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To write a letter to abusive step-mum after 30 years NC?

(21 Posts)
HandcuffedToAGhost Mon 13-Feb-17 12:16:45

My father got custody of me when I was a baby and employed nannies to look after me. The nanny that came when I was 3 soon got into a couple relationship with my dad and I grew up thinking she was my mum. They got married when I was 12 and then told me then that she wasn't my biological mum but obviously I kept thinking of her as my mum and calling her mum.

She was abusive all throughout my childhood, very violent, controlling and punishing. She threw me out of home when I was 15, wouldn't let me see my brothers, and after a hairy few years I got my life together, with much help from friends, kindness of strangers and then starting my own family.

I've had no contact with her for 30 years.

Two years ago she was diagnosed with end-stage cirrhosis and alcoholic dementia and taken into a nursing home. I went (with my brother) to see her but couldn't bring myself to go in her room - I looked through the window and still felt too scared.

But amazingly she now seems to have recovered and is back at her home. I keep thinking about writing to her, wanting to tell her I remember everything she did to me and the harm it caused. AIBU?

I understand she was/is a very damaged person (alcholism, eating disorders, brutal childhood herself, unhappy marriage) and has suffered a lot but I still want to sort of hold her to account for how she treated me. Is there any point?

DrivingMeBonkers Mon 13-Feb-17 12:47:20

No point whatsoever. She has dementia, she won't know who you are, her carers will read the letter first and you'll go down in history as somewhat unhinged.

Write the cathartic letter and burn it, and set yourself free

O/T is your father still alive?

KC225 Mon 13-Feb-17 12:56:15

I agree with the above poster. Given the circumstances, I think this is about getting it down on paper as a cathartic experience.

As the previous poster asked, what about your Father? Is he still alive? Your Mother?

amazingtracy Mon 13-Feb-17 13:01:33

The best revenge is to live well.
I agree the the PPs. Focus on your own recovery and family. I reckon a cathartic letter and burn it would serve you better. You won't get the apology you deserve. (Although, I reckon your dad and birth mum should acknowledge their fair share of this situation).

HandcuffedToAGhost Mon 13-Feb-17 13:09:16

But she has 'recovered', which has shocked everyone! She is back living independently in her own home with 2 x 15 min visits from carers. She walks to shops, hairdressers, uses internet, has bought a dog etc now and according to my brother she's clear thinking and 'back to her old self'.

My dad and her divorced a few years after I left home and he died 15 years ago. He was also alcoholic, very absent, never directly abusive but he didn't protect or support me. I did talk to him about it before he died, which was helpful.

BillSykesDog Mon 13-Feb-17 13:16:02

What would you want to achieve from it? There is a very, very slim outside chance she might write back and apologise and express regret.

But mainly abusers rationalise their behaviour to themselves. I suspect you would probably hear back she said you'd written her an abusive letter which shows what an evil ungrateful girl you were and why you gave her so much trouble and 'forced' her to behave like that and she's still putting up with it after all she did for you etc, etc, etc. Abusers always blame the abused.

Would it perhaps be more productive to report her to the police?

xStefx Mon 13-Feb-17 13:17:41

If she did that willingly to you, do you think she will feel remorseful about her treatment? Some (weird) people get a kick out of knowing they hurt people. However, if you feel it would make you feel better then go ahead.
Just ask yourself what you expect to get out of it (I mean this in a nice way). She knows how she treated you. You getting on with life and not wasting a thought on her is the best revenge for abuse like that.

mistermagpie Mon 13-Feb-17 13:24:48

There would be no point. I say this as somebody who is NC with their own mother and did write a sort of 'home truths' email at the time the NC was established. My mother acted like I was a crazed fantasist, she said that I was exaggerating and making things up. I wasn't, there were witnesses to what I was talking about, but that made no difference to her. She felt no sorrow or remorse, only indignation at being called out on her behaviour. She was so far into her narcisstic bubble that I think on some level she genuinely couldn't understand what I was going on about.

Writing it down helped me though, so I would recommend that definitely. But sending it is something I regret - I sort of feel like I gave a piece of myself away somehow and that by letting her know how much she had hurt me I was giving her something that, deep down, she wanted.

HandcuffedToAGhost Mon 13-Feb-17 14:06:50

Thank you for such kind and wise replies. She likely would consider the letter as proof I was evil and ungrateful and then get some thrill out of the memories. Urghh. It's just galling to know she's back comfortably in her own home, like she's got away with everything. When I saw her in hospital I got some peace thinking 'just sometimes bad things happen to bad people'. I have written and not posted letters in the past and I really thought it was all behind me, but it's all been stirred up again by recent events.

BillSykesDog I'd love to report her to the police but it was over 30 years ago and not sexual abuse so I can't imagine they'd do anything.

toomanyholidays Mon 13-Feb-17 14:23:48

I am NC with my entire birth family. Long and complicated (it always is).

Anyway letters were exchanged in the final months of our contact. Whilst I got a small degree of burden off my chest, on the whole I think they achieved little. I got vicious letters back. I was blamed, gas lighted, abused again.

Now years down the line, I can't believe how healthier and happier I am with them out of my life. I live well. I focus on my lovely husband and children and my ILs. My friends, my hobbies and passions. I take comfort in knowing I have a healthy life whilst they must be bitter inside.

Not that walking away was an act of revenge but when I think what they sacrificed in order to live their version of the truth, well they can't be happy or healthy or normal inside - no matter what they appear outwardly.

