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 this summer and our small family held a simple, private funeral for him. My fiance, Shelley, attended with me and all was well. Recently, my father’s brother (who lives out of state) has decided to stage an extensive memorial service for my father in January. My uncle is a very conservative person and Mom has asked that Shelley not attend; she’s concerned about flak from his family. Apparently, my parents never mentioned to Dad’s family that I’m gay. How should I handle this? Shelley says she understands and is willing to skip the ceremony for family harmony, but it just isn’t fair. How can I convince my mother that Shelley should be allowed to attend? I’m really angry that Shelley is being snubbed! Signed: Angry Daughter
Dear Angry Daughter: First, I offer my condolences on the loss of your father. Losing a parent is always difficult. And losing a spouse can be just as difficult, sometimes more so, which means that your mother is probably in a pretty stressed place these days. She may still be reeling from all that needs to be managed when someone passes, so let’s figure out your elemental personalities and see if we can find a way to help you and your family with this issue.
Because you are angry and upset at the unfairness of Shelley not attending the service, I suspect you are a primary Wood personality. Fairness is key to Wood people and anger is where they go when things seem unfair. Shelley’s willingness to skip the service to keep the peace suggests she’s a primary Earth personality. Family harmony is very important to Earth people. Finally, your mother’s insistence on Shelley not attending because of appearances suggest she is probably a primary Metal personality. Appearances matter to them. And even if your mother isn’t normally a primary Metal, with the recent death of her husband she is probably in a Metal place these days. Grief, loss, and letting go all sit in the Metal element of the Five Elements model.
The main elemental dynamic at play here is that you and your mother (as she is now) relate on the Controlling Cycle of the Five Elements model, with her Metal energy controlling your Wood energy. Wood people do not like to be controlled, so it’s understandable that you are having serious trouble with your mother’s request. Something else Wood people hate is when things seem out of control, which touches on another dynamic involved in your situation that is probably bothering you, as well.
In January, you are going to be at a memorial service for your father with family who clearly don’t know you very well. No matter how upbeat they try to be, memorial services remind us that someone important is permanently gone from our life, an aspect that often makes people cry. While fine for some, crying in public usually makes Wood people feel really out of control, which of course, they hate. It can also make them feel alone. The support Shelley’s presence would bring you during the service will be missing if she doesn’t attend, which in addition to the snub issue, is probably another reason you are quite upset she might not be there.
The perfect solution here would be for your mother to understand that your needs as her daughter should matter more than what her in-laws think. But that’s a hard one for the Metal personality. Protocols, appearances, and what is “right” and “wrong” matter a great deal. Some Metal people build their entire world around them. These factors, combined with the grief of losing a lifetime mate, might make it quite difficult to convince your mother to change her mind. You could try appealing to her mother’s heart (an Earth aspect all mothers have) which should make your feelings a priority. But because Earth feeds Metal via the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model, any Earth energy she has is likely being sucked into her Metal personality making it even more entrenched than normal.
To address this, we can once again turn to the wisdom in the Five Elements model. Fire is the element that helps when there is a buildup of Metal energy, and it’s very likely that your mother’s Fire energy is depleted. The characteristic traits of the Fire personality are being outgoing, happiness, joy, laughter, and fun. It’s a safe bet that after losing her husband, your mother is not in this kind of space. To help build her Fire, you can surround her with the color red by wearing red around her and encourage her to wear red, herself. Buy her red carnations. Gift her with a garnet or ruby pendant (or ring) and encourage her to wear it 24/7 since these stones build Fire energy. Finally, if she enjoys spicy food, take her out to enjoy it often.
A ray of hope for you around this issue is that the primary Metal personality is nothing if not reasonable. A frank and unemotional (no Wood anger or rage) discussion with your mother might convince her to change her mind and include Shelley at the service in January. Simply announcing to her brother-in-law that your fiancé will also be attending because she is an important part of the family is all that need be said. That makes the issue his to deal with, not yours.
Finally, while these are all possibilities and I sincerely hope your mother does acquiesce on her refusal to include Shelley, you might consider embracing an aspect of the Metal personality yourself right now and let go of your insistence that Shelley attend the memorial. Your mother is processing the death of her husband and you are processing the death of your father. The most important aspect of the memorial will be for you and your mother to come together in love and support for each other at what is sure to be a very difficult occasion.
Whatever you choose to do, again, I am so sorry for your family’s loss.