You’re not obligated to in-laws, after hubby dies

A few months ago, my husband passed away from cancer. He was only 44 years old. We had no children and were together 19 years.

Dear Annie: A few months ago, my husband passed away from cancer. He was only 44 years old. We had no children and were together 19 years.

He was a kind, funny, talented person, but he was also an alcoholic and suffered from depression. Ironically, the last year of his life was the best of our marriage because he was sober and focused on the two of us.

This is where it gets sticky. My husband’s family members are completely dysfunctional and disconnected from each other. He wasn’t close to any of them except his mother, and as a result, I never got to know them well.

Though his mother is kind and sensitive, she is also an anxious, depressed person (and that’s when she is on her medication). I have no attachment to her. She is divorced from my father-in-law, who is an alcoholic.

I am trying to move forward and enjoy my life again after a long struggle. I think of my husband every day, but no longer have the deep-rooted grief or sense of loss that his family still seems to have.

I have no interest in maintaining a relationship with them, but they apparently need to keep in touch.

I’ve managed to avoid the family since the funeral, but I know a visit is inevitable. I realize they are still grieving and I am a link to their loved one, but I can’t bear talking with them about my husband or dealing with their oppressive sadness.

How can I tell my in-laws that their grief brings me down and I’m trying to get on with my life? How do I leave them behind? — Worried Widow

Dear Widow: You don’t have to be so abrupt with your in-laws in order to see less of them. When the inevitable visit occurs, be as gracious as you can, and gently recommend grief counseling. You can then limit the time you spend with them until contact is infrequent enough to bear.

Dear Annie: My 17-year-old daughter’s first serious relationship involved a biracial young man. The relationship lasted about six months.

At a recent family function, my nephew and brother-in-law made derogatory and racist comments about this former boyfriend, which, of course, upset my daughter.

Should I address the issue with my relatives or do what I advised my daughter at the time and chalk it up to their ignorance?

I am absolutely certain this topic will come up again. I would like to maintain a relationship with my extended family, but not at the expense of my daughter or our principles. What would you advise? — Proud Mother in N.J.

Dear Mother: You don’t need to go back and address the situation right now, but if it should happen again, please speak up.

It is important not to give the impression that such racist, bigoted talk is acceptable, or worse, that you concur with their opinions.

You don’t have to be confrontational. Simply make it clear that you expect them to show more respect for you and your daughter (not to mention the rest of the human race).

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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