#1017: Future Family Funeral Fracas: “Can I stop my mom from acting like an asshole at my friend’s funeral?”

Hi Captain.

Long time lurker, first time questioner.

I need some advice with a future script please.

Several years ago, my mum had a massive falling out with her best friend of decades – A. They have never made up and mum hasn’t talked to her and her husband since.

Mum was distressed and upset over this but eventually time etc helped and she dealt with the grief etc and moved on.

However, due to this decades (30+ years) long friendship, our families were massively intertwined – think monthly get togethers (minimum), called them aunt/uncle/cousins, my aunt is my godmother and my mum is her daughters godmother. So it wasn’t just a friendship, it was family to each other so we all lost a lot when mum and A fractured.

So we dealt with that and then A’s daughter – E, got married. I had not expected an invite and was happy just congratulating her on Facebook but my mum had a total meltdown over not being invited and it was a horrible mess. – I got in trouble for pointing out that she hadn’t spoken to A in years at this point and that while the “adults” didn’t talk anymore, we “cousins” had stayed in occasional touch on FB but none of that meant a invite. Mum was adamant that she should have been invited and how dare A stop her from getting an invite blah blah blah. None of my family were overly supportive of her I must admit as none of us had expected an invite and so we weren’t as supportive as we could have been.

But we moved on (eventually). But then we got the news that E had cancer and pretty aggressive cancer at that. E reached out to mum a few times for medical jargon help and support (mums a nurse) but thats all.Then E beat the cancer! \o/ And so we all celebrated and moved on. But poor E got the news a few months ago that the cancer has come back and that theres a fairly good chance that she won’t beat it this time.

So far E is doing really well and we are crossing fingers for her but that possibility that she won’t make it, is lurking in the back of my mind.

And here is where I need script help.

Mum has stated that if E dies, she will be going to E’s funeral.

What scripts do you have in case she loses the plot at the funeral and I need to stop her from making a scene/steer her away from A and E’s family?
Or to talk about before hand?
Ive already said that I’ll go to but I’ll sit in the back and pay my respects and not go the wake but mum talks about it, like she’s being in E’s life these past few years and that she deserves to be treated as E’s godmother and she plans on going to everything, sitting in the familys seats etc.

Thank you for any help you can give,

Sincerely
No Family Drama please

Further points if you want them
– mum got drunk at a wedding 2 years ago and caused a few minor scenes, then fought with me and my sibling over why we didn’t stop her. – i tried twice and then stopped (based off Cap Awkward advice) and let what happened, happened
– we have had a few major family deaths in the last 12 months so she is still reeling over those deaths
– as far as i know and remember, the fight between mum and A was mostly A’s fault, exacerbated by hostile workplaces
– mum blames A for the fight and considers it a betrayal which A has never apologised for
– not sure what A thinks, as E and I have never discussed it or the fight or the “family” breakup
– I know it is not my pace to monitor mum, but i’ll feel better if I can at least try
– mum doesn’t listen to dad when it comes to these sort of things so dad just sits them out and then tells mum to stop whining she brought it on herself so I’ll probably have his support but not necessarily back up (and that is if he can make it, he lives out of state)
– E and I are the same age (late 20’s), so I’m pretty sure that is playing a part for my mum (picturing me instead of E)
– we have a pretty messed up family so not sure what support i’ll get or who’ll egg my mum on by saying she should be respected as E’s godmother
– I have suggested mum see a psychologist to help deal with the massive up-heaveals she has had in the last few years but she keeps saying she’ll do it when she has time (so far, that time has not come)

Thank you!!!!!!

Dear No Family Drama,

I am really sorry about your friend’s illness, that’s so hard, even without the added burden of Your Mom and Her Issues right now. I hope whatever comes next is as peaceful and painless for E. as it can be.

It doesn’t matter whose fault the fight was or what A. did in the past. Your mom has a lot of unresolved hurt and anger, but hurt feelings and grudges aren’t licenses to permanently act like an asshole. You’re probably correct that she’s processing some fear and survivor guilt re: what if it were you in E.’s place and also reeling from a spate of recent deaths. That is also not a reason to threaten to act like a jerk at someone’s funeral or to make you responsible for any of it. You’re both chewing on this maybe more than you would otherwise because death is scary and we die with things unfinished, unresolved and this might be something you can fix?

You can have a lot of compassion for someone without excusing or indulging bad behavior. Funerals aren’t competitions about who loved the person more or who deserves what.

I know I’m throwing the word “asshole” around a lot. I have zero patience for people who look at something bad happening to another person and find a way to make it all about themselves. I don’t care WHAT A. did, “You never apologized for ending our friendship, so I’m gonna show up to your dead child’s funeral and make it all about me” is an asshole move, and whether it comes out of genuine pain and regret or just a desire for attention doesn’t matter in the end. It’s just wrong. You don’t have to call your mom an asshole and I’m sorry a little that I’m calling your mom an asshole but I’m hoping that framing it this way – “I love you, Mom, but that is a jerk move you’re contemplating right there” – will help you get in touch with anger a little bit and resist the role she puts you in of smoothing things over.

Also, this addendum is very telling:

Mum got drunk at a wedding 2 years ago and caused a few minor scenes, then fought with me and my sibling over why we didn’t stop her. – I tried twice and then stopped (based off Cap Awkward advice) and let what happened, happened.”

It’s telling in a number of ways:

  1. If your mom is gonna act like an asshole, there is literally nothing you can do to stop it. You could not have prevented the scenes at the wedding. What happened happened, and that is not your fault.
  2. When she acts like an asshole, she keeps the asshole tide going by blaming other people, specifically, you.
  3. She is setting up another situation where she is planning to act like an asshole at a funeral, and she is making you responsible for that in advance. This is deeply fucked up. It’s not even getting overwhelmed in the moment and accidentally doing an awkward thing because you have too many feelings or had too much to drink at a wedding. This is premeditated assholery. Wow.
  4. Her strategy is working, because you are asking questions like “What scripts do you have in case she loses the plot at the funeral and I need to stop her from making a scene/steer her away from A and E’s family?” She certainly has your attention!
  5. She can’t get closure or emotional satisfaction from A., so she takes it out on you. As long as your emotional energy and attention is occupied by her drama, she wins this crappy game she’s created. She’s got to make closure for herself. Your only option to reclaim power and your own sanity and dignity is not to play this game anymore.

Here is a script for your mom the next time this comes up:

E’s not even dead and you’re already planning how to make her funeral all about you. Really, Mom? Ugh, I can’t even talk to you about this. That is such a wrong way to approach things and a gross way to behave. I obviously can’t stop you from acting like a jerk, but I hope you’ll reconsider.”

Slightly gentler: “Mom, I know you have a lot of grief about E. and how things are with the family. I wish that could all be fixed by the funeral or at the funeral, but it can’t. If you do go to the funeral, I hope you’ll hang back and pay your respects. You know it’s the right thing to do. Right now I hate talking about this, I gotta change the subject.

She’ll want to talk about how betrayed and sad she is by A. and about the wedding invitation and so forth. You see, it’s not that she’s an asshole, she just has really strong emotions and has been deeply wronged by other people!

Whether you hear her out one more time or cut her off mid-sentence is up to you. Your follow-up script is: “I know I’ve said this before but I think it’s time for you to make time to talk to a counselor. I think it could help a lot, especially since you’ve been dealing with a lot of grief this year and this stuff with A. and E. has never really sat right. I really hope you will talk to someone and start the process of healing this wound.

