Dear New Shrink,
My mom’s former best friend is a good friend of mine, although they parted ways years ago, not by my friend’s choice but by my mother’s. The reason that they are no longer friends is somewhat fuzzy but according to my mom, her friend embarrassed her by telling her off and contradicting her in front of friends. This apparently happened two times. This friend, for the past few years, has made significant attempts to repair the relationship, apologize and try to reconnect, to no avail. Meanwhile, the friend has been wonderful to me and my family. The friend has not given up trying to mend the friendship with my mom but my mom is silent to her efforts. This is bothersome to me. First, I don’t think she taught me not to forgive. Second, I don’t want to explain to my kid one day why the lady who was at my wedding and in my life is not liked by my mom and that she hasn’t forgiven her years later. Third, I feel I need to teach my mom to evolve as a human and heal through forgiveness. Is it possible some people really don’t want to forgive and move on? What should I do?
Missing a Family Friend
Dear Missing a Family Friend,
First off, I am struck with the way that you signed your question. It immediately made me feel like the loss is not only personal but a familial one for you. It would be nice to have your family back the way that you had known it. Loss is always painful, but as I have said in so many columns, allowing yourself to grieve the loss can help you move on.
Regarding what you should do to help your mother, why do you feel that it is it your responsibility to help her evolve and move on? I am not so sure that this is your job.
It is actually quite possible that there is more to the story than you know. It is also quite possible that the more you attempt to change your mom the less likely you will be able to do so. There is something fundamental to human nature and that is, we all resist change when it is thrust upon us. I as a psychologist can change no one. I don’t even try or think about it. I can only help others change themselves if they want to. The energy you are putting into this might be better used in forgiving your mom and allowing her to be whoever she is.
There are definitely people who do not want to change and then there are also pockets in people, all of us, that may resist change. Holding on to anger is often a defense against feeling pain or also a defense against being vulnerable to reoccurring injury.
As you said, the story is fuzzy. Perhaps your mom was injured in a way that you cannot see, she cannot describe or is simply difficult for you and her past friend to understand. Have you tried talking to your mother without trying to change her, trying to understand what the injury really is to her? This is definitely one thing that I recommend you do. Tell her how deeply you are struggling but that you also want to understand her side of things. Try to let go of your own agenda.
It is interesting that this embarrassing experience happened more than once with a best friend. I have to wonder what else was backed up in their history and how well this friend really knew your mom. We generally know when to stop with someone who is close to us. It really sounds like you want your family back as you knew it and while that is completely understandable, your mom may never be able to trust this friend again.
Lastly, I don’t think you need to worry about your son. When he is old enough to see what is going on, then you can tell him that something happened that you do not understand, it bothers you but if he wants an answer, he should ask his grandmother.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to get out of the middle and let it evolve naturally. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself and just allow the tears to flow for what once was but is no longer. Maybe you will get lucky with a surprisingly good outcome in the future.
You sound like a great daughter but one who might be taking on too much.
Dr. Barge is a licensed psychologist and a license marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are kept anonymous. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.