Need help coping with dysfunctional family relationships following dad's death

Caligal22

New Here
Hey All,

I really need help from you folks.

I joined this forum because of the complex trauma I experienced growing up in my family of origin where there was such an unfair portion of shit that I had to experience where my two siblings just did not, or even if they did, are not willing to ever acknowledge. I am sure that if my brother and sister don't ever touch on the shit that I remember, if's because they had allies in extended family members that I never did. My god was my childhood devoid of this! Not a supportive or safe grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, cousin, no one!

Okay, so here's what's going on.

On 3/2/2023, my dad died. He was 91 years old, with dementia, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, prostate cancer, kidney cancer...it was just time. I say this as honestly as I can. The man prided himself on being able to hike, read, participate in conversations, belong to his book group and work, all of which he could no longer do anymore. I know that he was sad and depressed because of this. While I live in GA and my family of origin lives in CA, I would see him when I would travel out with my husband and two daughters, about once or twice per year. It was so evident with each visit that his various health issues were more and more pronounced. He died in his sleep. The night before he died, I was told by his caretaker that my dad, while she was getting him ready for bed, he kept telling her that the light in his eye was bright, but that his father was there in the room with him. He was insistent about this. His caretaker f*cked with the blinds, the lamp, the everything in that room, but my dad kept telling her there was a light shining in his face and that his father was there. The next day, she checked on him and he was dead. There were no looks of pain on his face. He just looked like he was sleeping. I feel like this is the way we all hope for, right?

Anyhow, I am now sitting here in a cousin's guest house, typing this entry and trying to process what my experience burying a parent has been like. Yesterday, we all sat around my mother's apartment, sharing stories with the rabbi who is going to officiate at the funeral tomorrow (Monday). When they wheeled my mother into the room, she is collapsed in her wheelchair, saying over and over..."I want B_______! I want my B______!. I can't live without him!" The truth? My mother is riddled with narcissism and histrionics, has been all my 58 years, and over the last three years, treated my dad like an inconvenience to her demands and needs. The idea of ever so much as being willing to get her ass into her own wheelchair and visit him in his bedroom? Never. Being willing to NOT say "your father is crazy!" when he would be sundowning? Never! The idea of her ever giving the Alzheimer's Association Support Line a call to help her deal with his rapid cognitive decline? Never. No, my mother would lie in her bed, pissing into a diaper, dragging every bit of attention and sympathy from those that would play into her shit, and never once think about anyone else. I mean Jesus, my dad, until his mid 80's, would be working as a relief pharmacist, just so he could get out of the house. When I would ask her why he was working, her answer never wavered: "Well, he's got an expensive wife." For years, when my dad would ask her to support selling their home to move into something without all the square footage to keep up, she would refuse. To sell the house with the winding staircase they had to climb, she would refuse. To make it less of an albatross for my dad to have to take care of, she would refuse. In conversations with him, he didn't even WANT that big a home in the first place, but my mother did.

As the rabbi went around the room, asking all of us to share our memories, I just thought I would keep my mouth pretty much shut and let my siblings paint the Norman Rockwell picture that needed to be painted. That was not the time nor the place to talk about the shit that drove me into the trauma that I experienced at their hands and words. My mother has forever been all about surface. What went on inside of the family home, she would never let the outside world be privy to. I would walk the aisles of the family business as a teenager, staring at all of the boxes of sleeping pills on the shelf, tempted to take them. I guess my innate stubbornness or desire that someday I would find my best self kept me from taking a box of them home with me. I ended up with an eating disorder at 18 years of age that lasted until I was about 24. This isn't a surprise to me that I had one. Every so often, my brother and sister (I am the youngest of three) would throw me a bone and look at me with the "well, let's hear YOUR glowing memories of Dad." I think I mentioned so little, and let them carry the proverbial ball because to do otherwise would have made this conversation so unbearable. I just couldn't do it. All I did was "yeah, they pretty much covered everything..."

Tomorrow is the funeral. As far as I can see, what I saw from my mother yesterday is going to be tenfold tomorrow. I imagine her howling, sobbing, screaming, even threatening to jump into the grave after him. It. Will. Be. Awful. While everyone there will be feeling such pain over this woman's pai and anguish, I will be feeling a completely different set of feelings, none of them sympathetic.

As I type this, I feel guilty. Like someone is going to read this and think I am just an awful person for writing it. But I really hope that there will be one of you who can relate to this. I don't really have any ideas for coping tools for how to deal with tomorrow. I really need something that can help me get through this.

Thank you for reading.

