When estrangement feels right

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It’s not an easy decision to make

 

By Caitlin Kelly

It’s still a social taboo, to cut off contact with a parent or child and/or a sibling, sometimes for months or years, and sometimes forever.

Divorce is now almost banal in many cultures — but not estrangement from your family of origin, held up in most cultures as sacrosanct, the place they have to, and always will, take you in.

But that’s not true for many people, and I’m one of them.

My mother and I gave up our strained relationship in 2010 — 2011? — and while I send an annual Christmas card and letter, no reply. Having run through a large inheritance, she lives in a charity nursing home a seven hour flight away. I’m her only child, but a local woman my age made sure to be cruel to me, and triumphantly replace me.

The details are too tedious, and yes it hurts sometimes, but how much energy can you keep wasting on a relationship? Alcoholism and poorly managed mental illness, both in my mother, destroy many relationships. If one person isn’t willing to work with the other toward a tenable relationship, it ends.

And the break may come when things don’t look that bad to an outsider — but there’s been one final straw and decades of forbearance just explode. With the agency of adulthood, you’re done.

I recently had yet another fraught phone encounter with my father, one of too many over the decades. We’ve had years when we simply don’t speak or visit.

There are calm and affectionate periods when it all looks like it will be OK….and then it’s not.

Again.

 

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When every encounter feels like incoming warfare, flee!

 

I know why. I’ve read books and done therapy.

It’s difficult to dismiss your parents for good. They’re the only ones we get. As it is, one of my two half-brothers cut me off 11 years ago and didn’t invite us to his recent lavish wedding. (There are four adult children in our “family” — from four women, two wives, two affairs. It’s no Hallmark card.)

The damage that prolonged estrangement, if you wish otherwise, can inflict on one’s self-confidence is considerable — but no matter if you’re at midlife, being ignored or subjected to abusive language and anger are also corrosive and toxic.

I recently read a truly harrowing book whose author, badly abused for many years (emotionally) by her parents and siblings, also chose to cut them off — Tara Westover, author of the best-seller Educated. 

She grew up in rural Idaho and now lives in England.

I actually found her book re-traumatizing, between her family’s relentless verbal (and often physical) abuse, gaslighting and her unwillingness or inability to break free from all of it.

 

Have you ever been estranged from your family?

Did you resolve it?

 

61 thoughts on “When estrangement feels right

  1. rwh

    Oh wow, your post today really hit home for me. I’ve been estranged from my parents for 22 years. It was my choice to “take a break,” when my mother did something to my son that she had always done to me. That was too much. Like you said, to someone else it might have seemed pretty minor, but it was a last straw. Soon after, my mother demanded contact and I wasn’t ready. I got a message on my answering machine saying “call me by Sunday or I’ll know what you want from our relationship forever.” I didn’t call. And she cut off all contact. She died a few years ago, and because I didn’t contact her while she was sick (on the advice of my loving husband and close friends), it caused big problems with my only sibling. My father has chosen to continue the estrangement. He is in his 90s and I’m guessing I won’t see him. At this point he would think I was going for the inheritance, not a chance at a final relationship.

    When my kids were little, I found it unbelievable that my mother would not want to have a relationship with her grandchildren. Now that they are all adults, on their own, I am more shocked that she would choose to not have a relationship with me. I find the relationship I have with my adult children to be very rewarding, and I can’t believe that any parent would give that up.

    At one point, one of my children had a very serious illness, which required months in the hospital and multiple brain surgeries. This would have been a perfect time for my parents to get back in touch, as I was very much in need of love and care myself, in addition to what my son needed. At that time, they chose not to contact me at all. I found that unforgivable. That they couldn’t even contact me when their grandson might die. And really, that was the reason I did not contact my mother when she was dying.

    I try not to read the books, because I find myself, as you said, re-traumatized every time.

    As I look back, I am sad that things worked out the way they did. I was emotionally abused for years, something my sister did not experience, and it continues to be a problem between us. So I’m sad that my mother managed to not only kill the relationship between me and my parents, but also that between me and my aunts and me and my sister. But that was her goal. That was my punishment for not going along with her rules at all times.

    Oy, we could start a group and we’d never be done.

