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Woman struggles with childhood memories

DEAR AMY: I am a 50-year-old woman, married with two grown kids. My mother died five years ago. After marrying my dad, she had four kids in about four years (I’m the oldest). She had no other family here in America, and my father worked seven days a week to support his family, so he was gone a lot. I know it wasn’t easy for her. She wasn’t very affectionate. She really didn’t hug or kiss us, or tell us she loved us. I wasn’t supervised very much. There was a period when I was 6-8 years old where I think, looking back, she must have been depressed. She had several family members die within a three- to four-year period. Sometimes I would go to school without brushing my hair or my teeth, and wear the same clothes for several days. I acted out at school, I think for attention, because I really wasn’t getting much at home. I probably remember more than my siblings, being the oldest. I never discussed this with my mom when she was alive. I don’t think she had much insight, and she had trouble apologizing, so I didn’t confide in her. My dad is old and remembers everything through rose-colored glasses. I haven’t told him any of this because I don’t see the point now. How can I get rid of the resentment/regret/sadness I feel about my childhood? It seems to have gotten worse since my mom died.

Resentful

DEAR RESENTFUL: My first recommendation is that you chronicle your own story. Simply write down what you remember, and how you remember it. As you do this, you will write your way closer to the feelings and reactions of the girl you once were.

As an adult, with an adult’s perspective, you will weep for that girl. You will feel sorry for the child that didn’t get what she needed at home.

You will go through a period of anger at your mother. But then, I hope that your writing will also bring you closer to the woman your mother was — a woman with four young children, alone in a country with no family to rely on, and a hard-working but absent husband. Her life must have been very hard.

Another exercise would be to rewrite your mother’s obituary. This would be your private account of how you would like to remember her. Your ultimate goal should be to understand and accept the reality of her situation, in order to forgive her for her failings.

You should also think about your passage as an adult. If your mothering was gentler, more attentive and more affectionate than your mother’s was, then you are a shining success.

If you suspect you are depressed, talk with a therapist.

DEAR AMY: My half-sister has been posting inflammatory and nonfactual information on Facebook about her adoptive family. Really far-fetched and outlandish nonsense. She is a known pathological liar and this is starting to anger our family (and others). I could provide many examples of her outrageous lies and stories, but they are personal accusations toward family members, as well as greatly distorting her own personal life, education and work history. I have stopped seeing her and we are only maintaining minimal email and Facebook contact. I don’t even know what to say about these outrageous claims. What should I say, if anything?

Furious Sister

DEAR FURIOUS: If you don’t want to “unfriend” this family member altogether, then you should at least “hide” her posts so that you don’t have to see what she writes.

Imagine what a relief it will be when someone else starts complaining about your sister’s distortions and dissembling, and you will be able to truly say, “Sorry, I have no idea what you’re referring to.” One advantage of her reputation as a “pathological liar” is that people don’t believe her.

If she writes something defamatory about you specifically, you will find out about it soon enough — through others. Then you can deal with her directly, or through a lawyer.

DEAR AMY: I felt terrible when I read the letter from “Betrayed.” Like Betrayed, I was molested by a family member. Like her, that same family member left me money in his will — I assume to try to atone for what he did. I hope Betrayed receives the money she is owed, and I hope she spends (and saves) it wisely.

Been There

DEAR BEEN THERE: Thank you for being in her corner.

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