This topic contains 19 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Broad_Sided_One 1 month, 3 weeks ago.
- March 17, 2017 at 2:45 pm #678393
I truly need outside perspective to help me deal with a very painful estrangement that my sister announced publicly on social media.
This scenario involves my relationship with my sister who is a good 5 years younger than me. We have an older brother and all three of us grew up in a very dysfunctional home. Our parents were always playing favorites and pitting each other against each other. But somehow, we all grew into adults that seemed to have a good understanding of how our parents shaped us. There have been many rough patches in our relationships with each other, but somehow, we always seemed to find each other. I learned to accept the limitations of each of my family members and felt they all were doing much the same.
But this time, something happened with my sister that I simply cannot come to terms with.
It centers on the death of our mother last year. I was my mother’s sole caretaker since both my siblings moved out of state. I also cared for my dad 4 years ago when he was dying. So when my mother became gravely ill, my siblings did come for a few days to be with her and to be with me. My brother was wonderful, sitting with my mom at the hospital and lending emotional support to me as well. My sister on the other hand came with her husband and the two of them immediately started some major family drama that had no place around my mother who only wanted to spend some last precious time with all her children. My sister did go to my mother and confessed that she started something she shouldn’t have and my mother came down hard on her. My mother was terminally ill, but feisty as ever and spoke up to my sister (and her husband), maybe for the first time in her life.
Up until that point in time, my sister was the favored, having a personality of always being “agreeable” with Mom and anyone else. It was always troubling to me to see my sister smiling and pretending everything was okay when she often would express to me how angry she really was with just about everyone in her life, especially our parents.
But Mom liked that my sister was so “agreeable”, and for many years, my sister flaunted that ability. But several years ago, my sister began to “crack”. She became an alcoholic, lost her job of 27 years, and then fled across the country with her new husband to go live with his mother. Six years later, they still live with his mother. She did find employment, but still struggles with prescription pills and alcohol.
My mother and I always butted heads. People often said it was because we both just “said it like it was”. It took me years to realize why my mother and I had such a hard time with each other. I was not the “agreeable” child like she enjoyed with my sister. But when I became her caretaker, a slow transformation took place. She began to see how my “honesty” with her and others was something she could admire and not feel threatened by. I began to appreciate that same quality about her. We drew very close in the end, something I never thought could happen. It was a difficult journey, but we got there and when she died, I felt very at peace with it all.
Enter in my sister. As I had explained, she had started with some serious family drama when our mother was dying and our mother was not shy speaking up to her about it. As soon as my sister saw her mother not automatically siding with her (as usual), she asked for my apology. This wasn’t a small incident that transpired, but rather a deep breach of trust that deeply hurt our mother as well, but I made a promise that I would do what I could to get past it. My mother was my priority at that time and I did my best to keep the peace those few days my sister was there visiting.
A few weeks later our mother died. I reached out to my sister that night (after my brother gave her the news), grieving with her our mutual loss. For a few months afterwards, we both cried together, sharing memories of the family and of her. The incident before Mom’s death was never brought up again by me and I literally opened myself up to be the big sister she needed. I knew the only thing my mother wanted was all her children coming together and whatever anger I had felt was replaced with the forgiveness I truly wanted to give my sister.
But then I noticed my sister growing “quiet” on Facebook, seemingly without reason not acknowledging my presence. She spends a great deal of time there and uses it as her main form of communication. I had gone up to Canada to meet my mother’s family last summer and posted wonderful pictures of them all. I fully expected to share all this with my sister, but she stayed silent. The phone calls and emails also stopped between us and I sensed she was back in a dark place again. I wanted to call her and ask her what was wrong, but decided I had to stop chasing her. It was not the first time she went cold on me and I felt like I had done all that I could to open myself up to her again. I had suffered previous estrangements from her before, her admitting she “couldn’t handle family” at times. Her substance abuse was always in the background of these estrangements, so I knew I had to accept her distance. I just gave her, her space, believing that is what she needed.
After several months of now this complete estrangement between us, I really began to feel broken and sad. Both our parents were gone and I just had an enormous sense of grief all around. I missed my sister, as imperfect as she was. I was certain she missed me too. Recently, I celebrated another birthday and my sister finally sent me a short text message, wishing me a happy birthday. I took it as a sign that she was ready to communicate again.