Sometimes, though less often, I am triggered and I still have urges to face them again. Try to tell them. But I know deep down that abusers and narcissists, on the whole, would rather go to their grave believing they are right than admitting regret and opening up the opportunity for reconciliation and love.

Think about how sad that is. Yes we've missed out on normal childhoods and fought through the thick, mire of low self-esteem and pain but I wouldn't swap places with them for anything.

It's so hard to accept you'll never get what you need and deserve from these people. But I think you have to. It's been so long since you had contact, are you prepared for possible vitriol, lies and projection from your stepmother?

It's such a hurt, a hole, a void - not having a loving mother. But it's not our fault. And you can learn to be your own mother. I have.

HandcuffedToAGhost Mon 13-Feb-17 14:40:24

That's very helpful, thank you toomanyholidays.

BillSykesDog Mon 13-Feb-17 16:31:22

Handcuffed have you had counselling to help you deal with your past? If not, you can get help accessing it via this excellent organisation:

I know that feeling that acknowledgement from the abuser about what happened is a common feeling and sadly not one which can easily be fulfilled. I think counselling can help you move past that to the point where your abusers acknowledgement is not something you need anymore.

toomanyholidays Mon 13-Feb-17 16:57:51

I think that's it. Reaching a point of not needing any acknowledgment or apology anymore. At that point, they have no power anymore. You've won effectively (if it's ever about winning/losing), they can't hurt you.

I'm not sure what an apology from my abusers would mean or achieve now I've moved on so much? I'm not sure I care enough and I wouldn't resume contact either. They've become pretty meaningless in my life. I really understand the allure of satisfaction from making them see what they've done. But will they ever see it? They are often deluded, disordered, unnatural. They simply don't think and feel like those of us who hurt and are in disbelief at how you can treat a child that way.

It was my own child being born that pulled the wool from my eyes. At first there was anger - hence the letters, the need to tell them what they'd done. Then, through counselling, there was acceptance. That they'd never see, never change, never apologise. Then I walked away for good.

PollytheDolly Mon 13-Feb-17 17:04:02

NC means just that. You'll get sucked in......

Just move on, leave her to it.

HandcuffedToAGhost Mon 13-Feb-17 17:52:31

It's a fantasy isn't it, that writing a letter will trouble her conscience? I wish it were different. Bill the napac website is good, I might phone their helpline.

When her life seemed to ending so awfully I felt (an awful) satisfaction. Now I can only tell myself she's pretty much alone in life and I suppose that means she hasn't got away with it.

Gwilt160981 Mon 13-Feb-17 17:57:38

Don't waste your time.

Shaddrack Mon 13-Feb-17 18:01:05

I wouldn't as I think the chances of you getting a reaction that would make you feel any better are pretty much 0. The most likely outcome is it will end up making you feel worse flowers

Deathraystare Mon 13-Feb-17 18:10:06

Even if she did not have dementia she would still deny it all. Leave it alone.

barinatxe Mon 13-Feb-17 18:42:13

I think you should definitely write the letter. She abused you and you have to live with the damage she caused. You have nothing to lose by writing the letter, nothing to fear. Perhaps she has dementia and won't understand - you've lost nothing. Perhaps she will understand and it will cause her some distress - good. Perhaps she just won't give a shit - at least you've made her aware again of the damage she did, realise she hasn't "got away with it".

If you think the letter will help you then you must write it. Don't listen to anybody telling you to "move on" or that her illness means she won't understand or even try to make you feel guilty for sending the letter (victim-blaming to a most disgusting degree).

She made your life hell. Anything you can do to overcome the hurt she cause you is justified. Send the letter, do whatever helps you to deal with this.

toomanyholidays Mon 13-Feb-17 18:47:48

But ultimately, I think getting to the point where you don't need to write the letter is more freeing.

When you don't care enough about that person in your day to day life, don't think about them to any debilitating degree.

It's not 'moving on' in the sense of forgetting or forgiving or not acknowledging the awful pain it causes. When you don't even need them to know or acknowledge it then what power over you can they ever have again?

BillSykesDog Mon 13-Feb-17 19:32:54

barinetxe, I'm assuming that you haven't personally been a victim of abuse because that post shows a lack of awareness of both how abusers operate and rationalise and also what the aftermath is like.

Even going NC there are almost always links back to abusers through common relatives, childhood friends, old neighbours, facebook connections. Sending the letter may well not happen in a bubble, and if anybody is hurt by those ripples it's going to be the OP.

Most abusers characterise their victims as 'bad' and believe they deserve the abuse because they have brought it on themselves by what the abuser perceives as their bad behaviour. This might be eating some food they weren't given permission to when on the point of starvation, being two minutes late back from school or accidentally allowing a bruise to be seen. But people who know the abuser will just have heard from them how the child was selfish, rude, badly behaved, unappreciative, rebellious, gave them so much worry and treated them terribly. If the OP heard anything back it would likely be how her poor stepmother had been so upset because the OP had been sending her awful abusive letters after everything she did for her, and her SM being so sick and old. Even no response would open old wounds of worthlessness and rejection. And the likelihood of receiving an apology is almost zero. It's a self destructive course of action because it will make zero impact on the abuser but may well have a negative impact on the OP.

Nobody is telling the OP to 'move on' because she should be over it or for her SMs sake. People with experience of these situations are telling her not to do it for her own sake because if anyone gets hurt it will be the OP.

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