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Author Topic: Parents
Redskies
Scarleteen Volunteer
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I could really, really do with some input on a situation I have.

As stated in another post here, my mother died a couple of weeks ago. From my follow-ups on that thread, it's probably not a surprise that I now strongly suspect that my mum was a victim of a controlling and emotionally abusive relationship with my dad. There's things that she said to me when she was alive, there's the evidence of his behaviour and the things he's said since her death, and there's some things she wrote that I've found in her personal effects that are godawful heart-breaking. She repeatedly wonders what it is that's so wrong, her despair and distress scream off the page, and she just wants to know what it is about her that makes people treat her the way they do. That stuff speaks very loudly to me as just what someone who's been/being abused would say.

I struggled very badly with the horrible and complex dynamics in my house when I was growing up, and in many ways I very much feel like I'm back there. No-one ever seemed to understand in the slightest, even counsellors.

It's a horribly bad situation in many ways, including the practicalities, as I now have major problems with having no control over her estate against my dad, having the worst of my childhood brought back to me, losing two of my five closest people in the last four months (previous death of friend), and feeling like I've lost my mum twice, realising that the person I knew all through my childhood, just til the last couple of years, wasn't who she really was at all, and that I feel like my dad took my real mum from me (by making her so unhappy.)

I know this isn't the right place for at least half of these issues, but could you talk about the family dynamics with me? I never found anyone capable of that. Also, my therapist is currently on leave, and with all of this, I'm just really not coping, even with support of my mother's partner and my partner.

I always read the bottom line of abuse being that there can't be love in abuse, but I'm sure my father loved my mum, and yet it looks really like abuse to me, and I'm just so confused and hurting.

[ 02-19-2012, 07:48 PM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Oh, Redskies. First of all, giant hugs to you.

I can certainly talk with you about this, and if you'd like, my partner, who has been through something very similar, also just said he'd be willing to pitch in too, if you'd like to talk with someone who has been here in a more actual way.

In terms of love and abuse, I think two big things to always bear in mind are these: 1) no person is only ever just one thing, so even an abusive or controlling person, well, that isn't all of who they are, and 2) we know that abusive or controlling people often feel that they do love, and that they have their own experiences of what they feel is love, even when it's really control.

In other words, if abuse and control is what's going on, I think we have to be real and say that no, someone doing those things isn't loving, because those things aren't things we can do and love, if by love we mean things like trust, respect, acceptance of people as separate from ourselves, care, kindness, etc. At the same time, we know that people who abuse and control often really do think that is love and experience that as their understanding of love sometimes. make sense?

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Blue Griffin
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Hi Redskies,

Wow a lot going on with you, maybe I should start by writing out some of the experiences I had with a similar dynamic in my family and see if that helps.

First off, my father is an emotionally abusive alcoholic narcissus who raged around our family like a hurricane. My siblings and were taught
how to deal with my father by my mother, her technique was to duck and cover while the storm raged and clean up afterwards. We lived on
eggshells and got out of the house and out of relationship with our parents as fast as we could. I could never understand why my mother
stayed with my father, my siblings and I talked of her as if she was a saint with an amazing capacity for love, for without her we would have
never survived our childhoods, for without her my father would have no one.

I kept in contact with my mother but avoided much exposure to my father. As I got older, I did my own work I realized that my mother was not quite the saint I thought she was. When I looked at my family I recognized a pattern, I would get fed up with how my father was treating me and would find a way to fight back and change it, this lead to massive conflict and often ended with me staying at a friends house or sequestering myself in my room. Basically taking myself out of where my father could reach me. My mother would be the one who would play peace maker, but it was not peace it was more “You need to give in to your father or you will be destitute” her role was to put
me back in line, put me back under the control of my father at all costs. Often this was done in a way that made me love my mother more, was done in the name of “family” and cleaned up the mess so my dad had what he wanted. Unfortunately it taught me to be dependent on the ones who emotionally abuse me and mistake love for control, which is a pattern I repeated with employers and relationships over and over
again.

I don’t know how to sort out what is love in an abusive relationship or to deal with the feeling that good things happened in an abusive relationship, I wrestle with that a lot. Did I love my mother? Yes. Did I love my father? Yes. Did the abuse negate those feelings? No. However, the abuse and control kept love and a supportive family away from our house and used those desires to be loved, to be a part of a family as a means to control us. I figure it is better to let myself
love and want rather than not, hopefully by now I have learned to recognize when abuse and control are a part of the mix and will get myself out of it.

