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Support for all who are living with estrangement

(1000 Posts)
Smileless2012 Mon 22-Apr-19 13:46:03

Here we go again, let's hope we continue to give one another the care and support so badly needed when trying to live with the pain of estrangement.

hdh74 Mon 22-Apr-19 14:10:25

Waves. thanks

Cherries Mon 22-Apr-19 14:29:40

March - you and your DH must have needed to develop the hides of rhinocerii when you were in contact with your m-i-l! How tempted you must have been to cut her off. How noble that you didn't, though, but instead found ways to navigate across the waves.

Mixed metaphors but who cares?

crazyH Mon 22-Apr-19 14:32:54

Thanks Smileless ?

itstormy Mon 22-Apr-19 15:21:36

Thanks for new thread, we certainly need it. sad

Our stories are so similar, it's all about control. Everything on their terms.

Such heartache for you hdh74. What an upsetting confrontation.
I have given up as not willing to give them the power to kick me in the teeth again and again. Still feel heartbroken, when I think about how such an unbelievable situation could ever occur in what I thought was a loving family.
Life is too short. The strain on you and DH really can't be doing you any

hdh74 Mon 22-Apr-19 15:33:27

I'm ricocheting between pain so intense it takes my breath, trying to keep busy and be positive, weeping, disbelief, and feeling intense love and gratitude to my DH and DD. Managed to get a cake into the oven for DHs birthday, I just want to salvage something for him if nothing else. Hanging on to the fact that so many of you tell me the pain will lessen. I'll read some of the things people have linked to when I'm feeling a bit less fragile. Thinking of you all. Thank you again everyone for sharing and caring. thanks

ReadyMeals Mon 22-Apr-19 16:11:09

I'd better post so I don't lose the notifications! Thank you for making the new thread, Smileless. Yes hdh74, keep doing all the other stuff that makes up your life, nothing worse than the feeling you're letting stuff go to make things seem even more bleak (again first-hand experience)

Cherries Mon 22-Apr-19 17:09:47

I think that one way in which this forum may be helping a great deal is to allow us to reveal our shame to a caring and supportive community of grandmothers who are enabling it to fade. We can see more clearly, from the feedback that we receive ourselves and from reading what others write, that it is highly improbable that we deserve to feel ashamed. The emotion doesn't fit the facts of our attitudes and behaviour when viewed through a wide lens.

Some of those who are estranging us may themselves feel ashamed and may be resorting to using shame as a tactic to reduce (project) their own shame as well as to try to motivate us to change. They may not be entirely aware of doing so. Aware or not, I think that the message needs to be imparted - through a softly, softly approach or more directly - that this is an unsuccessful ploy and that it is better to try to re-engage and work with us on what may be a long, gradual, uneven and at times difficult process of cultivating a better relationship. They - and we - will need to reach a stage of feeling strong and brave enough to be able to listen and talk to each other and to be able to tolerate distressing thoughts, memories and feelings which are likely to surface.

The thing about shame is that it makes us want to avoid contact, though, doesn't it?

If we think that the person estranging us may be masking shame, and there is an opportunity or way in to make some sort of connection with this person, perhaps we can try exploring gently - just a tiny bit - what troubling thoughts the person may have. But how to start off? Aye, that's the rub. Could it be brought up in an almost casual way? Can it be "normalized"?

If in time it becomes less of a big deal for the person to talk with us, and open up more, we might come to learn, for example, despite appearances to the contrary, that (s)he considers her/himself to be a bad person underneath or an inadequate parent or a failure as a friend or at work or a pretty rubbish partner etc. or that (s)he believes that there is something else that is very wrong with her/himself or that (s)he feels out of control because of certain feelings and impulses. (S)he may be giving her/himself a very hard time over something that happened in the past e.g. blame self for being abused, molested or bullied long ago or because of her/his parents' troubles or for something else that happened and be struggling because of self-blame, self-disgust and self-criticism as well as the fear of being ridiculed, rejected or condemned if these things are spoken of.

