Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Reflection on the Pain of Estrangement and the Concept of Self Forgiveness

winter landscape along Toronto lakeshore
As I grieve for all that I have lost as a result of my adult child estranging herself from the family I realize that there are certain things that are harder to come to terms with than others. 

Accepting that she is an adult and free to choose her own path took some time but I came to terms with that and gave her “wings”.  I forgive her for the choices she made and I made peace with the reality of the situation. 

That was actually the easier part of the grief process, a process that has so far taken me on a five and a half year roller-coaster ride of emotions journey.

The harder part is learning to forgive myself. I still catch myself asking: “what did I do that was so very wrong”? 

I still go over and over the “mothering years” trying to figure out exactly where did I fail? Why did she grow up feeling that I did not do enough, give enough, make her feel secure enough?  What action or lack of action on my part left her feeling so vulnerable and hurt?  And as always every single time I evaluate myself I can’t find any definitive action that was so horrible as to deserve this.  

And yet I am still blaming myself. 

Here is the hurt that I am struggling with now:

What did I do wrong in the raising of my dearly loved child that she is as an adult capable of such cruelty? 

  • Over and over again I ask myself what I did wrong to create such a person?
  • What did I fail to teach her about the nature of love, and how love is unconditional and does not betray? 
  • How did she learn that love is a weapon to be used to hurt family? 
  • What act of mine left her feeling that it is acceptable to be so judgmental? 

I thought I showed her that love is about making sacrifices and about kindness and compassion for people’s failings.   Yet somehow she learned to be critical and controlling, to withhold love to get concessions. 

Where did she learn this kind of love?  It perplexes me.

As turbulent a relationship as I had with my mother I never ever estranged from her.  I never denied her opportunities to visit with her grand children.  I never forgot to include her in birthdays and holidays. Sure there were disagreements and there were challenges but I never gave up trying to do the right thing.  

Did my daughter interpret the struggles I had to have a mature relationship with my own mother that is it not worth the effort?  That she could not even be bothered  to   try to have a relationship with me? 

And yet here I am, I have succeeded in moving forward into a loving mature relationship with my mother, we both survived the growing pains of being our own individual selves and still have a good relationship.   Why did my daughter not learn from that example?  Why did she feel the need to give up and not try at all just because the path is difficult? 

are the kinds of questions that still pester me. These are the thoughts that ruminate in my brain even when I am finding acceptance in other areas. 

I sit here and ponder: Am I still self-blaming even after all the effort I have put into learning to be kinder to myself, to show myself more compassion and understanding. Even as I work hard to be willing to forgiven her, I have still not been able to forgive myself for my "unknown" failings.

So as the days unfold toward the ending of this year, I find I am still in need of a shift in thoughts; to be more accepting of my humanity and my human errors.  I will continue to focus on the now and journey forward. As I set my intentions for the New Year they will be centered around healing this part of me that still continues to lay the blame on myself.

I know I will continue to feel the sorrow and despair of what is not.  But I am starting to realize it is unkind and unfair to myself to be the only one taking any blame or responsibility for what is essentially an unsuccessful relationship.

A successful relations requires that both people work equally hard at making it a success.  And therefore when a relationship is unsuccessful that also implies that BOTH parties have made mistakes and BOTH parties need to be accountable and BOTH parties need to accept responsibility and BOTH parties need to work on the solution.

This means that my daughter also needs to accept accountability and responsibility and share the blame for the choices that she has made. 
  • So why am I the only one working on personal growth and change?
  • And why am I the only one struggling and working on a path toward forgiving?

It was
NOT ALL my fault. 

  • As long as she is not suffering the burden of self-recrimination for her actions, why should I continue to punish myself?
  • As long as she does not see the mistakes that she has made why should I continue to take all the blame?
  • As long as she does not walk a path toward reconciliation and a better possible future why should I continue to be unforgiving about my shortcomings?

I am already being punished enough by not being allowed to see her and have a relationship with her and my grandson.  Do I really need to compound the punishment by flagellating myself?  I feel the answer is NO!  

And yet I know that this journey toward self-forgiveness will be a challenge.  So here are my intentions for the coming year:

  • I will embrace what lessons I am in need of learning, even though I do not understand why.
  • I will accept that this transformation is for my own better good in the long run. 
  • I will accept that there is a lesson to be learnt here, that I would not be learning if all things had unfolded smoothly. 
  • I will be kind and patient with myself as I learn what it is that I am meant to learn. 
  • I will learn to forgive myself for not being perfect.

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2014 - 12 - 23
updated 2015 - 09 - 17
addendum: Now, almost a year later, I find I blame myself less, though I still ask questions.  I still read volumes on character disturbances, how to recognize them for what they are.  I read because it is important to understand behaviours and that those behaviours are not about me, but rather about the person who acts that way.

