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by Abigail Van Buren

Minister's Efforts to Comfort Sister Bring Anger, Alienation

DEAR ABBY: I have been a minister for 40 years. Throughout most of these years, I have tried to be supportive to my sister. Her oldest child, "Nahla," has been "difficult" since she was 15. My niece cuts herself, uses drugs and has been in prison and in rehab. I have listened patiently as my sister wept, discussed her fears and anger, prayed for her and sent cards to her and her daughter. When Nahla was incarcerated for 16 months, I wrote to her every other week and touched base with my sister almost daily.

Recently, my sister called me and told me she was livid at me. She said in all these years, I had given her daughter hope, but never her. I was astounded and deeply hurt. She also said she has been pulling away from me since last year for that reason.

Abby, I thought the whole time I was giving her hope. How do I go forward in a relationship with my sister? I forgive her. I have asked her for forgiveness. Even though I have reached out, I no longer hear from her. Should I simply let go? I don't know how to do more than I already have. -- GRIEF-STRICKEN IN GEORGIA

DEAR GRIEF-STRICKEN: Your sister is misdirecting the anger, fear and disappointment she should be aiming elsewhere onto you. You have done everything you can for her and for Nahla. You say you asked for forgiveness (although, from where I sit, I don't think you have slighted her in any way) and have forgiven her. She's attempting to punish you by giving you the silent treatment. Please don't blame yourself for it. Enjoy the distance she has created because if there are more problems with Nahla, I have a hunch your sister will be back, baggage intact.

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