I confronted my mother on the family dynamic several years ago, told her how I thought she sold out, how she kept the emotional abuse going
by not confronting dad and stopping him, taught me how to accept emotional abuse and manipulation as normal in a relationship. I told her I resented her for not leaving dad and having her own life, how angry I was that she didn’t protect me and how sad I was that I didn’t have as full a relationship with her because of dad. She didn’t deny any of this, which was progress and telling her this was more for me to fully express what I had never said to her and to be as clear with
her as possible. I had the brief hope that she would acknowledge me and then tell me she was going to leave dad and life would be wonderful for us all. What she told me was chilling, she said “Well I made my bed and I will lay in it, I wouldn’t ask you to change your life.” and with that she told me to not interfere and she will deal with it. To me, it felt like she had signed a death sentence. She chose to stay in the relationship, to not move beyond it, she had all
the support she could get out but yet she stayed. My mother was loyal, be it fear based, generational or something more noble she stayed
loyal to my father until the end.

My mother died of leukemia 5 years ago. In our family we say she died of exposure to the toxicity that is our father. Her death threw
everyone back in relationship with our father. Once again he used my mother to get us back under some sort of control. Her death mellowed him and age and my own distance has lessened his power to heap his control and abuse on me, however he still found a way. My father used my mother’s estate to keep all of his children in relationship with him, he would only give things and information, that he knew was important to us. if we all came for the holidays or called him
regularly. He used those gatherings to rewrite our family history about how happy and great our family was and how wonderful a husband he was. At first my siblings and I tolerated this because he was grieving and being human, but then we started to fall back into the pattern, once again through our mother we all got back in line for our
father so he could rage around the room and we would all take it and be there to clean up the mess. I managed to work out a distant but
acceptable relationship with my father but it was by no means close. My siblings relationship ranged from daily contact, contact only on
holidays to being completely disowned and considered no longer part of the family. My dad lost his control due to dementia and now my sister
has power of attorney over his estate.

What sucked was after my mother died we all learned that mother had her own quite amazing life outside of the family. She was a constant
volunteer in our community, created non profit organizations, sat on boards and through all that actually created a pretty compelling career. The only difference is that she never got paid for any of the work and since it was volunteer it was not threatening to my father. At her wake I had several women ranging from her age to women in their 20’s tell me how much of a major influence my mother was for them. One woman had started out a house wife with no sense of a career but my
mother mentored her and she went back to work and became a senior VP of a major corporation. Another woman said my mother let her lead a
fundraising project for an arts center when she was 22 and that started her career as a fundraiser for arts organizations. My mother
had this whole other life and was this amazing person that I never got to see. My siblings were all shocked, the only thing we knew about her
work was the occasional award or plaque she brought home and the complaining of my father that she was doing too much outside of the
home.

So I feel you on how conflicted you are feeling with your mother. The only way I conclude the issue with my mother is to respect the decisions she made, for they were the only thing she knew and they were her decisions, her choice, her life. Do I wish things were different? Yes, but I didn’t live her life, I have to live mine.
Hopefully I will learn something from all this and stand on her
shoulders, accept the parts of me that are like her, learn from her
choices and make choices that serve me best.

Hope this is helpful in some way.

[ 02-20-2012, 01:08 PM: Message edited by: Blue Griffin ]

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Redskies
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Thank you so much. I so badly need some support and help at the moment. I'd welcome your partner's contributions, too, if he thinks he can relate.

If I can just spill a bit. I know there's no fix for a lot of this stuff, but it gives an idea of the picture. My mum still lived in the old family home, joint-owned by her and my father. She would not have him in the house or capable of having access. 36 hours after her death, I found out he had a key that he'd asked a neighbour for. Within an hour, I was round there, without his knowledge, scouring the house as fast as I could for any and all of her personal and private papers. She kept loads of stuff, so there was piles of it, and she was in the middle of sorting it, so there were mounds of papers all over the house. All over tables, floors, in cupboards, shelves, shoe boxes. I went through lightning pace, trying not to think that she'd just died and I was going through her stuff, not able to look at anything deeply meaningful that I was picking up. I felt like a grave robber. It was horrible. I started sobbing and just had to carry on. The paperwork had to stay in town, and I couldn't've taken it elsewhere anyway; I could think of one friend of mine and my mum's who wouldn't have divided loyalty with my dad, so I called her and asked if she could have the stuff. Three and a half hours of turning the house upside down while leaving it looking untouched, I carried all the stuff in rucksacks and carrier bags round to her house, through 4 inches of snow and while it was snowing heavily. I think I just did that because I felt I had to, and put the trauma away somewhere else in my mind. It sounds absurd and I still can't quite believe that I did that. My mum's private documents are now in a cardboard box in someone else's living room.

Another thing. I have a particular recent health symptom that is as yet undiagnosed, about half-way through the list of possibilities. I've been told that at the end of that list is an underlying cause of an auto-immune disease. My mum died from organ damage caused by an auto-immune disease. Usually I'm quite good with taking things as they come, but that was the last thing I needed to hear at the moment.

I'm terrified that something could happen to my mum's partner ("Alf") or my partner. It's better when I'm with them, but I'm still worried that something might happen later. There's no good way round that, I know keep calling them wouldn't help, because 30 seconds later I'd feel just the same. I have a possession, too, that is very dear to me, very personal, rather like a pet is (you can get another dog but you can't get That dog), and is valuable, and my mum bought it for me. Travelling with that is a complete nightmare, I start sobbing on the train because I'm afraid I could lose it, even if I'm looking right at it, even if it's against my body. Unfortunately it's Supposed to be portable, I'm Supposed to go do things with it. I know there's some anxiety involved in my long-term mental health issues, but this is kind of extreme and horrible.

Yes, I'm going to contact a bereavement organisation for some help when I go back to my home town (currently at Alf's). I just felt like it would help to say it here now.

I do understand what you're saying, and I can kind of feel the truth of it, even though I'm finding it hard to grasp. I just see and hear my dad struggling so much, he says so much about how hard he tried and how much he loved her. He hurt and is hurting so much over the bad relationship. But something's really wrong. He met with Alf, and Alf said that he just cried the whole time and was full of his own woes. Uh, um?? That fits with how he was with me. I don't remember being given a space to share my memories of my mum, he was talking about his memories and his feelings. The difference with Alf is striking - he and I share our memories and feelings in a comfortable, supportive mix.

With my dad I very much get the sense that he had a picture of how his life should be - respectable career, semi-detached house in decent area, very lower-middle-class lifestyle, a wife, kids. I get the sense that perhaps he valued my mum more as "his wife" rather than her real self, though he would never recognise that himself. He's lonely and doesn't trust his friends (nor would I, most of them, they've got their good points but they're not stellar people).

He said to me, "I think I've found a buyer for your mum's car." We hadn't even Mentioned that, never mind discussed it. I just can't understand how it could just not occur to him that I might have an opinion. I do: I want the car (don't have one myself), and she wanted me to have it. She was even planning to give it to me when she was alive, when her planned life-change (moving to Alf's) would mean she didn't need it. I said to my dad, um, we've not discussed this. He said, "well, who bought that car." I breathed, and said, oh, it was always my understanding that it was actually Her car, rather than a long-term loan. He said I was right. I said, oh, well, I've always thought about gifts that they belong to the person they were given. He sort of agreed.

That goes back to a problem about money between them. She didn't earn money after I was born (caring for a really sick kid, then child-raising and housework, then, in my opinion, too depressed to manage to consider employment), and he would often say about things being his money. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes it would just be the pronoun he used without thinking. She was exceptionally frugal anyway, but she went without in a major way, never buying herself anything because he said we had no money. He would buy himself things for his personal interests. One year, she even skipped meals for months to save money for Christmas presents (I found out years later). No wonder she was upset about the money situation. About the car thing, he even said to me, he always used to get into trouble with my mum for phrasing things like that, with "I", and he didn't mean it. I thought, no, you phrase it like that because you Think it like that. There is something fundamental wrong with your thinking.

She would be distraught at him having control over any of her affairs. The way he phrased it to me was that she controlled everything, and he wasn't going to have this taken away from him. Gave me the shivers. Legally I have no power whatsoever, he has it all; BUT I have all the paperwork (I hope). He can't just do stuff himself, we have to work together. Except the house, that's all his, nothing I can do except try to sweet-talk him. I won't give him the paperwork: if it got that far, he has to make me, legally. I'm prepared to "play" chicken with him if I have to, knowing that he hates lawyers and knowing that he knows how stubborn I can be and that I wouldn't give in. I hope it doesn't come to that, but I have to figure out how to talk him round about things, and I'm just exhausted by the thought of having to deal with Him in the midst of everything to do with losing my mum.

