Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.
How Can I Find Closure With My Mother After Her Stroke?
Dear Ada —
I’m an only child, with a mother in a nursing home after a severe stroke, which diminished her greatly. Before her stroke, my mother was a very difficult woman whom I loved very much, but spent a lot of my time in conflict with, especially after my father died. She would constantly accuse me of not doing enough or spending enough time with her, and blame me for everything bad that happened to her, even though I was doing everything I could to help her.
I tried a lot of things over the years to try to have a better relationship with Mom, because I knew I was all she had. Nothing worked though, and I finally just decided that nothing would improve our relationship: my mother was a malignant narcissist, and there was nothing about that I could change.
But then the stroke happened. Since then, my mother is a totally different person. Although her cognition is severely impaired and she rarely speaks, she is much sweeter now than she once was. She also seems much more grateful for the things I do for her, and more likely to tell me I’m a good son, and that she loves me.
You’d think I’d be grateful for this, but instead, I’m conflicted. I keep on asking myself: Could I have misjudged my mother all these years? Is it only now that I’m seeing the sweet person she is at heart? But then I think to myself, no, it’s a personality change due to the brain damage. But that just makes me feel even worse, because the truth is, I prefer Mom this way.
Can you offer any advice on how to come to terms with the toxic history my mother and I share, post-stroke? Thanks.
— Guilty Son
Let me start by saying something which may be obvious to you: your mother isn’t the same person anymore. She can’t address any of the previous toxicity in your relationship. The stroke your mother had permanently altered her personality, and if you are going to rebuild your relationship with her, it has to be with the person she is now, not the person she was.
Looking forward means accepting that, for all intents and purposes, the stroke has given you a new mother. One who is loving and grateful for your presence. It also means understanding that you won’t find closure to the past you experienced.
The stroke has given you a new mother. One who is loving and grateful for your presence. It also means understanding that you won’t find closure to the past you experienced.
Of course, this all seems easier said than done though, doesn’t it? If you’re looking for instructions on how to move forward start here: write a letter to the former version of your mother. Tell her exactly how you feel. Let her know how she let you down, held you back, or made your life unbearable. Get everything out there and on the page. Then, once you’re confident you’ve let loose, destroy your letter. Burn it. Rip it up. Shred it. You have this opportunity to let your voice be heard.
As for whether you misjudged your mother, it’s important to remember that people are multifaceted. Just because someone is full of bile doesn’t mean there isn’t sweetness there; just because someone resents their child doesn’t mean they aren’t also grateful for them. Traumatic brain injuries like a stroke have a way of reorganizing those facets, and sometimes stripping them away. Instead of doubting yourself because the gentler facets of your mother’s personality are now more obvious, try to practice gratitude instead.
After PCOS, Facebook Posts About My Friends’ Kids Are Making Me Sad
I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and the scope of my condition means my partner and I can’t conceive. This alone has been a lot to come to terms with, but it’s made worse by the fact that all of my friends have had children in the past two years. Our lives are on different tracks now; I feel isolated from the emotional understanding they all seem to share.
I have good friends. They were hugely supportive of me when I learned pregnancy wasn’t an option for us. But lately, I’ve been feeling bitterness and resentment toward their lives, and this club they’re all a part of. I’ve been withdrawn, and have shut off all social media because their posts cause me pain.
Should I step away? My friends would likely respond graciously if I told them my feelings, but I don’t know if I can let go of the way I feel.
— Lonely Laura
Oh, my heart hurts for you. Not only has PCOS stripped you from the opportunity to have children, but it is also threatening to rob you of your friendships.
Because you’re still mourning, it’s important to protect yourself from things that trigger you. If you know that social media is one of them — like it is for so many people — continue to avoid it.
And get out there and make new friends who understand what you’re experiencing. There are so many support groups, locally and online, with women and couples who are also unable to conceive. Open up. Be vulnerable. Build a tribe who gets you.
Open up. Be vulnerable. Build a tribe who gets you.
But should you also avoid your friends at the same time?
No. Absolutely not.
The best friendships are flexible, allowing each of you to cling more or retreat slightly from the relationship as life happens around you. At this moment, you may not be able to fully immerse yourself in your relationships, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon them.
For friendships to really work, they require open communication and honesty. You know your friends want to support you, but you’re not giving them an opportunity to do so, and you need support right now, not distance.
Avoidance isn’t going to help you move through this. What will help is the love and support of your friends, both old and new.
Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email email@example.com and tell us your problem.