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Went to visit dying sister and she was a bitch

(48 Posts)
imaginethat Sat 24-Nov-12 19:52:04

History is toxic family with narcissistic mother at helm. Sick sister firmly aligned with mother in her game of favourites and outcasts.

I have low level contact with both, bit more with mother, occasional emails with sister. We live in different cities. She travels to city where I live regularly but makes a point of not visiting ie emailing to say she will be in town but will be too busy with friends/work/other family etc to see me.

I travel to her city less frequently, always try for a (brief) catch up. Right or wrong, it's just how we are.

Since sister's diagnosis I have tried to be supportive by sending cards/little gifts/money (she had to quit work)/emails and the occasional phone call. Phone calls are difficult as she is v awkward/always says she is busy/going out even if I arrange a time to phone.

Asked if I could visit, she said yes, she wasn't going anywhere. Travelled with another sib, each of us with DC and staying in hotel.

When we arrived she sneered at me saying,"What are you wearing that for?"
I said, "I thought it was nice" and she said, "hmm"
Next I said "hi, good to see you (lie)" and handed her a gift. She threw it on the floor.
She flung some more insults after which I decided to busy myself with housework etc as she can no longer walk.
She was perfectly nice to my brother and sister who were there too, and quite lovely to the children. Kids played together.
After several hours we left. My brother wanted to see her next day and I said I'd look after dc so he could have a good catch up. I did not mention sister being horrible to me and quite honestly doubt he noticed as it is a normal carry on in the family.

I feel as though I have seen her for the last time and almost looking forward to her death so this complex stuff can pass.

half wondering if my feelings will change or if when she has died i will regret not trying harder.

When Dad died I felt sad for the father-daughter relationship I'd never had. i don't miss him at all. I miss my therapist, who died suddenly, way more.

Can anyone tell me what to expect? Thank you reading as is v long

bumhead Sat 24-Nov-12 20:04:10

I can't tell you what to expect as I don't have that experience but have you thought of writing her a letter before it's too late. Just saying how you feel and that way you will know you have done all you can to smooth the situation over.
Maybe in all the awkwardness she isn't aware of her bad behaviour (it's possible) and you can put this to rest before her time is over.
It's just a thought and I appreciate you might not want to do it but I think if I was in your situation it would make me feel like I'd done all I could.

Leithlurker Sat 24-Nov-12 20:06:01

I would put it behind you, she is dying and yet she still had a choice. She could have choosen to let whatever bitternes is in her heart go. However she choose to be what she has become, spiteful and hurtful. So will you miss her, possibly but that is not important the important part is you will not grieve for her as a close relative, or as a sister. You will grieve for someone you knew, some memories will be left when things were not as bad between you. Or memories that include other people that you care more about. I miss my sister who I had a unhappy time with but I could not say I feel loss.

SoleSource Sat 24-Nov-12 20:07:21

Nobody knows exactly until it happen as it is individual. Can you see a professipnal to talk before she dirs. Se whathe/she suggests?

Have you mourned for the relationship ypu neverhad with her,/wished for?

StuntGirl Sat 24-Nov-12 20:07:35

I don't think anyone can tell you what to expect. It all sounds horribly sad and I feel for you.

You have made every effort you can, horrible people don't magically turn nice just because they're dying. She is who she is, terminal or not. She may not ever realise how lucky she is to have a sister who made such efforts with her but then its her loss.

LaCiccolina Sat 24-Nov-12 20:11:27

As long as u are at peace with how u feel its really all that matters. She is what she is, death doesn't appear to be changing it. So, if there's unsaid stuff maybe send a letter but u might find u feel ok with the situation as it stands, and if so then thats right for u.

cashmere Sat 24-Nov-12 20:13:28

I wouldn't write to her as it may just stir up I'll feeling and make YOU feel worse. It sounds like she is getting lots of support from you and your siblings.

I think it's great that you haven't been drawn into bitching with them as it sounds a complex family BUT do you have someone in real life to offload to? I think this is very important.

