Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Love & Anger

I've been in a tough spot lately.
My sister is going through a major medical event and I've been struggling with how to support her.

On the one hand, it's easy. Send a text! Give her a call! Mail a card! On the other hand, it's not easy. I don't think she really wants to talk about it and she has plenty of people closer to her other than me to offer support. I've tried texting and calling, but she is hot and cold on whether or not she returns my texts or calls. I don't judge her for that. She's totally allowed to respond or not respond, especially when she's dealing with something difficult.

My problem is my own feelings. They are ugly.
And I will be honest about them out loud with my boyfriend and here on this blog only. 

When I think about my sister and how I can support her, I immediately feel resentful. I feel angry, and I feel hurt. This sister was not supportive to me during infertility. Not only was she unsupportive, quite honestly, she was cruel. I wrote a very popular blog post about some of the things she said to me over the years. They were unhelpful, unnecessary, and just plain mean. She vaguely apologized many years later but that's about it. I was excited at the time and wrote a post about it, thinking it might be the start of a new phase for our relationship. But it wasn't.

I love my sister, in case that isn't obvious. Our relationship has an incredible foundation because she was the greatest big sister to me while I was growing up. She played with me and took me places and did fun stuff with me all of the time. I missed her badly when she went off to college. But, relationships change and evolve over the decades, and we haven't been extremely close in a really long time. But the love between us is definitely there.

So I recognize and accept my conflicted feelings. I respect the fact that I'm still hurt and angry, and I can still be supportive to my sister anyway. Because of the pandemic and the precautions I am taking, I don't feel like it's safe to be around my family. Therefore, I can't visit her or provide any direct care. (My boyfriend says she doesn't want this from me anyway and I think he's probably right. She has other people in her life that can help her directly right now.)

I decided to mail a care package. It's better than nothing. I can't be there physically. (This pandemic sucks!!!) And she doesn't really want to talk to me about it. Also, if I'm being honest with myself, I don't want to be the person in her life who listens in detail. It's too hard for me. Too lopsided, too off balance. But I can let her know I'm thinking about her and that I love her.

To problem solve, I focused on what was most important to me in the moment: showing my sister my love. As I felt my resentment and anger from past hurts, I acknowledged them. And then I returned to my focus, put on a mask, and went on a quick shopping trip at the nearby drugstore for care package goodies. It was fun.

So I mailed her a bunch of random things with a card (that did NOT say "Everything happens for a reason" or "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" or any other bullshit platitudes that anyone in pain doesn't need to hear). I sent a fancy chocolate bar, some magazines, some fun Valentine stuff I saw on the shelves, soft fuzzy socks, and a small stuffed animal. I figure everyone likes mail that's not a bill. :)

That's where I'm at. It's hard. I don't like how mean my sister was when I was going through the darkest time of my life, and I also haven't forgotten it. I don't like how my feelings about that resurface when I think about how I can support her while she's going through something awful. But I'm only human.

I love my sister. Feelings, relationships, navigating trauma, and life overall... It's all complicated.


  1. This is such a balanced, wise post! I think you've done the right thing. You're not making her difficulties all about you. You're giving her the space she seems to need, but have also reached out.

    I know a bit about problematic sister relationships. I've never really had a good relationship with my eldest sister - she resented my arrival on the scene when she was six years old, and that continued. So when I had my second ectopic and was going through a series of hospitalisations and procedures, I got an annoyed letter/email/text (can't remember which) from her that I hadn't kept her up to date with my issues, and saying, "I DO care!" (Yet she knew I was pregnant, had lost the baby, and was going through all this via my parents who lived near her, and I didn't hear a word from her until until this message berating me. (Don't get me started! lol) Fortunately since then, things have improved. But it still hurts. Anyway, this isn't about me, but I guess I can relate a little to what's going on with you and your sister.

    When it comes down to it, I think you've shown her you love her in the best way you can and that she might receive in a positive way. Despite your own hurts and unhealed wounds. And that's no small thing. I hope you feel that. Be proud of yourself.

    Sending love. And hugs.

    1. I appreciate this comment. Thank you for sharing your own experience. Sister relationships can be... complicated. I'm glad I figured out a way to "be there" for my sister in a covid-safe way while also protecting my emotional heart.

      Seeing the family rally around her has been heartwarming but also bittersweet. Maybe if I had let them in while I was going through infertility... But no, I tried and knew very early on that it was not safe for me to let them in. So I never got that group support from them. This current experience just brings up... a lot.

