DEAR ABBY: I'm a single man in my mid-40s. My parents are gone, but seven of my 10 siblings are still alive.
When I was 12, my appendix burst and I became deathly ill. The hospital visits took their toll on my dad, who suffered a major heart attack two weeks after I was released. Two weeks after that, my father had another massive heart attack that ended his life.
I felt extremely guilty. I thought I had killed my dad, so I turned to our parish priest for help. Instead, he chose to molest me. He said I had made him do it, and I walked out of church feeling I was to blame -- that I was evil.
From then on I trusted no one. I kept people at a distance. I have never had a close personal relationship or a romance.
I have been seeing a wonderful counselor for seven years. She has helped me a lot, but I have resigned myself to being alone the rest of my life.
Abby, my siblings hate me -- I'm not sure why. They have birthday parties, graduation parties, backyard barbecues and many family-oriented gatherings to which I am never invited. We live in the same small town, so it's not a matter of location. They go camping as a family in the summer, and it's always kept a secret from me. When I ask why I wasn't invited to the celebrations, I'm told that "there wasn't enough room." When I ask about the camping trips, I'm told, "We don't go camping as a family; we go as friends, so I'm sure you understand why you're not invited."
I really don't understand. I think they get some kind of kick out of knowing how badly they hurt me. My counselor says I should walk away from them and not look back because what they're doing is deliberate. But how can I walk away from the people who are supposed to love me unconditionally?
I keep hoping one of them will realize how badly I am hurting, have some compassion and extend a loving embrace to me before I completely die on the inside.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. -- A FAMILY OF ONE IN OHIO
DEAR FAMILY OF ONE: Please listen to your therapist and do as she advises. She has your best interests at heart. You were in no way to blame for your father's death, but on some level you may have been blamed for it by your siblings. Whatever is going on in their shriveled hearts, you cannot fix it. You will not find compassion or empathy where none exists. Your best chance of finding acceptance and love is to stop seeking it from your family, move on, and build a family of your own. Others have done it successfully, and so can you.