death in the family

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
death in the family
16
Fri, 08-23-2013 - 4:19am

I come from a dysfunctional family in which I was the designated scapegoat.  After years and years of trying to connect with family members who ignored me and/or could/not would  connect in a healthy way,  I decided to stop reaching out.  After that, all reaching out stopped because it was always one-way. My siblings blame me that  my parents have rejected me. I have no hatred with any of them but just choose to no longer stay in a dysfunctional, abusive one-sided relationship with anyone. I have made peace with that and have gone on to have a happy life with many loving friends. I know now that relationships are two sided, I am not entirely responsible for the success of a relationship or making someone love me, and I have a healthy concept now of what love really is.  If anyone of them came to me sincerely wanting to build a healthy relationship with me, Imy door is open.  

My dillema is that one family member called me today to  let me know that my youngest brother who has not talked to me in over 25 years has passed away. ( Have to say i am amazed I was even on the list of those to call.)

  My own children have kept in touch with the family.  Even they think I should be the one to mend the fences.  They do not even know these fences can not be mended as long as the people do not get healthy.  I believe that some of them will be attending his funeral.  If I  they needed me there, I would go.  Otherwise, I feel no desire to be there with people whoa) have such a negative attitude toward meb) to put on the act of we are one big happy family.  I can comfort my children individually as needed for the loss of an uncle that they also could not get close to. 

I have healed from the guilt and shame I used to feel for finally taking care of myself by not always being there for them and "doing the right thing" when it is not right for me.  Why then do I feel so conflicted about this. Should be a no brainer, don't go.  Perhpas i am not completely free of the "what they will think."   Based on past behavior, it doesn't matter whayt I do or say, I know what they will think and i am done basing my behavior to tryg to change what people think of me.  

As for myself, I can do my own private ceremony at the sadness that the brother I practically raised and tried to protect  from all the abuse in our childhood,  chose not to be a part of my life and passed away, as a stranger to me.

I'd like to hear  any ideas how to respond to this news: send a card, flowers, go to the funeral, not go?  Since someone did contact me, I do  want to acknowledge his passing in some way.  I know I HATE how I've been ignored all these years.  I am having a hard time coming up with a reason to go. If I just send a card do not even know what to say.  And what do i say to my own grown kids.

Thanks

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Fri, 08-23-2013 - 8:32am

It is quite simple.  You need to do what feels right to you and at the same time protect yourself.  If your grown kids want to go to the funeral, they can go on their own (and have to right to give you any pressure on your decisions). 

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Fri, 08-23-2013 - 12:37pm
I wish it was simple for me. Even though I've come a long way, I still have the pressure of wanting to do the "right" thing or the "please others" thing no matter how I feel to the point of not really knowing how I feel. If the past is any indicator of the future, no matter what I would do it would most likely be ignored or criticized . Now that is not the oinst but I guess I am feeling a bit of that old guilt. Truly the thought of going there would be extremely lonely and without a point. There would be no one there for me to comfort of be comforted by. I lost my family a long time ago and my getting on the road to getting healthy put the nail in the coffin to continue having relationship with them. One of my daughters has been in touch with me keeping me informed about what is going on as she hears it. For the others, my not going would just reinforce their already entrenched opinion that I am just being stubborn and alienating the family more. What they do not understand is that setting healthy boundaries with "the family" is what really pisses them off and alienates me from them. I am the outcast by reason of God only knows what. And then am blamed for being the outcast. It is that kind of crazy making that I do not want to be around. The family say they love me and do not understand what is wrong with me that I think they are rejecting and abusing me. Of course it is isn't them. How could I think such a thing. I am the crazy one. So, then I guess what feels right to me is send a card. Do not even know what to say on the card. Who to even send it to. Any ideas what to say to my supportive daughter who is grieving the loss of her uncle. What to say to my other kids. I do not know if they will ever understand. They are caught in the middle of this confusion. I do not need to defend but feel it is important to say the truth but do not know how.. Any ideas?
Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Fri, 08-23-2013 - 1:39pm

My DH had a recent death in the family, his infant grandchild.  He has a horrible R with this daughter and her DH.  He has hated this guy for years and his DD has done some hurtful things herself.  (Of course, DH has a part.)   He did a lot of praying, and the clarity came.  Go. 

