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.