My gran had a breakdown after her own mother died. She felt that she was wicked to be pleased she had died. In reality gran had cared for her for years (moved in with gran) through dementia and unfortunately great gran had become very unpleasant/nasty.
I think gran had difficulty justifying her overwhelming sense of relief. It sounds as though you may feel the same. Remember that just because someone is terminally ill it doesn't make them a 'nice' person.
You have already risen above her unpleasantness and I think that is all that can be expected. It dont think you can expect a sudden heart to heart with her. I'm sorry for you- take care.

strumpetpumpkin Sat 24-Nov-12 20:16:29

im sorry that your sister cant even be civil to you on her death bed. You already tried. How absolutely horrible for you sad

She sounds very unhappy.

I'm not sure that you owe her anything, though. If she doesn't want to see you and you don't want to see her, why do you go?

CleansLate Sat 24-Nov-12 20:23:10

It sounds like you have 'tried harder'. You feel you have seen her for the last time, your DCs have a good 'take home' memory of her from what you say, if not even looking death in the face can change her than your putting yourself through a horrible visit like that again isn't going to either.

IndigoBarbie Sat 24-Nov-12 20:24:09

Hi. I think all you can do is be yourself toward your sister. Try not to overanalyse how you have been treated by her at your visits.

None of us know the complexity of emotions and all associated thoughtforms that people who know they are dying go through. I have had experience of people who have a diagnosis and they can change so very quickly, unfortunately they take out their anger on those they love the most.

If there were any kindnesses that your sister ever was able to show you, I'd focus on that. You don't want some kind of bitter battle and analysis session of the whys and whats she said to you. I honestly believe just you be yourself, and do your best to leave it at that. She is your sister, but you can't control her behavoiur, but perhaps what she has gone through and is going through is showing up first and foremost.
Lots of love to you xx

AnyFucker Sat 24-Nov-12 20:28:25

your post made me cry

just because someone is dying, it doesn't make them a saint

it is awful that you have been made to feel that you just want it all to be over (which of course means her death)

toxic families do not suddenly become functional ones because of a crisis like fact the problems simply come more into sharp focus

having said that, keep doing what you can and when you look back you will be glad you tried

I am so sorry x

kiwigirl42 Sat 24-Nov-12 20:31:01

Just begcause she is dying doesn't make her any nicer. In fact, it's probably going to make her a lot worse. Hold your tongue and bide your time. It can be a relief when toxic people die.

autumnmum Sat 24-Nov-12 20:35:48

I'm sorry you're going through this. There's always that nagging doubt that if only you did something differently the relationship would magically work. unfortunately some people just aren't very nice and being terminally ill doesn't change that. My dad was a horrible narcissist and when he died it was a massive relief. I felt sorry for my mum but other than that I felt nothing but huge relief that family gatherings would no longer be controlled by his moods. I came to terms with the fact he wasn't ever going to change a long time before he died and I think that helped. He died very suddenly so I had no time to mull over my feelings before it happened, but three years own the line I still feel nothing but relief. If your sister has always been like this I don't think anything you do will change her.

ChippingInLovesAutumn Sat 24-Nov-12 20:37:17

Did you post on MN when your therapist died? If you did, I remember you sad

What to expect? None of us can answer that for you sadly. However, I imagine you will feel a great sense of relief, then some guilt for feeling relieved. Followed by some sadness for the relationship you never had with her. Followed by a low level background loss/change in your life.

Does she have children or were the other children the children of your siblings? <if you followed that!?>

imaginethat Sat 24-Nov-12 20:40:21

Thank you all for being so kind and understanding, it really helps.

cashmere I think your idea about offloading is v wise and I think I will try to find a counsellor just to offload all this in a discrete way.

