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Judi's avatar

Am I wrong to be upset about this?

Asked by Judi (39909points) March 2nd, 2011 from iPhone

My mom died between Christmas and new years. I lived 800 miles away, so most of the time, I can pretend she is still there, then occasionally, I am overcome by grief.
She died sooner than she expected, and had a little money that she split between her children, asking us to give half to her designated charities so we could get the tax deduction.
I was assigned to give the money to the foundation at her Church.
Last month the money was wire transferred to our accounts.
In my mourning, and denial, I have not yet written the check. It feels like to do so would be to admit she’s gone and I’m not ready to do that. I cry just at the thought.
My sister has been there for our mom for the last 20 years. Since I didn’t live there, I visited when I could and helped by providing mom with a monthly check ($350) that helped her not have to worry about the extras like cable and her seniors trips.
Today my sister sent my brother and I this email:
.......,Not sure if you have sent the chairity checks to him yet, but if you did he has not yet recieved them so I wanted to let you know in case they never got there and you need to stop payment.  That is such a large amount it makes me a bit nervous if it was not sent certified mail.
If you haven’t yet sent it, you may want to send certified or cashiers check instead of a personal check.
Love you…....

I don’t know if I am more upset at my sister for checking up on me, or the pastor for discussing it with her. I really don’t want to get into a family drama, but if I just stuff this hurt it will consume me.
Am I wrong?

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54 Answers

optimisticpessimist's avatar

I have never had to deal with the loss of a parent. I understand why you are upset, but I think you maybe taking the questions too much to heart. Since the donation was known to all, there is a very real concern that the check would be lost or stolen. She wrote the inquiry very nicely and did not seem to be placing any blame or accusations in your direction. The church is probably expecting the donation and has plans for it. They have and are giving you time and you may want to let your sister know you have every intention of sending the check, it just hurts every time you think about it.

Cruiser's avatar

First off, I am very sorry for the loss of your mom.

Now, IMHO, I don’t think you should be sore at either. It is more than likely that your mother discussed her wishes for her money to be donated with this pastor prior to her passing. This money was to be donated to this Church and he rightly so is expecting this now overdue donation. I would simply write the check asap and this may help you in your grieving for your loss.

Seelix's avatar

Firstly, I’m very sorry to hear of your loss.

I can understand how you’re feeling. When my mom’s parents died, she and her brother came into some money. At a certain point (a few years afterward), my parents decided to pay off their mortgage with the remaining money. My mom has told me how she spent a few months after making the decision just writing regular payment cheques because she had a hard time with the idea of emptying and closing the account.

Have you told your sister how you feel about the finality of writing the cheque? If not, just talk to her about it – you might be surprised about how understanding she might be.
I can see her side as well – I think your sister is genuinely concerned about the idea that the cheque may have been lost.

Because the donation is expected by the church, I’d suggest you just write the cheque and send it certified mail. I know it will be painful, but I think it really is the best thing to do in this case. There are many other ways in which you can remember your mother.
Maybe you should plan to send it out this Friday (assuming you work a Mon-Fri job) – that’ll give you the weekend to deal with whatever emotions crop up in the act itself.

I wish you the best.

SuperMouse's avatar

I do not believe you are wrong to be upset. Your sister had no business checking with the pastor rather than discussing it with you first. I also believe the pastor was wrong to discuss it with your sister. If you are comfortable with the idea you could touch base with pastor, share your grief with him, assure him that you understand your mother’s wishes for the money and that of course you have every intention of abiding by them – in your own time. He will most likely be very understanding and perhaps provide some comfort. If you feel as though it will help you, perhaps you could share your pain with your sister and explain how her following up without contacting you first accentuated that pain. You might be able to help one another as you work through your grief.

Condolences on the loss of your mother, you and your family will be in my thoughts.

janbb's avatar

I am very sorry for your loss.

