Friday, August 14, 2015

Post Estrangement: Dealing with the "secret"

Walking the solitary path 
As so often happens I read something posted by another parent in distress and it triggers thoughts within me.

Today's post started with this statement: 

"Someone should study the effects of estrangement / alienation on the parents, 
especially the toll on physical and mental health."

There seems to be so very very little on this topic.

We parents that have been abandoned flounder around looking for help to deal with this trauma. As often as not we are blamed and shamed for being in this predicament.

There is tons of stuff for children that have been abused, spouses that have been abused, people that have been bullied, etc.

  • But where is stuff on the parent that is abused by their adult children?
  • How do we deal with the narcissistic adult offspring that bullies us?
  • Where do we turn for help with our trauma?

We form secret support groups because we live in fear not only of the offspring that abuse us but also of the social repercussions from others who always seem to assume that we must have done something wrong as a parent.

Sometimes I feel that this lack of support is almost as detrimental to my mental health as the actual estrangement itself.  To a degree I live with a constant nagging fear in the back of my mind. Who to tell? or How much do I tell?   Surly I have enough self-doubt and self-blame I don't need others adding to the burden.  

And so, other than here in my blog, I rarely talk about "IT".  The big "secret" in my life.  And yet 
  • "IT" is always in the room with me.  
  • "IT" is always present in my life, 
  • "IT casts a shadow over all the other wonderful things I do.  
Why?  Because "IT"  happened and nothing I do, or think or say changes the fact that "IT" is a reality in my life. "IT" is a burden that I bear much as we bear any other burden in life.

But there is a huge difference!

Most burdens we ease by sharing with a friend. We commiserate as we share our sorrows.  
In the act of confiding in a friend we find solace and sympathy and understanding.  And we take up our burden and move forward.

When estranged, all of that changes.  Who do I trust? Who can I trust? And can I withstand being once more rejected and put down by yet one more person who decided they have the moral right to blame me?

In the case of being estrangement by an adult child we face the following truths:

  • our offspring blame and shame us
  • many of our friends disbelieve our innocence
  • hardly anyone in the psychiatric world recognizes our predicament
  • we are outcast and vulnerable and hurting and ALONE

Some days I think that this "aloneness" is as debilitating as the estrangement itself.

We end up trolling all kinds of self-help forums trying to understand the personalities of our offspring, why they behave the way they do, to try to get some kind of closure for a situation that really has no closure.

Many of us have all kinds of symptoms, our health is affected, we acquire fears and phobias, we end up trying to self-diagnose, because when we reach out for help we are often shut down or told we are to blame.

Most of us end up resorting to self-treatment because of the lack of compassion and awareness around us. When even councilors have been known to turn to us and say "it must have been your fault" where do you turn?
  • There is a lack of professional awareness of our predicament.  
  • There is a lack of social awareness of our fate. 

And so we struggle with so many more issues that just being estranged.  And as time passes I realize that the fact of the estrangement itself has less effect upon me than the social ostracization.   The burden I still carry, even as I heal, is this feeling of not really belonging, of being on the outside looking in.

Every time I watch "families" interact I am made aware of what I don't have and that I "don't belong".  That if I told my "secret" I would be shunned yet again.

This always holding in is not healthy.  Emotions build up inside without a release valve.  And where do they go?  If not careful they turn inward and you end up with another bout of self-blame and you suffer a setback on to your journey toward healing.

No wonder healing takes so very very long.

My hope is that the time will come that society recognizes that parent abuse via the act of estrangement and alienation is as real as any of the other abuses that have been brought into the light of social consciousness.

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 - 08 - 14

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Post Estrangement - Filling the Emptiness

Today I saw a statement on the support group page:

“Sometimes the inner loneliness and 
the emptiness feels too great to handle.”

This resonated with me,  I well remember that feeling and I realize that this is something we all share, this empty space inside.
  • Our past has been invalidated
  • Our usefulness has been derided
  • Our value as a person has been denigrated
  • Our role as parent has been negated
  • Our love has been rejected
  • Our connection with grandchildren destroyed
  • Our emotional selves have been emptied by lies and gossip

When so much has been stolen from us by the estrangers, we are left feeling like an empty vessel.  There is a vast empty hole inside as we face life after estrangement.

  • We deal with the emotions of grieving, knowing at the same time that there is no closure.
  • We learn things we never expected to learn
  • We handle situations we never expected to face
  • We survive what at the time feels un-survivable.
  • We struggle through each day just barely managing the overwhelming emotions that are released with each thought and each memory and even actions in the present that remind us of what has been destroyed.

And then there comes the day when we realize that there is a huge hole right in the middle of our being that has been left vacant by all that has been stolen from us.

  • That numbness that comes with accepting that things can never go back to how they were.
  • That knowledge that the love we thought would fill us and sustain us into old age is gone
  • The acceptance that reconciliation is highly unlikely and even if it is possible, so much has changed that it can never be what it was.

That is when we come face to face with “the emptiness” or what I have learned to call the sense of “loss of purpose”

  • The challenge is to take proactive steps to fill that empty space with new and different things. 
  • The predicament is to find a way to find a new purpose, at a time in life when we did not expect to have to start all over again.
  • The conundrum is that who we are now is so wrapped up in our role as parent that the “who else are we” eludes us.
  • The quandary is finding ourselves again, the "who we were before we became parents"
  • The dilemma is where to find the energy to start a process we never expected to need to take when our emotional resources are at an all-time low and the very people we anticipated support from have abandoned us.

