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Dear Captain Awkward,

After almost a year of planning, we’re in the home stretch before my wedding day in early May. Everything was lining up smoothly until I reached out for RSVPs that hadn’t been received yet, namely my stepdad, my aunt, and my grandmother (my dead mom’s sister and mother). These are my only family members from mom’s side of the family. And I was informed that none of the three are coming. My stepdad says he “doesn’t feel up to it” but honestly we’re not super close so I kind of get it; my aunt can’t afford it (no loss there, honestly, she’s a pain).

My grandmother at first said she can’t afford to come. When I offered to pay her way, it became “well I just cain’t (said in an East Texas drawl)”. I’m not proud of it but I was sobbing on the phone with her. She then wrote me a passive-aggressive letter, full of “I” statements, talking about how she has all these wonderful memories of going and doing things for and with me throughout my childhood. I’m glad for her to have those memories. Problem is, the memory I’m going to get to keep with me for the rest of my life is that she couldn’t be arsed to make an effort for me. I’m feeling really abandoned and very, very sad. Am I off base here? How do I let this go (short of going in to therapy for it – I already am looking for a new therapist after a little over a year out of therapy because of insurance reasons)? I also haven’t spoken to her since the phone call where I cried – she hasn’t called me, and I don’t know what I would say if I called her. After the letter, I’m not even convinced I want to talk to her.

I guess what I desire right now is to be told I’m not insane to be hurt by this, because past-trauma-brain is gaslighting me super hard right now and I’m tired of crying every time I think about it.

Fucking why.

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Hi Captain,

My estranged father is about to die (I am working with family to make the degree of peace with which I feel comfortable). My mother died about a decade ago. Besides the problem of anticipatory grieving and emotions feelings around an estrangement, I am struggling with a desire not to go to his funeral.

The church and hometown I situation in which I grew up were small and sometimes a little cult-like. The church left me with a lot of trauma. I have almost no contact with anyone from that period of my life any more and I like it that way.

However, it was my dad’s church and he’s known some of these people since the 70s. Particularly because of the estrangement, I don’t have a right to plan the funeral/memorial or decide to exclude some people. I expect to see a lot of people there whom I last saw at my mother’s funeral and whom I hope never to see again.

But I will be grieving. I need to go.

Might you have any scripts for how to handle people either bringing up the estrangement or attempting to make small talk? I don’t want to talk about the estrangement with anyone but my siblings. I don’t want to make small talk. I want to grieve and see him buried.

Thanks,
/Not A Bad Daughter I Swear

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Dear Captain,

I’ve been out as a trans man for about three years. I came out to all of my extended family, with the exception of my grandfather. This was because he’s increasingly doesn’t have a great grasp of what’s happening around him, and my parents thought it would be too hard to explain it to him. I was of the opinion that it probably could have been explained to him at the time, but my family were overwhelmed by the stress of my transition and I decided not to push it.

So for the last few years, I’ve basically dealt with this situation by avoiding him. I have no idea who he thinks I am. Once, before I was out to my extended family, he loudly asked ‘Who’s that boy?’ So I don’t think he recognizes me as Former Granddaughter. This was a fairly awkward situation because he had no idea who I was or why I was at every family event. His condition has deteriorated enough since then that he frequently doesn’t recognize other members of the family, so it sticks out less that he doesn’t know who I am.

He’s now in the hospital and it doesn’t look good. I’m worried that my dad might ask me to visit him. I don’t know what would happen if I turned up at his maybe-deathbed. I really don’t want to be misgendered or referred to by my birth name, but it seems selfish to not visit a maybe-dying man for that reason. I also don’t want to have to try and explain all this to him when he is likely not going to be in a state of mind to take it in. I’m worried that my dad, who I’m very close to, will think I’m selfish for not wanting to go. I just know that being called BirthName is absolutely not an option, and I just don’t want to enter into the painful and confusing arena of trying to explain now, having avoided the subject for going on three years.

Am I being selfish? Should I suck it up and go? If so, how do I handle this situation, given that pretending to be his granddaughter is not an option? And if not, how do I explain this to my dad?

Love,

Only In The UK Would We Think This Was A Tenable Solution

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Dear Captain,

Longtime lurker, first time LW. Thanks for providing such a safe, thoughtful & humorous space for thinking through life’s issues.

