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Ask Amy: Family estrangement continues to the end
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Ask Amy: Family estrangement continues to the end

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Dear Amy: My grandmother recently went into hospice care. She has suffered from dementia for the past five years, and in that time, my mother has been her sole caretaker.

That (and money issues) has caused my mom and her brother to cut ties.

Only my immediate family knows that my grandmother is dying.

Should I reach out to my uncle and others in the extended family (mainly my grandmother’s in-laws) to let them know what’s going on?

My mom argues that they weren’t there for my grandmother during her decline into dementia, so why should they be called at the end?

My partner says to keep my nose out of it because it could lead to more drama if I reach out. However, I can’t imagine reading about your mother, grandmother or sister-in-law’s death through an obit. What are your thoughts? — Lost

Dear Lost: These extended family members have the wherewithal to contact your mother by phone or email, or — if rebuffed or ignored — show up to her house to find out how your grandmother is doing.

This is not about what these family members “deserve” to know. They seem to have completely backed away.

Your grandmother’s feelings and wishes should be taken into account, however, even if her memory is gone and she is unable to express them. What would she want?

I agree with you regarding contacting family members about your grandmother’s condition, but your mother should be the one to reach out. If she is hesitant, tell her that YOU would feel better if this contact was made, and offer to take this challenge off her hands.

If your mother outright refuses, respect her wishes and understand that she is resentful, angry and grieving.

Over time, people involved in estrangements construct a hard and protective shell around their feelings. I genuinely believe that this shell is pierced through treating others the way you wish you would be treated. Behaving with generosity, even when others don’t deserve it, and that’s why I hope she chooses to reach out.

Dear Amy: As the mother of three young adults, I was horrified that Wedding Stressed was willing to essentially tell one of her children that she doesn’t see any need to try to treat them at all equally. She happily gave one daughter $25,000 for a wedding, but then was amazed that another child (her son) would inquire as to if they would be receiving anything toward his wedding. How awful.

When our oldest married, my husband and I decided how much we could afford to give EACH child for their potential weddings and told all three that they would receive that amount when they decided to marry, to be used as they saw fit (big wedding, small wedding, elopement, whatever). We did this for our son, as well as our daughters.

I just can’t see why anyone would monetarily punish a child for being the “wrong” gender.

In case you’re wondering, if any of our children don’t marry, they’ll get that money down the road, anyway.

There will always be times you need to spend more/do more/support more to one child over another, but in the big picture, it should all be divided as equally as you can manage. — Jeez Louise!

Dear Louise: I agree completely. If parents can afford to (most of us cannot), they should earmark an amount (maybe call it an “adulthood gift”) to give to children, perhaps when they reach a landmark birthday. Those funds can be put toward financing a wedding, for the down payment on a house, to pay down college debt, put toward retirement or for whatever larger purpose the child chooses.

Dear Amy: Your advice to a daughter to help take care of her dad with dementia was spot on. Our families helped take care and guide our parents on both sides off the family.

People don’t die in an orderly fashion. Sometimes an organ gives up the ghost while the mind is spared and sometimes the mind starts to die off, while the body is fine.

My saddest moment was when my father was told that there was nothing they could do other than to keep him comfortable. We brought him home and he died in our living room while visiting with a grandchild.

Now our kids are taking care of us, which they learned from us. — Loving Daughter and Mom

Dear Loving: This is how the circle goes ‘round.


You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter askingamy or Facebook.

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