When do we stop talking and get on with our lives?
November 01, 2007
My mother had estranged herself from me from 1978 to 1981. My estrangement from my daughter began in 1995. The current estrangement from my mother began in 2002 at my initiative. I created the website, Estrangements.com, in 2001. I've been reading, writing, thinking, researching, and talking about family estrangement since 1995.
In 1984 I left my first husband. Our divorce was final within two years. He stopped talking to me in 1985. I've spent nowhere near the amount of time thinking about his estranging himself from me as I have spent thinking about the estrangements from my daughter and mother. I cried many tears over ending that marriage but the pain subsided within two years.
I know others who linger over the pain of a failed marriage for more than a decade but I was not one of them. Those who carry the pain of a divorce for over a decade seem to be exceptions rather than the rule. However, even though more than a decade has passed, the pain of not being able to have a comfortable ongoing relationship with two of my closest blood relatives is always right under the surface, needing only a small reminder to bring up feelings of sadness and loss.
How to move on? Is it possible to move on when the loss is one of a parent or a child? Where is the rule book on this? Can a parent move on from the loss of a child? Can a child and a parent go separate ways without ever looking back? My observations of people have taught me that there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. Some people can shrug off family relationships with ease. Some feel as though their heart is broken and that something is missing that can never be replaced. Even if the relationship was not a good one.
I keep a connection to the pain through my writing and sharing online on this weblog and in an online support group and by maintaining my website, Estrangements.com. Like others who have experienced different kinds of losses, my goal has been to create something out of my own pain that might benefit someone. In 1995 I had a hard time finding anything written on the subject of family estrangement. Since then a number of books have been published. Most have been written by authors who had experienced an estrangement from a relative. A few were written by mental health professionals, some of whom had experienced family estrangements and some who hadn't.
There have been several times in the last two years that I had decided to write less or to stop writing entirely. One reason is that my estranged daughter reads the weblog almost daily. It is impossible for me to write everything that occurs to me about estrangement. This is like being a patient forced to be in a group therapy situation where the behavior of one of the other members is the reason why the patient is in group therapy. It is impossible for me to write as freely as if she wasn't here reading. There are times I decided that the solution was not to write.
Another reason why I sometimes consider not writing any more is the fact that continuing to write means that I am never able to put the estrangements in my life behind me. Is this good or bad? Is it therapeutic or damaging? Am I accomplishing my goal of assisting others through my writing? Am I being self destructive by continuing to dwell on this sad topic? There is a rest of my life and sometimes it suffers from the amount of time I spend on reading, writing, and thinking about estrangement.
I voluntarily put myself through this and sometimes I wonder if it is good for me. Would I recommend that anyone else put themselves through this same kind of process? Others who are dealing with various personal issues have done similar things. They have written books and maintained blogs and other kinds of online group discussions. They have websites. I'm not alone in this activity. Remembering that others do this too is reassuring. I"m not the only one who is dealing with losses this way. I recall long ago reading that one way of working through something, whether it was a good or bad something, was to submerge yourself in it and eventually work through it or find out what it has to teach you.
I am still in the self education process. A line from a Robert Frost poem occurs to me: "And miles to go before I sleep." I feel as though I am on a journey of many miles. The end is not yet in sight.
In the rest of my life I rarely talk about my estrangements. I expected that if I had continued to talk about estrangements to my friends and acquaintances after the first couple of years that they wouldn't have wanted to see me coming. They'd have gotten tired of the topic and would have said something like. "Here comes Ginny, that tiresome woman! She talks endlessly about estrangements. Let's get out of here!" I am a compassionate person and have let friends bend my ear many times as they shared their personal problems but I am sure that I would have long ago gotten burnt out after listening to someone talk about their pain of loss for twelve years!
This is not a good topic for daily conversation. It's a good topic for a therapist's office or a weblog where people come looking for someone who writes about being estranged but it is not a good topic to talk about all the time with friends. It's okay to let friends know, when you're ready, that you have experienced this kind of loss and that you are in pain over it. I did that back n 1995 and 1996. But then friends expect that even those who have lost a loved one to death eventually will talk about something else. Friends are no different when it comes to a loss through estrangement.
I know that I keep coming back to writing and reading on estrangements. My goal is still the optimistic one of helping others who are coping with estrangements. My goal may help me as well. But would I recommend what I do to others? No. I wouldn't to most people but to those of you who work things out by writing and sharing your story with others, I do recommend it. To talk it out or write it out until you are through talking and writing it out.
I am sure the day will come when I won't be able to think of another thing to say on the topic. Until then, I'll keep on typing!
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