Remember this. There is no job security, be it a CEO, a President, or a parent. Yes, your parent credentials are constantly up for review. You can be fired without cause at any moment. There is no HR to appeal to. Appealing to your son or daughter goes unanswered. The silence is excruciating.
Estrangement is not in any parenting book. There are no signs to warn you about the slippery road ahead.
Unless a child’s estrangement happens to you, it may seem like some weird thing that happens to others, not to you. You may have heard of cases where grandparents, whose estranged child uses the grandchildren as a cudgel and won’t allow their parents to see their grandchildren. Some grandparents sue for visitation rights, a harrowing road of legal maneuvers, days in court, pleading with judges.
Everyone’s story of estrangement is unique but no less heart wrenching. Yes, some parents are drunks, addicts, batterers, crazy, money-sucking bastards who deserve what they get – to be estranged by their children – but just as many parents who are drunks, addicts, batterers, crazy, money-sucking bastards are still loved, watched over and cared for by their children. This is what makes estrangement so insidious…you don’t know if the ground you are walking on is a minefield or just a rocky path. You don’t know until after your fateful misstep.
My story is about a thousand oblivious cuts, little things that happened along the way in a parental relationship that became an irreparable wound that cannot be healed.
My younger son chose to click delete.
I consulted a therapist to see if she could ‘do anything’. I thought she might have some helpful insight but as I was talking to her, telling her my story, I realized I was doing everything I could to cope – read books, blogs, forums on estrangement – all offering useless tips about how to carry on with your life, about letting go, moving on, insisting “You can still be happy!”
One popular book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, has an appealing title because who wants to cry their whole life? Sadly, it is just more of the same pathetic advice. I don’t blame the author who went through this nightmare herself, it’s just that there are no answers. What I really want to know was how to get my son back. I’d pay any amount of money or walk on glass if someone could help me. However, it’s a completely unrealistic expectation.
The human mind is capable of many things from believing liars to spinning the truth to accommodate one’s personal vision of the world. Who knows what my son was thinking or how he arrived at the decision to erase me from his life. I’m not a psychic.
There are groups on Facebook that allow parents of estranged children to rant, grieve and question what happened.
I log into the groups every so often so I can see that I’m not alone. The posts and comments are gut wrenching and sickening. The groups are mainly comprised of mothers, trying their best to support each other often with virtual hugs. Why am I reading this stuff? What am I doing to myself? Sometimes it feels like self-harm, a need to be punished for being a bad mother, a bad person.
Reading comments from desperate parents is heartbreaking and then I remember I am one of them. Their grievances are haunting. How could my children betray me? How did I raise someone to be so cruel? My son didn’t torture cats or stand over me with a knife while I was sleeping (that I know of.) There were no psychopathic traits, nothing to prepare me for abandonment and for being so viciously reviled. So vicious that it still cuts like a Samurai sword.
There are support groups for children who chose to estrange.
I try and get a handle on their mindset. Why did they choose to do that? Some you understand and some you don’t. Some adult children seem petty, narcissistic, entitled, while others made a decision to get away from controlling, manipulative, or toxic parents. I have no idea where I fit in this paradigm of rejection. Apologizing to the aggrieved for your missteps, practically begging for empathy, doesn’t even garner a response. Loving mothers make mistakes but it’s too late for apologies the silence seems to say. Everyone is miserable. The hostility is chilling.
Never-ending self-blame, going over every moment of life searching for clues, is a thankless pastime. Some things are unknowable. Relationships involve two people. I take full responsibility for my end, heck, I’ll take ALL the blame for lousy behavior, misreading situations, for not being an ideal mother.
The question is, is it better to have an ongoing contentious relationship rather than an estrangement?
Is there any benefit to maintain ties when the parties are at odds, to keep the home fires burning just in case there’s a break in the case? My brain is scrambled, feeling helplessly confused.
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I am many things. As are you. I am a proud mother, ex-wife friends with my wasband, opinionated, skeptic, coffee lover, hate the heat/love the cold. I say I hate everything and sometimes I really do. Love nature, swimming (but I don’t like to get wet…go figure). Enchanted by babies. This is just scratching the surface, of course. We navigate this world essentially blind and hope to come out reasonably unscathed but, sometimes, we are scorched. There is no alternative but to move onward, so, onward we go!