DEAR ABBY: I have been a minister for 40 years. Throughout most of these years, I have tried to be supportive to my sister. Her oldest child, “Nahla,” has been “difficult” since she was 15. My niece cuts herself, uses drugs and has been in prison and in rehab. I have listened patiently as my sister wept, discussed her fears and anger, prayed for her and sent cards to her and her daughter. When Nahla was incarcerated for 16 months, I wrote to her every other week and touched base with my sister almost daily.
Recently, my sister called me and told me she was livid at me. She said in all these years, I had given her daughter hope, but never her. I was astounded and deeply hurt. She also said she has been pulling away from me since last year for that reason.
Abby, I thought the whole time I WAS giving her hope.
How do I go forward in a relationship with my sister? I forgive her. I have asked her for forgiveness. Even though I have reached out, I no longer hear from her. Should I simply let go? I don’t know how to do more than I already have. — GRIEF-STRICKEN IN GEORGIA
DEAR GRIEF-STRICKEN: Your sister is misdirecting the anger, fear and disappointment she should be aiming elsewhere onto you. You have done everything you can for her and for Nahla. You say you asked for forgiveness (although, from where I sit, I don’t think you have slighted her in any way) and have forgiven her.
She’s attempting to punish you by giving you the silent treatment. Please don’t blame yourself for it. Enjoy the distance she has created because if there are more problems with Nahla, I have a hunch your sister will be back, baggage intact.
DEAR ABBY: Please tell me how I can get over the fact that my husband cheated on me. How do I stop feeling hurt and betrayed, and how do I stop feeling that somehow it was my fault?
We went to counseling together, and it has helped. I was able to forgive him, and we are still together. But it hasn’t done away with the emotions that come flooding back when I see something on the subject on TV or in a book.
I try not to hold it over his head, but the feelings just don’t go away. Should I try to talk to him about how I feel or just try to forget? — REALLY HURTING IN RALEIGH, N.C.
DEAR REALLY HURTING: You are entitled to your feelings, and you have a right to discuss them with your husband. You didn’t mention how long ago his infidelity occurred, but it takes time to rebuild trust. You may need to continue the counseling to work through your emotions, particularly the feeling that you were to blame for what happened.
In the meantime, because programs you’re seeing on television bring back your feelings of pain and disappointment, rather than torture yourself, change the channel. The same goes for those books.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)