I try to stay away from the self-harming questions like "what did I do to make her capable of acting this way?"  These questions really have no answer without dialogue, and in estrangement there is no dialogue.

I have come to believe that those who choose to estrange fear what they might learn in the process of communication.  They fear that they will have to compromise, that things are not all as black and white as they try to tell themselves that it is.

I have come to believe that the end to estrangement comes only when dialogue resumes without expectation of "winning" or "being right".  Dialogue begins when the "grudge" is allowed to fall by the way side and the "person" becomes more important than the "grievance"

I have been learning to be kind to myself, to forgive myself for my mistakes, and in the process I have accepted that I have to give her time to learn her own lessons in her own time. When she feels that she can face the facts that will be exposed by dialogue and communication, then maybe we can possibly resume a path toward reconciliation.

Until that time I will continue to work on being kinder and more forgiving of myself and my failings, more accepting of my human frailties.  I will honour that my mistakes have led me toward a path of becoming more compassionate, more understanding of myself as well as of others.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Post Estrangement - Reflections on Responsibility; a Choice

Responsibility is a challenging concept.  

I am not talking about the everyday kind of responsibility like going to work to earn a living, cleaning the house, doing the yard work or providing a home for your family That kind of responsibility is the easy part.

I am talking about being responsible for the actions we take, the choices we make in the face of less than perfect circumstances.

Often I find people shirk responsibility.  So many times I hear phrases like:

 “it is not my fault because….” 

This is then followed by a litany of all kinds of excuses why they did or did not do something.

So many people blame their past, their parents, their circumstances etc. for anything that is wrong in their lives.  It is never about themselves and what they ought to be taking responsibility for. There is always an excuse why they can’t.

Similarly so many people do something bad to another person or speak badly about another person but they don’t OWN that they did something bad instead they say: 

“he deserved it because…”   or   “she made me do it because…”

There is a lot of blaming going on in society today. 

  • “I am unhappy because my parents screwed me up.” 
  • “I am dissatisfied because my boss is horrible”  
  • “I can’t be a better person because of what happened to me in the past”.

All these excuses stack up to a lot of non-accountability or non-responsibility for actions taken. 

The irony is that we are responsible!  

Every action that we chose to take is our responsibility. 
Whether we treat others well or not is a choice and ultimately we make that choice. 

Whether we speak the truth or say what others want to hear is a choice. Sometimes speaking the truth has negative consequences!

When we listen to someone's story we can't help but hear the lies they are telling us to make themselves appear good but we can choose whether of not to believe the lies and how we act after hearing the lies is a choice.  This is why gossip is such an evil because if furthers the spreading of lies.  The choice is to gossip and further spread the lies or not.

Yes, things happen to us, good things and bad things.  However it is a choice how we decide to act after those events. 

We can chose to act negatively because we perceive we have been wrongfully treated.  


We can accept that we have been treated wrongfully and then go out and do good or right in spite of the wrong that we experienced.  

That is the kind of responsibility that I am thinking about!

This is taking responsibility for the choice of our actions. 
No blame placed upon the past actions of others or past events; just taking full responsibility for your own actions in response to your experiences.

  • It takes great integrity to make the choice to act well in spite of bad experiences. 
  • It is hard to hold back on vindictive actions in response to injustices. 
  • It is challenging to see the error of other people’s ways and not blame them for your failings. 

Responsibility is not something that just happens; it is something you decide to own.  You can choose to be accountable or you can choose to excuse your behaviour

As you look to your future what path will you follow?  

Ultimately the choice is yours and ultimately you will be responsible for the choices that you make, regardless of which choice you choose.

I have created for myself a personalized prayer for accountability. I challenge myself to live by these rules. 

When it comes to the people in my life I now can clearly define people by the choices they make.  Their choices tell me what kind of people they are.  

If they blame me for their actions I can now see clearly that they are deflecting so they do not have to be accountable for their own actions.  

When they tell lies about me or gossip about me I know they are trying to excuse their actions which deep down they know are inexcusable.

When they are unwilling to forgive me, I know that deep down they feel that they are unforgivable.

This kind of knowledge is very powerful and now I find I have a great responsibility to choose with care how I choose to act with this knowing.

It is so easy to be angry and allow the hurt to cause me to respond with vengeance.  It is harder to see them with compassion, as people with a character defect, a mental illness or a personality problem and to offer them the open door of forgiveness.

I struggle with this daily.  I know the right path, I choose the right path, but it is not easy.   But then who ever said that choosing the right path would be easy.  That is the nature of responsibility.

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2014 - 12 - 03 
updated and revised 2015 - 09 - 09 

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I love when you share my page to spread the word. 
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page. 
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