The last time we flew to their home was on Thanksgiving Day. It was also my birthday, and my husband had to remind them. They laughed and said they’re used to forgetting my birthday or just giving me a piece of pumpkin pie with a candle on it as they did fairly regularly when I was a child. I do call them at least twice a month and always on their birthdays, mother’s/father’s day, etc. However, they do not call me, my husband, or our children on their birthdays and rather than sending birthday or Christmas gifts (as I do for them), they make an annual cash deposit into my PayPal account.
I was okay with this until I began getting guilt trips out of nowhere for not making more of an effort to keep in touch. Considering my very unpleasant childhood, I think that they have a lot of nerve expecting anything of me, but I’m happy to take any opinions on the following letter that I’m considering sending to them the next time they complain during a phone call about me or my family (FYI to commenters – I have rather thick skin and am not looking for sympathy):
“It’s unfortunate that our relationship has come to this point, but it really should be no surprise to either of you. I should have ceased communication with your 20+ years ago when I was 16 and you filed a petition to the court to be rid of all responsibility for me. Seriously, who could call themselves a decent parent after neglecting their child her entire life and then trying to turn custody of her over to the state?
You made me a latch-key child at the age of FIVE. This is now called criminal child neglect.
When I was being bullied mercilessly in school, Mom said: “You need to make this stop because I have an ulcer and I can’t deal with this.” She never comforted me when I sobbed every morning at the prospect of facing another day being bullied. Instead, she either sighed, slammed my door, or helpfully remarked “Oh, shit” before leaving me to go about her business.
When I begged for therapy, you turned it into a convenient method of confronting me about my behavior, rather than allowing me privacy with my therapist to try to help me understand the cause of my acting out.
You relished in your turning over responsibility of me to any mental institution that your insurance would cover.
You photocopied my diary containing my most personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and it was read aloud in court while I was forced to sit there and listen.
You mocked me on my wedding day for not “taking marriage seriously” and criticized my husband over trivial matters, like how fast he was walking to get to the courthouse.
You have attempted to undermine my efforts as a parent by teaching my children about your Mormon religion despite my asking you to wait until they were old enough to understand that you and I do not share the same beliefs. You have mocked my in-laws in from of my children, telling them that their grandmother got pregnant too young because she dresses provocatively.
I am now a successful mother in part because I know how to treat my children so that they will never feel as I did while growing up: lonely, angry, and worthless.
My therapist has suggested that while my daughters are adolescents, we should not maintain close contact with you. Perhaps when they are older, they will want a relationship with you. Now that I’ve begun to recall and relate to my children what my own childhood and adolescence were like, I’m left wondering if I ever will again.”
I just fail to see any reason to continue to feel miserable about my relationship with my parents, and I hate that I still blame myself for not being the kind of daughter they wanted (Mom has come right out and said that I’ve given her nothing but pain and heartache). I’d be grateful for more opinions. — Apparently Over It
It’s so unfair that there are children who are raised without the love and attention they need and deserve. Sadly, your childhood isn’t rare enough. But the good news is despite your lonely and neglected upbringing, you now have the loving family you wished for as a kid. You can — and are — breaking the cycle of neglect. And while you can never right your parents’ wrongs, you can heal your pain by being the best parent you can and instilling confidence in your daughters that their home is one of unconditional love.
As for your relationship with your parents, you’ve had over 20 years to consider whether you want them in your future. I’m sure you’ve had plenty of discussions with your therapist about it, too. My opinion is if they’re continuing to make you feel of little value and that feeling is now extending to your daughters, you need to protect yourself and your family from their emotional abuse. In a perfect world, we’d all have lovely, wonderful parents who embraced our children as heartily as they embraced us. But that’s not reality. That’s not your reality. So, rather than hope that they’ll eventually be the parents/grandparents you always wished for, accept that they are who they are and they’re not going to change now. They’re crappy parents, and crappy grandparents. And at this point, you have to approach them in whatever way makes you feel the best. If that’s completely ignoring them, do that. If it’s sending them the letter above and getting some things off your chest, do that. There’s no wrong way here. You need to to whatever is going to create the biggest relief for you.
