Dear Annie: For many years, my husband and I hosted all the family holidays. Last year, my husband’s aunt invited us to stay with her for Thanksgiving and celebrate with her family. We gratefully accepted. She invited my in-laws, as well, although they opted not to go because my father-in-law wasn’t well.
The aunt has extended the same invitation this year. Here’s our dilemma: My father-in-law died eight months ago, and my mother-in-law is now alone. She initially said that she would come along with us for Thanksgiving, but now says she is afraid to leave the house empty and won’t go.
We’d like to keep our Thanksgiving invitation, but we don’t want to leave my mother-in-law by herself on a holiday. What should we do? – Torn in Los Angeles
Dear Torn: The first year after being widowed can be lonely and frightening. Your mother-in-law is not ready to join your husband’s family for a holiday, and it would be a great kindness not to leave her alone. Tell the aunt how much you appreciate the invitation, but you simply cannot do it this year. (You also could consider inviting the aunt’s family to your home instead.) Then encourage Mom to get grief counseling. Sometimes these limitations become self-fulfilling prophecies if not addressed, and you should not be held hostage by her refusal to participate in life.