A week later, she had posted a birthday wish to our mother on Facebook and put it on a public setting. I took that gesture to mean she wanted everyone to see it, including me. We were no longer on each other’s friends list, but this tribute was there, open to the public. So I went on there, “liking” all her comments about our mom and said a few words of good will and comfort to her directly. What came next is something I never expected in a million years. She blasted me, saying every hateful thing you can think of! She accused me of hating her, hating our parents, and that I only pretended to love her and love our parents. She brought up petty fights from when we were children decades ago, most making no sense to me at all. She went on the attack of my adult kids, my one daughter being one she once was very close to. I was shocked, sickened, and literally destroyed reading her hatred of me. I am sure she was drunk when she wrote it, but regardless, it was the cruelest act she has ever committed against me and seemingly without cause. I was so traumatized by her words that I could only answer with how what she was saying was not true at all. Before I answered with any hate myself, I deactivated my entire account. Just like that. I have lost connections to people I would not otherwise have, but knew if I stayed, it would only get worse.
I realize that any outsider reading this would think I must have left something out that preceded this public shaming, but I haven’t. If something transpired before that, I too am in the dark.
So here I am, feeling so lost and so violated! I understand my sister obviously has a very passive aggressive way of coping, but to do this so publicly and with so much venom does NOT make sense! I have asked other family members why she did this and no one can offer much insight except to say she is a very troubled girl with a lot of anger in general. I know her husband had no love for any of her family and she once admitted to me that he took her away from us all to try and get her to stop drinking. It obviously didn’t work.
My question is this. How do I heal from this? What if any steps can I take with her? I am certain she cannot be in my life after this last breach of trust. It’s obvious she has become someone I don’t know on any level. I could write her and directly ask her what I did so very wrong, but I don’t trust I will ever get a truthful answer. The fact that she blasted me publicly with so many outright lies about events in our family tells me she doesn’t deal in reality. I’m sure it’s part of her sickness with substance abuse. But I feel so grief struck, like she died and there is no place to put that grief. My brother and SIL have been very caring and supportive, along with a few of my closest friends and husband, but I still feel so broken. I am in therapy, but of course it doesn’t fill the long hours of grief I feel. Can anyone give me perspective I don’t have right now?March 17, 2017 at 2:54 pm #678401
“I am certain she cannot be in my life after this last breach of trust.” Then, you won’t accomplish anything by communicating with her again. If you care about maintaining your Facebook relationships, you block her on social media and carry on as usual. You accept her silence as the lesser of two evils (not public shaming), and you move on. She doesn’t want you in her life. You don’t want her in yours. If your therapist isn’t helping you cope, find a new one.March 17, 2017 at 3:03 pm #678402
This sucks but I’m glad you’re getting support from your other family, friends, and therapist. It sounds like you have a deeply complicated relationship with your sister and she clearly isn’t in a healthy mental place if she’s resorting to substance abuse fairly regularly and micro estrangements are the norm for her. You mentioned long hours of grief and I wonder what you are doing to fill your time now that your mother has passed. Being a care giver for a parent (anyone really) who then dies must take a lot out of you and I would imagine leaves some complicated feelings in its wake. I have zero experience with caregiving but I imagine you might have lost a sense of purpose along with your mother and that that may be making your grieving process harder than it might otherwise be (plus this added crap with your sister). Have you tried filling your time with volunteering or something that brings you peace of mind like tai chi or yoga?March 17, 2017 at 3:37 pm #678406
Thank-you Julie for your kind words. I truly appreciate it. Yes, I feel quite empty since my mom died. Our relationship was strained for many, many years and to finally get close to her and then lose her has really added to the pain. Although she was terminal, her death was actually pretty sudden (cardiac failure). I really thought I had some time left to enjoy this softer, kinder version of a mother I never had.
I do indeed need to find an outlet for my time. I was laid off from my job a few years ago and never was able to get back in the market, possibly because I am in my mid fifties with no formal college degree. I did enjoy a good career for many years, so not getting my foot back in was pretty devastating at the time.
My depression certainly calls for me to make some changes and get myself out of this house and doing something productive.March 17, 2017 at 3:43 pm #678408
Thank-you Northern Star for taking the time to read my saga.
The Facebook dilemma is a real challenge for me. I want to keep ties with those that made me smile everyday, but just the thought of going back gives me great anxiety. I don’t know how many of my mother’s relatives read my sister and how many of them don’t know my side of things. I know most people actually don’t want to get caught up on either side which is why I sit silent and away from most people.