After decades of neglect and abuse, you owe your parents absolutely nothing. If cutting them out of your life gives you a sense on closure on a long, painful chapter, give yourself that gift so that you can finally move on and fully enjoy the love and family you’ve created without a dark cloud looming above you.
FireStar December 16, 2011, 7:21 am
I’m so sorry that you had such a wretched childhood. Congratulations on creating a wonderful family life for yourself, nonetheless. Personally, I’m not someone who believes family is determined by how many alleles you have in common with someone. Family is a construct of behaviour not DNA. Do whatever you feel you need to do to protect yourself and your family from your biological parents – and I hope it gives you peace – you sound like you’ve earned it.
Addie Pray December 16, 2011, 7:36 am
This letter made me really sad. I agree with Wendy. LW, you should do whatever you feel you need to do to heal. The only additional thing I want to ask is, are you ready to face the consequences? I like to think of all the possible consequences before I act – or at least the best and worst case scenarios, to make sure I am ok with whatever I may be triggering… For example, if your parents ignore you and drop all communication, will you be ok with that? (This may be best for you, if I had to guess, but I don’t know.) What if they send you a nasty letter, rehashing the horrible things said when they filed the petition to turn custody of you over to the state? (Btw, WTF?) Will you be able to ignore them? I just want to make sure you are ok with the possible consequences of your letter. Just in case you’re secretly hoping they will read the letter and recognize their faults and apologize to you, which is not likely. It doesn’t sound like that’s your goal, but just in case I wanted to add my two cents. Good luck to you!
JK December 16, 2011, 7:51 am
We must´ve been writing at the same time. I swear I didn´t copy your first line!!!
Addie Pray December 16, 2011, 7:53 am
Ha! Great minds … get sad alike?
cporoski December 16, 2011, 8:10 am
Addie is right. Really think about what you want from this letter. Do you want them to understand your pain? do you want to hurt them? It has been 20 years that you have been an adult so why now? I don’t think sending this letter would make you feel better because your parents won’t see your pain but just see themselves as victims. It sounds like they are narcissists (sp?). I normally don’t quote tv, but Oprah said that “Forgiveness is giving up the dream that the past could be any different.” It isn’t saying that what they did was ok.
Because it has taken you so long to get to this point, i don’t think you are done with them. I think you can heal by starting to get the whole story of your childhood. Start asking questions, not accusing, but ask why did you leave me when I was five. did you really want kids? Dont’ attack, ask. I feel like understanding thier motives will give you closure.
Kristen December 16, 2011, 9:27 am
I just want to echo what you said about this letter not making the impact the LW is hoping for. I’ve been in a similar situation (except with my MIL), and we thought sending a kind but firm letter detailing exactly why we no longer wished to be in contact with her would help heal some of our own wounds and maybe even help her how her actions affect others.
Let me just say that it didn’t work. She not only denied everything in the letter and dismissed it by saying “No one’s perfect,” she used it to play the victim for months and months. So while sending it helped get a lot of painful things off our chest, it didn’t have the intended effect. I think the LW’s letter will have a similar reception.
But, LW, if you think it would make you feel better to send it, then go for it. The sad part is that your parents are unlikely to ever change (which I’m sure you know). While it’s hard to come to that realization, you’re doing a fantastic thing by creating a loving environment for your own kids — be proud of that.
Good luck, and be well.
Kristen December 16, 2011, 9:28 am
*help her understand
kali December 16, 2011, 1:58 pm
LW, I’m 15 or so years older than you are and except for the LDS part, your childhood sounds similar to mine. When I confronted my parents (via phone since I didn’t want anything written down), they denied it all and clearly their version of history was very different from mine. They have backed off and never say anything about my quite infrequent calls. Just be prepared for that reaction if you choose to send the letter. I think perhaps the act of writing it will have been more cathartic than actually sending it. As long as you don’t expect anything positive to come of it, you’re probably safe.
I congratulate you on your marriage, your lovely daughters and building a life and love after all you’ve lived through. Sometimes a bad example can teach us exactly what not to do. Seems that was the case for both of us.
However you choose to proceed, please know that you’re not alone and it does get better. Good luck. I’ll keep you in my thoughts. But you sound like you’ve made your peace long ago and are well on your way… just keep moving forward. You’re an amazing woman and a terrific role model for your children.