Then take a good long break from dealing with or talking to your mom. If you do talk to her and she brings up E. or A. or The Funeral you can say “Ugh, this again? You already know what I think, and I refuse to talk about this with you.She is making your friend’s looming death all about herself. She is shitting all over your grieving process and threatening to make things dramatic and difficult for your friend’s family. That is so very not okay. You are not responsible for curtailing her asshole behavior or being her asshole sounding board right now. You are not responsible for processing her grief over other family stuff. You’ve recommended therapy and she’s refused to go so, disengage!

Other steps:

  • Stop updating your mom about E. and E.’s condition. She’s not a safe person for any of that. Lock it down. Your extended family might leak info somehow, and you can’t control that, but you can control your own feeds and information sharing protocols.
  • Be nice to yourself. Talk to a counselor for yourself.My mom acts out and then expects me to be responsible for her feelings and behavior” is a good place to start. “I’m losing a family member and my mom’s behavior is getting in the way of my ability to deal” is another.
  • With the time you have left, find a way to let E. know how much she means to you without bringing your mom into it anywhere.
  • When E. goes, send a nice card to her family telling you how much you loved her. If you go to the funeral, do what you outline here. Sit in the back, by yourself, away from your mom. Make sure you have your own transport to and from. Bring a cool, trusted friend with you so that you have a buffer with your mom and someone who can pull the ripcord and get you out if things get weird. Behave the way YOU know is respectful and kind and let the rest be what it will be.
  • Grief is weird and awkward even without someone like your mom crashing the event, and funeral directors have a way of handling this shit. So, if you get there before your mom and drop a word to that person, you might find that your mom is assigned an Asshole Minder of some sort from the funeral home or the extended family, someone who will pay attention to her and make her feel important. If you are in contact with a trusted member of E.’s family, when funeral arrangements are announced you could drop a private note to that person so they can tell the funeral home/church/what have you: “Hey, Mom keeps threatening to come and be a giant weirdo, I’m so very sorry, I don’t think I can stop her. I thought someone should know in case the funeral home has a way of handling difficult people.”
  • IF your mom makes a scene at the event, IF you think you can get her out of there (maybe with an all-sibling intervention-team), intervene: “Ok, Mom, time to go and let these people grieve in peace.” If you can’t get her out of there it’s okay to turn to the closest people and say “I’m so very sorry about my mother, you know what she’s like.” The good news is they DO know what she’s like and they know you are not like her.

THAT IS THE EXTENT OF WHAT YOU CAN DO.

And you can’t really do any of it now. E’s still alive and as long as she is it’s a moot point anyway. You don’t have to carry this. “Ugh, I can’t talk about this while I’m losing my friend, Mom. Gotta go, bye.

Mr. Awkward’s family funeral lore involves a grieving man in handcuffs flanked by federal marshals yelling “DADDY!” and throwing himself into Grandpa’s casket. (This anecdote 100% brought to you by methamphetamine manufacture, trafficking, and use.) The earth did not rise to swallow any of these people and save them from the awkwardness, nor did it end because of this emotional display. The earth did not rise nor did it end when your mom was a drunken jerk at a wedding. People figure out how to handle weird and inappropriate situations all the time, and you don’t have to be the sole handler of or apologist for your mom.

I repeat: You are not responsible for your mom. She is an adult who is responsible for herself. Do not let her make you responsible for this or endlessly involve you in this drama. If she’s grieving there are ways to handle that grief that don’t involve threatening the family of a dying woman. You are grieving in your own way, and you get to do that without making your friend’s life and death and that loss all about your mom.

Recommended reading: You may find some good strategies for disengaging in Dr. Karyl McBride’s “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?”

I wish we could save people from their own crappy behavior, but we can’t. This can be the hardest thing in the world to learn, and I don’t envy you this necessary but painful lesson, but I do know that you can survive it with integrity. ❤ to you.

___________________________________________________________________________

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113 comments
  1. Gabriel said:

    Aw, man, I am so sorry about your friend. Advice cosigned 100%, especially the part about prioritizing your own feelings and reactions here, and enjoying what time you have left with E. Your mom is doing her utmost to make this about HER and how WRONGED she- before this funeral is even necessary, you are trying to damage control it!- and it sounds like you and your family are used to trying to manage her moods/minimize her behaviour. Big ups to getting your own counselor and working with them about how to disengage from that undue burden. YOU are going through something very real right now too- YOU know how to navigate this murky situation your mama has engineered with grace and decency. You can’t actually stop this grown woman from doing anything, beyond what the Captain has suggested- you can figure out how to stop feeling so responsible for what she does. Best of luck to you. You sound like such a thoughtful, caring person- jedi hugs if you want em.

  2. Tea Rocket said:

    It’s definitely too soon to be planning E’s funeral, but if it is necessary in the future, it might be worth dropping a note to E’s family to say that if they don’t want the LW’s mother (or anyone else) gate-crashing, they should not make the time and place public, and take precautions to block the LW’s mother from being able to see it on social media. LW and his/her sibling—if they are invited—should not pass any details of the event on to their mother, unless specifically asked to do so.

    Furthermore, LW should get completely out of the middle of his/her mother’s relationship with A, E, and their family. This means not only should the LW stop updating his/her mother on E’s condition, the LW should stop discussing of A, E, and their family with his/her mother at all. They want to be in touch with each other, they can and will find ways to be. If LW’s mother tries to get in touch and it becomes too difficult for A and E, then they can block her phone number/e-mail address/social media accounts/whatever else. There is no reason for the LW to get involved.

    • Carpe Librarium said:

      There was a particular person whom we did not want to attend my father’s funeral.

      My dad had a terminal illness and updates on his condition generally, as well as availability for visitors, were emailed every few weeks or so to friends and family throughout his treatment and palliative care.

      The Unwelcome Person was not on this list, and was also blocked on Dad’s Facebook page.

      We did not publish a public death or funeral announcement, we just emailed to the list and put something on Dad’s Facebook page.

      Everyone whom we wanted to inform was aware, and as far as I know Unwelcome Person was unaware Dad was even deceased until a few days after funeral, by which point it was impossible to show up at the funeral and make a great big, self-centred, speech scene at us.

      This may or may not be workable for E’s family, but perhaps there are a few ways to limit how easily your mum can get information about the time/date/location of the funeral.

      Hey, if she finds out she missed it and throws a tanty, at least she’s not doing it at the funeral? Small wins?

      • Carpe Librarium said:

        Oops, sorry. By you/your I mean LW.

      • Connie-Lynne said:

        My husband was a missing person for several days before confirmed as dead. As a consequence his death went kind of viral on social media.

        A number of strangers reached out in odd ways to friends, claiming to be friends of the family, friends of him, etc. It was super creepy.

        For his funeral, I had people fill out a google form, saying how they knew him. For the handful of people I didn’t recognize, I reached out to friends in the communities they claimed to be part of, for verification.

        Anyone verified, I added to a mailing list that got the funeral info with an admonition not to share.

        It kept creepers away that day, at least.

        • Tea Rocket said:

          I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. Losing a loved one is hard enough, never mind the missing person aspect. But to have to vet potential funeral guests in order to avoid rubbernecking ghouls crashing the funeral is devastating. I hope you had (and continue to have) a good support system.

        • Esme said:

          I’m so, so sorry. I’m glad you were successful in keeping the service creeper free. We had a stranger show up to my brother’s memorial, and try and make it all about themselves. It’s a thing, I guess. 😦

  3. BigDogLittleCat said:

    No advice beyond the Captain’s, but my wholehearted sympathy.
    I’ve been there with “leave it to X to make someone else’s funeral all about them.” It’s awful.

    Jedi hugs.