If these conversations continue, with anyone who can provide a sense of containment and safety, in time (s)he may discover that (s)he is not rejected, reviled, despised etc. and can stop giving her/himself such a hard time.

hdh74 Mon 22-Apr-19 17:36:42

Another amazing post Cherries - and yes being allowed to share our shame is vital. I felt (sometimes still feel but am working in it) like I must be the worst parent on the planet. Now I as least see the possibility that I may have done the best I could and forces outside my control may have contributed as much as I inadvertantly did.
DH has just been going over some of the stuff ES said to him and we've worked out he definitely is lying about some things. He told DH he never blocked me on Facebook, he just deleted his account. But we both know he told DD he had blocked me and she was still chatting with him on there for quite a while, though he may have deleted now. Also he said to DH that 'mum contradicted herself when she wrote to me' - yet the only time I wrote to him at length since he became ES is the letter he says he didn't get - DH isn't 100% certain that's what he meant but he thinks it is.
So DH said, HE's contradicting himself, lying, and manipulating and these are exactly what he's accusing you of. Is this projecting then? I find it hard to believe he's doing this deliberately, he's not stupid so he must know we would work it out. I really think he believes it all. He also said everything I'm doing is to try and get him to contact me, as I want him to make the first move. Yet I've been trying and trying and it's like he thinks I've done nothing.
Maybe I should have barged in like DH thinks because DS seems to think I'm making no effort, but I couldn't do so out of respect for my DD.
I think your point about our EC needing a way to share their shame is very valid Cherries but when I was looking around for help or comfort I accidently landed in a site that was EC sharing about why they had 'divorced' their parents. There was certainly no 'shame' sharing, it was brutal, all cheering each other on for escaping their toxic parents. Things like, 'when something brings you no joy in life dump it, and that includes people, we didn't choose our parents so why should we keep them if they don't measure up?'

Cherries Mon 22-Apr-19 18:46:25

Thanks very much hdh74.

Self as worst parent/parent-in-law on the planet? Who among us here has never entertained that suspicion for even a few moments? Been there + got the t-shirt but I don't experiment with trying it on for size any more. It's great that you are in the process of rejecting it too. That is lovely and heartening news.

Yes, I think that your ES could be projecting.

Regarding the Shameless Ones who are animated and enthusiastic about "divorcing" their parents - what if their own children in time do this to them for no compelling reason? I imagine that this is part of modern culture in which the idea about honouring our parents (one of the Ten Commandments, as we know) is no longer seen as relevant and important and in which relationships can be easily broken, discarded and swapped when there is conflict or dissatisfaction.

Perhaps I am being oversensitive but I have picked up a few remarks from my DS and d-i-l in the past that suggest that they think that DH and I (and presumably also d-i-l's parents) are easily replaceable with grandparent substitutes i.e. older adults whom they are coming to know better and have a little contact with in the country where they live. There have also been comments in the past about their friends being their family now. Perhaps this is the new Tinder-like mentality in which people are easily interchangeable. Swipe left and all that.

Interestingly and confusingly, though, there are also a few signs now of my DS and d-i-l appreciating their parents and siblings more since they became parents themselves.

As we are now living in the age of eco-warriors and responsible conservation, where there is a less cavalier attitude to disposing of things and perhaps one or two indications of the beginning of a return to some of the central ideas of our way of life and civilisation, I wonder if this will affect in time how we grandparents and all that we represent are seen and valued.

Cherries Mon 22-Apr-19 22:43:14

BradfordLass72 Tue 23-Apr-19 01:28:49

hdh74 You could be talking about my son but I have to say I stopped wondering what I'd done wrong when my younger boy was at some loving pains to point out that he grew up with his brother and knows for certain I was a loving parent to them both and had done none of the things I was accused of.

My elder son too has lied. Here's just one lie of many.

He wrote to tell me, in justification for his NC, that I'd welcomed his brother to meals but not him.
This was ludicrous.
Not only was he always invited and refused most times but his brother always took a complete meal back for him so he didn't miss out!

There were other lies said with such vehemence I was sure there had to be some mental aberration which had genuinely convinced him these fantasies were real.

I loved my elder boy very much, I showed it as much as I could, so much so he had to make up lies to justify his estrangement.
And this is the key. If I really had been the evil witch he described, he would have cast me off long before, in his teenage years, or when he was in the Army. But he didn't, we continued to be close and share happy phone calls right up to his out-of-the-blue letter.

So I hope, maybe, this will give some insight.
If we really were the monsters they now believe, why did they not go NC the minute they could, as teenagers from genuinely nasty homes do?

