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Do you have “that conversation” with your parents before they die?

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi all,

I grew up in a household with a very controlling and volatile mother. She had a lot of narcissistic tendencies, a superiority complex and a need to always be right, would constantly see you as a threat to her authority (in her own mind) so would create ridiculous rules that you had to follow just to assert her dominance, would forever initiate arguments and then say incredibly hurtful things. But perhaps most hurtful was my father, in contrast, he was kind and loving and consistent, but gutless. Not even a bystander, she would often get him to do her bidding. She would often send him to do her dirty work and break up whatever fun we were having to march us back to her, and he did it dutifully. It’s little wonder I ended up in a DV relationship as an adult. Now I have a very pleasant relationship with both of my parents. My dad had always been happy and loving and my mother is now committed to the role of being a loving and caring mother (partly due to appearances I’m sure), and she can uphold that for the brief visits that we see her. For a time, I even considered that it was likely a stressful time for her too and we have all moved on and put that chapter behind us. My sister has recently moved back home for a spell and can confirm that my mother has not changed one bit and is back to her old tricks. Both of my parents are ageing. My question is, do you have your say and tell your parents the effect they had on you growing up and hold them accountable for their behaviour or do you let sleeping dogs lie and try to move on and heal on your own? Will I regret not saying how I feel?

11 Replies 11

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi again,

Great topic. Regrets? That would be subjective on the individual.

My situation- domineering mother/obeying father was very similar, however my dad died in 1992. That day my mother lost her power, her greatest supporter..until she found replacement supporter in her eldest grandchild, my neice. These "golden children" see no wrong in the tyrants behaviour because they are not tyrants to those people. Hence the golden child sees you are cruel to the crocodile tears of the tyrant.

My sister and I was at a loss about mothers behaviour until a friend suggested I read up on research by Dr Christine Lawson. Her book "walking on eggshells " is superb. An alternative is to google-

Queen witch hermit waif

My mother has all 4 characters

Queen- the Queen owns you, like you are a limb

Witch- the witch combats you and pursues you... the earth's end

The Hermit has abandonment issues that download in control

The waif gets others to do their dirty work. A master waif will cause you to lose your loved ones

The above might assist you.

Our mother is now 90yo. We haven't seen her for 11 years and will not again. After several decades of turmoil, promises, etc enough was enough. We both took the view that the hard decision was the right one for our mental health, no regrets.

I won't list the horrible things she did, but a tyrant doesn't change.

Happy to talk further


Community Champion
Community Champion


what an interesting post.

It is up to you.

My parents were loving but my dad and I argued a lot was we were so much alike .
A few years before he died I wrote a letter to my dad telling him zI loved him but saying the continual arguing and our need to be pedantic and our stubbornness was frustrating. He read it but the arguments and his need to be right continued till he died.

I think you could write a letter to each parent and if the writing helps you, you may decide

not to send them or send just one.

Tony has written a helpful reply.

If you want to zi sm interested in what you are thinking .

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Juliet, parents back in that era are so hard to get them to change, they can be stubborn and have their own way of how they dominate their kids, the way they want to.

I'm sure being away from their house makes your position better and this is where you have control over her, because if she oversteps her behaviour then you can hold back on seeing her.

As your sister has said that she has not changed is a worry, and if this was me, I would definitely have a word with her and perhaps with your sister being involved.

I appreciate they are aging, never the less, they are still going to tell you what they think, so you, in turn, can do the same,whether or not they accept it, is up to them.


Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Juliet_84,

You know your parents best and as a few others have said above, it is up to you.

Through my therapy journey I have learned a lot about how my parents have affected me growing me and my therapist encouraged me to be open and share my feelings with them. I did this by sitting my parents down and just explaining what I've felt growing up and how I feel their actions affect me even to this day. I think it's important to not attack or blame your parents as perhaps their own negative experiences with their parents shaped their personalities today.

