When this woman is concerned for her sister who suffered a loss, she asks Reddit:
I (37f) have a sister (34f) who has had a lot of grief recently. A year ago she lost a baby to trisomy 18. This was hard on her and her husband and they ended up divorcing and she has had a very hard time coping since.
To cope with the loss she purchased a reborn doll - one of the super realistic baby dolls meant for people who lost/cant have children to dress up and care for. I think it's very creepy and maybe not the best coping mechanism but she's in general better spirits since she bought it so perhaps I should shut up.
The problem is that she insists that the doll is real and that's where I come from when I say it's not a healthy coping mechanism. She's brought it to family gatherings and will change it, pretend to feed it with a bottle full of water. She even drives it around in the carseat bought for her deceased child.
I've asked her to do things with me but there have been at least two occasions where she's declined because her doll was 'sick.' I have not said anything as this is a very sensitive topic but other relatives have expressed similar sentiments to what I'm writing here.
I have been tasked for hosting easter this year. I want my sister to be present as I love her very much but I want her present without the doll - so maybe she will focus on the family that is here and loves her instead of the doll.
The thing is that it *is* a coping mechanism for two horribly tragic events in her life that happened very recently. Even if it is a bit strange I wonder if I have any real ground to stand on to ask her to not bring it outside of the standard 'my house my rules' argument. Would I be crossing the line or is this totally fine? WIBTA?
NAH, but trying to ban the doll is not the answer. She needs therapy, badly, and while you can't force her to do that, trying to force it is not the answer. Your heart is in the right place, but it might be better to approach her about therapy first.
NTA I completely agree with you and think your sister should be working on coming to terms with the loss instead of dragging a ridiculous doll around. I would feel like I was encouraging or playing into her maladaptation if I accepted it. But, it might be better for my peace of mind, my sister's comfort and just to keep the peace if I accepted 'my sister is crazy now and carries a doll with her wherever she goes'.
You could take turns “babysitting” the doll during the evening (this was for a dinner, right?).
Then it would be people she'd presumably trust to “take care of her baby” – you(?), your parents, other siblings and niblings? – who each get to pop out for 15-20 minutes, half an hour, whatever, to read a book or catch up on social media on your phone, while the rest get to interact with a hopefully calm sister who won't have to fret about her “baby” being “looked after” by someone unknown.
Maybe make sure to check in with each other and sister at the changing of the guard, (“Is she still asleep?” “Do you want me to check if her nappy needs changing?” [If you think she'll trust any of you with that], etc), to show you're playing along, if you think it'll help / she'll buy that.
Maybe that will even make her feel comfortable / secure enough to talk to the others about how long she thinks she'll need to keep this up, and how you all can help her move on. Not quite “intervention”-style, but a sincere conversation. Yeah, a bit of a cognitive dissonance discussing the charade as such while also keeping it up... But she does still consciously know it's just a doll, right?
Then maybe everyone could handle that dissonance, as long as the rest of you keep reminding yourselves that validating someone's feelings is one thing and discussing those same feelings is another.
Just ask her as she gets there, “Do you want [Baby Doll's Name] to rest on the sofa / in her pram in the side room here? When you've got her settled in, should I / Mom / whoever look after her for a spell, while you catch up with everyone else?”.
NOTE / DISCLAIMER: Just a wild-ass-guess suggestion, absolutely NOT psychological / psychiatric advice.