After the Last Straw

This was not written by me, but with a few changes (from “friend” to “family”) — it could have been.  Originally written by lightshouse, I first found a paraphrasing on a thread at

you are ASSUMING that if a big enough tragedy struck you, these people would be there for you. They would care. They would make you pots of chicken soup and babysit your children and go the distance for you if ever needed them desperately. Because they know that’s what you’d unfailingly do for them, of course.

But hold on a second — you’re the one who never troubles them. You’re the one who usually gives more than you get. You’re the one they like because you’re so “easy” to know. You don’t make requests, much less demands. You’ve been a piece of cake — a free ride.

And what kind of person really wants the kind of friend who makes sure a person never has to go out of their way too much?

A lame friend, that’s who. A self-centered, uncaring, unempathetic, fair-weather friend. They just LOVE people who never ask for things, because they don’t like giving much, and they like to get more than they give! When you are at your absolute lowest moment in life and most desperately need the support of others, these people you haven’t asked enough from are the ones who will shame, dump, and even smear you.

Fine time for someone to start treating you like garbage, right? But that’s when their true colors will come right through — when suddenly, they have to make a significant effort to stand by you. Because they won’t do it, and they never planned to have to.

All of a sudden, they’ll be telling you that you’re just too high-maintenance, and they’re too busy, too overwhelmed, or too important to support you. They’ll criticize and reject you, and they’ll try to make you feel like you’re just impossible to live with. The truth is, they’re suddenly not getting more than they give, and that’s just not acceptable to them. You have to go back to being their nice, easy friend who never asks anything of them, or you’ve got to go.

You’ll be shocked and horrified, you won’t believe what they’ll do, and you’ll wonder what is so wrong with the world that in your time of deepest need or pain, there is yet another awful realization heaped on your shoulders — your “friend” has no empathy and doesn’t like to give.

What Is Missing

Yesterday, I was talking with a co-worker about skipping family reunions.  Cathy is from upstate New York and she was saying how she is always the one who travels.  “Planes go both ways,” as she said.  And this past year, she didn’t go to hers either.

But, she went on to say that her brothers posted pictures saying things like, “It’s not the same without you!” and “We miss you!”


What did my sister post this year?  A picture of the other five siblings with the caption, “ALMOST all the siblings.”

I wrote to her back in ’07 or ’09 that I feel like I am invited “only to complete the set”.  If I needed any further evidence of that, I just got it.


What is missing is any kind of indication that I am loved, wanted, valued as the person that I am — not just as number 6 of 6.

If someone loves you, it should FEEL like they love you.

If they don’t, or they’re incapable of showing it…what difference does it truly make? You’re never really going to know. To me, it’s offering false hope, that maybe [she] could learn, or you’ll keep hanging in there, on the premise that [she] loves you deep down.

It doesn’t change the day to day reality.

But What Will They Think?

One of the things I thought about before I started this blog was, “But what will they think?”

I mean, who cares what they think?  They obviously couldn’t give less of a damn about what I think.

For a while I kind of resigned myself to the idea that while writing a blog would be therapeutic — and would get me back into blogging, and maybe even building the new website I’ve been putting off for 4 or 5 years now — and might even be fun — I wouldn’t REALLY dare do it, because of what they would think.

I’ve obviously gotten over that part.  😀  And I need to get past the impulse to be considerate of people who don’t return the favor.

But — what WILL they think?

Well, I can guarantee that their first reaction is either going to be all about them:

OMG what if someone I know has seen this?

How dare she!  How could she do this to us?

or, it will be invalidating:

Is she STILL going on about that?  It happened years ago!!

She still can’t get over it!  How pathetic is that?


Here’s some ideas on what I wish they would think, but they won’t:

Maybe she has a right to be angry at us for letting her down so badly, at the one time she really needed support.

Maybe we should listen to her.

Maybe we should have done something before now.  Maybe it isn’t too late.


