Dear Annie: I am 39 years old. For the past 20 years, I have had ongoing therapy to recover from the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. My abuser was my half-brother. When I finally said something at the age of 13, my family did not believe or support me. Since then, family gatherings have been especially difficult because my family expects me to attend when my abuser is present. I can’t even tell you how difficult it is to be around him. The flashbacks are unbearable. Five years ago, with the support of my counselor, I decided I didn’t need to subject myself to that kind of torture and stopped going to these family functions.
The problem now is that no one mentions the abuse, especially to his wife and two daughters. His wife, who is clueless, sends me Christmas and birthday presents, which makes me extremely uncomfortable, especially when I see his name on the card. Is it OK for me to ask her to stop? I don’t want to insert myself into their lives or cause problems, but I can’t deal with this.
— Still Healing
Dear Healing: Is there a risk that your half-brother would abuse his daughters? If so, it is imperative that you inform his wife so she can protect her children. It is OK to ask your sister-in-law to stop sending gifts and cards, or you can send a letter to your half-brother, asking him to please cease all communication. If you cannot bring yourself to write to him directly, please ask a friend to do it for you.
Dear Annie: I am retired and am trying to unburden myself of possessions. I recently contacted a niece to ask whether she would like some cashmere sweaters. They are clean and in good condition. She said yes, so I mailed them to her. I also included a few blouses with the price tags still attached and a wool coat. I didn’t hear back.
Several weeks later, I emailed her to ask whether she had received the package. After a month with no reply, I sent another email asking whether she liked the clothes. Still no reply. I finally wrote her mother, explaining the situation and asking that she find out from her daughter whether she liked the clothes. Mom didn’t reply, either.
I get along well with my niece and her mother. I will be talking with my brother soon and would like to ask him what to do. The last time I sent his girls something and didn’t hear back was 10 years ago. When I mentioned it to my brother, he interpreted it as a judgment that he wasn’t raising them right.
The niece is now 29, and you’d think she would know better. What do you recommend? Should I ask my brother, albeit carefully? Without a doubt, I will not be offering this niece anything again.
— Disappearing Connections
Dear Disappearing: Your niece is amazingly inconsiderate. There is no excuse for not communicating about the package you sent.
This is for you: Please stop asking whether she liked the items. We understand that you want to know, but while your niece should thank you for your thoughtfulness, she is not obligated to reveal her preferences. Repeated questioning will get you nowhere. Let it go, and consider it an unpleasant lesson learned.
Dear Annie: Your answer to “Distressed in Duanesburg,” the overwhelmed high school senior, was kind and helpful. I would like to add that a little breathing meditation goes a long way, too. Just 10 minutes a day will reduce her stress.
I used to feel overwhelmed, but then started to meditate. “Distressed” may think she cannot possibly add another thing to her schedule, but meditation actually brings space to our packed days. It isn’t emptying the brain of thoughts, as many believe. Breathing meditation is about learning to focus on just your breath and requires practice, like any skill.
— Peaceful and Focused in New York
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