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Yesterday after school I talked to an adult. Uncle Tim (church music director) coaxed it out of me after I spaced out a lot during rehearsal.

I told him everything: from Mom’s death and Dad’s distance to not talking to adults for a very long time. He listened the whole time, and it felt good.

Uncle Tim said, “How do you feel about your father? Are you angry?” I said, “Not angry, I got used to rarely seeing him at home. Sad and annoyed that he’s been ignoring us for years and that my brother is experiencing a painful early childhood. I understand that Mom’s death hit hard but it’s been years and I wish he’d come back to us.”

Uncle looked at me and went, “Son, you need to let go of the anger and hate in your heart and reach out to your father. It’s been years, you need to move on. Remember Jesus said love your enemies.” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I politely repeated that Dad won’t talk to me personally or by phone, no matter how I tried. And that I don’t hate Dad or that he isn’t my enemy. He talked about respecting parents and quoted many verses about not being hopeless when someone dies. That if a Christian dies, he’ll go to be with God. He said something about Jeremiah and God’s good plans and that everything happens for a reason. And that everything that’s happening—good or bad—is God’s will. I was more confused than ever, with more questions than before.

When I got home, I checked the verse about God’s plan (Jeremiah 29:11) and I honestly couldn’t make the connection between the verse and my situation. Like I’ve been dealt this hand, now what? I feel like a fool. My conversation with an adult flopped again. Scripture quotes are great. But I really want to ask for practical doable advice. I just don’t know how to say it without sounding impolite or offensive.

Ironically the best advice I got was from my 7 year old brother who found me in my room crying. He said "It's okay to cry cause Jesus cried when Lazrus died. I cry for Mommy too."


I don’t have extended family to ask questions to. My father is an only child and his parents are dead. My grandparents and two uncles on Mom’s side are estranged. Grandpa and Granny and my two uncles never wanted them together in the first place. The two meetings I had with the grandparents were not nice. Besides, I never met the uncles (except for seeing them at the funeral service).

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OMG, I can't believe it!  Wow, you know a lot of judgmental people, I'm sorry this was the response you got.  You did right to try to talk to someone, but I guess he wasn't the right one, nor your youth pastor.  :(  

I love Jeremiah 29:11 but I don't think it's the most fitting verse when we're grieving, it sure doesn't FEEL like it's part of some major plan when we lose someone!  Your little brother is right.  The most "plan" I can see in loss is in 2 Corinthians 1:4 (God) who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  I guess someday we'll be able to see how the pieces fit together in this big puzzle of life better than we do now. (Now we see through a glass darkly but then we shall see face to face.)

I'm sorry you're not getting better help, believe me when I say it's them, not you.  You're so right, we don't need cliches when we're grieving, we need a little compassion and understanding.  You will have that here.

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Dear Madam KayC,

I’m used to judgmental people. It comes with the territory maybe. Privileged kid with no mom, absent dad, and the household staff equals the typical ultra-spoiled prince of brats. I don’t know why “spoiled rich kid” is the first impression of most people. Or why “spoiled” is always connected to privilege. Or that acting out for attention is a given. (I blame the movies for this annoying stereotype.)

I don’t care about it, what’s important is the opinion of people who matter to me.

The judgmental thing just stings more painfully if it comes to mom and the grief that comes with it. It gets too much sometimes. I want to ask the person, “Have you ever lost someone?” Then if they say yes to make an off-hand comment like “An angel was needed up there” or something. Haven’t done it though, I know that won’t do any good. Here, at least, I can be a teen who misses both parents without having to man up. Or ask questions without being under the microscope. And for that I'm thankful.

With respects,

Blue Captain

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I have tended to be more blunt since I lost my husband, I grew some moxie and said what I wanted, but when you're still home with your parent that probably wouldn't work for you.  ;) 

Stereotyping can be wrong on so many levels.  You're right, spoiled has nothing to do with privilege...if you can call it that.  IMHO wealth doesn't always equate with privilege because sometimes responsibility is also greater and having to pay more heed to how others perceive you.

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21 hours ago, Blue Captain said:

“An angel was needed up there”

Cliches seldom help and more often hurt.  For every stereotype I can think of a contradicting answer.  What?  They weren't needed here???  I hate those cliches in grief!  Years ago I saw a thread about that where someone retorted the common cliches, it was good, wish I'd saved it.

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Hi Blue Captain,
You will not make any sense out of Jeremiah 29:11 because it does not apply to you. It is one of the Bible verses that is endeared to people but taken out of context. If you read the whole of Jeremiah 29, at least from verse 1 to 29, you will discover that it is a letter written by Jeremiah to the exiles, that they will be there in Babylon for a long time so they should settle in, build houses, be productive, multiply and do not decrease, for God has a plan for them, to prosper them and not to harm them. Except that they are in Babylon and not in Israel.

About Uncle Tim, some people are like that. You tell them as much as you can but they end up with the wrong conclusion as if part of what you told them didn’t make it across. That is especially true with men, not all men, but some men. You might have a better chance with women. Men’s thought process is compartmentalized, like little rooms, and as you tell them things there is a point where they disappear in one room then back in the hallway and hear you again. Have you tried talking to your pastor?

God Bless.

