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Giving a gift to someone without making them feel "broken" - I could use some Hive therapists in here


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My little sister is going through SO much. Her husband was arrested, and without his income, she is pulling 12-14 hour days as a housekeeper, trying to keep a roof over her children's head and lights on, after being a SAHM for a long time.

 

She is a proud one. She was always the strong one when we were growing up, even though she wasn't the oldest.

She never, never asks for help, but any time it's given, she accepts... but she seems to accept it at a price to herself. She looks a bit more broken every time she accepts help. I so wish that she wouldn't feel this way. Any help that we (myself and my husband) give her is no-strings-attached; we do NOT think she's broken! We think she is doing an amazing job of pulling herself up! Part of me feels like my little gifts to her are a way of saying thank you for all the times she pulled ME up when were younger. She doesn't see it that way.

 

She's having a rough time this holiday season. I know that she is barely making most bills. I also know there's little to no money for gifts for the children. I hate to see this - she has been working so hard to try for normalcy for the children and she's been doing a bang up job of it. Really. They are none the wiser (only age 6 and 3).

 

I plan to anonymously send her a TRU gift card to spend on the children for Christmas. I say anonymous, but I'm 90% sure she'll know it's from me. I don't want to just send gifts - the gift card is a gift to her as well; like most mothers she sincerely enjoys thoughtfully picking out gifts for her children - she knows them best.

 

I'm hesitant to do it, though, because I don't want to break her any more. I've seen the look in her eyes when she accepts gifts. While grateful, they aren't tears of gratitude - they are tears of defeat, and she's once or twice expressed to me how stressed she is. My baby sister doesn't just cry - she never has. She does now.

 

I feel like there's so little I can do to help. The random gifts of money aren't going to fix the situation. Not really - not long term - but the gifts are all I have to give, really. I talk to her, listen to her... but I can't fix this for her. She lives so far from me. Part of me feels that the gifts are as much for my benefit as hers; to feel like I'm doing SOMETHING, anything. And is that really worth breaking her again?

 

I don't know what I want from The Hive. I guess I'm just getting it out. I feel selfish for admitting that helping her makes me feel better about the situation. It makes me feel like I'm doing something, when I wish I could do so much more.

 

Do I send it? Do I do something else?

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This made me cry... for her and for you. You're a wonderful sister. I think you should send the gift card. If she really doesn't want help, I think she'll tell you. I have received help with bittersweet gratitude (the "bitter" because I wished I didn't need it) but the gratitude was real, nonetheless.

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I'm a lot like the way you describe your sister to be.

 

I get pride; to a fault, I get it. I accept help when given because I know it's about my kids - not my pride. I don't ask for it unless I feel I truly and really need it - and my standard for that would be pretty much we're picking out a box and corner to set up home on (read: I feel it's my responsibility and I'll die trying before I ask for help for anything other than essentials ... holidays aren't an essential.) 

 

It may be that the gift makes her feel a bit broken - she is who she is, after all.  But I feel pretty certain that she will also be immensely grateful and she will feel loved despite her pride and brokenness. It may be that she's not sure how to thank you, or will be embarassed at the need to ... and it may be years before she can let you know she appreciated the gesture. But it sounds like you're not looking for that, so please - send the gift card. If you can make it more anonymous by sending it to someone to forward, someone in a different zip code or state - that may lessen the broken feeling. She'll probably still know it's you, but the effort you went to will matter. Part of feeling broken is embarassment, and you taking steps to let her save (some) face will be noticed. She may feel broken by the gesture, but she's going to feel just as broken when the holidays come around and she is struggling just for necessities. It's really a "lesser of the evils" decision to send the gift card - and to receive it, IMO - and hopefully she accepts it as such.

 

She's fortunate to have a sister who cares and who genuinely wants to help; I bet she knows that, too. You're not out to "save" her kids by being Auntie Claus, you've thought about how you can help HER bring Christmas to her children. 

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I would write a note. Tell her the gift card is for her to pick out for her kids because she knows them best and what will be most appreciated this year. Add some of the sentiment in your post, that you love her and was planning on sending gifts anyway. Maybe a little note about how her strength inspires you. 

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Don't send it anonymously.  Send it with a heartfelt note expressing just how much you love her and how strong she is being for her kids and acknowledge how well she has handled things.  Acknowledge that you realize its hard for her to accept help but that the love you have for her and her children makes you in essence NEED to help them because doing anything less would not be what family does for one another. Let her know you wish you could help her with giving your time instead of money but the miles that separate you make that impossible.  It may be bittersweet for her but it will help her children have a better Christmas and I'm sure she'll appreciate it.

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Well, which makes you feel more *broken* -- having some extra money (given to you by a generous soul) so you can do what you need to do for yourself and the kids around the holidays, or NOT having that resource and being UNABLE to manage things around the holidays? In other words, NOT giving her the money won't magically fix things or give her more independence, so what's the difference? Do the thing that makes life better for the kids, which means give the gift. I don't think it has to be anonymous, in fact, maybe it's better if it weren't. Then she won't have to wonder who ELSE thinks she's broken.

