What do I say to my dying father, from whom I'm estranged?

33 answers | Last updated: Apr 09, 2014
Q
Lee823 asked...
My father and I have been estranged since I was 17 and he has not been part of my life since then. Now that he is likely to die soon, my stepmother emailed me asking me to call him so he can at least hear my voice. He has ALS and can no longer talk, but can still hear and is coherent. But I still don't know what to say to him that will be genuine.
 

Answers
Caring.com User - Barbara Kate Repa
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Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of WillMaker, software enabling consumers to...
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answered...

You have a long and strained history to overcome when you make this hard call.

But you will never be sorry that you did it -- and would surely regret See also:
What can I do if my family decides not to notify me of my loved one's hospitalization?
the opportunity you could miss to get what the shrinks sometimes too glibly call "closure."

Make the call to your father about him, not about you. Since you and your stepmother have been able to bridge the communication gap, enlist her help. Find out what he might have regretted or lamented the most about your relationship, then find it in your heart to be compassionate and forgive wrongs and imagined wrongs from the past. And resist any temptation to rehash them.

If the "L" word seems too strange and strained, at least you can reassure your father that you care about him, have thought of him often -- and wish him the best.

 

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rtmesq answered...

I am confronting this issue right now. I have been estranged from my father since I was 16 and I am now 52.

I don't think there is an easy or "one size fits all" answer to this question. I think the biggest variable is the reason for the estrangment and the next most important variables are the length and intensity of the estrangment.

Some estrangments occur for relatively minor reasons with emotions and pride entering the picture and keeping the people at cross purposes. Others, as I believe to be the case with my father, involve a more fundamental flaw in the parent-child relationship.

Even at my age (and with adult children) I have a sense of loss that I missed out on having a good father-son relationship and feel envy for people my age (such as my wife) who still have their father and a good relationship with great memories of him.

I am leaning against seeing my father. It has taken me years and decades to come to terms with our relationship (or lack thereof) After all these years, I think its best to just let the matter go.

 

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MarcoSolo answered...

About an hour ago I got a voice mail from my father's third wife who told me he was in for a cardiac catheterization due to severe arterial blockage, "if you give a shit", she ended. He's in his early 80's. This is the second brush he has had with death in the last 5 years. We've been estranged, barely on speaking terms for the last 30 years, yet the first time I was told he was dying I flew from overseas to be with him. The two days I spent with him were cordial but we talked about nothing of significance, resolved nothing from the past, and I left feeling like all the old wounds had reopened. I'm not responding this time. Obviously I still have mixed feelings or I wouldn't be searching for "estranged father dying" threads, but I don't see how anything good could come from dashing off for a death bed reconciliation. All lives are short and sometimes things don't work out the way we'd like. So be it.

 

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3rd-daughter answered...

I could identify with something from everyone's post in the above thread. I don't know how old this conversation is. I stumbled upon this by searching for "estranged father dying" and I have mixed emotions. I guess I just wanted to write this down in an anon forum. It looks like I am not alone in my experience and reaction. My dad just had a triple-bypass and is having additional procedures in addition bc he has taken a turn. But it does stir up mixed emotions.

My thoughts go something like this... well I guess I should feel something bc expectations say I should. Oh the sperm donor had surgery? I should probably go see him in case he dies. But why should I it never mattered before. My sister (younger) was freaking this morning saying "what happens if something happens to him... I am so worried" My response, what? Oh no what if he dies, what!? that means will never get to see him again? As if. I think I've seen my dad aka sperm donor (I always follow up the word dad with sperm donor) 3 times in the last 40 years. We just recently resumed talking on the phone. But with him its always chit chat, hows the weather, hows the job, etc etc... over in 5 minutes until the next time we talk about nothing.

I don't know its quite annoying actually. Like life interrupted for this brief announcement just enough to stir up long since buried, forgotten and made peace with abandonment issues. Just enough to remind me of my father-loss. Just enough to raise questions in my heart again. Just enough to remind me of what I never had. Just enough to piss me off that I never had a father REALLY. Just enough to dust off that illusion and make me think that it ever really existed. Just enough to remind me how envious I am of people that had father's and really mourn their passing. He's sick, I'm sorry, I hope you feel better soon, I don't wish any ill-will your way but that stranger walking down the street is sick too and I wish him well the same.

He could have been in my life and my childrens life all along but he chose not to. That was his loss. I'm so sorry for him.

No words of condolences needed. I've made my peace a long time ago. Nothing you can say will fill the hole in my heart that only my father can fill. Since that will never happen. I've accepted that.

I wish I could put into words how I really feel, I am not that great of a writer. I have more but words escape me and as is the norm I am speechless when it comes to the sperm donor.

