Relationship Connection: After the death of our mother, my sisters cut me out of their lives

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Question

Since the death of our mother last year, the relationship I have with my sisters has disintegrated. I’m being accused of posting mean things about them on social media. I have not done any such thing. I love them both and would not do that.

The one sister doesn’t even use social media and sent me a message that though she doesn’t have social media, she hears from her daughter that I go back and forth with my brothers on social media with hateful comments. She could check for herself that this isn’t true. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t check it out for herself. In her email to me, she said I would never be invited to any event of her family in the future, including weddings.

I am so hurt. I never ever put anything online that is negative. Two of my brothers have posted hurtful and rude things on social media, but I never have. I miss the relationship with my sisters. Why would anyone make up something like this? I can’t ask questions because they’ve blocked me. I really am at a loss, confused and hurt. I don’t know how to fix it.

Answer

It’s an awful feeling to be misunderstood and falsely accused of something you didn’t do. It can feel like a terrible dilemma of having to choose responses that could get interpreted as incriminating silence or defensive explaining. Let’s talk about how you can respond to this painful development in your family.

First of all, losing a parent can dramatically shift the relationship dynamics in a family. Not only do we all grieve differently, roles naturally change when a person disappears from the family dance. If your mother’s role helped stabilize these sibling relationships, her absence could now require all of the siblings to learn new ways of relating to each other. I mention this because these challenges you’re experiencing may involve more than the obvious details you’ve shared.

Since your sisters aren’t speaking to you and have blocked you from interacting with them, it’s important to turn your focus toward responding in ways that align with your deepest convictions. You alone are responsible for how you respond to your sisters, even if what they are doing is completely unjustified and unfair. Even though you can’t force your sisters to interact with you, you aren’t powerless to act. 

Catherine Thomas reminds us of an important principle in dealing with human relationships when she said, “I have come to know that in any moment what I send out is my choice, and I can’t blame it on a situation or on another person.”

Your peace will result from how you respond to your sisters and not from how your sisters respond to you. If you believe that you can’t feel peace until your sisters re-engage you, you’ll put yourself in a more tumultuous and miserable position.

What is your purpose when it comes to your family relationships? You know the truth about your intentions and you know that you want to have close meaningful relationships. Even though you’ve been accused of behavior and intentions that don’t match your reality, you can have peace as you seek confirmation that you’re doing your part to be a good family member. 

You can also take this as an opportunity to see if there are places where you can understand any contributions you’ve made to this situation. Look closely to see if there are any errant words, actions or interactions that could have set the foundation for these misunderstandings. It will never hurt to step into deeper accountability to make sure you’re not contributing to this situation.

There might be openings in the future when you’ll have an opportunity to respond to your sisters. You might be tempted to defend yourself and criticize them for how they’ve treated you. Instead, seek an opportunity to understand what happened for them and why they responded in such an extreme way.

Clearly, they’re hurting from something you don’t understand, and you can stand in the strength and power of knowing the truth of your heart and intentions. This purpose can give you reassurance to extend compassion and understanding to them, even though you might want to naturally retaliate. 

Even if you don’t have a chance to speak with your sisters in the near future, you can still make room for the strong possibility that they’re experiencing tremendous pain and confusion about who you are and what they mean to you. You can make room to hear their experience and then ask them to make room to hear your experience and intentions. This will be an important exchange to rebuild the trust and security in this relationship. In the meantime, you can continue to seek peace while you patiently hope for a chance to reconnect with them. 

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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