Just to clarify, it's really, honestly not about the money to me. It's about what my mum wanted, her autonomy and freedom, and what's right. If she'd wanted to leave every penny to charity, I would fight just as hard for that. It's just she wanted to leave it to me. It makes me sad and scared to know that most people won't appreciate that it's not about the money for me, and will think it's an ugly fight over money.

Sorry for the really long ramble, but that's kind of what's going on.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
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Blue Griffin, our posts crossed, didn't see yours before I posted mine. I'll digest what you wrote. My childhood experiences and dynamics were pretty different to yours, but I just wrote that massive lump above, so I'll write about that when I've got my mind back.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
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Okay, adding to the stuff above: my partner is in the finalfinal stages of a thesis, so high stress, and is interviewing for jobs and will be moving city soon, so big life changes and high stress there for us. Partner had a phone interview just the day after my mum died, leading to an in-person one the following week. And me: I do have a degree, but I figured out part-way through that what I'd actually really always wanted to do with my life, and that plan involves going back to college to re-train. I desperately want to go to college. My previous degree experience was kinda horrible, mostly because of mental health issues, and I so, so want to go and do something I really love that I really want to spend all of my days doing, actually get into my course and do well, and have some kind of a social life (I mean making any friends at all, having a conversation with anyone at all). I've hung on and hung on believing I can get to college, I was planning on applying to start this autumn. But applications are due in just 3 weeks for some of them, with majorly competitive exams in the summer, and I just can't figure out if I feel capable of doing that. I'm so short of time now, it might not even be possible, but I don't know if I can cope, with everything else going on. There's a humungous amount to do relating to my mother's belongings, some of my belongings, a house (selling, if I can make that happen), and finances - and that's without starting on the emotional stuff. I'm totally torn between feeling like my health is my absolute first priority, and I shouldn't take on more than I can handle, and I'll just be determined to go next year instead; and being absolutely devastated that I don't get to go to college Again and Another year of my life is going without me doing anything I wanted to or starting my real life, just wading through rubbish. My mum really wanted me to go, because I wanted it; she supported me from the first time I mentioned it and wanted problems with her health not to stop me. She'd be hopping mad if she knew her death could knock it off course.

A bit more onto topic. In my childhood, I remember having a lot more problems with my mother than my father. She got angry a lot, and things had to be perfect. I was afraid of her, and I struggled with her being controlling. She yelled loud enough to hurt eardrums on the other side of the room, and when angry, slapped me apparently on the nearest bit of my body hard enough to knock me into a wall. I've been told that by 5, she screamed at me and I simply stood and stared at her. I'm told that that isn't normal behaviour for a 5-year-old.

I remember being really young, maybe 2/3/4, sitting in my room on my bed howling while one parent sat with an arm round me and the other in the doorway, Screaming at each other. There was always an underlying feeling of violence in the house. Both parents were very physically strong, and objects were thrown with real force and venom (not usually directly At people, though). Both used their size and strength to force me to go or not go somewhere.

My mother seemed to be much the more forceful one. In arguments, she would just overwhelm my father in volume, aggression and persistence, as well as in the points made. He would often complain of how he couldn't say anything right, he tried, he couldn't do anything right, she twisted his words, she remembered everything he'd ever said and threw it back at him, used it against him.

My mother was certainly very difficult. Her backstory is, she had an appalling childhood. She was repeatedly told by her mother how she wasn't wanted, never praised, not allowed to speak, in the house or to any other people, subjected to physical abuse by her mother and father. There was no affection in that house, and her parents went for months literally without speaking to each other, and ranting to their children for hours about how awful the other one was. I knew her mother, and indeed she didn't have one good word to say about my mum. "Doris" treated her horribly to her face, and said horrible things about her behind her back to everyone, including my father and six-year-old me. Doris did not have anything good to say about Anybody, but it seemed particular malice was reserved for my mum. My mum acquired a dog as a teenager, and the dog is the only creature from that house that she remembers with affection. Mum slept under the living room table with the dog for 3 years, and nobody asked why or even mentioned it. I believe every word she told me about her childhood, because she said it in such a matter-of-fact way with no self-pity, and because it absolutely matches everything I can know independently.