I want to be dignified about this and not draw anyone in, but it's hard to carry in way head.

imaginethat Sat 24-Nov-12 20:40:39


Flojo1979 Sat 24-Nov-12 20:40:59

I had a similar experience with my nan.
She was alcohol dependent and was horrible to the females in the family (my mum and me) yet doted on my brother and uncle.
She picked at everything, blatantly insulted me, very passive aggressive, and was terminally ill, given months to live and died 10 yrs later.
My mum was diagnosed in those last yrs and she was very ill yet my nan continued to treat her awful. Which made me so angry inside and wished she would hurry up and died. It was awful.
I tried my best to go round most days, so my mum wouldn't have to.
One day out of the blue, she apologised, the first time ever. I went home thinking how strange it was and optimistic about our relationship.
An hour later I got a call from my mum, she'd suddenly died.
....and it really messed my head up. All the yrs of abuse and then the guilt for wanting her dead. It took many yrs to get over it.
If she's not got long, be the bigger person, put up with it for a little while longer, then take comfort in knowing u did everything u could.

CleansLate Sat 24-Nov-12 20:44:41

I know I will be relieved when my mother dies, and I feel awful for feeling that way because I feel she should love me, we should have a good relationship, I should be terrified at the thought of a life without my mother.

And that is just thinking about it. To actually be going through it, I am in awe of the dignified way you conducted yourself, and please do talk it out/through because it is going to be a headf**k and you deserve to protect yourself however you can.

tinkertitonk Sat 24-Nov-12 20:45:27

"She was perfectly nice to my brother and sister who were there too, and quite lovely to the children."

Well, there is something positive to remember about her.

And you sound like a really nice and good person who has tried everything possible.

sittinginthesun Sat 24-Nov-12 20:46:00

I saw a grief counsellor for a while, a few years ago. She used to say that you can't be responsible for other people's behaviour - if they are rude and unpleasant, then it is their issue and problem, not yours. It is not your role to find a reason for their actions or behaviour.

So, take a step back, just accept your sister for who she is, detach, and move on.

It was the hardest thing to hear in my case, but I felt quite liberated when it sank in.

JustFabulous Sat 24-Nov-12 20:46:17

I am sorry you have such a crap family sad.

In this case I don't think writing her a letter would be the right thing to do as I think you will be the bad guy, making your dying sister feel bad. Why, why would you do that? is what I suspect you would get.

ProphetOfDoom Sat 24-Nov-12 20:48:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SoleSource Sat 24-Nov-12 20:51:49


imaginethat Sat 24-Nov-12 20:56:02

Oh, more posts while I was trying to put together the last one.
chipping I have mentioned my therapist dying on a thread, I still miss her so much but quite peacefully.

She has a son and I had a lovely evening with him. Looking back that was the gold in the visit. We have had v little to do with each other for obvious reasons but he emailed to invite me round, round I went and we had a long chat and a couple of wines. We were ale to laugh about my sister's prickliness, and to formulate a plan to have her kitchen & bathroom remodelled by electing an "approved" of family member to arrange. She wants to stay in her home but needs wheelchair access to do that.

At this point I feel my energies are shifting to her son and supporting him somehow. He texted me afterwards to say he'd loved chatting.

AnyFucker I think that's it, I need to know I tried. I have.

imaginethat Sat 24-Nov-12 21:06:14

Families, life, death.... It's complex isn't it

I have 2 primary age children. I love them more than you could imagine. And they love each other. They play together for hours. I want them to never know the pain of not being allowed to love each other (the way my siblings and I were brought up). I think that's come firmly into focus.

Cahooots Sat 24-Nov-12 21:10:34

What an awful situation. She sounds like a horrible women and the fact that she singles you out for. Her special treatment makes it so much more hurtful. Wouldn't it be easy if you just didn't care? It is so hard to emotionally detach yourself but that is what you need to try and do. Do the right thing, behave appropriately, keep you feelings to yourself and think whatever you like. Try not to over think things and don't beat yourself up for being angry and dissapointed with her.

Hope everything goes ok.

Cahooots Sat 24-Nov-12 21:13:00

Oh, posted to soon.

