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ASK AMY

Letting go of grudge will bring liberation

Q. I am 50 years old. When I was 15 my father had an affair and left. My mother and I struggled for several years. When I was 17, he had a child with another woman. My father and his new family lived within 30 minutes of us; however, I rarely saw him.

At one point when my children were teens, he apologized for not being in their lives, with the excuse that he was also raising a child. I have a better relationship with the local grocery store clerk than I do with my father and my half-sister.

About eight months ago, I wrote him a heartfelt letter letting him know how I have felt for the past 35 years about the entire situation: leaving his family, excluding me from his new family, and not being around to see my kids grow up.

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His response was “I am sorry you feel that way.”

I have since sent him messages on Facebook for holidays, but that is it.

My issue is that he still won’t take responsibility for what he did to peoples’ lives. His comment of, “I am sorry you feel that way” has me holding a bigger grudge now than before.

Any advice?

SON HOLDING A GRUDGE

A. You have done everything you can to try to bring your father to the table. And now you are learning that the guy who abandoned his wife and son many years ago also lacks the capacity to own his actions, apologize, and try to make things right for you or your kids.

When you think carefully about it, this all tracks.

Your father is sorry that you feel this way, but he is not brave enough to inspire you to feel differently.

You are holding a grudge, and with every effort you make, you hold your grudge tighter, so I’m going to call a penalty on this play for “Holding.” Go back five yards. Loosen your grip, because this grudge, and the anger you feel, is one more way your father is hurting you.

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Let it go now, and you will experience true liberation.

You deserved better than you got, and you are doing what good parents everywhere strive to do: You are giving your children better than you had.

You win.


Q. My daughter “Samantha” has a lovely home. She and my son-in-law are wonderful people. When I look at their family, I reflect, and I feel like I was a good mom.

I carry baggage from my own crazy family, and I’ve tried very hard not to let my own background guide my life.

I am driving myself nuts about this small situation that is actually huge — to me. Samantha has a wall in her home with various family pictures arranged on it. I am not on this wall.

There are pictures of other family members — some of whom she has said she does not even like. I feel left out and like I’m not good enough to be there.

I realize that’s my own baggage, but I can’t help it. I know if I say anything to anyone, I will be told that I’m overreacting.

How do I approach this? Should I? Am I overreacting?

FEELING LEFT OUT IN CALIF.

A. When looking at a relative’s photo collection, I think it is a universal impulse to look for yourself. When looking at your own child’s photo collection, this impulse is magnified many-fold.

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Please, bring this up to your daughter.

Don’t overwhelm her with your complicated emotional reaction, but ask her, “Hey, if I can find a nice photo of the two of us from your childhood — and let you pick out the frame — would you be willing to find some space on your wall for it?”


Q. Thank you for running a very poignant letter from “A Grateful Parent,” about how her daughter’s friends showed up for her while the daughter was dying.

As a retired hospice nurse, I know those friends performed such meaningful acts by just sitting, napping, or reading. They helped to pass the time.

I will never forget a younger female patient who had a group of friends that came in every Sunday and buffed and puffed her, did her nails and hair, and laughed and chatted away.

For a few hours, the patient felt normal.

HOSPICE NURSE

A. This is a beautiful way of abiding. I hope others are inspired by this example.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.