The picture painted by people who knew my mum in college, and by records of that time of her life, is very, very different to what I experienced in most of her life. They show a very lively, outgoing, cheery, kind, exceptionally fun and silly person. In my childhood, she was not lively or cheery or fun, and hardly seemed to have any contact with friends. Now, when I can put things together, I can see flashes of the lively and the fun; but I didn't understand it at the time. It was so different to what I was used to, it felt like a pretence, and I was suspicious. I know now that she would desperately have been trying to be the person she knew she really was, who she had all but lost. The massive clue comes in the last few years of her life, after she met Alf. She became exactly like the college descriptions of her. She even looks just the same in photographs, just with some added wrinkles. In the years in between, she looks completely different. She wasn't always easy, but in the interactions with Alf, she was Completely different to how she'd been with my father. My conclusion is, something happened to make her become the way she was with my father, because that sure wasn't "default" for her.

My father remembers everything being wonderful in the beginning. My mum told me how she adored him and thought it was the perfect relationship. She told me that they were both working, really long hours, and yet she was the one who did the household stuff. His dreams were the ones that were followed, rather than hers. She wanted to go on holiday, but he couldn't be persuaded. In my lifetime, I remember lots of occasions of her asking for his help, and he didn't give it. She and I had really bad flu, but he wouldn't take the day off work (even though he could've done for no financial penalty) because he couldn't let other people down. She needed him to take me for the afternoon so she could go to a medical appointment without a kid in tow, and it was too hard to arrange. She needed him to come home promptly from work so she could go out to buy me a birthday card, and he forgot. She told me years afterward, one time on a weekend trip away to try to heal their relationship, she really believed him telling her that things would be different, and he told her they would renew their vows; she was so happy. The next morning, he thought that everything was fine again and seemed completely disinterested in any vow renewal. She was distraught. I remember seeing them at the end of that weekend and knowing that something was very, very wrong. I found some notes of hers writing about her distress in how her enjoyment of sex had disappeared, even before I was born. I think she got more clued up about that in later years, as she said she felt used by him: he wanted to have sex because that would make everything ok, and when they'd had sex, well, that meant everything was ok. I think she figured out that the problem there wasn't her. I really hope she did.

So it's really hard to pick apart. On the face of it, it seems like my mum was the abusive one. But when you really dig into it, it shouts very loudly at me that she was acting in response to mistreatment of herself. She was always a monumentally strong woman, she would never ever meekly accept being mistreated by anyone. But she was mistreated in such a subtle, sickly-sweet way "you do all the cooking because you're better at it; you're amazing, you do all my washing and ironing because I'm so hopeless at it" that she didn't know how to recognise it for what it was. Instead, she became more and more unhappy, more restricted, more frustrated, more tied in. She stayed because she was absolutely committed to her marriage vows.

My partner was around last week to hear a lot of how my dad was acting. Partner's fairly hot on abusive people and abusive dynamics, and (in private) Partner had smoke coming out their ears about how controlling-abusive and supremely self-centred my dad was being. So it's not only me reading that into the situation.

Sorry for the length of this, and the huge amount of stuff it covers.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Redskies, I really don't have anything constructive to add to this, though I've been trying to come up with something. But I wanted to let you know that you are an amazing person. *HUGS* (I wish there was an effective way to convey all of the support I want to convey in this message).

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Redskies
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Moonlight, thank you truly for the support.

My dad and I were just talking about what needs to be done. He said he didn't want my mum's money, which is good, but I'm not taking it as meaning all that much because it depends what he thinks is my mum's money, I guess. He also tends to change his mind and forget what he's said.

I burst into tears, said "it's not about the money for me, I didn't want her money, I want her, I wasn't supposed to have any money, she had plans for it for her life and to make her happy" and he hugged me... and then started talking about their marriage and how he'd Tried so hard, and Nobody Knows How Hard I Tried, "somebody put a meal in front of me and packed me sandwiches but I didn't feel like anyone Saw me" and "someone had to earn the money, I had a job which I was committed to doing to the best of my ability"... It felt like knives in me. I stayed there for a few minutes, then it got too much, and I thought, I don't Have to damage my mental health with this. I said very quietly and gently that I had a great deal of sympathy for him and knew he needed support, but it had to be from someone else. I said "I care, but I can't. I'm missing my mum, I'm grieving for my mum, I just can't". He said he didn't have anyone else, got unhappy with me, then when I gently repeated my position and didn't hug him, he got angry, started ranting about how little he matters and how he shouldn't've said anything, that he could never say the right thing to my mum and that she didn't give him the support he needed when he asked either. I said, "I didn't say it didn't matter, I didn't say you said anything wrong, I said that I Can't" and left the room.

