Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Ask Ellie: Sibling estrangement often starts with childhood trauma

The initial blame runs deep, possibly due to parents’ favouritism, emotional abuse, or sibling bullying, especially if backed by a parent.

Dear Ellie: What about the sibling who dumps you then doesn’t respond? Your thoughts about sibling estrangement?

Weary of Keeping the Door Open (but still keeping it open)

I believe in keeping the door open. And I believe in “family” to the best of one’s ability to support that concept.

But I’m not unaware of breaking points in sibling relationships, which can’t be easily repaired.

I grew up in a small family — two parents, two kids far enough apart in age to have little in common during younger years. But as adults, we both care about each other.

However, some siblings can’t talk to each other, their anger spilling over into every exchange, challenging the other’s actions/choices/lifestyle. Or they have nothing further to do with them.

Reconciliation — or even tolerance — is usually rejected.

Though therapy might provide guidance and discussion, it’s unlikely either side would agree, certainly not together.

The initial blame runs too deep, possibly due to parents’ favouritism, emotional abuse, or sibling bullying, especially if backed by a parent.

Divorce can be a factor, depending on how differently children are treated afterwards, who they live with, the degree of contact they then have.

Live your own life knowing that you have a sibling out there. There are complex issues ahead — and one of you may desperately need the other … perhaps even for an organ transplant.

Something to think about.

FEEDBACK regarding Devastated who’s had a troubled life growing up on her own (June 13):

Reader – “Job training’s her number one priority. Acquire office skills quickly for access to potential workplaces/reasonable pay. Then pursue more ambitious goals by attending night-school classes.

“Since she’s mid-30s, read community college brochures (online/in a library), to learn about career possibilities, e.g., length of training, cost, requirements, etc.

“Then, meet with a community college counsellor about employment prospects, financial supports. Set an immediate timeline, e.g., three weeks, to learn all this.

“Meanwhile, seek volunteer work — two-to-three hours weekly in a setting she likes (schools, hospitals, libraries, zoos, humane societies, shelters, long-term care homes, community theatres, etc.).

“It’ll provide much-needed social contacts, references, more possible career information, and boost her self-esteem and confidence. Add volunteer activities like community clean-ups, tree-planting, etc.

“Do not dither in depression and daydreaming. Once there’s a sensible/doable plan, it’ll energize you when you see that you’re moving forward.

Ellie – I’ve included this feedback because the information and suggestions are very helpful for anyone looking to forge a new path.

Dear Ellie: My toddler grandson’s other grandma lives with a convicted pedophile who served minimal time (a few months) in jail.

He returned to the same small community where children he abused still live.

I’m worried for my grandson. This man calls himself “Grandpa” over my daughter’s objections.

He’s always clicking photos of my grandson. My daughter’s partner finally said he isn’t welcome in their house.

The other grandmother chose her relationship with this man over her son and grandson. But do sexual attractions to children actually end?

The other grandmother’s family say, “he did his time.”

To me, he’s the classic pedophile — charming, helpful, persuasive, a liar.

I’d speak to the police as he’s a registered sex offender. But without an “offence,” would anything come of it?

A Grandmother’s Fears

Ask local police how the sex abuse registry works. Talk to a lawyer about the rights of past, convicted offenders. Ask a Children’s Aid social worker about the incidence of repeat child sex-abusers. It’s better to be more informed than afraid.

FEEDBACK: Readers detail their personal responses to loss and grief (June 10):

Reader – “Losing my soul mate of 48 years was the worst event in my life. Many friends/family were supportive, but I had to “click the switch” myself.

“Six friends died within six months. I was in a deep hole. One morning, I awoke knowing I don’t want to live like this.

“I gained energy, bought a car, built a shed, had fun… and after two years met a lady. I was still lonely.

“We lived together a while, then she left. I bought a Corvette and cruised my route, walked my favourite spots, talked with strangers.

“One stranger was a nice lady sitting on a bench on my walking path. We talked for two hours. We’re very compatible.

“After 14 months, we’re in love and have a unique partnership. I’m no longer alone or lonely. We live for the present.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Sibling estrangement is a family-based failure that started at home. It takes heart and soul to keep the door open.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.