Having said that, you yourself state that it is your grief and denial that has prevented you from writing the check. I think it is understandable that, knowing your Mom’s wishes, your sister sent a follow-up note that was very tactfully written. I would try not to conflate your grief at your mother’s death with this situation, don’t get upset with your sister’s reasonable action (she is the one “on-site”) and send the check.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I’m not sure why she chose the broadcast method of bringing this to your attention, dragging your brother into it, when she could have picked up the phone and said, “Hey, I ran into Pastor Bob and he mentioned that he hasn’t received the check from Mom’s estate yet. Has it cleared your bank?”

It sounds like your sister is a bit of a control freak. In reality, she asked Pastor Bob about the check, and was ticked off that you hadn’t sent it. Unless you’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars, or the church is very small, they’re probably not waiting breathlessly for the funds. The way she chose to address this is accusatory, trying to get your brother to take her “side”.

janbb's avatar

@BarnacleBill I assumed the brother had checks to send too?

Judi's avatar

I think my brother hasn’t sent his check either, and yes, she has always been a bit of a control freak.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Oh, @Judi , I’m so sorry about your Mom. I don’t imagine your sister meant anything but concern (but I don’t know her) so I think explaining your feelings to her will probably be received graciously. Maybe she could explain to the pastor as well. Do this in your own time, you are not accountable to your sister or your mother’s church.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Just thank her for the reminder. And wait two weeks to send the check. Just to annoy her. Get your brother to wait two weeks, too.

Judi's avatar

This is the response I sent before seeking the counsel of wise jellies

This has been bugging me since I read it.  I am not sure if I am more upset at you for checking up on us or at pastor XXXX for talking to you about this.  
We all mourn differently.  We have until the end of the year to mail this out.  I don’t even understand why this is hard for me, but I know it has something to do with admitting that she is really gone.  This is private and personal and I had hoped to process it in my own way.  To somehow feel judged for not doing this in your time frame minimizes my grief and I’m hurt.  
I am an adult.  You don’t need to check up on me to make sure i keep my promises. I will honor moms wishes.

Maybe I was a bit harsh…..

BarnacleBill's avatar

That’s an excellent response. Quite heartfelt, Judi.

janbb's avatar

Well since you did it, you did it and will see how it floats. I personally give a lot of support to the sibling who is dealing with the situation the closest. I would also advise keeping the money issues separate from the grieving issues although I understand they are connected in your mind.

I have some experience in these matters from both sides of the sibling situation but I am grateful that the money issues are not part of it for us.

Seelix's avatar

It may seem a bit harsh, but it expresses your feelings. You shouldn’t be afraid to express your frustration, too. She’s your sister – if you can’t be frank with a sibling, who can you be frank with?
Good for you for laying it out there.

WasCy's avatar

First of all, I am very sorry for your loss. I lost my parents within six months of each other almost 7 years ago, and I’m frequently reminded in many ways. The grief does lessen, but it’s always there. So I understand what you’re going through.

My general rule of thumb for the specific question that you’re asking is: If a somewhat ambiguous statement or action can be taken in more than one way, and at least one of those ways is somewhat positive, then that’s how I’ll try to take it.

In that light, it seems that your sister is simply and honestly concerned about the possible loss of the check in the mail, which is why she checked with the pastor, as well. I would not be upset, but I would “reply all” to thank her for her concern and tell her that when you’re ready, you will of course send the check Certified Mail to prevent loss. Your brother might appreciate the calm voice of reason, as well as having words at hand to get her off his back.

PS: No, you’re not ‘wrong’ for feeling what you feel. But you have other things to deal with, you don’t need to create or add to drama, and your sister is probably grieving as well.

marinelife's avatar

I think that there is good will here on all sides. I would hate for this to form a rift in your family.

If your sister attends the church, it is perhaps natural that she raised the issue of your mother’s gift to the church.

While this seems a little soon to be worried that the money has not arrived, if your sister did not understand your reluctance to write the check (in terms of how it made your mother’s death more real), she could not know that you would not have already taken care of this when you got the money.

Her email seems to be very gently worded and a sensible reminder. All she is saying is that if you haven’t written the check, perhaps you should send it certified mail.

I do think your reaction was a little harsh. I don’t read any judgment in her original email.

