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Estranged MIL has cancer

Discussion in 'Hangout' started by StephanieLynn, May 16, 2017.

  1. StephanieLynn
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    by StephanieLynn » May 16, 2017
    She told my husband on the phone on Mother's Day that her cancer is back and this time it is in her back and liver, she has a doctor's appointment on Friday. I didn't ask many questions because I wasn't sure if my husband really wanted to talk about this on that day. Yesterday I started asking him some questions and he basically told me that he feels uncomfortable answering my questions because he feels I don't really care about his mother, I only care about him and how he is feeling about it and that is the only reason I was asking. Yikes! Talk about feeling like a heartless person, yeah that was rough.

    A little background, and I'll keep this as brief as I can. My MIL and I have never had a great relationship, actually she is totally different from how my mother was and so I don't know how to relate to her, I've tried to talk to her but she is very guarded and suspicious. It really didn't matter until our first son came along, she never really bothered with me or made an effort until then, all of a sudden I became important, I thought that was a bit strange but we got along okay for seven years until our second son was born. We had a disagreement and a huge blow up at Christmas 2014, she actually called me back just to scream at me and hung up in my face, I told my husband right there that I had no interest in having a relationship with her, my own parents never treated me like that and I was not going to deal with it from her. Since then I am polite when I see her at family functions but other than that I keep my distance.

    She was diagnosed with cancer originally several years ago, it was treated and she went into remission. She is still smoking, which is her business but the problem comes in that my mother was a chain smoker, was diagnosed with liver cancer when I was eight and died on mother's day weekend. She only lived six months from her diagnosis. I am having a really tough time with the fact that she got a second chance and my mom didn't, of course that is not her fault but it is very upsetting. Also since I lost my mother at a young age, I have no idea how to deal with parents, I struggle anyways with relationships but this is just very complicated to me.

    Authenticity is a very big thing for me and I feel like if I just drummed up a relationship with her now it would only be because of the recent cancer diagnosis, it feels wrong. Also she has a tendency to lie, to exaggerate, she has actually told so many stories that her own children don't know what to believe most of the time and that includes lying about her cancer before. At the same time I realize that this could become a huge problem for our marriage, that he will resent me for not putting our differences aside and making up with her before she passes on. Having a relationship of any kind with this woman brings me a huge amount of anxiety, I find her extremely uncomfortable to be around, no idea how to navigate these waters.


    This is hugely stressful, if I'm being honest my real concern is being supportive of my husband however he is not making that easy when I can't even ask about her, like just as concern for another human being. The question becomes, is it wrong to continue to keep my distance in light of recent events and how do I support my husband?
     
  2. monarch64
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    by monarch64 » May 16, 2017
    Be there for your husband when he reaches out or needs to take time away from your family to visit his mother. Make sure your boys know their grandmother and that she gets to spend some time with them going forward. I don't see any reason for you to make attempts at "fixing" your relationship with your MIL. It's ok not to like someone in your family. You don't have to make personal sacrifices to appease everyone else. Respect yourself, and others will respect you. You don't have to be unkind or heartless, but her cancer doesn't mean you have to bend over backwards to make things nice for everyone else.
     
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  3. StephanieLynn
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    by StephanieLynn » May 16, 2017
    Thanks Monarch, I have really been feeling low after last night. Do I ask the DH about her or just let him bring it up when he chooses?
     
  4. Matata
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    by Matata » May 16, 2017
    The issue you have about your mom dying is yours alone and my advice is for you to find a way to separate it from the issues you have with MIL. As far as dealing with parents -- she's not your parent. She's in your life because you married her son. Regardless of your feelings for her, she is still a human being and one who must come to terms with the fact that she is dying. She will either try to mend fences in order to die without the burdens of guilt, regret, anger
    or she will not. How you react to that is a personal decision that shouldn't (but nonetheless will) be judged by others. Just remember, that whatever she chooses to do or not do ends for her with her death. If she chooses to mend fences with you, be gracious. For those who survive, the burdens of guilt, regret, anger can go on for a long time and do great damage to the individual as well as with individual relationships. You have to choose what you will have to live with.

