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Rock & A Hard Place (or dealing with elderly abusive family members) TW: abuse, illness

Hive mind, I need some perspective on this, because I think my own may be a bit off.

Both of my parents are in their 80s and in poor health. My mother in particular doesn’t have long to live (maybe another 12-16 months). She wants me to spend as much time with her as I can, and I do too (though I have some deep seated resentment toward her).


My father has been emotionally and physically abusive as long as I can remember. As he’s grown older, he’s calmed down quite a bit but is still very controlling to my mother (she can’t talk to her other children, open mail, even drive the car without his blessing). When I visit them he usually keeps his temper under control and makes an effort to treat me respectfully (this is due to boundaries I’ve put in place over the years), but at least once a visit he loses his shit and starts telling me never to visit or to leave the house right now (when he knows I can’t because no uber or snowed in, etc) and other threats. It’s emotionally triggering for me, because it brings back all the violence from my childhood. After a few hours, he calms down and apologizes or he’ll pout and be a dick till I fly back home (imagine a frail old man going into a blistering rage, it’s a strange thing). I never know which.

For a few years I didn’t visit or speak to either of my parents but it had a severe effect on my mom and her ability to cope with her illness. Part me wants to be “peace out, you married him” but the other part knows at this point in her life they are codependent on each other for survival.


I just don’t know what to do. Stop visiting all together or endure the mental stress for the benefit of my mother (and give her a respite from his mood swings). If it was just him, I’d never visit again. If I try to stay in a hotel, he berates my mom about it and makes it hard for me to see her.

I’m almost 40, and I still haven’t been able to figure out healthy way to handle this. Part of me is glad he’s better but I still can’t handle when he’s not (I strongly suspect he has BPD).


Any suggestions, ways to look at this differently welcome.

I love my mom and want to be with her during these last few months but he makes it so hard.


Thanks for letting me vent!

(I may self destruct this post in a few days)

Edited to add: I have a really great therapy team, who helped me work through a lot of my trauma and rekindle a relationship with my parents. But lately we’ve been focusing on my depression, I will bring all this up with them my next session.

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