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Grieving and Coping: Parents Reply

FMSF News Alert - August 13, 2013

In July we shared a letter from "Another Grieving Mother" asking for advice on how to deal with her continuing sadness. What follows is the first in a series of responses we received from our members.

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I read with great sadness the letter from "Just Another Grieving Mother". I wish I knew how to respond to help her.

In the 10 years that I was estranged from my family, I can only say I never, ever forgot my family. Perhaps this is true for this mother’s daughter. Even though I knew a letter had been sent to my family saying I wanted no contact with them, and even as I came to believe that my family might find and kill me -- I still wanted some type of contact. I drove by my mother’s and siblings’ houses. At one point I even called the cemetery because I wanted to know if my mom was still alive -- she was, but my sister-in-law had passed away just a few weeks before. I was furious at my psychiatrist, the infamous Dr. Braun, when I found out he had been told my brother’s wife was dying and had been asked to inform me. Had I known, I would have found some way to tell my brother know how sad I was for him. I refer to those 10 years as my "life-interrupted".

I don’t think parents ever stop grieving the loss of a child no matter what the situation. I found out that my mother would at times think of me as dead in order to cope. It saddens me that my mom had to go to such lengths and experience that pain. I am ecstatic that my four siblings and my ex-husband never believed for a minute that my recovered memories were true and were there to support her, as well as one another.

Fortunately, when my insurance ran out and I was put on Medicare, Dr. Braun handed my treatment over to another psychiatrist. That psychiatrist helped me out of the morass my life had become. I have tremendous respect for her as she followed my lead in treatment instead of trying to recover more memories. My goal was and is her goal -- to be an independent, self-sufficient, happy individual. My concerns, interests, needs, etc., come first. Shoot, I’m a smoker and she still refuses to hypnotize me because she doesn’t want to inadvertently cause harm.

I am very grateful and fortunate that I was able to reconnect with my family and that they never held anything against me, when they very well could have. I can never make up for all of the sadness I caused my mom and other family members. I sincerely wish I had the words to help these grieving parents.

I know this has been long, but thank you. I guess I needed to vent

Elizabeth Gale

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I wish there were some kind of magic solution for long-term grieving over self-estranged children, but I’m afraid that there isn’t. I don’t think you have to "accept" the situation, but it would help if you could come to grips with the reality of the situation. Enjoy your life, keep your door open, and hope for the best, but don’t expect anything. As all of us who have lived this long know, life is not always (or even often) fair. So do the things that make you content, interested, and engaged in life -- helping others, travel, cooking, walking, whatever. I wish I could offer better advice!

Mark Pendergrast

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I do not think we have to accept anything. Being accused of horrible acts, losing your grandchildren, etc. is not acceptable. I prefer the word "acknowledge." I acknowledge what happened to me; I have never nor will I ever accept it.

One of the things I did that made me feel less helpless was buying bonds for my two grandchildren on their birthdays and at Christmas. These I kept for them. When my grandchildren were of age, I gave them the bonds I’d purchased over the years. One of the advantages was that bonds are dated, so my grandkids could see that I had always been thinking about them. They had been told I didn’t care.

My daughter remains estranged but my granddaughter ran away from home at age 17. She later explained that she had been told I was a monster but she was hungry and decided to risk contacting me. She lived with my husband and me for 1 1/2 half years, finished high school, and went on to college. She’s just recently finished her masters in Applied Behavioral Assessment. We are very close. She is also close to her mother, which makes me very happy. Although my daughter hurt me terribly I do not want anyone, including her, to suffer what I have.

As I look back, I think I made some good choices in how to interact with my granddaughter if anyone is interested, but that’s another story.

Sarah Barbant

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Dear Still Grieving,

Our daughter came up with false memories over ten years ago and has refused to have a relationship with us or to let any of her five children have a relationship with us. Her three youngest children were born after she severed our relationship and have no memory of us at all. Three years ago she left her husband and made such a scene in court that, even though he wants their children to have a relationship with us, the court has mandated that he not allow us anywhere near their children until we come to court and prove our innocence. I thought this was the land of "innocent until proven guilty"?

At any rate, I deal with this very sad part of my life by allowing myself to grieve when I need to, and by giving myself permission to be happy the rest of the time. We have four other children who love and respect us and allow us total access to our other 13 grandchildren. We do not want to waste our precious time with them by sitting around pouting. We feel very blessed.

Happy in Utah

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"When we remember that we are all mad,
the mysteries disappear and life stands explained." -- Mark Twain

A good martini also helps a great deal.

Don’t forget, she chose to accept this nonsense.

My best wishes,

RJ Holland

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Ten years ago my daughter wrote me a terrible letter reporting untrue events that allegedly occurred during her childhood. She stated she was a battered child and was struck daily. This was an out and out lie. She named other untrue events that supposedly happened through her childhood and stated she did not want to talk to me, or see me but wanted me to write to her and give my side of the story. I was devastated. I cried for weeks. The fact is: I rarely spanked my daughter because she was so small and fragile. In my memory I never spanked any of my five children after they were five years old. Even then, it was rare.

I learned of a conference being held in Illinois by your group and attended. There, I met Elizabeth Loftus. I showed her the two letters I had received from my daughter. She said, "Don’t reply or acknowledge either letter." To this day I have never mentioned those letters to my daughter.

Since that time my daughter has never mentioned them either. She has bent over backward to help me financially, bought me clothes and paid off one of my medical bills. She can’t do enough for me. When her father died in 2006, she paid for his cremation and memorial service.

I still remain ignorant as to why she wrote me that horrible letter. At the time she was getting a divorce from her husband of almost twenty years. She remarried in 2006 and is very happy. Her husband and I have a very mutually pleasant relationship. All I can surmise is that she was very depressed in 2002 and had to blame someone for her failed marriage. Therefore, she chose me because she knew I would not retaliate. She has even said I could live with her and her husband should I become unable to care for myself.

I love my daughter very much. I shall continue to keep silent about "The Letter".

Thanking God for Elizabeth Loftus

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