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Did my mom cause Dad’s death?

I always thought my dad died in a freak accident, but now I feel that my mom might be to blame. How can I move past this?

Find a way to forgive, says our elder — for your sake as well as hers.

Dear EWC

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been close to my mom, dad (while he was here) and my step-dad. My parents got married and were married about a year before they decided to have me. My dad had a son from a previous relationship. Anyway, my father died when I was two. He drowned while swimming. But I still had a great life and childhood. In addition to toddler memories of my dad and his spirit watching over me, I had male guidance from my grandpa and I had a step-dad when my mom got remarried. He died of a stroke a few years ago, and my grandpa died the same year. At this point, life is good, but I found out that my mom may be what put our family through rough patches 20+ years ago. My mom revealed that she was controlling in her first marriage. She wanted everything perfect and her way, and my dad left because of it and was living with another woman at the time of his death. She even said no when he wanted my half-brother to come live with us. I hate feeling like this because I do love my mom and two dads. But all this time I was thinking that his death was a random freak accident. He was swimming because he was stressed. My mom robbed me of a perfect, four-member family home. How can I forgive her for this and move on?

Barbara replies

His death was a random freak accident even though he may have left your mother and you because she hadn’t gotten herself together and wasn’t a good wife to him. It must have been a shock to hear your mother’s story, but now it’s time to put it in perspective. First of all, it happened years ago. We grow up with issues resulting mostly from the way our parents raised us. My father was a violent abuser and my mother was an immature narcissist. I was a mess and moved away from home as soon as I was old enough and put myself into therapy. I got myself together enough to marry but I did things as a parent and wife that I realized once I matured had been unfair. We all make mistakes. Your mother realizes now that she made mistakes, but at that time she was doing the best she could.

You need to forgive her, not for her sake but for yours. Holding on to anger about things that happened in the past, things that can not be changed is like trying to kill someone by drinking poison. Anger eats us up from the inside. Your anger will hurt your mother but it will destroy you. Talk to a therapist. Find a way to forgive. My younger son did me the immense favor of venting and letting me know what he was angry at me for. I was able to apologize and we developed a terrific relationship after that.

Marital problems are seldom caused by one person. Neither are deaths. My husband, whom I didn’t chase away, died when my younger son was eight from a rare cancer. Your poor mother must feel awful after losing your stepfather. Life has hard times and all we can do is to try to make things better. That means enjoying the people who love us. You are creating a problem right now for yourself. You have a mother who loves you, whom you love. Being angry for mistakes made years ago is a waste of your energy, your life force. Our thoughts drive our emotions. Scientists have found that our brain reacts with emotion for about 90 seconds. After that, it is our thoughts that keep us in that emotional state. See if you can change the way you think about what happened. Young married couples and parents make lots of mistakes. Your mother did the best she could and now regrets some of her behavior. We all do when looking back. But it’s just history. Don’t let it ruin the present day.

Letter #: 417114
Category: Family

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