Dear Sabrina,

I wish I had words of comfort that were guaranteed to help you, in your grief. Perhaps you should look at your blessings -- if you had two parents, you're more blessed than I was. I never knew my father. My mother and her brothers (the only immediate family I had) all died with 9 months, a few years ago. I was alone to "close estates," and then continued to have seven more years of major losses (which has terrifically aggravated my lifelong PTSD). I'm not sure I'm over the shock yet (of all that's happened). So, things could be worse. (That's not helpful, I know) If you have another parent, cherish them. If you have other family, cling to them. Know that the grieving process DOES end (eventually). People say "remember the good times." That sounds like good advice. I'm into metaphysics and believe that people never really leave you. They're always with you. Maybe that helps? Good luck.

Nancy P.


Dear Sabrina,

This was very difficult for me, too. I have been in therapy for over a decade and a half. I am now married to someone stable who is kind and good to me.

I have found that I am still grieving the parent I did not have. My mother and I tried very hard to overcome the estrangement between us and my rage at her. We didn't manage.

My third husband, the one I have now, has read the letters my mother and I sent to one another. He was astonished at how hard we were both trying. And it didn't work for either of us. I had a difficult time with her things which I inherited. At first, soon after her death, I could not unpack the boxes that came to me. I would pick up some object from a box and end up sitting psychologically paralyzed on the floor still holding the object up. My husband learned to check on me and get the object out of my hand and me out of the room.

Several years later and I am better about it now. We have moved twice since her death. I am doing better at putting her things, especially her books and recipes out and feeling OK about it. I think of her often and will play computer games, one of my vices, in her name.

I feel the grief and regret about my relationship with my mother and talk about it to my therapist. When I do, I feel a rising tide of rage overlaying the other feelings. In other words, I am not at peace by a long shot. I get weepy thinking of her. I am retired and find myself doing things that she would approve of and being glad that what I am volunteering for would make her proud. I still have a lot of pain and confusion about her. I feel less miserable than I did. I identify with the good parts of her often. I have forgiven her as much as I am capable of at the moment.

About my father, who died three decades ago. He was my main perpetrator. I had not remembered the abuse when he died. It's difficult for me to even write this. In therapy, I took the attitude that he was not human, which I retain today. I can't forgive him because I can only forgive people, not beasts. I don't even get angry or rageful when I think about him. I still get numb. I don't write letters, even those not to send, since he is dead, because I don't consider that there was ever any chance that he would understand or care about the consequences of his actions.

As one of my support people says, "his brain was broken" and I was "raised by wolverines" not to insult wolves who do pup raising fairly well. I sometimes wonder if my life and my family's life would have been better if there had been good or even adequate psych meds back then. I don't know. I am the only surviving member of my nuclear family. I no longer have aunts and uncles on my mother's side, though I have two first cousins and three second cousins who still communicate with me. The relatives on my father's side will have nothing to do with me.

Does this help? I hope so. Ann