I forgot to say that you sound like a lovely sensible person. smile

AnyFucker Sat 24-Nov-12 21:15:13

this is a great thread

not the subject matter, obvs

but that there is validation here...for OP, and for others in similar situations

cashmere Sat 24-Nov-12 21:15:58

Bit of a can of worms I don't open.... but you might find you do feel at peace about the situation. It does sound like you've always done the 'right thing' and whilst this isn't always a healthy trait to have it may leave you with a clear conscience. ex was abusive, def some kind of personality disorder and damaged me a great deal. I ended it and had many opportunities to stick the knife in/get my own back. I didn't though, I kept doing what was 'right'.
I knew his life would end badly and predicted it. He was murdered less than a year ago in the most brutal way. Whilst I do have mixed feelings (relief for myself and any other women he may have hurt/ and sadness for him and his family/anger at his stupidity/ horror at what happened to the body I was so familiar with) I don't feel any regret or guilt. I think not stooping to his level has allowed me to accept what happened more.

imaginethat Sat 24-Nov-12 21:41:43

AF meant to say, your post made me cry too. Dear god, now I'm a wreck and I have to go do stuff (not in UK). Thank you for caring.

cashmere I haven't always done the right thing at all. The reason I'm an outcast is because I stood up to my mother in the past and my sister has never forgiven me.

But I view all that as past. What matters to me is the quality of relationships I have now. I just have to accept the way it is with my sister which I do in a logical sense but emotionally still a little confused.

Conversely I think other family relationships are beginning to improve, the crisis has in some ways been a catalyst for positive change.

imaginethat Sat 24-Nov-12 21:43:16

Oh and I meant to say sorry for your heartache with your ex, thank you for sharing.

I am slow at typing

AnyFucker Sat 24-Nov-12 21:48:50

all the best, Op

and remember Mn is always here

cashmere Sat 24-Nov-12 21:53:25

Well as you sat you're doing the right thing now- and there are no rules about not confronting your Mum.
I'm fine and think it's quite telling that I thought about Gran 1st. You might well find out that you are okay with your sister passing (not sure how to phrase that). However, I do think you need to offload onto an outsider.....or as AF says here.

forgetmenots Sat 24-Nov-12 22:34:45

Can't say it better than AF as usual. I'm so sorry OP. I think that focusing on her son is a positive idea, well done. You have not wronged anyone here.

IllageVidiot Sat 24-Nov-12 22:52:10

Standing up to your mother to protect yourself, to make a stand for your siblings and make a point was right. You have been surrounded by wrong - to say you haven't always done the right thing would be expected (after all what role models are there for good behaviour?) but standing up for yourself is no crime.

I had to accept the fact that my toxic family were exactly that, my parents didn't do what they should have done - I grieved for the lack of parental love and the relationships I should have had but once I accepted that it was their issues not me, and if we had chased each other a thousand years it would never have changed then I could accept the feeling of blissful relief when he died was actually fine and did not make me a bad person. It made me a sad person but then it was incredibly freeing. Don't feel guilty for being glad a hurtful presence is gone from your life and you can grieve the relationship you wanted but not from the point of view that had you tried harder you would have got it - that's not true and the road to madness.
Wonderful if you can support your DN.

imaginethat Wed 05-Dec-12 07:01:10

Me again, I wanted to thank you all for your v kind posts which I have read and re-read, the kindness of strangers can mean so much.

Did the sensible thing and saw a bereavement counsellor which was incredibly helpful. I feel much more peaceful already and will go back in a couple of weeks. X

AnyFuckerForAMincePie Wed 05-Dec-12 07:09:22


jingleallthespringy Wed 05-Dec-12 08:40:49

Gosh, this thread has got me thinking. My family treat me the same way yours treat you, imagine. If any one of my toxic, narcissistic, bullying sisters were on their deathbed, I'm quite sure she'd treat me the way your dying sister has treated you. I have decided to not see my family any more and I doubt that would change if one of them were on their deathbed - it would only be yet another special event that I couldn't 'spoil' by responding to the public abuse dealt out to me. I speak as one whose frightening ex, like you cashmere, also died suddenly and brutally. I only felt immense relief that he couldn't hurt me any more. having faced this kind of death I am not in awe of it iyswim.

One thing I would say: it is very damaging for your children to be present when you are being treated in this way. If you still want to see your sister, then please don't take your children.

