Unsympathetic and needy family member upsetting me even more

My husband passed away 10 weeks ago and I have had so much support from friends I didn’t know I had when it was just me and my husband. He was 54 and had muscular dystrophy and I was his full time carer for the last four years. We really felt like it was us against the world but friends have since said they didn’t want to intrude. I really value their support now but my only living relative is my aunt who has been nothing but needy and demanding. The day after my husband’s funeral she phoned asking me to take her supermarket shopping and was defensive and annoyed when I said I wasn’t going shopping. My husband really enjoyed going shopping and shopping without him it is so painful. It is now a case of going in, getting what I want and coming out. Before we’d have coffee and take our time. My aunt always came with us and she wants the same to continue. I felt like screaming at her ‘Get a taxi!’ but I never stand up for myself. She also told me ‘now you’re free’ and started planning days out I could take her on. No way! I stopped answering the phone to her because she was always wanting something, computer advice usually. I feel terrible guilty because she is my only family now. I am dreading Christmas. It is a long way off but I know she will expect to spend it with me and can’t bear the thought of Christmas at all. Has anyone had any similar experience? My aunt has never been married, has no children (nor do I) and has no emoathy or understanding for anything. Her eyes dance with glee when she talks about anything tragic. She probably isn’t aware of this but I can’t bear it.

Hi Kit,

I am so sorry for the loss of your husband. The situation with your aunt sounds so difficult - she hasn’t shown any understanding or support for you.

I don’t think you have anything to feel guilty about for avoiding her. This is a time when you need to look after yourself and prioritise your own needs. It is good that you do have friends who are sympathetic and can support you.

I’m glad that you’ve found this site and I hope that it helps a little bit to have this space to get all your feelings out. You are among people who understand here - hopefully some of our other members will be along to reply before long.

You may also be interested in having a read of some of the posts from other people who’ve also lost a husband or wife. Here are some recent conversations I can suggest:

Are you getting any bereavement support? If your husband was cared for in a hospice, they will normally offer this (the Sue Ryder ones all do), or another good place to contact is Cruse Bereavement on 0844 477 9400 or helpline@cruse.org.uk.

(Sue Ryder community manager)

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Hi Kit. My husband died 2 years 2 months and 11 days ago. Unlike you it was sudden, however, a death is a death and your whole life feels as though it is over. People just can’t seem to understand that and expect you to get on with it and that life must go in pretty much as usual. Complete tosh. Life does go on because you have to get up every morning and complete certain tasks as usual but apart from that everything changes. It is a true say that you will remember the kindness of strangers and not the words and deads of of friends and relatives. Concentrate on those friends and be selfish - not because you are ‘free’ as it was out to you but because you need to show yourself kindness. I have a couple of so called friends who knew better and how I should behave and an aunt who rarely contacted me and when she did seemed to think I should be coping. I think she thought as she got divorced a long time ago it was a similar loss. And the friend who wanted me to go out and do things and get counselling etc was so angry when I got upset at her interference she doesn’t speak to me anymore - just walks right past me as she did yesterday. In many respects all this is very upsetting but in other ways it released me from having to pretend to do things when I wanted to curl into a ball and cry all day. This was my choice. I had the lady who worked in the co-op who always ran after me with daffodils - I choose to remember her and try to do so when something like being ignored by someone gets to me. I don’t know if any of this of help but please believe that that you are not alone or unusual but you are just you and there are a lot like you. Please know that it is a long process ahead and you can only do it your way with the help of true friends. Take care and a hug from me. Ev x

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Kit I feel your pain and my thoughts are with you.
I think you should communicate with your aunt and tell her how you feel.
She is doing the same as she has always done, in her own mind she may be thinking this is what’s best for you! If she understood how you feel, she may change, understand and even help with your situation. She does not have this chance to change unless you tell her. I would put it in writing so there can no ambiguity as to what you are going through and need from her.
If after this she still shows no empathy, then you need to rethink.
At the end of the day, she is not your responsibility and you need to be fit and well for your own well being.
Grieving is bad enough with full support, it’s simply impossible without it!
You are still in control and need to be brave and take actions that you are not comfortable with, but who amongst us are comfortable in grief?
Take care and sending you positive vibes.

