- This topic has 11 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 6 months, 3 weeks ago by Lucidity.
LucidityMay 16, 2023 at 9:36 am #1120400
My FIL has been diagnosed with cancer. He has several serious health conditions already, and I’ve found myself thinking about his death. I don’t feel sad. I’d like him to die soon. I realize that sounds monstrous and I feel awful about it.
He is a racist, sexist, antisemitic, homophobic, transphobic, selfish, abusive grouch who spends all his time in a YouTube echo chamber and talks of nothing but conspiracy theories. He’s incredibly high-strung, taking out his anger and anxiety on his family. When something goes wrong with his phone or internet service, he’ll call his kids over and over, freaking out, until one of them comes over. My husband has come home in tears after being berated and shouted at while he was fixing the internet. My FIL recently called while my MIL was visiting, and lost it on her because she’d left the door to the garage open (for an hour or so, while he was home, in a safe, suburban neighbourhood where people leave their garages open all day). From the panic in his screaming voice, I thought for sure the house was on fire or he was having a medical emergency. She hung up in tears.
He arrives at every family event right before the meal, jiggles his leg impatiently throughout, barely engages anyone in conversation, and leaves the moment he finishes dessert. He’ll shout from the car for his wife to hurry up as she says her goodbyes, with no regard for the fact that she’d like to spend more time with her kids and grandkids. He was the first guest to leave his own son’s wedding, taking my MIL with him, since she has to drive him.
The only way he tries to connect with his grandchildren is by teasing and bullying them. He’ll take my toddler’s toys and make her cry (his family speaks up when he does this, but it’s more “c‘mon Dad, stop it” versus “that’s unacceptable”). I’ve seen him snap and throw his grandsons’ legos into the fireplace because they were left out on the floor, with no warning or reminder to clean up. His only interaction with me, for a decade, has been to grunt when I greet him, one-word responses when I try to engage him in conversation (to be fair, we have a language barrier, although I’ve worked hard to learn some basic phrases despite struggling with foreign language acquisition), and shouting AH-AH-AH! at me when one of my kids is doing something he views as dangerous (they’re always perfectly safe). Oh, and holding out his coffee cup to me for a refill when I’m in the middle of something and my husband is sitting right next to him, doing nothing.
His family walks on eggshells around him, rarely addressing his behaviour, treating him like a “missing stair” and making excuses for him. My husband tells me he’s always yelled and been “difficult to live with,” but has gotten worse since his multiple health issues. I struggle to be sympathetic, because – other than the cancer – they’ll all either a direct result of or have been exacerbated by his lifestyle and refusal to either believe doctors or follow through on their recommendations.
His family is understandably upset and worried about his diagnosis, and I want to be a loving and kind support to my husband and in-laws through this and when he does pass. I am trying to remind myself of my own experience when my mom died – we had a fraught relationship, but she was my mom, and it deeply affected me. She was never abusive, though, we just didn’t get along when I was a teenager. I can’t understand his family treating him with such deference and respect, obliging his every demand, never imposing boundaries (although my husband does push back when he makes racist statements).
I’m not sure what I’m asking. Maybe I just needed to write this all out and get it off my chest. Has anyone dealt with not liking someone close to you who is dying/died? How can I move past my resentment of this man and find empathy? How can I support my husband and in-laws when they lose him without feeling like a complete fraud?
I know I need to bring this up in therapy when I can but am focusing on more pressing issues there right now.
I’m sorry to hear about the difficult situation you’re facing with your FIL. It’s understandable that you have complex emotions towards him, given his behavior and the negative impact it has had on your family. Dealing with the impending loss of someone you don’t particularly like or have a strained relationship with can be challenging.
In finding empathy, it can be helpful to separate the person from their actions. Recognize that your FIL’s behavior stems from his own issues, beliefs, and personal struggles, which may have contributed to his difficult personality. Try to understand that his actions might be a reflection of his own pain and frustration, even if they are unacceptable and hurtful.
