Dear Margo: When a Granny Doesn't Like Her Grandchild

Margo Howard’s advice

When a Granny Doesn’t Like Her Grandchild

Dear Margo: How young is too young to be a bad person? I never would have thought it could happen in my family, but my granddaughter, 12, is miserable, angry, morbid and, as I’ve recently discovered, seemingly incapable of being a positive human being. Last month, my son died in a car accident. He had been drinking, but I believe the greater culprit was a slippery road after a heavy rain. I am devastated, but this girl has yet to even shed a tear! She was always an odd child: quiet, aloof, refusing to associate with family unless forced to. The girl’s father just died, and she doesn’t seem bothered.

To make matters worse, she seems bizarrely fixated on other people’s grief while not experiencing any of her own. She asks whether we’ve cried, how much we’ve cried, why we’ve cried. She even asked that I cry for her! My husband says I’m being unreasonable, but I really can’t stand seeing this girl anymore. How can I be around a girl who could be so callous about the death of her own father? At this point, I just want to cut her out of my family’s life. But I do wish to see my grandson, my son’s other child. I’ve wondered whether therapy or medication could fix my granddaughter’s problems, but I suspect she may be beyond help. — Grandma Gives Up

Dear Grand: The death aside, this child sounds unhappy and perhaps disturbed. As for the loss of her father, her grieving behavior sounds unusual but not unfeeling. She sounds in no way oblivious and may have suppressed her grief by displacing it onto others. The fact that she’s discussing death makes me think the subject is on her radar screen. She may be in emotional, albeit not cognitive, denial. Instead of wishing not to deal with her, I would pay extra attention to her and try to get a dialogue going. You say nothing of the child’s mother, but a therapist would be helpful. — Margo, probingly

Repeated Mistakes

Dear Margo: One of my oldest friends is approaching dire financial straits. She has been “between jobs” for about a year and is the single parent of a teenage boy. She’s a professional who has held a series of jobs over the past five years, and I think she likes risk more than safety. With every job, there comes a point where she absolutely hates being there (the novelty has worn off), so she’ll quit or get laid off. And she has taken a rather laissez faire attitude about things. Until now.

Suddenly, it seems, she sees that no one wants to hire her (she’s in her 50s), and she’s starting to panic. I don’t know what, if anything, to do, except listen. She also has psychological issues that have been diagnosed, but she won’t follow through on medication. I feel there is nothing more to do to help her, but I don’t want to abandon her, either. Do you have the right advice for me in this situation? — Not Sure How To Help

Dear Not: Your friend is learning — perhaps a little late — that actions have consequences. There is nothing for you to do except encourage her, as a first step, to follow through with the medical advice she’s been given and get her to understand her own past actions. Should she be lucky enough to land a new job, you might remind her every now and then that it’s a job she needs. There is only so much a friend can do. — Margo, acceptingly

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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70 Responses so far.

  1. avatar bleeble says:

    Re: letter #2 – How does one go about purposely getting laid off? I’ve heard of people getting laid off due to misfortune, downsizing, etc, but I didn’t know that one could cause a company to let them go without fault.

    • avatar luna midden says:

      lw2-A person, in response to bleeble, can do a ‘just enough to get by ‘ job, or have an attitude of not ‘really caring about the company’ so when it comes time for cutbacks, this is the person to go. BUT-if she has had a number of jobs in the last 5 years, I would think it was more-last one hired, first one fired. Most people CANNOT help being laid off. Even if you are a good to great worker, if the numbers are cut, YOU GO!.

      LW1-how does this GRANNY know that her granddaughter has not SHED A TEAR?? Not everyone can cry in public, or cries that easily… maybe that is why she is questioning the length of others’ crying??? She has a granddaughter who might be very very shy, or maybe, since she has been like this awhile, suffering from depression or another mental health ailment… or, maybe the girl realizes her GRANDMAMA is a judgemental witch who blames others and cuts off people quickly and wants to stay as far away as possible??? As for the angry, if it is new, or more then usual, she might not be blaming the wet road but the fact that DADDY DRANK and this is what KILLED HIM… not the wet roads, as GM is in denial about. (who knows, maybe dad’s drinking was alot more then GM knew or was willing to admit, and THAT AFFECTED the girl???). But, while Margo pleaded with GM to not stay way from her Granddaughter, I would first like to know if this grandmother is a nasty biatch first. Unfortunately, sometiMES it is BETTER not to see some relatives.

      • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

        You are wrong Luna – this kid seems to have been born with a severe personality disorder. Granny can see it and is very alarmed. Watch an episode of Deadly Women and get back to me. When the behaviors that at such a young age, there is little hope, it’s part of their personality. Disagree all you like, but the research backs me.

        • avatar mayma says:

          Research on what? A person you’ve never even seen, as described by an admittedly biased observer?

          • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

            My mother is a clinical psychologist. Access.

          • avatar mayma says:

            Holy cow. You are missing my point, which is that you are making an extreme judgment (Deadly Women? little hope?) of a kid you have never even laid eyes on, and who is being described by a woman who clearly has a screw loose. You believe a narrator who attributes a drunk-driving death to rain? A narrator who wants to know how to cut a kid out of her family while maintaining contact with her brother?

            Of course there’s tons of research on personality disorders, but that doesn’t mean this kid has one.

          • avatar Kathleen Hein says:

            And your mother would never dream of diagnosing a stranger based on someone else’s description!

          • avatar Claire Saenz says:

            Of course not. No competent clinician would ever diagnose a stranger based on a letter written by a third party to an advice columnist.

          • avatar Claire Saenz says:

            And I should also mention that personality disorders are never diagnosed before age 18. This girl is far too young to be diagnosed with one.

          • avatar CatA says:

            my thoughts exactly…

        • avatar Diagoras says:

          Oh that is nonsense. Not everyone cries in response to a death of a loved one, at least not at first and not necessarily in front of people. Plus, she’s probably angry that her dad was stupid enough to drive drunk and get himself killed. Why shouldn’t her reaction to his death be weird and complicated? Especially when the grandmother is so hostile toward the girl and in complete denial about her son’s irresponsible and fatal behavior.

          • avatar wendykh says:

            THIS! Grandma sounds in total denial “oh he was drunk, but I’m sure it was more about how it was raining.” Bitch please. The girl is FURIOUS at her dad for getting his ass killed and is trying to work through it. Granny needs to be taken out back and smacked into growing the hell up.

        • avatar Lym BO says:

          This girl obviously has some issues expressing her feelings. If she is asking someone else to cry for her then she understands it is an issue & is attempting to figure out what is normal. Some children are taught very young to not cry. Some also have someone telling her that her uncle & dad deserved it by their actions & it’s not worth crying over. The fact that the granny doesn’t attribute the child’s anger, depression & lack of emotion to the fact she has recently lost two very important men in her life is disturbing. She may have an attachment disorder–or not. As for not being positive, is Granny feeling particularly in a “positive mood” lately after the loss of her son & son-in-law? As for the aloofness, perhaps she doesn’t like Granny. Or maybe she is just shy & has an innate ability to sense granny is a bit whack.

        • avatar Lunita says:

          I’m astonished that you would say this girl has a severe personality disorder and that your only reference and “research” is a cable television show. Oh, and the fact that your mom is a clinical psychologist, which doesn’t make you one. Just reading the letter, it seems to me that the grandmother might never have been very fond of the granddaughter (referring to her behavior pre-accident as “odd”). Like others, I also found the grandmother’s assertion that the son’s accident was due more to rain than his drinking as strange. I don’t see anything morbid about an adolescent who is quiet around relatives, hasn’t cried (at least in front of anyone), and who asks who has cried. Many adolescents are surly around relatives. As luna midden pointed out, the girl may view the accident as her father’s fault since he was drinking, and perhaps she is angry at him. Maybe that makes her confused or also leads to her feeling guilty over the anger. Who knows? What seems apparent is that the LW is jumping to conclusions and judging her granddaughter–who is probably in need of a lot of support–very harshly.

    • avatar marie9999 says:

      My employer offers voluntary separations during lean times before the forced lay offs – but these separations are still a “lay off” with a severance package and eligibility for unemployment benefits from the state…

  2. avatar Carol David says:

    I think she means her friend’s attitude affects her job to the point where she gets “laid off.”

  3. avatar Lila says:

    Dear Gramma, you are teaching this girl that the adults in her life cannot be depended on, especially when they are needed most. Good job. Painful as it is for you, consider that her dad did something dumb and got himself removed from her life. She may partly be angry with him for leaving her, and she’s not entirely wrong about that.

