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Advice re talking to my niece (late sister's daughter)

dani hobbs

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It will soon be 3 yrs. since my sister passed. After a period of not speaking, she & I had reunited & were enjoying our sisterhood, when she was diagnosed & died, just under 2 years after her diagnosis. Some of our "issues" were because she had been married for over 40 years to a very controlling man, who did not want her to have very much contact with me. He was jealous of anyone who he felt took up too much of his time with her. I wonder if their 2 grown children were also somewhat "excluded", as in the days following her death, I realized that my niece & nephew spent little time with her during the final weeks & days of her life, even though they both lived nearby & my niece does not work. My niece explained this by stating that my sister & the husband were "a very private couple". There did not seem to be any real feeling for her from her 4 grandchildren, in fact the oldest (my niece's daughter) complained to her father, on the day of my sister's funeral that she was missing her favorite day of school (she was 16 years old at the time)!

Now, to get to my point & what I am seeking advice for. My niece is only 10 years younger than I. I was close to her when she was a small child, just as my sister & were close when I was young (she was 13 years older than me), before my sister married her husband. Since my sister's death, I have called my niece several times to say hi, & to just try & establish some kind of connection, which my sister's husband always discouraged. I am at a life stage where I am feeling very lonely & discouraged & need human contact, especially contact what what remaining family there is. My niece always seems glad to hear from me and talks up a storm, actually telling me some very private things that in the past she may have told her mother. We have long conversations, and I suspect that she, too, may be lonely, as she does not work, her children are growing up, and her husband's work takes him away from home for long periods. However, my niece never calls me, it is I who call her. She did send a Xmas card with photo of her children (I didn't reciprocate as I don't send cards out anymore & haven't for a long time). The last time I spoke to her, she said it felt "eerie" to talk to me, as my voice, and my phrasing, reminded her of her mother, my sister. She also made reference to trying to "forget". My family of origin was always very indirect with expressing feelings...a lot of innuendo or things just not being said. Oddly enough, my own daughter has become this way, which is painful to me. My sister became that way moreso after years of living with her husband, but in our latest reunion, had opened upmore. I am more direct. I want to know exactly what people mean. I am not blunt but I say what I feel, with tact. What I am trying to get to is, I am longing to call my niece...not just because it is the anniversary of my sister's death, but longing to call her anytime. However, I wonder if I should bother. She has my phone number & I have encouraged her numerous times to call me, but she never does. Should I stop calling? Should I call & ask her if my calls distress her? Advice will be welcome

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I'm so sorry for the situation that you're in, and for the loss of your sister.

I would just say to not give up unless you're specifically asked not to call. There could be any number of reasons why she doesn't pick up the phone herself.

Do you live close enough that you might invite her to lunch? Do you have anything from your childhood that you might share that would help her know her mother better?

The other thing is to write her a card and actually tell her how you feel -- how you feel about the relationship you would like to have, some memories of your sister, etc.

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Ditto to above.

She seems very open to you and probably didn't mean for you NOT to call...just stating the fact that you remind her of her Mom. I know what she means. I am very close to my Mom's sister too and I knew that they looked alike, but when she showed up after Mom died I just stared. It was indeed "eerie". The more she was around, the more used to it I got and I'm grateful to have her. She lives far away though...I wish she were closer. Maybe you should just ask her point blank if it's too painful for her. She will never forget her Mom.

And I'm sorry for the loss of your sister. :(

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