Widow Praised for Why She Didn't Tell Mother-in-Law Her Son Had Died

A woman has been backed for not telling her mother-in-law that her son had died.

In a post on Reddit's r/AmItheA****** (AITA) forum, user u/second_ave_slav explained how it had happened.

"My husband passed away recently after a very sudden and difficult struggle with cirrhosis," wrote the poster. "It was easily the worst thing to happen in my life. The damage was invisible for years, we never saw it coming. He got so sick, so fast."

After his diagnosis, her husband lived for a little over a year. At the time, they called family—including his mother—to inform them.

Woman's hand on coffin and angry call
A file photo of a woman's hand on a coffin, left, and a picture of a woman furious on the phone, right. A Redditor has been backed for not telling her mother-in-law that her son had died. SeventyFour/Galina Vetertsovskaya/Getty Images

The death of a partner presents an undoubtably difficult time in anyone's life. Too often, people tell stories of how those around them have not properly understood their perspective.

In July 2022, a woman posted about her hurt after a "callous" comment was left on her late husband's memorial page. Another widow shared her upset the same month after her friends shamed her for grieving her husband of nearly 46 years.

In this case, the widow wrote of the mom: "I've always hated that woman. She has always been cruel to him, put him down every chance she could. When we called saying her son was terminally ill, she first denied it, insisted we were lying. Then she went on about how we should've seen this coming, that this is just what happens when you're a drunk.

"She only called once after that, and we didn't pick up. A little over a year later, I had to bring him to the hospital and in two days, he was gone."

During his final days, her husband had been visited by close family and, when he died, his wife was understandably upset.

"I wasn't doing very well at the time, everything just happened so fast. I wasn't ready to make any of those decisions, and between the doctors and the bills and just seeing him so sick, I didn't even think about his mother. In the days after, I just didn't want to deal with her. I know that's horrible, but I was just so tired," the wife explained.

A few weeks later, the widow received a call from her mother-in-law. "I'm not sure how she heard. She was hysterical, which I know is understandable. She said I robbed her of saying goodbye to her son, and robbed him of a proper service," the poster explained. "I should have just hung up, but I was so hurt and so angry. I informed her a very nice service was held, [and] every important person in his life was there."

Sex and relationship therapist Rhian Kivits told Newsweek: "Illness or death can cause havoc in family relationships because it can raise complicated, conflicted feelings within individuals, and family members may clash.

"Where there has been a rift or an estrangement, family members left behind may feel regretful or guilty because the opportunity to repair the relationship has been lost," he added.

"This adds a difficult dimension to the grieving process, and anger or shame may dominate relationships with other surviving family members," Kivits said. "Individuals may have different expectations of each other in the aftermath of an illness or death, and this can be heightened by grief."

Since this conversation, the woman's mother-in-law had "gone ballistic." She called her sons in tears and posted on Facebook about how furious she was with her daughter-in-law.

"Even my parents said it wasn't my place to make that choice for my husband, and I should try to talk with her," wrote the Redditor. "I know I probably should. But she made him miserable, and if he had been able to choose, I know he wouldn't have wanted her there.

"I don't think she deserved to see him, and I don't think she deserves to have any of the things that were his. But now that I write it all out, it really sounds horrible."

Turning to the internet for advice, the woman asked what others thought of her situation.

In thousands of comments, Reddit users backed the woman and told her she was not wrong to exclude her mother-in-law.

One comment read: "The fact that her other sons also didn't call her to have her involved goes to show you made the right choice."

Another reply added: "Blood relationship does not entitle anyone to be in someone's life. She didn't earn a place in her son's life. That's on her."

Kivits said: "The woman in this example was within her rights to decide to handle the situation surrounding her husband's death. As his next of kin, she may have felt that it was her responsibility to honor her husband's wishes and exclude his mother.

"Strong feelings like this don't spring up from nowhere—if the mother's behavior toward her son was serious enough for him to limit contact, and she took no interest in supporting him with his terminal diagnosis, then the woman may feel justified in the stance that she owes her mother-in-law nothing."

One Reddit user posted: "Neither you nor your husband owed her anything. Block her and focusing on healing. I'm so sorry for your loss."

Kivits also suggested that the mother-in-law's behavior in this situation could make sense: "The woman depicts her mother-in-law as emotionally abusive, and it's not unusual for abusers to play the victim and seek attention in circumstances like this.

"This could actually be seen as an attempt to continue the abuse beyond her son's death, seeking sympathy from any family member or friend who will listen," Kivits added, "posting online and doing her best to humiliate her daughter-in-law rather than respecting that this is a time of grief."

Newsweek has reached out to u/second_ave_slav for comment. We were not able to verify the details of this case.

If you have a family dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.