When supporting your husband and in-laws, focus on their emotions and needs during this difficult time. Be there to listen and offer comfort without judgment, as they may have their own complex feelings towards your FIL. Providing a safe space for them to express their emotions can be valuable. My husband has a very challenging relationship with his mother and has almost no contact other than to make sure she’s okay, but I know that when she passes he’s going to be pretty wrecked. You need to make sure that you’re giving room for that in your heart.
Remember, finding empathy does not mean you have to excuse or condone your FIL’s behavior. It’s okay to acknowledge the negative impact he has had on your family while still recognizing his humanity. Therapy can be a valuable tool to explore and process these complex emotions further, and it’s great that you plan to address this in therapy when the time is right.
Take care of yourself as well, as supporting others during such challenging circumstances can be emotionally draining. Seek support from friends, engage in self-care activities, and allow yourself to feel and process your own emotions.
Yep, great tips from Kate. Something that is helpful to me in situations where it could feel like I’m exerting so much energy for/on someone I don’t particularly like, is to reframe it as giving my energy to the people I *do* like as a gift and an act of love. You don’t have to like your FIL at all to want to support your husband and the rest of his family through their impending grief. Just keep thinking of this time as an opportunity to express love for your husband in the act of just being there for him – listening to him, giving him space to work through the complicated emotions.
“. I can’t understand his family treating him with such deference and respect, obliging his every demand, never imposing boundaries (although my husband does push back when he makes racist statements).”
Right, I see this too. My grandfather’s behavior was not as overtly rude/bad/scary as your FIL’s, but he was sexist and racist and a dick, and the family treated him as you describe above and still will not acknowledge that he was an asshole. He could not be questioned or challenged, and that’s how it was. His son, my mom’s baby brother, has similar tendencies and also is treated with kid gloves. You have to understand that this is a product of intergenerational trauma and abuse. My grandfather (born in 1911) witnessed a lynching as a child. Once his mother served him something with fish in it instead of oatmeal, by mistake, and he just had to sit and eat it, he couldn’t question her. Your FIL was probably raised by people who abused him the way he’s now abusing others. It’s not an excuse but it’s hard to break that cycle.LisforLeslieMay 16, 2023 at 1:37 pm #1120406
Adding on to Kate – this deference is a defense mechanism – it is easier to simply cater to his nonsense than deal with his hysterical fits. It’s also likely protection for your MIL who has to deal with him alone all the time.
I like Wendy’s suggestion – give your light to the people like your husband who will likely feel both sadness and relief and guilt for feeling relief.
I spend a lot of time with women in their 80’s. Things I’ve learned include getting rid of the evidence of sickness as quickly as possible. When my dad died I immediately called the medical rental places to have all of the equipment picked up – the lift, the bed, etc. I found a charity that would take all of the unopened supplies and purchased equipment like wheelchairs and brought it over as soon as possible. When my uncle passed, I was there when the home picked him up and I spoke with the agent to have all of the equipment picked up. It sounds callous, but the goal was to get rid of the signs that end of life was due to illness so that the focus could be on family. Talk to your husband about this too.
Keep in touch with your MIL – she’s going to need help. Keep an ear out for comments about his stuff and cleaning out the house. You can go in and clean out all the closets, the drawers, etc and get it all to a charity shop with little emotion. You’re not getting rid of him, just some of the stuff he left behind that isn’t needed now. You can also get your MIL out to social events just to keep her busy and remind her that she’s now able to do all the things she wanted to do but couldn’t do before like taking a flower arranging course or volunteering at the library or whatever.
And secretly in your deepest heart, it’s ok to be ok that he’ll be gone soon and everyone’s lives will be easier.
It’s ok to have complicated feelings when someone dies. It’s also ok to have uncomplicated feelings when someone dies. Your father sounds like a miserable human who brings nothing but misery to those around him. You can bring empathy to those grieving, especially your husband, but you’re not under obligation to feel that grief yourself.
