A painful childhood leads to painful dilemma
I have really enjoyed your columns thus far and feel like I know you.
I was in a discussion last night with a friend who presented a compelling set of circumstances. The conversation turned to parents. I remarked how blessed I have been to have been raised by two wonderful parents whose company I am looking forward to be in this upcoming Christmas. This friend, who by all accounts has been very successful as a professional and is well educated, related that they had had a difficult childhood. In elaborating, this friend revealed that they were raised by their mother. The unfortunate qualifier is that the mother and father divorced when my friend was about 7.
From that point on, the mother consistently let it be known that my friend, the youngest of two (both from different fathers) was an unwanted birth. Adding insult to injury, mentally abusive statements like, "You will never amount to anything," were commonplace. The mother did all she could to keep my friend's father from having a relationship and seeing the father once they were divorced. To their credit, the family members of the father, as well as the father himself, did all they could to let my friend know how deeply they loved my friend. Though the father is now dead, he let my friend know until he drew his last breath how much he loved my friend, his child.
What seems to be a turning point in my friends life was when, in high school, my friend's mom refused to sign financial aid forms, which would have made my friend eligible for loans and scholarships in college. This meant that my friend could not go to college and therefore went into the military. While in the military, my friend went to and finished college, as well as received a Master's degree and is working on a second master while holding down a job of some significance.
I applaud the strength and fortitude that my friend has shown when faced with the familially generated adversity that has been faced and overcome. Many would have folded their tent and packed it in rather than seek to determine their own fate. Needless to say, since blocking her from going to college, my friend has not set foot in the home of the mother since the day after graduating from high school several decades ago. There has been a modicum of contact via phone. The mother has not ceased to exude ugly behavior patterns. For example, when the mother's mother died several years ago, the mother wrote the funeral program. My friend's name was left off of the program and not mentioned in the next of kin, though the brother's name was listed as one of the grandchildren. During the funeral program, the person who was reading the funeral program to those therein gathered made a comment about that omission, which caused a ruckus and resulted in my friend walking out of the funeral proceedings. So the saga of bad behavior by the mom continues.
The compelling question in all of this arises from the fact that the aging process is tireless in its quest to move time forward. I raised the question that, after all of the harm that has been meted upon my friend and still continues to this day, would my friend go to the mother's funeral. It must be added that no relatives on the mother's side of the family ever intervened and attempted to curtail the mental abuse that they witnessed being doled out over all of these years. Moreover, they were complicit participants in this ongoing heinous deportment. My perspective was, why go, what do you have to prove? What do you have to gain? Why immerse yourself in the hornets' nest, at that time, among people who have been purposefully abusive your whole life? Over the years, when aid was offered and given to the mother, there was no gratitude forthcoming, just vitriolic hyperbole in the form of more mental abuse. Why be dutiful at a future funeral? It should be noted that the brother also has no contact with the mother. He has not seen her in many years as well, because he sees the treatment of his sister from same mom but different dad as being wrong. I know that this has been a long preamble, but what would you offer as pearls of wisdom from your perspective, based on this limited overview? To attend the funeral one day in the future or not to attend? Whether to further suffer the slings and arrows designed to foster misfortune?
Please, Please, Don't Go
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Are you a lawyer? You sure are long winded. By the time I got to the end of your question, I felt like I had watched an episode of Law & Order. LOL. Naaaw, I’m just kidding. Thanks for sending in a question.
I can see how much you care about your friend. One truth seldom discussed – “unfit mothers.” They are horrible; yes I said it. Unfortunately your friend has one. How this woman treats her daughter is unforgivable. I struggled with the blessing of having a child, so I don't approach this situation lightly.
Being rejected by your mother cuts you to the core. Mama’s words can make or break you. They can lift, guide or lead you down a road of despair. My heart goes out to your friend and all others struggling with a disconnected mother.
Listen to me when I say this: IT'S NOT YOU. It's not anything you did or could have done. A mother who has chosen to relate in this fashion lives within a broken soul. Her abundance of fear, unexplainable pain and overwhelming rejection allow her to lash out in this way. We’ve all heard it before: “Hurt people hurt people.” That’s not an excuse for her mother’s behavior; it’s just a reminder.
A parent’s words are life altering. There’s no excuse for this kind of behavior. It goes without saying that a good mother would appreciate how special your friend is. I’m glad her father did and was able to express his love to her.
Like you, I too was raised in a loving home with both my parents who told me everyday I was special. When they died, I felt empty all the time. I still do. You and I never had to earn their love. It was given to us freely, just because. We all deserve that from our parents.
It is my prayer that your friend learns not to take her mothers actions personally. Her map of unconditional love was laid out by her father. She has to accept her mother as she is and not take it personally -- easier said then done, I know.
Now, here's where I explain how you’re going to become a better friend. You can’t comprehend her journey regarding her mother, so don’t try. It’s not about you; it’s about her. It’s not about your great parents; it’s about her not-so-great mother. This isn't the same as an ex-lover or lifelong best friend; it's her mother, the woman who gave her life.
She should continue to be the best daughter she can be. She has a bi--- of a mom, so it won’t be easy. It may have to happen from afar, but let her decide. She has to set boundaries and not allow them to be crossed. She should help her mother in any way that she can.
Yes, yes, there's no question she has to carry out what’s necessary to facilitate her mothers funeral. That’s if her mother dies before she does. You never know. Reason being, death is final. Once our loved ones are gone, we often wish we had handled things differently. By then it’s too late.
When you do your best, you can live with the circumstances.
For you, my dear, rearrange your tune. Sometimes friends don’t always have to have an answer. In this situation, let her confide in you and know you’re there. Support her decisions. Just listen, and become the wind beneath her wings.
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