Dear Annie: I have two grown sons, ages 32 and 24, and they are my oldest and youngest children of six. At the age of 15, the 32-year-old was accused of a crime that the family knows he did not commit. But the accusation resulted in his spending approximately 15 years in and out of the penal system. He entered a facility for adult inmates when he was barely 16, since he was charged as an adult.
My 24-year-old was the accuser (at roughly age 11). The accusations tore our family apart. The oldest went to prison; the youngest and one other of my children were removed from my custody and sent to foster homes and group homes.
Cut to today, years later: The boys are at war. Both are accusing the other of “ruining my life.” They have been around each other a few times, and most of those times were cordial. The last time was a couple of months ago.
I live in Ohio, while the youngest lives in Missouri and the oldest is in Arizona. I hadn’t seen my oldest son in several years, so he drove to Ohio to surprise me. When he left, he had plans to go to Oklahoma to visit another sibling, but he decided to go to Missouri to visit the youngest and meet his niece and nephew. I was skeptical about this, due to threats they had previously made against each other. It went exactly as I prayed it wouldn’t.
They got into a screaming match, hurling angry threats and insults at each other in front of my autistic grandson’s second birthday party! Now they are saying the other one is dead to them, along with the children.
Annie, I can’t divulge personal information regarding the nature of the alleged crime, but I can tell you that this mama is torn in two. The boys aren’t asking anyone to take sides, but we all are feeling jerked back and forth. What can I do, as a mother, to get two very stubborn, traumatized and angry young men to get help with their relationship? Individually and possibly together? We don’t want two different holiday gatherings. And we don’t know how to tell the grandkids why their uncles won’t be around each other. What can we, as a family, do to bring our boys back together? — Torn Apart Mother
Dear Torn Apart: There is so much past resentment that needs to be forgiven and worked through in therapy between the brothers and you, their mother. Without processing the deep hurt and resentment that each has toward the other, every time they get together, it has a huge potential to end in a terrible fight. The fight only makes the rift deeper. They are grown adults, so they have to WANT to make their relationship work better. You can encourage each of them to forgive, or to speak about their past hurts and traumas, but in the end, it has to be up to them to want to work on their relationship.
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