Dear Emuna,

I have only one daughter who is 29 years old. She became religious a few years ago. In January, she went to Israel to study in a seminary. We discussed it beforehand and she agreed that she will live close to us. We immigrated to the United States 24 years ago and we don't have a big family. She was introduced to an American guy who moved to Israel 6 years ago and has dual citizenship. They like each other and planning to stay in Israel. I am devastated. She is our only daughter and I could never have guessed that she’d move to another country. She was very resistant to this idea, but she likes him and wants to marry him. What should I do?

Distraught Mom

Dear Distraught,

Well, what do you imagine you can do? As painful as the situation is, your options are limited. She has made a decision. I suppose it’s possible you could throw a big tantrum and pull out all the stops, thereby preventing your daughter from marrying this man, but I wouldn’t think that’s an outcome you would be pleased with or behavior you would be proud of. The best you can do now is to be supportive of your daughter and to keep the relationship warm and loving so that they will want to come visit you and you will be able to visit them.

In these days of Face Time and Skype, while not ideal, it’s not as difficult as it once was to maintain our relationship with our children, and even grandchildren, who are far away. There is certainly no guarantee that they will stay there forever and, while I’m not advocating they leave, you never know what the future will bring. At the moment you should focus on the joy that your daughter has found a wonderful man to marry and on the opportunity of expanding your small family through acquiring a new son. You want him to feel loved and accepted by you and your husband, not that his goals and behaviors are a source of disappointment. Don’t pressure, just express love and support and let the future take care of itself.

Estranged Sisters

Dear Emuna,

I am the youngest of three girls. We are four years apart in age. My parents died when I was in my 30's. They were older and Holocaust survivors. My sisters are very close. They do a lot together and with their families. I am rarely included. It got much worse after my parents died. They are a tag team. My oldest sister is vicious and the other sister plays both sides and insights. They are constantly looking for reasons to fight with me and start trouble. I have no parents and few cousins. I was close to my cousin but they had a need to destroy that relationship. My eldest sister is almost 70 years old. It would be nice to have a family relationship before it’s too late. I have expressed my feelings. But it seems they pounce harder. My friends are my family and they refer to my sisters as the evil step-sisters. My husband says they are nuts and to move on.

Hurt and Angry

Dear Hurt and Angry,

While I certainly understand your pain, I have to say that I side with your husband. You are of course correct that it would be nice to have a family relationship before it’s too late but, unfortunately, that result is out of your hands. It sounds like you have made every effort possible and the ball is now in their court.

I don’t know why they have adopted this approach and choose to rigidly adhere to it but, in this as in all areas, we can’t change anyone else. The only choice you have is how you respond – practically and emotionally. It sounds to me like you have been terrorized by them long enough. And it sounds like your friends and husband feel the same way. No one’s life is perfect and no one’s family is ideal. Be grateful for your supportive and loving friends and husband and perhaps at some future point, you will be able to let go of the hurt and anger and just feel sorry for your sisters who missed out on the possibility of the wonderful and loving relationship that you clearly have with others in your life. We can waste a lot of time regretting what we don’t have instead of just appreciating what we do.

Resenting My Father

Dear Emuna,

My parents divorced when I was young and I went to live with my mother. I saw my father every other weekend and we stayed close until he remarried and created a whole new family. They seem to be his priority. He is always with them – at their homes for brunch on Sundays, at sporting events with them during the week, celebrating a birthday or a job promotion or something. I get the leftovers, those brief moments when he is not otherwise occupied. I am close with my mother but resentful about my father. How can I move on?

Consumed with Bitterness

Dear Bitter,

While your resentment is certainly easy to understand and the “natural” reaction to your situation, like the letter writer before you, it is in fact trapping you. You are stuck in your resentment and allowing it to damage your pleasure in life. This is a terrible outcome. Your father is not going to change. He made and continues to make choices that are painful to you. That is sad but “it is what it is”. You need to accept the reality of your situation so that you can then move on.

Perhaps more time spent with him would have actually been less pleasurable than you imagine but it doesn’t really matter. We can spend our lives wanting something that’s not available or we can make peace with our situation. And more than accepting, we can actually embrace it. Be grateful for the close relationship you have with your mother. Take the time to enjoy and savor it. Give your father the love and gratitude and respect appropriate to his situation but when you start to descend into bitterness or resentment, refocus yourself on the good in your life and remind yourself what parents tell children when they complain about someone who doesn’t want to play with them, “It’s his loss.”