Thursday, May 28, 2015

Post Estrangement: The Changing Nature of Hope.

I came across a question recently that made me stop and reflect.  An estranged parent asked: "are all estranged parents bitter?" and "is there no place for hope?"

These questions address some of my fears.  I often ponder whether I will always carry a trace of bitterness in my heart over what was done to me and whether it is possible to look to the future with hope. 

As I sat reflectively with the question, thinking how to answer this parent I found myself becoming more aware of how my journey toward healing has changed me. 

I am for the most part, beyond my being bitter days.  I strive each day to be better about my mind space and where my thoughts take me.  That is my place right now in my journey. I do not claim to be over the resentment I feel, but I control where I allow those feelings to take me.

I realize that living immersed in bitterness over what is being done to me, does nothing for the quality of my life.  I am alive under circumstances that I never envisioned.  And true there is a part of me that resents this!  

However, I remind myself that I am alive and that I have choices that I can control!  One of my choices is to see the gift of my life as precious. Once I choose to see my life as having value beyond what is being done to me I can determine where I allow my thoughts to focus.  

Therefore each day I choose to focus on this inner power.  I choose to not allow my estranging daughter to rob me of joy in life!  
  • She has robbed me to time with her.  
  • She has broken our family and the quality or family life I had envisioned.
  • She has stolen from me the time I imagined with my grandson.  
Over these things I have no control.  I however determine to reclaim control over what is in my control.  I control my mind and my thoughts.  
  • I do not have to live with negative self esteem, I can empower myself to reclaim that!   
  • I do not have to live with guilt and shame, I can work through these and reclaim my rightful sense of value and self respect
  • I can reclaim my right to joyful living and take actions toward that goal.
My journey forward in healing is always about what is my human birth right and reclaiming those emotions, values and feelings that I have the power to control.

Having said this, I realize that when I look back, I see in my recovery from the trauma of being estranged many days when the bitterness has tainted my peace of mind and I am not ashamed to admit that this was a part of my journey.  Yes I had many bitter, angry, hurt filled days.  

It was in accepting my feelings and giving myself permission to feel those feelings that I started down a healing path toward more positive emotions.  There is a process to recovery, and part of that process is owning the emotions and the feelings that sometimes threatened to overpower me. To deny those emotions is to deny my healing.  It was in facing them that I was able to accept the reality.  And in accepting reality I was able to chart a different course toward my future.  

As for hope, that too has evolved.

I believe we as humans can not live without hope. Hope is what gives us the strength to face each day with the optimism that things will work out.  Without hope there is no possibility for joy or anticipation or exuberance. Without hope we remain stuck in a "this is as good as it gets" rut.

I firmly believe that we need hope in our lives but we need to be aware of what it is we hope for.  If we hope for something that is unlikely to happen we set ourselves up for disappointment.  The path toward keeping hope alive is to learn to balance it with reality.

In the very beginning of the estrangement I used to hope that this awful thing had never happened, that was when I was still in severe denial. Over time I recognized that this was a self defeating place to be.  In hoping for the impossible I was denying myself the opportunity to move forward through the other emotions of grieving that I needed to deal with.

As time progressed I entered the second phase of hope.  I purchased a "hope" charm" that I wore on a necklace. During this time I clung to the belief that "one day this would end". That like the story of the prodigal son, my daughter would repentantly return and joyously and miraculously our family would be healed.   

unrealistic expectations 

It took a long time for me to realize that this hope too was not balanced enough to be either helpful or healing for me.  It was so filled with the fairy tale hopefulness for a "happy ever after" ending to ever truly be a possibility. 

And then slowly as the months lengthened into years and I gradually changed through my own efforts to heal, I realized my hopes had changed once again. 

I realize that now I hope for the strength to face whatever the future may bring. 

In accepting that something precious in our family dynamics has been broken and that there really is no going back to what was before, I have set myself free.  I realize that I can only hope to navigate whatever may come with dignity and grace. 

My hope now lies in my rising above what was done to me even while accepting that what was done was wrong. 

My hope is that I will be able to handle the challenges I will face should my estranging daughter return to my life without the anger and hurt resurfacing to disturb a possible reconciliation. 

My hope is that I will have the strength to stand tall and firm and proud in who I have become in the process of healing so that my estranging daughter  knows that I am no longer the easy target I was before and that if she wants a forward path together it will be as equals and not with her telling me what she expects.

Yes, for the first time in my journey of dealing with estrangement, my hopes rest squarely in me!   
  • I hope that I become a better, stronger more capable, person. 
  • I hope that I have learned from the experience and that I am becoming a more complex and well rounded human being.  
  • I am hopeful that because of what I have endured I am more compassionate, more understanding and more thoughtful.