    Here’s a little window to look through: My mother died when I was six. A suicide. Chose to leave her husband and two young kids. Oh, I know it was an act of terrible desperation, but still, that set me up for a miserable childhood. I still wrestle with blaming her for the years that followed.

    Her family, most notably my grandfather, wanted nothing to do with us afterward. My Dad was alone, his parents and brother were dead, and work kept him away for all but a couple of our waking hours per day. Result: growing up with precious little adult guidance. Raised by wolves, as it were.

    Oh, there were other adults around – teachers, neighbors, parents of friends. Quick to criticize a lot of superficial crap, as I recall, not so much to really listen or mentor as a wild wolf-child needs. Think this made me a weird, oblivious kid? You bet. Think that affected me socially? YES. The emotions eventually left on my surface were anger and hostility, because somewhere along the way it seemed that anything else just opened the way to getting hurt more. So I buried everything else. Not for public consumption.

    It took a long time, and a very scary conscious effort, to get… somewhere quasi-normal. No, Margo, no therapy here. I just decided, as a young adult, to take a few bricks out of my defenses. I will always have trust issues, but that’s protective so I’m OK with it.

    I have often wondered how different, how much easier things might have been, if I had had a steady, loving, available adult mentor in my childhood. Maybe I could have been more loving and positive and even had a social grace or two. But I had your granddaughter’s ill luck, a stressed and often bitter single parent, and adults who could have engaged with me but didn’t, except in negative ways.

    I neither knew nor mourned when my grandfather died. I had not seen or heard from anyone on that side of the family since age 6. They were strangers, and so shall you be.

    Your granddaughter has a big rough patch ahead, but she will probably get through it and turn out more or less OK by her 20s. No thanks to you.

    • avatar Frau Quink says:

      Hello, Lila,

      Kudos to you! You did come out being on top of it, and you do have my admiration.
      Warm regards, and all the best,

      • avatar Lila says:

        Vielen dank, Frau Quink, this kind of letter just pushes my buttons. This grandmother needs to imagine what the 12-year-old CHILD is going through. And openly preferring one grandchild over the other – ugh! She is doing a lot of damage.

    • avatar CatA says:

      Lila, your testimony shows how strong a person can become by living through tragic circumstances (meine grosse Bewunderung) – let’s hope the granddaughter has the fortitude to weather this chapter of her life, or the assistance of other strong adults or a therapist to help.

    • avatar V says:

      Lila, Very well said.

  4. avatar Toni Jean says:

    Lw1: very sorry for your loss. Your granddaughter needs your help. I’m going to lay it out for you. If your son died in a drunk driving accident then he had a drinking problem. Your granddaughter was living in a bad home situation, probably much worse than you know. What you’re in is denial. Your granddaughter needs counseling and you do too. There may be some terrible but legitimate reasons why your granddaughter is processing mixed feelings.
    To the irritation if LW2, I’m sending you all prayer and light during such a difficult time.

    • avatar Toni Jean says:

      Apologies Dear Margo, the person who hated prayer was dear Abby’s LW. I should always read you FIRST!

    • avatar mmht says:

      I think you nailed LW#1 on the head! That grandmother made me so angry I wanted to reach through my computer and smack her.

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – As President Obama often says “Someone needs to be the adult in the room….”

    This applies in this situation. Although I am sorry for this letter writer’s loss, she needs to grow up. Understandably she is in denial about her son’s death. If he was drinking and driving when he died, no Dear, it wasn’t the slippery roads. It was him. And although she did not say, we can only hope HE was the only one killed.

    If this little girl truly is and has always been as negative as you describe, that speaks more to how she was/is being raised, and the fault lies with her parents (your son included). I am going to make the assumption that she was close to her father (if not, why would the grandmother be so put off that she is not mourning his loss) if this is true, why had he not taken steps to help her get help for her personality disorders?

    You are behaving more like a 12 year old than she is. Almost tantamount to pouting and stomping your feet and shouting “I’m taking my ball and going home!” She isn’t mourning in the way you want her or expect her to…..really? In order to mourn she must cry like you have? No, it doesn’t work that way.

    Something tells me it may not be the 12 year old that is in need of help, it is this grandmother. She is in denial about the true cause of her son’s death and she is using her granddaughter as a source to displace her grief over her loss. It is much easier to make a big deal about how the child is behaving, than sitting in idle thought and deal with her own loss of her son.