I’ll give you a hint:  I can do this, in just the same way Susan and Joe were able to do what they did to me, and the same way that everyone else passively, easily, let them do it.

And some of them even asked me, or told me, that “I needed” to continue being a good little scapegoat, because that’s what is easiest for everyone else.  One even tried to guilt me into it by suggesting that Dad would be disappointed in me.  IN ME??  Holy shit.  Dad would be a helluva lot more disappointed in Joe, and he’d be mad as hell at Susan.  (Of course, that is because my dad really loved me.  That is what is missing from the rest of the family.)

So what.  As if I owe that bunch a damned thing, after what they have most definitely (a) done to me or (b) not done for me.

I DARE any of them to tell me that I can’t do this, that I am not allowed to do this.

They should have told Susan and Joe that.  I’ll be damned if I let them say it to me and not them.


They aren’t healthy people.  In a healthy family, one where people actually cared about each other, and cared about ALL the family members, the elders or the leaders would have talked to everyone, gotten everyone together, straightened things out — they would have done whatever was necessary and they would not have looked for the easiest way out for themselves, nor given up and just let it happen.  They would not allow an in-law to abuse a sibling, control what happened after, let it fester for a dozen years, and just hope and (certainly) pray that it will all blow over, that I will continue to let them get away with it.

They would not pretend that the issue is between me and Susan and Joe, and no one else.

They would not steadfastly refuse to “get involved.”  If they cared at all, they would WANT to get involved.

They would not have noticed me becoming more and more distant, and then instead of asking themselves whether they had done anything to contribute to that, or asking me what is wrong, complain to each other about how distant I’ve become.

I’ve made it very clear what the problem really is, and I believe they are not actually capable of dealing with it.  Either that, or I have to believe that they just don’t want to deal with it, even if it means they lose their little sister.  To them, that is less of a price to pay than to do the right and healthy thing.  They learned these “coping skills” from our mother:  to worry about themselves first, assign blame anywhere else it is possible and safe to do so, and passively pray for a resolution, instead of getting up off their knees and fucking doing something about it.

Untitled-1It’s not as if they haven’t had the tools to do so.  I sent them a fucking diagram of why people become distant.  They are smart people.  If I can do the reading and the googling and learn why things are as fucked up as they are, they can too.  If I can spend the money and the time to go to therapy and learn what is wrong with this family, they can too.  After all, they are all older than me, so they are automatically superior.  They can figure it out, if they want to.

They don’t want to.

They don’t want to.

They might tell themselves and each other all kinds of excuses as to why they “can’t”, but the truth is, they won’t.

That sucks for me and it’s painful for me, but it’s easy for them and it’s true.

Character Assassination With Sugar On Top

This is my SIL in a nutshell (where she belongs).  Read the whole article by Gail Meyers here.
“This is how a narcissist gossips without appearing to be slandering anyone. The narcissist may even be perceived as a concerned, caring person. For example, [the Narcissist]… expresses her great concern… about [The Target’s] fragile emotional state. In reality, [the Narcissist] is being abusive and [the Target] is responding to the abuse, but [the Narcissist] is using that response as proof of your instability.”

So in a very real sense, the narcissist uses your reactions of anger, frustration or outrage to their abuse, to cause you to look crazy to other people.


Quick quiz:  which one is from the normal person, and which one is from the toxic narcissist?

My favorite part is where Susan claims she didn’t know I asked her to leave the room.  Clearly, they knew exactly what I asked them to do, because they came up with an alternative that they figured was good enough for me:  “Oh, we’ll just keep it down, keep quiet.”  If you’re going to lie, you probably shouldn’t do it in writing.

I have been told over the years — by people who have no other evidence, other than what Joe and Susan have told them — that they have fully apologized, and that I am petty and unforgiving to not accept the “fauxpology“.  That link is to a post about what a real apology is, and what this is not.  This is, at absolute best, an attempt to share the blame with me for actions that were entirely Susan’s.

Of course, any kind of apology for attacking me and yelling in my face the next day, or for the lies they spread about me afterwards, is utterly lacking.