I see the changes happening in me.  I learned that I deserve to be loved as much as I love and that I deserve to be respected as much as I respect. This testing by trial of estrangement is leading me to be a stronger more confident more self aware person.  I really like who I am becoming!

Yes I am proud of who I am becoming!  I own the bitterness that was part of that journey of self discovery!  For without crossing that river of bitterness I would never have arrived at the place where I am now.

Is a reunion is in my future? I do not know. 

My faith is that what is meant to be will be.  What lessons I have to learn and what lessons my daughter has to yet to learn are unknown to me.  

Will we learn those lessons in time for a reunion?  That too I do not know.  I find peace in accepting that it is not my role to understand the grand scheme of things. 

My role is to learn and grown.  I will do my bit to the best of my ability to prepare for whatever the future may hold. 

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 – 05 – 28

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bringing a New Focus to My Mother's Day

There are certain days each year that are especially difficult to get through after estrangement. These days can be triggers for great sorrow, hurt, anxiety and sadness.

Often after being estranged I have found myself trying to ignore the event.  But of course that does not work for the thing you don't want to think about seems to become the very thing your mind wants to focus on.

For this reason I have been striving to see mothers day differently.  My goal is to face the day with new thoughts and new resolutions that allow me to see the day as a tribute to myself. 
I don't know how much success I will have, but there is no harm in trying. 

The first events that I stated to reclaim for myself were the "Birthdays".  I now see them as birthing days and celebrate that I gave birth! I no longer celebrate the child that was born that is now an Estranging Adult.  I celebrating the birthing process and how that allowed me to grow as a person, I honour who I became after giving birth, a mom.

So this year, it is my goal to celebrate "mothering day" in this new manner.  
  • I will celebrate that I gave birth, that I was a mom, that I was the best mom that I knew how to be!  
  • I will celebrate that I raised my family to the best of my ability with the knowledge and skills I had at that time. 
  • I will celebrate that I gave them the opportunities that I could with the resources that I had.
  • I will celebrate that I gave them wings and I gave them roots.  

My job is done. I validate myself for raising strong minded, independent, capable people.  People that are able to make choices and decisions.  People ready to make their own lives and chart their own path in life.  People who have a right to their own opinions and values.  People I did not smother with my expectations for them, nor limit their ability to follow their own dreams. 

Being estranged has forced me to face that in giving them the confidence and ability to make choices I also gave them the freedom of choice to erase me from their lives, their minds and their thoughts.  If they do not see the value of what I gave them; this is their shortcoming, not mine.  It is not my responsibility to coerce them into being respectful.  That is their choice. What they choose to do with that freedom to choose and the future consequences of those choices is also their responsibility not mine. 

So from this day forward I will not sit and wait for validation from my offspring.  I will not wait for them to bring me words of praise or flowers or recognize me in any significant way.  I will not raise my expectations or hopes to be included in their lives in any significant way.  By not having expectations, I can prevent myself from being disappointed.  

Personal character building for requires me to change my way of thinking.  Just because they don't value my job or my relationship to them does not mean that I value myself any less.

It is time for me to learn to love and honour myself.

From this day forward 
  • I will validate my accomplishments
  • I will recognize the good that I did even as I accept my failings.
  • I will honour my skills even as I accept my shortcomings.
  • I will appreciate the sum of my experiences, with emphasis on the positive even while accepting my moments of failure. 
  • I will honour that I do not need to be perfect as long as I always have acted with integrity, caring and compassion. 

These are my new Mother's Day rules for celebration.  I will celebrate myself and the way that I successfully completed a challenging task.  

Okay so this is new to me and I don't know how well I will do, but this is my intention!  

  • Will I still feel sadness when I see mothers surrounded by offspring that include them in their lives? Of course!  
  • Will I still wish that things could have been different? Naturally!
  • Will I still feel an ache in my heart? Most assuredly!  
  • Will I let that stop me from having a happy Mother's day? No, this I refuse to do!  It is my day, I am a mom!  

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 – 05 – 10

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Memories Distort our Perception

I had a thought about memories.   As I pondered this I realized that there is a huge gap between the memories I have of my children growing up and the memories they have of growing up.  What we remember creates our reality however distorted that may be. 

I remember my children best from the early golden years when they were gentle, loving and eager to learn and grow.  They were these delicious morsels of innocence and wonder.  I filled their days with learning opportunities and cherished their growing and changing into little persons.  I think back to my own childhood and realize I remember very little of those young years in my own life.  So how can my children remember their “golden years?”  

The adults my offspring  have become  have few memories of their own golden days, just as I do not remember mine.  Their history is distorted because all they remember are the turbulent teen age years when they caused trouble and we had to discipline them as part of our job to guide them toward a path of responsible adulthood.  They remember these battles as restrictive rather than instructive.  Now they base their opinion of me on those years, naturally not a time when I was at my shining best as I navigated uncharted waters trying to do right to mold responsible and good human beings.

