Our daughter passed away at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. She had recently gone through a divorce and as her marriage was falling apart, she developed a serious drinking problem. She was smart and beautiful, had a brilliant career as an engineer and was highly respected by her peers.
After her divorce was finalized, things took a turn for the worse. He got two DUIs in less than three months. She eventually went to rehab, and it looks like she’s getting her life back on track. She went back to work in March 2020, but then the coronavirus hit, and she was instructed to work from home as businesses closed across the country.
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At the same time, she was on house arrest for a week due to DUI, and I think the isolation was too much for her and she returned again. Long story short: She got sick, and by the time she got to the hospital, she was seriously ill. She lived for another week but went into multisystem organ failure. We withdrew care because there was already extensive brain damage.
Our daughter got good benefits because she worked for the city government. Unfortunately, she hadn’t changed the beneficiary on her accounts: They still listed her ex-husband. Their divorce was very contentious and I know she was heartbroken. He felt as if he had abandoned her.
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We informed him when she was in the hospital and he was extremely upset.
,‘I know he didn’t need to give us that, but there’s still a part of me that’s angry knowing how much pain he’s caused our daughter.’,
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We couldn’t hold the funeral until several months later, and then only 25 people could attend. We attended services and even gave him the dog they got when they were together, which our daughter took care of. They did not have any child. Our daughter had a life-insurance policy, and her ex-boyfriend gave us the proceeds from it.
I know he felt tremendous guilt after she died. Our daughter also received a death benefit which would provide a monthly amount to her ex-husband till his death. Her ex tried to transfer it to us, and even hired a lawyer to see what could be done, but it had to go to the listed beneficiary. He said that he would put that money in a separate account to give it to us later.
We have kept in touch, attended his birthdays together and occasionally go out for dinner. He started dating again, met a woman, and eventually moved to another city. He said he moved partly because the memories of where we lived were too painful. He hasn’t given us any more money, and I’m unsure whether to ask him for it or not.
I know he didn’t need to give it to us, but there is still a part of me that is angry knowing how much pain he caused our daughter. It’s not a huge monthly payment, but over time, it will add up to a sizeable amount, and my husband and I can put it toward our retirement. It has been almost three years since he passed away.
What are your thoughts on this?
a broken mother
Dear Broken Hearted,
You have been through a terrible time. I am sorry that your daughter has not achieved continued continence despite having fought so hard for it. Those early days of the pandemic were a difficult time for millions, but especially for those struggling with loneliness, substance abuse, mental-health issues and domestic abuse.
I understand that you are angry with your ex-son-in-law because you know how much your daughter was hurt, and because she didn’t get the kind of support she needed. But I caution you not to reduce your feelings about him, and your view of their relationship, simply to his lack of support. Rarely do substance-abuse issues develop overnight. Rather, they wear out over time.
No one can know what was going on in the relationship or which parties are to blame for the breakup. I’m suspicious of anyone who comes out of a marriage or relationship and says everything was the other person’s fault – except in situations where one party was the victim of domestic abuse. Most of the time, it’s better to look at things as 50/50.
Your daughter’s ex-husband, as you correctly pointed out, is legally and morally entitled to the residual income from her life-insurance policy and any other accounts where he is listed as a beneficiary. It seems like he has moved on in his life and wants to start afresh. He told you that he will deliver that money to you on time. He may or may not fulfill that promise.
,I do not believe that the promises made in the weeks or months following your daughter’s death have to make her happy or healthy. Emotions were running high. He was grieving, as were you.,
He was married to your daughter, and he may feel that the money is his entitlement. It could be that he needed the money or saw how it could help him rebuild his life and start afresh. I do not believe that the promises made in the weeks or months following your daughter’s death have to make her happy or healthy. Emotions were running high. He was grieving, as were you.
This money represents your daughter at her best – working hard and expressing her talents as an engineer – and it reflects the high esteem in which she was held. you should hold her. If you followed up, he might relent and set up an automatic payment – or he might believe that you weren’t interested in continuing a relationship with him for some reason other than financial.
But the money belongs to your ex-son-in-law, so I gently suggest that you accept it and let it go. If he sends you money, thank him for that, but view it as a gift, not an obligation that must continue for years to come. It’s an awkward and frustrating situation, but it won’t help you process the loss of your daughter. Hanging on to it can backfire and set you back.
I understand that this money will help you in your retirement, but I’m also sure that your daughter would like you to look to the future without rancor. Thank God you had it as long as you did. She was smart and talented and beautiful, and the world experienced those gifts. Release yourself from any anger that may have resulted from her relationship with her ex-husband.
Then let him go, and wish him well.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services, aims to help families dealing with addiction issues. It gives advice on how to start a conversation with a loved one: “1. Identify an appropriate time and place. 2. Express concerns, and be direct. 3. Acknowledge and listen to their feelings. 4. Offer to help. 5. Be patient.
If you or a family member needs help with a mental-health or substance-use disorder, call SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889. You can also text your zip code to 435748 (HELP4U) or use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to get help. Get more resources and advice for families from SAMHSA Here,
Other resources for people with family members with addiction problems include “Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Changea book from Inspiration and Change Center, And this craft approach, a way to encourage a family member to be involved in treatment developed by Dr. Robert Meyers, who has been working in the field of addiction for four decades,
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