Dear Dr. Romance

My sister is 2 years younger and not long after my Dad died, I thought we should sit down and talk about things that needed to be done.  She is the executor and took offense, accusing me of getting between her and Dad.  Then, when my Mom got sick, she also got angry at everything I tried to do to help out.

When we were leaving the hospital after Mom's surgery, she lost it and started shouting and talking to me like I was an idiot.  I kept walking out of the hospital to get to the car.  She wanted to walk me to the car and I told her no thanks; didn't want to be anywhere near her. 

Things seem a little better, but we are avoiding each other.  Too bad, because Mom may not live long and it makes me sick knowing that, even though my Mom appreciates my being with her, I am not welcomed.

I am also a breast cancer survivor and the fact that my Mom's second diagnosis came 30 years later is not sitting well with me.  So I am trying to put my needs first and taking care of myself around my sister, but also feel compelled to take care of my Mom. 

Dear Reader:

Many difficult family dynamics emerge when a parent dies.  It can be very scary, because your parents are just before you in line for aging and death, and it's frightening to watch them go. Your sister obviously has some unfinished business: it sounds like she feels competitive with you.  Maybe she thinks that your parents loved you best, which is common with a younger sibling.

Don't let your sister's issues come between you and your mother. It would be very helpful if you and your sister could go for counseling.  The hospital will probably have a referral for grief counseling.  This is your sister's grief talking, and both of you need help dealing with it. 

"Surviving Loss and Thriving Again" will help you understand what's happening. "Mirrors and Teachers" will give you skills for handling interactions with your sister.    It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction will explain the family dynamics that you and your sister are reenacting.

  It Ends With You

For low-cost counseling, email me at

Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.