Rewriting the Narrative of their Past


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This quote resonated deeply with me:

“Our lives may be determined less by past events than by the way we remember them.” – Catherine Ann Jones

I feel my children have been rewriting the narrative of their lives and of our family.

Consequently, it’s changed the way they feel about me and the way they relate to me.

Or in this case, the way they don’t relate to me.

Sigh.


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Bodily Effects of Estrangement


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I thought I’d take some time to practice mindfulness in the midst of one of my more difficult moments today being overwhelmed with grief.  I’ve been having quite a few of these overwhelming moments this week.  I focused on what my body was doing and took inventory of my bodily reaction to the current bout of emotional turmoil.

Here’s the list I came up with from today’s grief event and things I remember from others (I’m sure there’s more):

  • stomach muscles clenched
  • stomach queasy, sometimes to the point of vomiting
  • tight chest
  • clenched teeth
  • gasping for air, feeling like I can’t breathe
  • crying
  • sobbing
  • feeling like I’m drowning in my tears
  • doubled over
  • head and neck tight
  • muscles throughout my body tight
  • toes and feet curled and clenched
  • trembling, shaking
  • dizzy
  • poor balance when walking
  • stuttering
  • closed eyes
  • I bite my lips
  • I hide face behind hands or clothing
  • I suck and chew on clothing (shirt edge usually)
  • aching all over
  • sometimes the crying triggers my asthma

And when this happens, all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep … for a thousand years.

One benefit of mindfully taking stock of my body’s reactions, allowed me to make other choices to help myself feel better.  When I noticed my clenched teeth, I made an effort to relax my jaw.  When I noticed muscles that were being held tightly, I took some time to focus on releasing those muscles as much as I could.

It didn’t take care of everything, but it made a small difference in how I was coping.  A small difference right now can be the difference between life and another stay in the hospital on Suicide Watch.

This has been a bad, bad week.

 

I made it out of bed this morning


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Ever since the estrangement from my three adult children began six months ago, it’s been difficult to even get out of bed.

So I thought I’d make a list of things I actually accomplished today. Definitely not an earth-shattering day of events, but at least most of it involved being upright and out from under my bed covers (and out of my pajamas).

Today, I ….

  • got dressed (although I never did get around to putting on make-up. I hope I remembered to brush my hair before I left the house!)
  • did the dishes
  • fed the cats and fish and rabbits
  • watered the plants
  • talked to a couple of my neighbors about nothing important
  • wandered the aisles at my local store looking for nothing in particular
  • picked up prescriptions at the pharmacy
  • picked up my mail (found more prescriptions there, too)
  • ate three semi-healthy meals
  • worked for several hours on homework (I’d been procrastinating)
  • watched a few back episodes of shows I’d gotten behind on
  • diddled around on Facebook
  • … and cried … in the car
  • … and cried … in my house
  • … and cried … while chatting with a friend online

Once the crying starts, it feels as if it will never stop.  But usually it does stop.

Sometimes it stops simply from sheer exhaustion.

Sometimes it stops because I’m all cried out and the tears have done their cleansing work.

Sometimes it stops because I drink myself into a stupor (yes, I unfortunately sometimes choose to self-medicate).

Sometimes it stops because I’m distracted by something else.

The one time the crying didn’t stop (at the end of this past December just after the holidays), I ended up in the hospital on Suicide Watch for six days.  Because of that horrible awful no good very bad day, I always feel a twinge of fear that the crying won’t stop.  I never want to feel like I did that day when I admitted myself to a psych ward so that others could protect me from myself.

Today’s crying ended after I spent several minutes quietly watching the baby fish who live in my aquarium on a low shelf above my kitchen sink.  I knelt down on the floor, rested my head on the counter, and just watched the tiny living beings swim around.  At first the tears were so heavy, I could barely see the fish.  But soon I was smiling at the little lives in front of me. I realized my eyes were dry and my sobbing gone.

So today was eventful and uneventful.  Happy and sad.  Full of meds and fish, people and writing.

But the most important things today?  I got out of bed, kept busy, survived a major crying jag, and will head to bed in a few minutes.

Yes, I have made it through another day.

One day at a time.

That’s the only way I’ll survive this estrangement.

Just take it one eventful/uneventful, happy/sad day at a time.

~The Estranged Mom

 

 

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