Caligal
 
No guilt, just clear vision. Whatever work you have done to get yourself this far is a great accomplishment and worthy of acknowledgement. You see it for what it truly is and have the capacity to take it all in from your perspective. Save a space in the chaos to remove her from the scene and concentrate on the way you personally want to remember your dad. It’s her chaos.
 
I've known a few women like your mother. It's a miracle your father made it to 91.

My advice is, your father's funeral is not the day to hash this out. You're at HIS funeral for HIM. Just for that day, ask yourself what he'd want you to do.

However... in the days or weeks after... make a plan to get this hurt out of you. Find someone you can talk to. Don't tell your siblings looking for any cathartic release because that will not work. Your siblings have been used to a certain dynamic for 30+ years. It's hard for them to even cognate a conflicting view of the family. Know this and accept it. Trying to convince them while you're emotionally bleeding will end in disaster.

So find a more productive way to get it out of you, with a therapist, rabbi, close friend, someone safe. When you're able to talk about it without getting angry, then you can calmly and comprehensively tell your siblings.

Start thinking now about a plan. It will give you hope. Before the funeral, do some deep breathing, remind yourself there's a plan, then go out and there and honor your dad.
 
My mum is narcissistic too. And I imagine she would be like this at my dad's funeral if he went before her.

Is there a way of being out of her way as much as possible tomorrow? I imagine she will be seeing your dad's funeral as a day that is all about her. And nothing you do will change that. So can you sit furthest away from her? Focus on what the day means for you? Block her out as much as possible?
And can you leave when you want to? Remember you owe nothing to anyone so if it gets too much: there is a door and you can use it.

I'm sorry for your loss.
 
I've known a few women like your mother. It's a miracle your father made it to 91.

My advice is, your father's funeral is not the day to hash this out. You're at HIS funeral for HIM. Just for that day, ask yourself what he'd want you to do.

However... in the days or weeks after... make a plan to get this hurt out of you. Find someone you can talk to. Don't tell your siblings looking for any cathartic release because that will not work. Your siblings have been used to a certain dynamic for 30+ years. It's hard for them to even cognate a conflicting view of the family. Know this and accept it. Trying to convince them while you're emotionally bleeding will end in disaster.

So find a more productive way to get it out of you, with a therapist, rabbi, close friend, someone safe. When you're able to talk about it without getting angry, then you can calmly and comprehensively tell your siblings.

Start thinking now about a plan. It will give you hope. Before the funeral, do some deep breathing, remind yourself there's a plan, then go out and there and honor your dad.
Thank you Rachel. Your advice is spot on. I started seeing an EMDR therapist last month.

My Dad would want me to "just smile and wave....just smile and wave."

Many years ago, when my maternal grandmother was on one of her war paths towards me, and lacerating anyone important to me that she could, my dad told me this: "Just tell the f*cking bitch you're sorry and move on!" This was what I was expected to do to make the abuse stop. Say sorry. So one day, I called her up and said "Sorry". The abuse stopped instantly. I asked him then whether he liked her and he told me he did not, but because this was his wife's mother, he too would just "smile and wave...smile and wave..." Is this a healthy thing for either of us to have done? In a normal family, no it wasn't. In my warped on, it was a survival tactic. When she died, while everyone wore black, I wore festive lavender. To them it was a loss. To me, it was a holiday.
 
My mum is narcissistic too. And I imagine she would be like this at my dad's funeral if he went before her.

Is there a way of being out of her way as much as possible tomorrow? I imagine she will be seeing your dad's funeral as a day that is all about her. And nothing you do will change that. So can you sit furthest away from her? Focus on what the day means for you? Block her out as much as possible?
And can you leave when you want to? Remember you owe nothing to anyone so if it gets too much: there is a door and you can use it.

I'm sorry for your loss.
Thank you.

I think leaving before my flight out on Tuesday would be considered war to my siblings. You know, it's so sad. I have memories of my brother being dragged across the floor by his hair by our mother and another memory of our dad grabbing him by the back of his head and holding his face down into the seat cushion of his truck we were riding in for some infraction or another. My brother today is 350 pounds, single, unemployed, unmarried with the scars of acne all over his face. But somehow he is viewed as the voice for our dad. I can only assume that because he had a lot of support from extended family members, the abuse he experienced was counteracted by the love and acceptance he received from the rest of the family.
 
Hey All,

I really need help from you folks.

I joined this forum because of the complex trauma I experienced growing up in my family of origin where there was such an unfair portion of shit that I had to experience where my two siblings just did not, or even if they did, are not willing to ever acknowledge. I am sure that if my brother and sister don't ever touch on the shit that I remember, if's because they had allies in extended family members that I never did. My god was my childhood devoid of this! Not a supportive or safe grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, cousin, no one!

Okay, so here's what's going on.