    • My husband’s father managed to make his wife’s obituary all about him. Husband’s mom died the morning after husband’s dad had surgery. The first lines of the obit were something like, “Wife died on X date. She lived long enough to know her husband had made it through surgery the day before.”

      I – didn’t even know it was possible to be that self centered.

      • roramich said:

        wow.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        Wow. That’s epic level self-centered. I think that even eclipses my Toxic Family Member who went off script at my father’s memorial service and rambled into an AA confessional, literally. Fortunately siblings’ and my death glares got the message across before one of us was compelled to go up and force them to shut up.

        (I wish that were the only time, or even the worst TFM had effed up a memorial service.)

  4. Marna Nightingale said:

    The funeral home advice is brilliant. Can confirm that this is a service they provide, and that it will give you space to be at the funeral and grieve without having to pay attention to your Mom’s every twitch.

    Also much better than what I did in a slightly similar situation which was wear extremely pointy heels and lurk menacingly near the known Drama Llama. (If only because wearing pointy heels to a graveside service nearly guarantees that you will, in fact, sink slowly but deeply into the ground during the service and have to do The Awkwardest Dance to get your shoes back. But also they behaved but probably not because of me and then they started shit over the tea and sandwiches after).

  5. B. said:

    My goodness, LW, I’m so sorry that you are having to deal with all this. All the jedi hugs to you and E. if welcome.

    I second everything the Captain said about your not being your mother’s keeper. She’s an adult able to make choices, and if those choices involve her being a jerk at other people’s painful grieving time, there’s really nothing (ethical) you can do to stop her (short of drugging her and locking her up in her room for the duration of the funeral. Which. As you don’t live in a Wacky Hijinks Hollywood Comedy, is not really a course of action I’d recommend).

    You mention that you’ve kept in touch with E. through facebook, but you also mention that you two are not close friends. So, if I may ask: LW, do *you* want to attend E.’s funeral, if it came to pass? Regardless of what your mum wants. If there was no mum drama around this situation, if E. was just your friend instead of A.’s daughter too, would *you* want to attend?

    I ask because there’s really nothing wrong with not attending a funeral you don’t feel comfortable attending. There’s nothing wrong with leaving the closest bereaved to grieve in peace and sending a nice card or a letter with your condolences which they may read in their own time. If you don’t attend, you’ll be giving them the gift of not having to worry about one more guest in a time of pain, and yourself the gift of escaping your mum’s hurtful manipulation/emotional abuse. So, maybe consider it?

    I suggest this because I recently failed to attend a funeral my Problem Dad and Problem Grandma where pressuring me to attend, and the world did not end. A month ago, my dad’s girlfriend’s mother died. Though I was sad for my dad’s girlfriend, I didn’t know her mother nor her family, and she didn’t ask for my presence, so I didn’t feel it right to attend (“nadie me ha dado vela en este entierro” indeed). My dad decided it was a great idea to invite his sister, his mother, my brother, and me along, in spite of not one of us knowing the deceased, so he could introduce us to her girlfriend’s family.

    Yeah. At her mother’s funeral. That’s my dad for you.

    I politely declined and sent my condolences. My grandma was overjoyed about this societal acknowlegement of my dad and his girlfriend’s relationship (since they have spent the last 7 years “living in sin” and my grandma is a devout Catholic, and funerals are for family, so if she was invited, that made her family, right? Right?). My aunt and my brother were bullied into attending to keep my grandma from causing any kind of scene. My grandma tried to guilt me into going (I refused again, less politely, she got angry), and my brother asked if I would be willing to go to keep an eye on our dad and keep him from putting his foot in his mouth (I explained why it didn’t feel right for me to go, he understood, all was well.

    You know what happened at the funeral, LW? My grandma got there the first and sat down in the first row, the one reserved for the closest family of the deceased. My dad was insensitive to the occasion and his girlfriend’s and her siblings’ pain. My brother and aunt kept to themselves, behaved respectfully, and offered their condolences to my dad’s girlfriend. And I reiterated my condolences to her the next time I saw her, a couple days ago. She thanked me and the world didn’t end. And no one blames me for what my relatives did or didn’t do during the funeral, because I wasn’t there. Because they’re adults who act at their own will.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, you really don’t have to attend if you don’t want to. It’s alright for you to express your support in other ways. Your mum will behave however she will behave, and that’s not your fault.

    • JenniferP said:

      Ugh, your dad!

      And this is a great reminder. Letter Writer, you don’t have to go. You can’t prevent something you’re not there to see. E. would understand.

      • B. said:

        Thank you, Captain 🙂

        For me, making the decision not to attend also freed me, almost immediately, from the stress of having to deal with the family drama. It was really relieving to be able to be the detached observer instead of having to run damage-control, for once. Maybe that’s something you’d like as well, LW?

    • Zombie Bunny said:

      Well said!

      For those, like me, who looked at the phrase “nadie me ha dado vela en este entierro” and said “Um?”, Google Translate (if it is to be believed) interprets it as “Nobody has given me candle at this funeral”. That’s a lovely illustration of polite disengagement, one I want to keep in my back pocket.

      Also, your dad and grandma! Oy.

      • B. said:

        Yeah, that’s right, thank you for taking the time to clear it up. It’s a Spanish saying used to ask someone not to offer their opinions or get involved with something that doesn’t concern them. More angry/colloquial than polite, but it fit the situation so well I had it running through my head in repeat to help me keep firm in my refusal.

        • In French we say, “Mêle-toi de tes oignons”, which literally means “go busy yourself with your own onions”. I always thought it was supposed to be a metaphor about tending to your own garden, but then I found out there’s an obscure connection between “onion” and “anus” in French. So what they’re actually saying is “go crawl up your own ass, not mine”.

          • Nanani said:

            I am so pulling that etymology on my family (we use that phrase a LOT)

    • Esme said:

      Ugh. My MIL brought her new friend, unknown to us before that day, to beloved Grandmother In Law’s funeral and then the family gathering. Friend cornered me physically and *poked me* for emphasis while she regaled me with TMI stories about her drunken criminal relations–at my grandmother’s memorial. Pokes!

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        ew! no!

    • Thank you for sharing this, it helped.

  6. Guava said:

    LW, I’m so sorry your mom is behaving like a jerk.

    In our family we have a Problem Cousin-Uncle. He shows up at funerals for veeeerrrrrry extended family members and then muscles his way onto the pulpit to deliver ‘eulogies’ in which he pronounces the deceased’s name wrong and/or tells incorrect stories about them – because in our family there’s a naming tradition that results in many cousins having the same first and last names, and Problem Cousin-Uncle can’t keep them all straight.

    He also likes to walk up to the open casket and snap candid photos of people who are saying their goodbyes with the deceased person in the photo. “Ha-ha!” he crows. “It’s the last photo you’ll ever take with Uncle Louie!”

    As soon as we see him coming, we know what to expect. His daughters stopped going out in public with him years ago. I promise you, NO ONE in our entire huge family would even think to blame one of his kids for his shitty, deeply inappropriate behavior.

    • JenniferP said:

      Your Cousin-Uncle is my younger brother. He has not graduated to Dead Person Photobooth, yet. Ugh.

      • Guava said:

        I sincerely hope he doesn’t! Funeral Open Mic is bad enough!

    • Argh! Noooo, he sounds awful. I am so sorry that funerals involve that kind of terrible behaviour.