~best

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I can't believe there are so many others in the same situation. I like those that commented above, have had no contact for 20+ years, only now to find out he is in hospice. Make no mistake, he is reaching out now only because he is fast facing his mortality.

I know I would regret not taking the opportunity to see him, but what I fear is how angry I feel and what I would say to him - just how his incredible dereliction, sustained selfishness and moral decay have done to his sons. I want to tell him he is pathetic and weak, and what a shame he has missed out on knowing all of us, our wives, and children. I feel like whispering in his ear "just go ahead and die already - do us a favor and go".

I will be seeing him next week, and presently I still feel like I will be angry with him. I don't want to even hear what he has to say in response. But all this just sounds too mean or harsh and not in line with whom I am and want to be.

 

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JoninOregon answered...

It doesn't matter what caused the estrangement. It's likely that you regret that it happened about as much as your estranged parent. If you keep looking, you'll find your estrangement was borne of either your ego or your parent's ego. Or both. But your parent is dying now, and one of the things that dies with them is their ego. If you want to find yourself going ego-to-ego with your parent in your mind twenty years after they're dead, go ahead and withhold your forgiveness. Fix them good. See how long it takes you to understand that you are hurting yourself more than you hurt them. Or you can forgive them. Give them a gift they can take with them when they die. Twenty years from now, you probably won't be wishing you could have that decision back. That's my two cents' worth, yours for free. If you're going to ever find peace with all this, you'll find it somewhere near here. Good Luck.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My mom left my dad when I was an infant. From what I can piece together he didn't really see me again until I was around five and then it was for six hours every other week. In a newspaper article he was quoted as saying he had two kids. He has three. During high school he gave me the choice to see him or not and of course being a teenager, I usually found something else to do. During college he moved about 6 hours away. I would see him just a couple of times a year and that was because I asked to visit or would go to the relative's homes during holidays and he would be there. During visits when I was young I would mainly hang out with my half siblings. As I got older visits consisted of cordial chit chat--nothing in depth. I did move into his home to work on a graduate degree but rarely saw him. He came home one night drunk and yelled about being tired of helping his kids. He was of the belief that your pretty much on your own the moment you turn 18 (even if your still in high school like one sibling had been). Never in my life had I experienced anything like that. My mom made me feel very loved and never a burden even though I know sometimes things were difficult. About 6 months into living with him I got into an argument with stepmom and was kicked out. I felt unwanted for the first time in my life. The other thing that bugs me is that when I was younger he smoked inside. I have asthma and could never fathom how a parent rationalizes jeopardizing their child's health. For the last few years I saw him about once a year and the conversation was usually if I still worked at so and so and how my mom's family was doing. I have a toddler so I wasn't going to be the reason she didn't know her grandpa so I put forth the effort to take her to visit him a few times. Last fall my siblings informed me he has cancer. We've (my husband, daughter and self) have visited him a few times but its not much of a visit as he usually watches tv. During on of his times at the hospital my daughter and I went to visit and he made the comment of "maybe there's too many people in the room for the nurses to come by." We were the last to arrive so I figured we'd take the hint and left shortly afterwards. He has been placed on hospice. I'm trying to be the "good child" and forgive him so I can get on with life. It's hard because I want to know why he couldn't be the dad I think he should have been. I also don't want to add to his pain. We'll probably visit about once a week until he passes. I've cried a lot the last few days and couldn't understand why but I think its the greiving of knowing he can never be the man I needed him to be and that I'm having to let go of the idea of having a dad versus the father he was.

 

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jerseygirl4299 answered...

My father and I have been estranged for the last two years. He found out 3 days ago that he has stage IV prostate cancer. He called me at 5:30 am on Saturday from someone else's phone to tell me this...or rather to leave me a message at a time when he knew I wasn't likely to answer. He called me from someone else's phone because he changed his phone number when he disowned me and he doesn't want me to know his current ph #. (rolling my eyes) I haven't called him back and I'm not sure that I will.
He's been so mean and hateful. My grieving process started two years ago when he changed his ph # and filed a lien against my property for $ I owed him. (though, just to clarify, we are not estranged due to $ issues) I'm a little concerned that later on I'll go through that 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' thing. There might be things I wish I had said or done, but it will be too late. However, right now I can't seem to figure out what I'm supposed to say or do.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I decided to comment here, because so many people have expressed doubts about whether they "should or shouldn't" see a dying parent. I say, use caution, and here's why:

Recently, my estranged sociopathic mother got me sucked into an estate lawsuit (I won't even go into it) with other relatives. We ended up discovering that she had scammed her brother, me, my brother, and the other relatives. No surprise to me.

