An Open Letter to My Sister



It is tempting to write a fictional ‘sisters make the best friends’  letter to you. Facebook gives me the opportunity to ‘like’ ‘I love my sister’ posts and linger before moving on.

I do love you. I wished my best friend and sister to be the same person.  I pray you and your family are safe, healthy and happy.

I am deeply envious of anyone who the description “she’s my sister” means they have someone to protect, defend and love no matter what.

But this isn’t that kind of letter. That type of letter may bring you swooping back in my life with our mother in tow and that is not safe. The very thought causes a panic attack forcing me to wait before I continue.

It has been over eleven years since I walked out of your life without a word. I didn’t slam the door because I would never return to finish the conversation.

I never thought I’d be writing one of these letters.

My therapist encouraged me to write a letter for the “therapeutic” benefit. She thought a letter would help release ‘repressed’ anger.  I tried to write the letter but I wasn’t angry so I wrote a letter to our father instead.

I’m still not angry and don’t see the point in confronting you.  I believe we have different realities of the past. I don’t want to fling dirt at you nor do I want to synchronize our stories or reconcile our differences. I wish you peace.

I never extended forgiveness because I don’t know if you feel you did anything wrong.  If you seek forgiveness, I forgave you.

As you know, we were never close.  Not because we didn’t live in the same house but because we were mean to one another.

While we did some normal loving sister stuff, your actions and words screamed you hated me.

I assumed you were relieved by my absence but it is not fair of me to assume anything.

I wasn’t a good sister.  I didn’t defend you when our brothers hurt and abused you.  Instead, I laughed and made fun of you. I know our relationship will not magically improve.

I am sorry for the way I treated you.  I hope you forgive me. However, this is also not that type of letter.

Elizabeth Ellen’s An Open Letter to the Internet and a brief exchange with the bold, radical author inspired me to write this open letter to help you and perhaps others understand why their siblings may have ended their relationship.

In short, it was about my children, my husband and me.  I wanted to become a healthy, functional adult, wife, mother and friend. I wanted to be a loving daughter and sister. The only way was to cut ties to my childhood and start living my reality.

I am not suggesting that everyone who leaves their childhood family shares our story but simply that the separation is for their own sanity, safety and happiness.

STOP reading now if you don’t need any further explanation.

When I shared with our parents about being raped, they became hostile and blamed me.  And our brother invited my rapists to his wedding and our parents supported their attendance.  After all they were his friends. We obviously did not share the same reality or agree on the proper response.

While siblings fight and some sexually experiment with one another – age, consent and other factors decide whether the behavior is normal or abuse.

We were both children.  You were starting puberty. I am five years younger than you.  I was only in second grade. I wasn’t old enough to consent to what happened in the privacy of our bedroom.  I was not physically able to defend myself.  I was confused, disgusted and afraid.  I was traumatized.

I respect that we may not share the same reality of the past.

Unfortunately, our adult relationship wasn’t warm or loving.

When my children became anxious around you, I was advised to separate for a few months for professionals to assess their safety.  Our mother was told but responded by taking the children to your house and refused to take the children home after our son threw up in her car when he found out where they were going. He was afraid. My children were traumatized.

Because our mother didn’t tell us she was taking them to see you and didn’t bring them home until after midnight, my husband decided our mother would never be permitted to take them again. She responded by inviting you to their soccer game.

As a result, the experiment was over and so was our relationship.

While I respect that you may think you have done nothing wrong to be banished from our lives, the choice was not yours.

Although I tried to get our parents’ and brother’s support, I didn’t have the energy to seek the support of anyone else.  I told my therapist it wouldn’t be fair to ask our friends and family to make a choice.  I wasn’t ready to tell the neighborhood our secrets.  Not because I wanted to protect you or our parents.  I wanted to protect myself.  I left to protect my children. I was afraid. I was ashamed. And didn’t want to admit I was abused.  I couldn’t believe I put my children in harm’s way. I was afraid.

I am no longer afraid.  I am no longer ashamed.  I didn’t leave because of you. I left for my children, my husband and me.  I ran and never looked back because I wanted to become a healthy, functional adult, wife, mother and friend. I left for my sanity.  I left to walk in the truth of my own memories. And since the day I said good-bye to our father – my children and I have lived a happily and safely ever after.

I pray you and your family enjoy the same reality.

Christ’s Peace,

Your Little Sister Karen

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