On 3/2/2023, my dad died. He was 91 years old, with dementia, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, prostate cancer, kidney cancer...it was just time. I say this as honestly as I can. The man prided himself on being able to hike, read, participate in conversations, belong to his book group and work, all of which he could no longer do anymore. I know that he was sad and depressed because of this. While I live in GA and my family of origin lives in CA, I would see him when I would travel out with my husband and two daughters, about once or twice per year. It was so evident with each visit that his various health issues were more and more pronounced. He died in his sleep. The night before he died, I was told by his caretaker that my dad, while she was getting him ready for bed, he kept telling her that the light in his eye was bright, but that his father was there in the room with him. He was insistent about this. His caretaker f*cked with the blinds, the lamp, the everything in that room, but my dad kept telling her there was a light shining in his face and that his father was there. The next day, she checked on him and he was dead. There were no looks of pain on his face. He just looked like he was sleeping. I feel like this is the way we all hope for, right?

Anyhow, I am now sitting here in a cousin's guest house, typing this entry and trying to process what my experience burying a parent has been like. Yesterday, we all sat around my mother's apartment, sharing stories with the rabbi who is going to officiate at the funeral tomorrow (Monday). When they wheeled my mother into the room, she is collapsed in her wheelchair, saying over and over..."I want B_______! I want my B______!. I can't live without him!" The truth? My mother is riddled with narcissism and histrionics, has been all my 58 years, and over the last three years, treated my dad like an inconvenience to her demands and needs. The idea of ever so much as being willing to get her ass into her own wheelchair and visit him in his bedroom? Never. Being willing to NOT say "your father is crazy!" when he would be sundowning? Never! The idea of her ever giving the Alzheimer's Association Support Line a call to help her deal with his rapid cognitive decline? Never. No, my mother would lie in her bed, pissing into a diaper, dragging every bit of attention and sympathy from those that would play into her shit, and never once think about anyone else. I mean Jesus, my dad, until his mid 80's, would be working as a relief pharmacist, just so he could get out of the house. When I would ask her why he was working, her answer never wavered: "Well, he's got an expensive wife." For years, when my dad would ask her to support selling their home to move into something without all the square footage to keep up, she would refuse. To sell the house with the winding staircase they had to climb, she would refuse. To make it less of an albatross for my dad to have to take care of, she would refuse. In conversations with him, he didn't even WANT that big a home in the first place, but my mother did.

As the rabbi went around the room, asking all of us to share our memories, I just thought I would keep my mouth pretty much shut and let my siblings paint the Norman Rockwell picture that needed to be painted. That was not the time nor the place to talk about the shit that drove me into the trauma that I experienced at their hands and words. My mother has forever been all about surface. What went on inside of the family home, she would never let the outside world be privy to. I would walk the aisles of the family business as a teenager, staring at all of the boxes of sleeping pills on the shelf, tempted to take them. I guess my innate stubbornness or desire that someday I would find my best self kept me from taking a box of them home with me. I ended up with an eating disorder at 18 years of age that lasted until I was about 24. This isn't a surprise to me that I had one. Every so often, my brother and sister (I am the youngest of three) would throw me a bone and look at me with the "well, let's hear YOUR glowing memories of Dad." I think I mentioned so little, and let them carry the proverbial ball because to do otherwise would have made this conversation so unbearable. I just couldn't do it. All I did was "yeah, they pretty much covered everything..."

Tomorrow is the funeral. As far as I can see, what I saw from my mother yesterday is going to be tenfold tomorrow. I imagine her howling, sobbing, screaming, even threatening to jump into the grave after him. It. Will. Be. Awful. While everyone there will be feeling such pain over this woman's pai and anguish, I will be feeling a completely different set of feelings, none of them sympathetic.

As I type this, I feel guilty. Like someone is going to read this and think I am just an awful person for writing it. But I really hope that there will be one of you who can relate to this. I don't really have any ideas for coping tools for how to deal with tomorrow. I really need something that can help me get through this.

Thank you for reading.

Caligal
You're not alone. Even if we love our families, we still have cptsd. Love doesn't cure it, and I don't avoid family gatherings because I'm angry or being manipulative. I used to feel guilty for staying away because I realize that they don't understand and they feel hurt if I need space, but I've finally accepted that there will always be those who refuse to acknowledge that my cptsd is not imaginary, so I have no choice but to protect myself from them. Sorry that it makes them upset, but it's incredibly dangerous for me to be in a situation where I'm constantly triggered. I get suicidal and it's terrifying, and if I wound up killing myself because of an episode triggered by association with them, they would call me selfish.
We're kinda stuck with family and I love mine, but I protect myself regardless of how it makes them feel.
 
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