    • Went to a funeral of a well known (African American) well loved musician to pay my respects. Saw a (white) woman, well known in this circle, photographing the deceased in his coffin. I was SO appalled. I mean, while a public figure, did she Really need those photos of him? for what?! Made me feel like a tourist.
      Recently went to a beloved neighbor’s funeral. The only white person there. What a fantastic experience, everyone dressed to the NINES beb, the ladies’ and the mens’ choirs, the talented organist who got a little funky during the procession, the several different pastors that spoke. The change from mourning to celebration. I was so glad there was no one there taking photos. It was real and it was love.

      • Guava said:

        Totally. The photo thing is so invasive and disrespectful. The person’s not alive anymore, can’t consent or reject…plus it makes everyone who’s there to grieve so uncomfortable. And who wants to remember them like that? The worst part is that our problem relative is actually a pastor. He should know better!

        On the other hand, your neighbor’s funeral sounded like a lovely tribute.

  7. Goober said:

    If your mother is planning to disrupt the funeral, it’s only fair for you to plan to distance yourself from her actions. Give E’s family fair warning that you won’t be able to attend because your mother is planning on making a scene.

    Honestly, your mother needs to be served with a restraining order, and put in jail if she violates it. With psychological counseling as a condition of probation. Maybe that would force her to confront her problems. Or at least teach her how to behave.

    • JenniferP said:

      By “fair warning” – when there has been a death and funeral plans are in motion. Warning the family now does exactly what the LW’s mom wants to happen: Makes this death all about her.

      • Goober said:

        Yeah, but waiting doesn’t allow time for the family lawyer to get a restraining order. I’m not really kidding about that. If she wants it be about her, let her have her own hearing, and, if necessary, trial and 6 x 8 foot concrete room. It’ll all be somewhere other than at the funeral.

        Warning them now also allows E to voice her opinion on the matter. Waiting until she’s dead does not.

        Why people put up with such destructive anti-social behavior is utterly beyond me, relative or not. (And when they impose the double standard of “Oh, but she’s *family* – we expect you to put up with her, but she doesn’t have to put up with anything – that just pisses me off. Thankfully, my attitude comes from my own family, none of whom will tolerate that sort of nonsense.)

        • Amy said:

          I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not sure that this is how restraining orders work. I’ve always heard that you have to have some kind of evidence that they’re a danger to you–a record of harassment, documented threats, etc.–before one gets granted. I’ve heard of people sometimes having a hard time getting one against an outright stalker, if there’s not enough documented evidence. (And even if this particular family had plenty of evidence, I’m not sure whether ‘might cause drama at a funeral’ rises to the level of a threat, legally speaking.)

          The family could talk to an actual lawyer and see if this is possible, but it seems more practical to me to go with non-legal management techniques–e.g., make it invitation only and not send her one and have someone checking for invitations at the door, or have a couple of your more intimidating family friends ready to escort her out if she starts a scene.

        • JenniferP said:

          I have to say, I understand the impulse and fantasy behind this advice but I think a restraining order, etc. is a very, very bad idea. It further engages the letter writer’s mum and gives her exactly the drama and attention and reason to feel aggrieved that she wants, and it does it over a long period of time – does A.’s family really need a prolonged hassle? 10 minutes of shitshow at the actual funeral vs. months of worry and dread and legal wranglings? Plus she hasn’t done anything actually illegal.

        • spd said:

          I am a lawyer, and this is definitely not a good approach even a little bit. First, a restraining order would be both a gross overreaction here AND a wholly unsuitable tool (aside from the likely impossibility of getting one under existing law). Restraining orders come in all shapes and sizes, but the type you’re referring to generally prohibit someone from coming into contact with a person and/or place under any circumstances. They’re not generally taken out to prohibit someone from doing something obnoxious one particular day but feel free to show up to the funeral home for other funerals/be within x distance of this person at a time other than the funeral (such an order can be made in some circumstances, but they usually involve lengthy court intervention in say a custody or divorce battle or other fraught and lengthy proceeding).

          But more than that, a restraining order won’t really do anything extra for the family here. The family, if E unfortunately passes (which is LIKELY but isn’t DEFINITE at this point, so double on the really inappropriate to take action and a court wouldn’t do a damn thing anyway…) can ask that the funeral home not let LW’s mother into the funeral home. The funeral home can refuse the woman entry and call the police if she enters anyway. Which is exactly what would be done under a restraining order.

          The police may or may not come, if that happens. But they’d only be marginally more likely to come with a restraining order, so… why?

        • Restraining orders aren’t free, btw. $700. the last time I checked.

      • I feel it’s important to note that there’s a chance that she could survive as well, and death, more than just about anything else, attracts superstitions and cultural practices. To a great many people talking about this now, while there’s still a chance she could survive, would be seen as tasteless at best, and at worst as putting a curse on her. It’s worth thinking about what will happen in the event she does not survive, and no doubt her family is as well, however tact and culture often demand that you don’t acknowledge the possibility until it’s come to pass.

        • Generally speaking, when and only when somebody uses the phrase “When I Die” or “So, apparently I’m looking at four-six months” or similar do I consider that it’s okay for me to treat it as an imminent fact that I am welcome to discuss with them.

          If E says “for God’s sake, promise me you’ll bring a large burlap bag to my funeral and suppress your mother as necessary,” or mentions their funeral as a thing they’re making choices about, then you can discuss the matter with them, and likely should. (I have no reason to believe LW intends otherwise).

    • thetigerhasspoken said:

      I don’t know about the UK (which it sounds like the LW is from) but in the USA I don’t know of any state that will award restraining orders just for threatening to be a jerk. There has to be a pattern of stalking/harassing, which it doesn’t sound like there is. Additionally, I have never met a person who receives a restraining order (I’ve worked in DV – I’ve seen A LOT) and has the self awareness to acknowledge they have a problem or decide to change their behavior. It largely just fuels their Persecution Complex and contributes to their I Am The Misunderstood Victim narrative.

      Jumping to the nuclear option (attempting to get authorities – and possibly jail – involved) is likely just going to escalate this situation and make LW’s mother even more difficult and create A LOT more drama for the LW – which is exactly what their mom wants and exactly what the LW does not want. Even if an RO were an appropriate measure, it isn’t the LW who wants their mother to keep 50 yards away, it would be the grieving family; so this isn’t appropriate advice for them anyway.

      LW – follow CA’s advice. Focus on YOU and what you need to cope with all of this. And seconding the commenter above that you are not required to attend this funeral if that sounds like a nightmare for you. It is not your responsibly – or even within your or anyone else’s ability – to monitor your mother or convince her to change.

      • Muffin said:

        Seconding this advice and info. AFAIK this is indeed how restraining orders (don’t) work.

    • SarahTheEntwife said:

      Is a restraining order likely to be granted? She doesn’t sound violent or otherwise dangerous, just deeply inappropriate.

      • without a PATTERN of violence there is approximately zero chance a judge would grant a restraining order but if the morality of it doesn’t bother you it’s sometimes possible to get a temporary restraining order via tactical exaggeration. However I can’t recommend this because not only does it make getting one in the future for the same event if actually warranted much harder, you could be subject to legal penalties if the judge is not amused by your attempts to game the system.

    • clorinda said:

      Keeping funeral info away from Mom might serve the same purpose with less trouble. As in, nobody tells her E is dead until after the final ceremony. If LW stops even participating in conversations about E, that might reduce the flow of info so Mom isn’t even aware when/if E takes a turn for the worse.

    • Temperance said:

      Okay, but E is doing well right now. There’s no way to be like, oh hey, my shitty mom thinks E is going to die soon and is going to be a total ass at the funeral. It’s doubly awful.