    You don't have to like her but I believe you should show mercy. There may be things you can do in the background that shows support for the family but allows you to keep your authenticity. Maybe that means helping to research hospice care options or making funeral arrangements or organizing a memorial service depending on the family's wishes. Up until she dies, you'll have ample opportunity to thank her for having a son who you love and as a consequence also being a mom to two great kids who appreciate and love their grandma. I believe this allows you to keep true to yourself but also acknowledges her place in the life of your family. Dig deep on a self-examination and determine whether your authenticity is worth what feelings may come after she dies. After she's gone you may find out things about her from others that gives insight into her character and that may make you regretful and it will be too late for you to do anything about it. So tread carefully, think deeply, and be sure the path you choose is the right one.

    As for the impact on your relationship with your husband -- be honest. Tell him that regardless of your feelings about his mother, you understand he loves her; you want to be a source of support for him; that it is your responsibility to ensure your feelings about her don't negatively impact him or the family and that you don't hate her -- you just don't understand her. Own up to the fact that your inability to forge a healthy relationship with his mom is partly due to your issues about your own mother. One thing you must not do is blame his mother regardless of her shared responsibility in not establishing a healthy relationship with you. There will likely come a time in the distant future where the subject will come up and can be dealt with. You have to swallow any anger and resentment and be gracious about this or you may irreparably damage your relationship with him. It sounds as though all her children may have issues with her and will have to deal with them so please don't do anything to make what sounds like a bad situation worse.
     
  5. Austina
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    by Austina » May 16, 2017
    I agree with Monarch. My late MIL was old enough to be my grandmother, and I didn't really have anything in common with her. I'd tolerate her for DH's sake. She would often have digs at me, out of his earshot, too strict with our son, too house proud, go on about his brother's children, the inference being we should have more (we couldn't, but that wasn't her business). Your DH is naturally feeling upset ATM, and you're nearest to him. I would ask how she's doing when he visits, if he snaps at you, bite your tongue and say nothing.
     
  6. monarch64
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    by monarch64 » May 16, 2017
    Stephanie, I would just tell your husband that you're open to conversation about the matter and leave it at that.
     
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  7. ILikeShiny
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    by ILikeShiny » May 16, 2017
    This may sound simplistic, but I would ask him how you could best support him during this time. That way, there's no guessing. He may not care about you "healing" your relationship with your MIL, and he genuinely may not want to talk about it. But he needs to be able to tell you, both now and as this progresses, what he needs from you. That's only fair.
     
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  8. StephanieLynn
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    by StephanieLynn » May 16, 2017
    Thank you for all the well thought out responses. Matata, you touched on some things I really need to think about and come to terms with. I'll be honest I wasn't sure if I was going to get crucified for being a terrible DIL but I'm just wanting to do right by both myself and my husband, and her of course.

    I really appreciate you all taking the time to respond :kiss:
     
  9. luv2sparkle
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    by luv2sparkle » May 16, 2017
    I understand how you feel totally. I have never gotten along well with my mother in law, and she has also had a bout with cancer. I guess I have a different perspective. Now is a great time for you to be kind and be the bigger person. It doesn't take much effort for you but it will go a long way in your relationship with your husband. When she is gone, you husband will remember how kind you were towards his mother and how much effort you made. Plus, I think you will be pretty happy with yourself that you showed mercy and kindness to someone who has been difficult previously. My mother in law has been incredibly rude and said horrible hurtful things for all of my marriage, so I really get how you feel. Being kind feels better than being ugly, even if its hard at the moment.
     
  10. Jambalaya
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    by Jambalaya » May 16, 2017
    That's a difficult situation, Stephanie. I can only say what I would do if it were me, but I would drum up that relationship and show some concern. After she passes on, it will pay dividends in your marriage to have befriended her in the last phase of her life. She will go and you will no longer have to deal with her, but you still need to live with your husband. My ex-husband was not nice to my parents and I never forgave him or it. After she goes, your husband will probably feel intensely lonely, and if he feels alone in his grief too, that's not good.

    It will be hard for you to do. This kind of situation is a good example of how marriage challenges us and makes us grow.

    Best of luck!
     
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  11. Jambalaya
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    by Jambalaya » May 16, 2017
    Oh - realized I've pretty much echoed what Luv said!
     
  12. Calliecake
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    by Calliecake » May 17, 2017 at 12:04 AM
    Luv and Matata gave you really great advice. I had a similar relationship with my MIL and know how hard this must be for you Stephanie. I'm sorry.
     
