When I talk with her about my (relatively) small struggles, such as a job loss, or difficult relationships, my sister always has to "top" my own struggles by ending with, "Well, at least you don't have a dead kid," or some other similar retort.
It's feeling like a competition. I feel I can't speak to her about any of my smaller problems.
My sister often acts the martyr. At dinner parties that she hosts, she will not ask anyone to help with the food or dishes, but then later (in tears) says, "No one offered to help!"
But Amy, when we offer to help — she refuses. I can't win!
Amy, I feel like distancing myself from her. She feels like she is the most hurt person in the world and that no one can possibly understand her. I feel put down and rejected.
Check-Mated: Even though your sister’s flashes of anger serve to push you away, I hope you won’t abandon her. She sounds stuck in a cycle of grief and anger, and this will affect all of her relationships.
It is unkind of her to use her son’s death to diminish your problems, and yet — surely she is speaking her own truth. Grief separates sufferers from the world. On one level, embracing — or at least tolerating — the quotidian problems of everyday life could actually help your sister to heal. I think you should gently tell her, “My problems might not seem big to you. But they’re real. You’re my sister. Your reaction to me makes me feel small and sad.”
She would benefit from connecting with others who have experienced similar losses, who understand the unique grief accompanying suicide, and can comprehend the enormity of the void in her life. You should suggest that she reach out to a group like allianceofhope.org (for survivors of suicide), or Compassionate Friends (compassionatefriends.org), for bereaved parents.
In terms of her dinner party martyrdom — don’t ask if you can help. Just push up your sleeves and dive in.
Dear Amy: How do I let this go?
My son told me his wedding would be a low-key affair, as they could not justify spending the money.
He told me the wedding would involve a few close friends, her parents and me and my partner. I was not involved in the planning at all.
Come the actual wedding, and I was stunned to see the bride's grandparents, brother, his wife, kids, aunts and uncles, flower girls, ring bearers, fancy flowers, wedding planner, photographer etc.
I was shocked and humiliated. I do not understand how between the three of them (the couple and her mother), it was somehow acceptable not to invite the groom's family.
How do I get over this and move on?
We are not on good terms now.
Excluded Mother of the Groom
Excluded Mother of the Groom: I can imagine how upsetting this must have been.
It sounds as if your son might now be in a marriage with a woman who is dominating him and is perhaps calling all the shots. This unfortunate dynamic often surfaces around weddings (where brides and their family traditionally plan and pay).
Your son is obligated to stand up for himself and advocate for his own parents.
You don’t say whether you have expressed your disappointment over this, but you should.
You could contact your son and his wife and say, “Your wedding was beautiful. Unfortunately, I am so disappointed that none of our extended family members were included or invited. I hope to move forward on a different footing so that we can all be in this family together.”
Dear Amy: Thank you for pointing out the obvious to "Expectant," who was fretting over whether her husband would be present for the birth of her baby.
You told her that the best-laid birth plans often go awry.
I'll say so! One of my children was born while my husband was stuck in a blizzard on the other side of the country.
We Survived: In the best cases, these situations contribute to the family lore.