    Reba

    1. HUGS!

      So sorry you went through all that — but also comforting to know there are many many of us out there. It seems impossible that the people who (?!) chose to bear and raise us would be shitty and shut us out, but people choose the paths that feel most comforting.

      The woman who basically became my mother’s daughter (also my age, how creepy is this?) was SWEET AS PIE to me on my annual visits, even bringing me gifts…the minute my mother had to go into a nursing home (very suddenly), she was super helpful finding one in their shared city but shut me out as nastily and quickly as she could. adding in her daughter and sister for good measure. For all I know, they stole from my mother, who was then wealthy.

      Shitshow. This, after years of rescuing my mother from illness and breakdowns.

      1. rwh

        My sister did all that. I guess that’s easier than your situation. At least she’s family. Keeps up the childhood competition, though. Yes, shitshow. 🤯

  2. So sorry for your plight. We do not get to chose our family, we are dropped into them. We chose our friends and our partners. It is easier to chose wisely when we find the art of forgiveness is for ourselves more than for the other person. It’s best forgiven while they are alive, because once they are gone we will never have the opportunity to make amends. Many people become parents with baggage that hurts their children. It’s easiest to think they are hurting too. Look for positive common traits you share and build from there. My Dad died when I was a teenager. He was an imperfect alcoholic who could be difficult, but he was loved. It was often a struggle having no father. In my 20’s a wise mentor told me to always honor my mother no matter how she treats me. Send cards at holidays and birthdays, make a call a month, even if it goes unanswered. Visit occasionally. I am blessed for having the fortitude to follow that advice. I may have been a disappointment to her, I don’t know. It hurt that she visited other children and not me. It hurt that she was a grandmother to some, but not to mine. But in the end, she reached out when she needed me. In the end, she asked all of us to come say, ‘goodbye.’ And we were all there. Our differences didn’t matter and I am forever grateful for the moments she granted me over the course of my life. I’m thankful each time she chose to answer a phone call or visit. Each time I was able to assist her in some small way.

    1. Thanks.

      My mother and I had some good times, obviously, but I chose to leave her (careless in some ways) care at 14 (for good) to live with my father. My teen years with him were good…but after he re-married (surprise!) I was much less welcome in their home.

      He keeps urging me to fly to say goodbye to my mother (he will pay)…but she has told others she does not want to see me, so given how much I dislike long flights, this seems silly to me.

      If she indicated otherwise, I would consider it. But she has not.

      1. From personal experience, I’ve got to say that taking that trip to see your mother would be a good idea. That train is leaving the station and if your baggage isn’t on board, you’re gonna have to carry it. More soon, in my own comment, stay tuned.

      2. Kenny, she has said she does not want me to visit. I am not going to take a long flight to a city I don’t like to face more of her rejection and hostility. The way her surrogate daughter treated me — cruelly — was truly traumatic and I have been through a lot.

      3. I can smell what you’re cookin’ Rock, but this trip isn’t for her or for them, it’s for you. If there is nothing you need to say but haven’t said, it’s all good. But you wrote this so, with all love and sincerity, I have to say I doubt that.
        I took a break from commenting to write this; stick around for the nerve-shattering climax and see why I do.

      4. If you’re not up for the flight or the face to face, may I suggest a letter. Write it with your own hand on your good stationery and be as brutal as you can stand without feeling guilty, plus a little bit more in case you forget something, then send it to her. Remember it’s for you, not her, so don’t worry about her feelings and certainly don’t expect a love letter in return. In fact, I wouldn’t read it if you got one. Just please believe me, I know what I’m talking about. If she gets away without knowing in no uncertain terms what you have to say, that shit will haunt you, but dropping it on her doorstep can heal a lot of pain. Good honest advice from someone who cares. Vote for me.

  3. As you mention, addiction and/or mental health can be a big factor in family dynamics. I am estranged from my youngest brother because of addictions that caused him to bankrupt our mother (who was well into her 80s at the time). He never left home and now I know why. I can’t begin to tell you what it’s like to regularly get a call from your mother who is sobbing on the phone, begging for money because they have no groceries, electricity is about to be cut off and they can’t pay the rent. (He would make her call.) After years of trying to help, I realized all my brother wanted from me was money so I took a big step back. I still had to fight him (and my mother herself who believed all his lies) to extricate her from creditors and save what little income she had left. To this day, she looks on him as her golden child because he makes her feel needed, something she craves. But now she lives in a nice residence where I know she is safe, warm, has telephone service and 3 meals every day.

