Sage Advice: A Gamblin' Granny

By Amy Dickinson | July 23rd, 2019

Handling an emotionally abusive relative

Toxic grandmother.

Dear Amy: My 90-year-old grandmother is a truly awful human being. She has alienated her entire family, including her five kids and multiple grandchildren. She’s lost countless friends and ruined relationships with those around her.

My mother refers to her as a sociopath, and my uncles and aunts say they cannot wait for the day that she eventually passes.

While she’s typically invited to family functions, she has not attended in years – and honestly, we don’t miss her.

When my sister (who is gay) got married a few years ago, my grandmother was invited, and chose not to attend. Instead, she sent my sister and her new wife a pamphlet on sexually transmitted diseases enclosed in a sympathy card. At that point, I was fully done with her, as was my sister.

My grandmother has run out of money in recent years. Her children were all contributing to a monthly account for her, but after discovering that she was spending most of this money on home shopping purchases and casino trips, they all stopped. My mother and her siblings said the only items they will pay for now will be her moving into assisted living and her funeral, but nothing else.

About a week ago, my sister and I both received a letter in the mail from my grandmother pleading for money, and explaining how dire her financial situation was. She sent this letter to all of her grandchildren, all of which feel the same way about her.

I really want to respond and tell her what I think of her. The other part of me wants to show compassion toward someone near the end of their life. I certainly will not be giving her any money, but I feel that I should respond regardless. I just don’t know how.

What do you think?

– Unsure Grandchild

Dear Unsure: Before you respond, ask yourself: “What good would it do?” If it would somehow benefit her, you, and others to lay out with complete honesty how reprehensible her behavior has been over the years, then do that.

Otherwise, you could try a simple, more compassionate, but also truthful response: “Dear Gran, I received your letter. I’m genuinely sorry you are in this position. Unfortunately, I cannot be part of your solution. I hope you find peace during this part of your life. Every person deserves that, and I want that for you, too.”

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

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

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