What would your Mom feel if you two came to be at odds because of her passing?

I think that you should reach out to your sister again and tell her that you reacted out of your grief and your anger that your Mom is gone.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Family relationships are strained by death in the family. Ignore whatever slights you may have seen and try to maintain your relationships with the rest of the family. You’ll be glad you did.

Jude's avatar

I agree with @SuperMouse %100.

I am sorry for your loss, Judi..

john65pennington's avatar

You are suffering from loss depression. I went through this with my dad. It lasted about 3 months and my life returned to normal. This is normal.

I would not let the money situation drag you down. Do what your mother requested and let it go at that. Send the money the safest way you feel comfortable.

I prayed for help with my dads death and I received it. This will work for you. Try it. jp

Supacase's avatar

I am sincerely sorry for your loss.

You have done nothing wrong. Your response to her was entirely appropriate, IMO. What you wrote was honest without a lot of fluff, that doesn’t mean it was rude or unkind. You told her how you were feeling and (the one thing I was going to mention until I read your response) that you have until the end of the year to take care of this. You have every right to do this on your timeline as your grief allows so long as you abide by your mother’s wishes, which you clearly intend to do.

That doesn’t mean I think she has done anything wrong, either. I don’t know her personality or intentions. I prefer to think, for the sake of family relations, that she meant no harm.

Have you talked to your brother about it? What was his interpretation?

starsofeight's avatar

Sorry. This may not seem kind, but the bit dog always barks. Don’t blame your sister. Unless you want to hang onto the money, just write the check and move on. Honor your Mom’s wish first and foremost. The money has nothing to do with how you feel; grieve without it.

nicobanks's avatar

You may not like what I’m going to say. People often don’t. I apologize in advance if I hurt you, because that’s not my intention. I hope you will read this with an open mind. I am very sorry for your loss and think that your grief is completely understandable. But:

This happened because you didn’t communicate with people, yet you expected them to know what you were thinking/feeling/doing anyway. Your reasons may be completely understandable (and they are), but that’s why it happened, and that’s hardly your sister’s or the pastor’s fault: it’s yours.

All the good reasons in the world don’t change the fact that you didn’t do something expected of you. And when a person doesn’t do something expected of them, the other relevant people are left wondering why and worrying that something’s gone wrong. Getting upset about that is as useless and wrongheaded as getting upset about a rock rolling down a hill once you’ve given it a little shove from the peak.

Things do get lost in the mail. I think your sister’s concern was entirely valild. This Christmas, I sent a letter and gift card to a cousin of mine. I never heard back. So, last month I contacted him asking about it. Turns out, he wasn’t being an ungrateful brat, as I suspected: the letter had never arrived. Another time years ago, I sent a letter to a dying relative pen-pal. It never arrived – if my grandmother had never informed me that he was still hoping for a letter from me, I would have missed my chance to correspond with him one last time. If this had happened to you – if you had sent that check and it never arrived – you’d want to immediately call your bank and stop the check – not doing so could be disastrous! But you’d never be able to do that if no one asked you about it. So, it’s not like your sister was worried about nothing. And I think her email to you was very polite and respectful. You have nothing to blame her for.

You could have avoided this by contacting the Church the moment you realised that the prospect of the check was upsetting you, and letting them know that you would contact them as soon as you sent it so they’d know when to look out for it, but that you would not be sending it immediately because of your grief.

I understand why you didn’t do this. If it was upsetting to write the check, it would’ve probably been upsetting to send such an email! But no good will come of blaming other people for your own shortfalls. Take responsibility for your own actions (or lack thereof). I’m not saying you should beat-up on yourself. I’m not saying you owe anyone an apology. Just accept the consequences of your actions, learn from them, and move on.

SpatzieLover's avatar

You aren’t wrong for grieving in your own way. I’m with @nicobanks on this one.

I can tell you from much experience with family grieving that if you let this fester, you will inevitably regret what your relationship with your sister turns into.

Write the check, send it off. Then, send your sister a big thank you for taking care of your mom.

