Parental Estrangements: Finish your mourning, Let Go, & Live!

I have been reading. It turns out that 1 in 10 families live with one sort of parent/child estrangement or another. People stay silent about it due to shame, guilt, and other reasons. I myself have kept reasonably silent about it. Only people closest to me know about what is going on in my life, at least with my kids. I am not at all quiet about the fact that I’ve not spoken to my mother in about 25 years now. That is a story that legally I should not share. But, suffice it to say that her side is that I betrayed her. My side is that I choose my seven-year-old daughter. It is impossible to betray a person who SAID, “I had to protect myself from ***** because I was afraid that he would divorce me and marry her.” ***** was a total of seven years old when the statement was made. My stepfather was 57 years old, and my mother was in her early 50’s. In her very sick thought process, though she probably never saw it in concrete terms (due to denial) she made my daughter the ‘other woman.’ This made a seven-year-old a threat to a 50 something-year-old. There was no comparison, and there was never an excuse for any kind of thought process that came to a deduction such as this. I could never in a million years betray that sickness. Not that I am incapable of the behavior, but that it is impossible for a daughter to betray a mother whose thought processes are so sick that she blames a child for behaviors that she can only honestly, blame on her husband who was a predator. It is impossible, betrayal is not possible–when you are placing the blame for a lost cause marriage on a seven-year-old child. So, this particular estrangement, while it is sad, and I have cried a lot over the years, is probably something for the better. We are at such an impasse, and she denies that she ever said the things she said. Emotionally, it is obvious that my mother is every bit as emotionally abusive as my father, and stepfather ever were.

Author & child, ca. 1985, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
Author & child, ca. 1985, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

I have kept quiet about the issues with the kids exactly because of guilt and shame. Even though, I know I did not do anything major wrong. In fact, even one of the daughters sent me a text and told me that no matter what happens, it’s not my fault. No explanations as to why I am being treated as I am. That is what is going on between ourselves and our 2nd oldest.

Let me just say now, before I move on, that I am sorry for the way things worked out. I would have approached the situation differently if I had to do it all over again. But, the end result would have probably been the same. As keeping a child away from an abusive mouth was the goal. Moving on….

With our oldest, the story is quite different. She said some things that caused red flags to fly. I decided to try and protect a child as best I could, and it bit me in the butt. I knew it would. I did not know what else to do. She is a confrontational type, and can have a mean mouth, and an attitude that if she’s right and angry then anyone else is in the room better sit down, shut up and listen. That attitude may work with others but it does not work with me. In fact, with me, that attitude has created a chasm. It has kept me at arm’s length (and others, including her newly adopted father) from her for years and years. Further, if I let the attitude stand in her treatment of me, then as I age, and become more vulnerable, then I dare say I don’t want to be under her care. We, I, love her with all our hearts, but when angered, which can be triggered easily, we avoid it at all costs, including changing our behavior in her presence and not talking about or saying things that might normally be said elsewhere.

The built in caption says it all… ca. 1991

The truth is, I’ve been afraid of her for years, because of her rough, tough, macho attitude. As I age, I’ve protected myself more and more by wrapping myself up with tools such as never being alone with the said child. The bottom line here is that I’ve seen this train wreck coming for years. In the long run, I do not harbor a lot of guilt about this other than perhaps, I could have chosen a better father for my children. And I wish I had known what domestic violence was when I was young. So much of this could have been avoided had I only had the education.

All in fun...
It was all in fun…

You know, I never considered myself a perfect mom. Just never happened. Never will.
One sees what they see, they hear what they hear, they mull the situation over and contemplate what the best way forward is. I have pretty much consistently done the best I could in each situation. My daughter knows that I put children’s safety first and foremost and if she’d think about it, considering that I was trying to protect a child from that harsh and angry mouth. (and only from that mouth). A mouth that had already done damage (according to what she told me, she did not realize it, else she’d never shared). No child deserves to be confused or manipulated (intended or not). So, my imperfect ways created a rift that will probably be life long.

And then there was Teddy R.
And then there was Teddy R.

Hence, a mourning process. One does not estrange themselves (purposely or accidentally) without emotional pain. When it comes to children, regardless of the reason for the estrangement the pain is in the extreme. Nothing in this life has ever hurt me more. And I’ll tell you, my father left our family when I was 16, and then he died when I was 21. As stated earlier my mother and I quit speaking 25 years ago, and my eldest daughter had already divorced me once before when she was around 12 years old. Emotionally, I’ve been through the wringer. But, nothing, and I mean NOTHING hurts as much as losing two kids to estrangement.

It took quite some time of mourning. This has been going on for about three years, perhaps longer. I have purposely not been timing it all, I don’t want to know. It just hurts too much. The mourning process has gone through the normal phases several times:
1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance.

