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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Articles and Links on Estrangement


This list is also located on the sidebar of this blog, but in case you missed it, I thought I’d make the list a blog post, as well.



Mother’s Day


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Sometimes this is what a “happy” Mother’s Day looks like.

So I’m sending (((hugs))) to any of you out there who can relate. Whether it’s due to death or estrangement or infertility or something else, this day can be very difficult for many of us moms.

Personally, I’ve just kept busy and been sort of on autopilot all day. (Denial, anyone?)

I’m Lost


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Feeling lost.

Alone.

At loose ends.

Estrangement is foreign to me.

Can’t see the path.

Not sure there is a path.

Need to remember, although lost, I’m not a lost cause.

My life isn’t a lost cause.

Have difficulty seeing my purpose.

My main purpose was being Mom.

I have to believe.

I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Eventually find a new life.

New purpose.

Life always with a sense of pain and loss.

I can’t forget my children.  Impossible.

But it’ll be a life.

May even be a purposeful life.

An unknown unseen reason to go on living.

Day by day.

I Said Goodbye to My Children

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After innumerable attempts to restore contact with my three adult children, and receiving nothing but silence in return, I sent them each a letter regretfully telling them I was done reaching out.  But if they ever need me, they need to remember that I love them with everything in me, and will be there for them no matter what, no matter where in the world I might be.

It felt so final.

But I needed to step out of their game because it was killing me. Quite literally. I’d ended up in the hospital on Suicide Watch once already from this estrangement, and I don’t EVER want to feel how I did that day.

I realized that as long as I kept reaching out to them and being repeatedly rejected, the pain was too much for me. The only way to protect myself was to let go.

It was hard. It still is hard. It probably will remain hard for a long, long time. Maybe forever.  But at least I’m doing better now with fewer worries about being sent on that downward spiral again that tended to begin when I would reach out and be rejected again and again and again.

Here is most of the letter I sent to my children.  It’s not the complete letter because I removed any identifying details, or anything that might be embarrassing or hurtful if their (or my) identity were discovered:

Dear ______

I am sending identical letters to each of you.  In many ways I would rather touch on each relationship individually, but I want to make certain you’re all on the same page as far as what I have to say.

You are my child and I love you deeply and I always will.  I know I have made mistakes as a parent while you were growing up.  I know you must be in a lot of pain to want to cut off contact with me.

I would like to make amends in whatever way I can, but I realize that may not be possible.  I would be willing to talk with you in-person or via email or whatever format works best for you, so you can share whatever you want or need to about the past if you think it might be helpful to our relationship, or bring you some relief, or give some sort of closure.   I would also be willing to meet with a neutral family therapist, if you think that would be helpful.  Pastor _____ mentioned to me that he would be willing to act as a mediator/facilitator of an initial family meeting, although as much as I appreciate his offer, I personally think a trained professional counselor would be a better option.

There’s nothing I want more than for you to be happy and healthy.  It’s difficult, but I’m coming to accept that you don’t want to have a relationship with me at this point in time.  It’s heartbreaking as your mother to not be able to see you.

But at the same time, if you believe it’s in your best interest to pursue this course of no contact, then I want to be supportive of your needs, and I don’t want to keep pushing. I will accept your decision if that’s what you have to do for your own well-being.  I’ve also come to feel that sending cards/gifts on your birthday and holidays may be triggering.  Until I hear otherwise, I won’t send cards, gifts, flowers, or make any other contact unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Not because I don’t love you, but because I love you so much and want to be sure I’m not doing anything to cause you further grief or discomfort.

I want you to know that my door will always be open to you for the rest of my life.  If you ever need me, anytime day or night, I will be there for you. You are always in my heart, my thoughts, and even in my dreams.  I wish nothing but the best for you.

All my love always,
Mom

When Parents HurtThe idea to send this letter came after reading Dr. Joshua Coleman’s helpful book, When Parents Hurt.

I haven’t heard from any of my children since this letter was sent several weeks ago, but I honestly didn’t expect to receive any sort of feedback due to their “no contact” decision. I recently read that many children who have estranged themselves from their parent(s) consider any sort of attempted contact (no matter how infrequent or how friendly) from the parent as harassment, which was an additional factor in my decision to stop trying to connect with them.

Maybe rather than goodbye, it’s more a matter of Vaya con Dios.  Anyone remember that song?  The lyrics ring true for me today:

Wherever you may be, I’ll be beside you
Although you’re many million dreams away
Each night I’ll say a pray’r
A pray’r to guide you
To hasten every lonely hour
Of every lonely day
Now the dawn is breaking through a gray tomorrow
But the memories we share are there to borrow

Vaya con Dios, my darling
Vaya con Dios, my love

Vaya con dios, my darling children.  May God be with you, my loves.

… and …. cue tears …  😦

~The Estranged Mom