I have been the caretaker for many of my elderly family members. I was glad to have the extra alone time with each of them. It is, however, a thankless job. Often the first thing out of an out-of-town relative’s mouth is “Why not just put him/her in a nursing home?” or something of that realm.

Meego's avatar

@Judi Your response was great and makes a great point. I also have a controlling sister. I think it is wrong when she tries to take over her way. The whole thing I think should of never been discussed as each child has part of the estate and has their duties, your sisters duty was not to watch over you and your brothers financial part or she would have all the rights to the entire estate. It always astounds me that death brings out the “best” of the family personalities. I understand that your sister may have just wanted to feel like the burden of paying the charities is over, but it does not sound like it’s her burden (I’m using the word in the lightest of terms). Do what you feel is right, make sure your grief is noticed which youve already done and I think you’ll be alright, there are many stages of grief and denial is one of them, and they are all like swimming in jello. I know I have told you before but again I’m sorry for your loss. Has your sister responded yet, and since you mentioned it she probably wants to kick herself in her own butt.

ninjacolin's avatar

uh… at first glance, I would say you’ve blown this way out of proportion.
I think your sister sent a sweet little email out of concern for how the money is HANDLED.. not about WHEN the money is sent. The question of whether it was sent wasn’t the primary concern.

ninjacolin's avatar

grain of salt and all that.. you know your sis better than I. :) Maybe she “always” does this kind of thing.. but keep in mind, she has to grieve in her own way too. Maybe her relief will come from the money arriving at it’s destination.

If it was so innocent, the best response might be to reassure her that you will send it certified and safely when the time’s right.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Remember: You can pick your friends, but you’re stuck with family. And as I told my own children when they would squabble, “You best treat each other kindly and with respect. When no one else wants you or even wants to be around you, you should always be able to depend upon each other. Family is where, when you’re desperate and you go there, they take you in.”

missingbite's avatar

@ninjacolin My thoughts exactly. I am a perfectionist and if I were taking care of something like this, I can promise you I would not be able to mourn until all i’s were dotted and all t’s were crossed.

If your sister is a control freak as you stated, she may need everything finished before she can mourn. Email is VERY impersonal. A phone call is in order.

SpatzieLover's avatar

my opinion is she may come off as a control freak because she has had to deal with a lot of stressful stuff & it’s her way of dealing with all of it

SuperMouse's avatar

There are several answers here suggesting that @Judi cut her sister some slack because she is grieving in her own way and her concern over this might just be part of the process. I am wondering why @Judi cannot be allowed to grieve her own way – which includes getting frustrated with her sister. If this upsets her, just as not getting the money to charity on a time schedule the sister had in her mind upset her, then @Judi has a right to those feelings as well. This doesn’t seem an appropriate time to take a grieving daughter to task for not communicating well – she was given a task and intends to follow through with it and keeping her sister informed as to the status of the completion of said task is not necessarily part of that task.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@SuperMouse This lack of communication is exactly how families split up after deaths. It would be a shame for @Judi to take her sister’s email to heart. I’m betting the sister didn’t call @Judi & her brother because she didn’t want to make either of them feel as though she was bothering them.

ninjacolin's avatar

@SuperMouse I think it comes from a general belief that there really are better and worse ways to go about grieveing. Our intention, I assume, is to assist her in considering the former.

missingbite's avatar

@SuperMouse You are making our point. Both side of this most likely misunderstanding is because of a lack of communication. Sure both people will mourn differently. My mother and her brother have not spoken since 2001 when their mother passed away because of this exact issue. Neither took the time to understand and both looked to outside peoples opinions on why the other was acting as they were. That is why I said a phone call is in order.