I suppose I ought to be impressed that she was willing to admit to even sharing the blame for our “misunderstanding.”  That was probably a BIG step for her.

And oddly enough, no one seems to realize that I hold nothing against the hospice nurse.  I forgave her when I first read her heartfelt note, saying she was sorry for what she had unknowingly done to me.  There is no attempt at justifying her actions because she “didn’t know what I wanted”, there is no implication that we share the blame equally, there is no arguing over what specific words I said that were “disrespectful”.

She just expressed sorrow in knowing that she had made my pain worse, and acknowledged that she, and no one else, was responsible for having done that to me.

Teresa, wherever you may be now, I would gladly hug you, and thank you for caring about me more than my so-called family.

The History, Part 1 – Dad’s Death

And boy, is there a lot of it.

But it starts with the night my father died.

He had died maybe a half-hour ago.  I was sitting next to his body as we waited for the ambulance to come and take him away, because I didn’t want to leave him alone, in the corner of the living room where my brothers had shoved the hospital bed almost as soon as he was gone, before most of them scattered to various other rooms.

I was listening to my sister-in-law having a jolly conversation with the hospice nurse, not 10 feet away.  Susan is also a nurse, and they were merrily talking shop, and laughing, as though nothing of any significance had just happened.

I had already left the room once, and gone down to the basement, tacitly accepting that their sociable small talk and laughter — LAUGHTER! — took precedence over my wishes at my father’s deathbed.  With the help of my husband, who followed me, I decided that I would regret not having stayed by my father if I didn’t go back.  So I went back, and listened to some more laughter and happy chatter.

I finally got up the courage to say, “Excuse me.”  They were so loud, I had to say it twice before I could get their attention.

I asked, “Could you take this… this chat into another room?”

I don’t remember which one of them said it, but the response I got was, “Oh, we’ll just keep it quiet.”  Of course, within minutes they were laughing and talking as loudly as before.

I said nothing more to Susan then.  The ambulance finally came and took my father away, wrapping blankets even over his face, which bothered me.  I remember one of the ambulance attendants saying something about, “He’s a long one.”  I muttered so only my husband could hear, “TALL.  He was TALL.”  He had been six feet even.  Now he was “long”.

I waited until the next morning, when Susan’s husband, my brother Joe, was alone in the kitchen.  Almost everyone else was out of the house, either at church or their own homes.

I said to him something like, “I wasn’t happy with the way Susan acted yesterday.”

Immediately, Susan came running into the room — she must have been eavesdropping, and immediately seized the chance to be the “third man in” — and the two of them began yelling at me, shouting in my face things I thankfully couldn’t make out between the two of them.  I must have started looking down at the floor in an effort to shut them out, because I remember Susan actually bending down, the better to shout right into my face.

[ETA:  another brother was still in the house.  He recently told me he came up the basement stairs and saw me sitting in a kitchen chair.  I have no recollection of sitting, but he said he saw Susan bend down to shout into my face.  He also said he thought she was going to grab my shoulders and shake me, she was so enraged.]

any challenge, disagreement or even mildly negative remark from another person is considered criticism, rejection or mockery. Narcissists perceive these as an all-out assault or total betrayal, and go to war with the person who dares to do that to them. A mere slight is apt to result in shouting, screaming, and making absurd accusations against the victim for having such atrocious intentions and actions.

I now know this is called a “narcissistic rage attack“, but that day I had no idea what was happening.  I was just completely shocked.  My husband had come into the room, and I looked to him for help, but he was just as shocked as I was.

I fled the house, only to find later (years later) that this gave Susan and Joe the opportunity to spin the whole thing as being my fault:  to say that I had started the fight, that I had “criticized” her and her job when I had asked her to go talk in another room, that I had been emotional and over-reactive.  This threw me for another loop.  I had no idea that anyone I knew, let alone a beloved brother, could lie so deliberately and viciously.  I now know this is called “character assassination” and it is a favorite tool of narcissists.