This restructuring of our lives requires effort on our part which sometimes seems to take more emotional energy than we have.  
The good news is that every time you take a baby step to fill that emptiness with something you love and enjoy you heal a tiny bit more.

  • Pick up that old hobby you used to love,
  • Get a pet
  • Do volunteer work
  • Allow new friendships into your life,
  • Read positive self-help books
  • Study and learn new things

These are all little things that change us from the empty space outward.

We learn that it is in what we choose to do for ourselves that re-ignites the passion within. 

These are all options that are open to us as long as we are willing to try.  

These are things we do to honour ourselves and rebuild. 

In the process we slowly heal, the emptiness gets smaller and we are rewarded with the knowledge that we have more strength and more power than we imagined.

Finding the purpose in your life post estrangement is the road you travel to fill the emptiness.   It is not an easy road to travel but the rewards are well worth the struggle. 

Renate Dundys Marrello

My journal blog entries and pictures are copyright
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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Post Estrangement - What Happens When We Take Back Our Power?

Change is just around the corner....
Photoart by Renate Dundys Marrello 
The terms for renewing a relationship change the longer the estrangement lasts.  

In the beginning, we would be willing to do almost anything even grovel and beg for a morsel of connection with our estranging adult offspring.

Then as we heal we learn that we should not be expected to grovel. 

Renewed self-respect teaches us that to grovel is to be subjugated and powerless.  

No relationship between equals 
is meant to be so unequal.  

So what happens when we take our power back?  

What changes when we refuse to be emotionally manipulated anymore?  

What happens when they discover we no longer are willing to grovel and beg for their affection?

I believe that this change in us; more than any of the original grudges or complaints from the past, continues to keep them away.

How can they come back to a relationship where they are no longer in control?  After all the reason so many of them estrange us in the first place is to exert control over us.  

  • Their words and / or actions said "do things the way I demand or else".  
  • How many of us were given an "ultimatum"  to follow their rules?  
  • How many of us were told what we HAD TO DO to meet the criterion for being accepted into their lives?  
  • How many of us were left feeling that we are being punished for going against something they wanted, expected, assumed was their right?  
  • How many of us have felt that we were being co-erced / blackmailed into giving them something they wanted in exchange for the "privileged" of being allowed into their lives? 

So by being estranged we are suffering the consequences of their punishment.  Their control over us is emotionally punishing us for not giving them what they demanded.  And this control lasts until we recognize that this is not right!

When we say no that is not how a mature relationship is managed we change!  

When we say out loud and vocally, no this is not how I will allow myself to be treated, they have a new excuse to stay away. Now we are a threat to their power balance. Now their new excuse to continue the estrangement is "you have changed".  And we have!   

Because of their actions, we have been to hell and back again!  
  • That process, the grief and the healing, both change who we are.  
  • The process teaches us about boundaries that protect our well-being and our emotional health. 
  • The process teaches us about personality types and character disturbances and other emotional manipulators. 
  • The process toughens us up (what does not kill you makes you stronger.

This journey forces us, out of necessity, to grow and change. And the biggest, most changing thing we learn is that we can't allow ourselves to be emotionally abused and blackmailed and maintain our integrity and self-respect!  We have to choose.  And when we choose personal integrity and self respect the dynamics change! 

How can a bully, used to manipulating and controlling through emotional blackmail, come back to a relationship where they no longer get to be the bully?  How can they come back where they no longer have the power of fear over us?

I think this healing transformation angers those who use the threat of shunning and rejection to estrange and control us. I think that as we heal they start to see us as a threat to their power over us.  
  • As we get stronger their ability to control and manipulate us diminishes. 
  • As we take back our power and our right to a good life with good friends and good interactions they lose the power of punishing us by controlling our sorrow. 
  • As we no longer allow bullying and emotional abuse to affect us they can no longer cause us pain. 

Their strength lies in the amount of pain they can inflict upon our lives.  

When we heal to the point where their actions no longer leave us curled up in emotional agony they have no more power over us. When we cut the emotional strings they use to manipulate and control our feelings we are no longer their puppet and we become free. 

I have reached that point.  It is liberating!  Her actions no longer cause me pain!  In fact her latest act of rejection made me laugh because it was so transparent and pathetic.  Now that I see so clearly the intent of the action for what it is, an attempt to inflict pain, it no longer has that effect!  Here she was hoping to cause me pain and instead I laughed at her pathetic effort to try to emotionally manipulate me yet again.  

  • Learning has taught me to understand and how to interpret these actions of emotional abuse. 
  • Knowledge of how manipulative people use these various tactics to hurt others no longer has the hurtful impact upon me that they used to have! 
  • Now that these actions and behaviours have been revealed to me as tools used to inflict confusion and pain upon others, they no longer have the same power they once had to hurt me.
  • The Emperor is not wearing any clothes! 

And as I laugh I am able to feel compassion for a person that feels the need to play such games to bolster their ego.  Even as I acknowledge that what is being done is morally wrong I can feel sorry for the person that is reduced to taking those kinds of actions to bandage an un-meet need in their lives.

Knowledge is indeed power.
Knowledge has set me free. 

Renate Dundys Marrello 

My journal blog entries and pictures are copyright
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.
photo credits: as marked or unknown 
My Photoart may be ordered as signed art if you contact me.