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Ask Ellie: Story offers hope for those who have suffered heartbreak

Take control of your own life. Understand and forgive the struggles of those you care about.

Dear Ellie: I’m female, 60, still dealing with after-effects of my late parents’ emotional abuse.

I had an older brother I admired. He suddenly left home when I was 15. We didn’t even know if he was alive. My mother took all her frustrations out on me.

I was repeatedly screamed at for gently asserting independence. When I was 17, my parents divorced and my mother moved to another country.

She stole money from me, even told me to lie to government authorities on her behalf. My father suffered bipolar depression. Even when well, he had little to do with my life and said nothing positive.

When I was a young adult, he tried to become close and sexualized our relationship. I kept him at arm’s length. At 30, I insisted he never again tell me what “turned him on.”

Still, I was relatively loyal to my parents. We had no other family.

When I tried to find my brother, he took money from me but threatened to call the police when I said I wanted more of a relationship.

Years later, he agreed to see me, then abruptly cancelled. I was devastated.

After both parents had died, I contacted him again regarding my mother’s will. We’ve been emailing since but I keep him at arm’s length.

His needs are greater than I can handle. I don’t want to be devasted by his ending our relationship again.

Recently, reading my 40-year-old diary, I found entries from my first year of university just before my mother left this country for three years. I was 18.

Six months earlier, two close friends had been killed in a car crash. I’d been living on my own in a different city for four months, managing at school. My parents were paying my expenses (part of their separation agreement).

While “home” for Christmas I went walking outside one night with a close male friend, returned late. We’d talked for hours.

My mother was furious, and said I was “headed for a mental hospital.” I emailed my brother about reading this and he disclosed that our mother had told him that he was going to prison.

I’m finally understanding his need to escape my parents in order to survive them. And that I needed to minimize their emotional abuse, to survive it.

Finally, I realize why my brother needed to get away from my always making excuses for his atrocious behaviour. I now truly understand why he left and apologized to him for not understanding before.

Today, I have a gentle husband. We have wonderful children. I have many good friends.

My life has turned out better than his and so I was more sheltered from my parent’s abuse than he was.

My brother has written me: “Because we had food/shelter/education/trips, the abuse was mostly emotional. But it was abuse. We were abused.”

I wanted to tell your readers this: Parental abuse divides siblings as they search for ways to protect their own lives.

I feel relief. It’s good to forgive my sibling, to let go of my heavy expectations. The reality is that both my parents were cruel. Any advice or comments?

Just “Sibling”

Your story offers hope to people who’ve experienced heartache, pain and isolation through emotional/physical/sexual abuse. Your drive to find your brother revealed your own survival strengths and wisdom.

The broader message: Take control of your own life. Understand and forgive the struggles of those you care about.

FEEDBACK Regarding a sudden rift between two brothers after a baby’s birth (June 22):

Reader – “Given the sudden anger and rejection of his older brother by the baby’s father, and the age difference of the couple, I wonder if the husband’s taking the wife’s crying as a criticism of him.

“His response to his older brother suggests he can’t handle the situation that has his 13-years-younger wife crying.

“Is the mother getting support from her family? Her husband’s yelling at his brother wasn’t at all soothing for a first-time mother to hear.

“Is this how the baby’s father handled his previous wife’s pregnancies and births? Is he becoming controlling and not wanting to have anyone visit his wife? Is there any usual contact between the brothers?

“The older brother should maintain a normal relationship with his brother’s kids. And text his brother to try to heal this rift.”

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.

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