Monday, April 22, 2024

Carolyn Hax: Under pressure to forgive her sick mother for abandoning them when they were children

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyne: My ex-mother left our family very suddenly 10 years ago, when I was almost 14 years old. My father was and still is a workaholic, so taking care of my younger sister and the house fell to me. Even though I lost any chance of having a normal childhood the day she left, things at home hadn’t been good for a while, so it was some relief to see her go, and I I’ve done my best to make life as normal as possible for my little sister.

Now our mother is back in our lives, saying she had mental health issues and with therapy she is ready to be a part of our lives again. To my great disgust, my father and sister welcomed him with open arms.

I kind of understand my sister, but I’m surprised and angry that my dad doesn’t have more respect for himself. My mom and I talked briefly and she apologized, but I feel like her “Sorry for abandoning you, but I had some problems” doesn’t make up for the fact that I have to grow up today. on the next day.

Everyone has an opinion on this. My boyfriend tells me to keep her out of my life, while my dad and sister say it’s healthier for me to let go of my anger and forgive her. How can I get out of this? She and my father seem to be getting together.

Angry: Wait, why is your dad off the hook? A sick parent leaves and the healthy co-parent…watches their older child take on too much of a burden and does nothing to stop it?

Maybe you ignored his role, but he was still the healthy parent and spouse, so your misery is not 100% your mother’s fault.

Forgiveness is of course healthier for you than anger, but it’s not a switch. It’s a process. Counseling would at least give you the support of someone without an agenda – and at best an informed guide.

You went through a difficult, painful and unfair struggle as you reached your teenage years. This means that bringing your adult perspective to your younger self will likely be a multi-layered process, in which you address not only your mother’s choices, but also the context of the absent husband/father and your own thwarted adolescence. And the boundary issues of having everyone coach you on how to feel right now. It’s a lot.

Perhaps respect your instinct to keep your distance and use the space you create to let therapy do its work. (Resources here.)

· I hear you, I hear you, I hear you. My biological mother had significant mental health issues. I understand this and that the way I was treated was not acceptable. I managed to find compassion for his inability to conquer his demons. For losing this fight. This led to forgiveness.

Maybe tell people you’re working on it, but it won’t happen overnight and you need them to give you the space to make it happen.

· Don’t hesitate to ask your parents to pay for the therapy.

· “Saying she had mental health issues” is not an excuse. Mom doesn’t own what she did or the damage it caused; she just gave excuses, valid as they were. Additionally, the workaholic father should have reviewed his priorities to take care of his children. He also owes an apology.

· You can forgive him without reconciliation. Reconciliation is a matter of TRUST. She didn’t deserve yours. Be with her in measured amounts, to see who she has become.

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