He was able to actually hug this SIL, and have empathy that he lost a child.  This is a young man who my DH has had such hatred for for years.  Now, he did pass on the viewing.  Just not his thing.  But for a few hours, years of hatred melted away.  Not just the SIL, but her DD and other relatives that were there. 

Are we all buddy-buddy now like the past never happened?  Of course not.  But when the rubber hit the road, DH ponied up.

I find it interesting that you are thinking you should send a card.  You should be the one receiving a card! 

However, I do have to say that my DH has also had lost three siblings (that were actually aunt and uncle).  The brother we had not seen for years, but we went.  We passed on the gathering afterwards.  Now the sister was a different story.  He really had no R with her. 

Sorry for the babbling, just offering some perspective. 

We can't tell you what to do, but I couldn't imagine not going.  You can arrive minutes before and leave immediately if you wish.  Or who knows, you may be surprised by your families reaction.  I realize you would be more of a guest than a participating family member, but I would be inclined to go at the normal time any other guest would arrive, I would probably go with my children, and sit where anyone else would sit. 

That is just me.  You know the situation better than I do.  If your family is the type to cause a scene, or possibly be intoxicated, then I stand corrected.  Because you are right that you can do what you need to do privately. 

When in doubt, I just always lean towards going.  Good luck and let us know happens!

Serenity

Serenity
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Fri, 08-23-2013 - 1:58pm

Unfortunately, your children do not understand your situation because they did not live it, and you can tell them that.  They don't need to understand why you have stayed away from your family, but just accept it.  You have not prevented them from having a relationship with them, but choose not to have one yourself.  Have you ever explained to your children the dysfunction within your family that made you decide to seek out healthier relationships? 

We do not pick our families, and sometimes they are just not the people we can have in our lives.  You changed, and it was hard, and it's still hard because they have not changed.  It's always amazing to me how many people walk away from family dysfunction to get healthy and are rejected, like addicts who hate it when others get clean and sober.  If you aren't with us, you are against us, regardless that the situation is unhealthy or even dangerous.  It's a pathology that you cannot fight, and the only recourse is to get out. 

You have good friends, and your own family.  Sometimes, that has to be enough.  You will probably forever feel guilt at times, but that is because you are someone who cares.  You could always extend the olive branch again, via a card to your family.  You can express your own grief, and let them know your door is always open to them.  Then leave it at that, the ball is then in their court.  If they choose to contact you, make sure that you have your boundaries in place. 

I saw a recent Dr Phil episode about a woman whose mother and sister would do nothing while she was being abused by her stepfather.  The anger, hurt, grief over this betrayal was heartwrenching to witness (and I rarely watch Dr Phil or feel any emotion towards his guests).  This was a situation where she was completely alone, being abused, and no one helped her, even though she told her mother, her teachers, anyone she could.  Her abuser was finally arrested and sent to prison, but not until well after the damage was done.  She is in her 30's today, but the anguish about her past is still so close to the surface.  I hope for her sake that she can find the help she needs to get through this.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Fri, 08-23-2013 - 7:31pm

Thank you for your responses: 

I find it interesting that you are thinking you should send a card.  You should be the one receiving a card!

EXACTLY!!  It was always my role to do and give to ,take care of my family. I do it without thinking.  I do not get gifts or cards from my family.   I did the calling, the inviting the visiting, the reaching out. ONly to be either ignored, shunned, or criticized and vebally abused.  I just kept on "doing the right thing" taking the high road, being the love. The healthier i got and started setting boundaries, the worse it got.  And the less normal and tolerable it was to me.  And then I  decided it needed to be reciprical.   That is why when I deided to stop reaching out I have not heard a word from family members for 10 - 25 years.  The first 20 yers of my life my father abused me and everyone. I can count on one hand the kind words he has spoken to me in my entire life. He completely ignored me the rest of my life.   I just kept sending him cards, letters for birthday's father's day, holidays. Absolutely no response. NONE. But my mom always had some criticism to make about them. After 20 years i stopped doing that.   She enabled and protected him.  And my siblings aligned with them.  The don't talk, don't feel, everything is fine family rule and loyality is very, very strong and has even passed down to my kids.  I am trying to stop it.  I do not know if showing up, would be beneficial. IIt certainly hasn't been in the past. 

