Originally Published: May 25, 2017 6 a.m.
Dear Annie: In 2013, I lost my brother to a drug-induced heart attack. At the time of his death, he had just learned that his daughter had brain cancer. My beautiful niece was just 12 years old when she was diagnosed.
My parents took her in. I was not happy about this. I endured horrible abuse at the hands of my mother and stepfather as a child. I considered filing for full custody of my niece, but an attorney advised me that the legal battle could be detrimental to my niece’s health.
I tried to visit my niece, but my mother allowed only one visit. During that visit, I tried to talk to my niece about her dad. I wanted to tell her stories about how wonderful her father was. My mother interrupted, saying I wasn’t allowed to discuss my brother in her house. She couldn’t handle it.
My mother then brainwashed my niece into believing that I somehow ruined her last Thanksgiving with her father. I remember that Thanksgiving. I was upset with my brother because he had been missing all day. He had been out using drugs, so I scolded him. My mother used that incident to poison my niece against me. She forced my niece to tell me that she didn’t want to see me.
I did the only thing I could think of. I mailed her a greeting card every single day for months. In those cards, I let her know how much I loved her and missed her.
I was not the only one who wasn’t allowed to be a part of my niece’s life. Other family members were not permitted to see her at all. My niece missed out on all this love.
She died a year later. I was allowed to see her for 10 minutes the night she passed.
My problem is that I can’t forgive my mother. I am full of hatred for her. It’s so bad that I can’t wait until she takes her last breath and leaves this earth. The anger and hatred inside of me are overwhelming me.
I know that I should forgive her, not for her but for myself, but I can’t. I can’t let go of the devastating loss of my niece and the fact that I was denied her company while she was dying. I think that my mother is the most evil and selfish person to walk the face of the earth. So I ask you: What is left for me to do? — Still Grieving in Upstate New York
Dear Still Grieving: I am so sorry for the loss of your niece and brother. Each of their deaths constituted a serious trauma to you, your mother and your whole family. Those were the times when you needed one another’s support and love the most, which makes it all the more hurtful that your mother would behave the way she did. But as you’ve recognized yourself, you must find a way to move past your rage, for your own sake. As Mark Twain said, “anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
Please consider seeing a grief counselor and attending a support group for adults who were victims of child abuse, such as Help for Adult Victims Of Child Abuse (https://www.havoca.org). Because you’re carrying emotional scars from worrying about your brother’s addiction, Nar-Anon might be a therapeutic space, too.
Once you start healing the wounds, you will find yourself less interested in clinging to anger and may even find a way to make peace with your mother, in your own way.
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