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I'm wondering what advice you give to people concerning family relationships.

I will try to keep this brief. Father was alcoholic and violent. Mother was cold, detached neurotic, and co-dependent. I have 7 siblings. I am 57.

Within the last two decades I have realized and discovered and uncovered rampant sexual abuse in the family, as well as physical violence and much, much emotional abuse and verbal abuse. I am child number 6 so needless to say, I was targeted plenty. My two older sisters are manipulative, controlling, one is alcoholic, have consistently proven over the years that they do not have my best interest at heart. They don't believe that there was sexual abuse in the family, or if they do, they are totally minimizing the effects that it had on all of us.

There is rampant depression among my siblings, alcoholism, pedophilia, eating disorders ( I have 100 lbs to lose) , DUI's, suicide attempts, four siblings have been admitted to psychiatric wards within the last two decades. My children who are all adults now, are putting pressure on me to resume relationships with some of my more dysfunctional siblings, even though they have shown no willingness to change or respect me enough to acknowledge what has happened. My children think that I should just let it all go.

How far does any spiritual person go with this forgiveness issue? It's all very confusing.

Please advise.

Thank you,



Dear Celine --

I have to say that reading your note sounded very familiar to many other stories I have heard, two of which are close friends of mine. I have to confess that I am partial to your instincts. I don't think it's worth either capitulating your perspective or trying to get them to see what they won't.

I have watched two of my good friends struggle with how to rebuild these family relationships -- and in both there was sexual abuse and denial on the part of the siblings, plus tons of other related issues. The amount of stress they cause themselves by trying to acclimate to the family doesn't seem to be worth it. I also have my own biases when it comes to family relationships -- my mother left my father two months before I was born on the premise that he was crazy and it turns out he was -- liar, kidnapper, etc..... It took me a long time to realize that just because we were biologically related we didn't have to have a relationship -- I feel like I want others to get to this place -- draining the biology from family.

Family should be earned not solely inherited. Also, I have found that confronting family members rarely works -- they are in denial for a reason and though it's important to make your perspective/experiences known, you can't be convinced that others will learn from it -- or even share it.

That said, however, there is nothing preventing your children from seeking out their own relationship with their aunts and uncles -- if they want this to happen, they can make it happen, not necessarily through you.

I hope that helps -- and good luck as you negotiate this between your two families,

-- Amy