  2. Indeed, it is complicated. I love your solution - that you packed and mailed a package full of your love. It is beautiful. I know I would have loved to receive that during the hard times.

    Sending many good wishes to your sister!

    1. Aww thank you Klara. I like how you worded it: "mailed a package full of your love." It reminds me of Elaine telling me that I have a lot of love to give. I do...

      And thank you! She had a big surgery earlier this week. Everything went well and she is now in a healing stage until her next procedure. She is pleased with her medical care, and I think that always makes a big difference. So, so far, so good! <3

  3. Update: Well, I talked to my sister on the phone. Fortunately, she feels good and is doing well. Unfortunately, she just can't seem to go a single conversation without being insulting. She told me it's a good thing she's the one going through this and not me or our other sister because me and our other sister wouldn't be able to handle it.

    What?? Why? What. Because she thinks my other sister and I are weak? Too anxious? Unable to cope? Wait. Stop. Don't think about this. There's nothing to unpack here. She doesn't know what she's talking about. My other sister and I have both been through hell and back in our own ways and have both had extensive counseling as we've worked hard to work through our own shit.

    Anyway... It hurt and it made me mad. And, sadly, it's to be expected. I feel there's nothing I can explain to her. I let the comment go, hung up the phone, and spent the rest of the day trying (unsuccessfully) to ignore it.

    1. Good grief! You're right - she doesn't know what she's talking about. Lives in her own little world of make believe. (Wow, sounds like my sister but I'm not getting started! lol)

      And you're too kind and polite to point that out when she's going through something tough.

      Sending more hugs.

    2. Thanks Mali. My philosophy is just because other people are being assholes doesn't mean I have to be one. ;)

      Seriously, I'm glad she's feeling good. I'm also going to give her LOTS of space... Maybe forever. I will love her from a safe distance.

    3. Phoenix, I'm so sorry.
      I love your philosophy - it honors you!
      It must be maddening and saddening at the same time to offer empathy and kindness but to receive another insult in return. Sending hugs as well!

    4. Thank you Elaine. <3 Those are the perfect words. It does feel "maddening and saddening!"

    5. What??! Did she get your package before she made this call?? (That would REALLY be ungrateful...!)

    6. Well due to the winter storms, her package delivery was delayed. She will probably get it today. I do not know if I will hear from her. I texted her three days ago but haven't heard from her. My other sister who is there with her has been in touch with me. I just have to accept the situation for what it is. I don't have to understand it. :(

  4. This is such a reflective post, it's so hard to balance all the dynamics in your sister relationship, but your care package sounds like a perfect solution. You show you love your sister within boundaries you've set up. I'm sorry she's going through something hard, and that COVID makes it harder. You are such a kind, loving person, but I also envy your ability to set those boundaries to protect your own heart. Sending hugs!

    1. Oh Jess, life has been so hard for me with all of my intense feelings. You could not pay me to go back in time and relive it all. I am very happy to be where and who I am at 41, thankyouverymuch.

      My boundaries are new. And they're awesome. But, as you know, they came at quite the cost. Also, with this sister, there have been several upsetting incidents over the last decade that make it a lot easier to have boundaries with her. You do not want to get caught in her crossfire! I hope she joins the Warrior's Journey of healing someday...

  5. I'm so sorry, Phoenix. I don't have a "Hallmark" kind of relationship with my (younger) sister, but she's never been that insulting to me either. (Our relationship is actually better right now than it has been in years...!) I think it was lovely of you to put together a care package for her -- I know I would have loved to get something like that, out of the blue! I remember doing something similar for my sister when we were in university -- she got mono and my mom had to come and get her and take her home. She missed an entire month of school and had to reschedule all her exams. She also sent me a book by an author we both loved when I lost my baby. She said she figured I'd like that better than flowers, and she was right, lol. ;)

    1. Thank you Loribeth. I'm glad to hear your relationship with your sister is better than ever. :)

      My best friend during my first year of college got mono and had to go home. It was awful.

      That is really, really sweet that your sister gave you a book. I think that's what also hurts. I never got anything from my family, no card or gift or empathy or even acknowledgment. I know they didn't know how to talk to me about it at all. I was really closed off and shut down. But it still sucks.

  6. Another Update:

    Fortunately, my sister finally received her care package. She loved it. I could tell how much she loved it just by reading her text message. I am so glad.

    Unfortunately, she did not get good news from the doctor today. She thought she would have one more procedure and be done, but this will actually be a much longer process for her. My family and I are all sad and scared, but we are all going to do whatever we can do for her. Prayers are always welcome. <3