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My husband still calls me ‘Mother’ after our daughter’s death

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a housewife in my 50s. I lost my only daughter to illness eight years ago. She was eight years old at the time. I’d like to consult with you about my husband.

I know that the pain from the loss of my daughter will never fully heal as long as I live. However, I’ve been consciously trying to live my life positively in my own way. For example, I’ve been studying English in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics and making connections with people at a local sports club.

However, the fact that my husband still refers to me as “Mother” causes me pain. Whenever he calls me that, I remember my daughter and the sadness comes flooding back. I tell him that I don’t like it, but no matter what he won’t stop.

He doesn’t call me Mother all the time. It happens about 10 times per month. I often simply endure the pain without telling him how much it hurts.

Several years ago, my emotions reached the boiling point and I said on the verge of tears, “I’m begging you, please stop.” But things didn’t improve. My husband seems to feel sorry for his behavior, but because he hasn’t changed for so long I’ve begun to think he’s doing it just to torment me.

What can I do to make my husband understand the depth of the pain that I’m feeling?

K, Tokyo

Dear Ms. K:

Losing your daughter must have caused you an immense amount of pain. Eight years have passed and you are now trying to stay focused on the future, but every time your husband calls you “Mother,” the pain comes rushing back.

I’m sure that, just like you, your husband carries inside him a pain that never heals over the loss of his daughter.

Strategies for overcoming that pain vary from person to person, so he likely has his own reasons for not changing despite your entreaties.

Perhaps he can’t bring himself to let go of the days when his daughter was still alive and he used to call you Mother, so he uses the name as a kind of support for living in the present. He probably feels a powerful need to always keep his daughter’s memory alive.

Just once, I would like to recommend that you end your taboo, take the lid off of your emotions and have a good, thorough talk with your husband about both the pleasure and pain that your daughter brought to you.

I think it’s important to try to have a conversation about the heart of the issue, revealing your inner feelings together and discussing how to support each other as a married couple who has lost their child.

I pray that you will find the courage to restore your relationship as husband and wife and begin to look to the future together.

Megumi Hisada, writer

(from June 30, 2019, issue)Speech

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