    Letter #2 – The friend has psychiatric issues so extreme that they require medication? Nope, there is nothing that you can say to this woman until she is back on her meds and able to receive your sage advice. The first step is to attempt to encourage her to get back on her prescribed medication. If she won’t or refuses, I would sever the relationship. And as you walk away remind yourself of what Margo so perfectly said “There is only so much a friend can do”

    With the latest rash of mass murders and shootings, mental illness is yet again in the forefront of a national discussion. On one hand we must have sympathy for those struggling with mental issues, but on the other hand they MUST be held accountable for their life decisions. It’s not enough to constantly say “they can’t help themselves, they have emotional issues….” If she can apply for and hold down jobs, even temporarily, she has the ability to apply rational thought. So she should recognize help is being offered to her. If she doesn’t accept it, I say leave her alone.

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      I was aghast at this letter, and even more because it was from a *grandmother*: Someone who should be old and wise enough to have more insight.

      If the granddaughter is acting like this, something hasn’t been right in her home for a long time, and I’d bet good money it was related to the son/her father’s drinking (because if he died drinking and driving, he had a problem, no matter what his mother thinks). This whole family needs help. The granddaughter needs help, the grandmother needs help, undoubtedly the surviving wife/child’s mother needs help.

      For the record, grandma, I would have reacted the same way when I was your granddaughter’s age. I’ve always been the type to fight emotions until I can’t keep them down any longer; luckily, I didn’t have to go through anything this horrible when I was so young.

      • avatar mmht says:

        Agreed! This child is going to be much better off without this judgmental b***h in her life!

      • avatar carol grzonka says:

        my father died when i was 13 after a long illness. i didn’t cry for months. i was too terrified at being left to my mother’s tender mercies. being beaten bloody with regularity, being ostracized from my family with no one permitted to talk to me and other atrocities. congrats granny, you’re only 1 step up from this. your granddaughter had to live in a situation with a drinker that you willfully ignore, even  now, and you blame HER for not grieving as you see fit. if i had anything to say about it, you’d be out of both these children’s lives. the complication of you saying to the boy ‘you’re grieving properly and to the girl ‘you’re not’ is highly destructive.

  6. avatar judgingamy says:

    Wow, at first I was angry at grandma, but now thinking about it, grandma might be doing granddaughter a favor by removing herself from granddaughter’s life. I wonder if it occured to Oblivious and Judgemental Grandma that perhaps granddaughter has some serious anger at her father that no one is addressing. Perhaps she truly hasn’t shed a tear- not because she is a cold unfeeling morbid child, but because her anger right now is covering her sadness. Maybe she feels guilt on top of anger for not feeling more sad. Maybe dad had a drinking problem and was unpleasant and his death brought some relief. Who really can tell from a short letter.

    Here is what we do know from the letter: 1. granddaughter has never been close to the family, and grandma has concluded there is something wrong with her, as opposed to chalking it up to shyness, undiagnosed autism, or a myriad of other possibilities that have nothing to do with her being a sociopath in the making. 2. Grandma does not hold her son responsible for any of his mistakes, but expects the 12 year old to behave like an adult, and 3. Grandma thinks all people should grieve the same way, and anyone who doesn’t should be alienated or cut off from the family. All three things point to Grandma being the problem, not the granddaughter. Perhaps cutting herself off from the child will do more good than harm.

    • avatar mayma says:

      You forgot #4 that points to Granny being the problem — Granny wants to maintain a relationship with the other child, just not the granddaughter. Peachy!

    • avatar Toni Jean says:

      Number 1900. Granddaughter’s behavior is extremely indicative of sexual abuse.
      grandma needs to start putting someone else first. NOW.

  7. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: Whatever the granddaughter’s problem—your melodramatic and extremely negative attitude towards her is only fuel for the fire. And I can tell you from personal experience that showing love to one grandchild while withholding it from another is one of the worst things you can do, not only to them but to yourself. It WILL bite you on the ass—mark my words.

    LW2: “Suddenly, it seems, she sees that no one wants to hire her (she’s in her 50s), and she’s starting to panic. I don’t know what, if anything, to do, except listen.”

    What exactly are you supposed to do—run through the town and ring bells? You are the ant, and she is the grasshopper. Feast on her corpse after the snows finally come.

  8. avatar Frau Quink says:

    As to Ltr.# 1: This child seems to be severely traumatized and deserves her Grandmother’s compassion, and not her disdain……..