It would not be a matter of just making an appearance and leaving.  It would a take a lot of time, money, travel to the  remote island where they live.  Not showing up at the family gathering would be just as bad as not showing up for the funeral and everything else.  It would have to be an overnight thing.  I can not imagine going unless there were some people there I could be with.  If my kids and I could go as a family unit, where they are supporting me that would be one thng. But my kids are all split. I think my kids need to do their own thing with the various family members at this time.

YES! YES! YES, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over. In the past I would not think twice about going to family events.  Not a thought. I'd do it no matter how much of an outsider I would be or how uncomfortable i would be and I'd go exuding love for all., genuinely. But at the same time feel so alone.  But now I ask why?  What purpose would it serve anyone except that if I am there, there would be no apparent evidence that our family is anything but one big happy family. Do I want to do the same old thing pleasing everyone else, trying to avoid their riticism of me at my own expense.  That was my pattern for too many years. I have stopped doing that now for about 10 years.

YOU are so right on about my children.They do not understand and they do not want to hear, yet. Except one of my daughters is starting to understand. It is very confusing for them and in ways they also have taken on the roles of beating up on me. .  When they go visit family they are asked in a concerned tone of voice," How is your mother?" As if it is me  shutting them out.   Then they come back to me, to tell me that, confused why I do not talk to my family.   So confusing. I just say, next time they ask you , just tell them they can ask me themselves,.

Send a card?  Why not?  To whom? My sister-in-law? My neice who called me?  Each of my kids to exend condolences to them for their uncle.  (Don't even know how close they were).Let them know  I have decided not to go to the funeral. But I am there for you and would like to know that you can be there for me, too. I am sad, too and will have my own private ceremony.  I have many fond memories of him as a child,  one I practically raised as I was his (and my other 5 siblings) primary caretaker when we were children.  I am sad that he could not/ would not  be a part of my adult life and that he passed as a stranger. . Whatever I do, I need to do it for myself from a loving a self-empowering place. truth speaking place.  That is sooooo not allowed in my family. 

I would go if I had a very good reason to go other than just because it is expected of me.  Don't do that anymore.  I try to do what is ingetrity but because I am so used to knee jerk, "doing what is expected" it is sometimes hard to find my real self. 

Itchick, I do like your idea. Even though I extended the olive branch left the door open and put the ball in there court repatedly and the last time 10 years ago.  At this time, under this circumstance, i can do that again with a card to the family via my sister inl aw.

I chuckle now as I remember at the last family event I attended extending the olive branch to many mambers. When I told my mom I missed her and would like her in my life she said, NO. When I told here if she changes her mind, know that I am here.  She was so angry and said, "See, that is the attitude I'm talking about. "  So there it is. 

Thanks for being here with me for this  processing. 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Fri, 08-23-2013 - 7:32pm

Thank you for your responses: 

I find it interesting that you are thinking you should send a card.  You should be the one receiving a card!

