Dear Thelma: Given to be raised by our grandparents, my brother now hates my parents


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Dear Thelma,

I come from a broken family.

One of my brothers grew up at my grandparents' place since his childhood. My grandparents had requested to take care of him on my parents' behalf due to the family problems and my dad's incurable illness.

Due to my dad's illness, my mother wanted to have a new life for herself after years of struggle with my dad.

My brother is a very hot-tempered person. He couldn't accept the decision. His relationship with my mother is really bad – he is angry that she let him stay at our grandparents' place. He doesn't talk much to mother ever since he was small. Both were separated for almost 10 years.

We have been taking care of our dad till now.

My mother currently lives alone. Recently, she started to take care of my grandpa. So my brother is also with her in the same house. Even so, he won't talk to her or eat at home.

She apologised to all of us for not being able to take care of us properly.

My brother can't forgive my mum for her deeds. I really thought he would at least talk to her but he won't. Till now he is so hateful towards the family, especially my mother. I really thought that after some time he would forgive her but no.

Now he doesn't even want to invite her to his wedding. And he doesn't even want to put our parents' names on the invitation card. It is really hurtful. I really feel so embarrassed. I can't talk to him about this since it will end up hurting all of us even more.

My only concern is that my brother really needs to let go of this hate. It is not good for him. He needs some healing.

When we were children, we really went through some tough times but we still managed to overcome all our struggles. But I feel some things can't be let go of, even after many years have passed.

I really need some advice on how to handle this.

Very Sad Sister


Dear Very Sad Sister,

I'm very sorry. It sounds a very difficult life. Your father's years of illness were tough on all of you.

While I appreciate you want to help your brother, you cannot change others, you can only change yourself. Therefore, this is a problem your mum and brother need to address.

However, as you speak to both, perhaps a little insight and some careful suggestions might help get them talking. So let's break it down.

Your mum had to nurse your father. The burden of this is not commonly appreciated because so many people see it purely as an act of love. The reality behind the romance is that caretaking is backbreaking, exhausting work.

It is so crushing, that caretakers frequently burn out, with their own health breaking down.

Because of that burden of care, your brother was placed with your grandparents. From your letter, he felt it was a personal rejection.

Although you don't say so explicitly, you imply you and some of your siblings stayed home. If this is so, he may have decided he was specifically singled out, treated differently.

It sounds as though he was an angry child, a grieving child. I wonder if the adults in his life took care to explain what was happening and to assure him that he was loved? And to repeat it often and to empathise with the poor child?

If that vital message was not given, then this may explain why your brother is so hurt and why he rejects your mum and has trouble with the family.

Your brother is an adult now, and he might rationally have more insight. However, the hurt we feel as children often carries over into adulthood. This is especially true with an overload of pain. Like a wound, it's too sore to examine, so it simply festers.

You understand that I am reading a little between the lines. But whether the small details are correct or not, the big picture is that your brother was angry and hurt as a child and that this pain still exists today.

Ideally, your mum and brother should seek counselling together. Let them talk it out with the help of a seasoned mental health professional. But as this has been going on for some years, opening up communication may be difficult.

I suggest you write a text to your mum and send the same to your brother. Keep it very simple, short and practical. As in,"I feel your pain. It may help to talk to a professional." Text, so they can think it over before replying. Be calm and avoid any blame or judgement.

If they refuse, then please know you've done your best. They're adults and must make their own decisions.

About the wedding. You can't control what your brother prints on his wedding cards. Let it go. Try and remember there's a lot of pain there. This is a case for compassion.

Weddings do bring up many emotions, and I'm sorry that you are embarrassed. It's important to recognise you haven't done anything wrong. It's a sad situation. Lean in with supportive friends and family. If you feel it useful, talk it out with a mental health professional.

Finally, I am worried about your mum. Now your grandfather is ill, she is being pulled back into caregiving. I urge you not to let her take on this burden by herself. In hospitals and care homes, staff work in shifts. There's a reason for that. Don't let mum burn out.

Please, speak to the National Dementia Caregivers Support Network or call the ADFM helpline (03-7931 5850).

Ask for advice, arrange for extra hands, ensure everyone gets downtime, and if possible, hire professional help.

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