Ask Sheri: What about parents who did something wrong?

what if a parent does something wrong?A mother whose daughter has cut her off emailed to ask: 

“What about parents who abandon their children for years or short periods of time? I did that for several years, but came back to fix my wrongs, to plead for forgiveness, to rebuild my relationship and thought all was O.K. In my daughter’s years from 20-38 we spent every vacation tougher. I spent countless dollars on my granddaughter and my daughter. I did everything I could to make up for my bad choices as a younger mother. Then out of nowhere she had a meltdown and blamed it all on me and has not had anything to do with me for 4 yrs. now. What about us parents who made bad choices and now have to live with them.”

Answer from Sheri McGregor:

Every parent has made a bad decision or two (or more). Yours may be a period that you regret, and you feel that you made it up to her as best you could. You can’t be sure that her meltdown has anything to do with that. And if it does, it’s something she will have to come to terms with.

Knowing so very little here, it’s difficult to offer much. But, if this was me, I would make sure that I apologized again, expressed my love, and offer to work with her in counseling in whatever way she needs. It’s certainly possible that for some reason, four years ago, feelings of abandonment have come up for her. These could have been triggered by something unrelated, yet she recognizes that her response in whatever situation relates to unresolved feelings over the time she left. I don’t know. These are guesses. But you can offer love, support, apologies.

Can you forgive yourself? Can you hold her in a good light, pray (if that fits) that she will be well, have good expectations for her…? Perhaps you could remind her of all that she has done well, how leaving her behind was never about her (it wasn’t, right?), and how you wish you could take that back.

And then, you may need to let her figure it out herself. We all have things that happen in our lives that hurt us, and we move on the best we can. We learn from them, we grow stronger (or we don’t). You spent an awful lot of years in happiness with her for this to suddenly occur and everything to be so bad for her. It seems kind of mean (to me) for her to bring up ancient history, blame you, and cut you off(she’s in her 40s now, for goodness sakes). There are a lot of possibles as to why this occurred at this point, and it may have little to do with you at all. It’s possible you’re being blamed for mistakes she is making with her own children even, and she’s not ready to see that. Or, it’s possible there really is something she has done that is related to what you did … but to cut all ties is not (probably) a wise response. I just don’t know…

Does this help at all? I hope so. I am not offering advice. These are just thoughts based on a very tiny bit of detail you provided, and my experience alone and in hearing the stories of so many parents.

HUGS to you,
Sheri McGregor

Reply from the mother:

Your reply is perfect.  It will help me to stand strong in what I’ve been doing as far as she is concerned.  I spent the first few years apologizing then this past year I realized I have done all I can do and just stand by for if and when she seriously wants to correct this.  You are right about her meltdown also, it had nothing to do with me, that took me a while to come to terms with that, but I was out of sight and out of mind and an easy target to blame.  We live in states that are very far apart.  I’m so over my guilt now. Well, every once in  awhile something will trigger those guilt feelings, and then I have to work hard to put them behind me again.  I am so happy to have you and your website, it is a relief to know I am not alone.  So many things and feelings people write about that I have felt over and over.

“The outcome of her meltdown was an overdose and a trip to the hospital.  I hopped a plane and flew there overnight. When I walked in her room, she looked at me and told me how much she hated me, that she had always hated me, and she had spent her whole life trying not to be like me.  That was a punch in the gut and that is when the separation started.

“So you know, I have been clean and sober for 25 yrs.  My husband and I are hard working, well liked people in our community.

“Thank you, Sheri, for listening, thanks for your advice I will be following your website closely.”

Further comments

If this mom would like to keep the door open to future reconciliation, perhaps it’s wise to reach out again in several months’ time. Depending on the response at that time, she can reevaluate for later.

Are you a parent who has “done something wrong”? Maybe this correspondence helps you to better come to terms or work at a way forward. Even with situations that are not the same, there is often something to learn in the experiences of others.

Share your thoughts by using the “leave a reply” link at the top of this posting.

Hugs to all. ~ Sheri

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