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'AITA for overreacting after learning about the true fate of my little sister's remains?' UPDATED 3X

'AITA for overreacting after learning about the true fate of my little sister's remains?' UPDATED 3X


Grief can make people do weird things, but that's not an excuse to gratuitously lie to loved ones.

"AITA for overreacting to learning about the true fate of my little sister's remains?"

My mother and father divorced when I was young. They had an oops baby together after my mom remarried, which rocked that marriage apart. That oops baby was my little sister. She d**d abruptly in an accident 4 years ago at only 14. You know how people say the firsts after a d**th are the hardest? They don’t account for when there's no first to be had.

When they should have been getting ready for prom but never will, it's a completely different pain. My mom and I were talking about it, we were both drinking, and she slipped that my bit of ashes I carry that I thought were my sister's were just regular ashes. Burnt wood. She already poured out my sister's ashes without me or my brother in the plot she bought with my stepdad.

She couldn't fathom my r@ge because to her, the sentiment and emotions are the important aspects, not that it's physically my sister. My anger is prompted by the lies and the fact those sentiments and emotions are attached to some thing NOT MY LITTLE SISTER, and I had no idea she cast her ashes on a plot she wouldn't have cared about.

I scre*med at her to get out of my house, locking the door behind her and calling up my stepdad to pick her up. I threw the necklace out the window to the front lawn, then regretted it and tore it out of her hands when she picked it up. As she would say it I "made a scene" and embarrassed her. I kept scre*ming and calling her a liar whenever she tried to explain herself or get back inside.

I was threatening to call the cops on her when my stepdad finally showed up and took her away. He called me the next day and left a message saying that he wanted to talk about "what happened" and how he understands why I'm angry and hurt, he just wants to talk.

He said I need to talk to my mother too about this because she's a grieving mother (emphasis his) and my sister's death was a huge blow to the entire family and everyone is trying to regain our bearings still so some kindness is needed.

All I can think of right now is my mom's heartbroken face as I ripped my necklace with my "sister's ashes" out of her hands, or the way she turned away from me crying as my stepdad ushered her into the car. I called her names, I let my pain and r*ge take over me. But I can't get over the lies.

Four years of thinking my necklace had my sister, of thinking she was right by my heart, and it all came undone because my mom had too much to drink. How long would she have let me think this? How long would the lie continue?

Comments quickly came in.

CenterofChaos wrote:

Yea your mother is grieving. But you, her very living child, are too. Having your mother lie to you about something important is going to get an emotional reaction. What you do is up to you. But I wouldn't let her frame this as embarrassing her or that she's a victim in any way. She lied about it, she got dr*nk and tattled on herself, these are the consequences of her own actions.

OP responded:

It was an absolute mistake on her part that she even said it. We were talking about prom season and how hard it can be to be reminded of things that my sister would have loved. Then she started to say "I start crying before I even reach the cemetery sometimes" and she named it by name.

I started flipping then and was like "what cemetery? Why that cemetery?" in a sort of why are we talking about cemeteries when we're talking about her way. I kept pushing her for an explanation and that's when the whole thing came out.

Acmcshepherd wrote:

A recurring theme I see online is that the person that lied/started the problem/was the reason, is claiming that somehow the person who is mad embarrassed them. No, they embarrassed themselves by their initial actions.

Okay, I’m sure she is devastated by this loss, and that’s understandable, but that’s still not an excuse for lying about something this important, and even worse to then tell the truth, and expect you to just be, eh, it’s ok no worries. NTA.

MadMuppetJanice wrote:

I don’t know if this will help or not, but I had a patient tell me a similar story she had a locket of sorts with her brother’s ashes in it, I met her through the said “break down” that followed. (They called an ambulance) I told her before dropping her off to go where he was sprinkled and put the dirt in the locket.

Some of him would be in that. She seemed to like that idea. I never saw her again to find out if it helped. You might try that OP. I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine losing my sister.

