Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Estranged Parent | Illness, Death, Funeral

I have been estranged from my mother for over 7 years. We had been through cycles in and out of estrangement through my entire life; however, this estrangement is final. She has broken my trust and done things to me that only a person who has no respect for me would. And in all honesty, no one has ever treated me with such disregard, denigration, destruction, and damage... and this person is my mother

At any rate, she has been sick for quite some time with an auto-immune disease which is treated with very toxic drugs. She has had complications through the years about which my brother has informed me, including the possibility of kidney loss and need for transplant. So, here is the first situation of contemplation: how to handle the possible call, asking me to donate a kidney. She already put my brother on the spot, and being the son who wants to stay in good standing to receive monetary assistance, he said he'd give her his kidney. He laughed about it when he told me. 

If push came to shove that the kidney transplant is necessary for her to live, and my brother's is not a match-- she may come knocking on my door since she and I have the same rare blood type. What a predicament that would be. I am not heartless but I am also not wanting to eliminate the ability to ever help my husband, daughter, or aunt who are actively in my life, unconditionally and whole-heartedly daily. Additionally, if she cannot give of herself to me on a daily basis, why should I have to give to her in this manner?

Another issue that my brother has asked me several times is if I would go to my mother's death bed ... and if I would attend her funeral. As far as the death bed, why would we communicate when she's at death's door when we haven't during the days of life? If she doesn't have the desire or gumption to see me now, why when death is closing in? All she has done in the last 7 years is talk poorly about me and create alliances to destroy relationships around me. She has not had good intentions in the past or presently-- so would those intentions on her death bed be pure. I don't think so. I believe a healthy serving of guilt would be served as she has adeptly inflicted since I was a child.

And as far as her funeral: if we don't speak to each other here and now, appearing at her funeral is not appropriate or valid. I can honor her as my mother in my own way, on my own time, and at her grave-site at a later date. I know this all sounds very morbid, but I have been asked this scenario many times and have had to analyze my feelings and plan-of-action. Abusers still manage to put the victims in the middle of such painful situations, which they didn't bring upon themselves, and force the victims to deal with them and their trail of wreckage even after their deaths.

In the book "Mean Mothers" by Peg Streep, one of the most powerful moments in the book is when Streep gets the call from her brother that her mother is dying (page 31), the comment from him that he thought she might want to come see her, and the decision Streep makes. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what decision Streep would make. Ultimately, Streep's decision and her feelings about her decision mirror what I concluded to do. Powerful passages that, as Streep says, "testifies to what can happen when a mother can't love her daughter in the way she needs to be loved" (page 33).

Those with healthy and loving relationships with their parents don't understand and can't fathom the depth of this situation (sick parent, parent on death-bed, parent's funeral) but what these folks don't know is the extent of the past with an abusive, pathological, and narcissistic parent. And most importantly, I have already said goodbye to my mother.

I had an epiphany when my child was born-- I had a sudden realization and comprehension of the essence and meaning behind my mother and my estrangement. Life was not a **game** anymore (my parents were always playing life and relationships like games. Head games of guilt and shame were primary tactics with strategy of manipulation). Also, we had passed through some major life events without each other: my wedding, my pregnancy, and now the birth of my child. This situation between my mother and me is profound... profoundly dead. After my child was born and I passed a cemetery, a rush of emotion flowed through me. That last piece of the puzzle has been put into place and now I can see the whole picture. I mourned the loss of my mother but I knew that what has happened in the past is precisely what makes a future impossible. So with this epiphany and with the acceptance of the death of our relationship, how and why could / would I engage in any of the aforementioned situations? I am not bitter. I am not angry. I am actually at peace with my past, present, and future.

Researching advice from the general public to someone in my situation (estranged parent on death-bed), resoundingly the public is in favor of making amends and communicating. With this research, I have no idea if this public has ever been through abusive parents-- and would they have the same point-of-view if they had. Further research revealed a study by Reverend Renee Pittelli of people’s opinions and attitudes about attending the funerals of estranged relatives. She did not refer to the deceased as “abusers”, only “estranged relatives”, so many of the respondents did not consider themselves to be abuse victims. They simply were not on speaking terms with whoever had passed away, or would pass in the future, although the assumption of abuse was the case. Possibly if the survey specified “abusers”, most of the respondents would have been even more adamant in their refusal to commemorate their deaths. The respondents were both men and women, and ranged in age from their twenties to their seventies. They came from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, locations, and religions. The results revealed that only 8% would go to the funeral as going would be the "right thing to do", culturally correct, or reflective of how they were raised. WOW! 8%

As sad as this subject may be, this situation didn't happen overnight. This situation is a collection of events from birth to present that created the dynamic (or lack thereof). Just because this person is your parent doesn't give him / her the right to own your feelings, decisions, or life. And if you are estranged from you parent, I am pretty certain you would actually like to have a loving, healthy, respectful, and mutually beneficial relationship. So at the end, if you have been estranged, a reason or many reasons are at the root of the no-contact. And these reasons don't dissipate simply because that person is sick, dying, or has a funeral. Whatever your decision may be, the decision is a deeply personal one. 

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