While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On abusive parents who cover their tracks:
My mother created a public persona to our community and church of a sweet, giving, loving, tender mother.
This was a facade for the vicious, verbally, emotionally and physically abusive person she was and remains, albeit slowed and mellowed a bit by age. Two of her six children died prematurely due to alcoholism from the abuse that fractured their psyches.
I moved 750 miles away so I’m not caught having to be involved. I’ve chosen silence.
I’ve already made it clear I will not speak at her service and while I will be there out of respect for the family, that’s about it.
I am the daughter of a father who was a cruel bully. It took me decades to figure out how to deal with him but when I was around 40, I finally realized I could cut him off if he spoke to me in a disparaging way. I wrote out a list of possible responses and put them by the phone so that I was ready to say, “I will not allow you to speak to me like that” and “If you can’t speak to me respectfully, I will end this conversation.”
It doesn’t matter if the abusive parent agrees with you — he almost certainly won’t — but standing up to him will help you win your self-respect. Work on a simple statement: “While you can still hear me, I want you to know that you created an unhappy family and I repudiate your disparaging, cruel and selfish behavior toward me. Your conduct has been shameful.”
Bullies depend on intimidation; don’t let them get away with it. You can hold them accountable.