Due to the lawsuit, I had no choice but to interact with her, even though I'd successfully stayed away for about 10 years. She made a big act at her nursing home about how glad she was that I was back in her life etc. and I made a good faith (but nihilistic) effort to legitimately get along and help her. Throughout her nursing home time, she suffered from episodic "near death" occurrences. We would be called and told she was about to die any moment; but then she would recover. This happened repeatedly over the period of many years, and it entered into why I had to be involved as her agent as well as a party in the lawsuit.

Once we were able to discover what really happened in the lawsuit, we settled with the relatives. My mother then became blatant again with her chilly, destructive, murderous behaviors. And, throughout the lawsuit, even while she was pretending to be nice, she succeeded in ruining my credit, causing me to lose my home, destroying my health, and turning several people against me on false pretenses. That was her standard protocol in dealing with me since I was a child; that's what sociopaths do, and they never stop doing it.

I of course ended the relationship again as soon as I was no longer legally entangled in the estate lawsuit. By that point, most people were on to her, and her continuing efforts to ruin my reputation to anyone she could get to listen to her usually fell on deaf ears. Shortly following all of this, she started having those "near-death" episodes more severely, and recently passed away alone, having alienated everyone who knew her.

I shared this because I want to say that, if you have the kind of parent I did, you should NOT get back in touch with them. There are some mental/personality disorders which never go away. If your parent has such a condition or, for whatever reason, has always been abusive to you, then nothing is going to change. As I discovered, someone like this can do incredible harm to you and your life even from a sick bed. It isn't worth having your life ruined to try to be nice to someone who wants to hurt you just because they are dying.

Even if your parent isn't able to do actual physical or real harm to you, they may have a continuing desire to harm you emotionally or psychologically. You will be in a vulnerable state most likely if you are there with your parent dying and having a troubling past; I don't think it would be wise to be exposed to such a risk.

I'm sure that God will understand your decision if you stay away, regardless of what some bleed-heart relatives, friends and associates may think. Please decide fairly for yourself. Of course, if your estrangement is over something nonsensical in the grand scheme of things, then you probably should try to resolve that, since you'll both feel better. But in situations where you parent was truly abusive, I say, don't do it.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My father died in 1988 after I hadn't interacted with him for years. He had divorced my mom, moved to the other coast and made choices that I might not of made.

I haven't lived with him or my mom for decades. My mom hasn't had real life interactions with me since 1999. I don't know why, however, after years of emotional agony and several phone calls, I learned her answer. She told me this last year that when I was 17 years old, I left home and never turned back. THIS WAS/IS NOT TRUE.

Its 2012 now and I've my own child who had none of my relatives to celebrate any of her life events with. My child would use scenes from the show Friends to write how she spent the holiday in her school classes. One time in middle school she came home lol big time. I learned from her that the Friends Thanksgiving episode paper had her teacher gushing how wonderful her family is. She and I laughed and cried at the same time.

I think that having students write about the "holidays" should be a banned topic in schools.

That's another post though.

So, my mom is now dying.

My family is calling me now.

Odd.

So, do I go to my mom and help?

The agony of wishing for family acceptance and love and the need to be a good mom and show my child the most healthy way to live in life.

So far, I'm not going. I fear my mom will see me, then say, okay, now she killed me, and then freaking die. I can't deal with all of this. I don't care what she says I've done wrong anymore. I would like to know what though.

I'm praying and seriously considering all my actions and how that my effect my child.

Do parents who alienate and cause such pain have any right or social obligation extracted from the children they've chased away?

I wish my child and I peace, love, happiness and a sense of clear direction and purpose in life. Do I jump into the negativity of what my genetic family usually gifts me with?

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I think the best answer to this question is to trust yourself to know what is best for you. I'm guessing the reason we even ask the question (yes, I'm in a similiar situation) is because we need permission to feel the way we do - that we don't want to rush to the death bed of someone who was never there for us. It's extremely taboo to not reach out to someone on their death bed. The judgment is brutal. I'm learning to talk to those who support me and don't talk to those who make me feel like I have to defend myself. Ultimately, we must remember - we are not responsible for being in this situation. A parent should show up for their childs life - that's how it's supposed to be, not that an adult child should show up for their estranged fathers death.

 

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Shawneo answered...