@Judi didn’t do anything wrong and we aren’t saying she did. We are saying she needs to talk to her sister. She immediately took offense to an email that shows no emotion. Just like this post. Am I screaming in anger at this or with sorrow of the misunderstanding. Give me a call and you could tell. :)

SuperMouse's avatar

@all, if you look at my original response you will see that I recommend @Judi contact her sister. I am not advocating against communication, I am merely saying that @Judi‘s way of grieving, which might have contributed to her sensitivity to her sister’s email, needs to be given as much weight as her sister’s way of grieving. Is she wrong to be upset about this? Absolutely not. She has as much right to her grief process, which may cause her to be upset about the email, as her sister does to hers, which may have caused her to send the email. I am just afraid that @Judi‘s right to feel her feelings is not being considered in all this concern about her lack of communication.

ninjacolin's avatar

Aw, I feel bad but.. she did ask for a critique on her behavior. @SuperMouse is right though @Judi, maybe you’re being too hard on yourself. Squabbling like childen can sometimes be therapeutic for adults. Especially with close friends and family. Don’t let it get out of hand though. ;)

missingbite's avatar

@SuperMouse After rereading your first post I see you did recommend that @Judi contact her sister. However, you also stated that her sister shouldn’t have contacted the Pastor without contacting her first. I guess that is where we are off. Her sister is mourning in her own way and if tying up loose ends first is her way, why was she wrong to do that? I do believe we are in total agreement that both parties should talk this out. I too feel for her and her family. Please don’t end up like mine.

Jeruba's avatar

i agree with all those who expressed sympathy & undrstanding of yr position but also said write the check. & i have to add that i don’t think its ever right or helpful to do somethg just to annoy someone. that is poor advice. you need to strengthrn yr bonds now, not test them.

aftermath of death in family is huge stress on everyone & can leve bad feelgs fort yrs. you are entitled to feel upset or any othr feelng but dont let feelng subbvert yr good judgmnt & native kindness.

Meego's avatar

I have to say that I myself do not think that @Judi is wrong at all. I also do not think her sister is wrong but @Judi did state that her sister does have a controlling attitude. There is a time and a place to use your ability to control a situation. I feel her sister is controlling at the wrong time. And I myself do not think that @Judi will let this affect her family so bad that she will never talk to her sister again. She responded to the email her sister will either understand or not if she doesn’t understand that’s unfair @Judi also said they have a year, if a year was coming up quick and the money was not paid then that’s the time to become controlling. I myself have been on this side and grieving selfishly is no good if her sisters intentions were in fact to control the situation. The fact is let it be unless your coming up on a year, it becomes a problem when the one who passed on wishes are not being far @Judi is in the clear, let her grieve.

Judi's avatar

My sister responded, apologized, said said she had no intention of checking up on us. She re read her entire email and realized she would have been offended too.

missingbite's avatar

@Judi I’m glad to hear y’all worked it out! Made my day!

perspicacious's avatar

You should have already done it. Period. The sister has every right to check on it.

Meego's avatar

@Judi See all is clear! I bet you are glad you sent the email!

@perspicacious WTH? She has a year! @Judi can take as long as @Judi wants as long as she doesn’t get close to the end of the year! Have you ever lost anyone really close to you? If you have I’m sure you know grief is very different for everyone. You get through it on your own time in your own way. @Judi will do it whenever she is ready to take a step and accept it, I’m sure she doesn’t need to be pushed by anyone, and that’s how she felt.

When my husband passed away, people bossed me around gave me ultimatums I did not need and took control of things I could of handled I just needed time as well, which only sparked a feeling of anger and helplessness. I should of done what @Judi has done and stood up for myself but I was too lost in grief and let people belittle who I was and what I meant especially to the guy I was going to spend my life with. I’m glad that your sister understood @Judi :) your stronger than I was, that will help you.

perspicacious's avatar

@Meego Why wait? What is she waiting for? She was entrusted with those funds to distribute on behalf of a dead woman. There is no reason for delay. The other siblings should be able to know it was done right away. Distributing the funds has nothing to do with her grieving and how long that lasts. This was a responsibility, one in which others have a legitimate interest. I think her sister’s message was very polite and soft. I would have expected my sister to get the funds distributed right away, just like I would have done if it were left up to me.

bobbinhood's avatar

@perspicacious “Distributing the funds has nothing to do with her grieving and how long that lasts.”

What part of “people grieve differently” don’t you understand? Distributing funds is unrelated to grieving for you. That doesn’t mean the two are unrelated universally. They clearly are related for @Judi.

