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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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article! i am currently going thru this same situtation :( my adult daughter had everything growing up and i thought i had taught good values. I have been close to my grandkids since the day they were born and when my daughter gets mad she always uses the kids against me...telling me i cant see them! it breaks my heart! why do adults confuse such young minds? i have apologized to her several times for what i do not know....i miss my grandkids! in my day i could never have imagined treating my mother this way....it breaks my heart