DEAR ABBY: I'm the middle child. Our father died in the Gulf War. None of us really knew him, but my younger sister, "Delia," has no memory of him at all.
She has been acting out for years now, and has broken our mother's heart more times than I can count. Whenever she messes up, she blames it on not knowing our father and the life she "could" have led.
It has been 20 years, Abby! The past is the past. Delia continues to ruin her future and blame our mom. It has Mom wondering why she was able to survive this crisis 20 years ago but can't manage to deal with my sister.
I think Delia may have a chemical imbalance, or just never dealt with our father's death. How do you convince someone to get help? How do you make her see that Dad died so she could enjoy the many freedoms of America?
- Drained in Delaware
DEAR DRAINED: I'm sorry for your family's loss, but we are all responsible for our own behavior and our own emotions.
You can't force "help" on your dysfunctional sister. Before she'll be willing to accept that she needs it, she will have to accept that she has been responsible for her own mistakes and behavior. If your father had lived, her life might not have been any different than it is.
The person who could use some professional help might be your mother. Counseling might help her to quit trying to rescue her adult daughter, or blaming herself for the problems Delia has created for herself.
I'm not saying it will be easy - letting go rarely is. But it might improve her emotional and physical health.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.