Ask Amy: Abandoned child now plagued by guilt

Dear Amy: I was abandoned by my mother and adopted by another family at 18-months-old.

Thirty years later, I located my birth parents.

My father declined to meet. I met my birth mother and spent time getting to know her.

In the years since reuniting, she has stolen from me, lied to me, and cut me with her cruelty.

I reached a point where I decided that as much as I wanted a mother, I did not need or want a toxic relationship in my life, and I stopped communicating with her. I did explain to her why I was going to stop communicating.

Her reply was, “I’ll see you in Hell.”

Many months passed without any word from her.

Over the last few days, I’ve heard from her several times.

She apparently had a fall and is in a nursing home and needs help, because she wants to go home.

I continue to struggle with a sense of responsibility toward her, even though I know that she is poison for me.

My friends and family say that I don’t owe her anything, but she’s my mother, she gave birth to me and although she’s never done anything for me it doesn’t seem to matter. If I don’t help her, I feel guilty. If I do help her, I feel worthless and used.

I also recognize that she will die soon, and I don’t want guilt for not helping her to eat me up.

Please offer some of your guidance.

— Bewildered Daughter in Carolina

Dear Bewildered: I agree with your friends and family that you do not owe your birth mother anything — or much of anything.

In my view, all of your actions now should be focused on your own health and emotional well-being.

Do not give into your mother’s manipulations.

Do let this episode guide you toward your own higher purpose.

Human compassion might inspire you to try to assist someone in pain, and there are ways to do this without becoming too emotionally involved.

The facility where your birth mother is currently residing likely has a social worker on staff. This person could review your mother’s situation with you and discuss her options. If you are willing to talk to your mother, you could review what options she may have with her.

No, she cannot live with you. No, you cannot assume care for her in her home. But you may be able to ensure that she has a safe environment to live in. If she has no other family members, you might step up to be the contact person for her care facility.

Dear Amy: My father died about a year ago and left his house to me and my two sisters.

He informed us verbally before he died that the house is split evenly to each of us in thirds.

One sister was left in charge of his estate. Unfortunately, she recently lost her husband after a long illness, and has been grieving.

My father’s house has just been sitting there, with no one living in it.

How should I approach her to talk about the affairs of the house without causing an issue during her time of grief?

— Concerned Sibling

Dear Concerned: You might ask your sister if dealing with your father’s estate is a burden for her, and if so — you could offer to support her more in sorting through the various details and legal aspects of dealing with this property.

This important and challenging job can be overwhelming, and has reduced many a grieving person to become paralyzed.

I suggest that you speak to your sister gently and compassionately, while also being brave enough to express your concerns about the house: “I’d like to talk about Dad’s estate. Would you like to set up a specific time for the three of us to talk?”

You and your other siblings should review the will and other documentation and do your best to approach this as a team.

Dear Amy: “Not Informed” is the retired officer who said his wife never gave him the chance to review their tax forms.

Yet every joint tax return must be signed by both spouses.

Don’t sign what you don’t understand!

Unfortunately, e-signatures can make it easy for one spouse to pose as the other and fraudulently sign for them.

I know a controlling spouse who did that repeatedly to keep his wife in the dark. Red flags for sure!

— A Sharing Spouse

Dear Sharing Spouse: A great point! Thank you.

(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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