Like yours, my dad is also very kind and caring and so he was happy that I had shared. My mum however, listened but clearly was not willing to change. Regardless, I am glad I told her the truth and if you do decide to have "that conversation" it is a possibility that nothing will change. Interestingly, I do feel I have more empathy towards my parents now as I'm not holding onto any resentment.

Also like you, I have a sister I can share this all with and if you do decide to have "that conversation", doing it together might be worthwhile. If you decide against having the conversation, at least you will always have your sister there to talk to and who understands exactly what you're going through.

Hope this helps


Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Juliet_84,

Thank you for sharing this with us and I'm glad you've gotten such supportive answers here.

I'm not sure if there's a right or wrong answer to this; just what's best for you.

The one thing that I can offer is that this conversation is yours. What are you hoping to get out of it? A release of how you felt? An apology? Changed behaviour? I think it's really important to think about your intention, because if you are looking for an apology you might not find one, or if you are looking for them to reflect on their behaviour they might not do that. Of course that would be ideal- but just thinking about 'what would it mean for me to have that chat?' 'what would I want to say?'

Quirky had a great idea about writing a letter. This might give you the opportunity to figure out what it is you want them to say, or what it is you want them to know. Likewise, you could also say this to a therapist or even a voice recorder.

For me personally, I haven't had that conversation- and if I think about my parents getting older things don't feel 'unsaid'.

I know none of us have really given you an answer but I hope you can find one.


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor
Accepting the mistakes and shortcomings of the past IS the healing into the future - an ability to recognise that may release you from dredging and re living what is beyond restitution.
Consider: Of all the parents you have ever had, would you agree they were the best they could be? And now that their role is no longer 'parental', what relevance has it to your present relationship with them?

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi all,

Thank you for your thoughtful responses, you have raised a lot of great points. Bee, I found your response particularly helpful as we seem to have shared such a similar experience, even down to our relationship with our sister. Like you, a therapist I saw some time ago first raised the concept to me that I might like to tell my mother how I feel one day. I find it very difficult to stand up and say when I have been hurt and set boundaries because they were frequently denied or minimized by my mother (there was always lots of gaslighting). I tend to prioritize “keeping the peace” at all costs, but as I continue on my healing journey, I am starting to force myself to express how I feel. So to answer your question RT, my intention would be to say the truth, to validate to myself that it actually happened, irrespective of whether the person who hurt me admits it. Obviously, acknowledgment and an apology would be what most people want to get some sort of closure and move on, but I don’t know whether she has the capacity for all that.
Tranzcrybe, do I think she was the best that she could be? No I don’t unfortunately. She was incredibly abusive and was preoccupied with total control and seemed as though she didn’t even bother trying to hold anything back. As a result, my sister and I have lifelong issues that we struggle with every day. However, she actually grew up in a loving home and has a husband who is blindly devoted to her. I suppose one day I will decide how I proceed. I am a firm believer that people should be held accountable for their actions. However, my fear is that I won’t find my voice in time, not because of a decision but because I chickened out, and I’ll regret not validating my experience by saying it out loud.

Community Member

When I read your post, I thought you were describing my childhood and experiences with my mother.

My mother is turning 89 and I cannot see the benefit in confronting her now.
My previous attempts have fallen in deaf ears in the past.
After mum asked why have my daughters ended up with abusive men?

Still to this day, her inability to acknowledge the impact her controlling ways had on each of her children is sad.

After my marriage breakdown she told my young teenage son he was the man of the house now, as I needed controlling. She has ensured the abuse is to be continued in her absence, with my son, who I love but struggle to live with.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor


I’m so sorry, I think we are now only beginning to appreciate the magnitude of control/abuse that happens in families, it seems to be more common than even I imagined. Only now am I realizing the effect my childhood has had on my relationship decisions subconsciously, like you I seem to gravitate towards abusive/controlling men and mistake it for care and concern. It’s sad really, to think that we were treated that way when we were just kids. I hope that your positive influence can overcome your mothers negative one for your son, don’t lose hope yet. Sending you hugs x