  13. LLJsmom
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    by LLJsmom » May 17, 2017 at 1:38 AM
    I would say at this time, just serve. I'm not saying that you should try to mend all the emotional fences, have deep talks or try to resolve feelings. I'm saying that just doing. Bring the family food. Help clean or deliver or make meals. Run errands or anything else that they may need. Do the obvious stuff. I wouldn't even ask if it's an obvious thing they need. Do this on a regular basis. Don't expect any appreciation or thank you. Don't make a big deal of it. You're not doing it for her as much as you are doing it for your husband. And that's ok. Just my 2c.
     
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  14. StephanieLynn
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    by StephanieLynn » May 17, 2017 at 10:50 AM
    Jambalaya, Luv and Callie, thank you for posting. I heard DH talking to his sister on the phone last night and at this point there is some doubt about her cancer being back and exactly how serious it is. For now it's a wait and see situation, she can get around and function okay for now.

    Obviously that can change and when it does I will need to re-evaluate how I approach the situation. LLJ's, you made some great suggestions that I think would benefit everyone involved.
     
  15. Calliecake
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    by Calliecake » May 17, 2017 at 11:52 AM
    Stephanie, You are such a kind hearted person. I have no doubt you will be a very supportive wife to your husband thru this. When I dealt with this with my mother in law I treated her with a kindness and compassion. I knew there was little I could do to fix years of things that happened. Who knows Stephanie maybe she will realize she hasn't been very fair with you and will begin to see you for who you are. Being sick often makes people reevautate their life. Please know we are here to support you.
     
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  16. House Cat
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    by House Cat » May 17, 2017 at 5:31 PM
    Stephanie, everyone has already given the advice that I would give. I just want send my support and tell you that I am sorry that you are going through this.
     
  17. Tacori E-ring
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    by Tacori E-ring » May 17, 2017 at 7:27 PM
    I guess in situations like these I ask myself what do I want and I doing what I need to in order to get what I want. This is a tough situation because it sounds like she is still involved in your husband's life. So I am sure it creates a natural divide and tension between you. I am really sorry you lost your mother so young. I cannot even imagine. I wonder if part of you hoped your future MIL would fill the void. Unfortunately she was not able to give you the relationship you needed or deserved. Liver cancer is tricky. I work with liver cancer patients and people can get sick REALLY fast. If it were me I would try to make amends. Not for her, but for YOU. What regrets would you have if you don't? What do you wish you could have said or done?

    Please let me know if there is any support I can offer. I am lucky enough to work with transplant patients. Obviously I don't know the extent of her cancer, I just hope there is hope for her.
     
  18. Jambalaya
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    by Jambalaya » May 17, 2017 at 7:58 PM
    Stephanie - something in Tacori's post above just stirred a memory. When my uncle's cancer spread to his liver he went from normal to gone really quickly, like 2-3 weeks. We cannot live without our livers. If she has liver cancer, make your amends as soon as possible, if you're going to make them. It could save your marriage. If your husband perceives you as cold-hearted now, it could come back to haunt you much later. I'm reminded of the saying "Old sins cast long shadows." Not that this is a "sin" but your husband will see it that way if he perceives you're not as supportive as he'd like during this time of tremendous sorrow, and his feelings could surface much later. Don't risk alienating your husband. I found it impossible to forgive people who weren't nice when my parents died. Don't let that happen to your marriage. And frankly, the fact that he said what he already said is pretty bad news. I think you already have quite a bit of lost ground to make up for with him, give his reaction to a few basic questions on your part. I know that sounds harsh, but I think you should hear it if you're going to take control of this situation. Hugs xxx I know it isn't easy biting your tongue when you have horrid in-laws. It's a real act of love for your husband. I know you can do it!
     
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  19. luv2sparkle
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    by luv2sparkle » May 17, 2017 at 8:14 PM
    I agree with Jambalaya so much. Even if she is lying about the whole thing and it turns out to be nothing, your husband feels like it is something and is feeling not great about your relationship with his mom. That is not good for your relationship. I don't love my mother in law, but I try to offer kindness to them when I can. A lot of times I would just rather not engage and I let him talk to them. But the times I have, my husband has really appreciated it. When she was ill, I sent her things and I reminded him to call often. It was enough. I let him know I cared about what happened to her and if need be, I would be there for her. That is what families do for each other. I am not telling you this to make myself look good but to give you an idea of what you can do that doesn't violate your principles and make you feel like you are being fake. Plus, when my own family passed on my husband was really there for me, and it made a huge difference for me. I did everything I could for every one of them, even the mean uncle, and I have no regrets about what I did or said. I want that for you. When she is gone,that you have no regrets.
     
