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This marriage is my second time around. The first was a church white wedding, but my second was just us and our daughter abroad.
My wedding dress was simple (cream, mid-length, floaty with beading around the neck) and I still love it. Before the wedding I showed my mum, dad, daughter and sister my dress — and Mum was the only one who didn’t like it. I think she expected a proper white wedding dress again.
When our daughter married recently, my mother kept saying I should wear my wedding dress. I was shocked and hurt and eventually had to say NO really firmly, just to stop her repeating it. Now one of my friends is getting married next month and I asked my mother her opinion on a few dresses. She chose the one she liked and I ordered it. Then she again suggested I should wear my wedding dress.
I told her we’d already had this conversation before and I was hurt because I’d felt really special wearing my choice and it brings back lovely memories. But she protested that it wasn’t a traditional dress. I said I look at my wedding photo every day and could never imagine wearing that dress again. She still insisted I should wear it.
She said she couldn’t understand why I was getting upset — didn’t say sorry, just that she didn’t want to talk about it.
Then because I usually get her shopping I asked for her list. She told me she didn’t want anything from me — not to get any shopping — even though she is housebound.
I was about to leave when she told me I’m lucky she is the type of mother who never says anything about anything. I told her that’s untrue. Then I said when I got divorced in the 1990s she told me I had brought shame on the family.
She shouted that she didn’t and called me a liar. I said she did and I don’t lie. She kept shouting in my face calling me a liar and told me to leave and never come back.
I work, have grandchildren to look after and visit Mum every week to do her shopping. I’m so hurt and upset. Later she sent me a message saying she will always love me and we shouldn’t argue. But no apology or explanation.
Sorry to bother you — what with Covid and the atrocities and devastation in Ukraine, this is insignificant — but I feel so upset.
Does she feel my marriage doesn’t count? Is she disappointed, though she does like my husband? I am not visiting her next week. Not sure what I should do next.
This week, Bel advises a reader who has fallen out with her mother over a row involving her wedding dress
You sent me some kind, private comments I appreciate very much — which is why I’m reluctant to be frank. But I must be. I simply cannot understand why you would allow a dress to cause such a row between you and anybody else, let alone your mother. It’s distressing that you are distressing yourself.
Sometimes when I read a letter like this, it might as well be in a foreign language, because I have to try so hard to extract meaning.
For example, why would a practical suggestion about wearing the dress ‘shock’ and cause you ‘hurt’? Irritation I completely understand (mind your own business, Mum!), but why be upset to think you might wear the gorgeous dress twice? Like many old people, mother was determined to insist on her opinion — but why the ‘hurt’?
As it happens, when my daughter married in 2009 and I said I needed to shop for a dress, she suggested I wore the dress I’d made for my own second wedding two years earlier: mid-length, floaty, purple, embroidered.
I was thrilled by the excellent idea because it felt so jolly to wear the lovely dress for another important family occasion.
Actually, I then wore it a third time a few years later, for somebody’s big birthday dinner-dance.
Thought of the day
Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness.
But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.
From Life And Fate by Vasily Grossman (Ukrainian writer 1905 – 1964)
What’s the point of stashing something pretty in a wardrobe until you die? I doubt I could fit into my lovely dress now, so the practical me is happy it was admired three times. Yes, we all make personal choices, and many women sentimentally store their expensive wedding dresses. Each to her own. But the fact that you’ve fallen out with your mother over the trivial matter surely indicates an ongoing history of disagreements. This is about much more than that dress, isn’t it?
In your uncut letter, you mention ‘things that were said’ when your father died, but give no details.
I’m afraid it sounds as if you have been having petty arguments with your mother for many years. Perhaps you’ve always clashed. I’d think about that, and consider possible reasons.
The row about your divorce does sound hurtful and unbelievably extreme.
But memory plays tricks; we all exaggerate to make our own story more effective. I suspect you said hurtful things to each other, as ever.
Both of you are worthy of sympathy. You are hardworking, tired, and do your best to look after your mother.
You also try to involve her in decisions — for example, showing her pictures of dresses you might buy. All that is good.
Meanwhile she becomes very frustrated at being housebound, so dishes out her opinions freely as a means of asserting that she’s still a person who counts. Can you see what I mean?
All you had to say was that your dress didn’t fit any more or had a stain — and that would have been the end of the story.
But be honest, didn’t you aid the escalation? Why are you allowing yourself (yes, there is choice here) to be so upset you can even ask me the odd question, ‘Does she feel my marriage doesn’t count?’?
