Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Won't You Feel Guilty When Your Mother Dies?"

I didn't see a therapist for the first time until after I moved halfway across the country without telling my mother.  I was 28.  I hadn't talked to her in over a year at that point and had realized I never wanted to talk to her again.  My therapist asked, "Aren't you afraid you'll feel guilty if your mother dies before you can talk to her again?"

"I always assumed I would," I told her.  "I choose to stay away from her because I feel better with this distance between us and because I felt so terrible whenever I heard from her, but I always assumed it would be a trade off -- feel worse later so that I can feel okay now.  Then I had a dream that my mother died, and all I felt was relief.  I was just so relieved that it was all over and she couldn't hurt anyone anymore."

My therapist replied, "I don't think you should talk to your mother again."

The moral of the story is this:  If you cut a family member from your life, people will question you.  Your therapist and your family and even your friends might question you.  It's a valid question and one worth thinking about, in my opinion.  After all, lots of interpersonal problems can be remedied with compassionate communication, and most people won't know the full extent of your situation.  But just because someone asks, "Don't you think you should give things another try with your mom?" doesn't mean you can't answer No.  It doesn't even mean other people won't ultimately agree with you.  Only you can decide what's best for you.

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