You also don’t need to find excuses to justify his behavior. Inter-generational trauma or not, it doesn’t sound like he ever took any steps to think about how his actions affect those around him. This is a guy who thinks it’s funny to make kids cry. It doesn’t get much lower than that.
From the sounds of it, I doubt you’re alone in your feelings.AnonymousseMay 17, 2023 at 11:56 am #1120414
I like the above suggestions. Since you have no emotional tie, see what you can do as far as practical tasks that help the family. He does sound like a horrible presence to be around, but he’ll be gone soon. Perhaps now, if not ever before, you can put aside your personal feelings for the man and just focus on those you do care about that are directly affected by his loss.AnonymousseMay 17, 2023 at 12:02 pm #1120415
And also, as an aside, I didn’t hate this person, but I did have a prominent person in my life die, and when someone dies the bad things and asshole shit they’ve done and said get swept under the rug, and the positives are highlighted. Get ready for that and prepare yourself.
Secretly like two years late, a few of us real close to that person had a little vent session where we were like, “My god, he was an asshole! He spoke terribly about his wife! He was sometimes sexist and racist!” We let it all rip because he had been a human- multifaceted. Both a sometimes a pretty good human and sometimes a huge asshole piece of dirt.
It’s okay to harbor your ill feelings, but don’t expect his family to want to badmouth him, is what I mean.ronMay 17, 2023 at 6:28 pm #1120416
It is reasonable to feel as you do about FIL. He’s earned you dislike. As others have said: focus on supporting your husband. NEVER EVER let the thought that you won’t be unhappy when FIL dies slip out to husband or his family. If your husband voices the thought that he might not be totally sad when his father dies, assure him that this doesn’t make him a bad or unempathetic person, that he has reasons for mixed feelings.LisforLeslieMay 18, 2023 at 5:45 am #1120417
Good point Anonymousse. When at my bio-dad’s funeral everyone was saying what an amazing person he was and I was like ‘who the hell are you talking about?”. I mean, the guy wasn’t evil but he wasn’t this selfless character they were portraying. A few months after his death my step mother and I had a really open conversation about my dad’s faults but then a short time later she switched back to “everything he did was wonderful” and I just had to step away because it was just maddening. I loved the guy, but I knew who he was.
@Lucidity – when that shit happens, and it will, just say nonsense phrases like “I’ve certainly felt his absence.” or “Time brings perspective” just leave the “… and I’m glad that mofo is gone.” silentLucidityMay 22, 2023 at 7:04 am #1120515
Thank you everyone for your kind of thoughtful comments. I was afraid to come back and check the responses because I was certain I’d been eviscerated. I’m bowled over by your understanding and am feeling much better about this overall. The practical suggestions of concrete steps I can take – helping to remove medical equipment, clean out the house – are particularly helpful, thank you LisforLeslie.
I would never, ever let on that I’m not sad when he passes. I do gently tell my MIL – when she’s in tears in front of me – that the way he treats her is not right, and express my disapproval with my husband after I witness behaviour that upset me. That is as far as I will go.
@bloodymediocrity, I may have misspoke. He doesn’t think it’s funny to make kids cry – he gets annoyed and frustrated when his teasing leads to crying. He wants my daughter’s attention but doesn’t understand how to interact with young children and thinks she is overreacting. He was not around when his own children were young (he emigrated to Canada and worked to afford to bring his family over here), so he’s had very limited experience with kids. If he was deliberately making her cry, I would not subject her to him.
You hit the nail on the head that he doesn’t think about how his behaviour affects others. He blames my daughter for crying – the problem is always her reaction, never his teasing. When he yells, it’s always other people’s fault, they made him angry. He expects others to accommodate him but is never willing to compromise or consider others.LucidityMay 22, 2023 at 7:05 am #1120516
*Kind AND thoughtful, not kind of thoughtful – haha, big difference.