“My Family Didn’t Visit Me in the Hospital”

I am a 44-year-old woman who is very family-oriented. I was raised by a mother who became a widow at 39 and never remarried. I have two sisters, one who has three kids and whom I consider my best friend. The other is kind of a loner and I’m not so close to her. I fell in love late in life (40!). My husband is a good, hard-working man, but he is not family-oriented and could not care less about his family. He does have two kids whom he loves very much.

Recently, I had a medical procedure that I had mentioned to my family months before the scheduled time/date, but my mother dismissed it with a hurtful comment and my sister, being so busy with her kids, “forgot about it.” So, the day before my medical procedure, I reminded them. They got very upset that I hadn’t reminded them earlier, but I hadn’t felt I needed to after I had done so months before. I stayed in the hospital for three days, and while my husband was there every day, my family didn’t visit or reach out enough to follow up with me.

By the day I was discharged, I was mad, hurt, and sad. I was so hurt that neither my mother nor sister attempted to visit me but, instead, made the effort to go to a funeral almost two hours away and then used the excuse that the rain didn’t permit them to leave their house on the other days. I stopped answering my phone or texts after the second day because I was in total shock that I was not important enough for them. I was hurt! I am still hurt!

The day after my discharge my mother came over to my house, and I might have been rude to her by saying “What are you doing here??! Oh, you remember you have a daughter!” That resulted in her leaving my house upset and telling the rest of the family I had kicked her out. It hurt me so bad that I cried for days, feeling like I was not important to the most important women in my life.

Since then, my relationships with my mother and sister have become very distant. I used to talk to my mom up to three times a day (for hours!) and with my sister daily. Now I try to be the “adult” and call my mother, but I speak to her for only a few seconds as she appears never to be in the mood to talk to me. I did visit her and try to speak about my feelings, but she called me a drama queen. Now my mother thinks that my husband doesn’t like her and she has used that as an excuse not to visit me.

I am hurt and I know I might be overreacting, but I just can’t stop thinking that I would have been there for them if they had needed me. I needed my family, but I was nothing to them.

Am I overreacting? Do I expect too much? I am still very upset and sad. — A Sad Family-Oriented Woman

I’m sorry you felt uncared for during (and after) your medical procedure and hospital stay. It’s never fun to feel like one’s family doesn’t care or that the people you expect to be there for you when you need them aren’t. So, I appreciate your feelings and I wouldn’t say you’re necessarily wrong or that you expected too much, but there definitely could have been better communication about your needs before your hospital stay. You say you mentioned the procedure to your mom and sister months before but then decided that you didn’t need to remind them again in the days leading up to your procedure, and I think that was a mistake.

We’re all busy and it’s really easy for things to be forgotten in the span of months. It would’ve been helpful to not just remind your mom and sister in the week or days leading up to the event, but to tell them what you might want or need from them. I wonder why you didn’t do this? It almost feels like you might’ve been testing them. Like, if they really cared, they would have remembered the date of your medical procedure, they would have cleared their calendar to be at the hospital, and they would have provided for you what you needed without your asking. I suspect that your mother’s hurtful comment – and I’m so curious what kind of hurtful comment a mother would say about a medical procedure her daughter is going to have – is the impetus for a lot of the hurt feelings you’re experiencing now.

Maybe you underwent an elective procedure that your family didn’t agree with and/or you’re getting treatment for something your family doesn’t understand. Maybe this is the root of the conflict, and instead of communicating about THAT, you’re making the whole thing about how you weren’t visited in the hospital after reminding your family only the day before about your procedure. You are, of course, entitled to your feelings, but I hope you will be honest with yourself both about WHY exactly you’re hurt AND what part, if any, you think you may have played in the situation being what it is now. You didn’t remind your mother and sister about your procedure until only a day before, you didn’t express what you needed from them while you were in the hospital, and you reprimanded your mother when she came to visit you the day after you were discharged. These are all things you could acknowledge and apologize for while you express your desire to patch up your relationship.

I’d also suggest considering therapy. It’s a big leap to go from talking to your mother for hours every day and calling your sister your best friend to saying you are “nothing” to them because they didn’t visit you in the hospital after you gave them a one-day reminder months after originally telling them. It IS an overreaction to stop answering their calls and texts while still in the hospital because you were “in total shock that [you were] not important enough for them,” and to reprimand your mother, when she showed up at your house the day after you were discharged, for not visiting you sooner. A therapist would help unpack the issues lying beneath the surface and give you the tools to better communicate your needs and set firm boundaries so that you don’t feel like you’re giving more than you’re getting in return.

Your relationship with your family does not sound broken beyond repair. There are some hurt feelings that need to be dealt with and better communication is needed going forward. If you can embrace your role in this, I believe things can be fixed.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

    It sounds like the LW did a 0-60 on this and it sounds like there is something else at the root of it. I feel like it’s very plausible that if she told them months ago (like, 3 months? 6 months?) that they just forgot. Unless she saw them actually write it down or enter it into their calendar, it could be pretty easy to forget- or at least, know it’s coming up but forget the exact date. If she wanted them to come visit in the hospital, did she just assume they would come, or did she even mention that she would like them to do so?

    I had a fairly minor surgery late last year, and I told my parents about it when it was scheduled (2 months in advance) and they also asked about it later, asking for the exact date because they couldn’t recall. We didn’t discuss it in great detail but they were sure to text me the day before and morning of wishing me good luck and to let them know how it went. (Which may have not been enough for some people but was ok with me!)