 

From a Christian standpoint (if that applies) one of the things God asks us to do is REALIZE we're broken, ALL of us, and completely dependent on His will. Those of us who think we're self-sufficient are mistaken, and will come to realize that sooner or later. Also, allowing others to help you is a gift YOU give to them. Gifts should be GIVEN in humility and accepted the same way. Humility being another key trait that allows us to get closer to God.

 

Good luck, I know the dynamic is not easy!

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I am another vote for not being anonymous.  If it were me receiving it I would feel like the object of pity and wonder if people were talking about me behind my back.  Plus if you send it anonymously you'll never know if it actually got to her.

 

If this were my sister I would send a check with no suggestion of how is should be used and trust her to spend in the way that was the most help.  When my kids were little I could thrift shop gifts for a few dollars.  If someone sent me say $100 "so the kids have Christmas" I would feel the need to spend it on the kids in some way when it might be better to spend a few bucks on some used toys and the rest saved up for emergencies or utilities etc, kwim?

 

I think you can write to your sister and tell her how much you admire her and that you wish you lived closer to be supportive and helpful the way she's been for you.  Tell her that giving her a check helps you feel better for not being physically there for her.

 

Just my two cents.

 

:grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug:

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I grew up with a mother that made ALL gifts have strings attached (not saying this the case here at all) so.... for me receiving help or gifts was a very difficult thing.  I always felt I had to "return" the favor or "pay" that person back.

I have this amazing neighbor who would try to help me-- she would invite me for dinner when she saw me mowing the lawn at 6pm with 4 little ones knowing I was super tired and still had to feed the children-- I would never accept---because I felt I had to go inside and bake a cake or something-- it was easier to make mac & cheese.

 

One day she looked at me with a hurt look (almost in tears) --- and said: 

 

"why won't you let me love you?"

 

 

I learned that she did love me and I started to look at her help in a much different light.

 

 

 

 

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Make it into a favour she's doing you, if possible. "A sweet old lady neighbour gave me these gift cards to this place we can't eat at because we're all allergic and I couldn't say no. I'd feel horribly guilty wasting them, so I'll send them to you, ok?" 

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When I was a kid and our family was going through hard times, we received a large Christmas monetary gift anonymously.  It was such a nice gift and being anonymous, my mother thanked everyone she knew for it.  She said it let her feel like the whole world had done something good for her.

 

I can see the argument against being anonymous, but I think it probably depends on the recipient.  And in this case, since she may know it's you, then that may be a reason not to do it that way, so you can make it clear and not make her feel uncertain.

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My personal situation has been difficult (that's an understatement) for over a year now. It's not exactly the same situation, but it's difficult nonetheless.

I am embarrassed about the times that I need help. It does make me feel broken, and it makes me feel weak, and it makes me feel stupid and inadequate and that I probably brought the troubles on myself for being so stupid and inadequate (I didn't, but it makes me feel that way).

 

Accepting help when I need it has been *extremely* humbling. I have always, *always* been the competent person who helps others. I have LOVED the times I've been able to help a friend, or family, or really anyone. One of my friends finally told me that she felt incredibly, hugely HONORED to have the chance to help me back. I am working at learning to accept help as a sign that other people love me, not that they pity me. It was not until my friend used those particular words that I began to understand and have a little peace about accepting kindnesses.

 

 

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I've been both sides of this fence.

I'd say give it to her, not anonymous with the letter and maybe follow up with a phone call.

 

I was able to help out a sister who was struggling single parent before me. I received a windfall (government vote bribe/large, unexpected family payment) and got her to accept it as I did not need it and she did.

Two years later she returned it, to the dollar, partly in small change as she had been saving it up. It had been given as a gift, but she insisted on returning it.

By that time I was in a similar situation. I still wish she had kept it.

 

Then at my daughter's funeral I received a couple of cards with money or a large prepaid card with notes of love. One was from a family I had not even known their names. They were given with love by people who knew a little of the situation we were in.

 

It can be really hard learning to receive with love when we are only taught to give with love.

 

 

ETA: I was posting at the same time as Julie, so..."what she said". Tell your sister she should gift you the opportunity to help.

 

 

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Could you pay the bills (maybe for months in advance) or the mortgage (or rent) anonymously so that she would have extra money to buy presents for her kids?

 

Unfortunately, no :(

She is so far behind on the mortgage, from what I understand, that throwing what we could at it, wouldn't make a dent. We could possibly pay a bill or two, but compared to the amount she owes on - it wouldn't make a dent. We can't give her thousands again (which would be the only way TO make a dent); we just aren't in that situation any longer, with the added expense of dd's tuition. If we did pay a bill or two for her, the money she saved not having to worry about those, would just need to be applied to other bills. Right now I'm in the position to give smaller monetary gifts, but nothing substantial enough to really help, given the bills she has.

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This made me cry... for her and for you. You're a wonderful sister. I think you should send the gift card. If she really doesn't want help, I think she'll tell you. I have received help with bittersweet gratitude (the "bitter" because I wished I didn't need it) but the gratitude was real, nonetheless.

