Dear Five Faces: My mother recently made an extremely unreasonable request and I am writing for help on how best to deal with it. After a long illness, my father passed away in July and our small family held a simple, private funeral for him. My partner of several years, Shelley, attended with me, and all was well. Recently, my father’s brother (who lives out of state) has decided to stage an extended family memorial service for my father in October. He is a very conservative person and my mother has asked that Shelley not attend this ceremony because she’s concerned about appearances and flack from the family. Apparently my parents have never mentioned to Dad’s family that I am gay. How should I handle this? I’m really angry that Shelley is being snubbed. She says she understands and is willing to skip the ceremony for family harmony, but it isn’t fair. How can I convince my mother that Shelley should be allowed to attend? This is really bothering me! Signed: Angry Daughter
Dear Angry Daughter: First, I am sorry for the loss of your father. Losing a parent is always difficult. Second, losing a spouse can be even more difficult, so your mother is probably in a pretty stressed place right now. Third, you don’t include your elemental types, but I think we can pretty much guess at those. Let’s try, okay?
Because you are angry and upset at the unfairness of Shelley not attending the service, I suspect you are a Wood. Fairness is key to Woods, and anger is where they go when things are unfair. Shelley’s willingness to skip the service to keep the peace suggests she’s an Earth. Family harmony is big for Earths. And your mother’s insistence on Shelley not attending because of appearances and flack suggest she is probably Metal. And even if she isn’t a primary Metal, with the recent death of her husband she is probably in a Metal place.
The main elemental dynamic at play here is the fact that your mother’s Metal (either primary or temporary) is the control for your Wood, and Woods do not like to be controlled. Woods also hate to be out of control, which touches on another dynamic involved in this situation. You are going to be at a memorial service for your father. I don’t know how close you were to him, but services like this can be pretty sad, and Woods don’t like to be out of control (think: crying) at all, especially in public. Shelley’s presence would bring support for you that will be missing if she doesn’t attend.
The perfect solution would be for your mother to understand that your needs as her daughter should trump what in-laws think, but that’s a hard one for Metals. They are very much into protocols, appearances, and what is “right” and “wrong.” These factors, combined with grief (which sits in Metal) at losing her mate, might make it quite difficult to convince your mother to change her mind. It is likely that any Earth she has is being sucked into Metal, too, so she might be lacking in Earth right now, which would have helped her want to make your feelings a top priority. That said, Metals are very reasonable people. A frank and unemotional (no Wood anger or rage) discussion with her might convince her to change her mind.
If that doesn’t work, there are several other approaches you can try. To help your mom step out of the rigidness of Metal, try gently melting it with appropriate Fire. That means being in the moment with her to see her needs, surrounding her with joy in ways that are soothing and uplifting, and even wearing red.
Another way to decrease the power of Metal is to build Water, which will pull at the Metal along the Flow Cycle. Hope and optimism sit in Water, and these are very helpful attributes in the face of loss. Offer them to your mother in ways that are meaningful to her. Water is also about beginnings, and only you know if it is time, or too soon, to speak of this with your mom. Spending time around bodies of water can also help to soften Metal.
These are all possibilities, but you also might consider practicing a little Metal yourself and letting go of this one. Your mother is processing the death of her husband, you are processing the death of your father, and it’s probably more important for the two of you to come together in love and be there for each other at what is sure to be a very difficult occasion. Whatever you choose to do, again, I am sorry for your family’s loss.