  2. Well, I agree with Wendy and Moneypenny that they probably forgot. You say you spend hours talking on the phone with your mom and sister. Didn’t your medical condition come up during those conversations? If you had a tummy tuck or breast enhancement, for example, I don’t think you should expect visitors and I too would consider you would be a drama queen if you did. If, on the other hand, it was a medical procedure for another reason, I could understand. Three days in hospital is quite serious. If it were me, I would not attend a funeral if my child was in hospital. Once the emotions calm down, have a discussion with mom and sis. Use “I” words. “I felt abandoned, etc.” You have to own up to not giving updates as the months passed and change the way you communicate going forward. If you want to continue in your relationship, forgiveness will be necessary.

  3. CanadaGoose says:

    I agree with Wendy and the others. This really does feel like you were testing them to see how important you are and throwing a tantrum when they didn’t show up or call you “enough”. I hate to break it to you, but you ARE being a drama queen and pretty immature about this. People are busy. It’s not a sleight for a senior or a mom of three kids to forget the date of something you told them months earlier and did not mention again until the day before. As someone with three kids and responsibilities galore, that you would have the expectation they’d remember your surgery date even if they love you to the moon and back is shocking. If you wanted them to visit, you should have flat-out told them that was important to you and reinforced that by mentioning it a few weeks out and again a few days before and asking if they had the date down so they could make the time. Your approach set them up to fail and set you up to be upset.

    You are a 40-year-old married woman whose husband visited every day. For most people, that would be quite enough. That both your mother and sister went to a funeral would indicate that person was of importance to your family for some time – and a funeral is a one-time deal. You, a live adult whose husband was with her, who would be home in three days, could wait. People get one chance to attend a funeral, a cultural milestone where we pay respects to someone we lost and demonstrate our care for a grieving family. Competing with a dead person for attention is pretty bad, lady.

    You are behaving like a petulant child. Worst of all, this just mires you in your own hurt. I get hurt people hurt people, but it certainly seems like you are blowing this way out of proportion. For your own benefit, I suggest you move past this and not hold a grudge. If this is really about something else, you will feel a lot better if you are honest and open about that. It is unpleasant for you to wallow in these feelings. I hope you can work it all out.

    1. That’s right – a funeral, especially if it’s for someone close or important to the family, would trump most things, including visiting a family member during a planned and brief hospital stay when she has a spouse who is already with her and isn’t facing life-threatening complications.

  4. luckyrenee says:

    talking to your mom for hours every single day at 44 is a little much, but it’s baffling that they logged HUNDREDS OF HOURS of phone time between the procedure and the actual event, and it never came up. what else is going on in your life that you’d discuss everything but that? i wonder how close you really are if something that allegedly important was brought up once in that much time. i think this one is on the LW.

  5. Christina Henry says:

    I’ve been an RN for 35 years. In my experience people often phone the hospital before visiting to check that the patient is well enough for visitors. The fact that you refused all calls is usually an indication that you don’t want visitors. Not many people are comfortable with hospital environments and want to do the right thing. If you wanted them to visit, why did you refuse their calls?!

  6. LisforLeslie says:

    It sounds like you expected your mom and sister to take a page out of your book, and you were disappointed when they didn’t. Are you usually the care taker, the person who organizes or is the first to be called for a ride or a casserole? If so, you can’t assume someone else is going to step up. That’s not how people work. People stay in their normal role unless you specifically ask them to do something.

    What did you ask of them? Did you say “I would really like you to come see me while I’m there”? Did they know what you wanted or was this a test?

    At this point all you can do is say to them what you wanted and be more clear with your needs going forward.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As others have said, it feels like you were testing your family. Speaking to your mother for hours at a time, you’d have to go out of your way not to mention the surgery. Did you purposely leave it out to somehow prove a point about them? Wondering also if things have changed in your relationship to them since your marriage. Maybe your mother is right about your husband. He has no interest in his family, maybe he is not welcoming to yours. Open communication would help here. Good luck

  8. It wouldn’t even occur to me to visit someone in the hospital who was having an elective or prescheduled procedure unless the surgery was REALLY dangerous if I knew they already had support. I would make sure they were OK. Maybe call them, but visiting… no… that wouldn’t occur to me.

    Now when I am THE person who is the support person, I am of course there to make sure doctors are talked to, care is managed etc. Your mom and sister knew your husband was there.

    Yeah talk to a therapist.. then arrange a family session so the therapist can help you talk through things with them without escalating this situation. Right now how do you feel? You have pushed your mom and sister away? Yeah you win (not). This stance isn’t serving you.

  9. We don’t know the family history here, so we really don’t have a place to judge.
    There may be childhood trauma (including anbandonment and neglect) involved with the writer’s family of origin to give it context.

    The writer was trying to vent – she might not have a safe space to do so in an everyday context.

    What saddened me most was when the wrote about how her mother dismissed her after she told her mother about her upcoming medical procedure.

    A lot of these responses put the onus back on the writer, so some compassion would really go a long way here.

    To the writer: I’m really sorry that your mother (especially) and sister weren’t more sensitive to what was happening in your life.
    I know the feeling of being dismissed – making me invisible and unimportant.

    Take care of you above all else.


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