Grief and Other Animals

Before I begin today’s post I would like to thank the following people for giving me these awards:

Lissa gave me this cool award:

Lissa is one of the main writers at Search Engine Stories and I really think she is going places. Check out her blog Just Writing Words and you’ll see what I mean.

She is also a brilliant photographer.  Look here and here to see why.

I also received an Honest Blogger award from Bekki at Nectarville (sorry, the graphic’s gone astray) which I am very pleased about because everyone likes to keep it real. Right? Check out Bekki’s blog – she writes about a wide variety of things but I feel her strength lies in her poetry. Thanks, Bekki. I really do appreciate it.

Ages ago, when the earth was still young, my dear friends Karen & Lauri gave me this award:

I apologise for taking so long to acknowledge both of you. I do appreciate your friendship. Thank you.

I’d like to give both the I Heart award and the Kreative award to dearest TBall who has a lot to deal with at the moment. I will admit to being a tad worried about her. I hope this cheers you up a little, Terry.

Now on to the rest of the post:

You probably remember the posts I wrote about my friend Mel’s foray into online dating. Well, it is still going well. James is a lovely guy. In fact, if I were to pick out a guy for Mel myself I couldn’t have made a better choice.

There is one blot on the landscape, however. A rather large blot. James’ former mother-in-law.

James’ wife died ten years ago. A horrible death as a result of anaphylactic shock. Mel is the first person he has dated since. All of his family and friends are delighted about it. His former mother-in-law is not.

When I heard this story it was one of those things that really appealed to the writer in me, a definite truth is stranger than fiction moment.

James and his former mother-in-law have kept in touch for the past ten years. They talk every now and then on the phone but meet once a year on his deceased wife’s birthday for dinner. Susan lost her only child ten years ago and her husband five years ago. She is alone. She has told James that all she has left are memories of the past and for ten years she has ensured that was all James had left too.

I thought of them sitting together for that annual dinner playing the Do You Remember When? game. It’s a scene lifted straight from a Hitchcock movie, I think. I find myself squirming in my seat as I imagine how it would play out. James doesn’t enjoy the dinners. He won’t ever forget his wife but he is tired of delving deeper and deeper into a wound that was beginning to close over in order to discover another layer of grief.

James missed the last birthday dinner. He forgot. He went away to the south coast with Mel. They saw dolphins and ate fish and chips on the beach. Susan rang him ten times accusing him of disrespect, infidelity. When Mel returned to her place on Sunday evening a note had been shoved under the front door that read  SLUT. Written in red as if  to suggest Mel was a scarlet woman.

James mentioned to Susan he was seeing Mel and that she lived near Susan’s place. Somehow, Susan figured out where Mel lived.

I am alarmed that she is so ticked off that James is attempting to find happiness. It has been ten years after all. How long is one meant to grieve before it is acceptable to move on? How long until clipped wings grow back and need to fly again?

Mel is nonchalant, sympathetic. ‘She’ll get used to it,’ she says. But I wonder. I am apprehensive of a woman who carries a shrine to her dead daughter around on her shoulders, who forces a man who needs some light in his life to sit through a yearly dinner full of awkward silences and sombre looks.

Grief is such a complicated emotion. Everyone wants to do the right thing when they find themselves in the thick of it. No one wants to cut it unacceptably short, but there comes a time when grief must be reined in, tethered, or it turns into a wild animal scratching at the back door. There comes a time when even the prisoners cramped in the dungeon get out to stretch their legs. There comes a time when grief must yield to a new day.

21 thoughts on “Grief and Other Animals

  1. Everyone deserves another chance at happiness, and it’s a shame that James’ mother in law feels the need to get in the way of his chance. Who knows, if she lets events take their course there may be another shot at happiness in there for her too.


  2. I hope that the mother in law won’t make things bad for your friend to the point that she will have to stop seeing James. Eventually she’ll have to accept that James is seeing someone else. Everyone has a right to be happy.

    Thank you for the awards!


  3. Oooohhh…I’d be a bit more on guard if I were Mel. This woman sounds like a wacko! That is not appropriate or acceptable behaviour, no matter how lonely or frustrated she is. I’d be very wary and cautious if I was Mel. 😦

    On a happier note, congrats on the awards, well deserved. Lissa, that is one great looking award button/badge, love it!

    Hugs, G


  4. Thanks Selma..your strength is your writing..always..I think I need to create a icon for that!! The Selma really would be a cool name for an award!


  5. I applaud your friend James’ committment to his mother-in-law for ten years. How sad it is that his love and respect is not recipricated by the mother-in-law. I was devastated when my son and his first wife divorced. I remained friends with Tracy for many years and we still have a good relationship. I was very happy when she remarried. Both my son and my ex-daughter-in-law have found mates who are devoted to each of them. I do hope James finds happiness with Mel. He is obviously a good person.


  6. My daughter’s in the same situation, although her ex-husband isn’t dead; he just left her ten years ago. His mother comes around once in a while to see the children … they are her grandchildren, after all.

    But, she’s so cold, bordering on rudeness, to Vicki’s present partner … (one of the nicest guys on this planet!) … she’s considering telling her to stop coming if she doesn’t change her ways.


  7. How sad for James and his mother in law but I’m with Geraldine. That really isn’t acceptable behaviour nor is it very healthy. I feel for her as she is obviously not in a place where she feels she can move past her own grief. However she doesn’t have the right to make sure James doesn’t either. I hope he and Mel will be very happy. After all…everyone deserves to be happy don’t they?