I think that what I've written in posts above looks pretty fuzzy about how/if he's abusive. I can back it up with some recent experiences. He was in a different relationship which went tail-up after he said something in public that the woman couldn't forgive him for. He was very distraught and angry about that, and bounced from being really down with himself to being really down on her. He talked to me a lot about it. He kept saying how he didn't "deserve" to lose that relationship because of what he'd said. I think I was the only person to point out to him that no, he didn't "deserve" it, but it really wasn't About what he "deserved", it was about what she could and couldn't live with, and apparently she couldn't live with that, and that was her choice to make, as sad as it was. He kept saying that he didn't know what he was thinking when he said what he said; but putting a lot of things together, I reckon that he said something publicly humiliating deliberately, subconsciously, because she was getting stronger and had always been more independent than he liked. He also couldn't really accept that she was genuinely upset about it, couldn't see why it was so bad. It was me who found the answer to that one, when he was talking about her ex-husband, and after a while I just stared at him and said, "if he was behaving that appalling to the kids, I can't imagine any way in hell that he wasn't abusive to her too..." and he just stared back and then told me this catalogue of horrendous, serious abusive that her ex-husband poured on her. She'd even written in an email to my dad that him humiliating her in public was just like what her ex used to do... and somehow my father had just never taken this in. The woman had even explicitly told him, and he still couldn't see the wood for the trees.

I talked him through what would be positive and negative actions to take regarding the woman, and I believe he really tried to follow them. A few weeks later, though, he got frustrated, again, and tried demanding answers from her and contact with her. He showed me the text messages from this point. She sent him a fairly snide message, and he responded with a really nasty, abusive message, and then one or two other nasty ones after she didn't reply to the first. Then he texted her repeatedly demanding a reply, demanding to speak to her, to see her. Then he texted her something along the lines of "if I don't hear from you before then, I will call your house at 7.30. If you don't answer, I will come to your house at 8.15." etc. He did those things, and of course, she wasn't there. Finally, her mother rang him to ask him to leave her daughter alone, that she was fine but she really, really didn't want to speak to him, and he needed to leave it.

I told him that I would not have responded if someone sent me those messages. I told him that to someone who had been abused and controlled, those messages would feel exactly like control and be frightening. I tried not to judge him, but I was astounded that someone who I'd spelled out to the effects of control and abuse (really serious abuse, her ex-husband beat her and threatened to kill her with a gun, which he owned), who claimed to deeply care about and love the woman, could send her such messages. Except I wasn't quite surprised that my father would do that. When someone doesn't act the way he wants them to, when someone isn't who he wants them to be, he completely loses it. And then acts all "poor-me" that the person then isn't nice to him and that everything falls apart.

I hope that gives a clearer idea of why I'm convinced that this man is abusive to women he's in a relationship with, and that he was abusive to my mother. And why there's no way in hell that I'm hugging him while he talks about "poor-him", while I'm thinking of what he did to my mother. The man has absolutely no idea. He couches his controlling behaviour in terms of concern for the other person, of trying to do the right thing... It's so subtle. Several counsellors missed it; though from what my mother said, one figured out that something was very, very wrong, and hugged my mother at the end of one of their sessions. My mum saw two psychologists in the last few years, and to the best of my knowledge, they didn't twig. I really, really hope my mum worked enough of it out for herself. In her mental health paperwork, I found her aim for therapy was "to work out what is wrong with me that people, especially my ex-husband, treat me the way they do". If I'd known everything I know now when she was still alive, I could have told her, and I Would have told her, that there is Nothing wrong with Anyone that means someone treats them badly, and her ex-husband was abusive and controlling in relationships.

I feel like my dad stole my mum, and he can't even begin to understand what's the matter with his behaviour.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
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I would really appreciate some help/feedback on my dad and the relationship between my parents, and how I feel about all that. My therapist is back, but doesn't seem to respond to these things in a way that feels helpful to me. She mostly operates in a CBT way, which I think is what I need to sort some other things out, but is not helpful for this. I feel a touch of the desperation I felt as a kid of "no-one understands, no-one is supporting me". Partner really wants to be supportive, but is perhaps too close to all of this, and doesn't have a trained background in really helping someone with such complex stuff; Alf is wonderful, but of course has his own grief and loss, and is very soft-hearted, so was more sympathetic to my father than I was - until he read some things that my mum wrote, and then I think he began to understand more where I'm coming from.