  8. meadowphoenix said:

    E reached out to mum a few times for medical jargon help and support (mums a nurse) but thats all
    I just wanted to highlight this because I think it’s important for OP to internalized. When E wanted to talk to your mom she did. And when E didn’t, she didn’t. And when your mom wanted to respond, she did. And presumably seems to have stayed within the E’s conversation boundaries. Some points from this:

    1. Everyone in this situation seems aware that they have independent relationships with people. E did not go through you to talk to your mom and your mom did not go through you to talk to E. You are not responsible for your mom’s relationship to other people and (this can be important to how comfortable you feel) no one, but your mom, seems to think you should be. This is not a role anyone else is placing you in, so feel free to believe that and not your mom! Also, trust other people to know their boundaries with your mom. Presume that they have it handled. You mom is not an unknown entity to them, so they probably do.

    2. Your mom can behave when she wants to.

    3. Your mom can behave when she wants to.

    4. Your mom can behave when she wants to.

    Presumably your mother did not barrage E with her feels when E reached out to her. While grief is a disorienting time, it doesn’t completely remove all sense. If you mom is trampling on people’s boundaries, it’s because she wants to. And it’s going to be easier for you to disengage if you believe your mother is making choices, like adult are entitled to. If your mom does not want to behave, she is entitled to be treated as if she is capable making and responsible for her choices, when includes facing the consequences of them.

    • Mayati said:

      All such good points! Sometimes I need to be reminded of points 2-4 with my own mom.

  9. When we knew my dad’s cancer wasn’t going to go away, my (half) sister and I made a plan for the memorial service. She’d be the one to head off HER mother, and I’d be the one to wrangle mine. If either of them chose to be an asshole or cause a scene, one of us would be on them immediately. (We also have two brothers, but they were … unhelpful.) Fortunately, our respective mothers chose to avoid each other entirely during the service, although mine engaged in some other jerk behavior that led to me cutting her off afterward.

    Sorry for the rambling reply. It’s dad’s birthday today.

    • Cora said:

      Oh, many bells down, I’m sorry. This is NOT snark: can we do Jedi-candle-lighting? I’d like to Jedi-light a candle for your dad today.

    • l'train said:

      Having volunteers to act as people-wranglers can work wonders, but it’s something that really needs to be set up in advance if it’s going to take the stress off. As soon as you know the funeral arrangements, try to drop a line to someone in the family so they can prepare as needed.

      Dealing with your mother is not a responsibility for your shoulders alone. The grieving family will have funeral home attendants, distant relatives, friends, and others who will be chomping at the bit to help them in their time of need. Give them as much warning as you can, but don’t feel like you have to manage this burden all by yourself.

      • others who will be chomping at the bit to help them in their time of need

        I love this. I am the person at any gathering of people who is desperately in search of a task so I do not have to interact with anyone.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      I’m so sorry. If acceptable, I will Jedi-light a candle too.

    • B. said:

      I’m so sorry, many bells down. I don’t think you rambled, you gave good advice. Jedi hugs if welcome ♡

    • I’ll be thinking of you today, that sounds so hard.

    • Kai Lowell said:

      Oh, many bells down. Jedi hugs to you if you want them.

    • I’m so sorry, many bells down. Please be gentle with yourself.

  10. Cora said:

    First, Jedi hugs to you, LW, because this is an incredibly crappy situation. And Jedi hugs to E too, because to say this isn’t easy for her is about the worst understatement ever.

    I also think it’s a good idea to go to counseling now, just for yourself, mostly because, well, maybe you’re kind of focusing on bad mom behavior because it’s easier to do that than face your own grief? I might be way off. Nonetheless, having a licensed professional to talk to about how your friend might die soon (which is an enormous issue on its own) plus the bad mom behavior, could really help you. It seems like your mom is drawing a great deal of attention away from your self-care and care for E. That’s not right. Along with not being responsible for her actions, you’re not responsible for her feelings. If she can’t understand that you need time to handle this yourself, that’s on her, and not your problem fix.

    Maybe just don’t fix. Just be. Feel what YOU feel and do what you want for E.

  11. consolareg said:

    Remember: “You know mom is” is a common theme.

  12. Inspector Spacetime said:

    These are all excellent comments and suggestions. If I can go off-topic to a little more big-picture advice, I’d suggest distancing yourself from your mother in general as much as you can. Try to not get sucked into any of her drama or emotional baggage at all. Try cutting her off, changing the subject, and leaving the room or hanging up the phone. I’m not sure by your letter if you live with her or not, but if you don’t, then try to keep to phone calls only, and keep those light and unemotional. If you just have a surface-only, “nice weather today” relationship, I sincerely doubt she will try to make you her Official Keeper of Feelings and Good Behavior. I mean, she can try, but she won’t succeed. Also, your life will be altogether more pleasant! (Speaking from personal experience here, haha.)

    Good luck, and I’m so sorry about your friend.

  13. Dear LW,

    I disagree with one bit of the Captain’s advice: suggesting to her that she see a shrink. Well, more accurately, I don’t think she’ll listen to you, and I do think she’ll call you patronizing. It’s possible that the suggestion will at least shut her up on the subject of E’s hypothetical funeral.

    Which brings me to the part of the Captain’s advice I’d like to underline. E isn’t dead. If she dies soon (and I hope she doesn’t, I hope she goes into remission for the next Very Long Time), that’ll be the time to make your plans for attending the funeral. Mind you, B’s suggestion of not going is worth considering.

    So, to recap: you can’t control your mother’s behavior; and it’s a good idea to shut down speculative conversations about E’s hypothetical funeral.

    My script on that would be “Mom, E isn’t dead. I don’t want to talk about how you plan to disrupt her hypothetical funeral. Let’s change the subject. I love your brooch.”

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

    • Wehaf said:

      I really like your script. It makes it clear that LW disapproves of what her mom is planning, and also points out how macabre it is that she is planning it, and also lets LW set a boundary that she’s not going to discuss the issue.

    • PollyQ said:

      OK, clearly I am an evil person, because my brain translated that to, “Speaking of people dying, I love your brooch!”

  14. Amy said:

    My grandma died last year. We had an ex-friend like this come to her funeral. (Not quite as much focused assholery–our Asshole Lady was more focused on getting attention for How Hard She Has It than on confronting anyone in particular. But still potentially very difficult for our family, esp. my grandpa.) We knew she was planning on coming, and that was really useful for us–it gave us time to plan how to handle it. If we hadn’t known she was coming and hadn’t been able to plan to manage her, she could’ve made things a lot more difficult.

    Based on that, I think that in the event E does pass away, the best way you can minimize the potential of your mom causing problems is to give the planners notice of her plans. That will give them time to come up with a plan to avoid drama if possible, and cut it off if she does start something.

    You can also try to manage her yourself if you want, but we already know from that wedding that she doesn’t listen to you when you tell her to stop being an asshole, so please don’t let her guilt you into feeling like it’s your fault if that doesn’t work!! (We never even considered blaming our Asshole Lady’s kids for her nonsense; they’re not responsible for her behavior.)

  15. Kat G., Ph.D. said:

    I have no specific advice for the funeral, but holy moly, your mum sounds a whole lot like mine. (Well, my mom, because American English, but you know what I mean!) The book that the Cap’n recommends, “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” changed my life, along with much-needed therapy…and a long-overdue falling out with my mom, YMMV. Realizing that my mom’s an asshole and that I was not responsible for managing her rocked my world and made it hard to figure out what direction what up. That book helped a whole lot an validated things I’d been feeling sad and frustrated about for LITERALLY DECADES.

    • like an angry apple tree said:

      I was the Source of Reflected Glory, not the Fixer and Emotional Sponge (that was/is my sib), but I want to repeat the rec of the Good Enough book, SO MUCH. It’s a topic that felt somewhere between taboo and radioactive to me, and wow, there it was. In words. Right there.