Glowwey wrote:

Everyone was grieving though. How do you even justify throwing your daughter’s ashes without her sibling’s knowledge. And giving them wood ashes? Lies after lies. She took away from you guys and a chance to properly say goodbye and grieve. Now you’re grieving all over again. Forgive me for saying this, and hope it’s not harsh, but it’s like she k-led ur sister again and your back to square one.

Now your sister’s ashes is in some plot of land. And yall didn’t even know till now. I would not just be mad and hysterical. I’d go no contact after this BS. What are u suppose to do now? Kiss the plot of god knows where she dumped your sister’s ashes?

The way she just chose random plot to throw it tho…I just can’t. And she’s the one who needs comfort? NO. NTA! Was she being kind or thought or considerate when she gave some random ash to replace ur sister? NO!!!

A week later, OP shared an update.

I gave my mother an ultimatum of either telling my brother and father, or I will. She refused to, because "you reacted so horribly." And she told me not to tell because "You're doing this to hurt me and you're just going to hurt them." So I told them. I sat my dad and brother down and explained that the necklaces didn't have the right ashes in them.

I've never seen my dad break like that, and I've never heard my brother scr*am at me like that. He was angry that I knew before him and didn't immediately tell because "this is s#$t you tell me, you needed to tell me, we tell each other everything!", but he started crying and apologizing to me, admitting he's just so mad about what Mom did and he can't handle it.

So I guess that's clearly something else me and my brother share, we get overwhelmed initially before cooler heads prevail. My dad looked gutted but he was clearly trying to piece himself back together.

He said a lot of the same other people had said to me on my other post: "we can get some of the dirt from the plot where she was scattered, the necklace has the meaning we attribute to it and she's still with us even if her body hasn’t been physically with us."

I feel bad because some of it my mom said (ie the bit about the necklace being important even without her ashes in it) but I was able to accept that much easier from him.

Maybe because he didn't lie to me for four years and drop a bomb on me out of nowhere because I pulled apart a lie. He held my brother and I as we cried, and he apologized for the pain, and he said it wasn't fair that I had to be the adult when my mother should have told all of us a lot sooner.

Dad's going to try to talk to my step-father to find the plot because my mom has been refusing to talk to us anymore, not answering messages or picking up the phone. Her social media has even gone dark. He's going to find out where the plot is and go to the site. I don't know if I could if it were up to me.

It just feels like the final bit of proof that this fucked up nightmare is real and my sister is mixed with dirt and rocks and grass of an unmaintained and unvisited plot. My mom and I always had some issues, but that's normal. This is worse than anything, and we had a rough patch when I came out that we didn't even talk, but we mended fences after.

I can't see ever forgiving her, not with how she dropped this on me, blamed me for my reaction, and left me to do what she should have done. To top it off, she won't even show the decency to explain why or even talk to me. When we were discussing cremation, it was agreed we would all get a necklace with the ashes.

My mind keeps going over things that just didn’t add up fully, times she almost slipped or things that make complete sense now. She almost left behind her necklace on a trip and didn't freak out like I would have, because she knew where my sister was the whole time. She volunteered to be the one to separate the ashes and gave dad "the rest". I assume those ashes are the same as ours, fake.

God this whole thing just makes me want to curl up in a hole and never see the light of day again. I've been on and off crying all week without being able to stop, or just so angry I could scream. In the middle of my damn workday and suddenly I'm rushing to the bathroom to hide the fact I'm breaking all over again because I can't stop my thoughts.

I quit smoking after my sister died but I picked it right back up again. My dad has been calling me every day to check in on me and remind me of how much he loves me and how much my brother loves me. I think he's afraid. My brother has come over each day since the talk with his girlfriend to make sure I eat something.

I don't know how to end this post. I feel lost and like I don't know anything anymore. I feel like a burden because my dad and brother are both dealing with the revelation too but they're clearly thinking of me and checking in on me. I'm going to look into grief counseling but the therapist I saw after my sister died isn't practicing anymore and my insurance isn't accepted by a lot of therapists.

