Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My life history (told and self-organized) includes my mother as

somewhat of a victim. That came from stories of her Holocaust youth,

my overbearing grandmother, her emotional bipolarity, and things she

said to me about her life. She was a good mother, other than during

her depressive periods and during my childhood illnesses which

seemed to restimulate her own fears. But her emotional instability

dominated the family. We were always being told, Don’t do anything to

upset your mother. Don’t cry. Don’t make such a fuss, etc etc So the

family organized itself around her emotional illness in ways that I think

shut myself and my sibs down. My sister has never been married and

has trouble with friendships; my brother is emotionally closed; and I,

twice divorced, seem unable to cry, even at the death of a close friend.

I woke myself up the other night from a dream saying, My mother hurt

me and now I am very afraid. Is there some way to recover from this,

or all we all in the same boat?



Dear Wounded:

Tolstoy’s opening to Anna Karenina is appropriate (even though he’s

not Jewish): All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is

unhappy in its own way. There may in fact be happy families, but most

people have some combination of unhappiness in their family history,

great or small: a family organized around an illness or a damaged

member, alcoholism, abuse, bankruptcy, take your pick. You don’t

describe many of the more acute forms of disruption, which is not to

minimize what you have said.


You can’t heal your sibs but you can help yourself. I’d recommend

interviewing and selecting a good counselor, someone who specializes

in family dynamics. You should also consider attending a group

session, so you hear other people’s stories and get perspective on your

own. It may not be a short or easy road, but it’ll help.