Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Repairing the Disconnect After the Trauma of Estrangement

14 Days of Self Appreciation Challenge:   Day 10
February 10th  

There is a disconnect that happens after a traumatic life event. 

In the aftermath of trauma everything that you thought was true is called into question.  Everything you believed to be true no longer applies.  And you face a time when everything you thought about who you are is no longer certain.  There is this gap between who you were then and who you are now.  

For a long time I thought all I had to do was get back to the “who I was before”.  It took me a long time to realize that there is no going back and that the challenge was to reassess and thus create a new template for who I am now.

In my case the trauma was being estranged by my daughter just after her 31st birthday.  What a twist of fate!  I thought we had reached that point where we were having a mature mother daughter relationship and bang, out of the blue, everything I did was suddenly wrong. Everything I had ever done in the past was wrong.  I was discarded for not being what she wanted / needed.

My world was turned upside down.  Nothing made sense.  For a long time I existed in a state of shock.  When the shock wore off it was like I had no more connection to myself.  Who is this person now picking up the pieces of her life?  And the most devastating question I had to face was this: “if I was a failure at what I considered the most important job of my life how do live with myself in the aftermath.” 

My journey to healing has been in many ways defined by my need to find the answer to that question.  

The challenge has been to find the bridge across the chasm of that disconnect. Since so much of my self-worth was tied to my desire to be the best possible parent I could be, one of the major repercussions was that my self-esteem was devastated.

Living with a shattered sense of self is devastating. You feel like you are no longer valid, your value as a person has been negated, you have no purpose.  And when you have no value and no purpose you begin to question why you should live.

And then there were all these well-meaning people and resource articles etc., which told me to “let the past go” or to “just accept” or to “move on”.  I wasn’t healing fast enough!   

So there I am at the lowest point in my life, feeling like a failure and I feel like an even bigger failure because if I can’t move on then somehow it must be me…I must be the problem.  So my sense of failure and worthlessness are compounded by my difficulties moving beyond the injury.

My recovery has been a slow process.  I have had to step by step work through making sense of the NON sense that my life had become.   You see I not only had to reconnect with myself and my life purpose, I also had to come to understand the nature of those people that resort to estrangement. 

I had to learn about and to understand the character disturbances that allowed my daughter to behave the way she did. I had to learn that her actions are part of the problems in her personality, her character, her life and the result of her choices.   I had to separate myself from holding myself responsible for her problems.  I had to let go of the notion that “mommy can kiss the boo boo and make it all better”.  

I had to let go of the notion that my love for her was enough.  It wasn't enough and it won't be enough until she is ready to love herself enough to seek the healing help that she needs.  I can only work on my own healing. 

To make it possible for me to embark on this healing journey and reconnect with my self-worth and my self-esteem I had to learn to accept that I could not fix our relationship as long as she has no intention to work on fixing it too.

This healing journey is taking years.  If you had told me that when I started this journey that it could take so long I would not have believed you.  I thought it was enough to say “yes I thought that, and did that” now let me get on with my life.

Instead I found it was one step forward followed by several steps backwards, pick myself up and start again.  I would learn something, apply it a couple of times and then be surprised when it didn't take because I did not do the work of applying it every single day with intention and purpose.

So here I am facing once again my list of actions that I can take to recover my self-esteem.  Some of these actions I already have made a part of my “post trauma” life.  Others I need to refocus on with intension to incorporate them on a deeper level of my consciousness. 

Today’s self-love and affirmation gift to myself is to review my self-empowerment, self-esteem validating list of actions and to conscientiously apply more proactive choices and actions into my life.

#1 Be aware of the language I use in my head.  Negative self-talk is damaging. When a negative statement comes up write it down and then create a statement that is positive to replace it with. Conscientiously choose to use the new phrase.  Allow the new positive phrase to become the new way I talk to myself.  Take the negative statement(s) and plan a “burning ritual”.

#2 I give myself permission to say “NO”.  I will practice saying “NO”.   No I don’t want to.  No that is not acceptable, No you can’t talk to me that way.   No, I will not allow you treat me like that. 

#3 I give myself permission to say encouraging things to myself.  I will make this a daily practice.  When I do something well, I will allow myself to say ‘well done’. I am allowed to praise my accomplishments and to validate my successes.

#4 I will be kinder to myself when I make a mistake by understand that making mistakes is a normal part of being human.  I learn all the time, every day and part of the learning process is making mistakes.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn. That is all. Beating up on myself is pointless and harmful and as such is no longer allowed.  Instead I will say: “I made a mistake. What did I learn? Great; I can now move on to the next thing. I am human!”

#5 I give myself freedom to ask myself the question “what do I need?”   I will honour my needs.  I will respond to my needs in a kind and generous and loving manner.  From simple needs like food or rest to more time alone or with supportive company, I will respect my needs.

#6 I will become aware of coping mechanisms in times of stress that are “self-medicating” actions.  When I find myself doing this I will ask:
-       What has happened?
-       What is the emotion?
-       What am I feeling that I don’t like?
-       What could I do instead?
-       What can I do to address my needs?

#7 I will accept my ‘humanness’

#8 I will make a list of all the things I love to do, or used to love to do, and I will make space in my life to do these things again

#9 I will accept that trauma has happened in my life but I am not the trauma.  Therefore I do not have to be defined by what has happened to me.  Instead I will ask:
-    “What do I want my life to look like now?”
-    “What does the new me want to do / create / become?”
-    “What can I do today to make a start in that direction?”

#10 I will remind myself that I am a beautiful person who deserves to be loved. I arrived into this world ready to love and be loved because that is what we as humans do.   I do this because I believe I am worthy.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 – 02 – 10

photo credits - as marked or unknown 


  1. I love your posts! Thank you..I really look forward to them..

  2. I look forward to your posts each and everyday. We have survived the most unimaginable pain a human being must face. Shock and numbness helped me dig my way out of the darkness. I walk in peace today. The sadness grows less and less, but I live with the heartache and choose to embrace the rest of my life in all happiness and love and support and rest in those who care about and love me.