ASK ALMA: We Just Buried Mama and My Sister Won’t Talk to Us

This is a photo of 'Ask Alma' columnist Alma Gill
Alma Gill is an NNPA columnist whose newsroom experience spans more than 25 years

By Alma Gill (NNPA News Wire Columnist)

Dear Alma,

We need advice. Recently our mom died and one of our sisters hasn’t spoken to us since. Reason being, my sister wanted mama to be buried in her favorite dress. Let me clarify, I’m not talking about one of my mom’s dresses, I’m talking about a dress that belonged to my sister. I didn’t think much about it at the time, I just thought she was crazy. While my other sisters were dealing with the announcements and program, I went out and bought mama a really nice, new dress to be buried in. I delivered it to the funeral home and with all that we were working on finalizing the funeral, I just forgot to mention it. Or maybe I just didn’t take her seriously, anyway, she won’t talk to us. She said we disrespected her by burying our mother in a new dress. It’s been three months now and my oldest sister wants us to make up. My take on what’s happening is, “Whatever, she is crazy, so I don’t care!” It really doesn’t bother me one bit that we don’t talk, so I don’t see the problem. If the rest of us get along and only one sister has a problem, that’s her problem to fix. I feel like she will come around when she comes to her senses, because I don’t have time to play into her selfishness. I told you how I feel about it. My sisters and I read your column every week. How do you think we should handle this situation? Do you agree with her or me?

New Dress vs. Old Mess

Dear New Dress vs. Old Mess,

My condolences on the loss of your mother. It’s really one of the worst experiences of life. The grief never leaves you, ever. Some can handle it and others, well, we (and yes, that means me) start to sink. Pardon me one Mississippi while I ponder, am I the only one who recognizes that your sister’s last wish regarding her mother wasn’t accepted, or even acknowledged? I mean you guys dismissed it and didn’t take the time to discuss or consider the possibility. Regardless if you agreed or not, she deserved a conversation. If honestly you forgot, apologize. Cause I really don’t think it’s about the dress, do you? It sounds to me like your sister is overwhelmed by grief as I’m sure you all are. So before you pass judgment while taunting her tears, please pause, rewind and identify her pain for what it is.

Some folks grieve by retreating. They about-face towards a path to darkness because they just can’t imagine happiness without their loved one. Don’t misread or criticize her for that. What would warm my heart is to see you and your other siblings rally behind her and address the issue. Take the time to visit with her and listen. Note I didn’t say talk. Nope, let her do the talking. Give her a chance to introduce you to her heartache. You didn’t before, I think it’s time. Become each other’s anchor. It’s about you all positioning yourselves above the pettiness and putting out this fire that divides you.

I don’t have to confirm for you, grieving the death of your mother is one of the most agonizingly, excruciating experiences ever. Check your mouth, don’t let your pain speak for you. You can disagree without being dismissive. Your haughty approach and condescending attitude, Miss Sassy, are just like two flat tires, until you make a change, your family feud of foolishness will remain parked right where it is.

Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.

Originally published in print on May 6, 2016. Added to website at reader request.

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