EXACTLY!!  It was always my role to do and give to ,take care of my family. I do it without thinking.  I do not get gifts or cards from my family.   I did the calling, the inviting the visiting, the reaching out. ONly to be either ignored, shunned, or criticized and vebally abused.  I just kept on "doing the right thing" taking the high road, being the love. The healthier i got and started setting boundaries, the worse it got.  And the less normal and tolerable it was to me.  And then I  decided it needed to be reciprical.   That is why when I deided to stop reaching out I have not heard a word from family members for 10 - 25 years.  The first 20 yers of my life my father abused me and everyone. I can count on one hand the kind words he has spoken to me in my entire life. He completely ignored me the rest of my life.   I just kept sending him cards, letters for birthday's father's day, holidays. Absolutely no response. NONE. But my mom always had some criticism to make about them. After 20 years i stopped doing that.   She enabled and protected him.  And my siblings aligned with them.  The don't talk, don't feel, everything is fine family rule and loyality is very, very strong and has even passed down to my kids.  I am trying to stop it.  I do not know if showing up, would be beneficial. IIt certainly hasn't been in the past. 

It would not be a matter of just making an appearance and leaving.  It would a take a lot of time, money, travel to the  remote island where they live.  Not showing up at the family gathering would be just as bad as not showing up for the funeral and everything else.  It would have to be an overnight thing.  I can not imagine going unless there were some people there I could be with.  If my kids and I could go as a family unit, where they are supporting me that would be one thng. But my kids are all split. I think my kids need to do their own thing with the various family members at this time.

YES! YES! YES, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over. In the past I would not think twice about going to family events.  Not a thought. I'd do it no matter how much of an outsider I would be or how uncomfortable i would be and I'd go exuding love for all., genuinely. But at the same time feel so alone.  But now I ask why?  What purpose would it serve anyone except that if I am there, there would be no apparent evidence that our family is anything but one big happy family. Do I want to do the same old thing pleasing everyone else, trying to avoid their riticism of me at my own expense.  That was my pattern for too many years. I have stopped doing that now for about 10 years.

YOU are so right on about my children.They do not understand and they do not want to hear, yet. Except one of my daughters is starting to understand. It is very confusing for them and in ways they also have taken on the roles of beating up on me. .  When they go visit family they are asked in a concerned tone of voice," How is your mother?" As if it is me  shutting them out.   Then they come back to me, to tell me that, confused why I do not talk to my family.   So confusing. I just say, next time they ask you , just tell them they can ask me themselves,.

Send a card?  Why not?  To whom? My sister-in-law? My neice who called me?  Each of my kids to exend condolences to them for their uncle.  (Don't even know how close they were).Let them know  I have decided not to go to the funeral. But I am there for you and would like to know that you can be there for me, too. I am sad, too and will have my own private ceremony.  I have many fond memories of him as a child,  one I practically raised as I was his (and my other 5 siblings) primary caretaker when we were children.  I am sad that he could not/ would not  be a part of my adult life and that he passed as a stranger. . Whatever I do, I need to do it for myself from a loving a self-empowering place. truth speaking place.  That is sooooo not allowed in my family. 

I would go if I had a very good reason to go other than just because it is expected of me.  Don't do that anymore.  I try to do what is ingetrity but because I am so used to knee jerk, "doing what is expected" it is sometimes hard to find my real self. 

Itchick, I do like your idea. Even though I extended the olive branch left the door open and put the ball in there court repatedly and the last time 10 years ago.  At this time, under this circumstance, i can do that again with a card to the family via my sister inl aw.

I chuckle now as I remember at the last family event I attended extending the olive branch to many mambers. When I told my mom I missed her and would like her in my life she said, NO. When I told here if she changes her mind, know that I am here.  She was so angry and said, "See, that is the attitude I'm talking about. "  So there it is. 

Thanks for being here with me for this  processing. 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Sat, 08-24-2013 - 5:02am
No, my family does not do scenes. Very civilized. Image is every thing. I am still not coming up with reasons to go. Except the family image. When I go to funerals, it is for those I have a relationship with or their family who can receive my comfort and love. At this one, I could not bear to sit there and listen to all the things about my brother that I've missed out on all these years and have no one there to understand and comfort me. They just blame me that they are not a part of my life. Even though they chose it. But I chose to change and get healthy and sey healthy boundaries. Huge disloyality.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-03-2011
Sat, 08-24-2013 - 7:29am

Hi Karenbfree

I have anxiety just thinking about your dilemma. I read your story and the responses out loud this morning to my DH whilst we were driving in the car. His response was " how sad" and that's my situation completely. I've stretched out the olive branch so many times and I get completely ignored and rejected by one family member who seems to hold the balance of power in the family and thus creates a huge amount of friction in the rest of the family. In your case its your parents, they are the true culprits. Your mother has enabled your father to be cruel and heartless and unfortunately some men are typically like this. Think of Reinhardt Heydrich and the other men in the SS Reich and gestapo, there you have heartless and disturbing people.

