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yarnandcats

ill and aging abusive parents

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the folks are getting older; he's already survived an intermediate grade of man part cancer and she is recently diagnosed (like within the last 2 weeks) with stage 4 female part cancer (prognosis: not good at all). they don't recognize the abuse, either of them, that occurred during childhood (except for her to blame all the ills on him) and neither will either of them take responsibility for any emotional abuse that is STILL happening (between themselves or with the rest of us). also there is no recognition of any repercussions of childhood abuse (PTSD, DID, anxiety/panic disorders) and no real validity given to my chronic physical illness either.

so: wanting to help them out, because it's human and generous, etc. but also wanting / needing to set realistic boundaries that i can live with after she (& he) die: that's the conundrum. any suggestions? ideas? helpful links to share? 

"coping" with all this is ripping up the Insides and that's never a good thing.

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I'm so sorry yarn. Is there any external pressure to help them? How much contact are you with them now? My gut feeling is that the helpful and generous part of you is great, but there needs to be a little bit of an a-hole in you to make sure you aren't getting taken advantage of. If they are unwilling to confront past emotional abuse, I doubt they are gonna change their ways now, and unfortunately you might have to choose your needs over theirs. Even when it feels like the 'wrong' thing to do.

Here's a few articles from Captain Awkward, not sure if they help but the Captain generally has better advice than me. They are sort of tangentially related though:

https://captainawkward.com/2019/03/13/1187-people-from-my-past-at-my-estranged-fathers-funeral-do-not-want/ (funeral advice)

https://captainawkward.com/2018/08/21/1135-my-dad-wants-to-fix-our-relationship-and-i-dont/ (advice on parental boundaries)

https://captainawkward.com/2014/05/26/579-being-pushed-to-forgive-because-faaaaaaaamily/ (more on forced forgiveness)

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how close do you live to them? if you're in the same town/area, it's going to be a lot harder to stick with the boundaries you decide on. i was also just about to ask what ananke did -- are they expecting you to help out or be in much contact? do you see them much currently?

in general, people don't change (not without a fuckton of therapy, anyway). your parents probably will never come around and talk to you about your struggles the way you want/need them to. i can tell that you're a very kind person for wanting to help them out, but i'm not sure it's the healthiest thing for you to do, considering that even the thought of having to help out is causing you so much distress.

are you involved in the legal side of them getting older at all? do you have power of attorney, are you the executor of their wills?

i'm sorry that you're dealing with this. family stuff is immensely stressful and complicated. i think for you it's a matter of helping them as little as you can without causing yourself excessive guilt. and there will be guilt, no matter how much you do or don't do for them. 

one thing i would say for sure is don't promise anything. don't commit to weekly visits, don't commit to going to appointments, don't commit to helping them at home. if they ask you to do something, do your best to give it time before you come back with an answer. it's really easy to over-commit yourself, and messy to undo those commitments after the fact.

if you like comics, i recommend "can't we talk about something more pleasant?" by roz chast. it's a graphic novel about the author's experience dealing with her parents as they got old and eventually passed. the author had a complicated relationship with her mother, and her description of how she felt about her mother and needing help and dying is pretty interesting. it's poignant, but it's also quite funny. i like it a lot.

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@ananke thanks for the links; they look really helpful, including any links on the pages. there is some external pressure to help them because i'm on disability and hence my life/time is viewed as "open and flexible" for such things (in other words, i really have no valid excuses for NOT fulfilling their requests, even before they became old/ill. contact has within the last 6 months become more frequent, although this has mainly been via phone/text/email.

@echolocation i don't live in the same town, thankfully, but close enough for a day trip. i think he is expecting help...i'm the only kid speaking to him right now. thanks for the graphic novel recommendation; they're one of my favorite "new genres" to read. will definitely look that up!

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I don't really have suggestions, though I think there are some great questions and ideas above.  such a challenging situation (not that you need me to say that).  The fact that it's a day trip to me gives some additional flexibility--where if you're looking for a reason and you want something to grasp onto, you only need to talk about a commitment on part of a day.  Not that you should have to give reasons at all.  But sometimes it sits better with me if I can explain that I'm not doing x because of y commitment.  I hear you on the your time is open and flexible thing...I think I had a similar experience with unemployment.  Fortunately not involved in a messy family situation at the time, but there was definitely a lot of talk of "since you have all this time on your hands...".

I hope you can reach a decision that you're comfortable with.  And maybe one decision at a time would make sense?  I second echo's comment about not promising extended commitments.  I think giving yourself the flexibility to do a one day and b the next week might help a bit?

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@dancesintherain i like the suggestion from you and @echolocation about one-day-at-a-time; this is such a HUGE thing, threatening to overwhelm he, she, sis and us that it should quickly become clear to everyone that's the only way to go. in fact, i'll probably just let the medical professionals surrounding the parents take care of that sort of dialog, as the med professionals will have a much higher chance of being heard (instead of crazy, faking, not-living-up-to-potential kid).

gah. there is SO MUCH SHIT that this physical illness is dredging/stirring up i'm surprised we all aren't in hazmat suits.

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