When I first became estranged from my youngest daughter 10 years ago, I did what I always do when faced with a question that needs an answer: I went to the library.
Guess what? There were no books about family estrangement in the library. None. There was one book about difficulties in parent-child relationships, but it didn’t have much about estrangement.
I was at a loss. I knew no one else whose child had cut them out of their life. I was confused, hurt, and above all, deeply ashamed. How could this have happened? It was the last thing I ever believed would happen to me.
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I spiraled into a depression, sitting on the floor night after night, weeping with the grief only a mother who has lost a child can understand.
Friends don't always understand.
I learned early on that talking about it was not a good idea.
Friends who loved me assured me that she would come around. "Kids do these things," they said. Their words were little comfort.
They wanted to help, but they were at a loss, though they at least acknowledged the depth of my pain.
Some did not want me to talk about it. They moved on in the conversation leaving me to feel dismissed. I found this hurtful.
Others would just look at me incredulously, and while they didn’t say it out loud, their eyes would ask me, "What did you do?" This question cuts like a knife.
If you are struggling to make sense of your child’s estrangement, this response can send you into a spiral.
Estrangement can be so lonely.
I had nowhere to turn to find comfort, understanding, or relief from the agony of shame that I was experiencing. So I hid it. I never talked about it to anyone. No one understood, so it was best to keep quiet.
This is the hardest part of estrangement.