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  20. aljdewey
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    by aljdewey » May 17, 2017 at 8:33 PM
    If it were me in this situation, and my husband said that, I'd probably find a way to articulate this:

    While it's true that your mom and I don't see eye to eye on much and haven't nurtured a relationship together, that doesn't mean I can't feel compassion for her that she's seriously ill. Despite not having much common ground, the one important thing we do have in common is we both love you. Of course I do also care about how it affects you, and I genuinely want to be there for you and your family.
     
  21. AGBF
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    by AGBF » May 17, 2017 at 8:46 PM
    Dear StephanieLynn,

    I am afraid to give advice, because I think I would make the posting all about me if I wrote today. But someone just asked me where I thought a person went or what I thought a person left when he passed away. Maybe that question would help you. (Or maybe not!)

    Comforting hugs in your dilemma,
    Deb
     
  22. StephanieLynn
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    by StephanieLynn » May 18, 2017 at 8:21 AM
    Well we had a conversation last night that I hoped would be positive but didn't turn out that way. I am super frustrated at this point.

    Found out last night she had cancer before I met my husband over 16 years ago, would be significant except I thought that when she had cancer several years ago that it was the first time. So I've kind of been left in the dark a bit it seems. Maybe that doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

    What does matter though is that DH told me that pretty much whatever effort I make with his mother at this point is too little too late, it's been three years so why would things change now? He feels it's almost like I'm being forced. So I said to him at one point that I feel if I don't ask about her, he feels I don't care, if I do ask about her he gets uncomfortable about me asking. He also made a remark that when he pictured himself married he never imagined his wife and mother wouldn't get along. I pointed out that the girl he did marry, who has no parents, was looking forward to having a relationship with her MIL. Yes everyone lost in this lottery.

    Honestly, I am basically running a household of four plus several pets alone for the most part, I have to let this go because it's more than I can handle right now. I totally get that he might resent me in the end, our marriage may suffer of even end as a result, if that is how it goes then so be it. That may sound hasty but that's the feeling right now.

    Luv, you said that even if she is lying and it turns out to be nothing, my concern should be how my husband feels about my relationship with his mother. Shouldn't I be concerned and give serious pause to having any kind of relationship to someone who exaggerated or outright lies about a terminal illness? He may not like that we don't have a relationship but he also needs to realize that she makes it near impossible with how dysfunctional she acts.

    Tacori, Jambalaya, Housecat, AGBF, thank you for the responses, they have given me a lot to consider.

    aljdewey, your post spawned the conversation I tried to have last night, unfortunately it did not go well on his end but I believe in always trying to approach things like this with positivity.

    No blinders on here though, I understand the impact this could have on our marriage, unfortunately this is like fighting a losing battle at this point.
     
  23. marymm
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    by marymm » May 18, 2017 at 10:43 AM
    Perhaps separate yourself out of the equation; right now, it really isn't about you at all. The man you loved and married is having an extremely difficult time dealing with his mother's terminal illness/pending death. There are complex emotions at play, for your DH and for you, and for your children, and for the entire family. You are living right now a part of your family history that will be retold all the rest of your lives. It is okay that your DH is overwhelmed; anyone would be in a similar situation.

    While it would be nice if he wasn't bitter or resentful, apparently some of the crushing feelings he is experiencing is coming out that way and he is venting to his soft space, you. You can and should speak fact and truth to him, but also you can continue to tell him that you are there to support him, and part of that is supporting him through this with his mother, and being able to assist your children with what is happening with their grandmother.

    And, actions speak louder than words. Do what you can to ease this time for your DH, including what you can do to ease things for your in-laws. In a sense, your children are watching, your DH is watching, you are watching yourself. This is the time to practice grace and compassion, this is what being right is all about: despite not being close or having a difficult relationship, family helps family when hard times come.

    It is not too late at all; this is the time that matters more than any other time. And, in the end, regardless of how things develop between you and your DH, you will know you gave your best self at a critical time for your entire family. And your children will know this, and your DH will know this too (even if it takes him longer to see it).
     
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  24. redwood66
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    by redwood66 » May 18, 2017 at 10:46 AM
    I wish you the best in this difficult time. You are a good person trying to do what is right.
     