I read this thread a couple nights ago when I was trying to decide what I should do. In the end I decided to go and see my father in the hospital who had just suffered a heart attack. When I got into the emergency room I gave him a hug and I ended up breaking down while in his embrace. When I pulled away from his hug I could see that his head went red and he was trying really hard to hold back the tears. It was at that moment that I realized that he too had missed me. This is a man who never shows emotion. so to get a reaction like that was truly a gift. 11 years had passed since I had last seen him. In that time I have had a child, got married, and finished my schooling. He had clearly missed a lot in that time. I didn't invite him to my wedding and I didn't introduce him to my daughter, after all he never called or anything, ever. After last nights meeting I have realized that not including him in those two big life events was wrong. He clearly cared/cares for me but lacks the ability to demonstrate it. After reading the other posts on this thread I can see I am a lucky person. My father will likely pull through and live a while longer. I am happy I went. I will take this opportunity to at the very least pursue a friendship with him during whatever the amount of time he and I have left on this planet. If his condition were to worsen I at least know I made an effort and that it would have let me not live with the anger I had built up inside over a lifetime. I was able to release all those emotions with one visit. Like I mentioned above, some people just are not socially capable to carry any sort of relationship or show love even though they want to and they do love you. I know every situation is different. You will need to decide for yourself what to do. I am at peace this morning and I hope you can be too.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My father is dying, down to a few weeks. My mother is exhausted for him over the years. We haven't spoken in 17 years. I'm not planning to visit or call. A friend of my mothers called, a women I don't even know. She was very nice and realizing that no one in my family talks to me, described the situation and asked me to go visit. I was nice, but I really resented a call from a total stranger who decide she was going to try to do the "right" thing and make it better. Bottom line- Kids do not owe anything to their parents. We didn't ask to be raised by them, they did the best they could and I do the best I can with my kids. My parents made the decision to cut me and my family out of their lives, they didn't feel that it was important enough to reach out and contact us. And they still don't. This call came from a thrid party who wanted to guilt me into something. Fact is I don't really care. Nor should you. You have friends and relationships that bring you joy and make you happy, life is to short to waste on those do not. Even if they happen to be related to you some how.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My dad died a year ago at the age of 63. We had been estranged, because as an adult I remarried and he did not want me to marry a man that was not from his culture. When my only brother his son died he made peace with my brother and at the same time with me, but it all eneded when my daughter married at the age of 18. He died a month before she gave birth to his great granddaughter, but that morning we had made peace once again. I am grateful I had that chance, because regardless of how he was and how he never showed us love he was my father. My daughter now does not talk to me, because of her husband and I do not even know my grandchild who is already 1yr and 5 months old. It hurts to not see them and have thanked God for giving me the opportunity to speak with my father before he passed. I am left now understanding how many times he wished I would have picked up the phone and called him. I have tried with my own daughter and know that she no longer wants to see me and I regret not trying with my dad.

 

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pretending answered...

I spent the better part of 4 decades trying to convince myself that I didn't "need" my fathers love or attention. Now after a lifetime of zero contact, I discover, by complete surprise, that he, my estranged terminally ill father, has only a few weeks to live. I feel ambushed by the attack of emotions I now face. I am adult, a 50 year old mother with a two teen daughters, a pending divorce, and very complicated set of mixed feelings that I can't even identify let alone process or put into prospective. Do I fly across the country to see him hospice...? Should I go? Will I find some sort of closure? I don't wish him any ill will. I don't expect any sort of loving reunion. I wonder if he'll even care? Am I setting myself up for another landslide of rejection? Or, is this my one and only chance to make sense of a lonely past that I pretend never happened?

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I just lost my mother. we had a weird relationship, only at the end did she and i bond truely. I took medical leave from my job to care for her. It was strange, yet satisfying as far as knowing I did what I was supposed to do. There was some closure, but in all honesty it left me with questions. I'm not sure everyone could do what I did given the situation. I was in a cloud of obligation and guilt, and for two weeks I was in shock after her passing. I'm grieving now, but not how a normal person would grieve. Basically I've always grieved for a mother, a normal one. But death isn't easily grasped by the human mind. I still find myself trying to text or call her when I'm having a bad day. I wish she would just yell at me one more time. Its just strange. Even though our relationship was strained, it was better then nothing. Anyone else feeling this way??

 

jlfcpa60 answered...

I am not a health-care professional or anything, but wanted to relay how I have done since my father died in late 2005. First of all, please do not miss getting to hospice BEFORE they are admitted! My Dad had cancer but I was unaware of how hospice worked and I worked an extra day (lived about 150 miles away) and when I got there, I did not get a chance to say goodbye or talk to him. They kept him unconscious with pain medicine from there on out and I did not get that last chance. My Dad and I both are hard to crack and I never got to tell him my or hear from him the deep things in his heart.

I will say that after he died, God has blessed me with dreams. I say this because in the book of Job, God actually allowed the enemy to attack Job, and the enemy even hounded him with nightmares. Well, I dream about my Dad almost every single night, now going on 7 plus years. In the beginning it was like we were trying to settle our differences and were always fighting. Now when I dream of him, we are best of friends and have a great time together. I am actually at the point now where he is there in my dreams and I am telling other people that see him too that he is really not there, but in heaven, but we carry on just like he splits his time between places!