I would not go to the funeral BUT I WOULD SEND A CARD to your sister in law, your niece and your parents and your other siblings. I would sign it from you and your family. i would make it brief, but sincere as possible. AND I would definitely make sure YOUR children see that you have done this, to the point of maybe getting them to sign the cards too. If you get anything back, eg a message for the card or a card for yourself that will be interesting, but dont EXPECT anything in return. 

The anxiety you will have by going to the funeral will be terrible for you. As you said, you have made a new life for yourself and you have many friends. Perhaps you could have a small memorial for your brother and invite a few friends over to share a story about the happy times you cared for him. I think its important to commemorate his life, but I would not go to the funeral and play "one big happy family" at a funeral. 

By sending cards you are acknowledging the loss of your brother and showing you still care. You just dont need to care that much by turning up. Besides, the whole logistics you mentioned sounds difficult and emotionally upsetting for you. 

I have similar dilemmas going on, I keep extending myself and none of them reciprocate and show any love or care towards me or my family. Im so over it, I dont care about them anymore. But I have days where I feel a real sense of loss that my immediate siblings care only about themselves, and their children have very erratic relationships with mine. I just cant keep on being " nice and warm all the time" when I know they are revolting behind my back and show no loyalty to me. 

Keep in touch and let us know what you decide. Hugs xoxox

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-10-2002
Sat, 08-24-2013 - 12:53pm
Samuby, Yes, you really do understand. So sorry that anyone has to go through this. Yes, even though you've accepted what is, there is always a sense of loss. I used to feel so much shame and guilt that my family is not a part of my life. Even though I knew It was the healthy thing to not continue the sick dance with them. I have gotten over most of that guilt and am now proud of myself for being so strong. I do believe that the my siblings have aligned with my parents and the old family rules because they could see the price i paid for being true to my self, speaking the truth in my actions, being healthy. Too big a price to pay. Even the brother I was the closest to suddenly stopped communicating with me with no reason at all. We had no argument, no falling out, one day it was all is fine and the next nothing. For a whole year I tried contacting him, land line, cell phone, his wife's cell phone, letters in the mail. All were ignored. I have no idea why. I think he had to make his choice. He lives halfway across the country so there is no way I could have showed up at his doorstep to make sure he had not dropped dead. I know he hasn't because I've heard his name mentioned and see that he has a facebook account. Itchick said it very well, too. "It's always amazing to me how many people walk away from family dysfunction to get healthy and are rejected, like addicts who hate it when others get clean and sober. If you aren't with us, you are against us, regardless that the situation is unhealthy or even dangerous. It's a pathology that you cannot fight, and the only recourse is to get out." I do care and always will. However, I am also caring about myself now, too. My feelings and desires are just as important as others'. I completely understand the being all nice and warm all the time when you know they are revolting behind your back. And always being the one to reach out and it is never returned. I am the oldest of 6, was the other mom. The 24/7 nanny. Pretty much gave up my childhood to be the adult in the home, trying my best to protect my siblings while the parents were busy raging with each other the kids. I loved taking care of them and have no resentment. Only tht they all turned against me. Ask them and they will say, Everyone loves you. I'm still trying to find that person "Everyone" I have found the love, a completely different kind of love from the people who are in my life now. Good idea to send cards to my kids, at least the ones who have contacted me already. let them know up front, what I've decided and my positive memories of my brother and the sadness I feel that I did not get to know him and acknowledge their loss. I will let all of you know. Thank you. I feel so much better at least getting this all out and processing it. With each day I find more good reason why not going is the healthiest and best thing to do. And figuring out what the healthiest and classiest thing to do is. That is my goal, what is the healthy thing to do.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-03-2011
Sat, 08-24-2013 - 6:00pm

