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Background:

My mom died about 1.5 years ago of cancer. I'm 31 and have always been a Mama's boy, I'm proud of it, I'm an extremely good cook, I can darn my socks and so on.

Since my mom died tho, I have been really lacking in some areas, mostly social and tending to my garden. I'm starting back up now and people are going like "your mom would be proud" or "your mom would love to see that" or stuff like that.

While I do think my mom is still watching me, anyone except my dad (her husband) assuming stuff about my mom is extremely hurtful to me.

I do understand that I've been hard to talk to and those people try to support me, but they're actually hurting me by assuming about my mom. I would be extremely grateful for their praise if they left my mom out of it.

How can I gently tell them to leave my mom out of their praise?

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    Have you tried saying anything to people about how uncomfortable it makes you feel? – DaveG Mar 8 at 13:39
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    Perhaps it's a question a bit difficult to answer but why would people assuming that hurt you ? – Arthur Havlicek Mar 8 at 14:48
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    @ArthurHavlicek This felt like mansplaining when this happened to me. When people heard my mother had died and they saw me continue about my life, people I knew that never met my mother, never interacted with her in any way, told me that she would be proud to see me coping as well as I was. I'd stopped being a Mama's boy something like 30 years prior, but this bothered me. If I'd been as close to her as the OP was to his mother, I doubt I'd have been able to come up with words to describe how I was feeling, apart from possibly 'violated'. – Ed Grimm Mar 11 at 4:29
  • Can you explain to us why this is hurtful to you? If you can, maybe you could explain it to those who do this. BTW my parents sometimes tell me my granddad would be proud of me, and this never bothered me, so I need that explanation as well. – Nyos Mar 11 at 20:02
  • @EdGrimm thank you for explaining in absolutely perfect words what i wasn't able to explain when i made this post. – beginner Apr 26 at 13:56
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People can't read thoughts and can't really know what are things that could comfort you through grief. Usually people either copy what is the social norm where you live by in expressing condolences, or they try to say things they would imagine be supportive in your situation.

If this is in your location a common way to express support and condolence, you will have a tough time in spreading the news that you don't want it to be expressed that way. Moreover correcting people is going to be a bit confrontational as it is ending in a request for them to stop something, and can be seen a bit like a demand in the NVC sense.

It is possible to request that though. Since you want to be gentle (I understand, avoid conflict), I believe NVC is a fine tool, and it would advise there to express your request positively (request to do something instead of stopping something). This is an example using a bit of deception, but firm enough to hint someone a praise wording isn't appropriate:

This is a difficult/painful subject and I would prefer we speak about something else.

You could be also more precise according to how much you are comfortable with that:

I don't like one assumes my mom's intention. Could you praise me directly next time ?

I would expect most people to understand and respect your request even if it could be that some people don't understand why expression of their good feelings got rejected. Since I'm not sure explaining your reasons would help very much, you could instead close the subject with a reassuring statement that you appreciate the intention to support you they had.

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  • Hi there, I know it's been a long time since my question and your answer, I hope you don't mind me answering late. I have been working on this issue both on my own and with my therapist and have been using your advice a lot with the addition of thanking them for their praise to make sure they don't think i don't care. I am still confronted with many people who get offended asking why i would complain about them praising me. Do you have any advice on how to (re)act upon that? @EdGrimm in the comments of the original post explained the reasons for my troubles perfectly – beginner Apr 26 at 13:56
  • @beginner The wording I proposed are made so it doesn't look like you are complaining, but rather making accessible requests. If it still looks like complaining to someone (could be because they picked up signs of annoyance) you could try to deny that "I didn't mean to complain, I know you had a good intention", and try to re-iterate the request in some shape or form until you get a yes (or a no). You could add "I know this is an odd request, I don't ask you to understand". – Arthur Havlicek Apr 26 at 21:16
  • @beginner Note that I answered your original question but what I believe is problematic there is that you understand someone's intention as good yet you ask them to improve something. Words are only meant to be a vehicle to intention, so nitpicking on wording can't sound very friendly. It's like for example where you understanding someone's sentence, but correct that person pronunciation or find a better synonym for a word. It would be ideal that you would not be affected by someone's clumsiness as long as you understand that person is of good will. – Arthur Havlicek Apr 26 at 21:32
  • i'm sorry i will not stand for people hurting me – beginner Apr 27 at 1:46

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