Doesn't that sound strange?

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

it was 20 years for me going it alone with my own family with 2 sisters and a brother i was never contacted once any way last year my sister got cancer so i made the effort to contact them

i have seen my parents and sisters a couple of times it's been a cool reception

Now my father has cancer,i don't know how long hes got but im glad i did make the effort to see him as i can tell he likes my phone calls

You do whats best for you

 

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bfran answered...

I have read the replies to this posting and would like to add my own comment.

I have been estranged from my father since I was 11 when he couldn't win custody and then declared he no longer wanted access. Thankfully, my traumatised mother raised me in close proximity to my wonderful loving grandparents and minimised the impact of his behaviours on me. He was charming and I loved him to bits. He repeatedly stopped paying maintenance, and stalked me when I was at University. I couldn't reconcile these behaviours with a loving father.

I sent him a card after Uni telling him I had my degree and for him not to worry - I was OK. Then he turned up at my mother's funeral after 38 years of no contact, uninvited and unannounced and with his siblings and their spouses, claiming 'the past is past'. Then the day after my mother's funeral I heard the first of many streams of lies and he repeatedly denied my thoughts, feelings and wishes; behaviours I recognise whilst a child but which I did not dispute as a child, but accepted as the 'norm'. I tried to separate repeatedly and it was not respected. I then received a call from his relatives - he was dying in hospital. Seven months later, after me taking an active and loving role in his care, to the detriment of my own health and life, and being the only person to stay with him whilst he was dying, he has found a way to hurt me from beyond the grave. He left detailed wishes with his funeral director, with instructions they not be shared with anyone other than the presiding priest and that they not be deviated from in any instance. He has specifically allocated the arrangements to the total exclusion of myself in any role or function. His sister and family have been identified as next of kin and they are treating it as if I am not a part of their family - and that I have no loss. I dread how he will hurt me in his will - and I have no wish for anything of his, but it is another vehicle for him to hurt me. All this when I am entirely alone and emotionally spent after caring for him up to his death and being 'strung along' by his relatives - and not even an opportunity to grieve as a daughter or receive any emotional support. I have now concluded that this is finally evidence that he is a sociopath, which brings some respite, as he was never able to love, but I was extremely exploited in his manipulations - and manipulations when health and safety are involved are very demanding.

I would urge anyone estranged from family to consider all options and consequences for trying to engage in an estranged relationship. There may be a pathology in there that could hurt you more than you imagine.

 

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mjthomas answered...

I think if you are a parent and you don't want to go to your grave estranged from your child the time to act is well before you get sick. If you are a child who is estranged from an abusive parent, and that parent hasn't made an effort to own his or her actions and mend the relationship, you are under no obligation to respond to a death bed request. Guard your heart. I don't think the time to mend a broken relationship is during a crisis, holiday, or major life event.

 

Rocklobster answered...

I received a call today from my brother to let me know that my step monster left a message about my father. She said he was on his "last legs" and had specifically requested to speak to ME! Ha! I have not spoken to this man in 15 years! Where at this point he admitted he had screwed up and I let him know that I completely agreed. I got my acknowledgement....and I thought I was free! Not the case. Today's phone call slapped me right across my face, brain and heart. I had SOOO many angles of digesting this. I was stuttering in my own head!! WTF?...was repeated over and over.
After all that crazy talk to MYSELF!! (people on the freeway probably I thought I was a crazy lady) I said "f~~~ it.....I'm calling. Literally....it was that feeling of "Pull the band aid off fast" so it might not hurt so much. He answered the phone....and wow....my first thought was you sound really old and weak. Then....to my surprise (but not really) the conversation was nothing deep. Here I was....contemplating the call....maybe he wants to apologize/maybe he is having death bed confessions/maybe he wants to......blah, blah, blah. DO NOT EXPECT!!! Which is a lesson I already know......but I did it anyway. I EXPECTED something different. I guess it goes along with ASSUME. And....yes...I am an ass! Bottom line...the conversation was so surface and "weather" like..I was kinda bugged. Tonight as I am writing this (and looking up some sort of insight on this situation) I can say I AM TOTALLY SATISFIED/CONTENT/RELIEVED that I called. If he dies tonight....I will not have any "residue" of this man or situation upon me. I know I did the right thing. It wasn't super easy. It was totally weird and uncomfortable.....but I am free from any haunting thoughts. My scars will always remain in my heart.....regardless. But it truly gave me peace to be the bigger person.

 

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Suska answered...