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Dear Listening Friend,

Thank you for the advice. I've tried speaking to adult women before, especially in the early days and years of Mom's death. They told me to "give Dad space." Adult men gave me advice along those lines too. As for pastors, I'm cautious about talking to them. I appreciate the sentiment and the thought of quoting Scriptures but I can't really connect it to my situation. Cliches (in the form of "It's God's plan/will, She's with God, etc) are really not helping--maybe they say it out of habit or with real good intentions--and I don't know how to politely tell them that their words feel empty and hollow. As I write this reply, the courage to speak with an adult (man or woman) has left me. I'm still recovering from my conversation with Uncle Tim. Maybe one day I'll grow up enough to understand all this, or at least have the guts to talk to an adult again.

 

With respects,

Blue Captain

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@MartyT  

Thank you!  Two of those were what I remembered, looked for, and couldn't find!  I think Blue Captain will relate when he sees the cliches and retorts to them.

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How can I help my brother deal with the “loss” he feels about me going to college? I know that’s not the anticipatory loss we talk about in here. I am totally lost and don't know who to ask. I decided to post here because the advice I got hasn't steered me wrong so far and I have nothing to lose. If this post offends anyone, I apologize in advance. I will happily delete this, all you need to do is tell me. Or the admin can do it too. I will also accept punishment, even if it means getting booted out of this forum.

***

In the early days of senior year, my little brother was fine with me leaving for college. I made a promise that we'd stay in touch by phone or Skype; explained that there are very busy days and I won't be able to call, but to tell him so he'll know I’m busy with schoolwork. Also that I’ll come home on Christmas and summer and if chances come in between.

The fact that I'm leaving for college soon has sunk in and he's not liking it. His reactions are more visible--being clingy, asking for a camp out in my room or his room. He’s worried about two things: living alone at home and forgetting what Mom looks like. He has nightmares about me never coming home.

I looked for tips online, but what I found are those for younger siblings who will stay at home with Mom and Dad. Tips like “Point out that you will be able to spend more time with them because their older sibling is away at college.” I followed “Validate feelings.” So my brother knows that I’ll miss him too, and that living away from home is a daunting experience for me as living at home is for him. Aside from that, nothing.

About forgetting what Mom looks like, I’m really broken about this. Memories of little kids are not so good. The fact that he only saw Mom’s photos in secret doesn’t help. I’ll take the pictures with me when I leave and won’t give him a copy. I assured him that he’s not a bad kid and that Mom would understand, because of our situation. And that I’ll give him a copy of all photos in my stash one he’s 18. (“But, I’ll be old by then.”)

The staff will look after him, but they’re not exactly on his “talk to” list. The staff tend to dismiss our feelings as “teen phase” or “child phase.” I’ve been winging it with the help of Google since I realized I couldn’t talk to them.

My talk with the staff got nowhere. They were polite but told me that their kids were fine when older ones left. Or that my brother needs to “learn that college is normal.” I agreed, but pointed out that their kids had parents, and my brother will need help with the new experience. The oldest among them huffed and told me to stop coddling my brother because "normal children went through this and survived." Or “Two weeks you’ll be in [place] and he’ll have you to himself…. Children these days, honestly. We were always alone in my time.” They suggested that I start distancing myself from my brother so he’ll get used to me not being around.

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My dear, sharing your concerns with us requires no apology from you ~ and it's not at all surprising that your little brother is not looking forward to your leaving for college. Still, since you'll have access to the Internet (whether by smart phone or computer) you'll find lots of ways to stay in daily touch with each other, and now might be a good time for both of you to be working on that. For example, given your concerns about your brother's having access to photos of your mother, is there a way that you could upload those photos onto a website that only the two of you could access, via a password you could share? You might Google such a question to see what options may be "out there" and available to you. I know that the iphone has a way to save photos to  the cloud (How to Save Photos to iCloud) and I'll bet you can find other suggestions that fit your specific situation.

I hope you will ignore the advice to "start distancing myself from my brother so he'll get used to me not being around" as I don't think that is wise. On the contrary, I would encourage you to make the most of whatever time you have left to spend with your brother, so he'll have lots of good memories to comfort him at those times when you're not physically present. You can reassure him about all the ways that the two of you can stay in daily contact with each other (email, texting, chats, Skype, etc.) Nowadays there are so many ways to maintain a relationship from a distance! Get creative with your little brother and ask him to brainstorm with you to think of all the ways that you can still "be with" each other! Take a look at some of the ways that folks deployed in the military stay connected with their families. (See, for example, 9 Ways Families Can Stay Connected During Deployment. Some of the suggestions won't apply to your situation, but the ideas you'll find there may get you started on creating some of your own.) 

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Marty answered you well, I have nothing to add except this was exactly how I was feeling when I left home at 17, leaving behind my 8 year old sister.  My dad was alcoholic and my mom mentally ill and abusive and I hated leaving my little sister alone with no one there to confide in or come to.  Today it is easier to connect when far away, so thankful for the internet!

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Dear Madam MartyT,

Thank you for the tips. I couldn't bring myself to push my brother away, anyway so I'm not following the staff's advice.

I could probably scan my stash and upload it on cloud or an email address created for my brother. I'm just worried because, as pointed out by Madam KayC, little kids can be careless sometimes. All it takes is one time to forget to logout and the files will be seen by the wrong person. Then all hell breaks lose. We have agreed on schedules for Skype days and the best time to call each other (since my college is in a state with another time zone).

What can I do about his nightmares though (aside from calming him down when it happens)? Should I call my father's aides and ask for a doctor? The nanny assigned to my brother thinks it will pass and not to do anything (just that, no advice). I can't just sit by and watch him scream and thrash at night. Hearing him beg me not to leave or beg Mom's forgiveness for "forgetting" is just not cool.

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