      It may not be a good time to dig into that part of it right now, LW, but I hope you do someday. Underlying your letter is the assumption that it is your job to either mitigate your mum or make things easy for her. It is not your job. It’s hers. Big, scary concepts, but no less important.

  16. MrsLokiofAsgard said:

    Years ago my grandmother and an aunt (married to grandmothers son) had a huge, epic fight that is still talked about in our family nearly 40 years later. Hateful things were said, people through the family chose sides, and long story short my aunt did not appear at family events going forward. Fast forward many years later. My grandfather was sick and things didn’t look good. My grandmother was always a woman who made it about her in every situation and for that last year of my grandfather’s life she bitched to everyone that my aunt better not come to the funeral and that if she did well things were going to happen by god! My grandfather died in early 2003 and the wake and funeral came. My aunt did come because she loves my uncle and he needed her. There was this beautiful moment in the receiving line where Grandma reached out and touched my aunts arm and said “My son is very luck to have you.” That was it. There was never an apology or anything and I honestly think the next time my aunt saw my grandmother was at Grandma’s funeral 10 years later but it was this moment where my grandmother realized that this moment was not about her.

    My point is…not every person who threatens horrible things follows through with them. Definitely prepare for the worst (we all did!) but don’t be shocked if, in those moments of A’s pain of losing her daughter, your mom suddenly pushes through her own issues to sit quietly next to her friend and let her cry.

    • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

      I should also note that I used this script “sister has not even set a wedding date and you’re already planning how to make her wedding all about you. Really, Mom? Ugh, I can’t even talk to you about this. That is such a wrong way to approach things and a gross way to behave. I obviously can’t stop you from acting like a jerk, but I hope you’ll reconsider.” on my mom when she threatened to fight with sister’s dad at the wedding. Mom thought that sister’s dad didn’t deserve to walk sister down the aisle. This was literally moments after my sister showed us her engagement ring. She started crying and my mom didn’t let up so myself and other sister used this script (almost verbatim) on mom. She hated being called out on it and shut up about it – at least temporarily.

  17. CommanderBanana said:

    Holy wow, LW. Your mom has announced her plan to disrupt the funeral of someone who hasn’t even died yet to…get back at their parent? That is some next-level stuff, and I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this.

    I have been thinking about ridiculous family shit today, because my great-aunt’s birthday party is this Saturday in a town about two hours away from me. I needed to know where/when the party was so I could plan my weekend, because I’m also responsible for covering some shifts at a shelter in my town, and just needed to know when I could reasonably expect to get back.

    I messaged my aunt asking her when the party was. She responded with a meme that read “If you can’t love me when I’m alive, don’t bring your tears to my grave!!!” and followed that up with accusing me of being “too busy” for the party.

    Yeah. What. I am asking you when it is so that I can go. And I still don’t know when it is!

    Anyway, looks like I won’t be going! And my aunt and I aren’t Facebook friends anymore, oh darn. I am 100% ok with both of these things.

    • B. said:

      … something tells me you’re gonna have a better time at the shelter than you’d have if you went to your aunt’s party. Wow.
      I hope your weekend turns out great!

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      wow, your aunt. and you evil, naughty person, not going to her party that she won’t tell you when and where. How could you?!???!!11!

      Sounds like she also gave you permission to skip her funeral.

    • Cassandra said:

      I hope that meme had Tweety Bird and/or one or more Minions, lookin’ sassy.

  18. Sherrie Glendening said:

    I haven’t been to many funerals, but it looks like a lot of them are used to air grievances. I have a few suggestions. Hire a big, tattooed biker to head your mom off outside the service. Let others know what the situation is so nobody calls the cops. If she gets in, throw a hood over her head from behind, so she can’t blame you later after you’ve dragged her outside. This might provide a little comic relief at a sad occasion.Take a video of her if she makes a scene to show on YouTube. Maybe seeing herself acting so foolishly will stop the continued drama. I’m only half way kidding with these suggestions. As far as I know, funerals are not open to everyone. An usher should be able to limit entry. Some people just never grow up and think they are the center of everyone else’s life. If a spoiled toddler has a tantrum, you remove them and then ignore them. Good luck, and so sorry about your friend.

  19. MrsLokiofAsgard, congratulations on your sister’s engagement. I hope that everything goes well.

  20. Nope Octopus said:

    There’s one more thing you can do if E. dies: warn her family that your mom is planning on showing up and causing a scene so that she can be turned away at the door.

  21. I’m estranged from all my family now, but when my sister got married, my mother got super drunk. Another sister looked at me and said, how could you let her get so drunk?! I looked at her and said she’s a grown woman! I’m not her keeper!! Did you not know that she was going to do this???? she is responsible for her own actions !!! I won’t deal with them at all!!!

    • spd said:

      Your sister(s) who have decided that you are Designated Mother Minder are also being kinda crappy siblings here. If you’re responsible for keeping her sober because Faaaamily, isn’t it their job too? I don’t think it’s your job either way, but at the very least if it’s a job for the offspring, it should probably be a job for all offspring.

      • Yeah… I’m not in contact with them anymore.

    • Temperance said:

      I probably would have turned it around and asked her why SHE let your mom get so drunk, since she cared so much. 😉

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      That suucks. Sounds like the no contact was the best option of a crappy situation and dynamic.

  22. YesVirginia said:

    So, first, I’m sorry to hear about your friend, and I hope that things are better on that front.

    I might suggest emailing your mom explicitly about what you want from her. Captain’s scripts are great, and you don’t have to be there in person to tell her because she can’t “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?” ad nauseam to you. It also gives her time to react.

    One thing that my therapist told me about my mom (who is also an asshole…recently made my Very Scary Health Thing ALL ABOUT HER) is that “sometimes you have to learn to speak asshole” and that being direct and explicit (“no, mom, I’ve told you we’re not discussing this”) is actually a kindness to the asshole. They do not know how to behave, and telling them things like “you are not speaking to me like that” and being very pointed and direct is actually a way to be good to them.

    I walk on eggshells around my mom a lot. I thought this technique was never going to work. She brought up something about how it was worst to be her – the mother of the diseased person – rather than me, with the actual disease, and I held my hand up and said, “No. It is not. It is much worse to have the disease,” and when she starts justifying or what not, I just cut off again. IT IS SO HARD TO DO THIS, and she’s not happy about it, but she’s behaving-ish for now. I’d suggest Captain’s scripts, and simply saying “No, we’re not talking about this.” You can want to explain why, but in asshole-translate, explanations give her wiggle room. Seriously, if she brings it up, “Mom, you’re not going to do that.” “Mom, that is completely inappropriate.” “Mom, we’re not discussing this.”

    Mostly good luck, and seriously, therapy for you to deal with the scariness of your friend’s illness but most often to stand up to your mom (and also, I’m seconding the “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” book – spoiler, no – it helps a lot with terrible moms).

    • Sorry about your scary health thing – wishing you excellent doctors and excellent luck, and hoping you have a lot of people who give you the support you need. xxx

      • YesVirginia said:

        Thank you so much, lovely internet person, you are a million times kinder than my mom! (And I’ve got great doctors, and pulled through surgery, so here’s hoping for a much better future.) ❤

        (PS to the LW: This response right here – the "sorry and/or sympathy" and "hope for good things for you" or "how can I help?" is what standard protocol is for people who aren't assholes. Your mom should tell you how sorry she is that your friend is sick and ask how she can help the friend and/or you.)

  23. Nopetopus Cowgirl said:

    Yeah. Difficult people can really act out under tragic and trying circumstances.

