Mother needs help from a professional
Q: My mother has always been difficult, but in recent months her actions have gone so far beyond the pale that I think they indicate serious mental illness. I can see the pain she is causing my father, and she has contributed significantly to the breakup of my brother's marriage.
I think both my brother and dad are too close to the situation to recognize she needs help. I live far away and have the benefit of many years of therapy and a wonderful, loving relationship with my husband.
I don't think my mother poses any physical danger to herself or others. Should I talk to my dad? Suggest to my mom directly that she get some help? Or just stay out of it?
A: The possibility of mental illness means the advice of the unlicensed and semi-informed equals more spinning of more wheels, at a time when you've surely lost patience with that.
Presumably you know how to locate a reputable professional.
The therapy may not be about you this time, and might end at one session — but it will be for you, since resolving this issue will depend on your grasp of your mom's condition, assuming there even is one.
No one can diagnose your mom without observing her, of course. However, a competent, cooperative pro can get close. And that insight can help you see whether your family's intuitive and no doubt well-meaning response to Mom is in fact part of the problem.
From there you can develop strategies for interacting with her, which you can pass on to Dad and your brother, with documentation to back it all up.
Depending on one's definition of "beyond the pale," therapy may seem like punting. It's not. Too few people avail themselves of this resource. You're in pain and you're out of ideas; that's why mental health care exists.
Don't be upset by hearsay
Q: A work acquaintance whose house burned down was in need of clothing for two young grandsons. I went through clothing I had saved in case I had another baby, and selected a few outfits. I sent them through another co-worker who knew her better.
I later heard she was upset that "some people" hadn't bought new outfits but had sent "rags." Was I wrong to send used things? I would like to know if I did something tacky.
A: The clothes were good enough for your own children, so they were good enough to share. You did nothing tacky.
I would say the recipient was extremely tacky, since publicly critiquing people's generosity is about as ill as manners can get.
However, you didn't hear her complain; you heard rumors. That means you don't know for sure what your colleague said, or what triggered it, or in what context she spoke.
You do know for sure, however, that someone chose to tell others that she was upset. And that is tacky. Maybe she had legitimate gripes, maybe she didn't, but people who witnessed them owed it to all involved to keep those gripes to themselves.