    1. What a nightmare!

      So sorry you and your mother were so manipulated; addicts (sorry if this offensive) can be the most brutally selfish people and inflict terrible harm on others, and not give a shit. Their remorselessness is appalling, no matter how much they struggle.

  4. I too have had experience with this, firstly with my own mother who I had to put distance between when I was a young woman, but after 15 years or so we reunited, things had changed by then. In her final years alive, her memory had dissolved much of her past, and she no longer manipulated so I was able to love her with fresh eyes. However, I again experienced a similar thing my adult son which pained me to the core yet have learned that thru acceptance, I can let that person simply be. Ive grown through my pain but its certainly not an easy road to hoe….. ahhhh. life!

  5. I have four sisters and a mother. My big sister and I are thick as thieves. We are there to support one another and share good times as well as bad. My other three sisters, not so much.
    I haven’t spoken a dozen words to my youngest sister since 1993. She would come, selling the drama and leaving me sad, angry and confused. My eventual unwillingness to eat the poison donut didn’t gain me any points with the rest of the tribe. I mean, how could I?
    The next sister up the ladder was on good terms with me until I got married. For some reason she got the idea that Cathy was some kind of snotty rich girl who thought she was better than her, an opinion held by many others in my family. This turned to real, honest to God hate when my father died. More on that later.
    Last but not least, my younger sister. There is no animosity here, only indifference. She never has anything real to talk about. That’s what happens when you don’t know anything about art or science, but refuse to talk about sex, politics or religion.
    Then there’s my dad. I was forty three when he died. I had been waiting thirty five years.
    I went to see him about two weeks before he died. I thanked him for showing me how to be a man .I then explained that this learning came from his bad example more than his good example. I reminded him of what I never was able to forget, of the time he beat me with his belt in a thirty minute interrogation over a minor transgression I was not guilty of. After he found that he couldn’t beat “the truth” out of me, he got angry and knocked me across the room with the back of his hand, following up by throwing his belt at me, busting my lip and knocking out one of my teeth. All over a stinking bag of jelly beans.
    He walked out before I got up, tears in my eyes and blood in my teeth, so he never saw the look on my face. I wasn’t angry over the pain or the blood, it was much bigger.
    I had friends who had solid relationships with their fathers, who admired them and likely still do. On that day I learned to fear my father, to shrink from the touch of his hand. He murdered my hero and my sister isn’t ready to hear about it, so there’s that.
    I love my mother, but I damn sure don’t like her. She shares the snotty rich girl idea, so my Cathy never feels welcome in her home. I don’t know what she does when I’m not around, but I know she likes to hold me up to ridicule even when I ask her not to, that she thinks bipolar disorder is something you can just snap out of and that it’s okay to talk about my business with anyone, any time it suits her.
    There’s my jacked up family. I wish none of this was true but there it is. The only one I might ever owe an apology is dead. He got on the train and he took my baggage with him. I don’t hate him anymore, we’re even.

      1. I have made it clear over the years that my family is elected. Any names or common DNA are completely accidental. Sadly, this doesn’t stop a lot of my “Family members” from engaging in a little emotional blackmail from time to time. I push back, but no harder than I must. Sometimes, more’s the pity, that’s pretty hard. No matter, though, it’s what I do to survive.
        I guess I didn’t make this clear so I will try this again. I wholeheartedly support any decision you make regarding this matter, this is because you are one of an extremely short list of people I know from the internet that I refer to as friends, and that place of friendship is where my words come from. I speak honestly with my friends. Someone who won’t isn’t much of a friend, I think.
        So, whatever you do or don’t do, I hope it works out for the best.

