Ask Amy: Painful Post Magnifies Family Drama
Is the truth, sometimes, better left unsaid?
Dear Amy: My mother died almost 21 years ago.
On the 20th anniversary of her death, I was reflecting on her life, our relationship, and the ripples it sent through my life.
For better or worse, I posted my thoughts on Facebook. Our relationship had some huge ups and downs. She was a difficult person at times, and she said and did some pretty miserable things to me during the last five years of her life.
I did not go into specifics in the Facebook post, but I did say that the treatment I received colored my memories in a less than flattering way.
I summed it up by asking people to think about the effect their words have on the people around them.
My 32-year-old niece read my post and was offended. My portrayal wasn’t the grandmother she remembered. She then blocked me.
She showed my post to my brother, who proceeded to berate me for my “anger,” and for forgetting that she loved me. He then said I need therapy to deal with my anger. That was the last I heard from him.
I saw a therapist for four months. After hearing all about my life, she marveled at my restraint.
Over these months, I’ve sent cards and gifts for special occasions, as I always have, without mentioning the ISSUE, but I’m wondering if I should respond and if so, how?
I believe they’re upset because I didn’t tow the “party line.”
Dear Distressed: Yes, people should be aware of the effect their words have on others. That includes you. Your knowledge, experiences, and memories of your mother would not line up with your niece’s. After all, your niece was 11 or 12 years old when her grandmother died.
You assume that your family members are upset with you because you have told the truth about your mother’s behavior and its impact on you.
I believe it is just as likely that they are upset mainly because you posted these thoughts, feelings, and impressions in a public forum.
You don’t mention having any regrets about this, but – speaking as someone who has written two memoirs – when you publish painful personal family stories, family members are going to react. You can either own your version and try to talk about it, or retreat to your respective corners.
Ask your therapist to coach you about ways to handle this without violating your own truth. If you regret posting this publicly, acknowledging your regret might at least start a conversation.
Sending cards and gifts as you’ve always done might seem to you like gestures of reconciliation; but this behavior is also one way of sweeping this under the carpet, without acknowledging the pained reactions that your posting seems to have triggered for other people.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
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