Q: I am worried about my friend of more than 55 years and her daughter. The daughter’s husband passed away in the early fall. This was not a happy marriage for the last 20 years but they remained together for their children’s sake and for financial reasons. Although he was not a good husband, he was devoted to his children who are now young adults. The daughter suddenly is talking about him as if he were a saint. She did not want to spend the holidays with her parents and is trying to distance herself from them. She knows her parents have had misgivings about their daughter’s relationship with her late husband. My friend is devastated that her daughter is rejecting her attempts to help. Can your provide some insight as to what is going on with the daughter?
A: Most people instinctively associate grief with the pain of losing a deeply loved family member, friend or even a pet. While it may be easier to understand why an individual would mourn the loss of someone they really cared about, the end of a complicated relationship through death still leaves a void in a person’s life. What your friend’s daughter is experiencing is not all that unusual plus it adds a different dimension to the grieving process. Death doesn’t immediately end the turmoil an unhappy relationship created.
The finality of death destroys the sliver of hope for an emotional reconciliation. The daughter may be grieving for the relationship she and her husband never had or never will have now that he is gone. Her youthful expectations didn’t match up with the reality of her marriage. The unresolved issues which remain with the living may impede the natural healing process.
Your friend should remain supportive of her daughter and be extremely careful not to infer “I told you so.” Her daughter may be unwilling at this time to admit what she may inwardly perceive as a failure. It would definitely be beneficial for the daughter to seek counseling and join a grief support group.
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