I try to remind myself that my little sister wouldn't have minded so much becoming woven into a tapestry of grass and flowers, and that I can visit her once we know where she was cast and make sure her site is always beautiful. Thank you to everyone that helped me and shared their own perspectives and stories. I really appreciate it.

The internet was invested in the update.

Ms_PlapPlap wrote:

You mentioned she said the cemetery's name when she tattled on herself? Can you call and ask about the plot? It's probably under your mother's or your sister's name. Then you can visit and not have to go through your mother at all.

OP responded:

It's my mother and step-father's plot. If trying through my step father fails, I'll try that. I didn't think I could just call up and say "is there an empty plot sectioned for the so and so family" but it's worth trying.

CarefulSignal7854 wrote:

That’s really f#$ked up what your mum did. And I would like to say the only reason she doesn’t “understand” how you feel is because she knows where your sister's ashes are and she knows she can visit them at anytime.

FamilyGuy421 wrote:

I am head of a cemetery commission. Just call them up. We don’t care about drama, just information. The best of luck to you.

OP responded:

Thank you so much. That means a lot.

Agreeable-League-366 wrote:

I knew she was going to make you tell. It's all about her. How she felt. She didn't care about how the rest of the family felt. She has shown how incredibly selfish she is. I'm sure if you think back she has manifested this in other ways. When she wants something she will try to communicate with you again.

Have your eyes wide open about this and then make the choice that protects you. I'd recommend just letting her go. She's unable to give to you anything you need. One way relationships just sap away from you. Stay safe.

_Trinith_ wrote:

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I felt so crushed for you after I read the first one, and I’m so glad to know that you have the support of the rest of your family in this. If you live in the US, psychology today is an amazing website for finding counselors/therapists. You can search by specialty, whether or not they’ll do virtual appointments, and what insurance they take.

Among a lot of other things. It’s worth looking at. Maybe there’s an equivalent in your country if you’re outside the US. My sister and I planted our dad underneath an elm tree, off to the side of a trail on his favorite mountain to hike. We feel like, as the tree grows, dad will nourish it. Some of the things trees can store as they grow is wild.

Including human dna. You can google it. And he’ll be a part of everything that’s growing there. Your sister is in the grasses, the wildflowers (because while those are probably seasonal, they will drop seeds, and she’s in those too), definitely any trees or bushes. She’s nourishing part of what is likely a beautiful ecosystem.

It doesn’t change the devastation of not having her actual ashes. I can’t even tell you how badly I’d be holding up in your position, but when I self destruct I don’t do it by halves. My friends and family would be absolutely terrified. But it’s…something of a consolation prize in a way? You can’t see, or feel, or touch her directly. But I believe she’s still there in a way. Just like my dad’s in that elm.

Two weeks later, OP shared another update.

This has probably been the worst month of my life in years. I'm going to start with the minor stuff that's been happening or whatever because my head just feels like a brick. I got a promotion I'd been aiming for before everything. My boss did tell me I had already got it before this all happened and it was held off on announcing so I could have time to process before I had to adjust to the new job requirements.

I couldn't even feel proud. I know a month ago I would have but I feel numb. I'm working a lot more hours now than normal, usually about 6am to 7pm, give or take. Paycheck looks nice I guess. My dad keeps telling me I need to work less, so does my brother, but my job is one that engages my mind enough that I'm nearly brain dead by the time I’m home which is nice.

I'm non-binary and prefer they/them pronouns but she/her are not offensive. Realized belatedly that people were calling me that. I started drinking more than usual. After blacking out one night I let my dad take it all and I haven’t bought more. I don’t think I've ever gotten blackout before so it's terrifying to hear about the night but have barely any recollection of it.