Kristen December 16, 2011, 9:32 am
One more thing: If you decide to send something in writing, be prepared for it to get shared with other people than just your parents. When we sent our letter, it was immediately circulated around her entire family (not a huge deal to us because we’re not close with her side of the family, but it might be for you). Just another thing to think about.
cporoski December 16, 2011, 3:22 pm
I can totally see this happening! good call!
Addie Pray December 16, 2011, 10:30 am
LW, the more I think about this, the more I think you should not send the letter. lt’s likely to cause your parents to lash out back at you. And I think that will hurt you, a lot – a lot more than their lack of calls (and the other things you described above that they continue to do) hurt you now.
Simply getting these issue off your chest and into this letter, posting it here, and reading all the sympathtic comments will hopefully make you feel better. Moving forward though, I’d not send the letter. Instead, cut off all ties. Don’t call them. Don’t send them gifts. (Why do you do that anyway? I think it shows you are still trying/hoping for a “normal” relationship with them. That’s not going to happen.) When/if they follow up to understand why you’ve stopped calling, you can have a discussion then … but wait and cross that bridge if — and a big IF — it happens.
Nadine December 16, 2011, 7:37 am
Wow, if your parents really did the things that you say they did, I give you permission (because it’s mine that you needed, right?!) to dump them. Tell them why, then tell them nothing.
I would say though, to keep talking to your children about them, or at least about your childhood. I always wondered why I never knew anything about church or the bible, I wasn’t taken to church on Christmas or anything, the way the other kids at school were, until my parents talked to me about how mistreated they both were by people within the church, and how the church ruined certain aspects of their lives. Now I understand, and it makes sense. But until I knew that I just thought they were lazy….
JK December 16, 2011, 7:54 am
I think it will help that LW has teenagers, who will understand the situation a lot more. Kids are fascinated by their parents childhoods, my 4 yo has started asking me all sorts of stuff about “when I was little”, I would hate having to lie to invent a happy childhood, or tell her an awful truth.
JK December 16, 2011, 7:45 am
This letter made me really sad. And now I´m hugging my baby just that much tighter. Some people really don´t deserve to be called parents.
I think the letter is a great idea, and well written. Send it as soon as you can so you can be rid of these people, and start the new year with a load off your back.
Great response,Wendy, also.
2_J December 16, 2011, 1:34 pm
I agree except the well written part , a few typos :p
callmehobo December 16, 2011, 8:33 am
I thought about writing a similar letter to a man who hurt me as a teenager. I wanted him to know all the anger and hurt he caused me.
But then I thought, if he didn’t care about me enough not to hurt me, why on earth would he care about my feelings now? What will he get from that letter? He’s not going to regret what he did to me.
So I would suggest not sending the letter. You are obviously still too hurt to deal with the possible responses that may come from your parents. Why open yourself up to that sort of agony? You had a whole childhood of that! I suggest just extracting them from your life. Stop calling them. Don’t send gifts. Cancel your paypal account.
I’m sorry that they weren’t the parents that you deserve. But you know what? You are a loving parent, and that’s a huge accomplishment.
iseeshiny December 16, 2011, 9:01 am
I’m with callmehobo on this one. Do not send the letter. The letter will not make them do an about face and make them say they were wrong and they’re sorry. It will, though, open you up to more pain and accusations from them. It will make them dig in their heels. It will not even make you feel better for very long, not once they send a letter back detailing all the ways they think you’ve wronged them, and that letter will make your blood boil and you’ll be faced with the dilemma of ignoring it and letting them get the last word or replying to it, which is not in line with ceasing communication. Even if you return their letters unopened, it is just not worth it.
By all means, cut off contact. Just cut off all contact. Don’t answer the phone when they call, return their letters unopened, and if they use computers make sure your profiles on social networking sites are invisible. Because I promise, letters full of angry recriminations are only satisfying when you are imagining their response.