  9. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Is it possible this girl has been abused by someone close to the family? It’s also possible that she is mentally ill. She needs help. Talk with her mother (whether you’re close to d-i-l or not).

    L #2: Wow. Yeah…actions have consequences. If/when she does get another job, tell her to “bite the bullet” and keep it. She no longer has the luxury of lots of jobs or age on her side. Glad my dad drilled this into my head very young: “YOU CAN CHOOSE TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, BUT YOU CANNOT CHOOSE THE CONSEQUENCES.” Thank you dad!

    • avatar ann penn says:

      Re LW 1 – First I suspect that Granny is cutting the late son some slack on the drinking because it runs in her family, including her.

      I, too, wondered about the girl’s relationship with her father. Was he loving and supportive? Mostly absent living his own life, investing all his time in business or golf or drinking buddies? Was he an abuser who took advantage of his daughter? It happens, and Granny would not want to go there, even in her imagination; he was her son, ergo perfect. (It was the slick roads that did him in, not the booze after all).

      Family relationships are complex. IMO if Granny is truly concerned, the best thing she can do is see that the girl gets some therapy to deal with her loss and whatever else is going on for the granddaughter.

      Also, the girl is 12; a hormonal time of many adjustments. She may have no idea what is an appropriate way to act in this situation. Granny seems to want the response of a mature woman from a pre-teen. The girl may never had experience with the death of someone close to her before. The suddenness of her father’s passing makes it worse.

    • avatar CatA says:

      great sentiment from your father, Cindy!

  10. avatar Tabitha Smith says:

    Dear Grandma,
    Please keep in mind that not only has this girl experienced a tragedy, losing her father, she is also 12, I do not know whether or not she has hit puberty (gotten her period) but the hormones have been doing a happy dance inside her for a couple of years now as well as everything else.  I remember when I was 12, I had a hard time expressing my emotions, even if I wanted to,  there was something inside of me holding them back, I would do the exact opposite of what people wanted from me.  I could pick up on emotions of other people…don’t you think she can feel how you feel about her?  Don’t think she doesn’t feel that, she does…and she is acting the way you think of her, why not? She probably feels she you have already made your mind up about her so why does it matter?  She knows it irritates you so if you cant love her… irritation is better than nothing.  Maybe she blames you for her father’s drinking, maybe her father had conversations with her about how he was raised that you have no clue about, you don’t know what he has said to her. Maybe she only cries her heart out when she is alone, I know I did.  
    Could she have ADD?  Might be a good idea to look up the symptoms and take the girl to a psychologist to be tested. Maybe she has been abused by someone and is acting out.  There are so many different reasons why she could be acting the way she does.  If her Mother doesn’t take her maybe you should suggest it and instead of complaining, step up to the plate and help the girl. Go to grief counseling together…it will help you too.  Maybe she wants you to love her but doesn’t think you do, maybe some day you can help fill the hole her Father left and the two of you could be closer than you ever thought possible. 
    Not trying to tear into you Grandma you have also suffered a great loss, but you are the adult here….please, for her sake….put aside how you think she should feel and find out how she DOES feel,  Good Luck to you.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      ADDer’s tend to be really friendly and outgoing — I’m one. Sounds more like something on the autism spectrum, or just being a badly-traumatized adolescent.

  11. avatar soozeekew says:

    LW#1: What others have said about the child’s current state are all definite possibilities. However, the description of the child sounds very much like she might have Aspergers Syndrome, which is in the autism spectrum. As the mother of two children (now grown, and doing very well, btw) in the spectrum, the lack of outward expression of appropriate emotion and the inappropriate questions about how others are feeling sound very much like a child with an autism disorder. I strongly advise seeking some testing in this area. In any event, the child needs understanding and love, not disdain and hate.

    • avatar L T says:

      Asperger’s or some other form of autism spectrum disorder was my first thought as well, which would mean that the granddaughter was asking those questions because she really didn’t understand and needs the support of her family to get what’s going on around her.

      Which seems even more likely considering grandma was terribly in denial about her son’s drinking — it’s not a big leap to her being in denial about her granddaughter, too.

