My mother is a toxic person and now she is dying. Do I go see her?

Pennyk asked...

My mother is and always has been a very toxic person. After therapy my counselor suggested she is a borederline personality. She is this or just naccisitic, controlling and angry. I don't like the way she talks to my Father, or even strangers. She rarely says please or thank you and when she does if sound weird like she doesn't really mean it. She has no friends, and has alienaned most of the family. She rarely has a good word to say about anyone. I choose to move awy 15 years ago to another state 1200 miles away. I have been getting happier and healthier ever since. My life is good. My Mother told me about two years ago she has breast cancer. She is morbidly obese maybe 500 + lbs, doesn't exercise, eats instant anything, she smoked most of her life and only quit to get a gastric band which never worked for her. I resent that she wants sympathy for her illness when she didn't even try to be healthy. When I was younger and I would beg her to quit smoking she would say eveybody has to die from something. Now that it's happening she wants me to feel bad for her? I got the call July 3rd, she is now terminal. They are going back into chemo to extend her life a month maybe two. I'm struggling with how to handle it. First of all I can't afford the cost of traveling there right now, money is tight and my daughter starts school next month, I have school supplies, school fee's etc.. My car 10 yeas old and frequently need something. If I spend what little money I have to go visit and something goes wrong with the car or we have any other issue I'm screwed. Emotionally it's easier if I don't go, I don't want to have sympathy for her. I don't want to tell her how I really feel because that seems mean and inhuman to dump on a dying person. I can't pretend I like her, I do care enough that I don't want her to suffer. I feel bad for my Dad & Brother who are there to help her, but Dad enabled this behavior put up with it. When she punched me in the face once, he just stood there. He has never known a normal life, so he thinks this is normal. I pray he finds some leval of happiness after she is gone. Do I go, do my duty as a daughter no matter what it costs me in the end? The emotial toll is high for me I have been moarning the mother I never had for years. I don't know what to say to them if I don't go. Any words of wisdom.

Expert Answer

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

Penny, you raise an important question with a two-part answer on whether or not you should go see your mother even though she is a toxic person and dying.

On the one hand, you need to take care of yourself.

If she causes you such heartache and your finances are so lean as to not be able to travel 1,200 miles to see her, you should not go. Take care of yourself first; otherwise there will be nothing left of you.

On the other hand, if you DON'T see her before she dies, you may regret it.

As we grow older and experience life's ups and downs we often gain greater compassion for our differences. Although, this doesn't seem to be true in your mother's case as you describe it, it may be true for you.

Once the blood stops coursing through your mother's veins, she will live only in your memory. You may (or may not) regret that you didn't see her one last time.

If you even think there's a slight chance of this, which I think you are questioning here, find a way to visit her. Maybe your dad and mom can help pay for your trip.

Your and your daughter's futures lie ahead. Your mom has lived her life, made her choices, and although she's not happy, it's her life.

Ask yourself

Will I have any regrets if she dies and I didn't see her one last time? If so, find a way to see her.

There are other ways to see her. Consider using a video communication tool like Skype. Most laptops have a camera built in not to mention phones with this feature.

Also talk with your brother. Depending on your relationship and before your mother's death, could be a powerful time to share your feelings as brother and sister.

Another perspective on this can be found here: Wishing a parent would die