ASK AMY: Estrangement follows police ‘wellness check’5 min read
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Dear Amy: We are a family of seven siblings, all in our 60s.
My brother “Brian” and sister-in-law lost their teenage daughter to a sudden medical event in 2014.
Brian, his wife and two surviving children have been rocked to the core, and have sought individual and peer support grief counselling. They continue to manage with grace.
In 2017, our sister “Susan” (who lives across the country) called Brian on a day he was feeling deeply sad.
Otherwise, it was a normal day – his son was helping to pack Brian’s car for the work trip he was taking that afternoon, and neighbours were clustered on the sidewalk, participating in a local gardening project.
Susan contacted another sister, “Stella,” with concerns that Brian was suicidal. Without contacting Brian, his wife, anyone else in the household, or any other local family members or neighbours, Stella phoned the local police for a “wellness” check. She alerted the authorities that our brother, a hunter, owns guns.
The police showed up, guns locked and loaded — and wearing flak vests. They handcuffed Brian in front of his neighbours, put him in a squad car, and took him to the local ER, where his RN daughter was working in the ICU.
He passed the ER evaluation and was home within hours but missed his flight for the work trip.
Brian was furious with these two sisters for launching this intervention. Susan and Stella have subsequently not talked to him or anyone else in the family for five years.
They demand an apology for having saved our brother’s life.
They accuse us all of “triangulation” for not supporting their decision. It has impacted every possible family event: weddings, birthdays, holidays, baby showers, funerals, family reunions, vacations, and casual gatherings. They boycott the annual family reunion.
Can’t sadness and parental grief and despondency be discussed, managed, and supported, without launching a paramilitary response?
– Surviving Sister
Dear Surviving: Your two sisters misread and overreacted to your brother’s situation in the moment, and I agree that they have handled things very badly, especially in the aftermath of this episode.
It’s ironic that they both cared so much for your brother’s welfare, and they are reacting to their own actions by not caring at all for his welfare now.
They might have said to “Brian”: “We were panicking. We had no idea of what the police response would be, and we feel terrible for putting you through additional trauma and strain. We’re so sorry!”
Instead, they are doing what people who feel cornered by their mistakes often do: They are doubling down.
Because you are the one who wrote to me, I think you should make an effort to reach out to these sisters – on your own and representing only your point of view. If they want to come to the family table, they will have to find a way, and you can offer to help – but you cannot do it for them.
Brian, of course, gets to make his own choice regarding any contact with these sisters.
Dear Amy: I am a financially independent adult.
My parents raised me Catholic, but they know that I left the Church a long time ago.
What can I do about them proselytizing to me?
Should I just ignore their texts?
Should I ask them to stop?
I left Catholicism a long time ago, and don’t care to return.
– Gay Son
Dear Son: To point out the obvious, you may believe that the Catholic church may have left you before you left the church.
Yes, you should ask your parents to stop proselytizing to you. Tell them that when they do this, it pushes you farther away from them.
If you have left the church but retained your Christian faith, they might be relieved if you told them this.
If they continue, yes – ignore these texts, but don’t ignore your parents. They may be afraid that they are losing you (or have already lost you), and their efforts are misguided and misapplied.
Dear Amy: Regarding your “Best Of” column about dragging a refusing teenager on “one last family vacation,” I’m on the teen’s side.
I hated family vacations. My parents fought nonstop and because I was the oldest, I had to look after the younger ones.
When I was 17, I stopped going on vacation (I had a job), and it gave me some peace and quiet.
Dear Relieved!: This scenario was one I hadn’t anticipated, and yes – it sounds like a real trial for you.