You know the old saying, “You can run, but you can’t hide?” Well, more true words have never been spoken, at least when it comes to the personal pain of estrangement and alienation. We did run, but not to hide. Eight weeks after being tossed out with the weekly garbage, we put our home on the market and decided to move the timetable up for our future, and make it happen NOW. We knew we wouldn’t be staying in Western North Carolina forever, we just thought it would be another 6 or 8 years before we sold our home and moved to either Jacksonville, FL or Charleston, SC. Man, was the joke ever on us! We were okay with either location, and Charleston won out because we have a daughter, a son-in-love and 2 grandchildren here that we are so grateful to be close to. We had lived in the Charleston area while we were active duty Navy and this is actually where we had retired from military service in 2003. We only moved for my husband’s job and we knew NC would never be our permanent retirement location. We are back in Charleston, SC and loving our life, in spite of the pain that tries to accompany us everywhere we go. We are slowly moving the curtain of grief to the side of our life’s stage and seeking the light that shines through the gap in the middle of said stage. That light is hard to find, as I wrote about yesterday, but it’s there.
Mother’s Day is right around the corner and most of the other parents and grandparents I know in the situation of estrangement and alienation are dreading it. I am actually not. It makes me wonder if I’m in denial, or just healing. On Mother’s Day it will have been one year to the day since I’ve heard my oldest daughter’s voice. One year. We had a conversation about baked potatoes and what we had done that Saturday. By Tuesday night, May 15th, my husband and I were parents who were blindsided and cut off at the knees by our daughter’s actions . We were completely left out in the rain, and I mean that literally, as to why we were all of a sudden not good enough. We don’t wonder about that anymore, we know exactly what our daughter thinks.What we don’t know is why. Why is something I am learning not to ask. And after a year, the why doesn’t matter anymore. It just is now.
Running isn’t possible for everyone who faces the nightmare of estrangement, and for most of the parents I know, most keep hanging on. I applaud them. I am not strong enough to hang on to what I know is false hope. I mean that in the most personal way. Every estrangement is personal, and if you have something to hold on to, I pray that you are not hurt by your hope. I look back now and see the signs that we were being used and we were complicit in being used. When you love someone so much, you just don’t think they’d ever hurt you so blatantly. You don’t see the signs right in front of you, or at least I didn’t. We loved our daughter, we thought she loved us, and we never dreamed that she would ever be so cruel. We aren’t perfect parents by any means, but we love our children and grandchildren with all our hearts, even in the brokenness of those hearts.
One thought that keeps coming to me is can you love without trust? My gut tells me no, but my heart says yes. Married couples survive separations and rebuild trust. Siblings fight and rebuild trust. Parents make mistakes, but the children forgive out of love and trust is rebuilt. What happens when estrangement is served up with complete silence and unreasonable threats are made by the person throwing the parents away? Trust is irrevocably broken and over time, the pieces are swept up with the dust that becomes your heart, and there is nothing left to rebuild with. Then what? The answer for us was to move away from the place filled with so many memories made and try and hold onto those memories before the pain turned them to dust and they were swept away as well.
I will admit to the world that I am far from an expert on how to heal from estrangement and alienation. What works for me may not work for anyone else, but I do know that there are thousands upon thousands of families in turmoil because parents and grandparents have become disposable to their adult children. We all share a common bond and unfortunately that bond is a pain so great that no matter how far or how fast or how long you run, the shadow of that pain is right there with us. Each and every one of us, whether we are the parents being thrown away, the adult children doing the throwing or the grandchildren and family members caught in the crossfire of estrangement and alienation have to find some relief from the pain forced on us by the actions of someone else. Running, hiding, lashing out, crying, screaming in the car ( I do this often,) tuning out, shutting down and all manner of other coping skills become things we all become experts at in one way, shape or form.
So, yes. You can run, but you can’t hide. We ran 225 miles away from the pain of the every day memories that were just around every corner, but every corner is still there within the hearts that long to hug our grandchildren. The pain is like a hitchhiker you pass on the highway. Highly visible at the very moment of passing and then he gets smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror of your mind, until you pass the next hitchhiker and you’re right back in the grip of the high visibility of pain.