Amanda December 16, 2011, 9:13 am
I couldn’t agree more with this. LW, after all that they have put you through, have your parents shown any remorse at all? From your letter, I highly doubt it. Your letter will not help them to “see the light” because they have a different perspective. From their perspective, they are not/were not wrong, it’s YOU that’s wrong. As with ending a friendship, I would suggest fading out of their lives. Stop all communication and stop accepting money from them. I’m so sorry that your parents are lacking in MANY ways, but you have succeeded in a way that they could not and that is being a loving and kind parent. Congratulations for that accomplishment. Best wishes for a long and happy life.
Landygirl December 16, 2011, 11:56 am
I totally agree. Sometimes silence are the strongest words of all.
Flake December 16, 2011, 12:15 pm
I also agree.. Only more hurt will come if she actually mails it. Be cordial to your parents, but do not extend them any more courtesy then they have for you. Close the count, put the money into an account for your kids. Also, I don’t think she should involve her kids in this fight. Let them make their own decisions.
spark_plug December 16, 2011, 12:52 pm
Echo what everyone said. I had sent similar letters to my ex boyfriends in the past (although I realize it’s not exactly the same situation). Before you send it, think of how you will feel with different response – this is something I didn’t do. If you send the letter and they don’t respond, you will be hurt that they didn’t care enough to respond. If you send the letter and they respond negatively? How will you feel? Probably worse? When I sent said letter to my ex (via email) he replied about two hours later with.. “what are you talking about?” Having my feelings disregarded the second time actually hurt MORE because I had willingly put myself out there knowing then to expect a better response. And even in the rare instance that they do respond with an apology.. are they really going to be committed to change or just trying to pacify you? In which case.. .they’ll still continue to be in your life.
I probably wouldn’t be able to bring myself to cut off all contact, but I wouldn’t contact them either. If they called me, I’d pick up the phone, tell them I’m doing well, the children are well that I’m exteremely busy and have to go and then hang up. That way, at least they have the peace of knowing you are alive (no matter how terrible they are, I think they deserve at least that much). Def do NOT bring your children around them and when they are older they will understand.
Renee December 16, 2011, 8:41 am
Stomach turns in sadness
Makes me wonder what type of horrendous childhood your parents had to be so dettached to your needs?
Bless you for breaking the cycle and taking care of yourself and family
elisabeth December 16, 2011, 8:43 am
I agree that avoiding them for the foreseeable future is probably best, but I urge you not to send that letter. The things are true, and yes, they obviously hurt you, but the words have the potential to sincerely hurt your parents in ways that may make it impossible for reconciliation ever. And perhaps that’s what you’re wishing for right now, and maybe that won’t change, but if it does…. I guess, are you prepared to truly burn your bridges? Because that may be what happens.
Obviously there are some serious faults in the way your parents tried to raise you. I’m not arguing that away. But I thinking sending this letter in which you’re trying to shine a mirror onto them is more a reflection of you. Will hurting them back fix the years of hurt you have? If the answer is no, maybe you should consider other options.
Flake December 16, 2011, 12:23 pm
Yes to this too. Although at this point, it may feel that you never want to see or talk to them again, that could change. And they are a part of your and your children’s history, as much as you may want to erase it. I spent a good part of my adolescence not liking my father for leaving my mom. But the older I get, the better I understand that there were way too many factors at play that I didn’t know about, or didn’t even consider, for me to form such a strong opinion about something without openly discussing it with both parties. I know that your situation is not exactly comparable, but things do change.
And on a personal note, where and when I was growing up, having your own key at 5 years old was quite normal.
Budj December 16, 2011, 8:53 am
Do what makes you happy – sounds like they are only concerned for themselves and a lot of what you said they did in the past is fairly unforgivable in my book…without a lot of remorse and trying hard to right the past… That isn’t likely at this point.
Budj December 16, 2011, 8:54 am
And never send anything in writing. Say it if you have to – writing it down was good to convey your thoughts but handing them a letter is just ammunition to mess with you more if they have any connections you still care about.
GatorGirl December 16, 2011, 9:05 am
As some other commentors have said above- you’re family doesn’t have to be defined by your DNA. If you don’t want them in your life, don’t contact them.
I would advise against sending the letter. Once you put something on paper (or e-mail) it can live on forever. Perhaps you should have a phone conversation with them and tell them your thoughts. My cousin sent my grandmother a nasty letter and it’s still around 10 years later (the cousin and grandma have reconcilled so…)
Best of luck! And kudos to you for creating a loving and supportive home for your children!