Unfortunately, due to other circumstances in my family, it worked perfectly.  Everyone else was only too happy to accept their explanation of what had happened.  Not one person, out of five older siblings and their three spouses, asked me about what had happened — although I did get told by one brother that I “should have approached Joe alone first.”  This is what should have started giving me the clue that what everyone was told, and what everyone perceived, was not the truth.

The therapist I eventually went to never did understand why no one defended me — why no one told Susan, “Hey, lay off her.  She is our sister, and she is grieving.  Cut her some slack.”  My therapist once said, mystified, “You’re not even allowed to defend yourself.”

Even weirder — in the 3 days leading up to my father’s death, absolutely everyone in the house agreed on two things (or said they did, at any rate):

  1. I was going to take Dad’s death the hardest.
  2. We all need to cut each other some slack during this difficult time.

As my husband said in the sole group meeting we had after all the shit hit the fan (which Susan did not attend) —

You were all saying that you knew she would take it the hardest, so why were you so surprised when she did?”

Over the years I have found out some of the reasons why it all happened the way it did.  Some of it is just a “Perfect Storm”.  Susan is a toxic narcissist, and I am the family scapegoat who allows Susan (and everyone else) to pretend there is nothing wrong with her and her toxic behavior.  In much the same way, my mom was able to blame my dad for everything her whole life, and thus pretend there was nothing wrong with her.

You see, while from my point of view, this is a hugely complicated mess of a family problem that will probably never be resolved due to certain people’s issues and their resistance to working on them — from their point of view, it’s really, really simple.  This sad, tragic family rift exists entirely because I “refuse to let bygones be bygones”.

In reality, I just refuse to quietly accept the blame for the results of Susan’s vicious behavior, and the pain that behavior caused me — which is what created the “bygones” in the first place.  And I seem to bear a lot of other blame for the results of a lot of other peoples’ actions and choices, as it turns out.

The Susan Incident is what started this journey.  This website is part of the journey, and its purpose is to help me break the bonds that still hold me to the people I have known the longest:  the people from whom I first learned about love and trust and what “family” means, the people who ought to have protected and taken care of me, especially as the baby of that family — and who have chosen not to protect me now, nor allow me to defend myself.

They refuse to listen.  I have a right to be heard.

The next part of the story.

“When A Narcissist Tells You

a tale in which they are the innocent victim of some irrational monster… you are being recruited as a flying monkey.” ~~ Gail Meyers

Which is precisely what Susan did to me with my family, and what my mother also did to the older siblings.  I suppose I ought to feel sorry for them, having got out of the clutches of one, only to have another marry into the group — and someday, I hope I can feel sorry for them.  I do realize what a fucked-up mess they are, on an intellectual level, but I’m not at the point of empathy yet.

When I wrote my personal Declaration of Independence to my family in 2013, my sister wrote back and admitted that she refused to read what I had written, but nonetheless felt able to write her own angry screed in return.  Among the items on her numbered list:

(7) If you had a bad relationship with Mom, please think about the fact that Dad certainly colored your opinion — and as a 6-,7-, or 8- year old, you would not have even been aware of it.

The irony is breathtaking.
If anyone in my family colored anyone else’s opinions, it was Mom blaming Dad for just about everything, and playing the martyr to make people feel sorry for her.

Gail writes,

What I have realized is the flying monkeys generally have their own reasons for behaving the way they do…  They may know the truth, but lack the backbone to stand up for what is right. They may themselves fear becoming a target of the narcissist. They may have been a target of the narcissist in the past. They may have been taught to get along with everyone regardless. They may also be a narcissist themselves or hiding their own troubling behavior.

While the situation with my mother is more complicated — with The Susan Incident, I can put names to almost every one of those reasons.  What I can’t believe is that Gail left out the one that always worked for my mother, and works for Susan:

“They feel sorry for the narcissist.”

The full article by Gail Meyers can be read here.