  12. avatar susan hiland says:

    Lw1: sounds like the girl is a budding psychopath. Sorry but I don’t care how much daddy drank and mommy didn’t listen. She is asking some very strange questions for a 12 year old. It seems to me she is testing the waters of what is “Normal” behaviour. “Grandma, how much do you cry?” can be translated into how much should I be crying if I could cry. She sounds like Dexter. Perhaps the girl is just incapable of understanding peoples emotions because she doesn’t have any of her own.
    I think granny needs to have a talk with the girl’s mother and find out what is going on when the girl isn’t around her before making a decision. (Although sounds like she already has made one) People are so quick to jump on the grandmother but how many of you have known someone who was just a little off and then found out they were stonecold nuts. I have known a few in my time. Usually the first impression is the right one.

    • avatar Tabitha Smith says:

      That could be, could be she has psycho issues, but those are usually (not always) caused by someones upbringing. She could be saying stuff on purpose to hurt Granny as much as Granny has hurt her?  We have no idea what the family dynamics in this situation are.  Maybe she is asking the Grandmother to cry for her because something happened to her (possible abuse by Father) and she is glad the father is no longer there to hurt her, maybe the grandmother knew about the abuse and called her a liar or let it continue.  Just because someone is dead doesn’t make them an instant Saint IMO.

    • avatar Diagoras says:

      Psychopaths are very rare, especially among women. However, preteens with confusing and strange reactions to the death of a parent when said parent died as a result of irresponsible drinking behavior? I would bet that is a lot more common than psychopathy. Her reaction is perfectly normal. She’s pissed off that she’s become an orphan because her dad was an idiot drunk who got behind the wheel. She has every right to be pissed off and confused. That doesn’t make her a psychopath. I would bet money that this girl is perfectly normal. It’s the situation she is in that is not normal.

    • avatar Toni Jean says:

      She was sexually abused. Read better.

      • avatar Lunita says:

        @Toni Jean- Nowhere in the letter was any reference to possible sexual abuse; why do you infer that?

        • avatar Carrie A says:

          Of course it wasn’t in the letter. This is a woman who thinks her drunk-driving son was killed because the roads were wet. She’s not exactly bright. But when I read about her behavior and how she was reacting to her father’s death sexual abuse was my first thought. She may be asking strange questions because she doesn’t know what to do. She obviously can’t tell the grandmother because she thinks her son is perfect even after he was driving drunk – oh, it couldn’t be his fault, it was the road’s fault! Even if it’s not the case someone needs to get her to a psychologist to help her through this time and maybe get to the root of her behavior.

    • avatar V says:

      Wow, you are comparing a 12 year old girl that someone is describing in a short letter to a TV show? Because you watch Dexter you can recognize a psychopath?  Shall I analyze what you sound like?

      • avatar Lunita says:

        It looks like all these cable tv psychoanalysis/serial killer shows are leading to self-proclaimed psychological experts.

  13. avatar Eileen Heath says:

    To “Grandma Gives Up” oh do not give up. This is uncommon, but not rare and not unheard of. She is analyzing loss and grief. You might try to tell her that it is ok to cry and why you cry. How it helps relieve the pressure of the emotional pain. I know you’re hurting but you’re hurting so much that you failed to notice that essentially she’s asking why. More whys will come out. If you need an example, I think the lead character in BONES suffers from an advanced form of this issue. Address it now by being understanding. this is a learning experience – not a “She should already know” situation.

  14. avatar AZNerdling says:

    Like the girl in the first letter, I was young when my father died (13, not 12) as a direct result of his drinking. LIke her, I limited my time around people when he was alive and didn’t have the typical emotional reaction when he died. Would you like to know why?

    Because he was an abusive alcoholic! My father was, to most people on the outside, a brilliant man, former military, who stayed home while his wife worked. To me, he was a frightening, angry drunk, who was physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive. He beat the crap out of my brother for the tiniest infractions and did anything in his power to shame me into submission when he realized that hitting didn’t work (I’d been sort of desensitized to it, watching him hit my brother all my life). When I was 11, he found a stack of Playboys under my brother’s bed, smacked him around a bit for it, then gave them to ME so I could learn what a woman is “supposed” to look like, so I didn’t think it was Ok to grow up looking like my mother. My mom, meanwhile, was working three jobs to keep food on the table because my father was too drunk to pull himself out of the house most days.

    So, dear Grandma, think about this for a second. You think your granddaughter doesn’t miss her father? Maybe there’s a reason for that.     

    • avatar Hellster says:

      Ding, ding, ding. We have a winnah!