  6. Jann Jasper

    Caitlin, You will surely hear some well-meaning people urge you to stay in touch/visit your mother, but given what she’s put you through, I completely understand why you don’t plan to. You’ve “turned the other cheek” quite long enough. In my opinion, that you are no longer willing to be subjected to your mother’s emotional abuse is appropriate, and it’s actually a testament to how emotionally healthy you are.
    Aside from that, it’s quite an education to read here about what you and many of your readers have been through with their parents and siblings. It’s Shakespearean. I can’t say I’m lucky that my father and brother died so young, but it did spare me from any chance of them turning into terrible people in middle age. In contrast, my mother and I were extremely close; she died two and a half years ago, and I’m still devastated. Yes, I know we were lucky to be so close, but that makes her loss hurt so very much,

  7. With my siblings, it could’ve gone to estrangement. We never got along as kids, and we all had a hand in that. Thankfully, we’ve all matured over the years, and learned not to push each others buttons. I’m actually pretty friendly with one sister, we’re planning on going to see a movie together in May and visit an exhibit at some point before September.
    So I guess I’ve been lucky in my way.

  8. caitlin, i can so identify with much of your story. over time, i was able to do what i needed to do to maintain my own balance and peace of mind and leave the rest behind. but there was much in between and a part of it will always stay with me. don’t feel a pressure to reconnect, when you feel you have done what you need to do to feel better and live a happier life.

    1. Thanks…I don’t think anyone ever WANTS estrangement (ideally) but it’s such a waste of energy when others won’t reconcile. I’ve made clear I am willing to make up with my youngest half brother (even though his reason is still bullshit)…but nope.

  9. Boy, you really touched a nerve with this post, I was surprised by the emotional reaction of your readers as they shared similar stories. Just when you think you’re the only one who has suffered abuse from a family member and then estrangement. My mother died in 1997. Aside from seeing my sister in a lawyer’s boardroom in 2000 (because I took her to court), that’s the last time I’ve seen her. Nearly 20 years. We’re definitely estranged (it’s easy when I’m in Paris and she’s in Toronto.) The reason for the necessity of estrangement is this: self-preservation. My life is definitely calmer and more serene with her not in it.

    Don’t listen to people who tell you you should jump on a plane and go see your mother. Tell them to mind their own business. Only YOU know what’s best for YOU.

    1. Exactly.

      I really never know what’s going to hit a nerve and resonate most deeply — and am often quite surprised. But so many people face this issue of estrangement and face it alone and don’t talk about it.

      The closest my mother and I have lived since I was 14 — ironically — was when I was 25 and lived in Paris and she lived in Bath. Now my father is a 10 hr drive in Ontario, the mean half brother a 5 hr drive in DC and the other half brother in Toronto.

      The half sister? Have never even met her.

  10. I’ve been disowned a handful of times by my mom and dad, and then my mom.

    After my dad died, an odd dynamic evolved with me, my mom and my sister. I never did quite understand but I honestly think 1)My mom liked my sister better 2)My mom felt in some odd way that she had to make up for the fact that I had children and my sister had chosen not too. So I was estranged from them periodically when they had their dynamic of excluding me. Was really never clear why it had to be this way.

    Fast forward to today. My sister had some very troubling episodes due to her alcoholism. My mom and I don’t talk to her presently. If my sister would deal with her alcoholism, maybe things would be different. I run into people occasionally who ask about my sister…..I don’t say much but I don’t tell them we are estranged.

    1. This stuff is hard! It is shocking to me — and not so much — how messy this gets and how it shifts over time, even if it gets better for a while. I have had entire years I won’t speak to my father — now he’s 90. We don’t have a lot of time left to play games., but neither will I tolerate more bullshit. It’s very difficult.

  11. Hey Broad..reading this has reminded me of the experience I had with my dad .Though it was a different case I decided to put my foot down and told him that I was being affected by how he used to speak to me..it wasn’t the easiest thing to do..I was afraid of his feedback..But I was more afraid of piling up hurtful feelings that could have turned me into a bitter person .I prayed to God that he softens my father’s heart so he could hear me out(it’s hard to get him to listen–)..I sent him the long message pouring out my heart ..I was ready to face my doom..Funny enough.. There was no doom..he acknowledged his wrong..something that shocks me up to now…our relationship isn’t perfect..but it has at least evolved.. Even if he hadn’t acknowledged his wrong ..I would still be glad today that I sent that message. Am praying for you.
    Prayer does work.
    Try seeking Jesus about your relationship.

  12. My dad passed away months ago and we weren’t terribly close: two people who happened to live in the same house, like roommates who don’t bother each other. Well, I bothered him more asking if he needed anything from the store or any help as his health was failing, but as he died a little more each day he got more bitter and we couldn’t see eye to eye on anything. The only thing that we could stay in the same room for was a good classic movie on TCM–otherwise, I avoided where he was because of FUX news and his frothing-at-the-mouth politics. What sucks is he wrote a note saying he was sorry about the pain I’d go through and that I’d made him happy when he was alive.

