If Christmas is only meant for good cheer and happy family gatherings, why would I use this question today? Read on and you’ll hopefully understand:
Last month my husband and I were vacationing overseas and had my mother stay at our house to watch our dogs. Three days before the end of our trip we learned that she’d attempted suicide in our home by overdosing on narcotics.
The police pepper-sprayed one dog because he was panicking at seeing strangers enter our home and my mother being distraught. She’d also fallen off our deck under the influence and cracked her skull, causing a brain bleed.
I’ve always been close to my mother through her many ups and downs, but this time I felt so angry. I’d suggested letting someone else watch the dogs if she couldn't handle it, but she insisted that she’d do it.
She’s now out of the hospital and staying with her cousin in a nearby city. I've received a few text messages with apologies, saying the same thing as every other time when she's messed up.
I’m still angry and hurt, but mostly disappointed. Then the guilt hits when I’m more concerned for what my dogs experienced compared to my mother trying to end her life.
I now can't find the words to respond to her texts.
Are my feelings justified? Or should I listen to those around me who say I should put myself in her shoes?
I’m the only one of her three kids who’s helped her through previous crises. My brothers still refuse to help, making me bitter towards my family.
I'm personally affronted because she put my dogs at risk, and did this in my home, my safe space. Should I let this slide like every other time she’s done something selfish and disappointing?
What’s My Plan?
You’ve fully expressed your pain and disappointment because you wanted empathy and understanding of what it means to be the strong child of a weak, troubled parent.
I get it. Despite that Christmas is promoted as a time for peace, joy, love and family harmony, the reality of what families experience at any time of year is different in many people’s lives.
Poverty, disease, and mental illness dominate many lives on this and every other day. Yet even among those who have far better expectations of health and happiness, there are still people like your mother suffering from some difficulty they can’t overcome, hoping desperately that someone among their children or relatives will help them carry on the best they can.
In your mother’s case, that one adult child is you. And though it’s a burden, it’s also a privilege to be the one with the inner strength, and a good life with a husband and beloved dogs, to be able to do the right thing when needed.
Your home is still safe for you, still a haven where you can recover from this shock and put it in perspective: The dogs are okay and so are you and your husband. Your mother is healing, for now. All she asks is your acceptance of her even though she sometimes “messes up.”
It’s the most meaningful gift to be able to give her at Christmas or whenever. She long ago gave you the gift of life.
I’m hoping that this terrible incident for you both leads to renewed treatment and participation in an ongoing addiction-related support group.
Tip of the day:
Understanding, acceptance, and helping someone the best you can are the gifts that matter most. Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings to ALL!