Widow in distress

Dear Miss Manners,

Recently my husband of 15 years passed away from a six month battle with very agressive cancer. His was only 45. During this time I was his primary care giver, mother to our children, and maintained my full time job (just barely). My husband was a loving father and husband. The kids and I miss him dearly. My husband has a twin brother who until recently had not been a big part of our married life or our children's life because he was single and vacationing often. He recently got married and settled down a little but still was not very involved with us. He became involved when his brother was diagnosed. During the last month of my husband's battle with cancer, his twin brother was very helpful and came to care for my husband so that I could go to work in the day. I was and still am very appreciative and thankful for his help. However, after my husband's passing things changed. His twin brother was adamant that my husband wanted to be cremated and thrown into the ocean because this is a conversation they had once when they were young; when my husband was not married, had no kids, as was not Catholic. My husband became Catholic and was baptized and confirmed Catholic and our children attend Catholic school, cremation and disperment into the ocean was not an option. In an attempt to appease everyone and do what would make my husband happy, we had an ocean memorial where with threw reefs and rose petals into the ocean at the beach and we also had a Catholic funeral and burial. After the funeral, I had a memorial reception and over 200 people who were at the church came to show support to the kids and I. My husbands twin did not come and he dragged my husband's mother and father away with him too. My husband was a big beach person so I had asked all the pall bearers to where ALOHA shirts and I provided a beautiful lei for each pall bearer, my husbands brother did not wear an aloha shirt. He said he did not want to! At the services, I was trying to include him as much as possible, one part is the pouring of water into a bowl that the kids hold. I had asked that he do this with the kids. During the services when called to do so, he declined, so I ended up doing it.
Three days after the funeral, I received an awful e-mail from him which had words that I could not say to anyone in it. He said that I had no entitlement of my husbands body and that his mother of 45 years had complete entitlement. That I had no right to bury my husband and that the only reason I did bury him is because I am selfish. He also went on to say some horrible things that were so insulting to me, but more importantly are insulting to my husband because my husband would never tolerate anyone treating me or the kids in that manner. I responded to his e-mail but very nicely. I told him that he is grieving and that some times people get very angry during the grieving process and they also need to find someone to blame. I told him that I hope he gets through this hard time. We have not communicated since that time. Today our mail had two Christmas cards in it from my husbands brother, one for each of my husbands children, not one for my son, his stepson and not a general family card. My first inclination was to write return to sender and put them back in the mail box but I did not do that. So I asked my kids what they wanted to do with the cards, the youngest wants to open it and see what's inside and the oldest wants to return it with a note that says Thanks for thinking of me, but I do not feel like accepting this at this point in time. I am not one to hold a grudge and I believe that forgiveness is important. Yet, I also beleive that being accepting of bad behavior is enabling further bad behavior and I nor my children want to be hurt again. My question to you is what should we do with these cards?

Thanks for your advice.

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Mar 24, 2010
by: Kathleen

So sorry -- the last comment should have read "how NOT to act" when referring to your husband's brother.

Mar 24, 2010
My Condolences
by: Kathleen

First, I must express my condolences for the loss of your husband. I hope that you and your children continue to deal with such a sad situation in such a graceful manner.

How sad that during a time of mourning, your husband's brother has chosen to put his own needs ahead of his twin's wishes. His actions remind me of a child's tantrum when not given a toy or a sweet, or being told "no."

It is very impressive how in the midst of your own grieving you have chosen to try to understand and appease the needs and wishes of others. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I would be able to exhibit such grace under fire.

I do like your idea of allowing the children to choose what to do with the cards. Of course, you are within your right to completely ignore them and any future communication from such an angry and hostile in-law until he exhibits remorse in some way (OK, feel free to ignore him even if he apologizes). Either way, the lessons that your children are learning from your actions will be invaluable in the future. They have been given some very strong examples of how to act (on your part) and how to act (on their uncle's).

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