Guarding Your Heart: Coping With Parental Estrangement

Four months ago I missed my granddaughters’ birthday party because I was in the ER with a severe case of vertigo. Because this wasn’t the first event I missed in the last three years my eldest daughter, Taryn, decided she had enough of me disappointing her and thus began a punishment of my being denied visitation of my grandchildren. I admit I missed a few things in the three years after Konnor died when I was struggling with the aftermath of his death.

I never said I was a perfect person, I made my share of mistakes in my life. I claim them as my own and I worked very hard to make amends if I could and move forward. I am human, I have carried the weight of my guilt by the choices I made that affected my children and myself. I struggled with my own issues of insecurities and self-worth. I am a mother but I am also a person who had no clue what I was doing at times. I was winging it with no direction from anyone. Yet I did the best I could.

Grief can consume you. And for me it did. It took me a long time to deal with the sudden death over my grandson in 2015. I now realize I may have suffered post traumatic stress from what I witnessed in the ER. The vision of my grandson on that gurney will never go away. Ever.

Maybe this isn’t an excuse for missing out on events that were important to Taryn. But it is a reason. A reason for not being myself. I would have hoped reason enough for forgiveness. But her heart isn’t open for that.

Parental estrangement is more common than I imagined. In researching this painful phenomenon I found writer Sheri McGregor and her Book “Done With The Crying” written to help and heal Mothers of estranged adult children. Joining the online community I heard many stories similar to my own.

I understand anger, disappointment and even resentment. I do not understand removing yourself and your children from your mother’s life knowing how hurtful and damaging that would be. Especially knowing what I suffered after the death of her nephew and my grandson Konnor.

I love her, I love my grandchildren. I wish my daughter would have talked to me about how she felt when I missed the first or even second event if she felt disappointed. You know, “wake up Mom you’re missing it” kind of thing.

In an article posted by The New York Times, three reasons were noted for estrangement. The son or daughter chose between the parent and someone or something else, such as a partner. In others the adult child was punishing the parent for a “perceived wrongdoing” or a difference in values. Other parents also included divorce, domestic violence and failing health as stressors. I figure I enter in the wrongdoing role.

In the immediate realization that my daughter was not answering my phone calls or my text messages, I was hurt. Then once the reality of the situation set in and my requests to talk to her were denied I went into fear and panic mode.

My apologies and my requests to see my granddaughters were ignored. Now I had begun to lose all sense of control, feelings of self-worth, loss of dignity and my self-respect. The person I became in those text messages and emails was someone who clearly was frightened of losing those whom they held close.

When I told my daughter I was crying, not eating and generally upset by all that was happening I was told I was being dramatic. Yes, I guess I was. I only had a few joys in my life and I was being punished from seeing the few I had left. That hurt and it was unfair.

I clearly was not myself the two years after Konnor passed away. I was struggling with my grief while I was trying to figure out how to maintain a career in this new person that I had become. I had issues with my other three adult children in the aftermath that added to my stress. I still had to be “Mom” I still had to try to keep myself together enough so I could be counted on at least partially for those that had needs. This year I just started to feel somewhat normal or so I thought.

Some psychologists and even a friend remarked, “a child who does this is unkind, selfish and lacking all aspects of empathy. Unless of course, if there is psychological, sexual or physical abuse.”

I have never wanted to think of my child this way. Her sister, Konnor’s mother, had estranged from me after years of us struggling in our relationship and of me tolerating her verbal abuse. I decided not to reconcile this relationship as it was very unhealthy for me. Taryn had often commented on her being an “awful human being.” Yet here she was inflicting the very same pain on me. Withholding her children from me just as her sister is. I never would have thought this was in Taryn’s character.

Nobody deserves to be erased from their grandchild’s life. What does my granddaughter think? That I just abandoned her?

I thought about what Sheri McGregor wrote in her book. “Think about your own childhood. Almost all of us remember things our own parents did that could be characterized as mistakes. But most of us wouldn’t dream of severing the relationships. So, why today, do so many adult children cast off their parents and even their entire families?”

My daughter also without cause cut off all ties with her brother and deleted him from social media. Why? What did he do to her other than try to get her to talk with me because he saw me crying over her. He displayed empathy and was disowned for it.

Some psychologists and psychiatrists say the reason adult children take flight is because they feel a sense of relief. Why? They lack the ability to address and resolve problems and conflict with their mother; it is too much for them to handle. I also learned most daughters walk away from their mothers between the ages of 25 to 35. My daughter is 33.

I decided I had to let my daughter have her space without begging to be in it. I will not ask to see my granddaughters anymore. With her decision to punish me by taking them away, there will always be another opportunity to do so. In my opinion, she made it loud and clear how she feels about me.

Any further attempt to talk or reach out in any form is just harmful to myself. The longer I keep thinking about it, wishing it could be different is just detrimental to my healing. She has the right to live her life without me in it. I have to let go. Not one person is looking to protect my heart from further harm other than myself.

I have to guard my heart. I don’t like the me that begs, pleads and feels ashamed.

I have to stop focusing on the hurt and the pain this is causing me. I have two children that do love me. I have to remain focused on the things that bring me happiness and be thankful for all that I have and all that I continue to be blessed with.

I continue to learn everyday from mistakes I make and strive to be a better person. I continue to grow spiritually and mentally. Despite the sadness over losing those I thought I held close I can continue to move forward in love.

Update January 2019: I later discovered other issues that caused my daughter to estrange. However, I firmly believe that with communication and understanding, all issues can be resolved. She has not shown she is open to any of this.

Update March 2019: My daughter and I have reconciled. We are spending time together and have discussed the issues. I hope in forgiveness we can continue to move forward and resume the closeness we once had.

“My how the last few months have changed
I’m smilin’ more despite the pain
I breathe in, I breathe out
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t workin’, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussin’ out
Now and then I let it go, I ride the waves I can’t control
I’m learnin’ how to build a better boat”
~Song By Kenny Chesney

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Grieving Grandmother to Konnor Mason who passed suddenly at eight years old on November 22, 2015. With this blog I hope to share my thoughts and feelings as I move forward through grief toward hope and healing.

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