Monica, I don't think you're being a coward, and I suspect you have tried a number of times to tell your family why. It's natural to eventually try to protect yourself from the abuse- after all, that's why you made this decision in the first place. I think Artlady is right, except that I think a letter is perfectly acceptable for the task, especially in your case. I think your family goes beyond 'difficult people' and that you would be more likely to make a rational case in writing rather than in person, because you will be able to get your thoughts out without interruption. It's clear that you have tried to make yourself heard- you're not basing your decision on a few events or comments that could have been misconstrued, but on a lifetime of behavior that makes a pretty clear picture. You are a lovely person, and you owe it to yourself to move on from people who should, but refuse to recognize that.
Mommy to two wonderful girls
"I don't have to conform to the vagaries of time and space, I'm a loony!" -Campbell Bain (David Tennant) 'Takin' Over the Asylum'
OTN: Cabled Sweater
, arm warmers, kids' clothes