As long as I see myself as the nurturer of the golden childhood years and they see me as the prison guard of their teen years, how can we ever possible see eye to eye.  After all a point of view is all about perspective! 

They must get to the point (if ever) where they realize that the golden years of childhood was where they were nurtured and cherished and that the teen years of rebellion are but a stepping stone to mature adult lives and not the sum total of their upbringing. 

If they never make that connection, they will always see me as the bad guy of their teen years and never see me as the simple human being, striving to do right, that I am.  

Maturity does not follow a chronological number. Rather, maturity comes when an adult is able to see the human in the parent and not just the mistakes of the parent.

When we arrive at that place, our own parents become people who did the best they could with the knowledge and skills that they had.  When our offspring take that step, we too become people in their eyes and not the evil characters they envision us to be. 

The problem is that in the absence of regular communication and relationship building, estranging adults deprive themselves of the opportunity to learn that in the end, we really are, only people.  It is so easy to ‘demonify’ us when they never have the opportunity to see us as humans with human virtues and human failings.   

They never get to hear the stories of their golden childhood years that leave a lingering glow even in the retelling.  They deprive themselves of opportunities to see themselves through our love filled eyes.  They miss out on these moments of storytelling recollections. They miss out on opportunities for hearing stories of validation and love.  They miss seeing that part of their lives which their memories have not preserved. 

At gentle nurturing moments like this, I realize that they lose as much as I do.  I miss the opportunity to give them these precious gifts and they miss out on the opportunity of receiving them.  The big difference is that I see it and feel the loss, whereas and they don’t see what they are missing because they don't see their lives as a collection of all memories, but rather as a holding on to the bad memories.  

The lesson to be learned is that relationships survive or crumble based on the memories we choose to hold on to and the actions we choose to take based on those memories. Now if only there was some way to teach estranging adults that life lesson.  Add that to my list of things I would teach my children if I had it to do over again. 

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 – 05 – 09

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

The fight against becoming bitter.

Sometimes it is so hard to fight against the bitterness that tries to creep in.  I am aware that it is a choice I make and I make it every single day.  I do not want bitterness to destroy my inner peace. I deserve to move toward my future free of the burden of bitterness. 

What keeps me focused on not allowing this to overtake my life, is acknowledging that this is what estranging adult children do.  They become stuck in their anger and grudges and bitterness. Remaining stuck in that negativity serves no purpose but it is what prevents them from healing their inner wounds and hence their relationships with parents prepared to open their hearts to a repentant adult offspring.   

Bitterness is what stops them from resolving their personal issues and it prevents them from moving forward toward restoring relationship they have damaged in their anger.  They become entrenched in this rut of negativity and because they are stuck they continue to fuel their own anger towards their parents.  In essence, they have lost their way for harmonious family living because bitterness has frozen their hearts.

I acknowledge that I have been rejected, wounded and hurt.  It would be so easy to allow this to bear negative fruit and for me to remain embittered by the events in my life. 

And yet, even when hurting, I am clearly aware that I do not want to become like those who feel justified in hurting me through estrangement.  I do not want to get trapped with the feelings of negativity that is nurtured in a bitter cold and unforgiving heart. To become stuck in anger is my greatest fear.

Striving to be a better more forgiving more noble hearted person is what keeps me centered in my true self; the self that I know to be kind, loving, compassionate and giving. 

My fear is that my grief will bend and twist me into being the kind of person that my estranged daughter has become.  She is perpetually stuck with her anger towards me. She has become a person without pity or compassion or empathy towards any who do not agree with her stance.  She is stuck in waiting for / wanting me to solve her problems by absolving her of and protecting her from the consequences of choices she has made.

Every day I pray to find the grace not to walk that path that might lead me to become so entrenched in un-forgivingness that I become comfortable in hanging on to my anger to fuel in me a grudge, and filled with a need to inflict reciprocal pain. 

I will focus on letting go and setting my heart free to pursue the best future that I can, given the circumstances that I have been allotted to me .

Every day I will focus on staying true to the kind hearted caring person that I am.  

Every day I strive to:
  • To constantly find a way to keep forgiveness alive. 
  • To feel empathy for the sad place she has created for herself and her family, both those involved in her life and those cast out from her life. 
  • To have enough compassion for her human condition, which is to make mistakes
  • To leave room in my heart for possible atonement and reconciliation regardless of how small that possibility may be.

Every day as I process my grief and heal, I remind myself that I do not want to lose those very characteristics that are at the core of who I am regardless of what has been done to me.  The choice is mine and I will honour that choice by choosing to do whatever it takes to not become bitter. Instead I will focus on becoming better. 

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 – 04 – 28

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