While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On abusive parents who cover their tracks: My mother created a public persona of a sweet, giving, loving, tender mother.
This was a facade for the vicious, verbally, emotionally and physically abusive person she was and remains, albeit slowed and mellowed a bit by age. Two of her six children died from alcoholism from the abuse that fractured their psyches. I moved 750 miles away and I've chosen silence.
I've already made it clear I will not speak at her service. I'll be there out of respect for the family and that's about it.
I am the daughter of a cruel bully. It took me decades to figure out how to deal with him but when I was around 40, I finally realized I could cut him off if he spoke to me in a disparaging way. I wrote out a list of possible responses and put them by the phone so that I was ready to say, "I will not allow you to speak to me like that" and "If you can't speak to me respectfully, I will end this conversation."
It doesn't matter if the abusive parent agrees with you - he almost certainly won't - but standing up to him will help you win your self-respect. Work on a simple statement: "While you can still hear me, I want you to know that you created an unhappy family. Your conduct has been shameful." Bullies depend on intimidation; don't let them get away with it. You can hold them accountable.
On a loved one's death that's "not about you": I was 24 when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I was sobbing when my mom said, "Stop that. He's the one dying, not you." She was right. One of my most cherished memories to have been by his side, telling him how much he was loved as he took his last serene breath.
In 2008, my best friend lay dying after a 10-year battle with cancer. I knew it was our last visit and I made the totally selfish comment that here was my best friend, dying of cancer. She turned her head, "I'm not dying of cancer. I've been living WITH cancer." She died the next day.
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