Sunday, August 26, 2018

Forgiving a bully: Hard but necessary

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My half-brother was a cruel bully to me and molested me when I was young. He was 17. He went into the military.

Now that I’m 17, I am still haunted and angry by what he did to me.

He’s become Mr. Perfect Family Man.

My mom says that I need to forgive him, that he’s changed.

As soon as I think I have forgiven him, I get enraged all over again.

I have never had a boyfriend or even tried to have one, although guys have been interested.

Unhappy girl

Dear Girl,

We are very sad for your horrible pain. We’re sorry it has impinged on your happiness and dating life. We know forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do in life.

We hope the following thoughts may help you to get a start on ridding yourself of the poison that is inflicting you:

1. Put your pain in a safe mental lockbox. Seek professional help to handle your pain. Remembering these agonizing events over and over only serves to hurt you. It’s common to think that if something so awful isn’t remembered forever, the abuse is negated, along with the effect that it had on you. However, holding onto your pain thwarts your ability to enjoy your present and your future. 

2. Forgiving the person who caused you pain does not mean you condone his offense. It means you can grab your power back and he cannot hurt you anymore. You cannot change anyone but you. If there is an appropriate time, you can have a conversation with him to hold him accountable for his betrayal (arrange a time away from his wife and family), with the intent of reassuring you he has changed and is safe to others.

3. You can forgive and still not want your perpetrator in your life. You do not have to pretend with open arms that you were not hurt. You may excuse yourself or not join in festivities that you are not comfortable with. Talk with your mom and therapist about how to achieve this goal, event by event. You do not have to trust him to forgive him.

4. Letting it go is the gift you give yourself that no one can take away. When you learn to forgive him, in your own time and own way, you may have true peace and comfort. You will have an emotional scar to remind you that your hurt is real, but you chose to not let it destroy you.

Please let us know how you are doing and show this article to your mom.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Friday, August 17, 2018

Surviving a Mother's Suicide

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
I’m starting my junior year in high school. I have three older siblings. My mother committed suicide.
She was seeing a therapist for more than ten years. She had lots of problems and she reacted differently to our situations – good and bad. She went to lots of doctors. 

Because I was the baby, she held onto me too tightly. I was smothered with her reactions of either being happy or very sad for me.

If I didn’t get a part in a play I wanted to be in or didn’t get an A on a test that I studied hard for, she would smother me with hugs and attention.

But she got mad at me for things that I didn’t care about. I quit playing soccer on a high ranking team. She wanted me to get a scholarship to college. She kept saying I was a quitter and she sulked for weeks about it. I just wanted to do theater and some other stuff.

She almost didn’t come to a play I was in because she was still sad that I quit soccer. Then she became over-involved in my school theater group. I was embarrassed.

Now I feel guilty about her suicide. I could have been nicer and more understanding. I should have been happy that she wanted to be involved with my life. Lots of kids in theater don’t have caring parents.

I go to a therapist, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling guilty about her. I love her, but she was so messed up.

The Last Kid

Dear Daughter,

We are very sad for your great loss. The trauma you’re experiencing from the self-inflicted death by a parent is painful for children or adult children, regardless of problems that were lingering before your mom’s suicide.

We know it’s painful for you to experience this kind of traumatic grieving. Suicide isn’t only an agonizing event to try to understand; it triggers an emotionally complicated and conflicted process.
We’re glad you’re receiving professional help and hope your family will look into it.

Many children feel guilty about their feelings towards a Mom who takes her own life. Professional help may, eventually, open doors to understanding her pain that she couldn’t stand.

A mom’s suicide may generate horror, anger, shame, confusion, and guilt – and be overwhelming. This is common.

In time, you may be able to remember your mom as a loving person, despite her flaws, who couldn’t see another way out.

Strengthening yourself emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually will be empowering choices that enable you to move forward and escape guilt.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Unusual Marriage Arrangements

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

My sister and I were brought up in an odd family situation. Our parents fought when we were little and I wished I was anywhere but at home.

It dissipated as we grew up and now we’re in our 30s. My older sister asked our parents why things were so awful and now everyone seems to be happy.

Our parents said things became good when our mom allowed Dad to “date” other women. I cried and felt sick. My parents said they were happy and still are. But I’m not okay with the fa├žade we lived.

My sister said that our parents’ situation shouldn’t matter to me because they’re happy. She said our parents arranged their marriage like that for us, and said I should be grateful, because look at the expensive college I go to. She said I should be thankful for all our vacations, clothes, and holidays together.

Well, I am not grateful, because it was fake. Every holiday or get-together my parents make jokes about the whole situation and then they have the audacity to celebrate their big anniversaries.

My sister married her husband after she had a baby with him and everyone but me feels it’s great. Now she’s accepted another “husband” into their home. She says it’s great because they all love each other. She told me to not make a big deal out of it.

I told her I can’t visit her because I can’t stand one more “fake” family.

I want a real family with a husband and then a planned baby and traditions of what is best for our children. How is this going to work within my family?

Not a fake

Dear True,

We understand and agree with your traditional values. Many long-term studies conclude that a two-parent family, with a mom and dad, are best for children.

When some people are unhappy with current families values (especially because of divorce) they try to bring unusual ideas that may create a seemingly better Utopia.

However, most “new” ideas are not new at all: Polyandrous relationships, for example, where people, including children, live in quasi-communal multi-family households have existed for hundreds of years, mostly without success.

There are never-ending combinations that have been recorded since 500 BCE and became popular during the 1960s. Statistically, they failed miserably.

Remember, you cannot change anyone but you. Hold fast to your best traditional family model. But, don’t judge others, especially when visiting relatives, and instead, reinforce your family’s motto, values, and vision by example. Teach your children to respect the choices of other people.

If you believe in God, love everyone.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri