Life Advice



Ask Amy: Guilt follows in wake of estrangement

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

I have never returned any of these calls, but listening to the messages makes me feel awful.

I am tempted to change my phone number, but part of me feels terrible about leaving this frail, bitter, lonely and often sick old woman without any outlet at all. My therapist says that I’ve fulfilled my obligation to my mother many times over and I can just let her go without guilt.

I truly have no desire to have a relationship with her, but the guilt and sadness remain.

I welcome your advice.

– Unmothered

Dear Unmothered: I don’t want to second-guess your therapist (I am not a therapist), but if we humans could simply let go of traumatic or problematic family relationships without guilt, then we wouldn’t have a need for therapy, scripture, poetry, Joni Mitchell’s music, or occasional sessions of simply seeking commiseration for our sadness and frustration.


I think it is vital to allow yourself to feel all of your feelings and to accept this very challenging situation as an almost inevitable consequence of a lifetime of being pulled back and forth by an unstable mother who has untreated mental illness.

Your compassion toward your mother is revealed in your narrative, so you should work toward staying in an attitude of compassion, mainly toward yourself for the choices you’ve been forced to make – but also toward your mother.

Dear Amy: Recently my husband's high school class organized a get together at a classmate’s home, with about 30 people in attendance.

I brought a bottle of wine and handed it to the hostess.


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