I recently read an article regarding estranged parent-child relationships circulating on social media.
The writer expressed her distrust of the parents of estranged children, basically throwing shade on the parent. Don’t get me wrong, I see some valid points in some estranged parent-child relationships, but perhaps that’s not the case in all situations.
I must admit I was triggered. I stayed strong and did not relent my urge to comment on social media. My desire to avoid a fierce verbal internet confrontation with opposing opinions of strangers was more powerful than a desire to speak my mind. I took a deep breath and moved on.
Then, it happened. The article popped up again in my social media group feed. Ugh, I said to myself, “Scroll away Kimburlee, scroll away!” Then I had another thought—maybe this is the universe saying, “Hello Kimburlee, it’s time to get something off your chest.”
This story is the first of two parent-child estrangement experiences that have affected my life.
We often fail to seek more than one truth to a story, which can lead to judgment, ridicule, and shame—the feelings I was left with after reading the previously mentioned article.
I feel called to shed light on other possibilities and perhaps say what others are afraid to say or in need of hearing.
I share my truth. My hope is that it will empower those who are entangled on both sides of the sticky parent-child estrangement web. Perhaps you will relate to one of my stories, and if not, perhaps you will understand another possible and legitimate reason for a heart-wrenching separation of parent and child. My first perspective comes from a personal childhood experience.
I finally divorced my parents when I was in my 30s.
It was a difficult decision. My mom had struggled with mental illness my entire life—she had elevated highs and low lows. I loved it when she found her happy medium, but that didn’t happen often. Her highs were fun, and it was always a good thing to see her happy. Her vibration was felt and reflected, even though I knew it would be short-lived. Her lows were so deep that sometimes she would sleep (it seemed) for days; other times, she raged.
Either way, I knew by the look in her eyes when to stay out of her path. Looking into those eyes was like seeing a different person. I always wished she would change her life; I wished she could just be normal. I recall some mornings waking up to her having a beer at the kitchen table. I knew that wasn’t a good sign.
My father had his own set of issues that deeply affected me as a child.
I finally moved out when I was 16.
I was in my early 30s when I decided I could not live with the secrets anymore. The pretending was killing me on the inside, and I didn’t want my parents near my children. I did not want their illnesses, secrets, and trauma to reach my kids. I moved four states away from them.
They started talking about missing us and even mentioned moving closer to us.
It was then I sent my father a letter and let the cat out of the bag (spoke my truth). I told him he could no longer be a part of my life. I would never speak to him again, and he was no longer allowed to be part of my children’s lives.
For some reason, my attachment to my mother was stronger, and it would be several more years before I told her on a phone call that she was no longer allowed in my life—if she came to my home or near my kids, I would call the police.
I hung up, and we have not spoken since.
I had so many emotions at the end of that call—sad, happy, angry, excited. I felt free and more myself than I ever had in my entire life. I knew this was a crossroads, and I was walking it alone.
It has been about 18 years since I have spoken to my father, and at least 14 since I have spoken to my mother. This is one side of the child-parent estrangement relationship—my legitimate truth.
My decision to cut ties with my parents was the first best decision of my life.
It was the beginning of the paradigm shift that led to my healing. It felt scary, but also so good.