Dear Bel

I’m 72 with three adult children. David was the first child of a severe disabled couple. My job was overthrown to care for my son until he turned 15. I had my supportive and loving husband by my side.

My husband and I suffered heart attacks from stress and grief after our son was placed in special care 15 years ago. Tragically, my husband didn’t survive.

My eldest son Sam met a girl in a different region of England two years later. We were glad to have him in our loft. They stayed there for four years without any rent.

I welcomed their decision to marry, but wanted his brother there; he, however, went along with his fiancee Gemma’s decision not to invite David.

It took me three months to make a plea. David could only attend after I threatened to leave. He was fine with the help of his carers.

Gemma’s decision to not follow our sacred family values marked an important turning point in my family’s family history. My daughter, Sally, and I felt marginalised and Sam’s contact with poor David was severed.

Progressively, Gemma alienated Sam’s friends, too. Then she didn’t like London despite having a good job — and started talking about a move back to her home town.

My lung cancer diagnosis was last year. I had to endure grueling treatment. The loneliness was made worse by the Covid isolation. My son didn’t exert himself to help and his wife didn’t ring me once.

Although my daughter lives with me and tries to help, clinical depression doesn’t allow her to function well. After much struggle, my son decided that he and his wife would return to their old home. The couple has no children but would like a bigger home than the one they bought with three bedrooms.

I feel very hurt, despite my son’s reassurances he’ll make a three-hour journey in an emergency. Why can’t their decision be postponed to when I am better and not suffering from side-effects of cancer treatment?

Once upon a time, I was a strong individual. But not anymore. Polish by birth, although I’ve lived here for over 40 years, I’m still attached to the culture where looking after the elderly is natural. My son calls me an emotional freak who hasn’t adjusted to modernity where children lead independent lives away from elderly/sick parents.

I have financial independence and can buy any services that are helpful to me. What hurts most is the lack of respect and affection from a son who’s totally given in to his wife’s plans. We had some counselling but it didn’t help much.

Sam blocked Sally (and me) on social media recently after a row. Are you a selfish, old lady?


This week Bel answers a question from a woman who questions why her son always takes his wife's side

Bel addresses a woman’s question on why her husband always stays by his wife’s side this week.

The unhappy letter you received raises an issue that will affect millions more families. It is likely to get worse as we age and young people become more comfortable moving about with greater ease.

Your Polish heritage is mentioned. These are the family values that I have been a part of Eastern Europe since childhood. But, who knows? Your life could also be on the verge of changing.

Thinking of the Day 

All things are temporary / A sunrise that lasts all morning is not a sunrise that lasts all day. / All matters pass / No sunset lasts all night. / All of these things will pass. / But what always changes? Earth. . . sky . . . thunder . . mountain . . Wasser. . . wind . . fire . . . lake / These change/ And if these do not last / Do man’s visions last?

Lao-Tzu, a sixth-century BC Chinese poet and philosopher 

The world whirls onwards and it’s easy for us to feel left behind. Love for the ‘sacred’ is not always shared.

I feel immense sympathy for this predicament, as well as for the sadness of your life: caring for David all those years, losing your husband, then witnessing your daughter’s ongoing depression.

Like you, I would have been upset if my daughter-in-law-to-be had shown so little empathy towards my severely disabled son.

We might be able to see that many are afraid of severe disability. Still, my heart understands why you were desperate to have him present at your eldest son’s wedding.

On the other hand, your three-month battle over the issue ending up in a form of emotional blackmail (let’s be honest) ensured your relationship with Gemma would never be good.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for mothers to fight with their daughters-in law. Family counselling can help — or not, as you have found.

But the scenario you describe — where the wife’s goal seems to be to corral her husband for herself and herself alone is all too common. It is this mutual resentment which seems to end all hopes of reconciliation, or even balance.

At the end of your unedited email you ask me to ‘retain all the original names given in my letter’. This request is so unusual it raises an uncomfortable question about the depth of your anger with the couple and whether you want things to be better — or to burn all bridges by naming and shaming.

Because I truly want you to be saved, I’ve chosen to change your names.

It’s hard to know what you can do now to mend this sad situation, since harsh words have led to your son distancing himself on social media. Try not to make the situation worse. You must still be able to reach you via email or telephone.

Some fortitude is required to get your relationship back on any sort of track — so please don’t collude in writing Sam out of your life.

I understand why you can’t accept his attitude, but most sons will ultimately side with their wives — and there’s little to be done about it.

Vulnerable, confused and frightened as you are, you need to lean on others, as you’ve started to do with a network of paid help. Friends? I trust you’ve done everything to seek treatment for your daughter and perhaps it would distract you from Sam and Gemma if you were to make that a priority now. Ask your doctor for details about the availability of mental health services near you. Also, visit

I am sorry equally for your bewildered hurt and your anger, but I beg you not to make it worse by continuing to express feelings which will only shore up the couple’s decision to leave.

