Read the following newspaper clipping for the reply posted to the paper by a grieving parent and see if you feel the anger I feel.
Some people are so glib! They rattle off comments and thoughts as if estrangement is a simple fixable thing. They have no clue the devastation estrangement causes.
This grieving parent who made such a callus reply to the newspaper, aches as she grieves the loss of her child I am sure. I, even in my own sorrow and hurting can feel compassion for her grief.
But it annoys me that she can so easily, without thought or compassion, discount the suffering of how I and all other estranged parents feel. She feels that by saying that the possibility exists that I might one day be reunited with my child and my grandchildren somehow makes my grief negligible compared to hers. That is presumptuous to say the least and wrong on so many levels.
I have been thinking on this for a long time. Trying to define why is estrangement so hard on us? Why it goes beyond grieving, and why in many ways it is so soul destroying.
Here are some of the reasons (I am sure my readers will remind me of any that I might have missed) that we estranged parents go beyond grieving for our lost child:
#1 Estrangement is an act of rejection and being rejected hurts us deeply. Rejection reminds us of all the times we have been rejected in life starting from when we were little. We even re-live abandonment issues that linger from our childhood.
#2 Estrangement builds doubt within us, raising questions such as “what did I do wrong” or “how can my child act this way”? These go way beyond the loss of the child and the relationship. These affect our self-confidence, our belief in our ability to do and be good. It reflects into all our other relationships as we wonder if there is really something fundamentally wrong with us and if our own child can reject us then maybe others will do the same.
#3 Estrangement is used as punishment. We feel punished, and often we don’t even know why we are being punished.
#4 Estrangement is bullying. It is used to control and manipulate us. We feel bullied, why? Because we are being bullied. We are being cornered by the bully into feeling less than or inferior.
#5 Estrangement brings out in us the fear of “not being good enough”. This is a primal fear, a fear that if we don’t perform to the tribe’s standard we will be cast out of the tribe, and in those early days, being cast out of the tribe meant death. How we deal with this primal fear adds to our distress.
#6 Estrangement isolates us. Grieving for a death rallies the whole community around you. Everyone is supportive and giving condolences and sympathy. Being estranged, people look at you sideways and talk behind your back and sometime even to your face that you must have done something wrong to be estranged. Beyond grief you are ostracized as well.
#7 Estrangement destroys your dreams. Dreams of what you thought your family was like. Everything you believed to be true is turned false. Your dreams are not ended, they are destroyed and there is a huge difference. With a death the dreams end because time ran out, with estrangement they are destroyed by a willful act carried out by your offspring.
#8 Estrangement robs us of time. Time cannot be regained even if in the very unlikely chance that there is a reconciliation, the time that has been lost is lost forever. You can’t go back and relive those years. You can’t go back and hold a baby grandchild when they are no longer a baby. You can’t get back all the holidays and special days that were lost. They are gone. This time is gone not because of fate, but through an act of violence against us.
#9 Estrangement is an act of violation. It is a deliberate act undertaken with intent to harm. We feel violated because we have been violated.
#10 Estrangement grief is ambiguous. It leaves us dangling, uncertain, and fearful. We are never sure if there may be an ending or not. And even as we contemplate an ending we realize that the relationship is broken. There will always be long term repercussions.
#11 Estrangement destroys our ability to trust. This is something that can’t be easily regained. For most of us we never fully trust again. There is always the thought in the back of our mind that this can happen again, with any one at any time.
#12 In estrangment we not only loose our child, we lose a huge part of ourselves. Sometimes with great effort we can heal some of those parts but even in healing we remain aware of the scars. Even as we heal our emotional wounds we know them intimately and our wounds are now a part of who we are.
#13 In estrangement we are told by our own child that we are unlovable. This is an enormous burden to carry with you every single day. That child that you cared for, nurtured, encouraged and loved thinks you are not worthy of being loved in return. This is emotional abuse and we live with it day in and day out.
So yes we grieve just as any other parent that loses a child to death grieves.
And yes I feel great compassion for all parents that lose a child to death.
But we estranged parents lose so much more, we lose a part of ourselves and we do it in secret, in anonymity isolated and alone.
Renate Dundys Marrello