Author Topic: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).  (Read 11377 times)

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Shellybeans

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Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« on: October 27, 2012, 11:35:32 PM »
I would like some advice on how to deal with this situation politely and sensibly, particularly without affecting my relationship with DH or his relationship with his parents (if possible):

My mother passed away in September this year, she had been sick since May of 2011 (diagnosed) and the prognosis was not great from the beginning.  However, she did very well until about May – June this year and then declined fairly quickly in August – September and then passed away mid-September.

I loved my mother, we were very close and got along very well.  She adored my husband and treated him very well also (which is in stark contrast to how I feel about MIL and how MIL has treated me).  The problem is, previously we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with his parents and then had lunch with my mum and sister and then had both families (PIL, mum and sister) to our place on Boxing Day for lunch.  This year – I do not want to do any of that.  It is our first Christmas together as a married couple and it is the first Christmas of my life that I will be without my mum, and it will be just over three months since she passed away, so not a very long time IMO.  I think if we ever had an "excuse" to change traditions, then this year would be it.

What really upsets me about this is that early in October (so approximately two weeks after mum passed away), MIL spoke to DH and stated that she wanted us to spend Christmas Day with them (not our usual "MO" anyway), and while this may be unclear without a lot of background, I know she is absolutely delighted and rubbing her hands in glee to be thinking this year, she can be the Queen Bee / Centre of Attention and have her son and DIL all TO HERSELF!  That is the way her mind works and her attitude in general, and I find it very offensive. 

I do not want to spend any time with PIL over Christmas, I am happy for DH to spend time with them either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as he sees fit.  If he chooses to spend the majority of his time with them, I am not entirely okay with that but I understand and I do not want to be involved.  This is also stemming from PILs (mostly MIL) behaviour at my mother’s funeral and MILs behaviour at the hospital before she died, so there is a lot going on in my head which makes the thought of spending time with her, particularly without the luxury of my mother also being around, that just makes my stomach turn. 

I do not want to receive gifts from PIL and I do not want to buy gifts for them, DH can buy gifts from himself to them.

How do I get DH to convey, politely, that I am not celebrating Christmas with them this year and that I am not exchanging gifts?  Is it possible to politely refuse a gift, or if one is given to me, should I just accept it – knowing that it will always be a bone of contention between us (another one!) if I accept a gift from them without having purchased one myself? 

Should I send PIL a Christmas card from me to "be polite" or should I just not bother?

In fairness to DH, should I have to essentially boycott Christmas with everyone this year, including him, friends and my sister, if I am “boycotting Christmas” with his parents?  Bear in mind, DH is aware of the issues between us and how hurt I have been in the past and especially this year.

Should I just go along with whatever they want so as not to cause any more stress and sadness for DH in what has already been a stressful and sad year (knowing that to do so will cause me a great deal of stress and sadness)?

Suggestions would be much appreciated - more specific information can be given, if necessary.

crella

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2012, 12:04:00 AM »
I think that after the death of a parent, forgoing celebrations for a while is normal. I lost my mother in early August, and I have already told DH that I won't be doing Christmas or a traditional Japanese new year this year (cooking the special foods etc) and he's fine with that. I just can't work up any enthusiasm for the holidays, and I don't have the issues you do. It is really out of place for your MIL to be jumping in with both feet, to orchestrate the holidays without even asking you if you wish to participate.


If my son and his wife could get a couple of days off  to come down here in December, only then would I put the tree up so that my granddaughter could enjoy it , she's almost 1 1/2 and loves sparkly and bright things...but it would take a visit from her to make me feel like doing anything.

You should feel free to take as much time as you need to reflect, and heal. Do what you feel like doing, if that's no Christmas festivities at all, or going to one friend's Christmas coffee or something. I wouldn't say that you had to avoid all holiday activities because you won't see your in-laws.


Edited to fix a typo.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2012, 12:10:37 AM by crella »

Only me

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2012, 12:10:51 AM »
First, sorry for your lose.

I've seen lots of posts where people want to change from the normal, especially after their family changes. Sounds like a great time to make your own tradition and just take a break.  Loosing someone you love is not easy and why put yourself through something stressful loike like Christmas with the inlaws. You are not doing it to be mean, you are doing it because you need time.

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Iris

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2012, 12:32:05 AM »
Firstly, please accept my condolences on your loss.

Secondly, it's going to have been only 3 months since your mother passed. For a relationship that close it is perfectly within normal parameters to still be deeply mourning and not up to a Christmas celebration. Your DH should let his parents know that you will not be celebrating, or that you will not be celebrating outside your closest circle if that is what you decide. I don't think you need to forgo a quiet celebration with whomever you choose. If they make a fuss, that's on them. You are not being rude in any way.

