and always wonder if they ever feel ashamed of their behavior. I am sure your father was a happy man when his daughter found a dream job and a nice man who is not self-centred to be her husband.

@DGS, sorry for your loss. I wonder what this friend of yours wanted. Did she expect you to console her saying “I am sorry for your loss of our twins”? It is best to keep a distance from such characters.

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Alexis January 5, 2011 at 11:28 am

Yep, the ex is a world-class jerk. You are lucky to be rid of him! And even at her young age, I’m sure the daughter has many positive influences in her life, to show her how people ought to behave. It sounds as if he isn’t around her enough to do much long term damage. And congratulations on being much better behaved towards him than I could ever be!

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May Destroyer January 5, 2011 at 11:35 am

Bookworm, the OP only sent an email letting the ex know of her father’s passing. How can that possibly be out of line? Should he not have been informed?

This is the third comment of yours that I’ve seen in the past week which blamed the OP without cause. Please make a better attempt actually comprehending the post before you comment. At this point it’s beginning to look as if you are trolling the comments on purpose.

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HonorH January 5, 2011 at 11:37 am

Bookworm, I don’t get where you’re coming from. She did her ex the courtesy of informing him of a major event in his daughter’s life–that’s hardly looking for drama. She also did exactly the right thing with his self-centered email, which was to delete it. OP, I’m truly sorry for your loss, and I hope your daughter finds consolation in how much her grandfather loved her.

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MOB January 5, 2011 at 11:39 am

I am glad the OP got away from that self-centered jerk. So sorry for the losses she suffered. :-(

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Elizabeth January 5, 2011 at 11:50 am

@bookworm- I have to completely disagree. If they didn’t have children together, it would be different. His daughter’s grandfather died which means his child will be grieving, so he has a right to know. If he is really the way OP describes him, then he would have probably made a scene for not being told.

OP, grats to you for being way more classy than I would have been.

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Dorothy January 5, 2011 at 11:57 am

I suppose I shouldn’t say so, as in almost every case the incident happened when someone was particularly emotionally vulnerable, but these stories strike me as worthy of an episode of Seinfeld! If you could eventually come to laugh at these poor pathetic idiots I think you might be able to dismiss them more easily.

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Bint January 5, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Bookworm, would you rather the OP didn’t tell her ex that his daughter’s grandfather had died? It absolutely *does* concern his daughter and he needed to know. You always don’t know that she emailed him because she never says so. She says she ‘informed’ him.

If you mean the pregnancy, again, of course it affects his daugher! The OP was expecting that their daughter would have a new sibling. Telling the ex is the correct and sensible thing to do.

The idea that the OP was ‘asking for something dramatic in return’ when she emailed him on either occasion is just astonishing. Her father died. She lost a baby. Do you really think she is emailing her EX so she can get a reaction from events like that? How callous can you get?

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Ashley January 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Well done by just deleting it. There are people out there who would have fired back some string of insults or what have you and made the situation worse. I think that acknowledging it at all would have made it worse.

PS: The part about your daughter dancing for your father the day before he died is beautiful. It sounds like something out of a movie. What an extra special memory for you both to share about him.

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Shock and Awe January 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Bookworm where does it say she sent an e-mail in response? I don’t see it.

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Wink-n-Smile January 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Bookworm, presuming the child’s father sees her AT ALL, he needs to know about things in her life that affect her, such as the death of a beloved grandfather, or the expectation of siblings. The OP wasn’t fishing for trouble here. She was being a good mother, making sure that her child’s father knew that their child would be grieving, and to treat her accordingly.

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Rug Pilot January 5, 2011 at 12:38 pm

If it is any consolation, dreams are the imagination of the dreamer not words from beyond. Your father meant what he said and did for you not what your ex imagined in a dream.

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Ruth January 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm

@bookworm if the ex ever spends time with his daughter, then he should know about her having had a loss like that. Imagine if he had asked her if she’d been spending time with her grandfather lately, etc. I think it was wise of the OP to inform him. From what she’s written I also doubt she’d have any communication with him if it weren’t for her daughter.