Hi K-b F

When you told your mother that you missed her and that you were available at any time to reconnect and you said its up to her to make an effort too and she said NO,  and then you offered again she THEN responded "See, that is the attitude I'm talking about. "  

How do you win with this type of person? You need to look at the situation completely -

You were the 2IC in charge at home and your parents took advantage of this kindness. They then abandoned you -  most likely in your 20's and when you became a mother. Did they ever visit when you had small children and help you ? Were they supportive grandparents at any stage of your life? Did they help you financially or emotionally? come to any grandchildren events at your kids schools? Im getting the feeling that not much support was offered up to you, and I think I know why. 

You were the oldest. You left home to have your life ( which is normal and healthy and the expected thing to do) 

Yor essentially condemned your younger siblings to a life of hell living with them and your parents turned your siblings against you because you left home and were no longer the babysitter/ cleaner/ cook ... so they didnt like this. 

The problem that I see here is that your mother is the worst offender. She has enabled your father to be the awful person he is and she has most likely been brainwashed into being just as mean and horrible as him. 

Its so hard to have these people constantly reminding you of what it is your losing out on .. ie the very essence of family life... but these people are not what family is about.( its disgusting that for years and years you sent cards , presents and you stayed in touch and nothing was mentioned or reciprocated -Dd your mother send YOUR children presents and cards for birthdays?? or knit jumpers for them as babies or bake a cake and come over?? )

My mother has been in my life - all of my life and I love her for that. What I dont like is that there is a lot of jealousy in our family - and so I've stopped my mother being part of our lives so much. I hardly tell her anything of importance, because whatever she hears, she goes round telling the others about it. We are currently building a new house which has been my dream for 10 years and Im so excited about it and when my mother asks about it and tell her " not much is happening- its just a pile of dirt" which of course it isnt, but the minute I tell her things like that they took off the roof and the second story is really spacious and the kitchen is going to be beautiful and the kids bathrooms are having these imported italian tiles ( or whatever) she runs around and tells my siblings. Now my siblings are not building houses, or having that happen. They are doing other things and I tell my mother that If I want to know WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND IF THEY WANT TO KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING THEY SHOULD TELL US DIRECTLY AND VICE VERSA, not through her - the grapevine. Its annoying and disrespectful that she goes around gossiping. Ill give you another example, my mother and stepfather came over the day we were moving to our rental, and my stepfather ( he is so nosey) asks the real estate agent " how much is the rent"?  I was furious that he would ask the agent and NOT ME. He only wants to know so that he can tell everyone how much our rent is. Its none of their business and its breeds jealousy... oh " samuby- obviously not my real name" is paying X for her rental AND building a new home... people in my family get jealous about these sorts of things and then they EXCLUDE US .. because we are NOT one of them..

Nobody realises that for 20 years my husband and I have saved every cent, we have lived frugally, we have worked very hard and at this stage we want to have something to show for it and that we are adding value to the old home we bought 10 years ago so in fact the house when its finished will be worth a lot more. They are all simple minded and I dont care to discuss my life with them. So when I see them at family events and see them out and about, I talk about the weather and my dog and occasionally talk about how tough things are for my kids. End of story. 

Anyway, K-B -F, you sound like your an amazing woman, you really care about things that are no longer in your life to need to care for. If I were you I would take up volunteer work - work at the local hospital, in the cafe or go read books to kids at primary schools, or help out some new mums in the neighborhood with their babies, bake a cake for a neighbour and drop by. There are so  many ways you can do random acts of kindness for people who will love you back. Send the cards to your sister in law, your parents, your niece, " do the right thing" and MOVE ON AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Just make sure your own kids know that you have done the right thing with the cards, as its them that you need to show you are doing the right as they will learn to do that by your actions. good luck and stay in touch. HUGS xoxox 

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