Family Mediation: Cinderella and Her Sisters

Three sisters requested mediation to facilitate a discussion about an inherited home. One sister (Cinderella) moved out when she got married, roughly 20 years ago. The remaining sisters (Drizella and Anastasia) stayed in the home with their mother until she passed earlier this year. Because of a trust, the home reverted back to Cinderella after her step-mother’s death. She wanted her step-sisters out. They wanted to stay.

During the uninterrupted time, Anastasia (speaking also for her sister Drizella) expressed anger that they had no inheritance and disgust at Cinderella’s demand that they leave; she had married a prince (!), and didn’t want for anything, let alone that old house. Cinderella’s voice was soft, yet strong. Although she had not lived there for decades, that was where she was born, raised, where her mother died. Her mother’s spirit remained within those walls, joyful memories sullied by the two spiteful haters who remained. Nearly 25 years later, Cinderella was still grieving from the loss of her parents and pained from the isolation and humiliation she felt from forced servitude in her own home.

Grief proved to be the connecting thread. Voice cracking in pain, Anastasia spoke about the grief from their mother’s death and the vulnerability they felt: each spinsters with no professional skills. In a turning point, Drizella finally spoke. Dabbing her eyes and nervously wringing the damp tissue, she talked about her childhood, when their birth father ran away with another woman, leaving his wife and 2 kids with nothing. About the years the sisters were home-bound by shame, while their mother went out at night, desperate to land another man. She succeeded, convincing Cinderella’s father that the two families would be happy together. And when Drizella, Anastasia and their mother moved in with Cinderella and her father, the latter’s kindness somehow added to their humiliation.  Anastasia patted Drizella’s hand, met Cinderella’s eyes, and apologized.

The two hour session ended there, but the impasse was broken. The ladies scheduled another session and hugged before leaving the room.