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What To Say To Friend Whose Estranged Sister is Dying

Started 1264620521 in Among Friends | Last reply 1265204485 by Vivian Florimond
A close friend recently told me that her older sister, from whom she's been estranged for many years, is at stage 4 lung cancer. The cancer has spread to numerous organs and the prognosis is bleak. Of course I said I was sorry to hear the terrible news. In subsequent conversations, however, all my friend talks about is how awful her sister and the rest of her family are (she's estranged from all of them)and how terrible this whole thing is for her (my friend) to be going through.
I don't know what to say but my friend told me that others to whom she has poured her heart out have told her that this is about her sister, not about her. So now my friend is angry and has gotten into arguments with several people who feel she is being self-centered.
I never said anything to that effect but I just don't know what to say other than "I'm sorry." That doesn't get me too far in any conversation. I'm afraid that anything else that I say will lead my friend to be angry with me, as she's been with others.
I realize that much of what she's doing is displacing all her mixed emotions onto others but I know that she is genuinely hurting. Should I advise that she talk this over with a therapist? She has a background in clinical psychology but it doesn't seem to be guiding her in this situation.

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Merle Byrd12646213094655 PostsRegistered 10/21/2009
I was estanged from my MIL after 17 years of best friendship. I never saw her again or spoke to her again. She died 7 years later.
I was heartbroken when she died.
But I feel our relationship is healed now, and at peace. I know she reached out to me when she died.
I was on the phone with a girlfriend. My husband had just left his mother's side, and he was driving home.
While I was talking on the phone a long interruption of static came over the phone line, which has never happened before, or since.
At the same time, while driving home, my DH said he became overcome with the feeling she had passed.
He told me of this when he walked in the door, and it was the time my phone conversation was interrupted.
A few moments later, we got the call she had died soon after my DH left her side.
I would tell her there will be peace between them


ncascade12646255894405 PostsRegistered 6/20/2006
She should try to make some kind of peace,if only for her own feelings. This will bring some closure.
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And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Wheatchick112646363613210 PostsRegistered 12/17/2008The Merry Old Land of Oz
Just tell her that you will be there for her.
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Fifi112646415024900 PostsRegistered 1/21/2005
Don't try to coach her as to what she should/shouldn't do ----
Just be there and listen - as someone who has lost an estranged family member - you don't know the entire story and sometimes the estrangement was the only way to handle the situation. It still hurts greatly and your friend will need you.
Thank you for caring about your friend.
"a true friend will listen for hours to your side of the story and never once require the facts..."

betteb126464195319224 PostsRegistered 1/1/2008The Land of Oz
> She should try to make some kind of peace,if only for
> her own feelings. This will bring some closure.
> --
> Home is the most excellent place of all.

Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the M drops off.

Yuban312646469348870 PostsRegistered 11/1/2006
Just say to her, "If you ever want to talk, I am here to listen", and do just that. Let her know that you won't judge her or fault her or try and blame her for anything. And most importantly, tell her that she is [u]not[/u] being "selfish" or "self-centered" for her feelings at all, that they are 100% normal.
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give an ilk!"
Don't let the fear of "what if's" stand in your way.
I HATE typos! Especially my own.
Edited by Yuban3 at 01/27/2010 5:50 PM PST

Last edited on 1/27/2010

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PurpleCow1264649414702 PostsRegistered 8/15/2009colorado, baby!!
I can definitely relate; I was at war with family when they died after a car crash, and they had been very hateful towards me just beforehand.
Your friend has every right to be self-centered. Death is not just about the person dying, it changes everyone's lives- so it is not all about her sister, it is about HER, too. She needs time to forgive and find peace within herself, whether the sister apologizes or not. She needs to mourn the loss of her sister, for who she was, who she was not, and all that she'll never get to be- they'll never get the chance to mend things and have a great sister relationship and go shopping or Xmas dinners :-(
i think your friend is a lot like me- I hated everyone that wasn't "on my side" b/c to me dying did not mean those family members got a free pass from how they treated me before, they weren't sorry for what they did; so forgiving&forgetting was the hardest thing i ever had to go thru. Every friend that didn't sympathise with me I cut off b/c they were 'disloyal' :-( After all the years of abuse and anguish with that family, how could my "friends" tell me I nee to just suddenly get over it and those dead people deserve respect- where's my respect?!
Anyways, I suggest you stand by her side and agree with everything she says and feels, never doubt or question. This is what I needed, just a little back-up support on 'Team Me'. She'll heal herself :-) time and tears, but she'll heal and you two will be closer b/c she'll trust you to always have her back

