The secret to surviving?

Hey all,

I took yesterday off from writing and spent the day at my girlfriend’s blueberry farm, just hanging out and recharging. It’s good for the spirit to leave your planning nature self at home once in a while and just go. My girlfriend lives about an hour away from me and the drive itself is quite beautiful, so it was a pretty decent day.

Today I had lunch with an old friend I hadn’t seen in 11 years. Yeah, it was planned, I’m back in my non spontaneous mode, but appreciate the time away from myself. Lunch was great, we spent 3 hours catching up and reconnecting. I’ll admit that I was nervous to see her after so long, especially in the light of how much I’ve changed since we last saw one another. I didn’t need to worry, she was as warm and compassionate as I remembered her to be, and  it was wonderful to relax. She was encouraging as the story of my life over the past 11 years unfolded and was dumbfounded by the cruelty our family has endured because of one person’s need to be in control. How do you survive, Barb? How do you make sense of what’s happened? How do you move forward? There were a lot of questions, most of which I just don’t have the answers for. I can tell you how surviving has happened for me so far, it’s happened by sheer will power, by crying, by raging and by not letting the consequences of a decision I didn’t make define me. Survival in an estranged/alienated relationship is not easy, but it is achievable. Survival is much like healing, it happens minutely, slowly and over time. 

Surviving is an accomplishment, but I’m not satisfied with just surviving, I want to thrive. Thriving takes survival to the next level and it puts your feet solidly back underneath you. Am I thriving? Not as much as I want to, but I’m getting there. I’ve learned so much about how to survive without our oldest daughter in my life, but the lessons are not the type of education I would have willingly sought out. I miss my little blue eyed girl, she was conceived in love and when something like estrangement happens, it can feel like you’re dying inside. I did and still do die inside. It’s a hard road to navigate when someone you love so much lets go of your hand and doesn’t come home. It’s even harder when the hands of your grandchildren are forbidden to hold your hands, it’s excruciating. How do you survive that kind of pain day after day after day? How do you thrive again? Every journey through the darkness of alienation is unique and painful, and if you’re anything like me, that light you would focus on has gone dark. Not even a pinprick of light shines through the darkness of what becomes your life when your adult child throws you away. Nothing shines. Nothing glitters. Nothing glows. And then one day, someone says something that might help. Someone hugs you and holds you while you cry. Someone passes you a tissue to wipe your nose. One small, kind gesture is all it takes for the light to come back on.

The beginning of my journey was fraught with fear, disbelief and rage. The long lived rage is what surprises me the most when I look behind me. I have a passionate nature, but the level of red hot rage I felt was new. Even when my daddy died and I was angry at everyone and everything, I wasn’t someone I didn’t recognize. When my husband and I separated in Oct. 2017, I felt rage towards the man he had become and the woman I became because WE failed to nurture our relationship. The rage that reared its’ ugly head and still does from time to time because of this estrangement is part of why I have survived thus far. It’s like a high octane fuel added to a tank that only requires regular fuel. More bang for the buck! But, in all honesty, the rages I feel are exhausting and not welcome. They serve no ultimate purpose in the healing process my mother’s heart needs to stay focused on. I need to continue to fill my life with regular fuel in the tank of my heart. Thankfully the rages come less frequently and I know when they do come, a phone call to a friend, a hug from my husband, a trip down memory lane with my beloved grandson on my mind is how I push through and find the path to survival. 

Can anyone who has experienced the sheer cruelty and anguish of being tossed away by someone they loved so much and invested so much time in really survive? Thrive? And be happy? I believe the answers to all the questions that estrangement brings on can be answered, we can survive and we can thrive afterwards, even without the adult children in our lives. We have to give ourselves time to unpack the devastating hurt, give ourselves enough grace to forgive our children, but forgiving them doesn’t mean you forget. It doesn’t mean you let them walk all over you. To me forgiveness means you take off the mantle of shame and humiliation that you’ve been handed and lay it down. Walk away from what you’ve laid down and try like crazy to not go back and pick it up. If you’re a believer, lay it at the foot of the cross. If you’re not, lay it down symbolically at the end of a long country road and drive away. Leave the shame and humiliation at the shore’s edge and let the waves carry it out to sea. Find what works for you. I regret to tell you all that I take my load to the beach, leave it on the sand and go back from time to time and try to take all that pain back. It’s pointless to try and take it back, the weight of it alone will crush me, again. 

My daily challenge is to get through each day with a smile, with love and with empathy for others. There is not one single person that walks this earth that doesn’t feel some type of weight on their shoulders. I used to believe that my shoulders carried far too much weight, but I now realize that weight was a feather compared to what they carry nowadays. I will continue to reach out to other hurting parents and grandparents to let them know that they are not alone and they’re not going insane. I’ll let them know they can survive and that eventually they can even begin to thrive. Estrangement and alienation don’t solve anything, no matter what the adult children that throw their parents away may think. It causes resentment, it shatters familial bonds and it just plain sucks. Life is short and not one single person has a right to steal another’s joy. Not ever. 

Lay your shame and humiliation here so you can begin your journey towards forgiveness… and healing.
Photo by Barb Enos on the Outer Banks, NC.

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