I, too, am struggling with what to do about my estrangement with my elderly mother. We have been estranged for about a year and a half, but have had a very strained relationship for the past 10 years, but really, for me, it's been since I was a kid.

My mother is a narcissist. She cannot see outside of herself. When I was 12, several years after my parents divorced, she got involved with someone who moved in with us and wanted absolutely nothing to do with me and my mother soon followed suit. The two of them were always stoned: constantly smoking pot and also taking other drugs on occasion. They made it clear to me that they could care less if I was around or not. So I got away from home as often as possible, which was perfectly fine with them. So, basically, I had to raise myself.

Until our estrangement, every time I would talk to her, she did nothing but talk about herself, sometimes for over an hour, and would never ask about me or my husband. We finally had a confrontation about something to do with my sister, and it opened up the floodgates and I finally let her know how much she had hurt me and how abandoned I felt by her since I was a kid.

Her reaction was to attack my character, act like she was the victim, and then stop communication with me for over a year. Then she wrote me a note when my father died, so I reached out to her, and the same thing happened again. This time she told me that she doesn't want me in her life any more. I told her that she can't be a fair weather mother and that if she reaches out to me again, don't expect any response.

So, she sent me an eCard on my birthday and I ignored it. She never wished me a birthday the year before, when I turned 50. Then I got a call that my mother was in the hospital after a fall. I found out her condition was not that serious, and she will be OK, but it did give me pause and make me wonder what I should do.

She refuses to discuss anything with me that I am hurt about and insists that I am "living in the past" (even though she still is completely self-centered and narcissistic) and "living in anger" (even though it's just at her and not at the world) and blah blah blah. I told her I need to know that she empathizes with and validates my feelings, and that she feels some sense of responsibility for the pain she caused me, and that she is willing to make some changes in our relationship so that we both feel fulfilled. For her, this is not an option. She views this as a vicious attack on her.

She is not so healthy, she's in her 70's, and I do fear getting that phone call that she died. At the same time, I know that if I "reconcile" with her that it must be on her terms and that relating to her will cause me depression and anger.

So, it is a very complicated decision and there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer.

 

imsad answered...

For 10 yaers I have only spoken to my Dad when we happen to run into eachother at a holiday. But this is no fault of our own. My mother and I had a fallung out and since he has to live with her Its just been easier for everyone to not upset her. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor some years ago and we never thought he would have as long as he did. However with the end only a few days away my heart is breaking. He can no longer speak and Ill never know how he truly feels. I know that he loves me and when i see him i see it in his eyes. But I feel like such a stranger in his house with my mom there watching me. How do i say i forgive you and i understand why its been this way for so long when shes right there? He loves her and i dont want him to hurt because of me but if i never say these things i dont think i will ever be happy again.

 

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100% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

I can't speak to the estrangement with parents, but I was estranged from my grandparents when they died. They were abusive people. I resolved long before their deaths that they were already dead to me. I did not attend their funerals, and I have no regrets. Each person has to make the call concerning whether to reach out to a dying, estranged relative, solidify the decision, then move on without looking back.

 

Amethyst41 answered...

My father died three weeks ago. I had not spoken to him in 27 years, other than for him to ask me if I was reading the bible and going to meetings. He was one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and I made the supreme mistake of marrying someone not of that faith. He did not come to my wedding. He did not come to the birth of my child. He did not come to graduations, celebrations, or even send a card or acknowledgment. Long ago, I accepted this as his way of doing what is right for him. However, the unexpected effect was that my siblings believe that I rejected him, and they will not talk to me or believe that it was a two-way street. As a result, I've lost my relationship with my four siblings and their children as well. I'm truly on the outside of my family. I went to my father's funeral, and was cordially told by my stepmother that I was welcome to come by the house for the food afterward. How gracious of her. At the house, two of my sisters basically ignored me, and the third yelled at me. I thought I had settled these feelings in my heart, but now, after three weeks, I'm feeling angry about the lost relationships. It will be a long time healing from this. I know I need to move forward and focus on my own husband and children, but it's going to be difficult, because I'm a loving and giving person. It's hard for me to imagine someone acting this way, let alone be on the receiving end of such behavior. I do feel for all of you who have posted before me, and I do hope that time will help us all come to peace with our emotions.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Estrangement. What an interesting word. I believe it's too simple a word to describe having no relationship with one's father. Just like so many things in my father's life, he gets off easy by saying, "I'm estranged from my kids." Like he had absolutely nothing to do with it. Like it was my brother's and my decision, not his. He made the poor choices in his life. He chose drugs, alcohol and other women over us. He chose to live two miles away while we were teenagers and never get in touch. He chose the estrangement. And in so doing, he missed high school and college graduations, marriages, grandsons, military deployments to war, returns from war, and ultimately getting to know two surprisingly grounded individuals. Now he is in ill health from other bad choices he made along the way. How do we get him to see that he's where he is because he CHOSE it himself? We're collectively holding our breath knowing we will soon be getting THAT call - either to come to his deathbed, or to a funeral. I think then, my brother and I will finally get to choose. At this very moment in my life, I believe I will choose to stay away.

