With each year (albeit the still-on-occasional set back) I’m more apt to delve a bit further into the silent issue of family estrangement and write openly. One of the main reasons for this blog is to let you know how much I care; those who decided to stop contacting a family member and those who had little say in your estrangement.
Since before divorcing end of 2012, family estrangement has been at the forefront of my life. I’ve been paralyzed with fear coming forth in my writing. Though now, at this point in my journey, I’m much healthier, more accepting. Vulnerability is part of my lexicon and I intend to muscle her up a bit. There is no soapbox. Only one voice willing to talk about something unpleasant, something that makes one squirm. To this day, estrangement has given me an undeniable quest for meaning of family.
During the first several years, it caused unspeakable pain, serious depression, suicidal thoughts, an uprise of anxiety, significant and brutal feelings of unworthiness, isolation and self-loathing. The grief of estrangement is unlike the grief of a death: one is finite, the other, ambiguous: both require their own processes in their own timing. One is not more painful than the other, they simply differ.
There’s a couple of notions about estrangement I’d like to talk about, here, and in future posts. Not necessarily to dispel myths, rather, discuss certain assumptions.
You obviously were the cause of the estrangement. I thought you were a good mom. What happened is your fault.
This is a biggie, if not the biggest assumption for most.
We are all responsible for our actions. No one is immune to consequences. Took me a good couple of years to figure this one out. When one finds herself knee-deep in the rabbit hole, she ain’t thinking too much about consequences for her actions. Yet, with each passing year, clarity reigns, as does acknowledgement for poor decisions I made years ago. My children were 17 and 21 at the time. Essentially they had two distraught parents that were so consumed with their own unhappiness, they weren’t emotionally available. This didn’t happen overnight. As their mom, I held on tightly to the notion – the illusion of family. Marriage was dissolving yet family was everything. I would do whatever I could to keep it together. This would become the main ingredient, losing myself in such a way, destructive behavior seemed the only way out. The girls suffered because of me and my decisions. The amount of remorse can not be measured. This, I accept.
Understanding unconditional love.
Mom used to say, “I never gave you enough guidance. Better to love unconditionally than to have limits on those we love.” Like mom, I raised my girls with the kind of unconditional love given me. Like mom, there were few restrictions laid upon them to be someone other than who they wanted to be. I nurtured that most of all. It came as easily as breathing.
Perhaps therein lies the problem: I gave my girls too much power in allowing them to be themselves, yet not guide them by questioning how others might feel. All this talk of letting people be themselves without apology gets mixed up somehow. Where is compassion? Empathy for others? Did I not demonstrate the kind of compassion I felt toward others?
As mentioned a time or two before, there are no do-overs in the book of parenting. You don’t get that make-up test or extra credit points years after raising them. Yet, here’s what you get with unconditional love: a life-long journey of self-realization; the kind of love that blossoms with joy, contentment, curiosity and awe.
Loving my children is the most important teacher I know, yet it is not what sustains a relationship in and of itself. Dig deeper. There is far more there….
What has unconditional love taught you?
We’ll find each other soon. ❤