W., You are not bad and there is nothing evil in your feelings. They are completely understandable. This is a painful and ongoing issue that has caused you progressively greater levels of hurt until you feel you cannot tolerate it any longer. Take comfort in knowing you are not alone in this experience. Now, I am about to say something that will undoubtedly make you angrier than you are, but it needs to be said.
WRONG: While you cannot be faulted for wanting to protect yourself from such meanness and hurt, you are just as much to blame for the breakdown in your family as your mother and/or sister. Now, having said that, I will tell you that I fully understand where your anger and feelings are coming from and it is human nature, the instinct for self-preservation, to withdraw from questionable or dangerous situations, which is exactly what this is. You said it is not an option to make amends. Making amends means one accepts responsibility for their part in a negative situation and wishes to help correct any damage done. If you discount any possibility of making amends, you are saying you have made mistakes but refuse to own up to them or take steps to mitigate damages. You went on to say you are just looking for words to help you move on. THAT is not possible, I'm afraid. You will always carry this with you. Even after your mother dies, you will carry an anger toward her and with it will be a secret sense of guilt over that anger. If she dies without some reconciliation, that will be yet another burden you will carry through life. The emotional weight can crush you and asking for soothing forgiveness from strangers will not alleviate that. Ignoring the peanut butter will not get rid of the elephant in the room.
RIGHT: You may be wrong about some things, but you are right, too. You cannot have this stress in your life and around your children. Your mother's depression has affected you negatively and it has already started to affect your husband and children as it passes from your mother to you to your children, your husband. Eventually it will effect your relationship with your husband to the point that it could destroy your marriage. So you absolutely cannot continue in such a diseased relationship. So what can you do? Despite your contention that making amends is not an option, it is always an option and you need to make every effort, not for your mother or sister, but for you and the next generation of your family. The fact that you "… almost feel no love for her anymore…" shows how this is hurting you. What you may not realize is, when you lose the ability to love someone close to you, you also stop loving yourself a little. This can, eventually, reach a point where you stop loving everyone around you until you find yourself where your mother is now.
Before you stop reading and start calling me names, let me analyze a little of your situation.
Lesli D was correct when she said you needed therapy for yourself. The anger and resentment you feel toward your mother and your sister will, eventually, destroy you if you do not learn to understand it and deal with it. That is YOUR burden of responsibility. You cannot control how others act, only how you react. A wise man once told me, "Never get into an argument with a fool. Someone watching from a distance will not be able to tell which is which." The gist of that being, don't lower yourself to the level of conduct you believe you see in your mother and sister. Someone watching - from a distance - will not know who is right or wrong, only that everybody LOOKS wrong. As far as your mother telling falsehoods at your expense, I am moved to recall that old children's ditty, "Sticks and stones will break my bones…" Ignore the lies. If you conduct yourself in an above-board manner that bespeaks character and quality above your mother's tales, people will not believe them and merely chalk it up to her disturbed state of mind. If, on the other hand, you act as though she were telling family secrets, people will always wonder if it is true.
You have several issues going on here, almost all of which are at least partly your own doing, and I know you said you weren't looking for how to re-connect but rather how to let go but that's not entirely possible. So perhaps it's time for a little self-help therapy session to get in touch with your feelings and what is the basis for them..
You said, "…she changed drastically b/c her husband died. She is bitter, jealous, negative…"
Your mother is seriously depressed, wouldn't you be if your lifelong companion was suddenly gone? She is probably in her 50's and never thought of anything beyond her husband and family and now her anchor is gone. You yourself said she needs to see a therapist so you recognize and acknowledge her illness but, because she "… she does not even realize she is doing it anymore … does not realize, or want to realize that she has issues," you have washed your hands of her. How would you react if, maybe ten years ago, your mother was diagnosed with cancer and would not see an oncologist? Would you just let her decay, suffer, and die? That would be unconscionable. Would you merely shut her out of your life because her illness was too difficult for you to deal with? Probably not. Emotional illnesses are just as damaging but, as you have discovered, far more difficult to cope with. Would you shut out your husband if he were to suffer such a debilitating emotional/mental illness? You would certainly hope he would not do so to you.
And what of the break in your relationship with your sister? What is at the root of that?
"She spoils my nephew and doesn't spend much time at all with my children...this has caused so much stress between my sister and I that we have not spoken in two years."
Why would your mother's behavior toward your nephew cause stress between you and your sister? Did your sister cause the favoritism or is it possible you allowed your mother's illness to contaminate your relationship with your sister? Where, honestly, did the stress come from? Were you jealous of your mother's attention to your sister's child? Did that possibly infiltrate your relationship with your sister, blaming her for your mother's behavior? Were there times when you might have taken your anger toward your mother out against your sister? It's possible that, at the time of this breakup, your sister was where you are now. Maybe she could have written a message here asking for help in dealing with her sister's jealousy.
