I’ve read many of your articles; you are a very good writer. You are capable of conveying your thoughts, a breath of fresh air in this quantity over quality driven society.
One thing that I have yet to read about from you, though, is how your daughter reacted when you apologized to her. It had to have been very difficult for her to see your depression when she was younger, coupled with your now ex-husband’s addiction, and then the loss of the home she grew up in, her family, her horses.
I’m certain you passed much of your perfectionism on to your children. I would bet that they, your estranged daughter especially, endured criticism disguised as advice from you. What did she say when you told her you were sorry for not recognizing that she was doing her best considering the circumstances?
You’re unabashedly self-acquitted, so I can only assume she has forgiven you also. Otherwise, how could you forgive yourself for the wrongs done to someone else? You seem to be quite self-aware, so I would think you would know the difference between forgiving yourself for your failings and someone else forgiving you.
Beth, you are not a martyr. You’ve wrapped yourself up in this melodrama where you are the long-suffering wife and mother whose tragic fate has befell her and, through no actions of her own, has become estranged from her daughter for nearly a decade. It seems to be a huge part of your identity. But look at how much you’ve grown! You are such a strong person, able to forgive yourself for damaging your daughter so deeply that she had to remove herself from your life as soon as she came of age. Look at how compassionate and understanding you are! You’ve forgiven yourself, so all is right in the world.
You advise a commenter that she should look within herself to find compassion for her estranged mother and try to understand the situations that caused her mother to become the person she is, and to forgive her her transgressions.
This is just victim blaming, and you’re projecting what you wish for yourself into her situation.
You want your daughter to forgive you, but you haven’t apologized to her.
Your daughter was justified in breaking contact with you, and you know what you did that caused it. Having had negative things happen to you in the past does not give you a get out of jail free card. It’s your responsibility as a mother to not pass on your pain to your children. If you have not learned how to do this, it’s up to you as a parent to seek the assistance of someone who is able to help.
I have been non-contact with my parents twice in my life, the first time from the age of 17 when I went to the store to grab a soda and could not bring myself to walk the 150 m back to my parent’s house. I didn’t reconnect with them until I was 23. The second time I broke contact with them was when I was 27. I’m now 36 and I have yet to attempt to reconnect with them, despite my mother’s subject-line-only birthday and Christmas emails telling me she hopes life is all I anticipated it would be.
I recently learned that before my little sister was born, I had another sister who I don’t have any memory of. My little sister is essentially the “replacement” for her. I don’t know what happened to the little one, but I know where she is buried, as my mother informed my little sister at my sister’s husband’s father’s funeral that our father wishes to be buried with the little one when he dies.
Throughout my life, I have always felt I could do nothing good enough for my parents. My little sister was invariably treated very differently from me. I don’t resent her for it, but I wondered what I had done that made me so contemptible. Learning of my parent’s tragedy has allowed me to realize it wasn’t actually me that wasn’t good enough, it was impossible for me to live up to the unlimited potential of my deceased sister. The way my little sister was treated better than me was because she was “the replacement” and my parents were attempting to atone via her. All in all, a pretty unhealthy situation for everyone.
Knowing my parents suffered the worst possible thing that could happen to a parent has allowed me to understand that their actions came from a place of deep, vicious pain that I can’t even begin to fathom. I feel incredibly sad for their pain and their loss.
But their suffering does not grant them the right to pass that pain on to me and my sister. They were incapable of processing the death of one of their children in a healthy manner. It was their responsibility as parents to invite help, not for themselves, for their surviving children. That’s the commitment that a parent accepts to their child when they bring them into this world. Anything less is just not enough. It’s selfish and prideful to not solicit outside help when you so clearly need it.
Does my understanding of their behaviour mean that I should reintroduce myself into their lives? No, it doesn’t in the least, even though I miss my family so much. Well, I miss the family I was never allowed, the one I should have had and would have had if my parents had been able to properly grieve. In a way, I am grieving myself, for the loss of the family that might have been. I don’t forgive my parents for stealing that from me.
I am reasonably certain that the last time I walked out the driveway of the home I grew up in, with my own daughter in tow, was the last time.
Even now, if I ever open my email and see those two words I long to hear from my mother in the subject line instead of the usual guilt trip, I’d be on the first plane home.