Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #36
My mother’s end of life
At this point, I had been told that my mother was near the end of her life. I had to decide if I was going to travel to see her or not. Because I had been in therapy for twenty-two sessions leading up to this, I had been examining things from my past for some time.
Looking back, I see how many times I was manipulated by my family. I had thought about this many times over the years. My mother would threaten suicide to get what she wanted. Snap told me he needed a car to get a job. He wanted a car, and he knew that I wanted him to find a job. He used this to manipulate me into giving him a car. He didn’t feel any duty to actually find a job once he got the car, it was all just a manipulation. My family would create any amount of drama needed to get what they wanted. My mother’s impending death would provide my siblings with many opportunities to manipulate me again.
Elsie had warned me that whatever was coming was a “ring of fire”. I made a very carefully thought out decision that I wasn’t going to be manipulated by my family anymore. This meant that I would be clear as to what I wanted and what I was willing to do in any given situation. I would not be influenced by drama, threats of suicide, drunken rants or sad stories about how there are no jobs.
I already needed to make several decisions and I wanted to make them without being manipulated by my family. First, would I go to see my mother right away and second, I would I tell Pop what was going on since my other siblings were not speaking to him.
I had no way of knowing how serious my mother’s health was. This might be the last chance I would have to see her alive, or it could just be another dramatic event in the long-running family drama. On the other hand, since my father chose not to tell any of his children that he was dying, I was not allowed to participate in his end-of-life care. I was confident that I would feel better if I was involved in my mother’s end-of-life care, no matter how ugly it was going to be. I have never heard from anyone that they were happier in their adult life because they had refused their last chance to have contact with their parent or parents.
I had discussed how to handle telling Pop in our previous session. Elsie was very clear that she thought I should tell him what was happening. I thought about this carefully. Snap and Crackle refused to have contact with him because of past drama. They made it clear they wanted me to take sides in their dispute with him. I thought about what Elsie said. I thought about the likely outcome of not telling him that our mother might be dying. I was confident I would be blamed by Pop for not telling him. He could say he wanted to be involved but was not allowed to be. I saw a web of manipulations forming.
I decided that I whatever was going to happen, whether my mother was dying or not, now was the time to break the cycle of manipulation. In the past I was manipulated by my family because I allowed it to happen. This doesn’t excuse their bad behavior, but it does empower me to stop the cycle. No one can make me do anything. I decided that I would tell everyone whatever I knew about whatever was happening. They could react however they chose to. I would not be pulled into their drama.
Therefore, I decided that I would take what I had been told, i.e. that my mother might not have long to live, and communicate that to all of my siblings. I would communicate with all of them through email and requested that they do the same. This would provide written proof of who said what to whom and when. I couldn’t make them communicate with me via email, but I could refuse to discuss anything important unless they did.
I took the information I had about my mother’s situation, based on Snap’s phone message, and emailed all of my siblings. They all had the same information and they all knew what I had told everyone. Crackle told me that after that there were ugly emails between Pop and herself and Snap. This wasn’t my problem. Their disputes belonged to them. No one could say I had hidden anything from them. They could fight among themselves, but not with me.
I describe my process of deciding to no longer me manipulated because it has been so powerful for me. I needed to be clear about what I was doing and communicate that clearly to my siblings. This greatly reduced the drama my family could create for me. Requiring communication to be via email put them on notice that what they said was being recorded and could be produced at any time. Those that manipulate rely on creating confusion, denying what they said previously and distorting what others have said to deflect responsibility from themselves.
I had decided to travel to see my mother. I asked my wife and sons if they wanted to go with me. We discussed it and I made it clear that I was not requiring them to go, and I didn’t feel that I needed them to go to support me. They chose not to go.
From my first visit with Elsie, she had given me a phone number to contact her in case of an emergency. I never used that phone number but I knew it was available. Throughout this trip to visit my mother, I could have been in contact with Elsie if I needed the support, but I decided to deal with whatever was going to happen as it happened and discuss it with Elsie when I returned from the trip.
You might choose to discuss some or all major decisions affecting an event like this with your therapist. I chose not to. I felt I had already discussed my family situation enough during previous sessions that I was confident I could make these decisions on my own. I had already discussed with Elsie whether I should tell Pop what was going on and I agreed with her advice. I felt I would make the needed decisions as they came up and discuss them with Elsie in future sessions.