Tell Me About It: In-laws' sympathy insufficient for him
Question: My wife and I have been married 14 years. Before my father died, my in-laws and I got along well. I was raised in a loving family, we believed a family in need is a family indeed.
My wife and I have been married 14 years. Before my father died, my in-laws and I got along well. I was raised in a loving family, we believed a family in need is a family indeed.
When my father died, my wife told her family - and they had no response, not even a simple "I'm sorry for your loss." A week later they finally responded with "I'm sorry to hear the news," and they sent a card. This was after my wife had told them how upset I was with them. In addition to sending a card, my father-in-law explained, "I thought you wanted to be left alone."
Carolyn, who in their right mind would think someone wanted to be left alone in their time of need?
Also, to add to this insult, my father-in-law told me that he'd had doubts about me at first, and that I had turned out to be a good guy after all. My father-in-law had come to my wedding. Whatever happened to "Whoever has anything to say, speak now or forever hold your peace"? This, to me, does not sound like a caring and loving family.
Am I overreacting to these rude and insensitive remarks? I told my brother-in-law we might be looking to replace him as godparent for our daughter, so she can have somebody in a time of need. This made my father-in-law very upset.
Answer: I don't know your in-laws, of course, but I suspect that for your signature to be accurate, it would need to read: "Truly in need of a family that fits my precise definition of 'loving.' "
You're incredulous that anyone would think you wanted to be left alone to cope with your father's death, but the people who want space to grieve are legion. As are the people who realize they should be there to support a grieving loved one, but who are such hopeless dorks when it comes to dealing with death that they wind up ducking until they think the coast is clear. Chickening out is nothing to brag about, if that's what your in-laws did - but, still, it doesn't mean they meant to insult you. "Caring and loving family" and "hopeless dorks" are not mutually exclusive.
As for your father-in-law's admitting after the fact that he didn't like you at first, instead of standing up in the church to announce it? That sounds to me like a guy who chose to bite his tongue and trust his daughter - about as caring and loving an act as I can imagine. Plus, dude - it's a compliment.
Be as disappointed in your in-laws as your heart dictates, of course; they let you down when your father died. I just don't think feeling disappointed gives you license to pout or get punitive.
Think about it: They accepted you despite their doubts, culminating in 14 (or so) years of getting along well; they sent a card when they heard you were upset with them; they took it hard when you declared them unworthy in times of need. They've shown they care, in their way. A caring and loving son-in-law will accept the love they're offering, instead of trying to exchange it for something more to his taste.