Dear Readers: Two tales of family relationships sadly at their worst, with very different perspectives:
My brother passed away three years ago. Since then, my mother, 89, has become so abusive towards me that I require tranquilizers.
She accuses me of abuse towards her: e.g. that I helped my dad cheat on her when I was ten when he’d taught me to lie/cheat. Also, that people tell her that I hated her.
She urges me to wear my brother’s clothes, to go with her everywhere she once went with him, sit where he sat, eat what he ate.
I’d been estranged from my brother and mother due to abuse. His violent death ramped things up.
He called her while he was in a trauma state. Yet, when the call disconnected, she never attempted to call police/fire/ambulance for 15 hours.
Could her behavior be guilt-based?
She’s stated to me, "Why did it have to be him that died?" Also, "I should’ve aborted you.”
She’s in very good health. How do I handle this?
Yes, your guess is likely right on that she feels terrible guilt. Perhaps during this pandemic reaction requiring us all to be home more, a connection to an online professional therapist would be helpful.
Also, protect yourself. So long as she’s healthy and safe, avoid her vitriol and meanness as much as possible.
My daughter cut contact with me four years ago after I sent her an angry email when I discovered she’d committed what I considered a fraudulent act.
I was careful about what I said but used a lot of CAPITAL letters.
We had a very close relationship, till she turned 22. She responded to my email by a suicide attempt. Her then-boyfriend never informed me that she was in the hospital so I couldn't support her, or try to make amends.
Since then, she's maintained "no contact." I've tried to apologize a number of times, only to get vitriol and hatred written back.
Will she ever come to her senses? She doesn’t seem to have a conscience about her alleged crime, but she's shown rage and combativeness, not the behavior of someone who’s been wrongfully accused.
She’s also estranged our entire family. She’s 29 now, single.
I'm still broken about it. Any hope for me/us?
A sad story for both of you. However, she’s the fragile one despite her rage. Her suicide attempt, lack of conscience and disdain over the implications of allegedly committing a crime, reveal her weakness, not strength.
She’s estranged from family because she cannot handle a close relationship which would require some caring and empathy for others.
The support she needs most is through mental health counselling but she’s unlikely to accept help towards that from you. However, I strongly believe that a parent should keep trying in such cases. Let her write her vitriol, it’s a child’s scream of pain.
Write again saying you’ll help her get access to counselling (online, during this stay-home time in the virus fight). Stress that it’d be for her to have on her own - not with you – and that this is about her life. If that could help her have a better, safer, productive future, you’d be showing a mother’s love in a way that she desperately needs.
She may not thank you – certainly won’t for a long while – but you’ll have done the right thing.
If she refuses and stays estranged… try again sometime.
Readers’ Commentary “Humour is very important now! Both my step-daughters are psychotherapists and they’re very busy! This pandemic is hard on everyone!
“Retired, I walk up the street a couple of times weekly to see two buddies, also retired. We tell stories of the past over a couple beverages and laugh as we’ve done together for 30 years!
A new guy now leaves work early some days to join us for a few laughs. Says it’s so therapeutic for him to have the camaraderie!”
Ellie – Get your step-daughters to teach you Zoom or other contact technology and laugh/drink with your buddies from home!
Though this group is within the five-person-limit, you’re all exposed to unknown contacts of the man who works, and from wherever you drink together.
If bringing those contacts/risks home to partners, it further lessens attempts to flatten the curve of virus infections, for all our sakes.
Tip of the day:
Emotional/verbal family abuse can be harmful to both abuser and abused. Protect yourself, help the weaker one if possible.