Just to add to the "yet another thing", going through the piles of papers is pretty tough as well because of the amount of abusive people I encounter in them. There were one or two Christmas cards and notes from my abusive former boyfriend; a stack of cards, letters and pictures from my auntie's son, who abused me, and which my mum clearly couldn't work out what to do with (put them away in a box but couldn't throw out); notes to my mum from my father about how he loves her, he wants to love her, he tries so hard, but she's so angry, and he can't cope with that (he's subtley blaming her for "I can't do anything right for you"); letters to her from her father; letters from her mother. Ugh. It takes so long to go through because the emotional hit is so big. I felt like I'd not got through much at all, but Alf said I'd done loads.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Redskies: I'll be at the boards on and off today and would be happy to talk with you more about this.

Mind giving me some clear places to start?

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Redskies
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Thank you. I realise there's a huge amount I wrote here; I think I just needed to tell somebody, and there aren't a lot of people I can really trust in this situation.

I'm not sure where to start. There's so much. Maybe with: my mum got blamed for a lot of the situation in my family, but now I think the root didn't lie with her at all, and someone who was being hurt got even more hurt. And I didn't get to grow up with my real mum, but an unhappy, hurt shell of her. That's just devastating.

I know that any context doesn't make some things she said or did to me "ok", and doesn't excuse them, but it really, really changes her context for me.

I feel sure about what I'm thinking about how my father treated her, that he was abusive; but then I get upset and confused and think, am I sure, that's some really big stuff I'm thinking there. A couple of people have already suggested that maybe I shouldn't be thinking so much in that direction, including "because it won't help me with my grief", but surely the truth is valuable just for itself? Surely working out the truth of the dynamics that always baffled me and caused me a lot of pain is helpful? And why shouldn't I acknowledge that I believe someone was abusive? I wonder if I should be listening to those people, but it doesn't feel right, and I get confused.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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I agree with you, that I think going with your own feelings here and the truth you're facing is valuable and useful. I also think that since obviously it's a big part of your grief, you really can't go through the process of your grief and avoid all of that.

Plus, you know: you know what you know now. It's not like you can somehow pretend that you don't. You do.

I agree, it really is quite devastating to find these kinds of things out about our parents. As a slightly similar example, I grew up getting really cruel messages from my mother about my conception being unwanted and unintended, and how it messed up her life, etc. And yet, I only found out way later -- due to first just doing math once I started learning about the history of repro choice here -- that she literally did not have a choice, that contraception wasn't legal for her yet, and neither was abortion. Obviously, that, too, didn't excuse the way she dealt with it with me, but it also radically changed my understanding of all of it, and made dealing with that a lot more complicated.

Some of what I'm hearing here around your grief is a few things. You have grief for the loss of your mother, per her death. But then you also are experiencing grief around the loss of your mother as the different person she could have been, for herself, and to you, had she not been in an unhealthy relationship. Of course, there's also brief around not getting a mother more like you wanted because of that, too.

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Redskies
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I think you're right with what you're hearing. Except, I don't think it's quite about the kind of mother I wanted, but about knowing that she actually Was that underneath, buried under the unhealthy relationship. Knowing that she could have been that, and she and I both missed out on that.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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How are you doing when it comes to the range of feelings something like that can create?

Often, when someone dies, we get the message that the only appropriate feeling is sadness. And yet, that often isn't the only thing people can feel, but instead, a range of feelings, including feelings some might consider "unacceptable," like anger, resentment, relief, etc.

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Redskies
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I think I would consider most feelings "acceptable", including in myself. I don't believe there's a "right" response to a death.

I'm not sure how I'm doing, though. I feel like I've had to do too much to have space for all my feelings. It was me who called or wrote to most of her friends, I gave the eulogy at the service and gathered contributions from others, I'm handling her affairs and trying to protect her privacy from my father, up to the point where the law insists it's him who signs things and gets money, I'm sorting through her things as part of the massive job so that the house can be sold, I'm trying to talk my father down from absurd panic about finances and doing things that aren't acceptable to me, like keeping and moving in to the house. He's not even done a couple of things I asked him to, like call someone to check the boiler which smells of gas, or call the utility companies. Apparently he just keeps thinking about dealing with any of my mum's accounts. Wrong order, buster. Call the utility companies First, last thing we need is trouble from bounced unpaid bills.

I think I feel anger at my father for how he's behaving Right Now, never mind anything else. I feel like he's getting in the way of any space I might have had left to grieve. I certainly can't grieve with him or share anything with him, because he remembers a very different person to the one I do.

I feel "loss", really. Loss of my mother right now, and loss of the person she could/should have been in the past.