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Thank you so much for your replies. x I have arranged to take my aunt to an out of town store to buy new bedding on Tuesday but this is just a favour as I would do for anyone. She is coming to my house too but this will give me chance to sit down with her and tell her how things are now. I am still appalled that I even need to do this but I am going to write down how she has behaved (it started in the car going to my husband’s funeral when I and his mother and brothers were sitting in grief stricken silence and she was making hissing noises because she can’t stand silence and talking about the weather!!) and tell her how she has made my situation even worse. In my life going forward I will focus on the kindness of my friends and be completely selfish where she is concerned - to protect myself. Thank you.

Hi Priscilla, I have been going to an informal Bereavement Drop In which they are running for a trial period at my local Sue Ryder hospice (it is well attended now and I hope it will continue) and am going to see a bereavement counsellor there next week. I had bereavement counselling there after I lost my Dad and my sister three years ago (a month and a day apart) and this really helped. I am still benefiting from that bereavement counselling but after losing my husband feel I need more help and am so grateful that the hospice offers this wonderful support.

Hi Kit that sounds so positive and I wish you success with it. You have been through so much and I can’t imagine your pain. Remember you are important too and be kind to yourself on the journey ahead. Love and best wishes Ev X

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Hi Kit,

I was wondering how you are doing at the moment? Did you manage to have a chat with your aunt? I hope that it went ok.

It’s good to hear that you are getting some bereavement support from your Sue Ryder hospice. How did you find your counselling appointment?

Hi Priscilla

Unfortunately my auntie and I didn’t get as far as the bedding store because we had a blazing row in the car. She told me my personality has changed and my late parents would be disgusted by how I am behaving towards her. I asked her to call the local hospice bereavement team and ask them what a person whose spouse has passed away is like. She refused to do this and rubbished everything I said after she asked me what she had done to upset me so much. She then got very upset and said how have we come to this? I realise now that she is jealous because I have the support of friends when she assumed that I would have no one but her. She also accused me of shortening her life by causing her all this stress. I decided to try and diffuse the situation and invited her to my house for a coffee and we agreed to start again but since then nothing has really changed except that I am feeling stronger.

I am finding the counselling a really positive experience and also the bereavement drop in. Tomorrow at the drop in we are going to share advice we have been given that has been helpful. The most helpful advice I was given was to accept every invitation and at church (where I was made very welcome after many years absence) there are many social events which I have gone to. I have met some lovely people and it all goes too towards keeping busy and getting out and about (which I also have started to do on my own) and that really does help me. I have joined the local ukulele group and also learned to knit. It all feels very positive.

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Oh gosh, I am so sorry to hear she said such harsh things to you. It sounds as though you have done your best to explain to her honestly how you feel and she is still not being understanding.

I think Ev had some good advice in her earlier post when she suggested saving your energy for looking after yourself and focusing on those friends that are kind and supportive.

I am glad to read about the counselling and the positive things that you are finding a help. Playing the ukulele and knitting - you must be quite a creative person!

I know each and everyone of us feel for you. My sister says it is my time now, sorry but my time was with my loving husband. Christmas, oh dear, what to do. The first year I went to Morocco because they would not be much Chritmas and yes I got though it. This last year, Gran Canaria. O.k but. This year, no ideas. Keep in contact and please let me know what you plan, my feelings are we most do something and not stay at home looking out on a world that does not include us.i knit but the ukulele, keep going.

Hi Kit. I am so sorry that you have been stressed like this by someone who should st least have better manners. If it wasn’t so serious it would look like a Peter Kay car script. I had words with a so called friend over how she was behaving and taking over and she stopped speaking to me from that moment and complete blanks me why she sees me. I was relieved not have the constant attention but I was also massively disappointed and upset she could treat me like that. I saw her recently and again she just blanked me but this time I smiled to myself because if that is what she calls a friend I am better off without her. Of course I didn’t manage that overnight but in time strength does start to return. I can’t offer any advice but I hope you are okay. Ev x

I am sorry for your loss. When I lost my husband unexpectedly I had a myriad of “friends” who decided they knew what I should be feeling and what was best for me. They said some hurtful things which I have never forgotten or forgiven and I decided I did not want them around me so I have made some new friends who know my circumstances and me for who I am now.
You have nothing to feel guilty about. This is about YOU not anyone else.

