Perspective | Carolyn Hax: When the dearly departed wasn’t really all that dear

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I don’t know how else to explain how I’m feeling right now other than extreme fatigue at having to keep feigning sadness that he’s gone. I have always been very concerned about my husband’s love for this awful person. I was worried about the impact he would have on our kids, and I’m relieved that he died while they were still young enough not to understand all his blustering. But I will have to attend a service and endure a lot of conversation about how dearly missed he is. How do I get through all of that?

Grieving a Jerk: Make a concerned face, nod at appropriate times, find graceful ways to deflect questions back onto your questioner — “It’s my husband I’m concerned about,” “Thank you for asking,” “Aw jeez, how are you doing,” etc.

And, when this is all behind you and your attention is back on yourselves and your child-rearing, watch very closely for signs of your own wishful thinking about your husband’s philosophical bedrock. I want to believe you, but when a man’s hero is “this awful person,” there just seems to be a lot more of this story waiting to happen.

This part is not for you, obviously — especially since I don’t even know how much of your opinion you shared with your husband — but for others in the formative or pre-formative stages of committed relationships:

If you have serious objections to a person’s key family member, then it’s best to be honest about that early, and to say why. It may seem kind or just pragmatic to make nice, but this situation shows how intertwined and far-reaching these issues can be.

●This is similar to my experience with my stepfather. What helped me was not to focus on the person who passed but on the people who felt the loss deeply. It sounds kind of meta, but I mourned for their loss, not for mine, and was able to get through the memorial and subsequent family gatherings gracefully.

●Be busy at funerals or wakes. Corral your kids and any other kids. Take them on walks. Check on the snacks. Sit quietly with someone quiet. Put flowers in vases. This is a way to support the grieving while avoiding the uncomfortable conversations.

●My stepmother died and I could not stand her. She was married to my father for over 30 years and never showed his children an ounce of kindness. Whenever my father talks about how lucky was to be married to such a wonderful woman, I just respond I am happy she brought you so much happiness.



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