About my sister: My mother finally responded to my brother, and according to him she was a wreck. All tears. All apologies. All "You have to understand!" There must be something wrong with me because I look at her and I want to hurt her. I want to break her heart, I want to make a spectacle of her disgusting behavior, I want to ruin her life.

I think part of me recognizes that's why I'm not so overly cautious about details, but at the same time I can't do it. The rational part of my mind kicks in and I realize that it wouldn't do anything but make it worse. I'd just feel guilty and sick after the brief moment of satisfaction. But then I think to myself, "So how and why could you do that to us? For years?"

Her and my brother had a much better relationship than her and I ever did. She still did that to him. Like yeah, Dad and her never got better after the divorce, and after the affair they struggled with even coparenting for a multitude of reasons. Her and I have had our issues. But the bond between her and my brother has always been strong, or at least used to be, and she did it to HIM of all people.

She tried telling my brother that she did it impulsively, in a fit of pique, but when he pressured her about why she was the one to volunteer to handle filling the necklaces, she said that it was because she was okay with it at first but then when she saw the ashes, she didn’t want to "destroy" her further. Her word, there. Destroyed.

Like the relationship between her living children? Like our trust in her? Like the memorial we agreed upon for my sister? I don't know how to feel. If I even trust her story. But her wording makes me feel like it was planned. God yet again it becomes an accidental revelation, where she tried to uphold a lie but got caught and that's how the truth came to light.

I managed to talk to the funeral director. My sister's fingerprints are part of their records. I'm going to get her touch tattooed, but I found a means of getting that on a necklace so my brother and dad can have that if they don't want a tattoo. Still struggling to get in contact with the owners of the cemetery. A lot of unanswered emails and voicemails.

I've also been looking for therapists and counselors in my area, or ones doing telehealth. I have an appointment upcoming but I'm nervous. My stepfather has stepped back. He set a boundary that he won't talk to us until we agree to discuss this without "blaming anyone" and anytime the conversation starts going toward asking about motive or who knew what and when, he says the conversation needs to end.

He's even hung up on us before and threatened the cops on me, even implying it'd be deserved after I did the same to my mother. EDIT: I tried Findagrave and she's not there, same for my mother and step dad.

The comments kept coming.

Responsible-End7361 wrote:

Suggest you tell stepdad "OK, fine. But my mother better not try to contact me in any way for anything else until the ashes issue is fully resolved, so tell her she is now down 2 kids, maybe 3."

Magerimoje wrote:

Regarding contacting the cemetery - leave a voicemail saying you want to purchase a plot. If anyone listens to the voicemail, they'll usually call back ASAP for a sale. When they call back, tell them you want to purchase a plot near your parents and give your mom & step dad's names and ask what their plot numbers are.

Once you have the plot numbers,hang up and block their number so they can't keep calling trying to sell you shit you definitely do not want. But that might get the info faster. This is how I found the location of my infant cousin. Also, some cemeteries have plot numbers and location maps online now. Worth checking.

CavyLover123 wrote:

Your stepfather is trash. F#$k him. Your mother sounds mentally unhinged. Just unstable and looney. And not a safe person to have a relationship of any sort with. Also, don’t feel bad about pouring yourself into work. This early period you just get by however you can. If that’s work- distractions are fine. Particularly if you’re prone to rumination.

If it feels like it’s all bottled and building up- then work isn’t enough and you need to get some support. Friends therapy support groups religion mediation whatever works for you. But there’s no defined timeline for any of this. You grieve and go numb at your pace how you need to. Glad to hear you stepped away from drinking! You’ll get through this. Sending you hugs. 🤗

Minute_Box3852 wrote:

What? Is your stepfather your mother's keeper? He doesn't get to dictate conversations that have nothing to do with him. In the future, if I were you and your brothers, I'd make it crystal clear any future communication will NOT involve him since he's mister wannabe alpha male enough to think he can decide when a conversation is over.

awkward_enby wrote:

You're better than me OP cause I would do everything in my power to hurt her more. I'd make sure there were legal documents drawn up in the even of my death that she would not be allowed to handle my remains in any way shape or form. I'm sorry you're family is going through this. I hope you find closure.