    One cousin felt that she had been “left out” because the ICU nurses would not give her updates about my mom whenever she called the hospital. She felt that she “had been denied closure.” Cousin was very angry when my mom died and felt that mom had received poor care and her death could have been avoided. (It could not have been, she aggressive cancer with mets everywhere and she was expertly cared-for.)

    In our tradition funerals are pretty much always closed casket affairs but this cousin walked right up to the casket and rattled the lid trying to open it because she “wanted to say goodbye [her] way.” It was unbelievably jarring.

    An aunt from the other side of the family quickly and gracefully went over, put an arm around her shoulder, spoke comforting words and, with great speed and gentle force, moved difficult cousin quickly out of the room. It was the most impressive thing ever. The Captain’s advice to nominate or just raise awareness of the need for an asshole minder at the funeral is brilliant.

    • MsM said:

      Oh my Blorb. I want to be your aunt when I grow up. Or at least possess some tiny fraction of her presence of mind and self-control.

    • ” this cousin walked right up to the casket and rattled the lid trying to open it because she “wanted to say goodbye [her] way.””

      OH MY GOD MY FACE IS STUCK IN A GRIMACE OF TOTAL UNBELIEVING HORROR.

      My condolences on your mother’s death and my congratulations on having a Top Aunt in the family.

    • aebhel said:

      Yeah, when my uncle died (very unexpectedly, and pretty young), we had a great-aunt throw an absolute tantrum that we wouldn’t have an open-casket funeral. We didn’t want an open-casket funeral because when my grandmother died a few years previous, one of my aunts had a total breakdown and started screaming and hugging her and trying to haul her out of the casket, and (a) nobody wanted a repeat of that, including her and (b) she did not feel like she could handle seeing her baby brother in his casket. The other siblings were fine with this. But oh, no, this woman who hadn’t spoken to him in ten years had to be in charge of how everything went.

      She ended up refusing to attend in a snit, thank God. I can see her pulling exactly this kind of stunt.

  24. Malia76 said:

    Please let the funeral home know she’s a potential problem. Even if nothing happens or she doesn’t show, funeral directors like to be prepared, part of the job.

  25. This letter resonated with me, my MIL is exactly the same. Any family ritual or event is a chance for her to publicly parade her crappy assholery over others. I find it hard to comprehend how someone with so many HURT FEELINGS and BIGLY GENUINE REASONS FOR THIS GRUDGE can go on without exhaustion but she does. Once I realised that she doesn’t know any other way to be, (and that if she could see how she treats people, she’d have to face up to a lot of guilt that would require huge character to deal with); I could stop expecting any better of her. Come rain or shine, she’ll be an asshole.

    Learning to disengage was hard, she fought that by trying to ramp up the drama. However nothing terrible happened, we’re all sad that she’s cheated herself out of a good family life but other than that, it’s been ok. All those villainous family members who treat her oh so badly all get on, turns out she is the villain. I find I can be more compassionate when I stop trying to manage her and let her be. It’s like watching a toddler having a hissyfit in a supermarket, it’s embarrassing but if you keep pacifying her, you’ll get more hissyfits. The smart move is to let her kick and scream and embarrass herself with the consequences that come with it.

    • Lizards80 said:

      Agreed about letting her have her own hissyfits. Her blaming you and your sister for not stopping her when she got drunk previously, makes me think that she thinks she has a built in safety net of other people who will protect her from the natural outcomes of her own actions.

      It is not healthy for her if you protect her from the consequences of her own actions.

      If you go to E’s funeral, you’re there to pay your respects and to grieve the loss of your friend. You’re not there to prevent your mom from acting out. Or to worry about your mom acting out.

      I say give all that responsibility to the funeral director. If your mom acts out, do nothing. If she asks you why you didn’t stop her (like she did previously), I would repeat her words back to her.

      “Really? Did you just ask me why I allowed you to make your own choices? Mom, you are an adult. I am your adult daughter. I am not your parent and you are not 3 years old. I’m not going to treat you like a parent dragging a toddler out of a toy store when you have a tantrum. If you are at a point in your life where you want to behave this way, it is completely inappropriate for me to control your behavior. If you don’t like the way you’re acting, stop it, and if you can’t stop it, go see someone who can help you stop it. If you don’t make the time to see someone, then it obviously isn’t important enough to you – and all those things are YOUR choices. I’m not going to try to make another adult do anything”.

      • I try to remind myself that MIL has spent years acting out, it’s almost reflexive and so I avoid trying to lecture her. I will calmly say no or leave and refuse to get involved. The grudge stuff is a back and forth game of ‘comfort me for I am the victim’ and ‘you are mean for not agreeing/intervening/joining in’ and so I avoid those discussions. If MIL creates a conflict and wants me to react, the best way to handle that is keep emotion and conversation to a minimum.

  26. Temperance said:

    LW, my mother is like your mother. She has some mental health issues, but she’s also a raging ass and a perma-victim. Everything is about her, to the point where I told my husband, AS I WAS ABOUT TO GO INTO THE ICU IN A MEDICALLY INDUCED COMA, that he could only call his mother if she promised not to tell mine about what was happening. (Small town, they live like 5 minutes apart and know each other.)

    Your mom is being so incredibly shitty here. So not only is she a.) wishing death upon this poor woman, she’s also b.) making it all about her. Honestly, I bet your mom is the one who caused whatever the rift is, because she sounds completely unwilling to own her shit and act like a damn adult. YOU didn’t get her drunk at that wedding, SHE got herself drunk at that wedding, and SHE acted like a douche. I bet that whatever happened was at least 90% her fault, and rather than repair the rift, she got addicted to the drama of having an enemy.

    • flrpwll said:

      Yes, too *all* of this.

  27. “I find it hard to comprehend how someone with so many HURT FEELINGS and BIGLY GENUINE REASONS FOR THIS GRUDGE can go on without exhaustion”

    Anger and outrage can be energizing, I think. They’re also a lot easier than doing the good kind of energizing stuff, like having positive relationships, doing stuff you take pride in, following your passions, sorting out your hang-ups and living a constructive life. That stuff takes work, and while it becomes self-reinforcing after a while, you need a certain amount of okayness in order to get it going. It’s like starting an exercise regime: you’ll feel good once you’re in the habit, but if you’re out of shape at the beginning, it’ll feel exhausting and difficult and it might seem easier to just give up and go back to your old habits. If life hasn’t taught you it’s worth powering through, you probably won’t. Habits are hard to break.

    In my experience at least, the people who power themselves by feuds and fury are generally carrying some damage, and aren’t good at feeling good. But having an enemy gives you somebody you can be sure is worse than you, and better, provide you with a narrative that you can dump your bad feelings into rather than confront the real issues. It doesn’t solve your actual problems, but it’s a kind of palliative that makes them more bearable.

    • Sorry, was trying to reply to a safer tree there.

    • Twitchy said:

      That’s a good way to articulate it.

    • Absolutely, I never thought of grudges as energising.. That makes sense.

      There are moments where family members extend MIL this kind of graceful kindness that gives her an opportunity to climb down from her high horse of bigly hurt feelings and be included. She usually rejects that kindness and I hurt for her that she is so close to connecting but so far. The rescuer bit in me wants to bridge that gap.

      I do love her even though she drives me nuts. I love from a distance though and always with caution.

