Dear Rhonda & Dr. Cheri: Ostracizing is bullying and abusive
Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My grandma was ostracized by her women’s group after one of them started spreading rumors about her.
After 50 years of service with this group, one person convinced everyone to exclude her from many group activities.
Grandma gave up her only child for adoption many years ago and hid it by saying she couldn’t have children. She was just 16.
Her parents told her she would be responsible for the community “shunning” them and it would be all her fault, if they knew.
The truth came out a month ago, when her adopted son found her and she couldn’t hide it anymore.
The treatment she’s endured is worse than if they would have confronted my grandma. She has changed drastically. She’s lost weight and stays in bed all day. She doesn’t do anything like knitting, sewing, or baking things.
However, when her son is here from out of state, she perks up and puts on a show for him.
It’s killing me that she is so sad.
Let your grandma know she’s needed in your life and has made a positive impact directly by being your grandmother. Steadfast unconditional love from you will help her endure the excruciating pain she feels now.
She doesn’t yet realize that her long-time secret doesn’t define her.
Ostracism is bullying and isn’t talked about as much as it needs to be, because most people who are ostracized feel ashamed.
Ostracism means that a group is deliberately rejecting someone by excluding them from events or social gatherings.
It’s a most lonely feeling that resonates throughout the banished person (young or old).
A part of our human existence is the need to belong to a group. Social rejection, especially from unreasonable or drawn-out ostracism, can lead to major depression or aggression.
Grandma chose a group of people who discarded her. It’s a lot to handle. She may be disassociating and need professional help.
She’s “putting on a show” for her son, because she doesn’t want to lose him again.
You can help by:
1) Taking her pain seriously. Tell her she can talk, cry, and reminisce with you.
2) Let her know that ostracism is an aggressive form of bullying.
3) Show her that, while it’s natural to feel angry and deeply sad, she can take baby steps to forgive and she can express her feelings to the accusatory group with a letter, which she’ll have to rewrite a few times to maintain her dignity and speak as a matter-of-fact.
You can make a difference in the fight to end bullying starting with one person, your grandma.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri
Rhonda Orr is the president of Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation and host of a podcast at therhondaorrshow.com. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Write them at Rhonda@rhondastopbullying.org.