Thirdly, it's a bit difficult to comment since I don't know how badly your MIL behaved at the funeral etc, but when you are grieving is not the best time to make decisions about relationships IMO. Things that we might let slide at other times become too much to handle when grieving. Unless your MIL did something really, really objectively wrong then I would leave it at "mourning and not celebrating" at this stage, rather than "never want to celebrate with you again". Even if you do later decide to cut them off further it gives you a bit of breathing space to heal right now.
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GreenBird

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2012, 12:57:31 AM »
I'm so sorry for the loss of your mother.  I think you absolutely should not "just go along with whatever they want so as not to cause any more stress" - you're in pain and understandably so, don't try to ignore it.  Be kind to yourself.

I think it's entirely fair to scale back and spend holiday time with people more selectively.  Even in a good year, you can't always do everything with everyone or you run yourself ragged and can't enjoy any of it.  And this is not a good year, so you're doubly justified in not trying to do everything.  It's okay to choose a few things to do, and not go to everything.

I also think this is a very natural time to change how you and DH spend the holidays.  Even if you weren't grieving, I think that the first year of marriage is a very common time to start establishing your own family holiday traditions.  And you don't have to decide right now how you're going to spend every Christmas from now on - just work out how you're going to spend this Christmas, knowing that this is a unique year.

On the gift-giving and holiday card - you could do one joint gift from both you and your DH to his parents, and let your DH pick out and get the gift to them. They're his parents, so it makes sense that he'd handle figuring out a gift for them anyway.  And you're married now, so a joint gift makes sense.  Ditto a card from both of you rather than individual cards from each of you.

Margo

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2012, 04:17:45 AM »
I agree with everything Greenbird has said. I am so sorry for your loss.

I think it would be sensible for you to discuss this with your husband, too. You and he need to  e able to back each other up. Does he desperately want to spend time with his parents on Christmas day itself , if that means leaving you alone? What would your preference be? ( ie just you & him on the day, you & him with sister visiting, you & him spending some time visiting other family)
Listen to what your husband wants but be clear about what you would prefer, too.
The two of you being apart for (part of ) Christmas day could be very hard to cope with. You are married now, and that is, as PPs have said, an excellent reason to give for changing tradtions, and also for you an H to make the mental adjustment of thinking of your closest family as being each other, not PIL.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2012, 04:19:49 AM by Margo »

cicero

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2012, 04:55:00 AM »
condolences for your loss. Losing a loved one is always difficult, but when it comes thisclose to a major holiday or holiday season the loss is sometimes/somehow more difficult.

I am sorry your ILs are being so horrible to you. I will trust you when you say that your MIL was being mean when she discussed christmas so soon - normally, i wouldn't think it was mean (maybe tacky) because it *is* the time that holidays plans are discussed. (My mother passed away right before passover - a few days before - and my aunt was discussing Seder plans with us at the hospital. while it may have seemed a bit unkind at the time, i understand that she needed to know what was going on, ordreing food, arranging places for us to sleep, etc).

I think you need to sit down with your husband now and talk this out. you need to be united as a couple. he needs to back you up completely. If your MIL was mean to *you-shelleybeans* then she was mean to *you-shelleybeans+Mr. shelleybeans* (no matter what was said to whom). I understand where you are coming but personally - if my parents were that mean to my spouse, then there would be no way i would be going to their house on holiday unless there were sincere apologies and amendments made and then we would go *as a couple*. I am not sure exactly what they did to you - it might make a difference if we knew the background.

as for gifts etc - i would deal with the big issues first, then worry about the gifts.

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camlan

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2012, 06:53:51 AM »
I'm sorry for your loss.


In fairness to DH, should I have to essentially boycott Christmas with everyone this year, including him, friends and my sister, if I am “boycotting Christmas” with his parents?  Bear in mind, DH is aware of the issues between us and how hurt I have been in the past and especially this year.

Should I just go along with whatever they want so as not to cause any more stress and sadness for DH in what has already been a stressful and sad year (knowing that to do so will cause me a great deal of stress and sadness)?

Suggestions would be much appreciated - more specific information can be given, if necessary.

Addressing this issue--I don't think you have to boycott seeing your husband or sister Dec. 23-26. For one thing, does your sister have anyone else to spend the holidays with? She's suffering as much as you, and I think telling her she can't see you over the holidays would really hurt her. So do plan on seeing her. The two of you could spend Christmas Day together while your DH spends part of that day with his parents. If your in-laws can't see the difference between spending the holidays with a sibling who has also lost a parent or with in-laws, well, that is their issue.

You and your DH should sit down and plan what you want to have happen. Then he should present that plan to his parents as an accomplished fact, not open to change or bargaining. "This is what we need to do this year." Period. End of sentence. Leave room open for changes for next year and the years after that.