LTC039 December 16, 2011, 9:09 am
Wow…wow, wow, wow… I am so sad to hear that you had such a terrible childhood. Your parents are the type (like too many others) that should’ve never HAD children in the first place. I am not a parent, but I cannot fathom how a person can have so much hatred for their own offspring since they were a child! That says a LOT about the kind of people they are…Worthless.
The only positive thing that has come out of this situation is that, rather than absorbing & imitating their behavior, you have chosen to be different & you are. You deserve a lot of credit, because you have broken the mold of what your parents are.
My dad grew up with a heavily abusive (verbally & physically) alcoholic, delinquent father. He witnessed his father almost every night beat up his mom in a drunken rage & underwent some of his beatings as well. He always ridiculed my dad, telling him he was worthless & would always be a loser. My dad lost his mom to breast cancer at 17 & was so depressed bc of everything he had underwent, he dropped out of high school in his senior yr.
Well today, my dad has a very well paying job, his own house, car(s), Harley, jetski, pool, & has been the most devoted husband & amazing father I’ve ever seen in my life. He doesn’t speak to his dad anymore & has no issues or remorse about it.
YOU, like my dad, are a success story. If people are that toxic in your life, even if they are your parents, it’s best to eliminate them. I think your letter was extremely well written & drove your point home. I agree with you sending it, if all they’re doing is bringing you more heartache, it’s best to, even if it’s temporary, eliminate them. I comend you for breaking the cycle, my heart goes out to you. This letter really touched me. I hope you have a wonderful holiday.
PS. I would like to add that about 10 yrs ago, my dad’s dad attempted to reach out to him & it ended badly, with him, once again insulting my dad, calling him names, telling him he was a piece of shit. My dad sat for days & wrote him a letter telling him EVERYTHING he had been holding in for the last 40 years. It was a great therapy & helped him get closure.
dabbler December 16, 2011, 9:35 am
Your last paragraph summed up pretty well what I was struggling to find the words to say. However, I disagree about sending the letter. I write letters to people all the time, but I rarely send them. It’s just a way (for me at least) to get the words out of your head and on paper, to organize your thoughts, and sometimes find resolution within yourself. In my experience, whenever I have sent the letter, no matter how clear I thought I was being, my words were twisted, misconstrued, or just otherwise misunderstood. It opens yourself up to be vulnerable to people that don’t deserve to see that side of you, and they’re never going to get it. These people sound like they lack the emotional maturity to really hear what she’s saying, and my guess is it’s going to come back to bite you.
Family or not, these people are toxic to you, and you’re better off without them. Or if you choose to keep them in your life at all, it should be strictly on your terms, with very firm boundaries. I have a friend in a very similar situation right now, and it’s hard. Its not supposed to be this way. You sound like you have done wonderfully for yourself despite, or maybe even because of them, and sometimes that just has to be enough. As my friend puts it, she’s learning to be her own mother. You will be just fine. Don’t let them compromise the hard work you’ve done for yourself and your family.
dabbler December 16, 2011, 9:37 am
Ok, last paragraph before the ps was added… 🙂
dabbler December 16, 2011, 9:53 am
Ok, one more thought. In general, I think letters are a wonderful idea. You get the time, space and distance to be able to really think about and say what you really want to say, and you can edit your thoughts before sharing them. All good things. Whether or not to send it depends on the situation and the nature of the relationship.
In this case, if you just want to get it off your chest, and consequences be damned, go for it.
But it may just be opening yourself up to new wounds, or reopening old ones, so be prepared that it may do you more harm than good at this point.
