The Early Days of Estrangement


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What follows is my response to the questions and exercises in the first part of the book, Done with the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, by Sheri McGregor, MA.  I’m going to start working my way through the book in the coming days and sharing my thoughts on this blog.


51cRtf49Q8LMy estrangement from my three adult children began after a misunderstanding on Thanksgiving night. The timing was awful.  For nearly the entire month of December I was in shock.  How could my children desert me at the holidays?!

I was so alone, so sad, so shocked.  In Done with the Crying, McGregor states that the initial feeling most parents feel when an estrangement begins is shock.  That was definitely the case for me.

Unbelief, confusion, helplessness.

I waited for them to call or email.  I wanted to talk and help clear things up.  I wanted to listen.  I tried to contact them throughout the holidays, but was met with silence.

When I asked if we could meet with a neutral third party (a counselor or a family friend who’s a pastor) to begin some sort of communication, I received a curt email response that said, “We’re not ready for that.”

That was six months ago.

Will they ever be ready?

Without any sort of communication, we can’t even begin the process of reconciliation or understanding.  They’ve also cut off all contact with my dad.  My dad said yesterday on the phone that he doesn’t even care at this point about reconciliation with them, but he’d just like to see us all have a civil relationship so we can all attend family gatherings and holiday events (and even funerals) at the same time.

Pain.  Isolation.  Silence.  Abandonment.  Betrayal.  Judgement.  A broken heart.  Loss.  Anxiety.  Fear.  Powerlessness.  Defeated. Devastated.  Depressed.  Suicidal.  Numb.

Like walking through a thick fog.

This was the new hurtful reality that suddenly presented itself.  I couldn’t get my mind around it, no matter how hard I tried. And as a single mom, I had no one who shared these feeling with me.

The first month was so overwhelming.

I felt like I’d lost my identity.  I’d never realized how much my personal identity tied into the idea of being a mother.  Now that I didn’t have that relationship with my children, I felt so lost.  I suffered a major existential crisis in addition to the grief and shock.  The pillars of my life had been knocked down and shattered under me.

The pain was so great, that each night during December I self-medicated with alcohol.  I couldn’t bear going to bed and being alone in the quiet and the darkness with nothing but my thoughts, my misery, my memories, and my tears.  So I would drink until I could just lie down and pass out on my bed.

Every morning when I woke up, my first thought was, “Wow.  That was the worst dream ever.”

And then I’d remember.  It wasn’t a dream.  They really were gone.  They really had cut me off.

I really was alone.

~ The Estranged Mom

 

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2 thoughts on “The Early Days of Estrangement

  1. What kind of misunderstanding provoked estrangement by all three of your children. Just curious, no judgement here. I’m trying to understand some of the reasons these things come to be. Thank you

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    • Hi, Debra. Thanks for commenting. Like everything, it’s a long story. The short story is that there was a big misunderstanding that precipitated a falling out that had been brewing for a long time. My children had been raised in an Evangelical Christian home and church. As they became adults, they each chose to not follow the faith they were raised in. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but there were a lot of teachings going on in the Youth Group that were quite harmful to my kids’ mental and emotional health. As my kids became more aware of the harmful teachings and behaviors they’d been subjected to, they started to blame me and their father for raising them in a Christian home. In many ways, I’m not surprised they built up resentment. When I started to hear stories about things that had happen in Youth Group, I realized eventually it was going to come back and bite me. So essentially the thing that brought about the estrangement of all three kids was a toxic church and some harsh church teachings. The ironic part of this story is that I’m no longer an Evangelical Christian, either. We would all have so much more in common now than we did when the estrangement occurred, but because they’ve gone No Contact, they don’t know about the changes in my own life and beliefs.

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