 

AuntyFlo answered...

I have been estranged from my parents for roughly 40 years. My father was a terrible person, not to just me but my two brothers and my mother. My mother adored my father, it made me sick. I use to pray that a car accident would end his life but he hung on till this weekend.
I have little remorse, but I fell that my mother has always blamed it all on me and never ever cared about me. In other words she was never a mother to me, but she did everything for the boys. It's a long story, I had the benefit of my aunt who became my pseudo mother figure. She was a great persons and my cousins are like sisters to me.

I married a wonderful man, really wonderful. When he went to talk to my parents about our marriage, they told him I was a horrible person and he really should reconsidered.

I chose to leave my mother and father out of my life, but went to see them for an afternoon after not seeing them for 15 years. It went much better than expected, but and there was always a but the next day my father called and told me how fat I had become. I was wearing a size 6 at the time. He knew how to push those buttons and I told him never to call again.

Today I must call my mother and ask her how she is doing . He died two days ago. I am so fearful of the phone call.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My mother's just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, more than 7 years after I've tried to go no-contact, which she always ignored, blamed me for putting my career over her well-being. Now, after the diagnosis, but only after, she sort-of-tries to "reach out" to me again, by having all her friends and family call me, email me, ask me to come and see me. From her came another mail a few days ago, listing who's come to see her, and adding the phrase how she was "full of pain and fear, and full of love and pride of our daughter". No reponse to my previous mail, where I said I wouldn't see her, and gave the reasons why. Just more manipulation and guilt, and she can't even address me directly, just remind me of my position in her family "our daughter". That's what I've always been to her, never a person, never another human being with the right to be seen for what she is, her hopes, her fears, her own emotions. People don't change just because they're close to death, and as they are getting weaker and weaker physically, they get a moral/guilt strength they've never had in their good days. She had years and years to want to listen, and never cared to even know who I really was. I don't need to wait until she's dead to grieve, I already do, day by day, for the true, loving, caring mother I've never had. Not giving in to her this time is also about standing up for myself this time, not being fooled by her little games again, not letting her steer my behavior through guilt just once more. The idea of forgiveness is so beautiful, but in my mind, forgiveness can only be given if asked for, and that she never will. Therefore, I do have the right to care for myself in the way that is best for me. And this means, keep away.

 

thickasthieves answered...

As I was sitting here feeling like I must be the only person in the world going through this, I see so many people and so many feelings. As stated above, it is such an individual choice. My Father called me when I was 12 (parents divorced) and announced that he had remarried and now had a new family, there was no need for me to make the one hour train trip to visit him. No one can know what that does to a child. The years of feeling inadequate, trying to compensate through a series of bad relationship choices in my twenties. I had a very colorful childhood full of my Father's eccentricities of which I will leave out the details. It was not until I was in my upper 20's that my mother managed up the truth, that my Father was severely mentally ill. Since that time when I was 12, I have also never heard a word from his family, which is large. Last week I started getting various messages via facebook from his family stating that he had fallen ill and I was listed as the only living descendant. The hospital and state appointed attorney needed to speak with me. A couple of Aunts and an Uncles have said how much they have missed me and wondered if I was well. As I understand that my Father was mentally unable to know what he was doing back then, I do not understand how Grandparents and numerous Aunts and Uncles could completely disappear and then years later make as if they had been concerned. None the less, I have decided that I could not live with myself if I did not make the trip to visit him, whether he knows I am there or not. I will not tell my Mother or any family, but will go on my own. I will make his arrangements when I am there (as I am obligated to) and will not attend services with the family that I don't know. I will then return to my family here where I have learned that blood is, in fact, not always thicker than water. It isn't about forgiving, it is about knowing that people make bad decisions that effect lives forever, and that's it. I feel blessed that I have been successful in my life, that I can drop at a moment and hop on a plane to do this. I don't know what came of his life, only of this one moment. I may never really know what his battle with severe mental illness was like or how tortured his life may have been, but I have one chance to make sure that he passes with dignity and not alone.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

my biological father was an abuser and hated my mom, myself, and my brother.

when i turned 18 he never contacted me, nor i him. all i remember is hating him from the time i could understand every time he beat my sweet mother and us for no reason.

my mom finally divorced him and my brother and i never forgave him, and he could care less. he told other relatives he hated us and was glad there was no communication.

