real life

'I wrote a story about being estranged from my daughter. I didn't expect the vitriol.'

My article on the pain of being an estranged mother was recently published on Mamamia.

It was intended to be a raw and honest account of what it feels like to be abandoned and to constantly suffer the same of judgement, isolation and never-ending torment. 

An account of my life, no-one else’s. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my beautiful daughter and ache to listen to her, apologise to her, hold her.

I can still smell the top of her soft blonde head and regularly have a recurring dream of her when she was a baby, happily gurgling in a onesie and clapping her hands joyfully. My face is wet with tears upon waking.

Watch: Dear Mum... A Letter From My Future Self. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

My experiences were meant to highlight the issues around ‘hiding’ the turmoil at home and the absolute bewilderment and powerlessness of loving and caring for a teenager and young adult who was violent, abusive and belittling. 

My husband and I kept this from everyone, feeling nothing but shame and failure in our efforts to help her. We held her, begged her to tell us what we could do and responded as quickly as we could to do what she needed. We were often frightened for her safety and sometimes for ours.


We both believe that we tried the best we could. We sought professional medical help for her, called the ambulance when she needed hospitalisation and supported her in her interests, friendships and travels. 

In no way was my article intended to portray us as perfect, or cold, or depict our child as a ‘burden.’ We were not, and she was certainly not a burden. 

All we longed for was for her to be happy, at peace with herself and truly see the love, support and acceptance we offered her.

We understand that she feels that she can only do that without us in her life. She wants no contact with us, and we are respecting her decision. She has found a job after graduating from university and lives ‘near London’ somewhere. That is all we know. And yes, that has to be enough for now. 

Perhaps it was naïve, but I thought that by sharing my experience, beyond my psychiatrist, close friends and support group, it might resonate with some other parents who are grieving - because it is grief. It is grief for things we did wrong; things we did not handle very well during the stress and anxiety of the moment; and grief for a person who is not dead but wants us to be so. 

Maybe some other parents would feel less alone and feel as though they had a voice, too. A quick check on the support group I belong to reveals a membership of over 20,000 mothers and fathers, so we are most definitely not alone.


But then I read through the comments underneath the article.

"All I read is poor me," one read. 

Another said the story was "one sided", and at least two others called me a "narcissistic parent"

Others congratulated my daughter for cutting us out, for "flying" despite her apparently terrible upbringing. 

And there it was. The judgment. The armchair psychological diagnoses. What I will say is that I do have a mental illness, but it is not narcissism. I have suffered and been officially diagnosed with severe depression for nearly 20 years and have been seeing mental health professionals, taking medication, undergoing therapy and reminding myself to breathe, take one day at a time and appreciate the little things. It is a constant battle and an exhausting and lonely one. 

The comments, for a few hours, tempted me to sink back into that deep, dark hole of worthlessness and despair as it is always there, waiting for me, hoping for a stumble and ready to pounce.

But I will not. My truth is my own, as is my mental illness. What I will not accept is being diagnosed and judged by strangers.

Listen to This Glorious Mess, On this episode, Leigh and Tegan are joined by former Home & Away actor Tammin Sursok for a full debrief on all things motherhood. Post continues after audio.


I cried tears when someone wrote: “My heart breaks for you,” but it was dashed when that person was attacked for daring to comment. 

The kind lady tried again. “If I choose to feel this way about the article and you another, so be it! I’d rather sympathise than judge.” 

And there is the irony. Instead of encouraging other devastated parents to see that their torment is acknowledged or that they can see kindness or empathy in others, it descended into snap diagnoses of narcissism, abuse and coldness. That is precisely why estranged parents stay silent - because the judgment only compounds the pain and the isolation.

Maybe those who commented have younger children or are estranged from their parents themselves. Either way, I would not wish my situation – or the suffering of my daughter – on anyone. Ever. 

This is ambiguous grief, which has no ceremony such as a funeral to mark it, nor a memorial, nor an ending. It pounds your gut the second you wake up to the moment you lay your head on the pillow at night. 

I’m hoping that the article somehow did reach anyone who is suffering in silence and that some keyboard warriors might take a few moments to think about the person sharing their most vulnerable, painful heartache before descending to insults and bullying.

Feature Image: Getty

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