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Some Questions

My mom(M) was emotionally abusive to me growing up. I have 2 ygr brothers(B)(yngest is mentally retarded). My M was abusive w/ me-not my B–our exper.  w/ same M is like night & day.  After my yngest B was born, my M started drinking. Her father was an alcoholic. The sit. w/ my M worsened after my husband (H)& I started dating which made me pull away & stay out. Upon our engagement, her antics rose to new heights. After marriage, when M would come over, I’d become anxious & stressed. M liked to play the martyr & tell ppl how she didn’t know why I was upset w/ her.  I confronted & told her the things she said/did that hurt me- instead of being sorry, she was angry & denied everything. M always made me feel I was losing my mind.  We decided to move away & I cut ties w/ her. I couldn’t take the stress. 11/2003, M committed suicide. The wk following her death was upsetting but not bc of her death. It sounds terrible but, I didn’t feel grief when she died, I felt relief. M was a packrat & kept EVERYTHING. Worse M wrote on EVERY paper her thoughts-groc. list to thoughts I'd rather not know. Most of M writ. were terrible things she had to say about my father & me. It is one thing to grow up hearing these things; but another to read them. Seeing it in writing just confirms the worst & there is no denying it. 1)It's almost 6 yrs since M death & it is affecting me more this past yr then immed. after & I am confused why? 2)We rec'd a call my father-in-law is dying & we went to say our goodbyes. My H is very close to his dad & I know his death is going to be difficult for him. I haven’t been to a funeral since my M. I can’t even smell flowers to this day w/out wanting to vomit.The funeral will be the same place my M was. I‘m scared I’m going to have an emotional meltdown if I go to the funeral. I want to be there for my H, he was there for me; but I’m scared how I'm going to react. I’m confused as to what to do.
6 Responses
765715 tn?1235398661
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL

Dear Zayin,

You sound pretty sophisticated and knowledgeable about all this. Obviously you’ve been through an enormous amount of pain and stress over this; clearly, if you haven’t already
done so, you need to sit down with a VERY helpful, warm, and skilled therapist, very probably female, and sort all of this out. Why? Because most of us with histories like yours try, understandably, to keep the emotional wolves at bay and just deal with the everyday problems. Trouble is, the fact that we have all sorts of confused and tangled feelings about a mother or father means that things do NOT necessarily resolve as a function of time. In fact, they can sometimes get worse rather than better. The stuff has to be aired and resolved. Otherwise it just festers. As an analogy, think about a carpet. If it’s wet, we let it dry, and often that’s ok. But sometimes it’s so soaked that it gets grotty and threatens the floorboards. In such a case we need to rip up the carpet a bit and air it out, replacing whatever we need to. Same deal, only with the feelings that underlie our grief.

The issue is even more complicated by your mom’s suicide. Suicide brings with it a raft of other problems, including guilt for our intense anger at them before they died, our feelings that somehow we could have saved them if we’d been “better” people, and yet more guilt for our feeling that at some level we wanted the so and so dead, and it happened, and we’re responsible! This tends to be how our minds work, and I’d be surprised if some of these things, and likely others, weren’t operative for you. Full disclosure: I did my doctoral thesis in this area.

You’ve also likely got what’s now called PTSD from the early mistreatment, denial, lying on her part, etc. And don’t forget the vicious double bind that your freedom as a young woman trying to get out of there, “resulted” in her drinking and down hill spiral. Surely, there are feelings to be untangled there as well.

By the way, it’s not at all odd that you didn’t feel grief when she died. Relief at the death of someone who causes us intense pain is ENTIRELY understandable. The problem is that there are all sorts of other feelings mixed in, resulting in the present lack of resolution.