"My mother has been seriously depressed since my father died. For some reason, she is now alienating my sister, telling outlandish stories about her. Mom ignores sis's kids, not even giving them gifts on their birthdays or at Christmas, while lavishing gifts and attention on my son. This has made sis angry. She has even begun treating my son unkindly. It is starting to affect my son and he no longer enjoys visits with her family. I love my sister but I don't think I can continue a relationship with her if it is going to affect him. What can I do?"
See what I mean? Like a diamond, every person, every situation, every relationship has, not just two sides, but many facets and each one reflects the light – or truth – through a unique perspective.
I think you have three different sets of issues and each needs to be handled differently.
1. You need to come to terms with your own true feelings and learn how to deal with them. This will, at this stage, probably require the assistance of a good therapist to help you weed through all of the emotional garbage that has piled up over that past five years.
2. You need to figure out what truly is at the root of your break with your sister. Have you always had an issue of sibling rivalry with her that was roiled up with the recent events? Did your sister use your mother's favoritism to drive a wedge between the two of you or was the problem caused by your own feelings or resentment of your children's dismissal by your mother? Obviously, your sister still cares for you and is undoubtedly also hurting because of the schism between you. When your family was in possible danger, who was it that came to wake you and warn you and didn't stop until she was sure you were awake and okay? One of the most difficult things a person can do is apologize. Say, "I was wrong. Can we talk about it?" Your sister may feel reticent about re-opening lines of communication if she feels she will be spurned or burned. For your own well-being and that of your family, you need to try to restore your relationship with your sister. You may discover she has been hoping and praying for just such an opportunity to restore your relationship. Bear in mind, too, that you are teaching your children a lesson in human interaction with how you relate to your family. If you don't teach them tolerance and compassion now, what will trigger their move to cut you out of their lives when they are older?
3. Your mother is sick. Whether you choose to deal with it or not, her behavior in the past few years is symptomatic of an illness and not some devious plot to destroy you. Move outside your own hurt and try to understand hers. In the opening of your post, you stated you had a good relationship with your mother until, "5 yrs ago when she changed drastically b/c her husband died." "…her husband…" and not "…my father…" This suggests either that you did not have a good relationship with your father or that her spouse was not your father and you may not have felt the same sense of loss your mother does. If the deceased was a stepfather and your parents divorced, it also suggests there may be some animosity about that. In any case, your mother has taken this death quite hard and is having a very difficult time dealing with it. After this long of a time without any improvement in her condition, your mother is undoubtedly clinically depressed. Her body chemistry has changed to support the depression rather than a healthy mental condition. Only a serious intervention and a great deal of support can help her through. When my grandfather died, my grandmother, quite literally, lost her mind. A sharp, clever woman all of her life, she woke one day to find he had passed in the night. Neighbors found her wandering the streets in her nightgown not knowing who she was or where she lived. She lived another thirteen years but never fully recovered. Instead of approaching your mother about her hurtful lies, seek out your sister's support. Talk to her about how painful it has been for you to have your mother spread such lies and how this behavior is not rational or normal for her. Build a game plan between you to move your mother on the road to recovery and back to who she was before.
This break was not an overnight situation and it will not be resolved overnight. Be patient and remember not to take anything your mother says personally. Above all else, do everything you can to maintain a relationship with her. Visit her on a regular basis, once a week, once a month, whatever your spirit can handle at any given time in your own recovery. Take your sister with you for emotional insulation. When your mother's behavior becomes too divisive and hateful, you and your sister should simply advise her, calmly and non-judgmentally, that you cannot stay when she is being mean-spirited. End by saying, "I love you," then simply get up and leave and you and your sister go out for lunch or something to further cement your relationship. Continue this pattern, with your sister solidly in your corner, and continue visiting your mother. This is not something you do for her, but for you. Send her holiday and birthday cards with a note and closing with "I love you." Send her tokens from your children but don't put them into a situation where she is not fully recovered and they may be subjected to her animosity.
If you do not make every effort to heal this wound, when she dies, she will not mourn the loss of your love. She will be beyond that. But, whether you realize it now or not, you will find something to regret in the loss of your relationship with her. You will find something to blame yourself for and to emotionally punish yourself for.
It may be that, in the final analysis, you cannot break down the walls between you. If so, accept that you truly made every effort. But that doesn't mean you should give up. Continue to send cards for birthday, Mother's Day, etc. Make it a chore of necessary evil if you must. But keep sending them. Again, this is something you do for you, your husband, and your children. It is not for your mother.
Someone needs to take the high road. Let it be you. We rarely regret the things we do as much as those we don't.