Dear Eye View My mother-in-law passed away about a year ago. Her funeral was a very informal, share-your-stories-and-memories format. Well, she was a lifelong alcoholic with a sharp tongue and a history of difficult relationships. Honestly, she was mean as hell when she was sober, and when drunk she was beyond compare. The share-your-stories format devolved into the sharing of horror stories, thinly veiled as “Oh, wasn’t it funny when …” No one actually sang “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” but I think they could have rung out a rousing chorus if anyone had even hummed the opening bars. Our school-age children have mostly not commented on the nature of the remarks made. But the oldest is a teenager, and she asked me why Grandma did so many awful things. I told her that alcohol leads people into unwise decisions, and that alcoholics often hurt the people close to them. We talked pretty frankly about genetic links, and the fact that all the other family members are very, very careful with alcohol; and she will need to be careful, too. My wife is furious. She feels I spoke ill of the dead. She wants me to somehow repair the damage to her mom’s image, and I don’t know what to do. Not Sure
Dear Not Sure
it’s not unusual for a child to want to cover up the awfulness of a parent, or at least temper it. But I think you handled your daughter’s question with sensitivity and honesty, and also got to throw in an important lecture on the hereditary nature of addiction. If your wife wants to weigh in on her mother’s good qualities, she should do so. Tell her Grandma often participated in group hugs.
Hope this helps.