Living With Elephant in Living Room
FMSF News Alert - December 26, 2013
Back in the early years of the FMS Foundation, one member used the phrase "the elephant in the living room," to refer to the situation in which an accuser returns to the family with no apology, no explanation, no mention of the profound events that have occurred. Over the years, we have learned that this is the most frequent of the ways in which people return. Trying to understand or live with this "elephant" is as difficult for families now as it was 20 years ago. Perhaps FMSF members have some suggestions for one family that is struggling now.
Living With "The Elephant in the Living Room"
Our daughter accused us back in January 1990. It was the usual story: troubled marriage, "Christian" counselor, no memory of abuse but they all came back to her during "therapy." She was 28 at the time.
Until five years ago, we had not been able to reach her. About that time, she was divorced and remarried. Then one Thanksgiving, she came home and was welcomed by everyone there including cousins, aunts and uncles. Her brother, however, is still very angry and refuses to have contact with her.
Not a word to us has been said to us about the accusations by our daughter or to anyone in the family. Instead she has acted as if everything was normal. We have a very large family that has stuck by my husband and me all these years. Even though they love her very much, they are perplexed that she has said nothing.
She texted her brother last Christmas asking for a suggestion for a present for her dad, and he texted back saying that the best present she could give him was an apology. She did not respond. Her new husband told me that her brother’s suggestion made her very upset.
Our daughter has asked for nothing from us, but we have been helping her some with food and car needs and other basic things. She has returned to being the caring loving daughter we knew before 1990 and now even hugs her dad and tells him she loves him.
We really don’t know what to do at this point. I truly believe that she things she has forgiven him and yet at other times, I wonder if she has come back to protect me. She once told her brother he needed to act right to make me happy.
My husband and I are not willing to accept being forgiven for something that never happened. Her "story" was horrible. She accused her dad and she accused me of knowing about it. She claimed at one time that she knew there were other abusers but "they had not come" to her yet.
I am sure you are aware of other families going though the same struggle with which we are faced. I would love to hear from them or anyone who may have a suggestion as to how we should handle this.
When we think of reconciliation, we usually think of parents and the accusers, but reconciliation between siblings may be even more complicated. Imagine the feeling of seeing your parent(s) devastated by the accusations of a brother or sister. That is a tough situation. How do you forgive what was done to someone else whom you love? But it can be done.
Living with Ambiguity
FMSF was a big help to me about five years ago. After many years of estrangement, my bother telephoned me. It was a year after our father had died.
My husband said that I sounded very cold as I talked with him on the phone. Indeed, I was not at all interested in talking to my brother or having any sort of relationship with him just because our parents were dead. My brother had accused them of molesting him as a child.
The accusations started more than 25 years ago when he was in his 50s. As I recall, his wife at the time had encouraged him to go to therapy. It was after he started this therapy that he called me one day saying unbelievable and horrible things about our parents. I could not agree with him. He told these things to our younger sister and to his two sons. My mother was not allowed to see his therapist to explain. I know that my mother died of a broken heart because of these accusations. I stopped having anything to do with my brother.
After the FMSF phone call, I decided not to exacerbate the situation and just let things ride. I didn’t get angry at my brother; I let it go.
During the intervening years, my brother’s wife died and he remarried. My husband and I have known his new wife for many years and she is a truly beautiful person. In these intervening years, my brother has called me numerous times and said that he really wants to have a relationship with my husband and me. My brother has never said anything about our parents or his accusations and I am not about to ask.
A very sad consequence of my brother’s false memories is the fact that it destroyed his relationship with one of his sons as well as the many lost years of extended family relationships. But we can try to pick up from here.
I thank the Foundation for helping me find my way during these past few years, as I seem to have come to some new level and a willingness to reestablish a friendship with my brother.
Pam and J. Bean