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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4 thoughts on “Ask Sheri: What about parents who did something wrong?

  1. Fluffykitty

    ES daughter, in her 30’s, no kids, well educated, professional job, abruptly divorced our SIL after 10 years of marriage. We were a close family and spent much time together. We were left in the dark, she had minimal communication with everyone in the family, moved, we did find out that she was lying to us about her situation also. After several months she found that we were still in touch with our SIL. We explained that although she had made an immediate decision to end her marriage, we were in shock and still loved them both and needed some time to accept and adjust. We didn’t feel it was time to cut off our SIL completely, he was part of our family. At that point she was already living with someone new (we weren’t supposed to know this). Years have gone by, we will see her occasionally and she’s still angry that we were in contact with our SIL during her turbulent time. After a couple of years she texted, asking if she could move into our home the very next day. Said the BF was abusive, so we arranged for her instant move. Within days, she was back with the guy, moved out of our home with no explanation. Gingerly asking her what happened went without answers. No matter what transpires, conversations, get togethers, news conveyed to her of family, etc. she still brings this up, what a jerk our SIL was/is (he’s not) and gets really nasty, blaming us. As Mom, I drew the line and told her I would no longer tolerate disrespect and the lying. We love her but the trust has been broken and we feel like without talking this through its difficult to rebuild our relationship. Not to blame, but to communicate. She told us blood is thicker than water but we feel that along with love and acceptance, honesty, trust is a big part of a relationship. She will not forgive us (we’ve asked) and seems to continually feed on her anger against the ex and us to keep it going. We are tired of walking on eggshells with her. Thoughts?

  2. Molli04

    Dear Fluffykitty,

    I feel the same way about my estranged son. I can’t have a conversation where I have my own opinions. If he doesn’t like one thing I say he will block my number. He told me blood is not thicker than water. I really don’t understand how all of us loving parents created this cruelty. I have to believe it is more about the influence of this world than about how we raised them. I wish I was strong enough to give up hope and let him live his own miserable life. But there are three beautiful grandchildren I never get to see. Giving up is hard. It is also impossible to stop loving your child. However, we need to have limits with them and not continue to subject ourselves to their cruel words. If I ever get to communicate with my son again, I will let him know that I will end the conversation if it becomes hurtful.

  3. carlyle0228

    I read these comments with deep interest. I am looking for insight, and this website and you other parents’ stories are very helpful. My situation is that my son and I have had a long. term uncomfortable relationship. No doubts that we love each other, but just a lot of hurt and anger. Some of the hurt was caused by me. I was in an abusive relationship with his father where I always put the father first. It damaged both of my children.When I finally divorced him, he threatened to kill me in front of both of our therapists; they didn’t call police but told me later that they didn’t think he meant it. My son cut me off last year, and took my beloved granddaughter with him. I just can’t believe I am estranged from my son! And yet, I acknowledge that he is narcissistic and verbally/emotionally abusive to me. If I did reach out, I think he would take my call, but also that he would continue to blame and gaslight me about what happened. For me, a real sadness is that he believes that cutting off all correspondence between my granddaughter and me is the most hurtful thing he can control, but he doesn’t see that I also miss him and love him. This is the first time that I hold back from trying to reconcile because I really can’t go back to the same kind of relationship where he gaslighted me and abused me in front of my young granddaughter, humiliating me and making this example for her. Like some of you, I know that he and she and in close touch with my ex husband. This can’t be healthy. I also know this is something I can’t control.

  4. Eileen

    I have a similar situation but involves both my adult children. They have chosen to write me out of their lives since I left their abusive father. Now they continue the abuse by leaving me behind. I have tried several times over the past few months with little headway. Thinking about cutting ties for my sake. Any thoughts?


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