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Grief and guilt

Old 03-22-2014, 01:30 PM
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Grief and guilt

My mother-in-law is expected to pass any day. It's been on my mind for weeks and since finding this forum, in my search to help my partner through the loss of his mother, I feel overwhelmed with grief and guilt.

I was angry with her, for a while. She has 2 grandchildren than she was unable to see much as she was often too drunk to get to see them herself, 2 children that try to avoid her for the most part and she has spent the past 15 years slowly de-constructing her life and alienating people.

But now, all I can think about is how lovely she has been to me. I was caught up in my partner's resentment and took her presence for granted. She was an alcoholic when I first met her and I suppose I didn't really consider that it would ever come to this, for some reason.

She has always been so kind to me. Welcomed me in to her life with open arms, championed and supported me in parenting choices... there's never been a bad word between us. I wish I'd tried harder, wish I'd realised that I was lucky in many ways. I know I couldn't have changed things and I always appreciated that she could have been an amazing grandmother and mother-in-law without the drink. I just feel such terrible guilt and sadness.

I know she was always very anxious and I think this is part of what led her to alcoholism in the end. But she is a wonderful, genuine person and I am just so sad. She is now sleeping and unaware of time when she wakes, but until recently she was afraid and remorseful. I feel devastated for her.

I know this isn't about me and I am 100% thinking about my partner and helping him through this. But I don't know how to get past the guilt now that it is too late.
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Old 03-22-2014, 01:49 PM
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EllenP, I am so sorry you are in this situation. I had a mother-in-law who was a binge drinker, and she ruined many holidays (she was Scots, so perhaps you know how that is, coming from the UK yourself). But I loved her until the day she died, even though she and I were total opposites in every respect--in fact I think we admired each others' differences, and that's what gave us this mutual respect.

I don't quite know why you feel guilty. You seem very, very compassionate and forgiving. Please recognize that part of yourself. There is nothing to feel guilty about. We all know the three "Cs": We didn't cause it, we can't cure it, and we can't control it. She has made her choices in life, and you have made what seem to be wise boundaries with regard to your children.

It's tragic, to be sure. But it is what it is. I know what it is to grieve over someone who wasn't the easiest person to actually live with. Please allow yourself that. But know that you have nothing, absolutely nothing, to feel guilty about.


ETA: I do know the experience of feeling guilt with respect to my mother, who was alcoholic at one time, but who spent the last twenty years of her life sober. My AH found her threatening and really cut me off from much contact with her. My deep regret is that I didn't push back and tell him to F off. But I know in my heart that she forgives me, and so I have to forgive myself.
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Old 03-22-2014, 02:03 PM
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Thank you, I appreciate that very kind reply.

I think I am just feeling very shaken. If I'm honest with myself, I wonder if somebody could have reached her. The more I read, the more I realise that nobody really even tried. Well, they did, but in ways that only made matters worse. I wish somebody had found this place, wish they'd known what to expect and how to approach things.

I'm sad because she's only 59 and this isn't what she wanted at all. I am sad because she is a good, kind person who just has demons too big to handle. It seems cruel, that it would end this way. I know they were her choices, but maybe I need time to really appreciate that as all I feel right now is that she was in the grips of something beyond her control.

I have embraced her into my life, but never fully appreciated her. I took her for granted and found her a bit annoying at times. I wish I'd seen then what I see now.
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Old 03-22-2014, 02:06 PM
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Hi EllenP,

I'm so sorry about your MIL. Please don't feel guilty. You do her a great service by writing here and reminding us that we always need to treat people well, but we know how difficult it is dealing with alcoholics. Often times the only choice is to pull away. I know, it's just so very sad. It's appropriate now to remember her good qualities, and not dwell on her problems. That's what you're doing, and that's the right thing to do, but that doesn't mean she didn't have some very serious issues, so please, please, please don't feel guilty.

Once again, you honor her with what you've written, and I, for one, appreciate that. I'm sure she would too.
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Old 03-22-2014, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by EllenP View Post
Thank you, I appreciate that very kind reply.

I'm sad because she's only 59 and this isn't what she wanted at all. I am sad because she is a good, kind person who just has demons too big to handle. It seems cruel, that it would end this way. I know they were her choices, but maybe I need time to really appreciate that as all I feel right now is that she was in the grips of something beyond her control.

I have embraced her into my life, but never fully appreciated her. I took her for granted and found her a bit annoying at times. I wish I'd seen then what I see now.
You could not have done anything. If those nasty demons were too big for her to handle, they were too big for anyone, including you, except for her Higher Power. I simply have come to the conclusion that some people are non-thrivers in life. It's no one's fault. They each had a job to do here on this earth, and maybe their drinking was part of it--who knows? Maybe they were here to teach us something and then go on. My dad died at 43; AH's dad died at 45. They were good, kind, people also. But no one could have helped them. But I remember all the good, and I thank them fo rthat.

You can perpetrate her memory by honoring all of your generous positive memories you have of her and passing those down to your children.

I see your grief in my son, who will be the person who will beat himself over and over if his dad (my AH) dies because of alcoholism. I have had many conversations with him trying to explain that we can only live our own lives with integrity, and leave God to attend to the lives of others.
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Old 03-22-2014, 02:18 PM
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Ellen,

There are three great qualities that you wrote about her in your post. You said she was kind to you, she welcomed you with open arms, and she championed your parenting choices.

In my book, that is not too shabby of a mother in law. She is the one who made the choice to alienate her children and grandchildren, and that had nothing to do with you. You and your children loved her as much as the disease would allow.

You wrote a wonderful post about her and I hope you can find some peace. There was nothing you could have done to save her. Alcoholism is a horrible disease.

Sue
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Old 03-22-2014, 02:23 PM
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Thank you everyone, such a lovely community here. I really appreciate the kindness.

I will keep my positive memories and pass them on to her grandchildren. I am thinking of asking if I could say something at her funeral to honour her in some way. It feels a bit weird to talk about that already, since she is still with us, but I feel like I have started to mourn her already and it's just a matter of waiting now.

Thank you.
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Old 03-22-2014, 03:13 PM
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I may be totally off base here, but I'm just thinking aloud. If you feel these things for her, then is it possible for you to go see her before she dies and express your gratitude? I don't know if she lives locally or long distance, but is that possible?

I say this because I didn't take the opportunity to express my appreciation to my daughter's step-mom when she was dying. I always appreciated how she welcomed my daughter into her life when my ex married her. So many step-parents resent the children of their new husbands, but Barbara didn't. She treated my daughter as if she were her own and I should have told her how much I appreciated that. I did visit her in the hospital and kissed her cheek, but I still feel badly that I didn't express how I felt.
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Old 03-22-2014, 06:48 PM
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It's tricky. We're going to see her in a few days, but she's not really conscious much even now so I'm not sure how she will be by then and she is only this peaceful as she is heavily medicated with anxiety and pain medications so I am wary of saying obvious sounding goodbyes as I don't want to upset her.

I think this is where my regret comes from. I'd love to have told her this long ago, but it's taken all of this for me to really appreciate her.
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