Grieving Son Defames Father

By Annie Lane

February 1, 2020 4 min read

Dear Annie: My stepson said many nasty, derogatory, hurtful things about his recently deceased father. My husband was well-respected by his peers and friends. Yes, he had his faults, but I loved him dearly, and he was a very good man.

I wrote my stepson, let's call him "Dan," and told him how hurt I was and to say nothing about how I felt about his remarks was telling Dan I agreed with him. Dan did not respond to my letter after several months.

Now the dilemma. Birthdays are coming up. I do not want to send Dan a birthday/gift card as usual; I do not want any further contact with him since he has not responded to me.

Here's my question: Do I send his wife and children birthday/gift cards? They live out of state and I rarely saw them in the past. — Stung Stepmom

Dear Stung: I am so sorry for your loss. It's cliche but true: Everyone grieves in his own way. Your stepson's hostility might have been his; beneath the raging surface could be unseen depths of pain. Hopefully, he will seek counseling to deal with any unresolved aggravation he felt toward his dad. I encourage you to leave the door open to reconnecting with him should he try to make amends.

In the meantime, keep sending birthday cards to your daughter-in-law and stepgrandchildren. The grandchildren are an extension of your husband, after all, and I think you'd regret losing contact with them.

Dear Annie: If my mother is sending a box to me, she makes sure I know it's coming, bugs me till it's here and expects up-to-date information that I've gotten it. Yet, she won't do the same in return. I track my package, know it was delivered to her porch, wait, and will not get a call or text that it's been received.

I make sure to thank her for her gift and tell her what we've done with the money, but have to ask her if she opened or liked what I sent. It's maddening to be nagged but not ever thanked or acknowledged in return! I could have her sign for the package, but that's not the point. I want her to tell me like she wants me to tell her! Am I wrong to be frustrated? — A Little Gratitude

Dear ALG: Whether you're wrong or right to be frustrated is beside the point here. You are frustrated, and you will continue to be unless you say something to your mother about these apparent double standards. Frame it as a conversation about your feelings, not about her inconsideration. Start with something like: "When you didn't let me know that you received the package I sent, it made me feel as though you didn't like the gift." If the problem persists and your resentment accumulates, stop sending her gifts; just send a card.

Dear Annie: As someone who has experienced a parent leaving a child out of an inheritance, I suggest that "Stumped" ask herself what message does she want to leave behind as her last testament. Did her children have a gun at her head when she wrote the checks for them while she was alive? Has she expressed her resentment to them? Anytime you give someone money, it has to be done without expectations. Or don't do it. No is a complete sentence.

Expressing her resentment at her death leaves everything up to assumption. Leaving a person out of a will often conveys a negative message, which the survivor will carry the rest of her/his life, whether it's accurate or not. The kindest road is to be upfront. Money is not love, which is all there is. — Janet

Dear Janet: Exquisite pearls of wisdom. I agree with you completely.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

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