Life

Ask Fiona: My husband thinks our widowed son has moved on too fast

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman whose husband can't accept how quickly their widowed son has moved on

Your husband should not judge your son as people grieve in different ways

EARLY last year my daughter-in-law died after suffering for some time with breast cancer. It was a terrible time for us all, particularly my son who was deeply shocked as he really thought she'd recover. In spite of this, he seems to have come to terms with it rather quickly – too quickly, it seems, for my husband, who adored our daughter-in-law.

Personally, I'm really pleased that he's started dating again and is now seeing someone he seems to really like. However, my husband is astonished that he can, apparently, forget about his wife so quickly – in fact he's really angry about it. He maintains that it's only been a few months, so how on earth can our son be ready for another relationship? Well, he is, and he's asked if he can bring her to visit us. I know it's going to be really difficult and I'm worried about my husband's reaction, so I've managed to put him off a couple of times. My husband has said that he will not have 'that woman' in the house, but he's judging her without having met her. I can't go on putting our son off for much longer and I know that, sooner or later, he will force the issue and bring her to see us anyway – so how do I avoid a family disaster?

CC

FIONA SAYS: People grieve in different ways. Some need years to come to terms with the death of a loved one. Others, like your son, seem able to adjust more quickly. That doesn't mean he didn't love his wife; indeed, she could have encouraged him – before she died – to try and find a new partner quickly. Your husband is judging your son by what feels right to him and I suspect he really doesn't know what was said by your son and his wife before she died. He's making judgments based on his own feelings, but there is no set time for grieving.

To judge your son's new girlfriend by his own measure of grief seems unreasonable to me, after all, she may not even know how recently he was widowed. Of course, he can continue to refuse to let this woman into the house – it's his home and his choice. If that's what he chooses to do though, it should be his responsibility to explain his reasoning to your son. You shouldn't be the one making the excuses on his behalf. However, his behaviour is likely to cause hurt – not only to your son but also to you, and I don't suppose he's even considered that. If he continues to be stubborn like this, he's going to drive a rift into his relationship with your son. Has he considered how life will be if this relationship develops and they want to marry? Is he content to never see his son again? Because that's what could happen if he continues to be so intransigent.

Do please talk to your husband and explain to him exactly what the consequences of his actions could be. Your son is the one who has to decide when he's ready to stop grieving for his wife and move forward into something new. It's not your husband's role to police this, and he needs to swallow any doubts or anxiety he may have and let your son make his own decisions – even if they turn out to be mistakes.

MY BOYFRIEND'S DRIVING SCARES ME

My boyfriend only passed his test recently, but his driving really scares me. He's always speeding and driving too close to the car in front. He cannot bear to be behind a slower vehicle, especially bicycles and caravans which he often ends up overtaking, even when it's really not safe to do so.

It's got to the point that I hate going in the car with him and although I've tried to say something, he just shouts at me and says I don't understand as I don't drive.

BB

FIONA SAYS: Driving like this is dangerous – not just for you and for him but to everyone else on the road. If I were you, I'd be refusing to get into a car with him until he's learnt some common sense. I don't know when you've spoken to him but doing so while he's driving probably won't have an impact.

Talk to him when he's not been behind the wheel for a few hours, and hopefully saying you won't travel with him will make him realise that he can't go on like this. Reckless driving like this could have serious repercussions. It's a criminal offence and, if he kills or injures someone, it would ruin his life and that of many others. Perhaps you can suggest he takes an advanced driving course or else a course to manage road-rage? Many organisations including, for example the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA.com) and the AA (theAA.com) offer advice and guidance. Have a look at their website as it could help you when you talk to him to be armed with as much information as possible.

I FEEL SO ISOLATED SINCE I RETIRED

I retired last year and, as I'd always got on well with my colleagues, I'd assumed that those I'd always regarded as good friends would keep in touch. I've invited several of them to visit but only one or two of them have – and one of those was one of the managers who wanted to talk about my pension.

I've always lived alone, and my work and my colleagues were really important to me. Now I feel so isolated and alone.

RD

When you go to work full-time, you're in daily contact with your colleagues. However once you leave I'm afraid, it's often a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. Rather than waiting for them to contact you, you're going to have to initiate things if you want to see them. Organise a tea party, a dinner party – ask them to join you on a trip to the theatre or cinema. Remember, they're working and they're busy – now you're retired with more time to organise things. It sounds, though, as if you're entire social life revolved around work, and now is the time to broaden your horizons and find new friends as well. Develop interests that bring you into contact with new people - this might be an evening class, voluntary work or perhaps a part-time job. If you take the responsibility to fill your time yourself, I am sure you'll soon stop feeling quite so lonely.

WILL A HANGOVER STOP MY HUSBAND FROM BINGE-DRINKING?

My husband binge-drinks on weekends without getting a hangover. I actually want him to be hungover as it will stop him drinking as much.

How do I do this?

BC

FIONA SAYS: To get a hangover, you need to be dehydrated, overtired and hungry. Mixing your drinks also tends to make hangovers much worse, as well as carrying on drinking long after you should probably have stopped. All this should give you a pretty stupendous hangover – but it's really not a great idea health-wise. Rather than trying to get him hungover, wouldn't it be better to try and persuade him that he's damaging his health by binge drinking like this? Rather than be angry or confrontational with him, try to show you're concerned about him.

Tell him you're worried about his health and wellbeing and try to get him to look at the DrinkAware website (drinkaware.co.uk), where hopefully he'll begin to see the health problems he's building up. I'd strongly recommend you look at the website yourself too, as there is advice for people worried about someone else's drinking.

:: If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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