Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: My mother died a few months ago. My children, who are in their 20s, adored her. They do not know she was abusive to me and my sisters when we were growing up. I dont really want to disillusion them, but it is really hard to listen to them talk about how awesome Grandma was. Is there anything neutral I can say?
By neutral, you mean honest without upsetting anyone? If so, that sounds like a vestige of your abusive childhood: Instead of living honestly, youre living with keen attention to the potential cost of living honestly. Thats a legacy no one deserves.
If you were my parent, I would want you to tell me your truth. I would want you to say that you held this back so I could have my own relationship with Grandma, and explain that you did this without fully appreciating how much it would hurt you to watch this plan succeed. I would also hope youd be patient if I react emotionally, and trust me to come around to gratitude for knowing. Id also want you to be ready if I tell you that Grandma also was abusive to me, but that I wasnt comfortable sharing this, until now.
If you have grounds to believe your kids wont receive the news this way, then I suggest enlisting the help of a good, reputable family therapist. If theres any chance of fallout if experience tells you that your kids dont handle gray areas well then exploring your options with a trained guide is a reasonable exercise in self-care, the value of which you apparently learned the hard way.
Re: Grandma: I made clear to my daughter that even though my mother was abusive toward me, it didnt mean she wasnt a terrific grandmother to her. Id like to believe that my mother recognized her awful behavior and made my daughters life better by being part of it. Telling the truth about your history doesnt have to change your childrens perspective unless you are forcing the issue.
Love this, thank you.
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