Dear Amy: We are a family of seven siblings, all in our 60s.
My brother "Brian" lost his teenage daughter to a sudden medical event in 2014. Brian, his wife and two surviving children have been rocked to the core, but they continue to manage with grace.
In 2017, our sister "Susan" (who lives across the country) called Brian on a day he was feeling deeply sad. Otherwise, it was a normal day. His son was helping to pack Brian's car for the work trip he was taking that afternoon, and neighbors were clustered on the sidewalk, participating in a local gardening project.
Susan contacted another sister, "Stella," with concerns that Brian was suicidal. Without contacting Brian, his wife or anyone else in the household, Stella phoned the police. She alerted them that our brother, a hunter, owns guns.
The police showed up, handcuffed Brian in front of his neighbors, put him in a squad car and took him to the ER. He passed the ER evaluation but missed his flight for the work trip.
Brian was furious with these two sisters. Susan and Stella have subsequently not talked to him or anyone else in the family for five years.
They believe they saved Brian's life and demand that everyone else apologize for not supporting their decision. They boycott every family event: weddings, birthdays, holidays, baby showers, funerals and family reunions.
Can't sadness and parental grief be discussed and supported without someone being arrested?
Amy says: Your sisters misread and overreacted to your brother's situation, and I agree that they have handled things very badly in the aftermath of this episode.
They might have said to Brian: "We were panicking. We had no idea of what the police response would be, and we feel terrible for putting you through additional trauma and strain. We're so sorry!"
Instead, they are doing what people who feel cornered by their mistakes often do: They are doubling down.
You can reach out to these sisters. If they want to come to the family table, you can offer to help — but you cannot do it for them. Brian, of course, gets to make his own choice regarding contact with these sisters.
Hasn't got a prayer
Dear Amy: I am a financially independent adult. My parents raised me Catholic, but I left the church a long time ago and don't care to return. (I'm gay.) What can I do about them proselytizing to me? Should I ask them to stop? Or should I just ignore their texts?
Amy says: Tell them that their proselytizing pushes you farther away from them. If you have left the church but retained your Christian faith, they might feel better if you told them that.
If they still continue, yes, ignore the texts, but don't ignore your parents. They might be afraid that they are losing you (or already have lost you).
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