How can I best support my in-laws given very different communication styles?
March 3, 2012 7:53 AM Subscribe
Looking for some advice as to how to handle an impending death in the family I married into and with whom I am very close. While I come from a family that talks about everything
, my husband comes from a family that talks about most things, but not at all about health issues and death. I would like to be able to support them in the days and weeks ahead but I have no idea how to navigate within their framework.
posted by mireille to Human Relations (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My husband's grandfather (the patriarch of a family that owned businesses and worked and lived together in very close and unique quarters) is in the ICU and very likely will not go home. My husband is with him right now, and our communication is very open and honest in all things, but at the moment he's the only source of actual information about what is happening. This is unusual within his family-- his is the type where someone will get sick (cancer, for example) and not tell anyone until the treatments are finished-- and even then it's alarmingly casual, in passing. If they are discussed at all, health matters are always played down and often the subject is changed. I come from the polar opposite sort of family, communication-wise, and so this is all rather foreign to me. I don't believe there is a right or wrong way to handle things, I'm just not used to this way. My husband finds his family's communication style quite frustrating; our conversations about feelings are completely open, so I feel comfortable in being able to support him, but my in-laws do things so differently that I'm not sure what's comforting and what is overstepping boundaries.
Looking for thoughts and advice from people who either come from a family that handles health and death in the same way as my in-laws, or people who have married into or otherwise become close with anyone who handles such matters in the "don't talk about it" manner. I would like to be able to support them but I'm not sure how, exactly-- should I follow their lead in all conversations and not bring anything up unless they do, or should I be open and ask questions about their feelings in an effort to support them? Perhaps I'm overthinking this but I don't want to make things harder or cause additional pain. I would like to be there for them, though, and I'm not sure if that means that I need to approach things in a manner very different from my own.