My Heart Will Go On


Dear Dharma, 

My mother and my sister had a falling out several years ago, and it was pretty bad.  My mom is quite overbearing, and can be obnoxious if she feels she isn’t being given her “due”.  I still have a speaking relationship with mom, a pretty superficial one perhaps, but at least civil.  My father passed away over 10 years ago, and we have no other close family in this country.

My mother has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and has had to come to terms with the end approaching.  Best case prognosis is a year and a half, maybe two years.  She has reached out to me and my sister, with what seems to be genuine regrets and is asking for communication from us.  My sister has ignored all attempts, and has not replied to any phone calls or email.  I am sure she blocks my mother’s number and email address.

I want to be a go-between because I feel it is important for my sister and mother to come to some kind of truce while there is still time.  My question is how to best approach my sister without antagonizing her, and to try to make her see that mom’s change of heart is genuine.

Some Sappy Titanic Song

Dear Sappy,

First off, I am very sorry to hear about your mom’s prognosis.  Losing a parent is never easy, no matter what the state of the relationship.

I think the most important thing here is that you don’t impose the point of view that works for you onto your sister.  I know you think it’s important for them to reconnect, but it has to be important to your sister as well.

There’s nothing wrong in trying to reason with your sister on this, it’s a pretty big thing you’ve got going on here – if nothing else, you will need her support as you go through this with your mom, even if your sister decides to keep her distance.

You say she has ignored all attempts your mother has made, but I’m assuming you have informed her of what is going on? And if that assumption is true, has she flat out said she does not plan on being in contact with her mother in her final months?

It’s always so hard to know how you will actually feel when something like this happens – and that’s what your sister needs to contemplate.  And maybe that’s what you can help her with.  When your mom finally does pass (hopefully the doctors are way wrong, and you’ve got many more years) can your sister say with a clear heart that she will have no regrets?

For some people, that’s exactly how it goes.  They predict they will be okay with their decision, no matter the outcome – and they are.

However, more often than not, unexpected emotions and regrets surface with a vengeance, and then there’s no going back.  Unspoken words haunt many, non?

That’s what you are trying to prevent for your sister, as well as providing your mom with some peace of mind that she is in good with her daughters.

The problem for you is that your sister in entitled to make her own decision on this one. The best you can do is be a non-judgmental sounding board while she works it out, and respect whatever her final word is.

In the meantime, control the things you can, which is the quantity and quality of time you are able to spend with your mom.

Strong and healthy thoughts your way…



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