    And he couldn’t tell me any of this or acknowledge me to my face because…??? I thought I annoyed the hell out of him and couldn’t do anything right for myself.

    I’ve recently discovered (and wrote about yesterday) the possibility of emotional neglect as a child and young adult. This goes for my mother, too. She’s a permanent workaholic and when I get to remembering more and more of what I actually experienced as a child beyond emotions and what I was told, I wonder why she bothered having me. Last year she mailed me a bunch of stuff I didn’t even ask for or remember having, and I was puzzled. She basically said that she taught me better about gratitude and why should she leave any inheritance to somebody so ungrateful. She texted that twice and it’s been about a year since we’ve spoken to each other (other than texting her my new landline number just in case). Dunno why, except I just couldn’t put my finger on why we could never connect with each other. I’d try, but she’d be so into what she was doing or saying or thinking that I stopped trying.

    I’m sure she and my nearest cousins get along a lot better, and I’ve avoided the whole family on Facebook or elsewhere because I just can’t get along and don’t even know any of them anymore…and as I’ve been questioning faith and such, I really can’t stand being preached to by people who stare blankly or don’t believe how much they’ve hurt me and others over the years. I’m trying to learn how to move on and maybe revitalize a relationship, but I’ve barely started so I’m not there yet.

    1. So so so sorry to read this.

      It is really shocking to me — and deeply saddening — that people bother to procreate when they have no tools to NURTURE their children who then spend the rest of their/our lives wondering what we did so wrong (nothing) to “deserve” neglect or worse. It is very damaging.

      The best option is therapy and as many deeply loving and loyal friends as one can find and keep.

      People who hurt others that much are also deeply hurting and can’t or won’t see the damage they inflict.

  13. I went through something similar. I’m 21, nearly 22, and cut most ties with my adoptive family when I left for college 4 years ago. I went back to visit about 2 years ago and my adoptive mother and I got into it. She’s elderly and I suggested she re-home her dogs (she has 6) when I noticed that 2 of them were completely covered in fleas. I mean, they had no fur, they were coated in the parasites. I cried because they were so bad off. When I brought this up she started screaming about how I was disrespectful and threatened to kick me out. 3 days later I left the country. I didn’t look back. I recognized by that point how much her presence in my life was damaging me. In the 3 weeks I visited I became suicidal again.
    I struggled with self-confidence issues growing up, and they were only compounded by the verbal abuse I received from her. I began self harming as a result of my self-hatred and made 3 attempts on my life in high school. She was toxic, and she spread that. She told stories about me to her family about how I was abusing her mentally, when in actuality I would remove myself from our altercations and hide in my room. It got to the point where I wouldn’t leave my room if I thought she might see me. It hurts thinking I’m not going to have anyone at my college graduation, but even my education has alienated me from them. So ya, it sucks sometimes but I know I’m better off now.

    1. I am so so sorry to read this!

      I have no idea why (?!!!) anyone would choose to adopt a child — and then be cruel to them.

      My stepmother and I used to have screaming fights when I was in high school (she was only 13 years my senior and not a nurturing person) — and my father would be far far away on business (overseas) for up to a month. I was glad to leave home at 19.

      I hope things ARE better for you….

  14. Deborah Bowers

    Hi, I am a new blogger. I’m checking out other blogs and your topic of estrangement was interesting to me. I know I could talk to you about estrangement. Each relationship we have is unique and that moment we become estranged is clear for one side and perhaps very foggy for the other side. I know that some people are more aware of how they come across or how they affect someone else, than others are.

    I am estranged from several people, but, oddly enough, it is my adopted daughter who has taught me that estrangement can be overcome. Overcome is the wrong word. What I mean is that my adopted daughter and I have learned just how much time we can spend together when we are both up to it. So, our relationship goes on. Our relationship is current. My other estrangements have not been this successful. Those relationships are stuck in the past. Contact is completely cut off. I truly wish that my other family members could learn from what my daughter and I have done. My daughter and I are mostly not in touch, but in our mutual good moments we connect and it’s mutually beneficial. Truthfully, this is normally only about one hour’s worth of time every few months. But I find it to be a good thing. I committed to this when I decided to adopt.

