One of the most difficult things – more difficult than dealing with the death – has been how Jake’s family has betrayed him. Jake entered the military in 2003 after graduating high school, and they seem to be angry at him for leaving home. After Jake’s father died, his family manipulated the situation and were quick to jump into probate – right after Jake left the state. (We currently live in CT, and he was in SC for a month before any legal action took place – his grandmother is named executor in the will, which she hid for several weeks). They’ve accused Jake of theft (for taking his stuff that had been at his childhood home, for taking his family’s guns — including those that belonged to his mother and her family — and for taking his father’s watch) and they have tried to spread rumors that Jake is an all-around bad guy, yet they deny it when we try to confront them. Although Jake’s parents had been divorced for several years, his father never re-decorated, and his family let the new wife take whatever she wanted from his father’s house – including stuff we wanted (a washer and dryer and a couch).
I know Jake would like to have a relationship with his dad’s family, but it seems impossible now based on how they’ve treated him. He feels so hurt and betrayed. I want to tell off his aunt so badly, but I’ve held my tongue. How can we air our grievances in a manner they might be receptive to? Or how can we move forward? How do we deal with how we’re being portrayed to extended family members? — Pissed At His Family
You know, honestly, this is really more Jake’s problem than yours. You’d been his girlfriend for about a year when his father died. Yes, you’re a couple, and you live together, but it’s not like you’re part of his family yet in the way you would be if you were married or had been together for many years. Your job here shouldn’t be airing your grievances or dealing with the way you’re being portrayed, but supporting Jake. And when it comes to supporting him, maybe flaming the fire of angst he feels isn’t the best route to take. Instead of focusing on stuff you wanted from Jake’s father’s home (a washer and dryer and couch) and getting angry that they went to, you know, the wife he shared his home with, be a shoulder for Jake to cry on, an ear to listen to him vent, and a pillar to hold him up when the weight of his loss and the pain of betrayal he feels threaten to force him down.
I’m not well-versed enough in law to know how things work when a loved one dies and an executor is appointed, but I have a hard time believing that it’s kosher to just help yourself to whatever you want from a dead person’s home, even if you believe the deceased would want you to have said items or if you believe those items are rightfully yours. There’s a protocol that needs to be followed, and, when it’s not — when someone who isn’t an executor of a will goes into someone else’s home (even if that home belonged to his father) and just takes things without explicit permission, that IS stealing. Even if some of those things were his from childhood, they weren’t in his possession. Jake should have waited until he was appointed those items or at least until he was granted permission to take them.
All of that said, this is a terribly sad situation and I’m sorry Jake is feeling bullied and estranged from his father’s family at a time when it seems they should be coming together and supporting one another. Shock and grief can make people behave in ways they wouldn’t normally and I hope in time and with compassion and forgiveness on all sides, the family can find their way back together, or at least find peace with each other. You can help this along by not engaging in negativity toward Jake’s family or flaming the fire of his anger. Seriously, the issue with the used washer and dryer and couch? Let it go.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.