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Ask TherapistMaryAnn Your Own Question
TherapistMaryAnn, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5839
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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5 Months ago my mother died.I am still coming to terms with

Customer Question

5 Months ago my mother died.
I am still coming to terms with it.
The problem is I always felt she was very abusing and demeaning.
I really did not know how to cope with her in the end so I just put everything down in an email and sent it to her.
Now I am pretty sure that email broke her heart and she died a year later, we exchanged emails and she sent me letters I never read any of the letters as I really did not want more abuse, possibly they were pleading for me to see her.
She never called and no family member intervened.
I went to boarding school at 6, was bullied and later tortured, I would phone home and she would just tell me to deal with it at one point she told me it was good for me.
When I was older she was abusive to my kids but wanted to see them she was totally demeaning to my partner who she disabused and insulted all the time.
She lied to avoid helping us, at one point when we asked for financial help she refused and gave half her house to a finance company for such a small return that it made no difference to her life intact it disallowed her state pension to a greater extent, i.e. it cost her money and she lost out. She was warned this would happen and the solicitors told her not to do it but she did it anyway.
Worse we were then homeless because she did not help and she refused to even have us to stay…
Later on she wanted a closer relationship especially when we became very successful financially.
She constantly told demeaning stories about us and said we were fickle and prone to break contact with her all the time…
My children suffered terribly and one still has problems due to having to move so much.
Things are stable now and we are well off but…
I feel I have been morally negligent or lacked moral conviction for not going to see her before she died…
I have to say no family member actually told me she was ill and no one contacted me to say she needed help.
They all know I am a very generous and helpful person but chose to say nothing…
Now I am burdened by guilt… Logic has helped but somehow it is still difficult.
There were good times when I was younger, I just don't understand why people are so nasty, it hurts I have to say a lot, I am really very stoical but this one got to me…
Was I morally wrong to just focus on my kids ?
She always caused trouble and never really helped out either emotionally, or practically.
She was also an alcoholic / heavy drinker...
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  TherapistMaryAnn replied 4 years ago.
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

You were not wrong with how you reacted to your mother. You were abused and you did the only thing you could do to protect yourself. Many abused children feel they are obligated to be subjected to abuse from their parents even as adults because of the guilt associated with breaking off ties with a parent. But just because she was your mother does not mean you desrved to be treated the way she treated you.

To add to the situation, she also hurt your children by refusing to help your family when she was financially able, which is a sign that she had no compassion and was willing to hurt her own grandchildren. And you mentioned that the only time she wanted to have contact is when you were financially well off, which may indiate that she was only interested in you and your family when it could benefit her.

The guilt you feel after your mother's death is normal. You were terribly hurt by her and tried to connect to her all your life. But she refused. But your compassion for her and feelings of wanting a relationship show that you care. And now that she has passed, you might question if you feel you did enough to try to have a relationship with her. You did. How she responded was not your fault.

It may help you to work through your grief and guilt by writing down all the things you did do to try to connect to her. Also include how she responded to you. If you see it in black and white, it may make it easier to see how much you did try and that she was not able to respond because of her own issues.

Also, write a letter to her. Not to show anyone (unless you feel it would help) and say what you are feeling. This letter is for you. Add to it or do whatever you feel would help you heal. You might burn it (releasing your feelings) or you might leave it at her grave. Whatever you feel helps you let go.

Reach out to others for support. Join a grief support group, tell others about your experience and if you feel it would help, see a therapist. By getting support, you can see that you did what you could to be there for your mother. It was her behavior that prevented the relationship from developing.

Here are resources that may help:

Adult Children of Abusive Parents- Steven Farmer

I hope this has helped you,
Expert:  TherapistMaryAnn replied 4 years ago.
Can I help you any further?