Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Upsetting Email

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 20, 2014

Continuing with Jorge, https://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/the-lying-relative/ , he gets an email from one of his siblings who is one of the two executors of the estate. The executor/sibling expresses terrible disappointment in the lack of responsiveness from the “grandchildren” after having received funds from the estate. Apparently, there was an open request to send memories about their parents/grandparents, in order to make a book, but no one stepped up. Jorge’s brother tied the issue of receiving money with the unspoken mandate to exchange a tale. Jorge was cc’d on the email, making him “squirrelly” in that the email was addressed to his one adult son, who was perfectly capable of managing the email as he saw fit. On the other hand, Jorge explains to me, “my brother just disgusted me with that email. There should be no quid pro quo when it comes to an inheritance. However, I do know that money is really the religion in my family and it is used as a source of competition and control,” Jorge says as he begins to cry. “What’s going on?” I ask, not sure how his rage became sadness. “There is just no love in my family,” Jorge says. “If the grandchildren wanted to express themselves in writing that would be nice, but how can feelings be mandated to go public. Maybe some people want to keep their thoughts private? It is as if the money is payment for them to do a job, but of course that was never stated, so there is massive confusion, but clarity in the sense that the money must come with an exchange.” Jorge continues to cry. “What do I do? Do I write back and say this is not OK, or do I stay out of it?” Jorge asks, not really wanting my advice, but wanting me to understand that his family of origin just puts him in one bind after another. “There is an amazing lack of compassion in my family, and even though I have been on this planet for quite some time now, this always seems like new information to me. I guess I am in denial.” Jorge says, allowing me to sit back and watch him struggle with his defenses. “Yes, you keep hoping with each major family milestone that there will be love and peace and harmony, and with each marriage, each birth and each death, nothing changes.” I say, watching Jorge suffer disappointment after disappointment. “It is really hard to give up the notion that you got love as a child, that you were welcomed and wanted in this world.” I say, returning to the theme of our work, about how Jorge goes in and out of knowing that he grew up in an emotionally hostile and unloving household. Now, he has added on the feeling of “disgust” by this email. He hates to think of where he came from, but at the same time, it helps him to understand the battles he had to take to break out of the mold of his family. One email, one trigger, made for a very very bad day.

2 Responses to “The Upsetting Email”

  1. Shelly said

    Poor Jorge. He feels so different from the rest of his family in that he has empathy and normal feelings of love for others whereas the rest of them does not. He realizes that there is no price-tag to receiving part of an inheritance and he is torn with the decision of getting involved or not. So what would you say to Jorge? If it were me, I would tell Jorge not to dignify the relative with a response and let Jorge’s adult children deal with the aftermath. I would then focus on the pain that Jorge is expressing about his feelings when he interacts with his family of origin.

    • Yes, there is the practical matter of how should Jorge handle the email. There is also the historical matter that when people separate from their family, by maturation, with or without therapy, there are times when this separation becomes more apparent, particularly around milestone events. In that way, this post illustrates the changing field of denial and acceptance which from day to day, month to month, and milestone to milestone is a dynamic system. In that way, Jorge’s pain is also evidence of his personal growth, and so the pain is woven together with a sense of relief that he has “punched out” as he would say, from a family that does not seem to know how to love. Like with the pain of the loss of a loved one, the bereaved wants to hold on to that pain, especially in the beginning, as evidence that the loved one meant something. The absence of pain would mean that the relationship was immaterial and so the pain is held tightly as evidence of the meaning of that relationship. At the same time, that pain is difficult to bear, and so slowly, like pulling back tape that is very sticky, the pain subsides and the lost person is still held very dear. In Jorge’s case, the pain subsides as he grasps his new reality and his new internal world which is filled with love and meaningful relationships. Still, there are regressions which take him to a dark place. This email was one such regression, but I am confident that it is a small regression in the midst of how far he has come.

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