  8. Hi Selma,
    This is very sad. James’ mother in law may have inadvertently been referring to herself with the note slipped under the door.
    (U)nguided (no guiding light).
    (T)rapped (in a cycle of repeated grief).

    Perhaps we should consider reversing the old saying, “Where there is life there is hope!” to ‘Where there is HOPE there is LIFE!’.
    If she could find some other ‘guiding light’ in her life then her whole outlook to Mel and James’ relationship may well change (for the better).
    I wonder what James’ first wife would have wanted for him? A life of solitude and misery or one of happiness and meaning?


  9. I think the mother-in-law is hanging on to James because she feels she is somehow keeping her daughter alive that way. If James moves on, her daughter will indeed be gone for good, and she will be alone. Left to grieve with a finality that is unbearable, but is also a birthplace of healing.

    Mel’s probably right to be laid back about the lady’s behavior for now. If it continues, though, I’d almost recommend Mel write her a letter – or even talk to her face to face. Mel should ask you what to say. I would. 🙂


  10. congrats on the awards

    and your story about the mother-in-law – that just didn’t seem fair, people deserves happiness, but if we can look at her side, maybe she just wanted to protect the memory of her daughter, keeping her alive even when she know she shouldn’t, it’s hard to move on when someone you love is gone


  11. Congrats on your fabulous awards. You are the best.

    I agree with you when you said, “I am apprehensive of a woman who carries a shrine to her dead daughter around on her shoulders”

    I think 10 years is a VERY long time and that NOTE freaked me out. That was so totally uncalled for.


  12. Those awards are very well-deserved.

    I’m sorry to hear that Mel has become the target of so much anger. While I know that woman is being so terrible doing things like that, I cannot imagine the pain she must be in to have lost so much in her life that she feels she has to do such things to Mel and James. She needs some serious help, and I hope she will get it.

    I also hope that Mel and James will be very happy together. It sounds like they’re both having a wonderful time. It is wonderful that they spent an important date together, being happy, instead of being forced to wallow in sorrow.


  13. People must move on, eventually. It doesn’t mean they forget. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a piece missing within them. But if you don’t move on, that piece gets bigger until there’s nothing left.


  14. I can only imagine how hard it is to lose an only child. The grief has to be overwhelming, tremendous. However, James’ mother-in-law has stepped outside the boundaries of appropriate behavior by harassing both James and Mel. I hope that someone suggests counseling and intervention for the mother-in-law and sets some boundaries for acceptable behavior. This has gone too far, sadly.


  15. VIC – that’s what I think too. It would be so nice if all of them could be happy. I think she feels threatened by Mel but really, there’s nothing to worry about.

    BRITT – it must be so hard to cope with, losing everyone. It is no wonder really, that she wants to cling to James.

    TBALL – my pleasure, hon. I don’t think she would succeed if she tried to breal them up. They are both besotted with each other!

    GERALDINE – grief and loneliness can cloud our perceptions, I think. I agree she was out of line with that note but I do feel a little sorry for her.

    NECTARFIZZ – now that would be hilarious. I can just hear the award ceremony now – ‘And the Selma goes to….’

    PUNATIK – I think I was channelling Scarlett O’Hara when I thought of that one. It’s a bit of a paraphrase of :’Tomorrow is another day’ isn’t it?

    CRICKET – you are a very reasonable and kind person. I am not surprised you kept in contact with Tracy. Not everyone is as broad-minded as you, however. Which is a shame. Susan should take a leaf out of your book!

    TRAVELRAT – that’s a real shame. Unnecessary, too. I hope she changes her tune, especially for her grandchildren’s sake.

    GYPSY – oh, absolutely. We all deserver to be happy. I hope Susan sees the light.

    CHRIS – WOW. You are so wise. What a fantastic comment. You are spot on. Thank you!

    EPIPHANY – I definitely agree with you there. I think Mel will speak to her soon. She is really good when it comes to things like that. She is a journalist and is incredibly diplomatic. If I know Mel, she will sort it out very soon.

    LISSA – oh, absolutely. It is very hard to move on when someone we love is gone. I have clung to the past myself but it really isn’t a good place to be. Moving forward is better.

    NAT – I do too. It is a little creepy. Part of me is wondering if Susan is a little deranged. I am a tad worried.

    MELEAH – awww thanks, hon. It is a long time, isn’t it? Too long. I think the moving-on-train is boarding right now and that Susan should be on it. She can still see James but she needs to let him get on with his life.

    KAREN – agree with you completely. Both of them have had tough times in their lives. They deserve a moment in the sun. Or two. Or three.

    ANTHONY – you are so right. I think the not forgetting is an important point. We never forget people who were dear to us but if we lose them we have to learn to live without them or it acts against us. Very wise words.

    SAINTPAULGRRL- I can’t imagine how hard it would be. I feel for Susan. It would be devastating to lose a child. I think she does need help. Maybe this incident will be the catalyst that gets her the help she needs. It is so great to hear from you!

    PAISLEY – when Mel first told me about this I felt a chill. It was very strange. I was struck by the sinister aspect too. I hope we are both wrong….


  16. hmmm, I’m with Paisley and Geraldine. This one deserves keeping a close eye on. Growing and allowing happiness into ones life is healthy. Surely James knows this and hopefully his mother-in-law will be able to get there too. Such a sad place to be stuck for her.

    Congrats of course on the much deserved awards 🙂


  17. KAYT – it’s been quiet this week but I will confess to watching the situation like a hawk. I don’t trust her to act sensibly, unfortunately.


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