Just the fact that you are married this year gives you room for change. The two of you, in a year or two, might want a little holiday celebration of your own. So you might start spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together, Christmas day with his parents and Boxing Day with just your sister.

If you usually send them a card, do so this year. Let DH handle the gifts.

Will FIL and MIL be upset? My guess is that yes, they will. I think you need to prepare yourself for this. They are allowed to be upset that their holiday plans will not be as they were hoping. They are allowed to be upset that they won't see their son as much as they'd like over the holidays.

But they are not allowed to make your lives miserable by whining, complaining, backstabbing, or other sabotage. They are grown-ups and should be able to handle their disappointment so as not to affect you or DH. They should be able to understand that you are still mourning and that celebrating the holidays isn't even on your radar this year--that you simply don't feel up to it.
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Redsoil

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2012, 07:24:15 AM »
I'm so sorry for your loss.  I can understand that Christmas this year will be pretty tough for you, and hope your DH can give you the support you need.

I think it would be useful for him to speak to his parents, and simply say something like "We're just having a quiet Christmas this year.  Things have been pretty rough, and I'm sure you can understand that Shellybean is especially sensitive as this is the first Christmas without her mother, so I want to support her through it.  I'm happy to come over and spend Christmas Eve with you, so we can have time together then." 

Talk with your husband, and explain how you're feeling, and that you really need his help to get through this.  If he doesn't know about any issues that are affecting you, this is the time to tell him, so he is aware of the impact your MILs actions are having.
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Redsoil

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2012, 07:27:19 AM »
Oh, and with regard to gifts and card for the PILs?  Have DH buy their gifts and write the card from both of you.  A small polite gesture that (hopefully) doesn't burden you too much, but that you can live with.
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Bethalize

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2012, 07:40:30 AM »
Sympathy and hugs. I lost my mother in November. My cousin babied my family through two very hard Christmas days. I am so grateful to her.

Don't worry about what everyone else wants. Say to your DH what you need. Then say what you would like. So something like this:

"This is a time of grieving for me. I need to spend the festive season I usually love without any pressure. What I would like is to spend the day quietly at home with just you and me and for you to see your parents at different times without me."

Until you state what you want and what you would like your partner can't make an informed choice. Now, your partner might choose to put your needs above all other, or he might balance them with the needs of others. But please, don't make assumptions about what your partner would choose. Let them choose for themselves with all the information in hand. Then tell everyone else. Don't JADE. Just tell them. They might be disappointed - that's allowed - but nice people will understand. Selfish people will die mad.  ::)

You and your DH are a unit. Therefore he can handle the PIL side of cards and gifts.

Sharnita

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2012, 08:49:10 AM »
I do think you need to discuss it with DH.  Was he present/aware of what went on in the hospital and at the funeral?

Depending on what happened could you accept a compromise?  Could you accept a gift and allow DH to put your name on the gift he selects but have him do any exchange?  There would be no obligation to keep or use whatever they got you.

If there are services PIL usually attend could DH go with them as long as they don't conflict with something you'd like to do? That can make it seem like you and he are going a long way to meet their emotional needs.

Shellybeans

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2012, 09:59:01 AM »
Thank you for the kind condolences and the advice so far.  I am hesitant to bring up too much of the past behaviour because I do not want to cloud the issue of Christmas too much, I really do want it to be about this particular Christmas being the first Christmas without mum, rather than the issues with the relationship with PILs that have been ongoing for several years now although I realise it is hard to separate the two (and I appear to be unable to do so at all, at the moment). 
 
I am also a bit concerned that this situation will be seen more as a DH issue, than entirely a PIL issue, and I would tend to agree that his way of dealing with his parents (i.e. not dealing with his parents) is a big problem in our relationship and not likely to improve by itself…it’s just not really a battle I wanted to fight right now, particularly as he has been – in every other aspect of our life – supportive, caring and wonderful.

To answer some of the questions: when we first started dating and came up to our first Christmas together, it did come up that I spent Christmas day with my mum and MIL (not MIL at the time) made it very clear that she didn't care about Christmas day as such, that her time with her children / family was Christmas Eve.  For that, and many other reasons, I do feel MIL bringing up Christmas when she did and the way she did was inappropriate and without consideration of anyone's feelings but her own.  She was extremely jealous that my mother had two daughters who adored her and would have done anything for her and I know she was very envious of our Christmas traditions.

I will also point out that DH is the only child to PIL but MIL has three children from a previous marriage, none of whom have any relationship with her.  MIL cut her daughter out of her life several years ago (one reason she was resentful of mum's good relationship with us) because she demanded daughter change her plans and spend Christmas Day with PIL, rather than Christmas Eve as had previously been planned and daughter did not...so I am not overreacting when I say my refusal (if that is what happens) is not going to go down well. 