As far as your FIL’s funeral is concerned: you need a pass, as it were. If you can stand it, go to it just long enough to be ok socially and with your husband, then get out of there! First, explain to your husband what you’re doing, and why, and maybe even show your husband this note. You have GOOD REASON to have an extreme reaction in the same space as your mother’s funeral. The place brings up all the intensely tangled emotions. They’ll only be resolved with work and time. It’s possible that your husband’s family will understand if you’re with them in every place BUT the funeral home. If they’re that understanding, then be there with/for them and especially your husband in every OTHER way.

You have a real and extensive history of trauma. The feelings of wanting to vomit when you smell flowers is an index of this. It’s valid and needs attention (don't fudge or avoid your work in therapy on this if you haven't done it) but bear in mind it doesn’t at all mean you’re nuts or bad.

If you explain all this to your husband and perhaps his family and he still doesn’t get it, he can feel free to email me at ***@****, and I’ll explain further. On a scale of 1 to 10 on an imaginary tangled, unresolved grief/abuse scale, you’re somewhere in the 7-9 range. That’s significant, and needs everyone’s understanding.


Sincerely,

Dr. P.
765715 tn?1235398661
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Dear Zayin,

The form won't take my email address. Find it at my website, smartrelationshipdecisions.com.

Sincerely,

Dr.P.
Avatar universal
Thank you for your response. I have never been in therapy. Despite everything I’ve always felt I was emotionally strong person & have learned to “roll w/ the punches.” Lately, I feel emotionally weak & vulnerable. My husband lost his job almost 2 yrs ago & we’ve been in financial crisis since, therefore it isn’t possible at this time to pursue seeing a therapist, I’m hopeful we will pull out of this soon & recover & then I can pursue seeing a therapist. My greatest conflict over her death was feeling relief instead of grief. I feel sad she was lonely & thought it nec. to kill herself; but I don’t see this as my fault-her choice. Others do blame me-the hatred directed @ me @ the funeral was overwhelming. She painted herself as the victim & I the “unforgiving” daughter that was punishing her. I couldn’t have a “normal” relationship w/ her-I wouldn’t let her ruin my marriage, hurt my children or manipulate everyone around me to have her version of a relationship (1-way street). What I do grieve is never having a real mother/daughter relationship-death finalizes that! I did have some more Q’s. 2 papers I found say similar things..”..argued about daughter for 8 yrs.” & “She was prime source of our problems”, I was not a troublemaker of a kid-I want to ask my father about this but I’m apprehensive. He’s emotionally distant & always has been. We live far apart & he never seems to have time to talk on the phone, so I was going to email him. I’m hoping he can give me some insight/answers or something; but I’m not sure I should do this. Also, she kept writing this phrase, “issue of ACOA” (especially after she got out of hospital for alcoholism). Do you know what ACOA stands for? I get this sense it’s some sort of “condition”, possibly to do w/ alcoholism. Thank you- Zayin
765715 tn?1235398661
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Dear Zayin,

Scheduling requires that I be brief right now, but I want to respond to the important things you’ve raised.

If you’ve got conflict over the relief at your mother’s death, I darn near guarantee you it’s due to all the associated feelings, grief, anger, etc floating around underneath. Needs attention for sure, and it’s not a quick or intellectual process.

The scapegoating you went through, by mother and your siblings, was unconscionable and mind-bending. But like Alice in Wonderland, we can ultimately wake up to the realization of what was real and valid. But that too will take some work.

Your words about what you missed reinforces my idea about a new relationship, probably with a woman, that can give you a sane, loving experience and help you heal.

Very often alcoholic or disturbed parents, who themselves had disturbed parents, will incorporate what they knew, evil as it was for them, and reproduce it with their own kids. Often they do this with ABSOLUTELY NO AWARENESS of what they’re doing. So the craziness continues . . . Perhaps this was the pattern in your family, maybe even starting way back when . . .

