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If your H is fine 'going along', then he can buy the gifts.

Dear Prudence,

Our nephew Josh died suddenly almost a decade ago when he was a teenager. It was a nightmarish time for everyone in the family, but we rallied around his parents (my husband’s sister Anna and her husband Andrew). The first Christmas after his passing, my husband’s other sister Sandy had the idea to give “Josh” a present, a book that had recently come out on a subject he’d been passionate about. Anna and Andrew accepted the gift graciously and I assumed it would be a one-time thing, or we would pivot to making a charitable donation in his name around the holidays or something to that effect. However, in subsequent years the expectation for Josh’s gifts have only gotten more demanding—Sandy told us that we should ALL be getting him something for Christmas, and when I offered that perhaps my family would make a donation to a cause he supported, I was told this was not good enough and that we were all expected to give physical gifts. Honestly, I was even OK with that, thinking we could give Anna and Andrew items that commemorated Josh’s life, like a locket with his photo inside, but was told that these gifts had to be items “for” Josh, as if he were still with us.

I wouldn’t even care if we “gave Josh” a speaker that his parents used or whatever, but these items go into his bedroom and are never touched or used. One year we were given a custom hockey jersey with his name on it and Andrew mused that maybe they’d frame it, but I was at their house a year or two later and saw it thrown among the mountain of stuff they keep in his room. It’s not just Sandy’s idea to do this either; Anna and Andrew are pretty adamant that this gift-giving needs to be part of the holidays specifically as if Josh were still with us. Last year, my 9-year-old daughter gave everyone (two sets of aunts and uncles, one set of grandparents, as well as her brother and us) hand-painted ceramic figures she made in art class. She worked hard on these pieces and thoughtfully chose items that each relative would like. Anna asked her where Josh’s was, and when my daughter pointed out that she’d painted a symbol on Anna’s butterfly figurine that represented Josh, Anna rolled her eyes and said it wasn’t the same. I was exceedingly proud of my daughter for how much work and consideration she’d put into these gifts, and she was left feeling that her efforts weren’t enough.

I sympathize with Anna and Andrew, as the idea of losing a child is literally what keeps me up on my worst nights. I cannot imagine their grief and I understand that healing is not linear and that often unconventional rituals can bring some level of peace even if it doesn’t make sense to outsiders. But I am really starting to hit my limit with being told I have to get a gift for my deceased nephew every year, gifts that just sit in his room and do not honor his memory or help anyone in a tangible way. I want to figure out a better way to handle this well ahead of the holiday season this year. Any ideas? How unreasonable am I being? My husband also thinks it’s not a great use of money but is pretty content to just do as he’s told.

—Grief-Filled Gifts

Re: If your H is fine 'going along', then he can buy the gifts.

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    Yup.  I'd put this on the H.

    Also, I think that's a sign of major therapy needs because that's not normal and an unacceptable way to treat your loved ones in your grief. 
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    banana468 said:
    Yup.  I'd put this on the H.

    Also, I think that's a sign of major therapy needs because that's not normal and an unacceptable way to treat your loved ones in your grief. 
    YUP!  I mean, I will drive out of my way to go get something that is strawberry related and I've had close friends/family give me strawberry stuff because they were mom's 'thing', but this is another level.   Weaponizing grief to the point you are a dick to a child who never met their dead cousin over the fact that she 'forgot' to make him a handmade gift is an utter crock.  If I were LW, I would put my foot down to my H on participating in this dog and pony show.  Stop going to Christmas with them.  
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    mrsconn23 said:
    banana468 said:
    Yup.  I'd put this on the H.

    Also, I think that's a sign of major therapy needs because that's not normal and an unacceptable way to treat your loved ones in your grief. 
    YUP!  I mean, I will drive out of my way to go get something that is strawberry related and I've had close friends/family give me strawberry stuff because they were mom's 'thing', but this is another level.   Weaponizing grief to the point you are a dick to a child who never met their dead cousin over the fact that she 'forgot' to make him a handmade gift is an utter crock.  If I were LW, I would put my foot down to my H on participating in this dog and pony show.  Stop going to Christmas with them.  
    Yup.  We've given $ to the hospital where our two nieces were born.  They weren't with us long but there isn't pressure to give presents to them! 
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    I don't want to sound flippant about the parent's grief.  But does the LW and her H still give gifts to their nieces and nephews who are almost 30?  If not, Josh wouldn't be getting gifts by now anyway if he was still alive.

    But I guess that's trying to assign logic to something that is totally illogical anyway.

    However, the LW needs to follow her H's lead on this because it's his family.  Though she should put a limit on how much they are spending on these gifts that no one will use.
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    I would be tempted to gift Josh some books on navigating grief or a referral to a therapist this year. 

    But yeah, this is weaponizing grief and using it against a child. This is not acceptable and I would not have any part of it going forward. 
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    levioosalevioosa member
    First Anniversary First Comment First Answer 5 Love Its
    Yeah, this needs therapy. Kind of reminds me of the couple who used to come into the restaurant where I used to work with a giant Sesame Street style puppet that represented their deceased child (deceased almost 15 years). They would have “family dinner” which okay, I guess, but they would expect you to address the puppet and ask it what it wanted to order too. Every time they came in we were like nooo it’s the couple with the doll who need therapy. 


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    levioosa said:
    Yeah, this needs therapy. Kind of reminds me of the couple who used to come into the restaurant where I used to work with a giant Sesame Street style puppet that represented their deceased child (deceased almost 15 years). They would have “family dinner” which okay, I guess, but they would expect you to address the puppet and ask it what it wanted to order too. Every time they came in we were like nooo it’s the couple with the doll who need therapy. 
    Yikes!  That's even worse than the LW's ILs.

    It's rude to expect strangers to play pretend and speak to a deceased child, via a puppet.
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