You also say your therapist died suddenly - have you had a therapist since?

imaginethat Wed 05-Dec-12 08:58:24

jingle I thought same thing about the children, they were only in the room briefly then went outside to play, but I made a mental note never to repeat it.

Gee it's so nice to talk to people who understand!

I'm sorry for what you've been through and are still going through with your family.

Without wanting to wash over all the hurt, the session today helped me remember some happy times I'd had with my sister when I was little and I am going to make these (photos and memories) into a little book. I am resigned to the fact I am unlikely to see her again, and that we will never have the relationship I would have liked, and am going to try to bring the better stuff to the surface (for want of better phrasing)

Yes I did see another therapist after mine died. She was a cool lady, quite a different approach which was weird at first, but really helped.

God why are families such hothouses of dysfunction...

I also remember your posts.

If i may suggest some lateral thinking in such a difficult situation.....
You have tried and am afraid she is not in the right place to step off her high horse. This is maybe the one issue she has control over and it may confort her.
Maybe you just need to be charitable and let it be.
Give unconditional love if you feel capable of it. Stay away if you can't and concentrate on making peace with yourself.


mummytime Wed 05-Dec-12 09:12:30

I think all "relationships" can be disfunctional. The difference is at work: we can change jobs, if you can't it then becomes bullying. In friendships: you can just drop them in a way that is hard for family. In flat shares: you move (I've done this one). With driving instructors: you ditch them and get a new one. etc.

Unfortunately with families it is hard to dich them, they have bonds to you which are hard to break, and they have you attached for the first 18 or so years. So they mould who you are, and you world view. Also there is a lot of pressure for you to love them, and for you to see their treatment of you as "love".

CarnivorousPanda Wed 05-Dec-12 16:08:04

You tried your best and you did what you could. I don't see what more you could have done. I hope in the times ahead,that's of some comfort to you.

At the end of the day, I believe people have to own and take responsibility for their behaviour. Your sister was unable for whatever reason to be pleasant. What a pity that your last meeting with her has ended on this note.

I would write a letter to her, but keep it in a safe place for yourself. And I hope you get support for dealing with this in RL.

Rindercella Wed 05-Dec-12 16:26:51

I have just come across your thread and I am really pleased to read your update.

If anything, I think being terminally ill can make some people be unpleasant. I would think that would be especially true where there was an uneasy relationship. I know when DH was dying he could be really horrible. Not always to me, but sometimes he was. Sometimes he was nasty to his sisters or his mother. Sometimes he was lovely. I guess being forced to accept your own mortality and having lots of time to think about stuff can make you angry, pissed off and wanting to lash out at those closest to you.

I think you have done the right thing all the way through here. By not engaging with her when she was attempting to be unkind. By removing yourself from her and busying yourself with something else. You were right too not to write to her. I think it would have been the wrong thing to do in these circumstances and could have given your sister an excuse to attack you further.

Grief is a complex emotion and I would think that is especially true when there has been a toxic relationship. As well as the loss of a family member, you will also be grieving for the relationship you wish you'd been able to have.

Be kind to yourself and be glad that you know your children will have a loving, nurturing relationship - I understand exactly where you are coming from here after having an awful relationship with my own sister for all of our lives. I see my two children hugging, holding hands and looking after each other (when they're not squabbling), and it makes my heart warm.

blackeyedsusan Thu 06-Dec-12 08:26:20

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blackeyedsusan Thu 06-Dec-12 09:52:43

oh dear. it seems that ds has learnt how to post. sorry!

Screaminabdabaubles Thu 06-Dec-12 10:23:40

Think your ds did that to bring this thread to my attention, blackeyedsusan. wink Please give him a little kiss from me! smile

What a brilliant thread. These taboo issues need to be brought out into the sunlight so we can all feel better. Thank you OP and others who have posted. thanks

ShamyFarrahCooper Thu 06-Dec-12 11:06:02

OP I'm sorry you had another bad experience, but sadly terminal illness does not make a nasty person nice. It's not the done thing to say these things but it doesn't make them any less true.

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