Always a daughter and mother regardless of rejection
Severed relationships do not break bonds, love, or worry
I wish more than anything that I was writing this blog to tell everyone that the broken and damaged relationships in my family have all been repaired. But sadly, that is not the case. It has been 26 months since our oldest daughter cut us off without explanation; 27 months since we have seen our granddaughter who turned three on May 1. It has been 22 months since my mother informed me, that she needed “time to think about things.” During this time, she has ignored or rejected every overture I have made toward reconciliation. It has been 14 months since my middle daughter decided to cut off our relationship and deny me access to my grandson; I have not seen him for 17 months. And my youngest daughter has had little contact with us for 14 months as well, although she has not completely severed all communication.
Blocked and Cut-off with Casual Cruelty
Their desire to cut me out of their lives has been extreme. I have offered to go to therapy with all of them. I have offered to pay, see a counselor in their city, and go when it is convenient for them. Despite all of them throwing therapy in my face more than once, saying they would not reconcile with me without therapy, all my offers have been ignored. They don’t reject them they simply do not acknowledge the offers at all. I have been blocked from all their social media sites. My mother has blocked all my phone numbers and email accounts. I have no idea whether my two oldest daughters receive any of my communication; I have sent them couriers, mail, emails, and text messages, but not even one has been acknowledged. Then they started moving. My middle daughter moved last fall – I know the city she lives in but I have no clue what her address is. My youngest daughter moved a few months ago. Again, I know what city she is in, but I do not know her address. And then a month ago, my mother, who lives in my neighbourhood, sold her condo. She too is moving. I have no idea where to. The implication is that they all need to take these measures because I harass them. Of course, I consider this an insulting and hurtful accusation. But they have all taken things to such an extreme place that there is no rationality to any of their actions or accusations. I believe they must behave in these extreme ways because they know it will elicit a reaction from me, and then when I react, they can all say, “see, you are crazy!”
Their collective treatment of me has been beyond cruel. They all simply decided they were angry with me. Once they decided this, they put every one of my faults under a magnifying glass and claimed that they were all abusive behaviours that they suffered at the hands of. They never expressed their feelings to me before cutting me off. They have not been willing to talk or attend counseling. They have involved themselves in each other’s situations and drawn correlations to fit their narrative, but that aren’t necessarily accurate. In the case of my middle daughter, she has accused me of things publicly in her blog that I consider untrue. Regardless of what happens in the future, she has permanently damaged my reputation. She wrote in a 2021 Mother’s Day blog that I traumatized and abused her. She then claimed that she had “tried everything” before she decided to cut me off. This is me stating publicly that she tried “NOTHING!” As I said, she has not acknowledged my offer of counseling, let alone attend a single session with me. And, when I had my falling out with my mother, none of my daughters ever asked my side, none offered to help mediate, and none were willing to factor in my childhood and my history with my mother before passing judgment on me. They took her word that I had done something awful, and all cut me off. Even though none of them have a single shred of evidence of me ever treating my mother badly. I have taken care of her for the past 30 years far more than she has taken care of me. So, it is not clear to me how my middle daughter can claim publicly to family, friends, and strangers that she “tried everything.” She is lying to her readers and herself, the question for me is, why?
The pain their treatment has caused me, and the profound effect on my mental health are difficult to express. I have spent the better part of the last 17 months fighting suicidal ideation. Every choice I made for 27 years was based on the needs of my children, mother, and husband. They were my everything. Every month had an occasion that revolved around one, some, or all of them. They were always considered when holiday, vacation, and retirement planning. I believed until my mother stopped talking to me that she would live with us in her old age. I worked to build my freelance writing career, so I had flexibility while my grandchildren were babies and toddlers. Thinking about the future without them seems very empty and pointless. They have broken my heart and left a dark, cavernous hole in my life.
To add insult to injury, it has been implied that my unwillingness to just let them go, is proof that they are justified in their cruelty. That my hurt and depression are evidence of my mental instability. But I argue that anyone that can walk away from their children or parents so easily, without care for the damage they are leaving in their wake, makes them the ones who are not normal. I have never heard of anyone doing to their family what they are doing without there being extreme abuse (e.g., physical, or sexual abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, or diagnosed mental illness that is dangerous). Their cruelty appears to be by design to hurt. And they are very adept.
