Sunday, March 6, 2011

When tragedy hits my ex's family: What's my place?

It started with a Facebook status.

Not mine, but a family member’s.

Well, not my family, but my ex’s family. They used to be my family.

Well, technically, they’re still my family (divorce in progress).

But I hadn’t received the phone call. I wasn’t in the loop. And it hurt.  


I was in a movie theater with the lil one and her psychic friend (that’s another blog for another time) when I started to doze off. So I decided to quickly check Facebook from my Blackberry.

The Facebook status said my father-in-law had suffered a stroke and they were asking for prayers.

I feared the worst.

I made my way from the middle of our row, stepped on a few feet and banged a few folks with my big purse (they were pissed!).

Finally outside the theater doors, I started dialing. No one answered. Panic started to set in.

Why wasn’t anyone answering?

Was he in critical condition?

Should I pull the lil one and the psychic child out of the theater and head for the hospital?

Which hospital?

I finally reached my mother-in-law.

“He’s OK,” she assured me. “They’re keeping him overnight and running tests, but he’s OK. I’ll keep you posted.”

And she did.

Two hours later she updated me via text.

Still feels a little numbness… Neurologist is coming… MRI is next.

She ended her text with this: We luv u and the girls so much.


I’ve known my father-in-law since I was 15. That’s when I met my ex. High school sweethearts.

My father-in-law is not a perfect man, but I can tell you that he’s been more of a father to me than my real father.

He helped pay for our wedding. He helped us install ceramic tile in our first house. He fixed our car.

OK, he tried to fix our car then we took it a shop.

The point is, this man has been in my life for over 20 years. He’s the only grandfather my girls have ever known.

Reading that Facebook status suddenly made him mortal. And it hurt.

I wanted to rush to the hospital to be by his side and be with the family. But I’m divorcing his son. So where does that leave me? I love him, too.

After talking to my mother-in-law, I paced the lobby and thought, “This is just great, another part of divorce that really sucks. Bonus pain.”

It also left me wondering…

“What is my place now?”

“What should I do?”

“What is the protocol for the soon-to-be-ex-daughter-in-law?”

Hours later, I’m still wondering… and it still hurts.


  1. That's rough. I am so sorry that you've been out of the loop. Divorce is tough and I hope that you'll make it out okay :-)

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  2. Hope your father-in-law is recovering well.

    There is no protocol for a soon-to-be-ex-daughter-in-law and if there was I'd tell you to ignore it. Your in-laws may be looking for guidance from you and you can make it clear that you love them, you value their friendship and still want them to be in your life as well as the lives of your children.

    I know it isn't always as simple as that but hopefully they'll avoid choosing sides.

    I think you went along way in setting the tone for your future relationship by initiating the contact about your FIL and I bet your MIL truly appreciated that.

  3. DP, Mandy - Thank you very much. I took the lil one to see him earlier tonight and went grocery shopping with my mother-in-law. I just let her talk and express herself however, whenever she wanted. It was really nice.

  4. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to divorce and ex-family, though you do need to make sure you respect your ex's wishes here. I know that can be really hard if he wants you to have nothing to do with them and you want to still have a connection. But just like you married into his family, now you are divorcing out.

    Here are a few things to consider:

    1) Do you want your ex to carry on a relationship with your family?
    2) Has your marriage ended on a note where you still get along and so do the remaining family members?
    3) What are your ex's wishes--remember it is his family, not yours, no matter how much you may love and care for them.
    4) This one is for the future--How will your new Husband (assuming there is another one day) feel about your ties to your ex and your past?

    It's hard moving forward but in divorce all things get split up--money, homes, belongings, friends and family.

    Good luck to you.


  5. My prayers are with your father-in-law, and with you and the girls as you await news of his recovery. Though life has thrown this new curve your way, I'm confident you will handle it with your usual grace, dignity and determination to do the right thing. Sending healing thoughts your way.

  6. Thank you, Carrie. All good things to consider. In regards to #2, I was and still am very close to his family especially my sister-in-laws, and nieces and nephews. This made the decision to leave him even harder. I'll be honest, it delayed my decision.

  7. Thank you, Kathy. You've been an amazing friend and I love you dearly.

  8. Personally, I'd say that's between you and (in this case) his dad. You had a relationship with his father independent of you marrying his son. It's natural for you to be concerned about his health and well-being in this case. Had you not really had much of a relationship or had a strained relationship with his parents, then your role would be limited to "cooperative co-parent". I don't think anyone should be allowed to give you crap for being concerned and for caring about someone even if a relationship that bonded you to that person failed. Your ties were more than your ex.

  9. Things only change if you want and allow them to change. You will always be family because you share a common bond and always will, your girls. Just because you couldn't live with their son doesn't mean you care about them any less and it is ok to tell them so.

  10. MOSD: No strained relationships (so far), in fact, they've been very supportive and understanding. Thanks for your feedback!

    Kelly: You're absolutely right. They'll change if you allow them to change. Thanks, chica. :)