Widow Vents on Reddit About Mother-in-Law Guilting Her for Moving After Husband's Death

A widow took to Reddit to share how she wants to make life easier for herself and her daughter in the wake of her husband's death. But her MIL is not having it.

Mom holding child's hand
Photo: Dougal Waters/Getty Images

The second season of Big Little Lies may be total fiction, but conflicts between wives and mothers-in-law happen in real-life every day—especially, heartbreakingly, following a death in the family. Case in point: A widow took to the Parenting Reddit on Tuesday, July 23 to share her personal struggle with her MIL following the death of her husband, and the emotional post has wracked up 1.7K upvotes and over 300 comments.

Writing under the handle jackiej-j, the mom of a 3-year-old girl shared that she lost her 34-year-old husband suddenly and unexpectedly three months ago. "I am a nurse, I do shift work, that’s hard with a kid, especially being single," she wrote. "I decided to move myself and my daughter back to my home province. I found a house a couple blocks away from my parents. My dad is retired and my mom only works part time. They are both available and not just willing, but wanting to help me with my daughter."

She explained that she was fortunate to receive "a sizeable life insurance settlement," explaining, "I was able to purchase our new home outright, and settle all other debts I had and have some money left over. Not having a mortgage or debts means I don’t have to work full time. We can comfortably get by with me working 2-3 shifts per week, for that I am so grateful. My parents have no problem keeping my daughter while I work. It makes a lot of sense for me to move. I have given my notice at my current job, I got a nursing license for my home province, I have been applying for jobs and actually have a few interviews for when we physically move there next week. I have sold my current house, the new owners get possession August 1st. We are doing this."

There's just one catch: The original poster (OP) says that her MIL has been making her life "miserable" ever since she shared the news that she and her daughter are moving. "I get it, she just lost her son and now to her I’m taking her granddaughter away," the OP wrote. But the MIL's behavior has been eyebrow-raising, to say the least. "She has said things like 'mean mommy is taking you away from grandma, and grandma is really sad' to my daughter," jackiej-j noted. "She got a bit of a talking to about that, but I find it hard to be too harsh on her because she is grieving her son."

According to the OP, the MIL says her daughter-in-law doesn't have to move, because she'll help with child care, but her track record has been problematic."We tried that when my daughter was one and my mat leave ended, she was supposed to watch her 2-3 times a week, the amount of sick time I burned through when she’d bail was ridiculous, I ended up taking a different position," the OP explained.

The MIL has also made "comments about the life insurance that makes me think she’s upset that he left it all to me," but jackiej-j says that's a whole different story. The main issue is that she's making the process of moving "so hard," according to the widow. "I’m trying to give her grace because she is grieving—but so am I," she noted. "I lost my husband, my best friend, lover, soulmate, co-parent. It’s so hard, I’m trying my best to make it work, and if moving to my home province is what it takes I will do it. I’m just at my wit's end with my MIL. I don’t want to cut her off from my daughter completely, but I also can't tolerate this. Advice please."

Redditors had plenty of useful feedback for the grieving mom. ChecktheRadar said, "It is 100% OK for you to go low or no contact for some time while you adjust to your new home. I am amazed at how you have managed to get stuff done under the circumstances and you're clearly focused on doing what is best for your daughter. You are her champion, but don't forget to do what is best for you too. Grandma is grieving, but making you the villain to your 3-year-old is completely inexcusable. You are not responsible for how others are dealing with the death of your husband."

To that, jackiej-j replied, "It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have a choice. Thank you for saying that, I needed to hear it. You are 100% right, I’m not responsible for her or her feelings."

CamdenDrive noted, "I completely understand the impulse to be empathetic and give MIL a free pass due to her grief, but please know that your grief is important too, and it is absolutely okay to shut MIL down and tell her if she continues to try and alienate you from your daughter, she will get limited to no contact. Her grief is not the most important. Losing a child is what I imagine to be the worst possible loss on this earth, but it doesn't give her the right to degrade yours and your daughter's loss. Your daughter is what is most important right now, and it sounds like you are making tough decisions to protect her and give her the best support environment possible. For someone who just lost the love of their life, I would say you are doing a superhuman job."

Uralva offered a slightly different perspective, which—intentionally or not—actually seemed to echo themes explored on Big Little Lies: "I don’t know where you live, but I would imagine it might make sense to maintain some contact. You don’t want her trying for partial custody ... it would be a nightmare. Treat her like police negotiate with hostage takers: de-escalate when you can, allow her small wins when you can, have a backup plan and support in case she does something irrational."

Brain-eating-amoeba pointed out that "everyone needs grief therapy," and that "people do and say stupid stuff when they are in dark places like this," reassuring the OP that she should "make the best decision for you and your kid." But they also encouraged the OP "not to hold any of this against MIL. At some point, she will get it... or she won't. Understand it is all coming from a place she is having trouble understanding."

While quite a few pieces of advice advocated for the OP to turn her back on her MIL, it appeared from her follow-up remarks on the thread that she's hoping to make peace. "I don’t want to cut her off," the OP wrote. "I have been trying to be patient with her, as she did lose her son. I am meeting with her this afternoon, without my daughter. I plan on being clear than comments that put me in a negative light will not be tolerated. But that I do want her in my daughter's life, and hopefully plan some visits." She also noted, "I will ... reassure her we aren’t leaving to get away from her, and we’d love her to visit when we move."

With hope, jackiej-j's approach does the trick. If not, she can make her big move and rest assured she did everything she reasonably could.

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