    I wish that my other family members had forgiven me, spoken with me about the exact thing I did to offend them, listened to exactly what it was they did that offended me, ( or that I took offense at). We could tailor make our relationship. That’s what my daughter and I did. We tailor made our relationship. That is what I wish all people could do.

    I took my adoptive daughter into our home when she was 9. She had been sexually and physically abused by birth parents. In fact, that set of parents went to prison for the crimes they committed against this little girl who later became my daughter. It’s complicated.

    She’s got anxiety, she’s unable to bond with one man and stay in a relationship. She has a personality disorder. She’s known in town as “Crazy M” (not going to use her name, just her first initial). She’s so hard to get along with that her doctor won’t be her doctor and most of the landlords in town won’t ever rent to her again. And yet, she and I can randomly run into one another and catch up on how we both are. She has developmental delays that she has never been able to overcome either. The challenges for her are many. The challenges for me are many, but we didn’t give up on each other. That’s the part that amazes me. She didn’t give up on me and I didn’t give up on her. We have taken many months off from speaking. What she does in that time, I normally don’t want to know about given that she is a bipolar with drug and alcohol addictions.

    I can tell how she will be to get along with each time now, just by the sound of her voice. I’ve gotten that good at telling how it will go if we converse. Sometimes I refuse her because I know how badly it will go. Other times she is pleasant and we can talk a little, laugh a little, and maybe even go to lunch for an hour.

    That’s it! That’s the best we get. Has it been worth it? Well, yes, because my goal was to become to her what my mother had been to me. I am always open to her, if she can be nice. When she isn’t nice, I take my space away from her. What so good about what we hammered out is that our relationship is current, not stuck in the past. That, for me, is a gift. I deeply wish that my other family members could have been able to give that to me, too.
    Thank you for your time.

    1. That’s a lot of love and a lot of open-ness to her — and what a terrible childhood to even survive. She is lucky to have you in her life.

      My half brother, 23 years my junior, cut me off after his mother died 11 years ago — after she (dying) and I had an argument. I ma hardly delighted that these were our last words — she then banned me from their home when she died; I was not invited to her memorial and i was omitted from the obit that ran in the national newspaper where I used to be a reporter.

      No one has ever acknowledged to me how bitter and angry she was at dying young (63) and horribly of lung cancer…as anyone could have been. But there was a lot of really ugly drama flying around that family and a lot of ugly stuff poured “safely” into my ear — and then I was shut completely out. I had known her for 40 years.

      So, yeah, this stuff is heavy and dark and goes on for a long long long time — if no one is willing to MUTUALLY discuss it.

      1. Deborah Bowers

        I just found my way back here. I’ve been putting lots of my photos of horses and my paintings on my blog this morning. Being new to blogging I have much to learn about what things are, how to use them and what they are called. I get lost in all of the different sites and pages I am seeing.

        Thank you for responding to me. I am sorry about your experience. I can imagine the woman’s pain and anger while being so ill. I get very crabby with just a small irritation of some kind. I’m not proud of that.

        My own dad died at 64 of colon cancer. He wasn’t an angry man though, he was sad to die that way and it was too soon.

        I have two siblings with whom I am not close. It is they that I wish would work as hard at staying current in my life as my daughter has, but the “not speaking to each other” continues. My mother, our mother, is still living and hasn’t had her 3 children in the same room for about 18 years. I wish, for her sake, that we could at least speak civilly. People seem to reach a limit and then quit- forever. I think it takes a lot of strength and energy to try to understand how someone else’s brain works, what they value and how they communicate. I wish my siblings had given me as much effort as I have given to and for my daughter.

        The one really cool thing that my daughter did for me was this. She asked me to be in the room when 2 of her 4 children were born. I would have been in the room for the 3rd, but she had a placental abruption and had surgery. I was right there when the little lad was placed under a warming light though. The 4th little one was born and my daughter let me know about him a day after he was born. She was with a nice man at the time, so I didn’t mind. Being present for two births was amazing and I felt honored by her.
        She was unable to parent the children and they were all taken or signed away by her. That’s another story for another time.