  25. StephanieLynn
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    by StephanieLynn » May 18, 2017 at 11:10 AM
    My post this morning was a bit of a vent, sorry guys: I was really struggling this morning, feeling alone, wishing I had my mom back.

    Then this little ladybug showed up on our box of cereal and when I turned the box to show my son, I saw this message my older son must have written at some point, I hadn't seen it before. It might be hard to make out but it says "have a good day".

    Granted not everyone believes in things like this but I'll take it as a message from the other side. I need it today.

    image.jpeg
     
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  26. luv2sparkle
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    by luv2sparkle » May 18, 2017 at 11:13 AM
    StephanieLynn, you can only do what you are able. I don't think you should worry about having a relationship with her, she clearly has some deep seated problems if she would lie about such a thing. Only, that for your husbands sake to try to insert some small kindnesses where you can. You may not be able to to that, and I so understand it and wouldn't fault you in the least for it. You are in a impossible situation and my heart goes out to you. You have to do what is possible for you. Hugs.
     
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  27. luv2sparkle
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    by luv2sparkle » May 18, 2017 at 11:46 AM
    Stephanie, I just wanted to add one more thing. I have had MIL issues for 37 years and it has only been the last 10 years or so that my DH has really been on my side. His mother made the mistake once in making a rude comment to me in front of FIL and my DH. FIL told her off in their bedroom, and told my husband about it later. Since then, when we are there, my DH tries to stick close. If that hadn't happened, I am not sure anything would have changed. I have observed that husbands often take longer to get around to the side of their wives when it comes to MIL issues. My marriage survived and yours can too. The problem is not you, but her.
     
  28. StephanieLynn
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    by StephanieLynn » May 18, 2017 at 12:02 PM

    Geesh, 37 years is a long time, it's admirable that you were able to stick with it because life is very uncomfortable with in-law problems.

    I'm glad that your husband came around though, I don't think that will happen for me, but you never know. As for the marriage, if we last great, if not then I did my best and was a good mother and loyal wife, if he can't give me a pass that I didn't have a relationship with his mother considering that, so be it.
     
  29. MissyBeaucoup
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    by MissyBeaucoup » May 18, 2017 at 12:12 PM
    Stephanie, I just want to wish you the very best. It sounds like you are dealing with multiple griefs and losses, including the loss of not being able to forge a better relationship with your husband's difficult mom. I really agree with everyone who says to try to be merciful, and to show helpfulness even if you can't open your heart to trust her, and to support your husband in his time of loss as best you can. But, coming from a difficult family myself, I hear you when you say you feel anxious around her and kind of self-protective. That's real and it's not your fault. When my husband and I were dealing with grief and family conflicts in both our families, we were able to go to counseling. We were not able to fix all the problems or complicated people in our families, but it did help us to work better as a team. It was well worth the investment in our marriage. I can tell that is most important to you, and this situation you're in is a strain on everybody. Wishing you peace and healing in your family. I'm sorry you lost your mom so young. That is a wound that does not go away. Bless you, dear.
     
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  30. Jambalaya
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    by Jambalaya » May 18, 2017 at 5:15 PM
    Stephani, I know you're doing your best in a difficult situation. Hugs xxx

    It sounds as if your husband's expectations were too high. By all accounts she's difficult, and so probably would have been the same with any DIL. And he just assumed his wife and mother would get along? I think that was very naïve of him. MIL/DIl conflict is famous. I once read a study that had looked objectively at this relationship and found that the DILs often have real reason to complain, such as the MIL seeing her as just an appendage to her son, there to look after him and have his kids. etc.

    Are you sure she lied about her illness? Even if someone is difficult, that's a whole new level that would be rare to find. Sometimes people don't tell the whole truth about cancer because they don't want to worry their loved ones. Did the wires get crossed? It's very common to demonize difficult people who have hurt us, and to hear "us" (as human beings) talk, it's amazing how many psychopaths we all seem to have in our lives! Mostly these people are not as bad as you think, they just happened to have it in for us, for whatever reason - usually their own issues. There are people I know that I can't stand and have really been unfair to me, but they have great relationships with others! And if she lie about her illness, maybe she did it because she was feeling very unloved and lonely by her family. Not excusing it, but...

    Try to be as gracious as you can. It sounds as if you won't have to pretend for very much longer.
     

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