Teen Talk

Grieving daughter wants to honor her mom at Christmas

DEAR KELLY: My mom died of a heart issue we never knew she had on Dec. 27 five years ago. That left just me and my dad, and last summer he remarried. My stepmom is OK and we don’t have problems.

Every year since my mom died we did something on Christmas Day to remember her. One year we set a special spot at the table, another year we visited her grave on Christmas. Usually my dad left it up to me what I wanted to do and we did it.

Last year was different because we spent it with my stepmom’s family for the first time. I decided I wanted to tell everyone a few things about my mom and why I loved her so much. I shared a few good Christmas moments we had. No one said anything bad and I thought it was OK.

My dad just came to me and said that last year made my stepmom and her family upset because they felt like I hadn’t moved on and accepted them as my new family. My dad felt bad for me and knows how I feel, but he doesn’t want us to upset them or make them uncomfortable on Christmas.

He asked me not to talk about my mom on Christmas and that he and I would go do whatever I wanted on the 27th, so I have time to remember her.

I’m so mad and now I don’t want to do Christmas with them. I told my dad I just want to stay home and he can say I’m sick or something. He was angry and thinks I’m overreacting, and I’m angry because I think he’s underreacting to them being insensitive to me or my feelings. Kelly, I still miss my mom and I still wish she were here. Is that wrong?

What should I do?

So Sad In Sac

DEAR SAD: I am so sorry to hear you lost your mom, and you associate the holidays with so much sadness and pain. You are not wrong to miss your mom and wish she was still here. You might feel that way forever.

Your dad shared what your stepmom felt, but have you spoken with her directly? If you don’t have problems or relationship struggles, why start now? Why not ask to talk to her directly to discuss how everyone is feeling. Find out what she is feeling and give her the chance to tell you what she thinks. Maybe the issue isn’t with her but more her family.

Share with her how hurt you are because you feel they are dismissing your mom’s role in your life and not allowing you to talk about someone who is so important to you. Let her know that you associate Christmas with losing your mom and the feelings you experience need to be shared, not stuffed or shoved down. Perhaps if she understands why you feel the way you do, she can pass this along to her family and encourage them to show you compassion.

Hopefully your stepmom isn’t threatened by the memory of your mother and knows that it is very normal and healthy for you to want to acknowledge your mom on Christmas and share fond memories with her. That doesn’t mean you haven’t moved on, it means you are keeping her alive in spirit.

Your dad seems to feel caught between you and his new wife, and that’s not a pleasant place. The reality is no one should ask him to be in the middle. If your stepmom has concerns, hopefully she can come talk with you instead of making your dad the relay man. Perhaps family counseling would be helpful, not only to aid with better communication but to give you a place to talk about your sadness and change in family dynamics.

You should not be asked to be quiet or mute on Christmas so as to not make others feel uncomfortable. Your feelings, your words and your memories of your mom are valid and justified.

Start a journal. Use it as a place to process your feelings about the loss of your mom. Find someone you know who lost their mom and talk with them so you connect with someone who has experienced something similar. Consider including your stepmom in whatever you do on the 27th.

Hang in there. It is OK to miss your mom and want to hold on to moments with her. Being sad is normal. Hold on tight to all you can remember about her. She will be with you forever in your heart, your stories and your memories.

Write to Kelly Richardson at Teen Talk, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15880, Sacramento, CA 95852, or email krichardson@ sacbee.com.