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Twik January 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm

bookworm, I’d consider the death of my child’s grandfather to be something affecting her. Since the couple in the story were otherwise amicable, I’d find it strange not to inform him of the loss his daughter had experienced; I don’t see it asking for “drama” especially.

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Lizajane January 5, 2011 at 12:53 pm

bookworm,

But it did involve their daughter. Her grandfather died. I admit this isn’t an ideal father-daughter realationship, but it would still be wrong not to tell a father that his child has suffered that kind of a loss. The OP wasn’t asking for anything. She was trying to be a responsible parent and let the other parent know what was going on in their daughter’s life.

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ferretrick January 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm

@bookworm: Perhaps you should read the story. There’s no indication in it that LW ever wrote any e-mails to ex, all the e-mails mentioned came from him to her. There’s no indication LW solicited any of these contacts. And even if she did, they share a minor child. Don’t you think a father should be informed when their child loses a relative and may need emotional support, even if the deceased is no longer related to Dad?

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Storm January 5, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Bookworm–it doesn’t seem that the OP sent an email. She doesn’t say she told the ex of her pregnancy or miscarriage but did tell him of her father’s passing. And informing someone of an event does not “ask for something dramatic”. He could have found out about the pregnancy and miscarriage through friends or family. Nothing excuses his behavior–so don’t try to blame the OP. EVERYTHING that happens in that family concerns the daughter (birth, death, moves…)

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caitlin January 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm

bookworm, it is common courtesy to inform people you spent lots of time with (were MARRIED TO) of the deaths of people they knew. Also, the death of a beloved grandparent affects the daughter.

I’ve seen you posting a lot and you seem insistent on seeing the worst in every person or every situation.

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Brenda January 5, 2011 at 1:08 pm

My mother divorced my father when I was about one year old, for much the same reasons the OP divorced her narcissist. She had been able to put up with it, but once she had a baby to care for, she realized that the marriage was not going to work.

Of course, he never contributed money towards my care, because he wanted to control that, and he only showed up once in a while to visit (visits could be years apart). Yet, he very happily claimed that he had done such a great job raising me?! He didn’t even bother trying to see me at all until my mom remarried when I was 4; suddenly, he had to exert some kind of claim to me, and mess with my mom. I had him figured out by the time I was 16 (I had never really wanted to have anything to do with him, but went along with the occasional visit at my mom’s request, who just didn’t want to deal with any drama that might result from her denying him time with me), and blew him off myself.

However, both of my husbands could not understand why I would reject my father, despite my explanations of what had happened. So he was temporarily back in my life. My first husband caught on after meeting my father, realizing that I wasn’t exaggerating, and dropped the subject. My second husband did not, but after a trip to visit my father’s father in the Midwest, where we were stuck with him for a few days, my husband finally recognized what a controlling, narcissistic, selfish a**hole my father is.

I haven’t spoken to him since. I’m sure the OP’s daughter already understands this about her father, so the OP really shouldn’t stress about their relationship. I resent people who demand that we accept and forgive our parents, apparently, just because they’re our parents, and try to maintain a relationship. There is no reason, even good manners, to maintain a relationship with someone that toxic.

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RP January 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm

@bookworm – Between this comment and the one in the previous two posts I think you’re just being contrary for the sake of it.

I also think that you aren’t really bookworm but someone else using their name. bookworm was never this judgmental or illogical.

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SJ January 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I think you handled it well.

Perhaps you can mark his email as “spam” or block him or get a whole new address to avoid this happening further.

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Shock and Awe January 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm

@Hannah #13….how on earth is the OP bickering and carrying it out? If she was doing that she would’ve responded to the e-mail telling him exactly what she thought of him. Did she do that? No, she instead deleted it and moved on.

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Xtina January 5, 2011 at 2:23 pm

OP, your ex’s e-mail about “if it’s any consolation” certainly was not–what a self-centered jerk to make a comment like that! And as others have pointed out, perhaps that thought manifesting itself in a dream to him was his unconscious self’s attempt to feel a part of the family, but obviousbly he is the type that has to make a situation all about him–some people can’t stand not to be the center of attention no matter what the situation!

