Dear Fiona: My elderly mother is sick in another country – and blames me for not being there

Worried woman
10:00am, Thu 15 Jul 2021
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The problem…

“I was born and brought up in Germany to an English mother and German father. I returned to live in the UK several years ago, when my (German) husband’s job brought him here, but my mum and dad have always remained in Germany.

“Up until recently, it was relatively easy for me to pop back and forth to see them, and although I was close to my dad, I’ve always had a tricky relationship with my mum. She thinks that, as I am the daughter of the family, I should be the one to be around to look after them as they get older.

“I have always worked, and my current job is with an airline so I travel all the time, so that’s never been an easy option for me. My two brothers both live locally to my parents and are more than happy to help out – and I support them as best I can, including financially. However, this isn’t enough, and she has been saying terrible things about me to them and to my teenage children, which is very hurtful.

“With Covid, of course, it’s been impossible for me to go near them, and now they have both become unwell. My mum is being extremely difficult and is refusing to see a doctor, despite severe breathing problems. With the quarantine regulations currently in place, not being able to go to Germany is making me dreadfully depressed and unhappy. My husband feels guilty about his job being over here, and it’s affecting our relationship too.

“It’s not a nice feeling when there is nothing you can do about it, especially with mum telling my children how unforgivable this is of me, being 500 miles away while she is ill.”

Fiona says…

“I’m so sorry to read about all the difficulties you’re having with your mother. It’s sad that she won’t accept the medical help she so clearly needs, and won’t accept the support of your brothers either.

“Your mother is playing you here, but what she hopes to achieve isn’t clear. Mothers know us so well, so they know just which buttons to press to make us react. She is clearly trying to force your return to Germany by making you feel guilty, but you really mustn’t let her. You are doing what seems best for you and for your family; you have put things in place to help her and your dad, which she fails to appreciate at all.

“It’s just unfortunate that she’s becoming worse while all the pandemic restrictions are in place. Your mother is getting old, and perhaps getting scared – there may be things she is worried about in relation to her health that she doesn’t feel comfortable discussing with the men in her life. If you can find a close female relative or friend to add to the mix of support you’ve put in place for her, it might be useful.

“Between the time you wrote to me and now, some travel restrictions have eased, and you may have already gone to see your parents. Nonetheless, you may find yourself in a similar situation to this in future, and you need to be prepared for how to handle it. I’d encourage you to talk to your husband and brothers to make sure they support you and understand that your own family must be your priority.

“I would also suggest long conversations with your children about family relationships, so they understand what you have put in place for your parents. I’m sure they don’t feel their grandparents are being neglected, but its best to check in and make sure.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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