A month later, OP shared another update.

I wish I could give good news but there’s not been much and I haven’t had much time besides working. I’m just going to keep on doing whatever this is so long as there’s not a problem.

I went to therapy. I tried a few sessions, and I’m so grateful she worked with me to get me on her books, but she wasn’t helpful for me. I wasn’t clicking with her and I felt unheard. I’m still on the hunt for a therapist. I feel very entitled saying that. My father is not as well as he wants to pretend. He is so focused on fixing this for us that he has to have lost sight of himself.

I hate seeing him like this. My brother is angry. I have never in my life seen him so mad or heard him say such horrific things about our mother and step father. We are all just existing, it seems. My brother tried the plot hack idea. The cemetery is full. They’re not accepting new burials. I tried as well and couldn’t get even the plot numbers.

I got so angry I was crying. I didn’t take it out on them, as it’s not the cemetery’s fault I can’t manage my emotions, but it was absolutely crushing to come across yet another block. Our mother still won’t really talk to me, with one choice exception event, and even my brother is touch and go in conversation with her.

She’s so quick to shut everything down. The exception is this: My mother offered to let me purchase the plot from her. She said I can share it with my brother and this way we can be buried together where our sister is. She phrased it like she was giving me some sort of peace offering, or paying me a favor.

All total costs together, the liner, the plot, the headstone, the permits (because our state requires one for such sales), the care, will be over $9,500. Her and my step father are willing to forgo the cost of the headstone to make it easier for my brother and I, to make up for us not being there for the scattering.

No mention about how Dad wasn’t there either. No true “sorry”, just what amounts to “if you want access to your sister, pay me for the privilege”. I want to say she doesn’t intend it this way, I want to agree with my step father that this is her attempt to reconcile so I should meet her halfway.

I can’t keep doing this. I want to put this behind me somehow. I want to forget about the plot. I want to forget about my mother entirely. It feels like it would be easier to completely cut her out, make peace with what I have of my sister, and never, ever think of my mother again.

I feel like a horrible child thinking that way, and my step father’s attitude doesn’t help that feeling. I tried explaining I just want some of the dirt from the plot for part of a memorial but my step dad started threatening to sell it back to the cemetery because “clearly nothing else will satisfy you."

My brother and I are in agreement that it’s a baseless threat especially if they really did cast her ashes there, because our mother would never do that and then separate from the plot. We both know even if we buy it from her, she’ll visit our sister still.

I can’t help the concern that she did something else with the ashes than we think and what she’s let on, like that the cemetery is unrelated and she was somehow clever enough to keep up or think up a convoluted lie when dr-nk. I keep looking at my bank account. My brother doesn’t want to buy it off her, I don’t think, but he’s also still furious at the offer so I don’t want to say he doesn’t.

He means well, I think, but anytime I try to broach the offer, he starts in about how we’re making our own memorial and that her offer is needlessly cruel, so I shouldn’t entertain it. I could afford it, if I shuffled some bills around and worked more. Almost for peace of mind I want to say yes and take the offer.

She gave me a deadline. I still have a bit of time but it doesn’t feel like enough.

My Dad has taken over trying to figure out the legalities of this situation, what he can do to force her hand to share where the plot is or what he can do to make things better. He’s fit to be tied.

He’s doing what he can, looking into what legal avenues we can pursue and what can be done to force her to give the location. It seems like we don’t have many options. It doesn’t feel right or fair. He keeps saying what my brother has said, trying to reassure me, but I can’t not think of it. I’m not sleeping much these days. I think the only thing going well in my life is my work and I still haven’t had anything to drink.

I think maybe the next option we can try would be letting the cemetery know ashes were illegally spread on their grounds, but what will they do in response? I know I’m being paranoid and catastrophizing when I fear that they’ll do something to clean my sister from the plot, or take it away from my mother and I won’t be able to access it.

