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Annie Lane: Estranged Sister

Dear Annie: When I was a child, I had many chilling things happen to me. I barely remember some incidents, and they don’t seem to affect me now — well, other than the mental illness running through my entire body.

Anyway, as a 47-year-old looking back, one thing still hurts me to the core and brings tears to my eyes as I write this: I miss my sister. And I miss her because there is this huge divide between us stemming from something that happened when I was 17. I was forced to reveal to her and my mother, at a psychiatric treatment facility for depression, that my mother’s ex-husband had abused me when I was in seventh and eighth grade, and my sister flat-out told me and the therapist that she didn’t believe it.

How do I repair our relationship if she never believed me to begin with? 

— Brokenhearted

Dear Brokenhearted: You were very brave to tell your sister what happened. Sadly, it was too painful for her to say she is sorry for what happened. Hopefully, in time, she will gain strength and compassion for you, and you can begin to heal your relationship. But regardless of your relationship with your sister, your relationship with yourself and the trauma that you suffered are first and foremost. I believe you, and I am sorry that happened to you.

 You can heal and become stronger than before, but the 13-year-old girl has to heal first. Once you tell her that it was not her fault what happened to her, and your adult self starts to heal, your relationship with your mother and sister will shift. Even if they don’t say they believe you, you will better understand that it is too painful for them to admit it. Best of luck to you, and my hope is that your heart begins to heal itself. You are not alone on this journey.

I recommend reading “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk.

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Dear Annie: Several years ago, one of my nieces got married. Both the bride and groom were fresh out of school — law school for one and a master’s degree for the other. Knowing they were planning to live in a very expensive city and state and were both going to be working in entry-level civil service and entry-level university jobs, my husband and I agreed that a generous financial gift and heartfelt card with a personal note would be our gift.

We attended the destination wedding. There were approximately 100 guests in total. But during the reception, we were never given the opportunity to be within 10 feet of the bride and groom. We never received a thank you for our gift and would not have been assured that it had been received except for checking our account and seeing that the check had been cashed and the bride’s mother telling me several months later that they really had needed the money and it was appreciated.

Now they have had their second child, and I sent a small gift from their registry. Sadly, this will probably be the last gift to their family if they cannot find the time to even send a small personal acknowledgment — even by email or text message in this computer age. 

— Disappointed Aunt

Dear Disappointed: Disappointment, anger and frustration are all valid feelings when you give a gift to someone and they fail to acknowledge it. It just doesn’t feel good. But what feels even worse is to not feel grateful for the gifts you have been given in life. It looks as if your niece is too busy to take the time to express her gratitude for the family that loves her.

A life lived without gratitude for blessings and gifts that our friends and family have bestowed on us is a life not lived very well. In the meantime, if you don’t feel that they appreciate your gifts, just stop giving them.“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.