We have no need to be ashamed flowers flowers flowers flowers

hdh74 Tue 23-Apr-19 02:39:03

Wow BradfordLass72 - it's uncanny. People keep telling me he's seeing things in an inaccurate way. And one of the things is he's convinced I showed more affection to our DD. This is totally untrue, if anything she got the worse deal because his needs were more demanding while she would play quietly and just get on with her school work and I really struggled at times with this. But I have little doubt that he totally believes all these things and by what DH says he has made me into a total monster.
Apparently he said, regarding the letter he did/didn't receive that 'it makes no difference there's nothing she could have said that would help anyway' - it's like he's determined to hate me no matter what.
A friend was telling me something about how we re-write memories in light of new information. The friend had to go to court about a car crash and the other person totally lied about what happened. But the evidence showed it was lies and my friend won. But the other person was still adament. His solicitor said that is why eye-witness reports that are not taken at the time are considered not necesserily accurate and why past crimes are kept secret. Apparently it's been shown that if people learn something that makes them think a person is more good or bad than they thought they re-frame past memories to fit that picture eg if they think someone is guilty they remember them acting 'shiftily' when initially they mentioned no such thing.
In my case I do know I made mistakes, mainly due to illness making me cope less well, but I think they've now coloured his judgement to see everything I've ever done as terrible. Mine did start pulling away in certain ways, that DH and I didn't understand. Although DH says the reasons he gives now are probably not the real reasons.
That link sums it up so well cherries. I was just saying to DH that I despair at some ways the world is now. I must sound like many people from the older generation, and my grandparents probably said the same about my generation. But things feel really broken to me in many ways right now. And the bit where it says, "It’s as if all those negative vibes were in one mental filing cabinet that you push on top of anyone who hurts you. It’s called projection." - that's just what it feels like. I feel as though every bad thing that has ever happened is being blamed on me and if he did forgive me he'd have nobody to dump all the bad feelings on so forgiving me can't be possible to him.
I have been reading about 'mother-blame' - about how basically society, and especially therapists, have encouraged people to consider that everything that goes wrong can be traced back to the mother, and that no matter what happens it is always the mother's fault. And I think we ourselves imbibe that and it adds to the feeling that we are terrible failures.
"how are we to change this mother deficit and stop the mother blaming that is so entrenched in psychology?"
"to ignore the myriad challenges mothers face borders on unethical practice because we are actually doing harm."

ReadyMeals Tue 23-Apr-19 08:39:24

My son can't tell anyone why he's not talking to me. Even his sister who he was very close to in age and emotionally growing up was told "oh you wouldn't understand" when she asked him. I am coming increasingly to the conclusion he has some mental demon, and although it's still worrying for his own sake I am no longer feeling angsty trying to work out what I've done wrong. Fortunately there are enough mutual contacts to reassure me from time to time that he's getting on with his life and not in a crumpled heap somewhere.

BradfordLass72 Tue 23-Apr-19 09:22:14

...getting on with his life and not in a crumpled heap somewhere.

That what we all fear isn't it? That our children, who have divorced themselves from the helpers who love them most, will find no one else who cares as much as Mum.

hdh74 Yep, I had the 'you loved him more than me' accusation too. It is not true but what I will admit is that my elder boy was always so awkward, prickly and embarrassed with any sign of affection, that he would pull away immediately. But was very supportive and protective of me nevertheless.

The younger one, was always a huggy child and still is at 40, never arriving or departing my house without a big bear hug. So it was easier to show love to him.
My elder one got cross if I tried.

I have noticed there is a not-so-well-hidden hatred of women; showing in family violence, the resistance of men to any advances by women; the institutionalised sexual harassment and debasement in the military, law and corporate life.

I just read about Sarah Grimke on Wikipedia - true then and true now.

Cherries Tue 23-Apr-19 09:44:19

This is a great link, hdh74, and I couldn't agree more with the author. It sounds as if moving the spotlight further away from yourself and increasingly more in other speculative directions is really helping you and this is a welcome development to inspire us all.

If only we could each sit down with the AC and children-in-law who are estranging us, after they had read everything that we have shared and presented through links to date on these Gransnet threads, and we could have exploratory conversations with them in a relatively calm, reflective and mutually caring way. If only they would reach a stage of being reluctant to carry on judging, accusing, blaming, punishing and harbouring bitter feelings towards us and, from a compassionate and appreciative perspective, focus instead on trying to piece things together, understand better, forgive and rebuild relationships with us. If only they would want to do so, for their own sake and for the sake of the families that they have created as well as for ours. I suppose that where there is still the possibility of some form of contact, direct or indirect, now or in the future, there is hope of moving gradually and carefully towards that outcome.