It bothers me that anyone would use social media to shame another, especially after such profound and painful loss. I know that no matter what my sister has done to me, I would never do that to her.
If I do return, of course I will block her and keep it that way for the rest of our days. It may take a while until I feel confident enough to enjoy what I had before all this.March 17, 2017 at 3:56 pm #678413
Try not to worry about the Facebook post. Anyone who read that thought one thing-that your sister needs help.
What she did was so inappropriate and wrong, no one is going to believe an angry post directed at you. Especially given her history.March 17, 2017 at 3:59 pm #678414
Therapy is hugely helpful for depression and untangling feelings but truly the thing that helps me most with my depression is hanging with my animals. If you’re at all inclined and have the means a dog or a couple of kitties could really bring some unconditional love and a sense of purpose into your life. Volunteering at an animal shelter (or a cause near and dear to you) could help also.March 17, 2017 at 4:15 pm #678418
Thank-you Anon. I don’t worry so much with those connections that know us both well, but rather the ones that don’t. I had just connected with my mother’s family after her death (she was pretty much estranged from them all). I really was becoming fond of my one aunt, but have no way of knowing what she does and doesn’t believe. She seemed equally fond of my sister too.
I can only hope the fact that I didn’t answer with hate myself will go in my favor should I try and reconnect.
I did give my aunt and a few others my private email address before leaving Facebook. I had used the excuse that I had health and personal issues to tend to so I wouldn’t make anyone feel like I was dragging them in a personal battle.
I haven’t heard anything from my aunt since.March 17, 2017 at 4:26 pm #678419
I am a huge animal lover Julie and have one kitty curled up with me as I type. Yes, I am glad I got into therapy with this one. I started there just crying out my eyes, completely distraught and hurt. Now after a few sessions, I am beginning to feel a healthy sense of anger; anger that my sister could be so callous. I’m angry at myself for opening myself up to someone that has shown me before that she can turn on you on a dime without sharing what’s bothering her first. I should have just blocked my sister when she went quiet and kept it that way instead of waiting for another crumb. I guess my grief over my parents weakened my common sense.
Anyway, I have volunteered with animals in the past and it may be something I could do again.March 17, 2017 at 8:23 pm #678452
You can always reactivate your account and just keep your sister blocked. If anyone comes to you with drama just tell them you’re not interested and change the subject, if they don’t let it go then delete/block them too and you’ll soon have a friends list you can enjoy. I move so often I too tend to rely on Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family and I’d be sad if i didn’t have it in my life. It could be a good outlet for you again.March 18, 2017 at 6:26 am #678489
I’m so sorry for your loss(es). I understand that after such a traumatic event, some time off of Facebook can be a good thing, but running permanently away after a public confrontation like that might seem like you’re bowing away because she has a point. Although I do agree that with a public and hostile outburst like that, she’s the one making a fool of herself, but you’re handling this like you’re at fault here by cutting off all contact to the people you like and love.
You know what they say about horses and getting back on the sattle. Get back on Facebook if that’s what you want, block your sister, message a few people if you want to get back in touch with them (but do not blame your sister) and get on with your life. Nobody deserves to be treaded like that and you have every right to keep your contacts and your life the way you want it, without any shame.March 18, 2017 at 7:02 am #678493
I’m sorry for your loss too. Look, your sister isn’t well. She has issues from childhood, she lost her mom, she lost her job, and she’s addicted to drugs and alcohol. She has major problems, and she’s lashing out at you. I don’t know what pills she’s on, but I’ve seen older people get very angry, act uncharacteristically, and lash out at loved ones when they’re in pain pills (example, my MIL who had a knee replacement). This has nothing to do with you or anything that you did (except maybe your sister being unable to process her bad feelings about how you cared for your mom and got closer to her and sis didn’t). For you to think you did something wrong to deserve that batshit rant on FB is just… idk, middle child guilt? Everyone who sees that type of shit go down on FB knows it’s the person doing the ranting who’s messed up. Maybe some of her friends think she’s in the right, but who cares? Go back on Facebook, BLOCK her, and carry on with your life and healing yourself.
If you want, send your sister an email. Don’t make it about you or asking what you did wrong. Just say you know she’s in a lot of pain, you are too, you’re sorry that communication has broken down between the two of you, but you’d love to talk when she’s ready.