My ex-stepfather (XSF) is elderly, ill & failing. I foresee him dying sometime in the next year or so. I do not wish to go to his funeral, but I believe many members of my family will view that decision as unforgivable. Allow me to elaborate:

XSF & my mom were married for about 13 years, but since their divorce they have had an on-again, off-again relationship. I lived with them both for six years, then left the state for college & grad school, never to return. He was financially generous (more than my bio father was able to be at the time), but that is the only positive thing I can say about him. My mom, who had worked since age 12 in a difficult industry, stopped working when I was in high school. XSF paid for everything: a beautiful home, clothing, vacations, etc. I accepted these things without question. He paid for half of college-I paid for the other half. I went on to borrow for grad school, pay for my own wedding & home, etc.

Unfortunately , XSF was and continues to be unapologetically misogynistic, racist, homophobic, alcoholic, verbally abusive, and paranoid. I grew up in a culture which actually embraces many of these qualities, & while I fled the state out of gut instinct to get the hell out of there, it was only with time & growth that I recognized that I needed to get him out of my life. This was pretty easy to accomplish because even when living in the same house, our relationship was managed through my mom. To give you a flavor of our relationship: XSF is fond of nicknaming people: one of mine was “Mouse” because I (uncharacteristically) was always so quiet around him. Another of my nicknames was “Sprout”, in reference to my developing breasts. Need I say how utterly impossible it was for me to have a real relationship with this man? My younger brother has always had a better relationship with him, since XSF had no other sons & my brother was eager to bond with a father figure (bio dad was largely absent).

Since the divorce XSF has made no effort to contact me. My long-suffering stepsisters (with whom I never lived) made minimal efforts as well, which was fine with me. At the time, it seemed to me that if my mother was allowed to divorce & not speak to him, I was also entitled to do so. It was a huge relief to not spend time with him during my brief visits home.

During times they have been back together, I made a few gestures (some big, some small) to reach out to him & establish at least a civil relationship, for Mom’s sake. She convinced me to invite him to my wedding (to a man of a race he frequently mocked while I was growing up!), because they were once again dating, & she wanted him there. Fortunately, he behaved civilly.

Since XSF has become more frail, my mom has become one of his primary supports: cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc. He is rude to health care providers, refuses basic supports such as physical rehab, & continues to be verbally abusive to his daughter & (probably) my mom. In short, he has not changed. Despite this, during a recent social event with friends, Mom characterized XSF as “a good stepfather” to my brother & me.

I fear that when the time comes, I will go to the funeral out of a wish to support Mom, be a “good” daughter, avert conflict, “pay my respects”, etc. I want to have a preemptive conversation with Mom, saying that I think it will be more awkward for everyone if I attend. She tends to believe in doing what is socially expected, rather than being true to oneself, but she fully knows how strongly I feel about XSF. I know she will be sad if I don’t go, but I think that sadness is really grief about the relationship XSF & I never had.

I guess what I need is a succinct way to explain to friends & family why I am not going, without coming across as a bitter, ungrateful, disrespectful grudge-bearer. They all know he is a jerk, but “he gave you so much!” In a culture where the standards for male behavior are so low, he is viewed as a “Good Ol’ Boy”. But….I just can’t.

Thanks ,

Ex-Stepdaughter
(She-her pronouns)

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Dear Captain,

I’ve (27F) have been dating my boyfriend (33M) for about 6 months and things are wonderful. We’ve talked seriously about a future together and he’s a great partner. He has invited me to spend Thanksgiving week with his dad, brother, and sister-in-law on the West Coast. *However*, his mom passed away suddenly earlier this year (before we met) and this will be their first big family holiday without her. I’m worried about my BF. I’ve noticed him drinking more than usual this past week and just seeming a little down.

I’ve heard that sometimes the weeks leading up to a big holiday or anniversary after someone dies can be even worse than the day itself, but I’m not sure how to talk about this with him without pushing him. He’s very stoic and doesn’t like to talk about himself or his feelings in general, and although he’s mentioned offhand Thanksgiving is probably going to be hard/different, he doesn’t seem to want to open up beyond that. My heart is breaking for him and I want to help him however I can, but it’s almost like he doesn’t want to acknowledge that he’s grieving at all.

Spending five whole days with his family (whom I haven’t met before) is pressure enough, and on top of that I’m not sure how to be understanding of what they’re going through without intruding, if that makes sense. We have some activities planned but I’m not sure how/if I should give them space when I’m there, or how to be supportive during an emotionally-charged time. Would you be able to give me a script for asking my BF about how he’s dealing with his grief leading up to this holiday? Do you have any tips for being a good houseguest and partner during an emotionally-charged holiday?

Thanks for your help,

Worried GF

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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!!!!!!

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