Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reflections on a Wall of Silence:

It is five years for me now since my daughter has spoken to me.  

Yes she is always on my mind; where is she, what is she doing, another day of no contact, another day of not knowing.   However, I have stopped asking why, or what did I do wrong.  I no longer punish myself with unanswerable questions and circular thinking that leads nowhere.

St. Marks Wildlife Refuge - walking in nature is my refuge. 
The fact is that I know I did nothing knowingly wrong.   It is all on her...her interpretation of what she feels I did not do well enough. Since she does not even have the courage to face me in a face to face conversation and is on her for being a coward and hiding behind a "wall of silence."

Yes I am hurt, rejection hurts.  

Yes I am sad, I lost not only my daughter but my expectations of what my senior years would look like with family around me.  

Yes I suffered all the PTSD symptoms that go with living through a traumatic ordeal like this.  

But, I have come to that place where I accept that it is what it is.   I can chose to live in the past or the wistful thinking of what might have been.  Or I can chose to create something new and meaningful for my present and future.   I choose the later.  It is not easy.   But it is the only option for me.

Passive Aggressive adult children, like my daughter, who estrange, are upset about something.  I grant them that they do have the right to feel the way they do about whatever it is that they are upset about. I have no wish to deny them this right or their feelings.

However, they also have to accept that they do not have the right to deny me the right to my feelings and my thoughts and my reasons for my choices.

When choosing to remain silent about whatever it is that they are angry about, however, it is my opinion that they are just acting like cowards.

Talking, really sincerely talking and communicating about what that something is, seems to be too much of a challenge for them.  For some reason they can not express in a civilized conversation what it is that annoys them so much and has them feeling so angry. 

Communication which could lead to resolution is beyond them.  So they remain forever in the past laying blame and expressing hatred, and they live with that emotion, they allow it to fester in their conscious and unconscious minds.  That grudge colours the way they look at things.  It colours their life choices.  It taints their psyche, and even though they are unaware of it, it is like a disease they carry in their deepest darkest thoughts. 

Communication also requires listening!  Listening to that other point of view!  They fear the consequences of bringing their grievances out into the open because they fear hearing the other side of the story.   Therefore, they use the passive approach, rejection and silent treatment.   Like that can solve anything!?   They allow that silence to express all the anger they feel and it festers in them unchanging and unresolved.

The problem with this approach is that NOTHING changes and nothing gets resolved.  

  • No issues are confronted and dealt with. 
  • Child hood issues remain unresolved and are allowed to fester and influence what should be adult choices.
  • There is no closure for anyone involved.  Not for the parent, not for the now adult child and even the next generation, the grandchildren, are left dangling with unresolved past issues clouding the scene.

If I could send a message to adult children that estrange it would be this:

  • Be courageous!  
  • Accept that you have nothing to be gained by remaining silent.
  • Sit down and really talk about what is bothering you. 
  • Talk in a calm rational voice and you will be listened to!  
  • State what you felt / are feeling in a mature conversation.
  • Don’t lay blame and guilt trips.
  • Don't talk in a criticizing, accusatory or demeaning manner. 
  • Don't think you can scream and call names and be abusive and get results. 
  • Expect answers and explanations.  Nothing is as simple as you imagine.  There are always extenuating circumstances.
  • If you wish your point of view to be respected, be prepared to also respect the other point of view. 

You have to act as mature as you say you are, not act like a petulant child that did not get their way and now sulks waiting for some placating gesture.  Temper tantrums are not a way to show your maturity. 

Stop sulking and start facing the reality that parents are not some "perfect creature" with divine insight into how to be the perfect parent in every situation.  Parents do the best they can at the moment when they have a choice that needs to be made.  Sure, in hindsight maybe, the choice was not the best one…but you can’t roll back the clock and change your mind.  You accept you made a mistake, you apologize and you move on hoping that the next time a difficult decision needs to be made you have the resources to do better.

Parents do not step into parenting thinking that they will willfully hurt their children.  Parents do not set out to harm their children in anyway.   And if you really believe that is possible look into the eyes of your own child and say “I am going to knowingly and willfully harm you in every way I can”    Was it possible…could you think or say that to your child? Could you imagine following through on such a thought?   So if you could not do it why do you try to accuse your parents of doing so?

Life happens, things happen, choices have to be made based on the events and the knowledge at that moment.  You can't parent with the hindsight of future knowledge.  No parenting crystal ball has yet been invented!  

So if your feelings were hurt because of something a parent said or did in a moment of life induced stress, come to accept that "this is life".   Express your feelings about that incident and the be prepared to listen to what the parent was going through at the time that led to that choice. 

Listen to the regret and accept that expression of regret for what it is, remorse that we made a mistake.  Every choice bears consequences.  Not all the consequences are the ones we would wish for.  But that is the nature of life and living life!  

We live, we make mistakes, we learn. 

Here is a new thought, instead of hiding behind a wall of silence, talk about what upset you.  Shine the light of day upon your grudges.   Ask to hear the other side of the story!   There always is another side to the story! 

You may be surprised at what you learn, about the agony that went into making that choice that left you feeling the way you do.  You may gain a whole new perspective and understanding of the humanity of your parents. 