LTC039 December 16, 2011, 10:40 am
I can definitely see your point. Yes, people will twist/miscontrue your words because they CHOOSE to. Her parents will most likely do that, just because of the kind of people they are. I think her letter is very clear & to the point. Maybe, instead of the letter she can say all those things to them in person or over the phone, however that may end up in a major blow out, but at least it won’t be on paper, as other people are suggesting would be bad. I’m just saying, it worked for my dad. I don’t think her parents are aware of the damage they’ve caused her bc they’re so self-absorbed, selfish, narrow-minded people & they see everything as being her fault & have no problem relaying it to her. That’s why, under this circumstance, I think sending the letter would be a good idea. Like we say, the choice is ultimately hers, but I wanted her to know it was a damn good letter.
dabbler December 16, 2011, 1:32 pm
Absolutely, I agree with you. I guess my point was that it depends on the situation, and what she’s hoping to get out of it. I’m struggling with something similar, but much less drastic. I’m of the mindset that I want to explain, I want you to know how I feel, and I want you to know why I’m choosing to not talk to you anymore. I will try my damnedest to communicate the problem, as long as I’m trying/willing to work to fix the relationship. For me, I’ve given up trying, as I think my own personal situation is self-distructive if I choose to stay. now that I’m no longer trying to “fix” things, I personally don’t see the point of pouring my heart out to someone that won’t understand or appreciate what I’m saying, or the strength it took for me to pour my heart out. Just to have them throw something back in my face that wasn’t what I said or meant to begin with. But that’s just my experience, and I still struggle with whether or not I’m making the right decisions. We’re all just doing the best we know how with what we have, and I think shes doing a damn good job as well. 🙂
ladybug December 16, 2011, 9:13 am
Being in a semi-similar position, while I applaud your letter, I feel I really need to ask – do you think your parents will actually see themselves in your letter, or place the blame once again on you for being a bad and troublesome daughter? I had one loving parent – my father – who passed away many years ago. I swear my mother’s coldness bought him an early out. Now in my late 40’s, besides the guilt you describe, I have old friends and acquaintances in my hometown who tell me my mother is getting old quickly, and as a “good daughter” I should return home (where I moved far away from) to take care of her. This, a woman who pushed me out the door as soon as possible and while I was in a physically abusive marriage, took sides with my husband!
I’ve continued the weekly phone calls, as a dutiful daughter. I’ve tried to make her understand the pain she has caused me but she’s felt she has never been neglectful or hurtful. She never sees herself as she is.
While I’m sure you love them because they are your parents, do what makes YOU happy. If it is sending your letter and cutting off contact, do so. First explain the situation and your course of action to your family, no matter what you do. If you continue to accept vacations with them, you may in fact be condoning their treatment of you. Accepting PayPal gifts also says that. If you are going to cut it off, cut it ALL off. When your daughters are old enough and if they want to explore a relationship with your parents, give them your blessing but be prepared to dispute whatever your parents tell them. And always know you did your best. If it wasn’t good enough for them, make sure it is good enough for YOU.
bethany December 16, 2011, 9:14 am
LW- I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through all of that. Wendy is right when she says this:
“After decades of neglect and abuse, you owe your parents absolutely nothing. If cutting them out of your life gives you a sense on closure on a long, painful chapter, give yourself that gift so that you can finally move on and fully enjoy the love and family you’ve created without a dark cloud looming above you.”
Have no shame in cutting them from your life, if that’s what’s best for you and your family. Personally, I would reccomend NOT sending the letter, because I think it might just open a can of worms. I would just cease contact with them, and if you’re forced into a situation where you need to explain why, simply say that the relationship was no longer healthy for you or your family, and you need to do what is right for them, and leave it at that. Something that might help you get a little closure is to read the letter outloud to your husband. Pretend that he is your mom or dad, and really let him have it. And then let him comfort you, and tell you that he loves you and that he’s never going to treat you or your children like that. Then just close that chapter and don’t look back.
Kristen December 16, 2011, 9:34 am
Love this idea.
bethany December 16, 2011, 9:57 am
I can’t lie- I’m pretty sure I saw it done during a therapy session on Dr Phil!
Something More December 16, 2011, 9:28 am
I agree that sending the letter probably won’t trigger any remorse from your parents, if that is what you are after. I think it is long past the time when your parents give a crap about what you think or how you feel.
Instead, it may bring some closure to your heart just knowing that they read it and help you begin to heal. So, if sending this letter helps YOU, then send it. But when you do, close that door. Do not respond to any calls, emails or letters from them. This letter will probably anger them and they may see you as the “ungrateful daughter you’ve always been.” It will only open the door for more heartache.