Thanks Sethcat. I’m so sorry for your loss. No one who hasn’t lost a spouse can even begin to comprehend what we are going through and I’ve been shocked and so disappointed by the totally selfish and unfeeling way people can behave have behaved, particularly the person who likes to remind me she is my only family. Next time I hear that I’m going to say ‘So what?’ Well I probably won’t because it would cause another eruption but I’ll certainly be thinking it and will react accordingly. I’ve a fridge magnet that says ‘friends are the family we choose for ourselves’ and that is really poignant.

It’s as if the selfish, unfeeling people are saying, ‘Oh dear, never mind, life goes on.’ Yes it does but they don’t know or care that it’s a lonely, often unbearable life and we have to go on making a different life when all we want is for things to be as we feel they should be.

I found the bereavement drop in very upsetting this week and I was so tired when I got home that even though my mind was telling me all the things I needed to do around the house I just followed my instinct and went to bed and slept for a couple of hours. It did me a lot of good. I will look after myself - even if it means I seem selfish or unreasonable to people who should know better.

Hugs. Take care.

Hello Kit
These are dreadful times are they not? You are correct in saying that no one, who had not lost a partner, even remotely begins to understand.
My father is 93 and in residential care and has the beginnings of dementia so he is leading me a merry dance with his inconsistencies and constant demands. I am exhausted by all the responsibility and problems when I just want to grieve and join my husband.
Unlike you, I am not able to be kind to myself, but just push and push myself to complete things all the time - home, garden, deal with problems, worry about problems and run around sorting Dad’s perceived problems out. I feel ill and exhausted all the time and sleep for only about 2 hours a night every night.
You are wise to be kind to yourself and do things YOUR way. I am afraid I have been brusque with “friends” who “know what is best for me” and “what they would do in my position”. Like you I am able to be quietly triumphant when I see them in the street, knowing they were not friends worth having.
Take care of yourself. I wish I was important to myself to take care of myself!

Good morning ladies. It is awful and people who think life goes on and that although ‘it is different it can be good’ are living in a world I cannot inhabit. I just want to live with dignity until I am released. It is just over two years for me and I am still walking away from some so called friends. If after 2 years they can only send a card for birthday and Christmas and not lift the phone then I no longer need them. Recently such a couple asked my son how I was and if it would be okay to phone. As he was in their general company he phoned me and I had the strength to say no and not feel guilty. I hope you are going to continue to grow in strength to think of yourself Kit. Rosylyn my dad will be 91 this year so I have an idea how it is for you although my son has been amazing in helping. You have to stop trying to be superwoman - as you know each day follows each night no matter what has happened in the previous 24 hours. Try ignoring something small to start with and take a breath and be kind to your own needs. Thinking of you both. Big hug. Xx

Ev, sensible words. I was going to visit Dad this afternoon but after an acrimonious meeting at the Home with home (Manager is wonderful and we do everything right - NOT!) and Social Services I am backing off having said my piece and staying away for a while for my own sanity.
You find out who your friends are and we do not need to be polite or beholding to them if they upset us.
Let us all be strong and exist for today as, certainly, tomorrow is another day and we need to be capable of meeting its loneliness and challenges.

Good to hear that. Life is hard enough just now and you are not going to win they are a law unto themselves and just seem to find other ways to get back at you. Watered garden now having a coffee and as the wine has arrived will probably have a large glass of white. I will probably feel more than a little sorry for myself but I have decided I am allowed to do that. Take care. Big hug xx

Yes I have decided I cannot win. They have an answer (however unsatisfactory) for everything and Dad colludes by saying things I have not said - Like when I say I am being threatened by these people because I have complained he is not getting the best care for which he is paying, he tells them I have said I am going to take him out of there and they then threaten me with court action if I attempt it as it is not in his interests. All taking its toll and I am going to let them get on with it now.
I am hungry for the first time in weeks and plan a pleasant meal and some orange juice as I dare not open a bottle of wine as I will not have just one glass!
Enjoy your wine and yes, you are allowed to feel sorry for yourself. I do too at times xx

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