I think I'm keeping in check most of the anger I'd feel at my father for the past, because I've got to work with him for months, and I can't do that while I tap into my real feelings. The way I feel now is, when I've finally got everything I should have from my mum, I'm gone, and he can go to hell. I'm pretending until then.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Glad to hear that about your thoughts on the range of feelings. [Smile]

Sure sounds like you're having to carry a lot on your shoulders with this, all the more so because of all the feelings you're dealing with. I'm so sorry to hear that. Is there any way at all you can get some help with all of the things you're having to do around the death?

In terms of how you're dealing with your father, personally I think whatever feels most right to you, and what supports you being able to deal with everything is okay. I certainly also think taking space away from him -- be it temporary or permanent -- once you're through all this is totally understandable and valid.

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Redskies
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Alf's been great, he dealt with funeral directors and had the main share of organising the funeral (though we discussed everything). He called the friends that he shared with my mum. He's also organised the return of various parts of her medical equipment and calling some of the many clinics. I don't know what I would have done without him, I couldn't've done all that too.

I don't know how I could get any other help. With all the finance stuff, technically it's supposed to be my dad who does that, but if she'd written a will, that wouldn't be the case, so I'm trying to keep it away from him as much as legally possible. I don't know who else could help with that. It would feel wrong to drag Alf into that, almost like pitting Alf against my father, and Alf isn't really made for that.

I really can't stand how my father just turns everything into how He feels about everything. Expecting support from me.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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What about getting a lawyer to help you with that stuff?

And with your father, seems like you're unfortunately dealing with more of his usual pattern, which I imagine is especially hard right now when you're also now seeing how much that impacted your mother and her life. [Frown]

How are you doing setting limits with him with that? Do you feel able to do that?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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I'd like a lawyer, but I have no idea in the world how I could afford one.

You're absolutely right, it's really hard with my father. I'm setting my limits, hard when I need to, but he responds to that with anger and aggression, as recorded up above. I also want to be careful to try to keep him "on side" so I walk out of this with what I should have.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Could part of what remains of your mother's estate pay for one? Or, have you looked into legal aid with this of any kind?

I wonder if calling any kind of org/trust around family abuse might help get you connected to some free or low-cost services?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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I tried calling one women's org legal advice line, but they're not allowed to hook people up to or recommend lawyers. I wouldn't know where else to try. I've felt too full up of trying to sort everything else to manage to work my way through possible legal aid options. The most important stuff was her funeral, people, and getting her private, official and meaningful stuff away from my dad so he couldn't use it or chuck it out.

My mum left very little money, and it's not legally mine anyway, I wouldn't want to rely on it and land myself with a bill I can't pay. I also don't want to use any of my mum's money that I don't need to, if I can figure it out myself.

I think some free or low-cost services would be really good, if I could get them.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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That line couldn't suggest where you COULD fine free or low-cost services?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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I didn't manage to explicitly ask them that at the time. They just said they couldn't recommend a lawyer, when I said I thought I needed one and didn't have any money.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Well, that doesn't sound very helpful. Grr.

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Redskies
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No, it didn't feel all that helpful at the time. I got the feeling they were more used to divorce/kid custody problems and were a bit baffled by mine. I'd happily ask for help elsewhere, I just feel too strung out to go through figuring out where, as I have so much other paperwork to go through.

I spoke to a lawyer, just as an introductory brief phone convo, so no charge, and she told me that it sounded like I had no real legal options available, on a small estate it would be prohibitively expensive paying for a lawyer, and my best option was to hold onto the paperwork I'd taken and try to talk my father round. Kinda rubbish.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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I understand. Just figured I'd ask.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Redskies
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I really feel like my dad is not behaving in an ok way about all this, and nor was he ok to my mother. Am I being unreasonable in feeling that?

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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I don't think so.

I think that expecting people to do their best to support each other in a crisis is something to expect, something sound. I also think that it's sound to expect a parent to step it up when their child is experiencing a loss, even if they are, too.

That said, it sounds like your father is behaving consistently: in other words, that the way he's acting now is the way he usually does. Do I have that right? If so, while I still think you've every right to be upset about that, and to still hold him to a higher standard, you're probably going to want to try and accept that he seems unlikely to step up.

Know what I mean?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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(Just FYI, I'm heading away from the boards for a while, maybe for the night. Got a rotten cold I've been fighting, and have put off taking cold medicine today so I could get some things done, but my poor throat is begging for it now.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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