DEAR ABBY: At 16, I married a man I didn't love. No excuses, but the stress of that marriage kept me an angry person. I was an abusive mother when my children were growing up. I have apologized to them more than once and changed who I am. Last year, my second husband and I opened our home to my oldest daughter and her two children. (She had her third baby while living with us.)
Sadly, my daughter is perpetuating the abusive behavior she grew up with. I tried to gently bring it to her attention while she was living here, but she quickly blamed it all on me. She moved out, separated herself and her children from me, and through telephone conversations has also alienated her sister and brother from me. She has lied to them about me, and they have shared their horror stories about childhood abuse with each other. Now, only one out of four of my grown children will even speak to me.
What more can I do besides apologize? I love my children and grandchildren. I hate seeing them repeat the cycle of abuse. They blame me, saying they learned it from me. I have tried telling my daughter she must learn how to break the cycle and make things better for her own children, but this has only pushed her further away. How can I mend my broken family and my broken heart? -- FILLED WITH REGRET IN INDIANA
DEAR FILLED WITH REGRET: You can't. You planted this crop, and this is the harvest. However, if the child who is still speaking with you can prevail upon his/her siblings to reconsider what they are doing, there is a chance that with counseling the pattern of abuse can be broken. It's a long shot. And if it doesn't work, then you must seriously evaluate whether child protective services should intervene for the sake of your grandchildren's safety.