Thursday, March 26, 2015

Post Estrangement - Learning to Change Expectations

The after the children are grown up stage of parenting is not at all what I expected.  

Just like all other parents I had visions of what family life would be like when my children became adults.  Quite possibly they were too rosy, but I thought, at the time, that they were realistic. 

I imagined occasional family meals and holiday celebrations together. I anticipated chats and sharing special events.  I know I expected friendship and respect.  And I certainly expected to be included in family milestones.   

None of this panned out the way I had anticipated. My hopes were crushed and my dreams were broken, by a daughter who thought she knew better than I and who wanted to coerce me into behaving in a certain way by withholding her approval  for anything less than what she expected.  She wanted me to respect her and do things her way, but she showed no respect for me. The day I said "NO" to a demand she made and said "I will not allow you to treat me this way" was the beginning of the end. 

Not much long after that deciding day came the accusations that I was the source of all her problems.  That was when the blaming started. That was when the lies were circulated that attempted to justify her actions and make her appear blameless. That was when the manipulations and control tactics began.  That was when other family members were "forced" to pick sides. 

That was when my world crumbled.  Since that time I have gone through many stages of dealing with an incomprehensible situation. The early days of dazed confusion now seem like an eternity ago. There are weeks and months that I can't even recall.

Then I went through what I call my angry stage.  When all my actions came from the adrenaline of anger.  Anger got me through the day and doing things, simply because I refused to give her the power to destroy everything good in my life. 

There was the apathy stage that really terrified me.  During those days I was like a robot marking time but I really was not present.  Those were the days when I did not care if I lived or if I died. 

Then came the, I deserve better than this stage, when I started to fight back. I took all the emotions I was feeling and translate them into seeking for knowledge. 

I started reading and learning about estrangement.  This was also when I joined support groups and learned that I was not alone and I was able to draw strength from this knowledge. The problem was that I got stuck here for a while in what I call the "pity me" place.  I was feeling sorry for myself and asking question like "why me?"  The kind of questions that have no answers and lead only to more negative ruminations. 

This roused me to a second round of anger;  I deserve so much better than this so I am going to make it happen. I used my anger to inspire me on my journey of discovery and it got me out of the "pity me" phase.  
That was when I discovered terms like PTSD and the dynamics of trauma on the body and the mind and the spirit. I learned about behaviour patterns and conditions like NPD (narcissitic personality disorder) and BPD  (borderdline personality disorder) and that in all likelihood my daughter suffers from some degree of these mental conditions.  It was during this stage that things started to make some kind of perverted sense to me.  

The wonderful thing about that stage was that it opened the door for me to discover the healing stage.  As I entered into this stage I never realized how long it would take (1.5 year now and still on the journey).   I devoted energy and time to healing research, started healing practices, gained knowledge and skills that became a part of my "wellness tool kit".  

This is a good place to be because it is all about me. For the first time in my life, I am my own first priority.  Not that I would recommend this as the path to this kind of discovery, but that is the silver lining in my estrangement cloud. 

Gradually I am releasing some of the more negative emotions I have been carrying in my heart. I call this "acceptance the second time around."  

I am more at accepting of the way things are now than when the estrangement happened in 2009, when my then 32 year old daughter decided to start calling me names and telling me what she expected me to do.  When she used estrangement as the tool of control. "do as I want you to or you are out of my life".  

I have not seen or spoken to her since.  I have sent letters countless times and have received no reply.  My grandson was born 2 years ago and I have never seen him, I was not invited to baby shower or christening.  I am a grandmother in name only. 

As I remarked earlier, estrangement has split our family in two; those who side with me and those who side with her. It is what it is. 

I have allowed my earlier expectations to end.  I have made peace with the fact that things are unlikely to change. There is no "happy ending" just around the corner. 

Now I am at a place where I am looking at what should be my happy golden years, and I find a drastically changed vision.  Instead of family being the center of my thoughts, I am at the center.  What do I want to do to achieve joy?  How do I want to express myself?  In what way can I find fulfillment?

I have lost several years to intense grieving.  Then I spent a couple of years geared toward healing, and now I see a future where the goal is that I will hopefully be able to create a full and rich life inspite of the devastation that has happened.

I have come to realize that some things you can't "FIX".  Some things you have to replace.   In this case my expectations needed to be replaced.  Such a hard process but I am starting to see that it may be possible.  In general I have a happier outlook on life now.  Many of the "bad" habits I fell into as a result of the pain and depression I am erasing one by one.  

I try hard to now spend more time on looking forward and healing and less time looking back at the why's and the how comes.  I remind myself that all the understanding in the world changes nothing when I am the only one trying to understand. 

Yes there sure was a stage I went through, when I tried to figure it out, make sense of it, but now trying to understand no longer serves. Instead I find those times when I do ruminate, distracting and destructive because they take time away from my primary goal which is making things better for me. 

I have come to realize I will never "make sense of it"  and the time I spend trying to make sense of the senseless is actually "wasted" time.  
I am happy to say that my healing is well underway. I am not fully there yet, but I can see where this proactive stance is taking me.  I can see myself slowly taking back joy, enthusiasm, and love of life.   I am sure there will always be some "holes" some "pockets of emptiness", but I have learnt how to deal with those and there are many tools in my "wellness tool kit" that I can resort to on those dark days that inevitably happen.

I also get great pleasure now from leading by example, to be an advocate, that healing is do-able.  There is life after estrangement.

I hope that you will be able to find a path toward healing also. It is so much better than the fog of despair that I lived in at the start of this horrible experience.

Find the support of support groups, which are so helpful at the beginning of this oh so confusing experience.  Check out all the options for healing that are available.  Try different things to create a post estrangement life that is satisfying and life affirming. Never accept less than this because you deserve so much more.  

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 - 03 - 26 

photo credits as marked or unknown


  1. My thoughts exactly... My vision of my future with my adult children was a dream. I based it on how I treated my parents, my step-parents and my ex mother-in-law and her husband. I embraced them all. My son.... since my divorce had ostracized my whole family, anyone that has anything to do with ME. My two daughters want a relationship with me he has ostracized them. He has totally influenced my youngest son. I stand in utter disbelieve at the sick nature and hate of this young man. Where did that little boy go? He is a ghost, he is gone. I choose to release him and live in peace..... I totally relate and feel your pain. Feel your journey as you seek wholeness and peace on the other side of all this.....

  2. Excellent post. I'm trying to get there too

  3. Thank you for telling my story too with the exception of the Mob, 3 of my children. Some details are different but not by much. You are leading by example and I thank you for that.

  4. Excellent post. Thank you. I too use many tools in my healing processes. Many of those mentioned keep me going. God answers my prayers for strength. peace, happiness and joy.I'm proud of my survival skills.
    Jesus shows me the way. fills me with wisdom. God bless you all.

  5. It has been 10 years for me, and I only recently realised that there are others suffering like me. This post has helped me to understand a little more. Thank you