Q. I am perplexed as to what to do. I’m positive that my wife was a victim of incest, but I don’t know how to broach the subject or how to help her.
Her sister manifests similar problems that I’ve heard are caused by rape by one’s father. But I don’t have any hard evidence, only a hunch. What can I do? How do you open such a discussion? – G.
A. Signs of incest do not distinguish between abuse by one’s father as opposed to one’s uncle, brother, stepparent or other trusted relative or friend. Signs can include flashbacks, nightmares, memory issues, anxiety disorders, self-mutilation, an inability to form relationships, sexual dysfunction, eating disorders and drug or alcohol abuse, among others. We don’t know what specifically makes you believe your wife and her sister have been victims of incest, but please contact RAINN (rainn.org) at 800-656-HOPE for additional information and assistance.
Q. I am 55 and the oldest of three siblings. We had a close, happy family until my father died unexpectedly six years ago. After the funeral, I saw my mother sitting with my sister, “Nina,” and her insurance agent, having everything changed to Nina’s name. It used to be in mine.
My mother is of completely sound mind. Since Dad passed, however, she has allowed Nina to control her life. My sister handles all of her finances and won’t discuss them with my brother or me. Although Mom and I used to go places together, she now won’t get in my car for any reason, not even to attend church.
Nina’s family has my mother buffaloed into thinking they are the only ones who care about her. My brother and I feel like outcasts. Unlike Nina, we are quite successful and don’t need anything from Mom. I love my mother, Annie, but she pushes me away. This morning, I went to have tea with her, as I do every day, and she was whispering into the phone to Nina with her hand over her mouth so I wouldn’t overhear. I try to remain a good daughter, but my feelings are so hurt. I know Nina would love it if I stopped visiting. Why would a parent choose a favorite like this? – Used To Be Her Daughter
A. While you say your mother is of “sound mind,” you could be wrong. The sudden death of her husband could have sent her into a tailspin of depression, anxiety and confusion. Your sister exploited this, but Mom may have been so grateful that Nina took over that she submitted totally and now fears alienating her in any way.
When you visit Mom for morning tea, please talk to her about this. Don’t mention Nina, which will turn it into a competition and force Mom to defend your sister. Simply tell her you love her and worry that she is pushing you away. Ask how to improve your relationship so it doesn’t disintegrate.
Dear Annie: “Mike’s” letter explaining how important interaction is with a terminal cancer patient made me weep for all the times I did nothing. Thank you so much for printing it.
Caregivers of those patients should be urged to use hospice as soon as the inevitable is made known. I lost my husband to cancer 12 years ago. I thought I should do everything myself for as long as I could, but now I know that hospice would have made it so much easier for him, as well as for me. Hospice staff know exactly what to do and when to do it. Sorry to say, there were times when I did not. – Moving Forward Now
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