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Vivian Flo­rimond12647108363811 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004
Thank you all so much for your wisdom. Purple cow, your insights really helped me understand what my friend is going through. I've lost loved ones but we weren't estranged so it was easier for me to mourn and to grieve.
I spent almost two hours listening to my friend the other day and we've been e-mailing daily. She is seeing a therapist, which I think is a great idea. This is a very difficult time for her. I can tell her nerves are raw and I just didn't want to say the wrong thing and alienate her. Apparently, many people have already done that and, of course, I didn't want to.

flycatcher­91012650910551575 PostsRegistered 10/5/2008
Hi Vivian,
I just saw your post. It made me feel really sad that these things happen like this, where there is estrangement.
I don't mean that in a judgmental way either, but in the way that where "life is too short," and no one knows when something will happen, and people get angry at each other and cannot repair relationships.
Sometimes we don't know all of the details when it comes to estranged relationships--did someone make the first move to reach out, and get rejected? Who really knows.
I hope that your friend can find some peace in this situation.

Fenway12651194262596 PostsRegistered 2/23/2007
Merle- I loved that story of yours about your mother in law. Thanks for sharing that. ;-)

thalmy12651296272276 PostsRegistered 8/31/2009
I think you've said all you need to or can. Now, your job is to listen to your friend. Come to think of it. There is something else you could say.
You could tell her that you will listen to her. That care about what she is going through. But, that you aren't qualified to comment on it. You could suggest she see someone who is.
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goodstuff126513531817154 PostsRegistered 11/11/2008
> I think you've said all you need to or can. Now, your
> job is to listen to your friend. Come to think of it.
> There is something else you could say.
> You could tell her that you will listen to her. That
> care about what she is going through. But, that you
> aren't qualified to comment on it. You could suggest
> she see someone who is.
I like this advice. While your friend can't necessarily be expected to overlook or forgive whatever wrongs her sister may have done, her resentment for her sister is "eating her up". It would be tremendously healing if a counselor could help your friend understand her feelings and help her find a way to come to terms with her sister. While it isn't always possible, is always best if broken relationships can be healed before someone dies.

gameon12651388994215 PostsRegistered 6/9/2007
Vivian...have you ever thought of asking your friend what she would like from you? It seems that she is angered by how others have reacted... and you are trying to find the way that would be most helpful to her...maybe the way to find out would be to ask her what would be most helpful to her?
The way i see it is that there are unfinished issues in this relationship and your friend has a lot of mixed feelings about her sister. However, you cant read her mind. I think we often try to figure out how others feel... and we only have our own frame of reference to come at the situation from.
Friendship is so precious... i wish you both the best.

Ilovehummi­ngbirds12651566135018 PostsRegistered 7/12/2007
I will call her and let her know you want to be there for her.......to visit or talk........you are very sorry.......I wanted you to know I am thinking about your sister, you and your family. I would call......

Vivian Flo­rimond12651586963811 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004
i speak for me, that is excellent advice. I have become increasingly concerned about what to say. I know that the sisters have been estranged for quite some time. This week, my friend's sister made gestures to start repairing the relationship, but my friend says she fears it will take too much out of her emotionally to reciprocate. My intitial thought was to say that they're running out of time and she should at least try to meet half way, but then I realized my friend was not looking for me to tell her what to do. That would have been presumptuous of me. But I'm still left wondering what I can do...so it makes the most sense to ask.

blankette1265176955728 PostsRegistered 12/7/2009
Personally I would tell her to not take too much time thinking it over. She sounds like somebody a person laying in bed dying could do without unless she can actually carry out the true meaning of forgive which is to um, to forgive. My father is dying now, I have a sister that just cant decide. Of course everyone has hurt her, but she lives the life of luxury without any problems and looks down her nose at everyone. She is still deciding with the feeding tube in place.
I just read your last post. What does that really say when the dying person is reaching out her hand and the friend is still worried about herself and her emtional well being. I am sorry but your friend is lucky to have your friendship as she sounds very limited and selfish in her dealings with her very own family.
Edited by blankette at 02/02/2010 9:07 PM PST

Last edited on 2/3/2010

Vivian Flo­rimond12652044853811 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004
Blankette, you've hit the nail on the head with my latest dilemma. I admit I was shocked when my friend expressed more concern for herself than her dying sister. I don't know all of the family history, but I was taken aback by my friend's remarks. It was a good thing I kept my mouth shut.
My friend and I live on opposite coasts of the country so our communication is by phone and email. I won't be seeing her until June. After our last conversation, I'm even afraid to ask what I can do for her. I think my best bet is just to listen, at least for now. She's so miserable at this point that I don't want to add to her woes.
Edited by Vivian at 02/03/2010 4:41 AM PST

Last edited on 2/3/2010

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