Concerning your father: if you can stand him “stiff-arming” you, worst case, go for the conversation. Sometimes toward the end of life people will talk straight (e.g. The traumatized world war II vets  who took 50 years to open up). OTOH, sometimes they stay closed right into the grave. You never know. But you won’t know until you try. If you do, see what he can tolerate. If just a bit, but it’s productive, sign him up for BRIEF but repeated talks. Maybe email him and ask if you can talk on the phone. Or if email is best for a while, less threatening to him, stay with it.

ACOA is “Adult Children of Alcoholics”, a huge and legit organization. Google it and see. You may want to be involved. Also, note that there is a similar organization for the families of people who have committed suicide. While I can’t endorse a specific chapter, I’m a BIG fan of the principle. I’ve seen it be very helpful that people can share experiences of both. And the cost is minimal.

I’m sorry about your husband’s job loss. If money for therapy is an issue, consider following up on the groups as mentioned. In addition, some professionals, including myself, have worked by phone for MUCH reduced fees. It’s good for everyone. Also consider a local mental health center.

I'd like to see you get going on your issues now, while they're in the forefront. It's too easy otherwise to try to rationalize them away. That leads to a dulled and/or painful life. And you deserve far more!


Sincerely,

Dr. P.

Avatar universal
I want to thank you very much for all your time & help, I do appreciate it!  Today was an emotionally draining day, it’s my birthday and I knew my Dad would be calling-I was anxious the better part of today waiting for the call and hoping I’d have the courage to talk to him about the notes.  After a bit, I did ask him about what she wrote, he said that it is complete fantasy on her part to indicate that I was the “primary source of their problems.”  He assured me that she was their primary source of their problems!  However, he did indicate that they did argue a lot about me, mostly over her treatment of me.  He saw that she was, as he put it, too hard on me and overly controlling and that she did not treat my brother that way.  I had no idea he even noticed. Now, if he had only put a stop to it instead of just arguing about it. He wants me to just forget about the past and move on with my life-to put her clear out of my memory.  I told him I wish it were that easy. He did say if ever I wanted to talk more about it that would be ok.
I went on line and found the site for ACOA.  However, there doesn’t seem to be any meeting places within a 25 mile radius of my zip code – odd, since I live right outside a fairly large city.  I did find a number for a support group for ppl with family members who committed suicide and as soon as I get the courage up, I’ll call.  I googled for a mental health center in the area and therapists-a lot of options; but most seem more than I can afford at this time.  In addition, when I do have the funds, how do I discern who to go to?  My insurance doesn’t seem to cover “mental health” too well either.
Lastly, I wanted you to know that I am seriously pondering everything you have written and can’t thank you enough for your help.
Sincerely,
Zayin
765715 tn?1235398661
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Dear Zayin,

You’re welcome. What does it for me is to work with someone as tuned in and responsive as yourself!

That was a brave thing you did with your dad, and, lo and behold, the waves parted, at least a bit! A terrific beginning, both for you and for you and him. Now, keep going, a little at a time. By the way,to get a look at the reality of your mother from another perspective is invaluable.

You’re right, it’s not so easy for you to “just put it behind you.” Nor should you go this route, given the damage she caused. They don’t make band-aids big enough!

Sorry about the ACOA distance, but try the suicide group. Perhaps if will be useful. Maybe dig a little harder. If you’re outside a fairly large city, I’ll bet resources are there. If stuck, the local mental health center may be able to direct you. As to the fee issues, I have only the previous comments.

As far as sorting out therapists is concerned: you’re looking for 1) experience with your kind of issue(s); 2) good vibes/feel between the two of you, right from the start; 3) a reasonable but not overly low price (you get what you pay for . . . ); 4) the right sex ( though if the other factors are there it matters less); 5) probably mid-career, say 35-65; 6) a good to excellent pedigree in terms of formal training. Feel free to run the bio by me any time. If I’m not here, I’ll be at rnpomeranceATcomcastdotnet, or google me.

Zayin, if you keep up this forward momentum and turning it to action, I’m quite sure you’ll work through these issues and come out fine.

Cordially,

Dr. P.

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