Ask Amy: An abuse survivor wonders about disclosure

Dear Amy: My son and daughter are now middle-aged, and my parents have been gone for more than 20 years.

I’ve not told my children the whole truth about my parents. It was awful growing up in a house full of alcohol, anger, and abuse.

The reason I’ve not told them was that I didn’t want to injure their memories of their grandma and grandpa.

My parents treated their grandchildren with love, as opposed to how my siblings and I were treated by them as they raised us.

I’ve grown and changed over the years to overcome the damage of a sad childhood, and both of my children have worked through whatever they suffered at my ineptness, most likely through therapy.

My daughter and I are close, while my son, with whom I used to be very close, started treating me dismissively once he went off on his own.

I’ve wondered whether telling them both the true story of my upbringing, including traumatic events they have no clue happened to me and my siblings, would be all right this late in the game.

They are highly moral, responsible adults, in solid marriages.

I almost feel like I’ve answered my own question, but what does Amy think?

— Mom Missing My Son

Dear Mom: I don’t suggest initiating a discussion about this with your children unless there is some meaningful context, and until you are prepared for a wide spectrum of responses, ranging from compassion toward you — to blaming you for disparaging their grandparents after their death.

It would be wisest to start by discussing your childhood trauma with your siblings. They are your peers and fellow survivors. They might have made disclosure choices with their own families that would influence you.

Understand that your children might view this as a bombshell and not quite know what to do with your revelations.

Do approach this frankly as a successful survivor, responding honestly to questions: “What was Grandpa like when you were young?”

“It was rough for us. I’m glad that he was a much kinder grandfather.”

I do suggest initiating an open and frank conversation about alcohol abuse in your childhood.

Alcoholism can manifest as a family disorder, and your children should be aware of the alcoholism in their family.

Trying to repair the relationship with your son should be a priority. I don’t believe you would necessarily build a bridge by talking about your childhood experiences, but by encouraging him to talk about his own, and then taking it from there.

You mention that your children may have sought therapy. A therapist would help you to work through this process, now.

Dear Amy: I attended a large celebration event at a public venue. All of the (many) gifts were placed on a table.

My gift was expensive, and personal, and ever since placing it on the table, I’ve been worried that it did not make it into the hands of the recipient.

It has been over a month and I have not heard anything. Should I call? I don’t want to seem like I am trolling for a thank you card.

— Worried

Dear Worried: Yes, call, text, or email. You can start by saying how much fun you had at the event, and thanking the person for inviting you.

Then — be honest! Say, “I’ve been freaking out a little bit that my gift might have gotten lost in the pile. Can you do me a favor and let me know whether you received it?”

Dear Amy: “Frustrated with the in-laws” wrote about his wife taking calls from her siblings every evening.

Here is a mental health saver I started during a time of strife for my family and which applies to “draining” calls/texts from family/friends.

We call it the “8:00 Rule,” and after 8 p.m. each day, we stop talking or thinking about anything negative, troubling, or beyond our control.

If we can’t resolve it “tonight,” it’s out of our thoughts so we can rest and refresh for the next day.

This also applies to taking calls or texts from others who will not contribute to our moment of respite.

I tell others about this so they know I am not ignoring them, but am allowing myself time to recharge so that I can be the supportive friend or family member they need.

It works wonders, and I hope your other readers may find some value in this practice.

— Recharged

Dear Recharged: I appreciate the way you frame this choice, and recommend it for others.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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