So I guess the update is everything is as f-ked up as it has been since that stupid night with my mother. I do want to address the outpouring of support everyone here has given me. It has meant the world to me, and given me a place of stability and external perspective where my current life is far too close to provide that. Thank you all.

People had a lot to say in response.

ElehcartheFirst wrote:

I'm so sorry.

Your mother is awful. And you're not going to get closure if you buy the plot from her. Because your mother is going to find other ways to t-ture you.

You are not a bad child for wanting to cut off contact with her. If you were a bad child, you feel gleeful about doing it. I don't think your relationship with your mother Is salvageable. And I think she's a horrible horrible person for doing this to you and your brother and yes... She is forcing you to pay for the privilege of knowing where she states she scattered the ashes.

I don't think she did it there. I think she is seriously mentally ill and after you purchase it from her, she will come up with another story of what she did with the ashes. I want to tell you something that helped me. And I don't know if this will help you. But all matter goes back into the universe.

And every breath you take, every gaze at the stars or the're seeing your sister. Your sister is all around you. Where her ashes's not her. Your mother is forcing you to go through the second loss. But every time you feel that calming breeze, every time you see that twinkling Star, every tickle of pollen in your nose. Start to think of that as your sister.

I'm an atheist so I'm not trying to say anything paranormal or supernatural. What I'm saying is her matter - the essence of who she was - never left. You cannot destroy matter. So she is around you. She's just around you as carbon and hydrogen and helium and oxygen and all The other elements. I wish all the best for you.

OP responded:

A lot of me recognizes that it is pure symbolism at this point. Maybe even before then. But it aches and I struggle to deal with that. Maybe the next therapist I try will help with that.

Prudii_Skirata wrote:

Your sister is gone, physically, but you have your memories and you need to make that enough. Your mother and step-father have souls of dog shit and they will use your deep want for something more tangible and physical to hold onto control over you with a white-knuckle grip.

You need to let go of the physical to be free of them. My own mother wanted to be buried near trees, because she found peace in the sound of wind moving through the leaves. Once she was in hospice care and tripping on pain meds, my old man convinced her to go with cremation.

He stole her urn from me to try and keep control over the family and maintain himself as patriarch and his house as the seat of power for get-togethers. When none would bend to his ego or tolerate his uppity new wife, they scattered Mom's ashes without telling any of us where it happened, or even that it was happening.

We were all informed afterwards, in a Facebook post. The only peace I could make with it was to just choose a place I associate with my Mother and good memories, tell myself that is where she would be and let that be enough. Anything else would keep me chained to the will of a soulless AH instead of cutting him off and being free of him for all of time.

chez2202 wrote:

Tell your mother you are willing to buy the plot from her and get her to have the contract drawn up. She will have to put the plot number on it. When she sends you the contract to sign you will have the information you need.

Don’t sign it or hand over any money. Just go to the cemetery, speak to the administrators there and show them the paperwork. They will have to tell you where the plot is and if she owns it and is legally able to sell it to you.

Then tear it up and send it back to her and go visit your sister, plant something she would like and get your soil. If she refuses to give you a contract to sign before you hand over the money you will know that she is lying and that your sister’s ashes are not there.

Conscious-Survey7009 wrote:

You need to let the cemetery know what she did. It is illegal. I’ve said that since the first post. Also, you can get a tree planted in a park near you, your brother and father with a plaque that says “in memory of and her info”. We did it after my SIL passed away.

Her tree has a bench beside it and overlooks the water. We know where she is interred but this is where the whole family goes to remember her. We plant flowers around the tree in the spring and hang a couple ornaments on it in the winter.

We go as family several times a year but also alone on walks to sit and remember or even talk to her. It means more to us all than where her ashes are interred. Doing this may help bring you three some peace and a place to go remember. Keeping you all in my thoughts and hoping you can memorialize her on your terms and peacefully.

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