Ask Amy: Tragic loss brings on a strange family demand
Dear Amy: I lost my husband in a tragic accident a year ago. We had no children, so I’m alone now, but I am seeing a grief counselor.
For the past few months, my in-laws have been asking — or more like telling — me to move in with them as soon as COVID is over. Their logic is that they need me, and I shouldn’t be alone right now.
I don’t want to move in with them. They’re good people, but they are very controlling, which is one reason my husband didn’t even want to live too close to them.
I have politely declined dozens of times, but they keep saying, “It’s decided” and they “won’t take no for an answer.”
They have told me that they are coming to get me and my stuff as soon as it is safe to do so.
I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with this right now. I don’t want to live with them and am fine where I am. They live in another state, so I’d have to quit my job, which I also don’t want to do.
How can I get through to them? I don’t want to hurt them because obviously they are as grief-stricken as I am, but I’m worried that I will snap and say something awful if they keep pushing me on this. — Grieving Widow
Dear Grieving: I hope you will choose to discuss this with your grief counselor.
I suggest writing down your thoughts. Use loving and unequivocal language: “Frederick loved you so much. We are all grieving. I miss him every day. He and I built our life here, and I have chosen to stay here, in our home. My job and friends are here. I want to continue to live in the home he and I made together. I know this is not what you want to hear. I care very much about you and I will be out to visit as soon as I can, but I won’t be moving in with you.”
You should add that you have been seeing a grief counselor, and that the counseling has helped you. The Compassionate Friends (compassionatefriends.org), or their local hospice center will have recommendations for them. Once you’ve read the letter and are satisfied with it, send it to them. Understand that this repeated entreaty might be their way of coping with their own loss.
Dear Amy: I just received an invitation for my close friend’s baby shower, next month.
While she and I have diligently attended each other’s events in the past, I don’t feel comfortable attending her baby shower due to COVID-19 concerns.
I’m the new mom of a 6-month-old baby. I work from home. My only child care is my mother, who is in her 60s.
I have not left my house (aside from two visits with the pediatrician) since the beginning of the pandemic. I even get my groceries delivered.
I’m gravely concerned for the health of my family (especially my baby and my mom). I don’t want to run the risk of contracting the virus at the baby shower and I also don’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings.
What do you think I should do? — Torn
Dear Torn: I am surprised by the number of queries I receive from people who seem to believe that an invitation creates a rock-solid commitment that they then must try to “get out of.”
An invitation does not tie you to the railroad tracks. Your good friend is inviting you to her shower because she likely attended your baby shower (and other events in your life). She may assume that you won’t be able to attend, but if she hadn’t invited you, you might feel excluded.
You do not need to create excuses, or explain yourself. Simply tell your friend, “I hate to miss this, but as you know, I am laying very low these days.”
You might choose to send her a gift from her registry and a handwritten card.
Dear Amy: “Loving Daughter” was trying to figure out how to tackle her 90-year-old mother’s unhealthy hoarding.
My sister and I did exactly as you suggested and had one sibling take mom out while the other cleaned, organized, and removed trash.
When mom came home, she was not happy — but she didn’t complain. In fact, I think she was relieved. I think she had become paralyzed by her situation. — Improved
Dear Improved: Hoarding is a serious disorder. It is overwhelming for the entire family system.