hdh74 Tue 23-Apr-19 09:49:56

Yes that's what I need to tell myself BradfordLass72. The more I'm trying to process recent events I find that in one way he's made me feel better. His accusations are so obviously wrong that I just can't be the demon he paints me, so although I know I've made mistakes I don't feel as bad about me as I did. But at the moment I'm so scared by the way he's thinking that I'm more worried about him, and more worried that I really will never see him again. That pain is so intense at the moment. I just miss the boy I love so much.
And yes Bradford lass - I'm becoming more and more aware of what a patriarchy we live in and how male-centred and sometimes mysogynistic a lot of accepted thinking in society is. Hanging out a bit on the Mumsnet feminist board has been a shocking eye-opener for me. I'll be honest I can't spend too much time on MN as I do think a lot of posts on there can get really quite harsh input, but I stick my head in from time to time and learn a few things.
Also the thing you said about pulling away from affection, that's been true of my ES son for a long time. I did take it as embarrasment, but I now think that it gradually morphed into something else. He now says that as a mum I should have known to push harder past his barriers. He really does expect me to be the perfect mother, which I can never attain, he admits he judges me more harshly than his dad or anyone else but that's because mother's are supposed to be better.
I'm stuck as to what to do now. I've been being told, quite clearly for the last 3 years that if I love him I will prove it by accepting that he wants no contact until HE is ready. Yet in his outburst do his dad he said I'm trying to force him into making the first move. I think it's more of the same thinking, he's put up barriers but it's my job to break them down, that's what mums are for. But if I try I'm being controlling or maniupulative.

hdh74 Tue 23-Apr-19 09:51:57

All those 'if onlys' are exactly how I feel Cherries. It all seems so solvable to me if only he would talk with me, but he's built it up and up and won't hear anything at all.

CassieJ Tue 23-Apr-19 10:03:27

It is very hard having a EC. I never expected it, it came out of the blue. I thought I had always had a very good relationship with EC and his family. He had always been a thoughtful child and grew to be an understanding adult [ as I thought ]. He is highly intelligent and has a very good, well paid job. I have stayed with them many times and looked after the GC in the holidays. He language directed at me has been vile [ none of my children have ever sworn at me before this, and no adult has ever spoken to me the way he has ].

But, it seems to him I have not done enough for him or my grand children [ according to him ]. I don't spend enough time with them or keep in touch enough. Considering he and his family refuse to visit here as they feel it is too far, but expect me to always do the visiting. He forgets just how much time I have spent with my GC and the distances I have travelled to do so.

He seems ashamed of me as his mother that I have a low paid job and live in rented accommodation and divorced from my second husband. I am 60 and have a very physical job working full time, so I get exhausted, but EC and his wife tell me I am just making excuses and no one can be that tired.

I have a teenage son still living at home who has a chronic illness resulting in us spending a lot of time at hospital, either for appointments or admissions, so I can't always be available for EC. I do feel there is some resentment in him that he feels I favour youngest child, though he will deny this [ he was 25 when youngest son was born, so not really sibling rivalry ]

I have 4 sons, and as one pointed out, all of them have been brought up exactly the same and they are fine about me, it is just oldest that has a problem. The elder three grew up with their father around, whereas my youngest has been in a single parent family since he was 8, so if anything he has had the harder deal.

Elder son has fallen out with his brothers as they refuse to side with "his side" of "our "problems. He now refuses to speak to them also.

I have tried to suggest meeting up to discuss the way forward. I want someone with me when meeting up as I don't feel comfortable around EC on my own, but unless it is on his terms he refuses to do it and doesn't want anyone else there. I don't know how we can ever get past this.

ReadyMeals Tue 23-Apr-19 10:17:24

Hdh74 "He now says that as a mum I should have known to push harder past his barriers." And I say, as an adult, and one who is almost certainly going to misjudge something his own children need some day, he should be able to get past that and put it down to a simple misjudgement made in good faith. That's the one biggest similarity all these ES's have - they can't get past their teen angst stage. My own mother was sorry in her old age for something when she realised she had got it wrong for me and all I said was don't worry you weren't to know. Why can't these childish ES's do that?

hdh74 Tue 23-Apr-19 10:28:31

That's the thing that hit me worst CassieJ that it came out of the blue, no time to fix anything and such a huge shock. And this idea that we never did enough for them, and their needs were never met, while, in the case of my ES saying, 'it's all about you, never about me' - and yes I might have let him down on occasion, though I never meant to, but it's like nothing will ever be enough.
A lot of the links I've been reading say that society, and families adapting to changing times the best they could, moved away form so much discipline and responsibility and towards understanding the child, and trying to meet their needs and praising them, that we have raised a generation who are overwhelemed by their own needs and we can never fill those needs enough. And that sounds right to mix, but I have no idea how, or if, we can fix that.