For us to be apart for our first "married" Christmas (considering we rarely spend any time apart, generally speaking) would be sad for me, but if it would keep the peace between DH and PIL, I would cope with it.  My sister and I would like to spend some of the day at the cemetery with mum, and while I would appreciate DH being there for a little while himself, he does not have to.  The issue, of course, is that even if DH is with his parents, it will not be good enough - that I am not there would be unacceptable.

The reason I brought up gifts / cards etc., was because I know this is going to be another issue (this is the woman who threw a temper tantrum because DH and I didn't buy her any Easter chocolates this year), but DH and I can cross that bridge when we receive the unsolicited, expensive "wish list" this year and deal with it then.

Yes, I do know DH and I are going to have to discuss this and come to some sort of agreement.  I would have preferred it if we could have had more time to see how we both feel and talk about things in a more abstract manner but since MIL has made her demands clear and DH, in relaying those demands to me, has also made it clear he is expecting us to spend some time with his parents, I guess this will have to be addressed sooner rather than later. 

DH is aware of some of what has gone on, what happened at the hospital and at the funeral & wake, he was present for some of it (as were others) but there was a special conversation reserved solely for me, which I did share with DH.  He is also aware of ongoing issues over the last several years but..."that's just the way she is".  Bear in mind DH has not always fared well with his mother, she continuously belittles and berates him, treats him like he is incapable of looking after himself, was very hurtful to both of us in the lead up to our wedding, has a conveniently "selective" memory and is absolutely beside herself if we are doing it tough or struggling - she absolutely loves to hear that...yet, she is the only mother he has ever known and he has watched his father make excuses for her all his life, so he does the same himself.  Anyway, that probably explains why I really do not want to spend spend Christmas with her (or FIL) this year, but also why I am so apprehensive about broaching the subject with DH and not entirely sure I should make him deal with the fall-out.

Thank you again for your comments and advice.

camlan

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2012, 10:15:42 AM »
What I think is that at some point, there is going to need to be a big discussion about MIL's treatment of both of you, and probably some separation on your part.

However, this is probably not the best time for that.

Work out what would be the ideal Christmas for you, and establish what's a "need" and what is a "want." Then let your DH know what that is: I need you to come to the cemetery with me on Christmas day. I want to spend the whole day with you, but I know that you want to go to your parents' house for a while. I know that Christmas Eve is your family's traditional time together, so go, but please be home by 10 (or 11 or midnight or whatever).

Both you and DH need to accept that MIL will be upset. Work out a plan now on how to deal with that. But if you back down from your plans because she gets upset, you will have created the expectation that you will always back down--and it will get harder and harder and harder to stand up to her.

What it comes down to is this. Someone is going to be upset this Christmas. Do you want it to be you or your MIL? Does your DH want it to be you or his mother?
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cicero

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2012, 10:29:25 AM »
What I think is that at some point, there is going to need to be a big discussion about MIL's treatment of both of you, and probably some separation on your part.

However, this is probably not the best time for that.

Work out what would be the ideal Christmas for you, and establish what's a "need" and what is a "want." Then let your DH know what that is: I need you to come to the cemetery with me on Christmas day. I want to spend the whole day with you, but I know that you want to go to your parents' house for a while. I know that Christmas Eve is your family's traditional time together, so go, but please be home by 10 (or 11 or midnight or whatever).

Both you and DH need to accept that MIL will be upset. Work out a plan now on how to deal with that. But if you back down from your plans because she gets upset, you will have created the expectation that you will always back down--and it will get harder and harder and harder to stand up to her.

What it comes down to is this. Someone is going to be upset this Christmas. Do you want it to be you or your MIL? Does your DH want it to be you or his mother?
this

and i think even further - while it is about *this christmas* , it really isn't. because - when you get down to it, a holiday is a holiday. sometimes, some years, it happens that we don't get to celebrate the way we want to. (off hand i can recall the year DS came down with mumps the night before passover. or the year i was battling cancer and had to be in the hospital the day after Passover seder. so - you do what you have to do). the important thing is how you and your DH will be going forth from this point on. yes, you have to deal with *this christmas* because it's right around the corner, but you also need to deal with the bigger picture of your relationship (or lack thereof) with your PILs.

I think as Camlan said - you need to work out what *you* want (and if ever there is a time for you to be "selfish" it is now). don't think about "keeping the peace" because with people like your MIL there is no, and will never be, keeping the peace. no matter what you do - she will complain (and probably talk about your behind your back). no matter how hard you try to make her feel good, it won't work. and you will kill yourself and your marriage trying.

Be gently honest with your DH. let him know that there is a reason that your MIL's children have nothing to do with her.

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