 

This. Tears running down my face while at work. What a great sister.

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My personal situation has been difficult (that's an understatement) for over a year now. It's not exactly the same situation, but it's difficult nonetheless.

I am embarrassed about the times that I need help. It does make me feel broken, and it makes me feel weak, and it makes me feel stupid and inadequate and that I probably brought the troubles on myself for being so stupid and inadequate (I didn't, but it makes me feel that way).

 

Accepting help when I need it has been *extremely* humbling. I have always, *always* been the competent person who helps others. I have LOVED the times I've been able to help a friend, or family, or really anyone. One of my friends finally told me that she felt incredibly, hugely HONORED to have the chance to help me back. I am working at learning to accept help as a sign that other people love me, not that they pity me. It was not until my friend used those particular words that I began to understand and have a little peace about accepting kindnesses.

This. This is me and :grouphug:

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How far away from you does she live? 

Her feeling "broken" is probably because she sees herself as always on the receiving end.

Is there something she can do for you that does not involve money?  Can she help you clean your house?  Can she babysit your kids?  Can you ask her advice on something?  Invite her over and have her help you with some project.

If there is something, anything, no matter how small she can do for you, it might make her feel better about herself. 

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How far away from you does she live? 

Her feeling "broken" is probably because she sees herself as always on the receiving end.

Is there something she can do for you that does not involve money?  Can she help you clean your house?  Can she babysit your kids?  Can you ask her advice on something?  Invite her over and have her help you with some project.

If there is something, anything, no matter how small she can do for you, it might make her feel better about herself. 

 

She lives in another state, a couple hours away. Not so far that we can't sometimes visit, but far enough that with our schedules, we seem to rarely see eachother.

I do ask her advice often. We talk almost daily; at least several times a week even when we're busy.

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I agree not to send it anonymously. Send it from YOU with all the amazing things you said about her above. We've been in bad spots before and it's very hard to accept help. But it really does mean so much when you really need it and you know it's going for your children. You're an amazing sister. Kudos to you!

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Just as a total aside, on the mortgage thing, is she getting good counsel there?  She doesn't want to pay more on a house she's going to lose.  That's horrible to have to ponder, but she really wants to get good counsel there.  She might feel a lot better if she can work with the bank and move on, so she's not feeling constantly underwater about something that is no longer reality.  Might even be that part of that money you want to give her should go toward getting that counsel.  

 

As far a the gifts, well I ditto that TRUS is really expensive for toys and that she might be able to stretch it elsewhere.  She might want a Walmart card instead, so she could buy toys and clothes and food with that $100.  She'd still spend it on them, just because that's how she is.

 

Too bad she's not local.  My mother will have people over like that and send them home with "leftovers" enough for a week.  Maybe she goes to a church where someone could do that for her?

 

 

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Just as a total aside, on the mortgage thing, is she getting good counsel there?  She doesn't want to pay more on a house she's going to lose.  That's horrible to have to ponder, but she really wants to get good counsel there.  She might feel a lot better if she can work with the bank and move on, so she's not feeling constantly underwater about something that is no longer reality.  Might even be that part of that money you want to give her should go toward getting that counsel.  

 

As far a the gifts, well I ditto that TRUS is really expensive for toys and that she might be able to stretch it elsewhere.  She might want a Walmart card instead, so she could buy toys and clothes and food with that $100.  She'd still spend it on them, just because that's how she is.

 

Too bad she's not local.  My mother will have people over like that and send them home with "leftovers" enough for a week.  Maybe she goes to a church where someone could do that for her?

 

Thing about the house - it was a forclosure when she bought it, already outfitted with amazing energy saving utilities, and in her area, she isn't going to find a tiny apartment for less, really. It's a huge house (beautiful), but they only pay around $800/monthly for it... since housing assistance in the area is on a wait list, she isn't going to find an apartment for less, and her utilities are already very low (compared to mine in my older house, lol). It doesn't really make much sense for her to lose the house gracefully, kwim?

 

I agree that a Walmart gc migh be more prudent. I think I'll do that. I know she gets food stamps, so she doesn't need food, but the kids are constantly growing and she could buy them clothing and a few gifts for less money there. Thanks. We do not really shop at Walmart (only one in the area and it's always packed), so I tend to forget about it.

 

She doesn't go to church. She was baptized and raised Catholic, but hasn't attended church in years. With the last gift, I also gave her a saint medal, because she took comfort in them as a child. I have tried to implore her to call the local St. Vincent de Paul Society - they'll help with utilities and even a rent/mortgage payment sometimes, regardless of what faith you are, but I don't think she has.

 

I wish she were closer. I wish she would move here. I could help her so much more, and not just monetarily. I could help with the children, food (I know her food stamps run out quickly because she relies so heavily on convenience foods because of her ridiculously long work hours - I don't blame her for that, but I know it frustrates her)... everything. Housing is cheaper here too.

 

Growing up, my father was the same as your mother :) It wasn't abnormal for friends or his employees to just walk into the house and raid the kitchen - the more the merrier. I loved it growing up.

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