The kids themselves may read this and laugh at the isolation part, but the truth is, when you do not share with others because of guilt and shame that makes it so that you are indeed, isolated. And while my husband has known since day one, and been very, very supportive–the isolation is still there. No one and I mean NO ONE, can feel the pain but me. And considering I am the one who has spent years and years with these kids (present husband is my 2nd and not the bio. father of the kids)—in my pain, I am utterly alone. I have been in and out of the anger part, too. Including the indignant, “how can they treat me this way?” That was an emotionally necessary phase to go through, but also a perfectly good waste of time. It doesn’t change anything, and the energy used could have been put to so much more efficient use. I’ve tried to bargain (and beg, and plead) with the kids, with the devil, with God, with my husband…. all to no effect. Another emotional necessity, total waste of time. Depression and me, well it just happens. This situation along with health issues that crept up on me have led me to drive away expecting to never come back alive. That was at the worst of it. I have dealt with long term depression over the kids. I believe that at the height of it, the struggle was in learning to finally let go. But, before I could do that, I had to return to mourning in a sort of way, this time as if they were dead. My children no longer walk in my world. They do not exist. They are no longer part of my thought process in terms of planning for the future– I have chosen to move forward without taking them into account for any part of my future. Firstly, they inherit nothing. When on my deathbed, they need not appear, for it would only torture me, and at that point, I’ll just want peace. Eventually, if I have my way we’ll sell our house and move far away, and they will not be informed where we (or I) will go. I do not want to be under their care when am old and fragile. And yes, husband is very aware of this attitude and agrees. I guess this whole process ended up with an acceptance in that there is nothing I can do about the situation, and nothing is going to change (ever as far as I can see), and so I might as well quit punishing myself, as it is not all my fault. In fact, most of it, if not all of it, is not my fault. I have children who need to grow up, and learn to communicate — depending on the child either they just need to learn new communication skills, or they need to think about what they say, and not say it out loud again, because if they are not going to change their ways, then they at least need to not admit to their mother what they said to the small child. It puts their mother in a very bad, bad spot–in that I will always choose the safety of a child, ANY child.

The last time I was estranged from my oldest, I waited until she was around 16 years old, and it then dawned on me that, I’d purposely chosen to stay in the same town so that when she was ready and able she could find me. I’d made a website dedicated specifically to her, a communication and invitation to come home. I went through all the same stages, in that I thought it through, and tried to figure out why, and I tried to bargain, beg and plead. I even legally tried to get her back. But at a point, I realized she was old enough to get what she wanted, and if she wanted me in her life she could choose to make contact. At that point, I lit a candle, and I said goodbye. I choose to move on.

Today, I have yet to light the candle, which I think will finalize the situation in my mind.
This time, I will light three. One for my mother, one for both daughters. In fact, maybe I will light six. Two others for other family members who are deceased, or that I am just not on good terms with because of the stress of these situations over the years. One for my own heart, and it’s healing, and a conscious renewal of health.

I’ll light these candles because emotionally it’s just time. But, I’ll also light those candles because of the physical toll this has taken on my body. One heart attack later, which was due specifically to the mourning process. I think this speaks volumes about how serious I have taken these situations, and also speaks to the very real and deep pain, I just need to let this go. For me to heal from this heart attack, I need to let go, and let myself live the most fully that I can with no more guilt, no more shame. It is time for me to stop the punishment and be best that I can be.

In a final note, to all the parents in similar situations, know… I feel your pain. There are websites (I very recently discovered) that are there for the specific reasons of supporting you. They have things for sale (if you wish) including self help books, and even memberships to supportive forums where you can talk to others in the same boat. But, there are even more FREE resources to help you through. In fact, it was through these free resources that I discovered that I was truly not alone, and that we parents who are estranged are a major portion of the population at large. Do not remain silent. Share your pain with others. Let go of the guilt and pain. Look for concrete ways to overcome and get on with your life. Light a candle, let it go, and move on before it kills you. Live your best life. If there is ever to be a reconciliation it will happen in it’s own time, when all parties are emotionally ready, and not before. Go outside and play!

Some search terms you may wish to put into any search engine (each is a link that will go through Google):

estranged parents blog, estranged family stories, how to deal with estranged child, estranged child birthday, accepting family estrangement,estranged child definition,family estrangement causes

Links to specific resources:

Psychology Today, The Persistent Pain of Parental Estrangement

PsychCentral, 5 Stages of Loss & Grief, Estranged from Your Adult Child? 5 Things You Can Do, For Parents of Adult Estranged Children

Huffpost, Children Who Break Your Heart: Some Expert Advice

Greater Good Magazine, How Parents Can Start to Reconcile with their kids

About PeggyAnn

Professional PC Consultant, Researcher, & avid people watcher, Peggy Ann Rowe started into her genealogical quest at age 15 after watching the mini-series, "Roots" with her parents. This new obsession has fueled her love of history, & study of cultures & societies in every epoch. Today she is 57 years old with four kids who are all grown up (& all have flown the coop). In between her 'gigs' with clients she volunteered at many different non-profits. Former President, Secretary, and Director at Large on the board of the Douglas County Historical Society for 10+ years, and former Secretary at the Cloverdale Historical Society (Sonoma County) for nearly 10 years. This website is an attempt to share the knowledge she has gained about her family ties with others who may be interested in the same things. She does not guarantee 100% accuracy and does hope that you will send corrections. To learn more about her, click the "about" button in the page menu. Thanks! Another goal of this website is to disseminate a message (i.e. education) about domestic violence, child abuse, and all forms of sexual abuse to society at large. The message comes from real experience from the whole spectrum of the violence from sexual abuse by a perpetrator to sexual abuse perpetrated by a husband, to the abuse of children within the family. Peggy has seen it, lived it, and been hurt by it. There will on occasion be details that might be hard for some people to read, and a warning is usually posted at the beginning of the essay so that those who want to turn and not read may do so. The only way to teach and to let others learn what to avoid is to SHARE what happened with every detail necessary to make the point. Thank you.
This entry was posted in Cardiac Health, Estrangement, Health, Mental Illnesses, Uncategorized, Women's Rights and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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