March Tue 23-Apr-19 11:48:25

Cherries- I'd like to say that we were incredibly strong and we managed to get on but DH cut contact a few years ago.
You can't have a normal relationship with theses type of people, I can't stress that enough. You'll drive yourself mad.

I commented as what hdh74 is exactly what happened to me. My MIL never out right said 'I don't like you' but she showed it. I felt like I was being bullied so I stepped back. I didn't visit her and made myself busy when she visited. I was sick of trying to get her to like me. Nothing was good enough. So I gave her what she wanted which was DD and DH.

What I don't think she banked on was DH backed me up. He saw everything and she would say things to him.
If she was sure DD was his.
She once asked him why I needed to come and visit and couldn't I stay at home and he could bring DD. I'd literally just given birth!
He knew it wasn't me.

What I will say hdh74 is if and when your DH stands up for you or speaks out, it will explode. There will be more lies, dramatics and it will be your fault even though you aren't there.

You're the problem here and he wants to eliminate you. He absolutely loves that you're left out. Hes got exactly what he wanted. My MIL is mid 40s but she's been hard work since DH was a child.

Cherries Tue 23-Apr-19 12:04:04

If our young people are at all contactable and amenable to doing a bit of reading with an open mind, there could be hope. We might introduce the "suggested reading" list by saying that it is certainly interesting and could be a useful springboard for deeper thinking and healing conversations.

Rather than intensely scrutinising and finding fault with mothers (none of whom, if we may "get real", can be an omniscient Superwoman who can perfectly and single-handedly meet all of each of her children's needs continuously throughout her child's childhood, teenage years and adulthood), it covers a wide field which includes anthropological, historical and psychological frameworks.

For example, here are two pieces around the theme of how traditional societies operate that seem to endorse the view that it does indeed take a village or community to raise a child well; here are two on the typical pressures on nuclear families living in relative isolation; here are a couple on the apparent benefits to all 3 generations of working on maintaining positive links with grandparents; here is a poem which transforms Philip Larkin's "They F* You Up, Your Mum and Dad" into a light-hearted ode of appreciation and gratitude; here is a blog by someone of your own generation which questions if there has been too much emphasis on the individual needs of young people, in a way that has been and continues to be detrimental to healthy development and wellbeing, and too little emphasis on promoting collective and intergenerational wellbeing. The blogger appears to wonder if social changes have unintentionally encouraged many young people to lean in the direction of too much self-centredness as an unfortunate byproduct of well-meaning child-rearing practices which have held sway in recent decades. Here's something on the throwaway or disposable society - are we too quick to cut ties with people these days? do we take offence too easily and too often? is there something wrong with the fashion for "no platforming" and for going "no contact"? - and here's something else on defence mechanisms that we all use sometimes under stress such as "splitting" and "projection". Lastly, there's a really good piece on why it may be that so many of us probably aren't talking and listening with each other as much as is good for us e g. because of the weakening of community ties, busy lives, long working hours, too much reliance on social media, tiredness, trust issues, fear of coming across as less than entirely self-sufficient and other factors.

ReadyMeals Tue 23-Apr-19 12:11:24

Cherries there is a sort of clue in the first line of your last post "our young people". Most of the ES's being discussed here are themselves middle-aged (sorry but when I was young, 40 was middle aged)

Starlady Tue 23-Apr-19 12:12:14

Whew! It sounds to me as if es is very conflicted, hdh. He chose to go nc with you but gets mad if you want him to make the first move at reconciliation. He's not making sense.

"He now says that as a mum I should have known to push harder past his barriers".... Again, not making sense. He gets mad if you do and mad if you don't. Did he say this to dh? If so, I hope dh told him he can't have it both ways.

"I felt (sometimes still feel but am working in it) like I must be the worst parent on the planet"... No way! You've made your mistakes, as you've said. Haven't we all? Your just reaping the results of how many in this younger generation deal w/ family issues. As you have seen (here, on mn, and on the site es goes on), you are not alone.

"And one of the things is he's convinced I showed more affection to our DD"... Does he think this because of her disability? I know you say you actually had to deal with his issues more, and I believe you. But that might not be his perception. It's not unusual, imo, for kids to take for granted what we do for them but see what we do for another child as 'more" or "better." Sort of like "the grass is always greener..." I wish es had developed a broader perspective as he got older, but I guess not (sigh).

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