20-year-old grieving from passing of boyfriend refuses to attend brother-in-law’s memorial for 2-month-old baby

Gillian Sisley

This Reddit post details the strained relationship between a woman and her brother-in-law, John.

*This is a work of non-fiction sourced from social media discussion boards and verified experts/specialists.*

The author begins by explaining that she’s twenty years old, while her brother-in-law John is 32 and has been with her sister for six years. The author reveals why the two are no longer close. She explains further:

“When John was 19, he and his ex-girlfriend (Jane) were having a baby. Unfortunately, she died at 2 months old due to severe birth complications. John and Jane broke up but every year on the baby's birthday, they meet up for lunch. Since meeting my sister, John also throws a small gathering for the family to come to. When I was 16, my boyfriend died. It was very sudden and nothing could have predicted it. One day he was here, the next he wasn't. I'm in therapy and grief counseling.”

The author's relationship with John has deteriorated as her brother-in-law has been increasingly emotionally manipulating her grief; forcing her to feel in competition with the sorrow of his own experience. She continues:

“The issue is that in the past 2 years, John has turned grief into a competition. This really hurts because I used to look up to him as a role model, especially when it came to grief and moving on. But he can't just let me be sad about my boyfriend. He has to bring up how he lost a child which is 'sooooooo much woooooorse'.”

According to Symptoms of Living, when family members unknowingly make grief a competition, it’s important to be honest and open with them about your feelings, and to remind them that each individual experience with loss is valid. Practicing self-care can also help with managing any unresolved anger or sadness, and be used as a tool for self-validation, as detailed by Grief and Sympathy.

The author refuses to attend John's gathering in early June, and her mother and sister express their displeasure. But the author defends herself, explaining:

“I want to be clear, I've never lost a child. I've never been pregnant or lost a pregnancy so I cannot pretend to know what it feels like, but I'm sick of him lording it over me. For example, there was a period of time last year when I lost my appetite and John says 'When I lost my baby, I couldn't eat, either. I had lost a part of me. You just lost a ~person~. You weren't connected. So it's not as bad.' It shouldn't have to be this way but I can't help but feel like I'm smothered under this pain and grief that isn't my own. I'm not looking to invalidate what happened but be heard and feel like more than a huge flashing neon sign of comparison.”

What do you think?

Is the author absolutely within her right to refuse to attend her brother-in-law’s memorial celebration for his infant daughter from 15 years ago, especially since she’s still struggling with her own loss and grief following the passing of her boyfriend?

Or is the author selfish to not want to support her brother-in-law in his infant daughter’s memorial gathering, and despite her own grief, she should show up to be there for him?

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