Dear Kathy: We’re All Dealing with Fears
Every time I talk to my MIL on the phone all she talks about is war news and how worried she is for her son. I’m tired of being her shoulder to cry on—I have my own anxiety to deal with. How can I tell her I want to talk to her, but I don’t always want her fears rubbing off on me?”
This is a tough question, but a great topic to discuss because it is so relevant to relationships other than the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. It could just as easily be a friend, a sibling, or another military spouse that is looking for a shoulder to cry on, a safe place to share their anxieties with someone whom they assume will understand.
I’m sure your initial reaction is to tune her out or to be blunt and say to her, “I don’t want to talk about it,” both of which could cause more relationship problems. The one needing the comfort may then feel like you don’t care about her feelings or understand their fears when in reality you understand her fears all to well and that’s exactly why you don’t want to talk about them.
Having walked in your mother-in-law’s shoes, I can tell you it is extremely difficult emotionally to send a child to war. Not being able to protect or care for a child, regardless of their age, truly is like having a part of her heart cut out. For that reason, I encourage you to really pray diligently for godly wisdom and the correct words prior to talking with her so as not to break her spirit and bring about a spirit of hopelessness and discouragement
Obviously, the best solution is to be honest about your feelings on the topic to her, but not in the heat of the moment. If the relationship is one that you are comfortable sharing your heart with her, be willing to do so. I would suggest letting her know you want to talk with her about something then meet for coffee or a walk and be as open with her as you possibly can. Acknowledge that you understand she is worried, but then convey your fears to her explaining that you’re trying to focus on other things in order not to be consumed by them.
Then suggest other topics of conversation such as what to send in care packages, funny memories of your husband or topics of interests that are totally unrelated to the deployment in order to keep both your minds in a less anxious state. If she is a Christian let her know you will be praying for her and tell her areas in which she could pray for you.
If you are unable to get together then you could initiate a phone call where you immediately let her know you called for a specific reason and then tell her what it is. The last option, if you aren’t comfortable talking directly to her is to write a personal letter telling her what you would’ve expressed in person if you could. This note would be more heartfelt and carry more of an impact if it was sent via regular mail with a special card instead of by email.
Once you have lovingly shared your feelings with her, she may still bring up her concerns and that is when you need to gently remind her that it’s just something you don’t want to talk or hear about. Depending on her mindset and the relationship she may respect your honesty and accept your desires or she may get upset. At this point your responsibility is to pray for her, encourage her in anyway you can such as to find a support group for blue star moms, and not to feel guilty for being honest about your needs in the situation.
An emotional topic like this is hard to approach, but if done prayerfully, gently and lovingly, it can bring about a stronger relationship rather than hard feelings.