Worry never abates
All of this has had me feeling a rollercoaster of emotions. Anger, hurt, frustration, depression, grief, confusion, hopelessness, and even revenge all bubble to the surface, consume me, and then give way to the next onslaught. But the one that always takes me most by surprise is the one of worry. In the moments when I find inner strength and can stop thinking about myself and the open wound I live with, my focus turns to worry about my mother and daughters. Because here’s the thing, they are my mother and daughters and I love them with everything I have. It does not matter how much they hurt me, how long they reject me, or what awful things they accuse me of, I still love and worry about them. From the get-go I have had theories about why each of them is treating me (and my husband) the way they are. And I have believed from the get-go that, despite them conflating the issues, they are all separate problems. This is where I segue into my concern for my mother.
The falling out with my mother started over a phone call. The details don’t matter for this post, except to say she said something I didn’t like. And in a rare moment of honesty with her, I told her. The phone call ended okay, but I sensed she was not pleased with me and sure enough I did not hear from her again for two weeks. When she finally did reach out, I decided to tell her that she had upset me and why. Again, this is something I had only ever done two or three times before. I tended to just let things go when my mom upset me because she has also told me I am “too much” and that she is “not like me,” and she would cower and get upset. But at 55 years old, and after having had both my biological daughters tell me repeatedly in the previous years that they should be able to tell me when I do something that upsets them, I decided to speak up to me my mom. I sincerely wish I had not. Because it went even worse than expected, and here I am almost two years later with none of my family speaking to me.
I’m sure anyone paying attention caught the irony in the situation. My daughters tell me they should be able to tell me anything, and they do. I accept it, apologize for any hurt I caused them, and offered to attend counseling. But they just cut me out of their lives after they said their piece… I was not entitled to a say. But when I told my mother how I felt about things she had said and done to me, my daughters treated me like I abused her, and used it as an excuse to cut me off. Nice double-standard.
Signs of Cognitive Decline?
However, my mother’s initial reaction, and more so since, has left me confused. To me, she has been overly sensitive. Her reactions and actions have not been rational. When I have tried to force explanations, she provides repetitive, simplistic responses that don’t offer anything concrete. She says she needs to “protect herself from me,” but I have never harmed her. Quite the opposite, I have always been loving, attentive, and caring. She has said that to reconcile we need “learn how to communicate.” When I asked her to expand on that she was not able, she just kept repeating herself. So, I made some suggestions about ways we could improve our communication. When I was done, she did not agree or disagree, she just repeated that we needed to learn how to communicate like she did not hear or comprehend anything I had said. Prior to this estrangement my mother and I did not have a history of arguing, disagreeing, or not getting along. Her reactions to me, accusations against me, and treatment of me for the last two years are in complete contrast to the 53 years that came before. The things she has said about and to me in no way reflect our history. This has led me to hyper analyze her every interaction, communication, and gesture. And I am worried.
It crossed my mind early on but has rooted itself more deeply in recent months that my mother’s treatment of me could be a sign of cognitive decline. She is 79 years old. Her mother had dementia, and I have always been concerned about my mother getting it. Prior to our falling out I had noticed things that concerned me. Family events which she always enjoyed, started to stress her out. She would complain about how loud they were, or that no one talked to her despite her always getting attention from everyone. I noticed that she stopped reading novels, something she had always done. She seemed to struggle to follow stories or instructions; I found myself having to repeat myself or simplify things. And she seemed to be much more sensitive to things I said to her. Several times when I was offering an opinion, advice, or helping her with things she accused me of bullying her. It stunned me the first time and I told her it hurt me. But it was like once she planted that idea in her head, that is who I became to her. She has always compared me to my dad who she divorced when I was 7. And she used to say he was a bully, so there seems to be transference there. Then a couple of months ago, she sent me a card in reply to me sending her a copy of one of my books. My mother has always had poor handwriting, but I have been reading it my whole life, so I have never struggled to decipher it. It took me two hours to decipher this note. Her handwriting looked like one long string of loops. I should note here that my mother is physically very healthy. She does not have any physical ailments – no arthritis or palsy. She has never had any major surgeries and she is not on any medications that would affect her cognition. So, there is no reason for her handwriting to decline.
