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,
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)
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:
- 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.
- When she acts like an asshole, she keeps the asshole tide going by blaming other people, specifically, you.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
It is now time for the summer Captain Awkward Dot Com pledge drive, where I shake the tip jar in the general direction of all of you kind readers. If you like what I do here and are able to support the work, please visit my Patreon page or make a donation via PayPal or Cash.me. Thanks to your support, we’ve made the blog ad-free. My next goal is to take a sabbatical from teaching in 2018 and work on a CaptainAwkward book and other writing projects. Every little bit counts, and I’m grateful for it.