i learned recently he was dying but he never asked about any of us at all so we stayed away.

none of us feel any guilt because he kept everything he and my mother owned jointly when she finally divorced him. he never returned anything to any of us and the house, businesses, cars, vacation homes, and magnificent residential home, along with bank accounts meant more to him that his own family.....so we feel no remorse now that he died. only pity that he lost out having a loving family and really knowing us as he should have.

it is easy to become a father and husband as far as having intimate relations, but that is not the only thing which makes a man a good father and husband. a good father and husband loves and shields his family from harm, and is not the abuser, wife and child beater.

how my mom could stay married to him for 18 years i can understand since he always threatened her with more violence if she were to ever leave him, but it was filing for divorce or her committing suicide.

i am glad her common sense prevailed, because no one deserved what she and what we the children received from my father who was the most despicable poor excuse for a man.

i hope he was judged on judgement day and is enjoying his hot seat for eternity. Lord knows he certainly deserved it.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I have not spoken properly to my dad nor seen him since 2008. He has had been to hospitals with strokes and there was a lot of financial problems. My dad supported me financially a lot. The life was not ideal - it was total dependancy which was not allowing me to build my own life for two decades. He was great but he also was terrible. It was a long distance daughter - father relationship as he lived on a different part of a planet with 9 hour difference. Throughout my twenties and thirties I was visiting him a lot, for few months every year. He was paying for everything. Before he had emigrated there 30 years ago we were kind of close - he used to visit me and grandma on Sundays, but that my granny said that was just to have free dinners. My mother was the bread winner until I got into a prestigious University abroad this is when we decided to ask him for the first time to contribute to anything , it was to the university fees. He paid half, he said to everyone he paid everything - this tendency to lie was not surprise. This was when he already emigrated and was earning good money. After I finished my studies he continued to support me financially. This was because "we" decided that I should have a flat and mortgage. I could not afford it. He was paying for my mortgage and giving me abuse on the phone a lot. When I visited him he used to call me 5 times per day to check where I was. It was difficult to get to know people with him being around. When I was a student there was an episode when I went to visit him for a vacation and he said he could not find me a place to stay and that I had to live with his best friends' friends. They turned out to be in porn business and it was too shocking for me. The way I was brought up was hardly liberal and he knew it. I was a virgin and I was engaged to be married. I was made to watch porn with him and those dubious friends. I had a trauma. It had than been made into a taboo subject. My engagement fell apart. I was devastated. When the recession started it all came crumbling down. He had a new wife who disliked me ( he had 5 wives in total ) and there was a lot of slanderous behaviour on her part towards me which I was in denial of. He was very good to me, paying for absolutely everything but there was an unhealthy boundary. I always knew if I let it happen or even relaxed he would have taken advantage of me , sexually, I never felt safe. It was a hard work. The fact that dad used to be engaged with my mum's sister before they got married is hardly helping either. My aunt despises him and every xmas is a nightmare for me having to listen to what a horrible person he was from her view point. I know he was horrible but I know that he was not negligible towards me either. The moment which was a turning point though was during his birthday, I cooked and set the table for his guests, he was abusive towards me during the preparations, when the guests arrived I said jokingly that it has been hard for me to take his calls from work 5 times a day. In retaliation he said that he demanded a grandson and that I am getting old and he is going to pay someone to rape me. At that point one of his guests told an anecdote about how he used to steal embryos from the medical department at a university and put them into hands of sleeping girls after the parties... This was supposed to be funny... When dad lost his job he had to sell his house the joker, was an estate agent, cheated him on the profit. I also had to sell the flat and became homeless. He did not care. Turned hypochondriac. Than indeed was hospitalized. His brother took him home back to his country. We spoke once on the phone and it turned into a huge raw , which included my grandma, and I just turned off the phone because I worried grandmother would have a stoke she was shouting so much at them, which was very out of character and unusual. The way he and his brother spoke to my granny was awful and disrespectful. His brother takes all his retirement money. He is deliberately obnoxious towards me and blames me for dad's health problems. He sent me a photo via email from his journey to Asia with a naked child. I reported him to the police. I am very happy to not have to put up with it all, but I do miss dad sometimes. My mother has been cheated on by him and mistreated by him when she was young and she still has psychological problems because of it. For this reason alone I do not get in touch - I have learned about it just before all these troubles started and stopped talking to him after a year from hearing that, it took me the whole year to take it on board. He helps his brother with his business and his brother, who btw is my god father, protects his access to dad's money like viscous dog with a bone. So, even if I could have a sincere moment with my dad now, and I know that he loves me, it would cost me a lot of nerves anyway. There, I convinced myself it is not worth it. Thank you for letting me speak on this forum.

 

 
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