If you continue to hide behind your shield of silence and non communication, I can guarantee 100% for sure, that nothing will change.  You will continue to feel the anger and annoyance and that anger and annoyance will taint your life choices, and the consequences of your choices,  in ways that you can’t even yet imagine.  You will carry that burden with you and it will have an impact on your life! From a position of life experience I can tell you that is a certainty. 

Life can be very different if you chose to come forward for some honest dialogue. 

You may not hear what you want to hear, but you will hear a truth that you have not allowed yourself to see.  And you may learn that being an adult means accepting different points of view.  You may learn that being an adult requires give and take.  You may learn that it is okay to agree to disagree and still find a way to get along.

What a mature concept!

(C) Renate Dundys Marrello
2014 - 04 - 09

2017 - 07 - 20
More time has passed like so much water under the bridge. I continue to learn so much and much of that learning I would love to share with my estranging daughter, so that she does not have to learn the hard way some day.  Alas, she holds onto whatever it is that has her so angry to the point of ostracizing anyone who encourages her to take a hold of the the hand of peace reaching out to her.  Her anger isolates her as much as it isolates me.  She relives that anger every time she enumerates my faults.  I have now moved on. I have forgiven her for the choices she has made.  I am ready and have the skills to be able to begin the construction of a bridge of reconciliation.  As always it takes both parties to be willing to listen and it takes changes in response to triggers to be able to communicate with respect. As long as only one party has done the work to prepare for that step the healing of the relationship cannot commence. Breaking the cycle of ineffective communication requires a willingness to learn.  My prayer each day is for the heart of my daughter to be touched with healing. 

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  1. I too have an adult daughter who refuses to have any meaningful discussions or communications. She has pushed me out of her life (demands, abusive language, etc.) and then acts surprised and injured when I decline to participate in the charade of a relationship. I agree that mature relationships agree to disagree on things in respectful ways but she only wants to surround herself with "yes" men. I have always tried to be supportive and loving but I won't compromise my beliefs and good judgment to maintain a relationship with her.

  2. I don't think it's always about any mistakes made at all. My daughter and I were close until she met her husband who is very controlling. She doesn't work outside the home, she gave up her friends and family but seems content to have only his family and friends in her life.

    I don't think I nor her brothers made any mistakes except to be her family after she met a man who wants no influences over her other than himself. She goes along with it and seems content to life in his father's house with his brother and have no contact with any of her own family.

  3. All I can say is thank you from an estranged parent of 9 sad years.

  4. Fantastic. Insightful and truthful. I could use everything you have said when I address my estranged adult offspring.

  5. Thank you for sharing. I too am suffering from Silent Treatment and get no response from anything I try. It has been 2yrs on the 10th of August and my heart aches at not seeing my grandchildren. I was so close to my daughter until she was brainwashed by her husband, who has since alienated her from all her family. I am in the process of writing a blog about him. I would like permission to maybe use use and adapt the paragraph about their feelings and rights and yours? ;-)

    1. Thank you for asking!

      Yes you have my permission to quote me in your blog but please include a link back to my original blog article as well.


  6. This was so well written and expressed my sentiments to a "T". Thank you for reposting it. It's now been over 8 years since my daughter abruptly exited my life and I haven't seen nor heard from her in those years. I have moved on and have found renewed strength in God and know in my heart he knows my pain...which is now deep beneath the surface. There is a song which best describes what's in my heart, it's entitled THE LARK ASCENDING by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

  7. It's been 5 months since my oldest daughter stopped speaking to me suddenly - I have no idea why. She supposedly lives 20 minutes from me, but I don't even have her number or address. Our youngest daughter just turned 18, left for school and never came home. We received a call saying not to worry, but she never wanted a life with our family and has moved on. It's been a week with no other word. I am crushed and really needed to read this. Thank you!

  8. I could have written this myself. You put the feeling into words so well. I too never imagined my senior years looking the way they do. It may change but I can't and won't sit around waiting for my children to want me in their lives or to respect me. It's taken years for me to get to this point of acceptance. It's a cycle of abusive words or non communication. I won't accept the abuse. I said recently that it is on her (meaning my daughter who I haven't seen in 5 years.) It means so much to me to hear another mother who knows speak of how she feels and have it so resonate with me.

  9. I offer a support group on line for parents with estranged adult children. We used to have many participants when we were located on the Daily Strength site - but they reformatted and so we moved to another site. All are welcome to read, comment and share their experiences with other members.

  10. Never give up hope.
    I've been through the same with my oldest daughter.
    After about 5years of not spesking something changed.
    I don't know what, but she friend requested me on Facebook and we now chat back n forth freely.
    We joke around.
    It's great.
    I don't dare bring up why she had quit talking to me in the first place.
    I am just thankful that we speak now.

    Good luck to you all.
    I do know the pain you are feeling.

    Last year I got a msg to her and I said, "I can only hope that this time next year I will have completely forgotten you as I can no longer bare this pain"

    I will never forgive myself for saying such an awful thing.

  11. Thank you so much ! Estranged from my daughter a year. Tough times, but life WILL go on.