While clearing out my parents' stuff, I am stirring up painful childhood memories.

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My father died 3 1/2 years ago. My mother had a stroke and lived with me for about 2 years. We are now moving her to assisted living.

I am clearing out files and letters and things that we just boxed up when we moved Mom in with us. I'm coming across journals and letters and other things that are bringing up painful memories. My parents were narcissistic but more than that they were neglectful of my siblings and I. They were caught up in their schemes and plans and beliefs and their own unacknowledged mental health issues. They didn't do alcohol or drugs but their behavior created similar chaos.

Part of me wants to just toss everything and another part of me wants to keep looking at it all before I give or throw things away. I guess I felt bad about staying away, but the things I'm finding are reminding me of why I did and that I stayed away to keep from being damaged more by their actions.

Even though I lived through it, I sometimes can't believe how very screwed up they were. And the family is still having to cope with their chaos. I am doing for them what they didn't do for me. A friend told me "their intentions were good" but I'm having trouble seeing that.

Caregiving with a history of family dysfunction is so very difficult.


cmc, as much as we try to keep the dysfunctional past behind, it comes up repeatedly when we are caregiving. When we are from neglectful homes it is usually not only the children staying away, the parents also didn't keep contact. But somehow only the children feel guilty.

I don't know what your parents did, but I know how you are feeling going through their things. My father had kept financial records going back to the 1980s. So many of the records were a troubling reminder of how bad it once was. I ended up shredding a room full of boxes after barely looking at what was inside. That probably saved me a lot more bad feelings, which are something I don't need. :)
cmc: If what you are reading becomes too difficult, shredding is therapy! I think it is great you recognize it was all dysfunction! There are many who think the dysfunction is normal because its all they know! Shred shred away!
I think anything that helps you to cope is OK. If that means shredding, do that! Or you could approach this as a cleansing closure type of thing. Look over the stuff, process the memories a final time, then be done with it (and them). Or a combination. In any case, pace yourself. Decide how much you can handle *before* starting a session of stuff-sorting. Pay attention to your feelings and stop before they get to be too much.

Also, I'd limit discussing this with your friend who said "their intentions were good". It doesn't sound like this friend really *gets* it and remarks like that can feel very minimizing.

I've been distant from my family for years, but last summer when my grandfather died I ended up seeing a lot more of them. WHOA! Did that ever remind me of the truly EXCELLENT reasons I have for staying away. My family is Train Wreck City.
Try not to take permanent actions while you're emotional.

Soon after my mom died my dad stayed in a hotel while I cleaned out the house. I too came across letters and diaries and other memories but they were so painful that I whipped through there like a tornado with blinders on throwing everything away. I have regretted that ever since. I wish I had kept many things and just boxed them up to look at when my feelings weren't so raw.

However, my situation was very different in that all the memories I came across were good ones. For instance, I never thought I'd want to hang onto my mom's diary from when she was 10 so I pitched it. That and many other things as well.

My advice would be to do what I did and just fly through there not looking at anything and just pitch, pitch, pitch everything out. Take a quick glance to make sure it's something you don't want and throw it away.
CMC, can you just 'skim' thru the paper work without having to READ every single thing? I was thinking there could be something important among the stuff still that you don't want to miss, but you shouldn't have to dwell on them either. You said you had sibling(s) can any of them help you go thru the papers? And as far as 'they meant well' that your friend suggested, I get what they mean theoretically but I believe there are people who will ALWAYS put themselves first above all else, period. There is NO sacrificial love in them towards their family and never will be. And you're right, they are called narcissists. Not sure if those type of people ever really do believe they're being a good parent, or just don't give a fig if they aren't. But see if you can just skim the papers or get someone to back you up, then have a bonfire and roast some hot dogs. It'll be cathartic AND fun at the same time. Win Win. ♥
Margarets, it did feel minimizing when my friend said that. And she knew/knows them and much of their craziness, too. I think I'll watch what I tell her. She was probably trying to make me feel better, but it didn't make me feel better.

NancyH, you said "There is NO sacrificial love in them towards their family and never will be." You know, I knew that before but I'm really seeing it now. That's why while this is painful, it is also helpful.

I think pacing myself, and maybe pulling out my shredder, are great ideas. It was a great feeling on the way to work this morning to see the piles of trash bags awaiting the trash truck this morning!

Now if I could just stop surfing the internet reading about neglectful parents!
Going through my parents stuff -- decades and decades of STUFF -- will be my job when the time comes. I wish my dad (died in 2009) had taken care of his things before he died, but he didn't. And my mom has no intention of parting with any of her things. I'm grew up in a pretty dysfunctional family, I'm a total minimalist, and am not the least bit sentimental about family heirlooms and what-have-you, so I will not be saving anything. Truckloads of furniture, clothing, housewares, and books will all be donated. Photos? Maybe I'll scan a few, but will not be saving these either. The rest of their stuff will be appraised and sold to whoever might want them. It's going to be a huge task, and not a pleasant one, but the idea of closing a chapter in my life this way sounds like it could be very therapeutic, and the donations will do a lot of good, so that's a good thing.
my mother gave me a stack of crap that was supposed to interest me and future generations. pics, old army letters and such. i stuck it all in the trash when she passed away. i dont care to look backwards. dreams and the action required to fulfill them does not have anything to do with the past imo.
she left a box of semi worthless old coins. no thanks. i have no desire to haggle for hundreds of hours with some crook over whether an old dime is worth 9 cents or 2 dollars. one persons hobby is another persons worst nightmare. i gave the whole safe full to the first idiot silly enough to take it. i have a scorched earth, slash and burn mentality, not a collector..
lol. looloo and i just said pretty much the same thing. i came to my house when mom died and started a fire and burned my own crap for days.
dontya just love a person who puts nonworking ink pens back in the container? grrrr..

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