The questions you asked can just as easily be reversed. Why not wait? What are you so hurried about? You’re allowed to keep the funds for an entire year. There is no reason to rush.

perspicacious's avatar

@bobbinhood When you are entrusted to handle money that is not yours it is proper to get it transferred to its rightful owner expeditiously. Her siblings should not have to wonder if and when. They should be able to know their parent’s wish has been fulfilled unless there is a good reason why it has not. She has no decision to make, she just needs to transfer the money.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Was there a reason that @Judi‘s mother didn’t make a separate bequest to her church? Maybe she included the gift to the church in what she left to the children for a number of reasons. Perhaps she felt that they might indeed have different ways of grieving, perhaps she wanted her children to benefit from the interest off of the church money if they left the account intact for some length of time. We don’t know anything about the motivation there. The Q was about whether or not @Judi was justified or not to be miffed at her sister.

Judi's avatar

Her motivation for giving it to us instead of directly to the church was so we could have the tax benefit of the donation, since her gift to us was tax free.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Judi: Thanks for the info, but my point really was that it ain’t nobody’s business but your own when you pass it on. :-)

Meego's avatar

@perspicacious I’m not sure if again you have an understanding entirely of what
@Judi ‘s way of grieving is. Again this is not a question about is she not honouring her mother. Also the sister even admitted that if she had of got that email she would of took it the wrong way. Now again I totally agree with @bobbinhood while your idea of grieving might be to get things done and put away with, this is not @Judi and I think you coming off like your lacking sesitivity to @Judi ‘s particular situation which might I add is why she began the entire question to begin with as she believed her sister was doing the same insensitivities with her. You really cannot compare, it’d be like you being miffed at me because I was focused was very quiet and did not scream in childbirth and only had a 12 hour labour, and say if you had 12hrs and screamed the whole time, and were not focused…it’s not the greatest comparison considering the topic but the only one I could think of to explain that reaction to pain is not comparable, don’t you think? Yes if it was only a bill that was given and everyone was alive and well I too would agree with speedy delivery.

Judi's avatar

It is great comparison. My 2 sisters and I were with my mom non stop for the last 30 days of her life, none of us leaving for more than an hour. We often talked about how we were midwifing her through death, and what a sacred honor it was to be there.
To be clear, my issues have nothing to do with money. It is more about finality.
By the way, I am writing this from the parking lot of the bank. I guess I better go in.

Meego's avatar

@Judi That is awesome. I can admit getting over my fathers death who was not as sudden as my husbands and only 8 months earlier was much easier than the death of my spouse. My father died from cancer I think we also had the diagnosis of death and had an easier time to grieve because we knew what was coming. My husband was totally unexpected also he had no siblings, I was completely alone besides of his mother and she did not help the situation for me. Sometimes the roots of the family are deeper bound than you can imagine with my fathers death we all came together for my mother and eachother. Some other times the bonds that bind the root of the family are already broken, this was the case with my husbands family, these things are usually already noticeable before a death even occurs. At any rate @Judi I am so glad that you have taken a major step, whether is was caused by the conversation sparked, or just your own will, your mom is proud of whatever decision you make just remember that, or she would not of entrusted you with the descision and I’m sure she’s guiding you along.

perspicacious's avatar

@Meego When you are grieving you still have to take of business.

Meego's avatar

@perspicacious Of course you do. I was I no way making excuses for people who are grieving to not take care of their business, a lot of the times you have to do many things you don’t want to do. But @Judi wasnt planning on not taking care of business, I am pretty sure she didn’t want or need to be pushed or nagged all the way to the bank literally…I’m sure she will make the right choice for her and in her mothers honour, otherwise her mother would not of trusted it in her hands.

Inspired_2write's avatar

I believe thatyou Mother enable you to “Give”.
She engineered a messege by way of this money that to find happiness is to give to others.
She was trying to help you to get past her death.
As a mother she wanted to comfort you even from the grave.
Let her do this by doing as she wished.
Believe me you will be better for would have acknowledged her memory and sincerity.
Have courage.

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