Would you go back in time if you could to make different choices in the way you raised your estranged child? Would you go back to look for the instant they decided to divide your family? Would you go back and beg, plead and cry at their feet to get answers to the questions that will more than likely never be answered? Would you go back and change your life completely if you could? I think about what I would change if I could, then I think that the changes wouldn’t prevent the heartache I’ve experienced because my family is so broken. No matter what I did, continue to do or didn’t do, our daughter would have still thrown us away. I’m sure of it. We are nothing more to her than pawns in game that has no end, and we now let her play her game all by herself.
I wouldn’t go back and make different choices in the way we raised our children. We were an active duty Navy family and life was not easy. It was hard, but so rewarding in many ways. Military families share so much in common with one another and I wouldn’t trade our 24.5 years of service time for anything. It’s true that our children changed schools frequently, but by the start of the 3rd grade for our youngest, we put down roots in the greater Charleston, SC area and stayed permanently until that same child graduated from High School. By then we were classified as Fleet Reserve and loving the civilian life. Our oldest daughter has made no secret about the fact that she hated being a military child, but it was our job. It’s that simple. Service to our country fed, clothed and housed our children and we appreciate everything we received because of our service. We raised our children as best we could, much of that I did alone, but it was worth the sacrifice. One of the hardest things I’ve had to come to terms with since the estrangement is that our daughter has tried to make us feel guilty for serving. It hasn’t worked and never will. We enjoy the benefits of the retirement earned and she has benefited from that retirement as well, though I’m sure she would never acknowledge that now.
Would I go back to find the instant our adult child decided her dad and I were disposable? No. Flat. Out. No. That goes along with that persistent question why. Why? Why? Why? Most of the alienated parents and grandparents I know wonder the same thing. Why? If the adult children we raised with love think their parents are trash, that speaks volumes about them, not their parents. Once the estrangement happens, trust has been irrevocably broken, so any answer you may get as to why is probably not true anyway. I know what we were told as to our why, and it’s a BS answer. My husband failed to protect our daughter? I broke her? Her sister let her down? These answers came via text, and we have never been given the opportunity to be heard. And, as sad as it makes me to say this, we know we never will be heard. That’s not on us…
Would we go back and beg, plead, grovel? Debase ourselves? Ah, no. Most certainly not. Again, it comes back to why, and the lack of trust in whatever answer would be given as to the why of it all is just not worth ripping the scabs off the wounds that will never quite heal. Life is full of obstacles and learning how to navigate around them takes time. Time is truly the most powerful of tools in the toolbox of healing. Knowing that we did the best we could as parents and grandparents has to be enough for us. Debasing ourselves to get answers seems irresponsible and irrelevant to me. Like a dog chasing its own tail, we’d never quite catch the answers we begged for, so why bother? We have forgiven, that’s as much as we can do. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to be punching bags for our daughter, it just means we try and make peace and leave the brokenness where it belongs. With her.
Would I go back and change my life completely if I could? Not for one second. I grew up a poor street kid in Boston, MA and by the time I was 8 years old, I was broken. I was also way too young to know what that even meant. I wouldn’t trade any of what happened to me back then because as I look back over my life now I realize that every tragic thing that happened to me was a stepping stone in building the strength I would need to get through what is happening to me now. This past year without our oldest daughter and her family has been the absolute hardest thing I have lived through. Grieving the living is impossible to do, but you have to learn how to do it anyway. The lessons I have learned over the course of my life are the very lessons I take strength from now. I thought losing my dad and father-in-love within 9 months of each other was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Nope. I thought leaving my husband in October of 2017 was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Nope. Being alone for months on end through deployments was hard, but so easy compared to estrangement and alienation. Nothing I’ve ever been through has hurt this much, but everything I’ve been through has gotten me ready, and I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.
By blogging about my experience and pain, I hope that people will come to know that there is life beyond estrangement and alienation. That life looks completely different than any life you may have imagined for yourself and your family, but it’s what you’re left with when someone you loved so much throws you away. You can’t control what they’ve done, or will do, but you can control how you react to it all. Shock, sadness, anger, rage, denial and every other intense emotion you feel because you’ve been tossed out with the garbage is perfectly normal. And necessary. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t blame yourself for the actions of your adult child(ren,) and don’t bury your head in the sand. Stand up and be heard, let yourself continue to love those that you still have in your life, and hold your head high. Seek support, find hobbies to fill the voids once the initial fog begins to lift and look forward, not backward. Once there is some breathing room between you and the estrangement go ahead and look back. You’ll be surprised by your own strength and progress. I know I am. We are quickly approaching the one year mark of estrangement and we are healing. More and more every single day. It doesn’t mean we aren’t sad, or angry, or long for the love of our precious grandchildren. It does mean we are finding peace in the impossibility of the situation thrust upon us by our daughter. With peace comes acceptance of the new normal of our family structure and that’s all we need at this precise moment.
So, if you would go back if you could, I hope that you receive the answers you seek. It’s not fair, or right to be thrown away by someone you loved, but remember, you didn’t do the throwing away, and probably never would have. Be well until next time…