Ask Amy: My mother was abusive to me decades ago. Is there a point in talking with her about it now?

Dear Amy: When I was a child, my mother was abusive. She’d threaten to send me away (I’m adopted, and therefore I believed her); she’d slap me across the face or hit me with a wooden spoon in a rage, and she constantly gave me the silent treatment – without explanation – sometimes for days.

I don’t think my younger brother (who really misbehaved, and yet could do no wrong) got any of that.

It wasn’t horrific child abuse – there were no physical scars – but it shaped me and I’m still angry about it.

I am now 50, and she’s 75.

We get along OK, although I still walk on eggshells around her.

I tried to talk about it with her one time, a few years back.

She got angry, said I was exaggerating, and then blamed me for whatever had happened: “You were miserable to be around, you know.”


She said that I am “living in the past” and that it’s not healthy.

Is she right?

I just want to make it clear that what happened wasn’t OK – and that these things that happened were not in my imagination.

Is there any point in trying to do that?

– Sad

Dear Sad: Yes – there is definitely a reason to review the events of your childhood. However, is your mother the best person to do this with? Probably not.

Of course she doesn’t want to talk with you about her abusive treatment!

There is also a high probability that if you seek her out for a walk or two down memory lane, she will continue to gaslight you into believing that the events of your own life happened mainly in your imagination – or that you somehow deserved her abuse.

Therapy could help you to untangle and decode your memories of childhood. My own take is that you have been conditioned to diminish your own psychic wounds (“it wasn’t horrific child abuse”); frankly, in addition to the physical abuse you endured, I cannot imagine a deeper cut than to threaten to send an adopted child away. I sense also that you do not want to see yourself as a victim. So let’s put you into the “survivor” category.

I think you should write down those things you would like to say to your mother, and imagine the outcome (for you) if she reacts in the expected way, and does not acknowledge or apologize for her behavior. Based on what you know about her, you may decide to send your letter, anyway – if only to have your own say regarding your past.

I urge you to seek ways to own and take pride in your ability to survive. I hope you find ways to truly thrive.

• • •

Dear Amy: I have procrastinated far too long in trying to get a solution to my dilemma.

The main reason for that is, I do not want to hurt or offend my dear, sweet 87-year-old next-door neighbor, “Ruth.”

She is one of the kindest people on the planet, tends to her church and all of her elderly friends, and is generous in every way.

While barely able to walk easily without a cane, she still kindly brings my paper to my front door each morning.

But instead of lightly dropping it on my front steps, she powerfully flings the entire rolled-up paper, which (nine times out of 10) slams hard against the front door and wakes me up with a loud bang!

I know it would hurt her to think that she is waking me, as well as banging up the wood on the front door!


Do you have a kind and gentle solution to this dilemma?

– Concerned Neighbor

Dear Concerned: I don’t want to diminish your problem, but frankly, this seems like such a quaint concern that I suggest that you should embrace the entire experience.

The rolled-up newspaper, flung by mighty “Ruth.”

Both have a limited future, and I think that one day you’ll find yourself longing for the sound of the morning’s thud.

• • •

Dear Amy: Your advice to “Go For It or Not” struck a chord.

H.W. and I met as teenagers and dated off and on through high school, college, and after my divorce.

The timing wasn’t right, so we went our separate ways. Forty years later, we were both suddenly single and he wrote to me.


We are now enjoying our golden years together and loving every minute!

– A.L.

Dear A.L.: I love your happy ending. Thank you.

Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson writes the syndicated advice column, “Ask Amy,” which is carried in over 150 newspapers and read by an estimated 22 million readers daily. Email