I need to talk to my dad and I don’t know how. We haven’t always had a great relationship. I feel now I’m choosing between my parents. I desperately need to know what happened to my mom. I feel that if I bring it up, it could potentially ruin the relationship I have with my dad. What do I do? How do I find the answers I need? My mom was my best friend and I feel like I failed her. I can’t think clearly and being pregnant isn’t helping. Is there any way to bring this up without losing my dad? My heart just hurts all the time and I need answers. I always think you give the best advice and any help or suggestions would be so appreciated. — Missing Mom
I’m really sorry for the loss of your mom, and even though it’s been 16 years, time only goes so far in healing broken hearts (especially if you feel you haven’t gotten closure). I imagine that pregnancy might also bring up emotions, not just because of hormonal surges, but also because it’s natural to think of our own mothers as we prepare to mother a new child. It’s important to remember that even though there are some unanswered questions – which I hope you’ll get some clarity on – there is still a lot you already know. You know your mother loved you and you loved her, you know all the lessons she taught you, and you know her legacy lives on in you, in your children, in all that she influenced when she was alive (and continues to influence in her death).
For clarity about what has happened to your mom’s ashes, I think that asking your dad explicitly about them is the only way you’re going to find out, and if you approach the question firmly but with sensitivity and compassion, you are more likely to get an answer without harming your relationship with your dad. Here’s a script you can use:
“Dad, as we get close again to the anniversary of Mom’s death, my feelings of grief and of missing her are resurfacing. One of the hurdles in my healing is not knowing where her ashes are and not having the closure I think I need to move on in the way I know she’d want for me. I know her death is a difficult chapter for you to revisit, and I don’t want to cause you pain, but you’re the only person who can help me get the information I desperately need. The funeral home won’t tell me where her ashes are, but they say they want me to have closure and that they’ve been trying to reach you, which only makes me conclude that Mom’s ashes must be in their care. If that’s true, it would mean everything to me to be able to retrieve them. Can you please help me and share whatever information you have?”
If he is still resistant to talking with you, your relationship may suffer, but it won’t be your fault. Nothing in the script above is offensive or inflammatory or disrespectful. If he refuses to help you locate your mom’s ashes, and the funeral home won’t give you information without his consent, you have to accept that the closure you’re seeking will have to come another way. I think the closure you want is about honoring your mom – and it doesn’t feel honorable leaving her ashes on a shelf in some funeral home – so I would advise doing something – maybe on her birthday and/or the anniversary of her death – that honors her memory. You could also think about how a name for your baby might honor her memory. Ultimately, the best way to honor your mom is to keep her memory alive, which you can do by sharing stories and photos with your kids and by thinking of her often. If doing so causes more pain than joy at this point after her death, I would suggest seeking the support of a counselor – especially one who specializes in grief counseling.
It’s normal to feel awkward at work gatherings, period. Whether you’re married, single, with kids or without, gathering in a social context with people you aren’t typically social with – and certainly with people you only know through Zoom – can be awkward. Your colleagues are probably a little nervous, too. Because this is a lunch, there will be a clear end time (and the whole thing shouldn’t last too long as opposed to an evening party that could go on for several hours). Here are a few tips that will help you navigate your holiday work party.
And, look, if you really can’t stand the idea of going, I’d say that you have a very valid excuse to sit this one out: There’s a super contagious Covid variant spreading at an alarming rate, and dining indoors with people from multiple households really isn’t the best idea right now.