How do you know when you’re healing from being rejected by your adult children? It happens in so many ways, in so many moments both large and small, and sometimes the healing isn’t noticeable to you until you pause and look behind you. Today has started out as a good day and I feel healing happening as I sit in my office here at home and share my heart with you. I have had some momentous healing events because of estrangement, but most of my healing has and is happening minutely. Sometimes it’s really hard to recognize the healing for what it is and we push back against it until we’re so beaten down, we say we’re giving up. We’re not really giving up, nor are we giving in, we are surrendering our need to know why this has happened and we are seeking the healing we know is out there.
My first healing moment came last year after a weekend trip to visit our younger daughter and her family. I spent the weekend being a MiMi that was present in the lives of our two youngest grandchildren and I cried my heart out when I had to go back home. Being able to feel the sting of leaving my precious grandchildren was the first indication that I was moving forward. I am and always will be a firm believer that we can learn so much from the pain we experience if we just allow ourselves to. Leaving the children behind me, watching them in the rear-view mirror of my SUV was so painful, but I felt it, and since my heart was so full of the pain from the estrangement, I didn’t recognize what I was feeling at first. By the time I made that 3.5 hour drive to our home, I started believing that I was going to heal if I would just give myself time, patience and grace. I’m not the most patient person on earth, and if you knew me, you’d know how difficult it was going to be to walk through this one day, one hour, one minute at a time. That’s where the grace comes in. I have had to learn how to be kind to myself and not blame myself for falling apart because of the actions of another person. I continue to remember that I am not responsible for the break up of my family, but I am responsible for how I react to it. That’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes, but it’s a part of my healing process.
The title of today’s blog comes from a Kenny Rogers song called “I Can’t Unlove You.” Music is a healing tool for me, but this particular song knocked me to my knees the first time I heard it. I listened to it over and over and over, causing myself untold amounts of pain, but it was exactly my life at the precise moment I heard it. I did the same thing with Diamond Rio’s song “One More Day” after my daddy died. The lyrics of both songs are so personal to me, like they were written and sung just for the moments of my life they had come to represent. Over time, the songs have not lost any significance to me, but I don’t sob when I hear them. Now I find I am transported in my mind to the happier times I spent with my daughter, or my dad. I guess you could say that the songs strike a certain nostalgia in my heart and I choose to remember the love I feel for them. I can listen to the song our daughter danced to with her dad at her last wedding and not feel anything but happy that we got to share in such a beautiful day with she, her husband and the children that became a blended family that day. I can’t unfeel the hugs we all shared that day. I can’t unfeel the joy and pride I felt as her mom when her daddy walked her down the aisle. I can’t unfeel holding my beloved grandson’s hand. I can’t unfeel holding my 8 week old granddaughter at the reception. No matter how hard our daughter tries to reject us, she can’t make me unfeel anything, and that’s healing.
The processes we go through as rejected and alienated parents and grandparents are unique to each of us, but there are many commonalities as well. Once you’ve been thrown away like garbage by a child you created out of love, you feel emotions of such magnitude that you don’t recognize yourself. I went through periods where I hated what I was becoming, and to turn that process from rejection into healing is like pushing a snowball up a sand dune in the Sahara Desert. Literally. Grief is especially hard when there is no hope of reaching a point of complete closure. When you grieve a living person(s,) you cling to the hope that you might see them again one day. With death, you have no choice but to accept that you will never see them again. That we cannot fully let go, no matter how hard we try, is something that becomes part of the new normal of the life we’ve been given. I can only speak for myself, but my only hope now lies in seeing my grandchildren and possibly my son-in-love again. I have had to force myself to accept the fact that we will most likely never see our oldest child again. This is her choice, not ours, but we have no sway in the matter, so we have to let go as best we can. We miss her, that goes without saying, but we don’t beg, or plead, or cry out to her. She has made it quite clear as to how she feels, and we have no choice but to save ourselves now.
I can’t unfeel the love I have for my children and grandchildren, but I can acknowledge that those feelings do change. The love people share needs to be nurtured and cared for, but by all parties involved, not just some. We’re human, we make mistakes, and we forgive those mistakes and each other when the relationships we share are functional. When dysfunction comes, and it always does no matter who you are, it’s how we react to and learn from the dysfunction that matters. I’ve learned that I matter even if I don’t matter to my oldest daughter. I’ve learned that I can become someone I don’t recognize when my anger gets the best of me and I don’t like that woman at all. I’ve learned that pride and shame are NOT going to stand in the way of asking for guidance, those two things are best left in the trash can. I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try I can’t unfeel my mother’s heart, even though I want to sometimes. I’m still learning and probably always will be that no matter what our daughter tries to do to us or says about us, we have a family that loves us and friends that support us. I don’t want to unfeel everything about our oldest, but I do wish with all my heart I could unfeel the longing that never goes away when I think about my grandchildren. Maybe I shouldn’t wish for the longing to diminish, I’m not sure. There are days I can’t feel anything else, and those days seem to be the hardest ones to get through.
So, we all have to find our healing in our own ways, and unfeeling is not always an option. I want to feel, I want to experience the feelings I have and learn as much as I can from them. Living in denial isn’t really living, and I have to keep making choices that I can live with. Choices, like feelings, are personal, but can have great effect on those around us. Making the choice to unfeel isn’t an option for this rejected Mom/MiMi, making the choice to learn and heal and grow is…