  28. Farther and Happier said:

    As a person with lots of family drama and who has tons of family (so funerals and wedding galore) I can say that I feel for you LW (and also for your friend E). I think going on your own or with a buffering friend, having your own vehicle/way to get there and leave without your family is going to really help you. I only ever once went home without a vehicle. People trying to be nice wanted to drive me everywhere, but then they would abandon me and I would be at the whim of fate, as well as the whim of drama. Getting a ride became another reason to have a drama breakdown over whose side was I on. Also, I have long since learned that other people will not associate you with the drama making if you do not help participate in the drama. Sure helping escort your mother from the room is helpful if you can, but letting her create her own tornado of terrible will not make them think you are forcing her to do it. They likely already know she is her own worst friend. When the time comes, if they cannot make the funeral private then ask them to inform the funeral home or church to have a bouncer for her. People who work in funeral planning have ways of dealing with this. They have seen it all, and likely have better tools to handle it than the people who are grieving. Do take care of yourself thru all this LW, see someone to help you create healthier boundaries and other scripts for dealing with your mom and your family. I will say this truly helped me last yr after another terrible funeral in which there was some super high drama and I finally had enough. You do not have to be any other adult’s keeper. Take care of yourself and help your friend E as much as you can for as long as you can.

  29. Thistledown said:

    I’m wondering if Al-Anon might be helpful for the LW. I’ve heard really good things about it, especially for people that feel overly responsible for their parents’ bad behavior. No idea if mom’s an alcoholic, but I’m not sure if that’s as important as the overall family dynamic. The book recommendation sounds very good, so maybe al-anon could help LW connect with people dealing with similar issues?

    • Melody Beatties writing on codependency has been a lifeline in practicing detaching from my own family and MIL’s drama. It’s good for teaching about how disengaging works, how to do it and why doing so is taking responsibility for ones own life instead of rescuing others.

    • PollyQ said:

      I was thinking this as well. I suspect there’d be a LOT of understanding for the combination of Drinks Too Much, Makes Scenes, Makes Daughter Feel Responsible.

    • From what I understand, AA can be pretty dogmatic and their understanding of alcoholism is outdated and more influenced by religion than science. They can offer support, and if you’re lucky enough to have a good group it can be helpful for some people, but there’s also the chance LW would run into a rigid group that pushed her to accept an interpretation of events that didn’t fit the facts.

      By the sounds of it, alcohol is one factor but a difficult personality is the main one, so a support for people with difficult parents would probably be more helpful.

      • PollyQ said:

        Just to note, Al-Anon and AA (Alcholics Anonymous) are two different groups (although it’s easy to see how they’d be confused). Al-Anon is a support group for family/partners who are affected by someone else’s drinking.

        • AllanV said:

          But Al-Anon was started by more or less the same people and uses the same Twelve Steps, so presumably also uses the same overall philosophical framework.

  30. lowbudgetcyborg said:

    LW, This is a suggestion for if there is a funeral and if you decide that it’s best to not go: If you feel like it’s best to skip the funeral to avoid drama, but still would like/need the emotional resolution and comfort that funerals are supposed to generate then you can ask someone to take pictures of the funeral for you.

    A few years ago a member of my social group, M, died young and unexpectedly. His family did not live in the area, so his body was transported to his family’s home state and the funeral was held there. None of the friend group was able to go. A few months later one of the friend group was traveling in that state and stopped by M’s family to pay their regards. They were given some photos of the funeral and were able to bring them back and share with the friend group. I did not expect this to help, but it really did. So even vicarious participation is better than nothing.

  31. The drama triangle model is a useful tool for self reflection, it shows how people move from role to role, how you turn from rescuing your mum into being blamed. It helped me gain awareness into what roles I played and how I could choose to play (or not.)

  32. We have a wonderful local funeral home–small town so only one–and they are great about handing difficult people at funerals. Alerting the funeral home might be the way to go here.

  33. T said:

    One big issue that I see lurking here is that there’s a chance that (1) E’s family will not tell your mom the date/location of the funeral (and while your mom is probably the last thing on their minds right now and this is not on their radar at all since they haven’t really spoken to her in years, if they thought about it they might likely wish for the funeral details to be a secret from her), but (2) you may be given the date/location. That means you will be in the position of your mom badgering you aggressively because she suspects you know the details. I’m not sure what the right script/ answer is for that situation, but maybe something like: “it’s not my place to invite people to the funeral, I’m not even sure yet whether I’m invited/ am going to go.” Or if you’re not planning on going, then even a simple: “I don’t know, I’m not planning on attending.” I don’t think you want to be the one that tells her where to show up to make her scene.

    Also, if you are planning on going or are in touch with E’s family in the unfortunate event that E passes away (like, through phone calls, not just sending a letter and flowers), then I totally agree with the suggestions that you politely let someone know (maybe someone other than A) that your mom may try to make an appearance. They’re busy grieving. Even though your mom thinks she is at the center of and super relevant to these events, she is SO far from relevant and hearing that she’s thinking of appearing may be a complete surprise that E’s family hasn’t even thought of.

  34. >> Mr. Awkward’s family funeral lore involves a grieving man in handcuffs flanked by federal marshals yelling “DADDY!” and throwing himself into Grandpa’s casket

    Why were the federal marshals yelling “DADDY”? ;P

    • JenniferP said:

      I fucked up a comma in there somewhere didn’t I? Ok.

      • Modern Culture said:

        I’m sure *most* of us understood what you meant, Captain.

        • AllanV said:

          I admit I was confused for a moment, but only for a moment.

  35. notnow said:

    Well I guess I’m going to be the only person disagreeing here.

    There has been a social change about wedding ceremonies and funerals over the last few years, but older people grew up in a world where both were public events and anybody could show up. Heck, I’m 43 and I grew up in that world. (not the reception, btw, the ceremony)

    I’m assuming LW’s mother is in her 60s or thereabouts. A woman of that generation attending the funeral of someone she’s known her whole life is not itself a disruption, no matter how big a fight she had with the dead person’s mother. It’s just not.

    Now maybe LW has good reasons that she hasn’t told us to think that her mother is going to kick up a fuss at the funeral, but what it looks like to me is that it is the intention to attend the funeral itself that she is perceiving as evidence for potential ruckus-causing. Getting drunk at weddings and having bereavements just don’t sound like danger signals to me.

    Honestly I think it’s pretty weird and controlling to be this invested in what your mother is going to get up to, if the generations were switched this would be obviously controlling behavior. It’s just not really any of your business, LW, you’re not close with these people, and you may not be fully aware of how emotional things got between E and your mom over cancer stuff. Let it alone.

    • Vicki said:

      I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with here. The Captain’s advice includes, in boldface, “You are not responsible for your mom.

      With regard to LW’s concerns: Going to a funeral is not a disruption. But LW’s mother got drunk at a wedding, made scenes, and then blamed LW and her sister for not having been able to stop her. Not even for not trying to stop her–which already isn’t a great way of handling having gotten drunk and been rude in public–but being unable to do so. Lots of people get drunk at weddings, without causing that kind of scene. I don’t think it’s weird or controlling to be asking for advice on how not to be blamed for her mother’s behavior, when that’s exactly what happened in the recent past.

      LW has given her reasons why she thinks her mother is going to make up a fuss. She may be wrong–she wants to be wrong–but her concerns aren”t baseless. They include that her mother has stated that she will be sitting in the family seats, and expects to be treated as A’s godmother.

  36. Oranges said:

    This is probably never gonna be read but. When I went to a funeral for my BIL’s father I wasn’t in a good place. My depression was acting up big time. You know what I did?

    1) I went in my own car
    2) I did not upset any family
    3) I kept my focus on supporting my Sister and BIL

    That’s it. I comforted my sister and BIL then when things got overwhelming I got in my car and drove away. How to not be an asshole even when your brain is being weird due to things.

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