Can I be truthful about an old flame?

Dear Bel

Having welcomed our first grandchild, celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary and my 60th birthday, 2021 has been a pretty good year for me — well, until now.

A few weeks back, I had a message from a very old boyfriend who’d found me on Facebook.

I’m ashamed to say that when I was younger I had many on-off relationships and one-night stands, but when I met my husband-to-be something clicked — wow, this was different.

After we had met for the first time, he left on a business trip just a couple of weeks later. After yet another phone call from my on-off boyfriend I decided to meet him and finish it for good, telling him I’d met someone else.

But I didn’t do it before having one more sex session with my husband. When my now husband got back from his trip, I realised just how much I had fallen for him — and so (fearing he would dump me) did not tell him about my mistake. And never did.

My ex-boyfriend popped up on Facebook over a decade later and suggested that we meet. I have no idea how he found me, as he would not have known my married name — and I haven’t blocked him, as it might prompt him to try to find my husband.

He’s already made comments like: ‘Did you ever tell your husband what happened? Hope he doesn’t find out, ha ha.’

I’m terrified he might try to message my husband. My best friend would be shocked if I shared this with her.

After all this time, should I still tell my husband? I would really appreciate it if you could give me some advice, as I’m worrying myself to death.


Your story seems pretty harmless and it mystifies me that your ‘best friend would be horrified’ by it — your offence is hardly heinous.

Over 35 years ago, you had farewell sex with a guy you weren’t in love with — and you couldn’t possibly have known you’d end up spending your life with the new man who had the ‘wow’ factor we call love.


Bel Mooney’s Daily Mail Column: More

I’ve always believed in selective honesty and understand why you didn’t confess.

It would have been a good time, however, you were anxious about your marital status and felt ashamed so you kept shtum.

Maybe your intuition told you that the man who loves you would be sexually possessive, angry.

I understand that — and fear that, if it was true, it might be worse now and he will feel betrayed that you kept the secret for so long.

But no wonder you dumped your old boyfriend (OB); you must have known he would always be a horrible person — as demonstrated by his unpleasant messages on Facebook now. There are two ways forward with this problem and I can only tell you what I’d do. Some will disapprove, but I still wouldn’t be honest . . . yet.

My strategy would be to write (pleasantly and calmly) to OB, saying: ‘Gosh . . . This is a very long time. . . wild youth long gone etc . . . and of course I told husband years ago and it’s all water under the bridge . . . and I hope you are thriving and happy, but we can’t possibly meet up because, between ourselves, awful ill health and family issues . . . no details because too sad to disclose . . . goodbye and stay well.’

You might get something similar. If he persists, I’d suggest sadly, but still calmly, that all this is upsetting, so you’d better block each other.

If he happens to message your husband (unlikely, I reckon), I would then casually dismiss OB as a crank you once knew who carried a torch and didn’t like being cold-shouldered. You never mentioned him because he didn’t matter then — and still doesn’t.

The final step is to deal with the anguish of suicide.

Last week’s letter from ‘Lynne’ about the terrible grief of her family after her nephew’s suicide prompted understandable sympathy from readers.

Samaritans records that the English male suicide rate for 2020 was 15.3 percent (compared to 4.9 percent in the UK). Men between 45 and 49 continue to experience the highest suicide rate at 23.8 percent per 100,000. What is it that makes men so dangerous?

According to my instinct, women tend to be more open-minded and trust each other. Visit to learn more.

I can also recommend the late Lewis Wolpert’s book Malignant Sadness for valuable insights.

A few readers requested more information. Survivors of Suicide: The UKSOBS (Survivors of Death by Suicide) offers a national helpline at (0300 111 5065), and supports groups.

Get in touch with Bel 

Every week, Bel answers questions from readers about relationship and emotional problems.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email

Protecting identities, names can be changed.

Bel enjoys reading letters, although she is disappointed that personal correspondence cannot be entered into.

Papyrus ( is a charity dedicated to the prevention of young (under 35) suicides, and their ‘hopeline’ is 0800 068 4141.

Patricia Thomas MBE told me about a new organisation she helped launch this year, Suicide Bereaved Community (

She wrote: ‘Our intention is to offer an additional dimension of support for those who are longer-term bereaved and do not need the level of provision of the early months/years — regular counselling/group meetings — but still want a way to “touch base” with others who understand, as need arises.

‘After a suicide bereavement you move along “with” rather than “from” — it recedes but never goes away — and carry a measure of vulnerability.’

Fiona wrote movingly, telling me her feelings on the ninth anniversary of her son’s suicide. ‘What has helped me most is learning to focus, not on his tragic death, but on the wonderful 28 years when this gorgeous, funny, impulsive and big-hearted man was in my life.

‘Nothing can ever take that treasure from me. I feel I have “moved on” and taken him with me, because I could not have done so without him.’