        I wish that my sister and my brother would allow me to start over, to let us all sit and review our lives and how we saw things as we grew and changed. It would be an amazing thing, like being in the room when someone is born. Talk about a cool concept.

      2. People like to stick to their scripts —- their version of “what happened” and how they were right. Getting past that can be impossible. Also — not worth it.

      3. Deborah Bowers

        That is my experience also. Forgiveness and/or coming to a better understanding takes exceptional people. I find them rare. I have a friend or two who have been able to accept feedback. I have tried to learn how to accept feedback also. It’s not easy. People have to feel safe to do that. People grow…sometimes. They give me hope about the rest.

      4. I’ve given up on my half-brother. It is likely to be a very ugly scenario when my father dies — and 4 adults (one of whom I have never even met) all show up to see what has been left to us.

      5. Deborah Bowers

        I have apprehension about having to deal with my siblings when my mother dies, (assuming that she dies before I die just based on age). I don’t take life or death for granted. If we could go back to a time when we agreed on something I’d feel better. But there I go again wishing for things that they don’t care to do. …and yes, death has a way of making people very emotional and not very nice to each other.

      6. rwh

        My mother did die. 3 years ago. It was a year of misery for her. Though my sister and I tried to be friendly while she was alive, this time made a bad situation worse. My mother had done all she could to label me the black sheep and my sister the angel over many years. She managed to damage that relationship plus all the aunt ones, too. When my sister wanted me to visit her while she was dying, I refused (which was my husband’s recommendation). My sister can’t “forgive” me. She never believed any of the small number of things I told her to explain why we were estranged over the years and that I wouldn’t visit as she was dying was horrible and unforgivable to her.

        I had hoped we would get closer after our mother was gone. We have had small times of positivity, then she brings all the hurt and anger up and flashes the giant diamond my mother wore that she now wears, and it ends.

        My father is still alive, and old. He never tried to have any contact with me when I was estranged, though the fault lay mostly with my mother. I’m afraid to reach out now (I’m not sure I want to, but I have considered it) because he will accuse me of just wanting his fortune.

        I wish I could tell you things got much better after she was gone. They got somewhat better because the pressure to defend myself constantly is gone, but they still have a way to torment you and continue to affect the other relationships, even after they’re gone. I hope you have a better time than I have when the time comes.

      7. Thanks.

        I fully expect the 3 other siblings (if the 3rd one, who I have never even met) shows up — to be weird. One is a millionaire. One is married to a rich woman (the one who hates me.) Two of them were not raised by my father so have a lot of anger and resentment about how great our lives were with him === which is a fantasy. It’s all insane.

      8. Deborah Bowers

        I have a good relationship with my mother now and have for a number of years. She doesn’t take feedback very well, so certain topics are off limits. I have learned that I have to talk about those off limit topics with people who are not she. We talk about the things she’s willing to talk about. My mother has always been on my side. I believe she has always been on the side of my brother and sister also. My sister, the oldest, has never quite recovered from my birth, though. I came second. She’s just never liked me. That’s really hard to fix.

        My brother has different issues. So, we just aren’t close. None of us three likes to be told what to do and each of us is really good at being bossy. So, there we are.

      9. Deborah Bowers

        Yes, and if they’ve never figured out what exactly they are angry about and dealt with it, it will explode at the smallest trigger. Besides, in grief people yell at whoever is around, guilty of something against them or not.

      10. Deborah Bowers

        I will say this. My adopted daughter was so hard to deal with that I learned that any small positive thing, the least little goodness, was to be appreciated. I did a painting about it called Glimmers of Light. I learned to be glad of the smallest gesture or word from her that was not hostile, foul (and believe me she can use foul, vulgar language), or rude or demanding. So, instead of having very high expectations of people, I can, when I think about it and mentally prepare, know that there may only be small moments of time to be thankful for. Go for those. Having no control over others, leaves only ourselves to have control over. So, look for any tiny, small piece of light or goodness or lack of attack even and acknowledge those inside your own self. This is what my daughter showed me that I am able to do. Acknowledge the smallest, tiniest, Glimmer of Light. God bless you and your efforts to work with your family in the days ahead. Then go home and take good care of yourself again. This is all that I know to do.

      11. Deborah Bowers

        We call that “survival mode” at our house. Just trying to survive to the best of our ability. I wish you only good things.

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