I’ve read your email at least four times and still don’t understand why this is such a big deal.
Massive patience is required when dealing with elderly parents. Believe me, I know just how difficult it can be. They can become angry because of infirmity and dependence and take it out on their nearest and dearest.
I beg you not to remain stubborn in expecting ‘apology or explanation’ from your mother, because you will remain in a pointless huff and stay miserable.
She will indeed always love you and so — for your own sake — please make the peace and keep it.
Why not make a fuss of her next birthday, pop a cork, get your lovely husband suited and booted — and smilingly wear that lovely dress, to surprise her?
Small ways to manage our stress
In your column (March 19) you advised ‘Pamela’ — who had written to you because she was full of grief at being estranged from her adult twins and therefore not knowing their children, even though she has other children and grandchildren.
You warned her about ruining the life she has because of this sadness — and suggested she buy a locket in which she keeps the names of her whole family, estranged and not.
I loved this and would like to hear of some more ‘small, symbolic actions’ (as you call them) to help us all accept the reality of sadness in our lives.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
Readers might be thinking ‘This isn’t a problem!’; on the other hand, we have no idea what might have made that locket idea resonate with you, or why you seek more advice on small rituals or symbolic acts that can help us come to terms with pain.
Victorian mourning jewellery served such a purpose, and so does the Jewish tradition of lighting a Yarzheit candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s death to honour treasured memory.
Similar moments of calm contemplation can be consoling and beautiful.
From time to time, I suggest the writing and destroying of a letter as a means of laying anger (with the living or the dead) to rest.
Once I had a sad email from a lady in Devon racked by guilt and confusion over the recent death of the mother who had never been kind to her.
I suggested she write everything out in a long missive, sealed into an envelope, then ride on her bike to a beautiful spot, taking a box of matches with the letter in her pocket — and sit and think, before burning the letter and scattering its ashes on the breeze.
I was so pleased to hear back. She had done exactly as I advised — and now felt something bad and sad had been laid to rest.
Another little trick can help you to ‘let go’. It’s a positive ritual based on a technique called the Sedona method.
Take a piece of paper and write down the thing that’s eating away at you — something remembered or a gripe that makes you angry/jealous/very sad. Something really bothersome. Then crumple up the paper and clench it tight, holding it out, fist downwards.
Now you have to ask yourself a series of questions.
1. Can I let this go? Gripped so very tightly, the answer is no.
2. Could I let this go? The answer is obviously yes, I could, because the paper is not super-glued to your palm. Acknowledging that, you unclench a little . . .
3. Would I let it go? Turn and open your hand and look at a stupid piece of paper with words on it. Go on — say, ‘Yes I would’.
4. So the fourth question is: when? You’re in control. Think about that fact. Say aloud, Now!
Then let the screwed-up problem drop to the floor, before chucking in the bin or on the fire. You’ll be amazed how this simple ritual can lighten — and enlighten. Why not give it a go?
And finally… What might you do for a new start?
Two years ago today my essay for Easter appeared in the Mail, during that strange, scary time of lockdown. Re-reading, I feel moved by its ending:
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected]
Names are changed to protect identities.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
‘Until the day I die I will never forget the Queen’s message a week ago, reassuring us that, “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return’ and we will meet again.”
‘And what are millions of people finding, within themselves, but faith, hope and love in action? Despite the pain (so much of it) we have also experienced the miracle — that hands can touch, even though miles apart, and hearts can be blasted open by love.
‘That is the promise of renewal. The stone will be rolled away.’
Next day, Easter Sunday I made fresh chicken sandwiches for a picnic with my parents, sitting apart in their garden in the hot sun, with no traffic noise from the road behind their hedge.
They were so pleased with their Easter eggs!
Now both my loving parents have died, that house has new owners, and our wonderful Queen is increasingly worn down by age, though still beautiful.
Her Majesty was right to talk of both endurance and the promise of ‘better days’, because that’s how life is: always a see-saw, lifting, then plummeting and usually feeling beyond our control.
We endure the downs and wait for the ups, observing how, all around, conflict and pain are always offset by the ‘faith, hope and love’ I celebrated two years ago.
To that list I’ll add ‘courage’. It can feel really hard to face the world without it.
So here we are, once again at the joyful time of renewal in the Christian church and for other faiths and none: the time of eggs and bunnies and fresh green shoots, symbolising new starts . . . life after death.
So now, with faith and hope, I’m beginning new programmes of both fitness and of writing. What will your new start be?
Source: Daily Mail