What advice would help this family?
May 5, 2012 10:10 PM Subscribe
What can I do to help my mother and siblings cope with an abusive parent?
posted by anonymous to human relations (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My mother is significantly older and in poor health sometimes. My father, who is a leader in their church, has a severe hoarding issue that has made their house hazardous for their health for many years. He refuses to clean the cat boxes for months at a time. There are piles of junk all over the house that have not been touched for years, collecting grime that they have to breathe in. Even though they can afford it, he refuses to buy and install an appliance she uses daily in a convenient place, so she has to carry large loads up and down stairs on a daily basis.
He has always been controlling. But when he made a decision to ground my sibling from something they absolutely live for, she moved out, with my sibling, to stay with me. He was more surprised than anything -- he really did not know she was this upset about the house and his grounding my sibling.
She did have the help and support of the women from her church for the move, and was amazed at the peace and quiet and cleanliness they could enjoy when they were away from the house and him. She was so happy and proud of herself as she made plans for living independently.
She made it for a very short time, before giving in to his agreeable behavior and promises, and moving back in with him. They went to counseling a few times shortly after she moved back in, but he played the part of the good husband/father. They stopped going because the counselor had personal problems come up.
She called me tonight to tell me how he is still controlling every aspect of their lives. Every worthless, minor, every day decision is "his way or the highway." She says she can't take it much longer, because he is driving her out by his behavior, but she needs financial support to put my sibling through school.
She says he doesn't see the need for seeing a counselor again. I suggested going to someone in their network of churches, but she thinks that would be awkward. I said I didn't doubt that it would cause her to feel that way, but suggested a local church counselor who has known our family for many years, who I had talked to, and was very supportive.
My heart hurts. I don't want her to put up with this just so he will put the other sibling through college. She said she would be willing to go back to work when she can't take it anymore and moves out, but she is not physically able to work in her field enough to support her and my siblings. But she did talk about this possibility, and that she definitely wants to get an apartment instead of intruding on my space this time, which will require her to work.
I can't stand listening to what my siblings are going through, and I can not do any more than watch and tell her to please seek counseling for her own sanity. I am afraid to move because I want to spend as much time with her as I can, and they all need someone to talk to about what is going on at home. At times the siblings are extremely angry at being grounded for no legitimate reason, and I remind them they will be getting to escape the house for college soon enough. For the youngest, that is a while off and they are miserable. The other has told me they don't care if they have to put off college and find a job, just so they all can have peace, but he really wants to go this college.
As a sidenote, they are Christian, but not evangelical. He is obsessed with religiosity, that to his own mind, allows him to be the authority that dictates how they should live. This is why counseling did not work that time, and this is why he says he does not think he needs more counseling. Their church is not down with this kind of behavior. Speaking from personal experience, he is a skillful liar.
I can help address the practical things, like cleaning, when I can. I told her to ask someone from church to help install the appliance she needs upstairs. But for putting up with pointless aggravation and filth on a daily basis for the sake of her children, I have no words. What else can I say or do, besides telling her that counseling, for herself only if he still refuses, can really help?