How Can I Help My Mother Get Past Her Issues with My Late Paternal Grandmother?

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female company employee in my 30s, and I need advice regarding my mother, who’s in her early 60s.

I’m currently on maternity leave and live near my parents’ house.

My mother is a kind, sensitive and loving person. However, when my parents were younger and were living with my paternal grandmother, she apparently was not very kind to my mother.

She was a good grandmother to me, but she was very blunt and evidently defended my father when he was having an affair.

My mother is the one who looked after my grandmother the most in her final years, and it seems like my grandmother apologized for her actions. But my mother can’t seem to forget the pain she felt at the time.

Recently, at every opportunity, she brings up a comment my grandmother made in the past. As she is so sensitive, I think she felt incredibly hurt, so I just say, “That’s awful.” I find it difficult to hear my mom say such things about my grandmother.

Is there anything I can do to help my mother get past her issues with my grandmother and give her some peace?

Q, Nara Prefecture

Dear Ms. Q:

You have already been helpful to your mother and played a key role in bringing her and your grandmother together.

Your mother might be a good mother to you, but her and your grandmother did not have a good relationship, which was not helped by your father’s affair.

Your grandmother has already passed away, but your mother, who is alive and well, talks to you about her younger days and how she still resents her mother-in-law.

You, who have seen your mother’s struggles, are at a loss on how to reply. It’s also frustrating to see your mother resent your grandmother for years.

To put it simply, feelings about the same person can differ, even in a happy family. To your mother, your grandmother was a woman she deeply resented. However, that same woman loved you with everything she had.

If it were me, I would probably tell her, half-jokingly, “That’s tough. I love grandma, but I love you even more. We’re a happy family because you were able to endure the pain. I love you the most!”

I know it’s embarrassing, but you should let her know. It’s difficult to say what needs to be said the closer you are.

So, gather your courage and tell your mother something that she will remember forever. You don’t have to repeat the line to her over and over again.

Keiko Higuchi, critic