    • avatar Lila says:

      Nerdling, thanks for your insight. Whatever’s going on with this girl, she needs dependable love, support, and mentoring. If something is going amiss, casting her aside certainly does not help, especially when it comes with the message “I love your brother but not YOU,” or “You’re troubled, and that makes you evil garbage, so I don’t want you around.”

      Grrrr. Conditional love is no love at all.

    • avatar Toni Jean says:

      Dear nerd, right there w you. Thank you for your post.

  15. avatar leah black says:

    LW 1- Glad you’re not my grandma. I sympathize and have compassion for your personal grief, otherwise- you suck.

    LW 2- Plenty of us have jobs we hate but we keep them because we have to. I do not understand these people who think they are above doing what most people have to do to make ends meet. Grow the hell up, no amount of medication will help you if you cannot do that.

  16. avatar BeanCounter says:

    does anyone else kinda of hate the LW#1?   I read the letter just shaking  my head.    What a self-involved judgmental woman.   wow.   You want tears?  you want explosive grief?   is that proof?   really?   you’re messed up, lady!

    • avatar NotPiffany says:

      I hear you, BeanCounter.

      The girl had to be forced to join family outings? Let’s see, Grandma, I’m guessing you were there on these occasions, since you saw that she had to be forced to go. Gosh, why wouldn’t she WANT to go out with a grandma who obviously dislikes her and a family who either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care that grandma treats one child differently than the other? Trust me, the kid knows you don’t like her. She figured it out years ago. Even if she didn’t notice, her brother has probably explained that Grandma likes him better than her, because siblings are occasionally jerks to each other.

      The poor kid doesn’t cry? Big deal; different people process situations and emotions differently. Maybe she feels like she’s got to be the one to “stay strong” because everyone around her’s crying all the time. Maybe she feels like if she cries, she’s weak. Maybe she’s just angry that her dad was an idiot who got behind the wheel of a car when he was drunk. Maybe he showed her just as much affection that you show her, so she has little or no reason to be upset. She’s ALLOWED to feel whatever she’s feeling. You don’t get to dictate her feelings or her actions. Get over it.

  17. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr # 2 – I’ve known/worked with people like this. They get a little too comfortable with their surroundings, elevate their worth to the company in their own eyes, come up with their own systems of doing their work as a measure of job security, etc., then start to slack off a bit. They get “laid off” (really, it is a firing) they either bad mouth the company or make excuses for themselves. When they finally do land another job the cycle starts all over again until the employer wises up. I’ve seen this on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, until that person recognizes they need to fix something in them, there’s really nothing you can do to help.

  18. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1)  “He had been drinking, but I believe the greater culprit was a slippery road after a heavy rain … ”  

    What a hootin’ dose of dumb denial. Smarten up. Your son died because he was a drunk driver who couldn’t control his vehicle in typical weather conditions. Hopefully no one else died in the crash.

    As for the little girl, she needs and deserves help and understanding. Just because she’s not caterwauling, doesn’t mean she isn’t deeply grieving in her own way. 

    LW2) It’s amazing how folks who have gleefully bounced around from job to job while slurping up unemployment in between gigs are waking up on the cusp of 2013 to find that employers can pick and choose. Generally, age 50 and older workers better be mighty good or they won’t make a short list, much less land the job. Pushing 60 with a spotty record? Forget it.  Lay it out for your friend, so if by chance she actually gets a job, she’ll be inclined to work harder toward keeping it.  The old days are over.   


  19. avatar Claire Saenz says:

    Here’s the deal: none of us knows the truth about what is going on in LW#1’s family. My initial reaction was horror at what appears to be heartless callousness on Grandma’s part. But the reality is that although we all are picking up on some severe family dysfunction, we can’t know the whole picture and each of us is seeing this through the prism of our own experiences. Sure, maybe the son was alcoholic, but we don’t know that for sure simply because he died in a car crash and had been drinking. It’s possible that Grandma is a flaming lunatic with a personality disorder, but we can’t make that conclusion simply because her granddaughter rubs her the wrong way. It’s possible that the granddaughter is on the autism spectrum or has ADD, but again, we simply don’t know. The permutations are endless, and it will take the work of a highly competent mental health clinician–perhaps several of them–to help sort this all out. My personal hope is that the family reaches out and gets this help as soon as possible.

  20. avatar Ghostwheel says:

    LW1-So Grandma, admits her son was drinking, then blames the slippery road instead? Perhaps son did other things that Grandma is in denial about, a possibility being yelling at grandaughter on a regular basis or some such thing?