Before my family fell apart, I expressed these concerns to my daughters. My middle daughter, who is extremely close to my mother, brushed me off instantly saying my mom was “fine,” and that she was just getting old. My youngest daughter was more open to hearing what I had to say but did not necessarily see what I was seeing. Last spring when instead of answering the phone, my mother decided to sick her sister after me and send the RCMP to my house, I expressed to both the RCMP and my aunt that I felt her behaviour was irrational and that it could be a sign of dementia. My aunt, like my middle daughter, immediately brushed me off saying, “don’t try and pull the dementia stunt.” I still struggle to understand what she meant by that. I have nothing to gain by my mother having dementia, and I certainly do not wish it on her. But she is 79, there is a family history, and a change in personality is an often overlooked sign of early dementia. It was this very trait that was overlooked in my grandmother, hence my concern.
In the year or so before my grandfather died, my grandmother started behaving very cruelly towards him. She was impatient, argumentative, and overly sensitive. No one really understood why, but it was a marked change in her personality. A year, perhaps two passed between my grandfather passing away, and my grandmother moving into a nursing home. I don’t want to make specific public accusations against family members, but she was taken advantage of, and she wrote someone tens of thousands of dollars worth of cheques as “gifts.” It wasn’t until after she was in the home and the family lawyer started looking at her affairs that this was discovered. But because the cheques were “gifts” there was little my mom could do. Who knows if my grandmother remembered how many cheques she wrote?
Trust and Power of Attorney
A few years ago, my mom contacted me and told me she wanted to give me the Power of Attorney over her estate. She wanted to do this to protect herself from what happened to her mother. She told me at the time I was the only person she trusted to take care of her and her affairs. She also told me she wanted to sign the documents “before she started to lose it.” Her words. She feared she would get dementia like her mom, and she could be taken advantage of. She wanted to protect herself in advance just in case. I assume since our falling out that she reversed that… I really have no idea. But I am very concerned that I am out of her life, and the very people she wanted me to protect her from (not my daughters) are in her life. (The fact that I have believed to have had Power of Attorney, as well as keys to her apartment for the past two years and done nothing with either should be proof to everyone that I mean my mother no harm.)
Helpless on the Sidelines
I assume that my middle daughter and her husband have taken on the role in my mother’s life that my husband and I used to play. It concerns me that in her unexplained anger with me, my daughter is blinding herself to the fact that her grandmother could be in cognitive decline. It also concerns me that my daughter has a young son, and just moved into a huge home that they share with her father-in-law. Dementia is nasty, sad, and difficult to deal with. My daughter has been struggling herself and I don’t think she has considered realistically what she might be taking on. And I also worry that if people are willfully overlooking symptoms, my mother could find herself in a vulnerable and/or dangerous situation because the people around her believe her abilities are beyond what they really are.
Having said all the above, I know there is nothing I can do. For some reason, my immediate and extended family have all chosen to buy into the “Racquel is a bad daughter and screwed up person” narrative, rather than consider that something else might be going on. Perhaps I am grasping at straws. Maybe I am so desperate for my mother to love me that I am looking for excuses for her rejection of me. But I could also be onto something. I have had the longest, closest, uninterrupted relationship with my mother in her life. I know her better than any of these people. My aunt has lived a ferry ride away from my mother for more than 30 years, she sees her a couple of times a year at best. My daughter does not have historical context. I am the best person to detect these early changes. The whole scenario is very worrisome. Maybe someone in the extended family, or a family friend, will read this, remember me as a good, kind person and believe my worry and pass it along. In the meantime, all I can do is sit and hope the phone doesn’t ring with bad news while continuing to tend to my wounds.