You will do well to keep on biting your tongue a lot, I’m afraid–it will be more trouble if you respond to some of those kinds of things–he’s baiting you, so don’t fall for it. Be the bigger person and keep things on the up-and-up for the sake of your daughter.

I am sorry for your losses–your father and your baby.

@bookworm; I’ll also add my two cents that I think you were a bit swift to criticize the OP; this was most certainly information the ex should have been privy to since his daughter was affected.

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Pam January 5, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I admit that deleting the email from your ex was the right thing to do, but Oh BOY, I really would have wanted to have made a little comment like “Thank you so much for your kind sympathy but, wow – that dream really suprises me since Dad helped me pay for our divorce….” but, yes….high road is always better than the low one and nasty comments alwasy come back to bite.

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livvy January 5, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Reminds me of (one of many) callous comments by my Uncle’s wife. This, at his father’s funeral, outside of the church on the way to the cemetary: “why do your relatives always have to die when it’s so G*d d*mn cold out?”

The kicker is that the woman is an ordained minister. You’d think she’d have a)some empathy, b)some sympathy for her husband, c)some restraint about swearing/blasphemy considering her profession. Alas, she has none of these. I too, try to follow OP’s fine example and bite my tongue and avoid her as much as possible.

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Abby January 5, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I have to agree with RP and May Destroyer. I’ve noticed the same trend over the last three posts, where bookworm tries to turn it around and blame the OP. Really reaching for it today, though. I don’t see anywhere the OP went even a little wrong in this story.

And to the OP, I too am very sorry for your and your daughter’s loss, and you handled your jerk ex a lot better than I would have.

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Elizabeth January 5, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Hanna, that is a bit harsh.

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DGS January 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm

@AS – thank you! I appreciate your kindness.

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Kat January 5, 2011 at 3:40 pm

@RP well, there’s certainly no trademark on the handle “bookworm.”

With that said, though, I tend to agree with you. I’ve been noticing the contrary tendencies of this poster lately also. I bit my tongue on the last post so as not to be argumentative, but this is getting out of hand.

OP – I’m just guessing, but I bet your ex really thought you would find his dream comforting (“I had a vision that your father approves of your choices!”) He sounds like one of those truly selfish people to whom it has honestly never occurred that the world doesn’t revolve around him. I pity the man, and I’m very sorry for your loss.

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bookworm January 5, 2011 at 4:58 pm

All I’m saying is that when you make a point to cut someone from your life, they’re gone. The ex had no relationship with the father to end. It was all with the wife and child. OP mentioned that distance was needed, so the ex has no contact with the daughter at all.

So how, again, was this any of the ex’s business?

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ann January 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Oh Bookworm, let’s try again : 1. Ex is poor at keeping a regular visitation schedule with his daughter. 2. Nowhere is it mentioned that he has NO CONTACT with her. 3. Mother feels it important and appropriate to inform ex that HIS daughter’s grandfather has passed away. No more, no less.

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LilyG January 5, 2011 at 6:27 pm

What a COLOSSAL jerk!! I’m glad you are rid of him.

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Kat January 5, 2011 at 6:45 pm

@Bookworm – It doesn’t usually work like that when you have a child together. I’m not a parent, so I’m not the highest authority on this, but in non-extreme cases it seems to me that exes who have separated but share a child remain at least peripheral parts of each other’s lives. It would be very selfish of the OP to cut the father of her child out of her life just to minimize drama. He doesn’t seem like he’s going to win any awards for Father of the Year, but I also didn’t get the impression that he was abusive or overly cruel to the child. Being an uninvolved parent is not the same as having “no contact with the daughter at all.”

Have you considered that the OP might have notified her ex of her father’s passing because she hoped he would be supportive of their daughter?

Have you considered that he probably would have found out anyway the next time he saw his daughter, and that maybe the OP was trying to spare her child from having to break the news?

There’s no need to search for ulterior motives with this one.

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