    Just saying that IF relations between daughter and father were strained for some reason, then daughter would have a hard time figuring out her feelings. And that would also account for her odd previous behavior. Mentioning this because my mother was ambivalent when her father died because he was a mean drunk at home, but never out of the house (go figure), and she was relieved at the lack of tension in the house when he died. Also glad she didn’t have to listen to drunk dad’s mother saying how ungrateful drunk dad’s wife (her mom) was, after all (drunk) son was perfect.

    Yeah, LW1 is a winner, all right.

  21. avatar CatA says:

    Re Letter 1, sounds to me like the writer is projecting her own anger about losing her son onto the grandchild that is not mourning the way she (writer) thinks she should. Further, granddaughter is likely dealing with her own issues about losing her father (anger about his drinking and driving? Other issues that Granny may know nothing of?). Lastly, Granny may have contributed to the girl’s problems herself over the years by favoring the grandson (evidenced by her wanting to see him but not the “morbid” granddaughter) – a not uncommon practice among grandmothers. The one who needs medication is Granny. I feel sorry for her granddaughter, who might benefit from a good therapist.

    Re Letter 2, Margo failed to address something important. The writer’s “professional” friend, who is not one in my eyes if she gives up a new job so quickly, is a lousy parent by modelling this behavior to her son. The writer can at least provide some stability in this boy’s life. She could offer her ear if he wants to talk and provide him encouragement and other perspectives.

  22. avatar Davina Wolf says:

    From her earliest days my sister was like the first letter writer’s granddaughter.  Turns out she inherited the antisocial personality disorder that my dad has and that runs down his side of the family.  People with this disorder have little empathy, conscience or regard for others, shallow feelings and much more, and signs begin to appear at a very young age.  The people in my family with this disorder have been so cold and hurtful that I’ve learned to completely stay away from them for my own safety after many years of trying to have even  distant relationships with them. It sounds like this kid has something seriously wrong that’s part of her inborn makeup, like limb length or eye color.  

    • avatar wendykh says:

      Oh please. There is nothing unusual actually or abnormal about this child’s reactions. Grandma is an in denial loser who needs to grow up.

  23. avatar Toni Jean says:

    Lw2: I suggest your friend try contracting! Money is great, projects change and it looks perfectly normal to have a lot of movement on your resume. People are more flexible about age too.

  24. avatar blueelm says:

    grandma: The problem is you.

    Your son was an alcoholic. It is pathetically clear due to your denial. You show some nasty nasty narcissistic traits and controlling behavior. You are not guilty feeling. You are ashamed. And your granddaughter isn’t playing your game. For shame! She is not behaving the way YOU want her to. She is not performing the way YOU think she should. She is not making the story YOU want to tell look the way YOU wanted. She is not feeding YOUR needs. Now you are wanting to abuse her, perhaps like you did your son.

    We know he wasn’t close to you. You let it slip in your letter. It’s probably no accident. But that doesn’t feed into the story that you are wanting to tell, does it? So you seek public support in hurting a vulnerable child.

    That’s right, a child at it’s most weak is the person you want us all to clap for your hurting, and to see YOU as the victim.

    You’re a sick woman, and a curse to your family.

    The kid needs help, but not any kind of help that you think and nothing will ever be done for anyone in this family so long is everyone is still having to play along with LIES and SELFISH DELUSIONS like the ones in your letter.

    Grieve honestly, you liar, or not at all. That’s what your granddaughter is saying to you.

  25. avatar David Bolton says:

    The question that should be asked is: “How old is too old not to know better?”

    And it should be directed at LW1.

  26. avatar marie9999 says:

    LW#1 –
    Granddaughter may be struggling with the 5 stages of grief but what is truly interesting in this letter is why grandmother is angry with her for it… Maybe heavy rain was the total cause of the wreck but the way she dropped the “He had been drinking…” makes me wonder what was his blood alcohol level?

    Maybe Al-Anon and Alateen meetings are in order. Grandmother is in denial and granddaughter is exhibiting the classic signs of growing up with alcoholism. The negative attitude and anger are hallmarks of those of us forced to assume adult responsibilities too young. But there is healing to be had – you have to take the first step and it is terribly difficult. May God grant you peace.

  27. avatar bobkat says:

    Sounds to me like this girl could be on the autism spectrum. She should be seen by a specialist, either to rule this out or to receive help dealing with a world that just cannot understand people with autism.