Dear Barb—Mother’s Day Downer

Dear Barb:

I am the oldest of three; my two younger brothers are away at university.  Last week they returned for Mother’s Day, but one of my brothers refused to see or celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom.  My mom and him have had issues for a long time, but now he doesn’t want to see her at all.  My dad has tried to talk to my brother and now they aren’t speaking either.  My other brother and myself don’t understand what the problem is.  We always thought my mom was a caring supportive mom.  Mother’s Day was not happy for my mom, even though she was trying to hide her pain.  My brother and I hate to see mom so dejected, but we don’t know what to do about it.  Mom doesn’t know what she did to David, or why he’s treating her so terribly.  David’s behaviour is ruining all our special occasions.  I love my brother and want this to end before it’s too late.  Is there anything I can do to help end this feud? Thanks, Monica.

Hi Monica:

So sorry this has happened to your family.  Adult child cut their parents off for many reasons, if there was no abuse or neglect, then the reason usually has more to do with the adult child than it does with the parent.  The number one reason why adult children estrange from their parents is because they cannot deal with anxiety and high stress situations.  Rather than discuss and face issues, they escape.

If you look back over your brother’s pattern of behaviour, it’s likely this isn’t the first time he has reacted this way.  This may have been the longest estrangement and has the strongest impact, as your parents are aging and it is more difficult for them to deal with the loss.  There is not a lot you can do, except be supportive of your parents and your brother.  Maybe try to get your mother and brother to see a counsellor.  It’s important that your mother not blame herself.  This wasn’t her choice; she did not choose to stop seeing your brother.  He has to find a way to work this out and your mother has to be receptive to him.  Remember that the love is still there, it’s just that your brother does not know how to deal with his anxiety, so he chose to do this.  If he seeks professional help and likely be able to reconcile with your mother.  Unfortunately, your mother’s days are probably consumed with wondering what she did wrong and rehashing your brother’s upbringing and that is not a healthy way to live.  She needs to stop thinking about this and go on with her life.  Perhaps you can speak to your family doctor about support groups in your area that may be helpful for your mother.  Best of luck, and thanks for writing Monica.

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