Should I say something to my sister?


Oh, where oh where to start.

My oldest sister, Mary, and I have a very distant relationship. This is primarily due to the fact that she is 18 years older and we share virtually none of the same lifestyle choices, opinions, or beliefs. (Though we are both Catholic).

Over Christmas time, my other siblings and I staged an intervention at Mary’s house. She has been feigning illness for as long as I can remember, and although we believed she was actually sick, we now know that she is really mentally ill, but not nearly as physically ill as we had thought. Specifically, we believed her to be suffering from numerous terminal, life-altering illnesses when she actually just has a few minor chronic ailments and more than likely was inflicting damage to herself to get attention.Due to our intervention, she is now receiving psychiatric help.

My quandary is this. Mary has a spotty relationship with our 74 year old mother. She talks to her two or three times a month, and each time, she says something hurtful and generally untrue. Mary seems to know exactly what to say to Mom to cause her distress. Yesterday, she called Mom and told her that all of us had spoken and she was appointed the person responsible to contact Mom and tell her that she had to get a Medalert bracelent. This was a complete fabrication. Not one of us had voiced this thought. I called each of my other siblings to confirm this before calling my mom and reassuring her.

My mom was hurt and offended and called me to inquire as to why we would have decided such a thing. This is a minor example, but other lies she has told our mom have really caused her pain (not to mention lying to her about dying, which caused my mom untold grief!)

I would very much like to call Mary and tell her to quit telling mom these lies. But then again, I think due to her mental illnesses, it would probably not do any good. Mary enjoys attention so much, and I do not want to feed into that, but I also wish she would quit telling our mother so many lies. My mom and I talk each day so when she has these conversations I can quickly correct the fabrications, but in the meantime it is causing her pain. It is also hurting her to know that her own daughter is trying to cause her emotional pain!

So my question is, would you say something or would you leave it alone?


I’m sorry to hear you have to deal with all these sufferings. :hug1:

I would say maybe you should talk with your mom and make sure she realizes that your sister is mentally ill and is therefore not purposely trying to cause her emotional pain, even though that is the result of her words and actions. As you said, speaking with your sister in her current state probably will not do any good.

Of course, I’d also say to continue praying, which I’m sure you already are. :wink: I’ll say a prayer too for your whole family. God bless. :slight_smile:


I don’t want to ignore your question but this is definitely a very complicated situation and not all that common. I have a brother with mental illness and sometimes I cannot tell whether he KNOWS what he is doing is wrong or if it is attributable to his mental illness, and he doesn’t know what he is doing wrong. It is tough.

Sometimes I am very blunt with him. Sometimes it works and other times I step back and apologize. My instinct was for you not to tell your sister… but is she capable of understanding and taking responsibility for hurting your mother?


I agree! Keep praying but talk with your mom about it. Make sure she no only knows, but understands to the best of her abilities that Mary is sick and that she should take what she says, for now, with a grain of salt and to call you before getting upset or ever worrying about it.




I am sorry that you are having such difficulties with your sister. I understand as I, too, have family members who are mentally ill. Mental illness can be quite devastating for everyone, but there is hope. Also, it depends on weather the person truly wants to get well. Personality plays a part in mental illness, too. I have one family member who seizes every opportunity to make very nasty, sarcastic remarks and she knows exactly what she is doing. Fact is, she doesn’t like me! I love her, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it as I have accepted that she has a problem. The situation is complicated and too detailed to get into. I think that the best thing you can do is explain what you know to your mom. At least your mom will have a little better understanding about what is happening. If you have some information about her illness, give it to your mother. God bless you. I will keep you all in prayer.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and in the hour of our death. Amen.


I think that you guys should have a family meeting without your sister. Appoint somebody to be the ‘keeper of trusted talks’ in other words have someone that will take responcibility in talking to your mom if any big family issues come up that she needs to be aware of concerning herself and her children.

For example if/when it comes time for your mother to live in an assisted facility or have a home care provider, let your mother know that none of the discussions will go through your older sister. Anything that needs to be discussed will go through trusted brother, aunt, etc. That way your mother knows that anything your sister says isn’t something she needs to worry about.


Aside from the problems you have with your sister. I beleive you have a slight problem with your mother.

I think it may be harmful for your mother to call you and reveal to you the things your sister says in their private conversation. This is really gossip although I beleive neither of you are doing it to be mean. Of course occassionally your mother may have a legitimate question (like about the bracelet) , or want to confirm a detail…but you mentioned that your sister says hurtful things to your mother and I am guessing that much of the conversations with your mom are hearing details of a private conversation.

Your mother is a grown woman. Your mother knows your sister is mentally ill. Your mother knows your sister lies. Your mother knows your sister says mean things to get her upset. Your mother has known all of these things for years and years and years. Your mother knows she should ignore your sister when she says things but she chooses not to.

Your mother also knows that she can call you for a shoulder to cry on and sympathy. Although I beleive your mother probably needs someone to talk to…I don’t think it is healthy if it is you. Is your father living? Does your mother have a sister or a close friend? Perhaps your mother should talk to a priest or deacon?

I know you want to help your mom and you love her but I honestly think this is not healthy. The next time your mom calls and is upset about your sister…tell her your mom you love her and you know she is sad and you will pray. Don’t listen to details that you don’t need to know since it won’t help anyway.

Please understand I am not trying to criticize you or your mom. You have both been through so much and are probably loving Christian women. I just see your conversations as something that is hurting you and not helping her so I am offering this suggestion. Just a thought. Praying for your family.


Thank you to everyone who has responded. I really appreciate you all taking time to think about this situation.

My mother is aware of my sister’s mental illness, and in most cases does not share details of any of our conversations with others outside of the mundane (for example, “Oh, did you hear your brother got a new car. I’m happy for them, they’ve been wanting a new car.”)

The only time that my mother ever passes on information from these conversations is when Mary has said something to her that my mom isn’t sure about and wants to confirm. For instance, when Mary told her that we were all secretly drunkards while in high school and that my mom hadn’t done a good job as a parent because she never figured it out (NOT TRUE).

My mom keeps our confidences. She does talk to many friends but is too private of a person to ever discuss family business with them. My father is deceased. She does discuss things with her Priest but I am of course not aware of the details of those conversations.

So, after reading everyone’s kind responses, I think I will just remind my mom to keep in mind Mary’s mental illness when she’s talking with her, and keep on praying. My other siblings and I speak quite regularly and will continue to keep an eye on this situation as it relates to Mary’s care.


Offering you more prayers. It really sounds like you are doing all that you can. Please forgive me, in my post I suggested that you stop talking with your mother about your sister. I honestly got the impression from your initial description that your mother was calling you often upset about something your sister said or did. You indicated that your sister upset your mother regularly and you wanted to get your sister to stop. I mistakenly got the impression that your mother was getting upset and turning to you for comfort much too often than would be healthy. Evidently this may be the case a little bit, but not as much as I thought. That’s the internet for you…it is easy to come away with an impression that may not be 100%. Please take care, this must be so hard for your family.


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