John Rohan December 16, 2011, 9:33 am
I say, HELL YES, send it. After all, if they are asking for a reason why you don’t keep in closer contact, then you are just answering their questions. So answer them already. But be mentally prepared for them to ignore it or maybe not even read it. As someone already pointed out, if they didn’t care about you before, they might not start now.
I would take out the two short paragraphs about them mocking your wedding and your in-laws, and their Mormon religion, however. Those things seem awfully trivial and nit-picky when compared to the previous behavior you described.
savannah December 16, 2011, 9:58 am
See I think those two things are important justifications for why she doesn’t want to have any contact with them in the future. All of the really bad stuff, yes, happened in the past. But those two reasons would be pretty solid evidence to say I don’t want you around my children or the other side of my family *from now on*. Gives her motivation for if they counter back some sort of ‘that was in the past, we’ll do better’ type of response.
HBomb December 16, 2011, 9:34 am
Sending you positive thoughts during this trying time in what seems to be your entire life. You seem to have done a wonderful job raising yourself and creating a home and family that is yours and something you can be proud of.
More power to you to end the suffering you have endured for entirely too long.
amber December 16, 2011, 9:41 am
I think echoing what basically every other commenter has said, make sure you are sending the letter expecting to get a not so great response or no response. I also have to ask, now that you’ve written the letter do you feel better? Do you feel you need to send the letter now or is just writing it therapeutic enough? You might find that it’s easier on you in the end to tuck the written letter away and go on with your life, like Wendy said, being the best parent and role model you can for your kids. Sadly enough when your parents are at the end of their life and realize they are alone is when they will probably realize what they’ve done to you.
My Grandmother was in a similar situation with her Mother. My Great Grandfather passed away right after I was born and she eventually got too sick to live by herself and my Great Aunt (who was her ‘favorite’ and who she had always treated wonderfully) didn’t want to take her in, she said she couldn’t handle her. So she was faced with living with my Grandmother or going to a home. She couldn’t stand the home and so came to live with my Grandmother. She still treated her terribly, right up until the end. And in the last few weeks of her life she apologized for how awful she had been all her life and you could see true remorse in her face. Sometimes it takes something like that for the person to see who really loves them.
Good luck, LW! And remember that the best thing you can do is stop the cycle and enjoy your life with your family.
Michelle.Lea December 16, 2011, 9:55 am
I understand wanting to tell them these things and get it off your chest. But unfortunately, considering who they are, they will not understand and only see it as an attack and you will most likely either get no response and they will drop all contact, or they will go on the offensive and make your life hell. I would say just ignore them. Stop calling them. If you’re invited to anything, don’t go. detach yourself. They can’t give you the peace you seek, only you can do that.
savannah December 16, 2011, 10:26 am
“get no response and they will drop all contact”
Isn’t this what the LW wants? I don’t know why people are assuming that the LW wants a response back. Wouldn’t the option you laid out be the best possible outcome for the LW?
SpaceySteph December 16, 2011, 1:51 pm
I don’t think anyone is assuming anything. Maybe she would be happy if her parents never said a word. However very few of us send letters like this (ok well thankfully few of us have to send letters like THIS, but in general letters calling out a person for treating us badly) without hoping, at least a little, for some kind of response.
There are so many possible responses her parents could take to this letter; if she’s going to send it she needs to be prepared for any of them or else could end up hurt worse. Maybe she wants them to never contact her again and will be hurt by them trying to make it better or by their denial of any wrongdoing; or maybe she wants them to apologize and will be hurt when they never do.
Blondie December 16, 2011, 10:16 am
I agree with posters above, do not send the letter. Your parents are toxic people, and sending the letter will not change that. Do not give them the satisfaction of reading the letter. They know how they have acted towards you and obviously see nothing wrong with it. If it really pains you, write the letter out and burn it.
It is a horrible thing to have to face- that the people who bore you are not the people that you want them to be. Unfortunately you were stuck with selfish individuals. Cut them out of your life- their actions have expressed time and again that is what they are really looking for. And I would recommend absolutely no contact. No calls, e-mails, updates on your children. They, as parents and grandparents have lost the privilege of knowing your family, and frankly, I don’t think it will be missed on their end, as sad as that is. I would also be honest with your children about it (without trash talking your parents- some day it will be up to the kids to decide if they would like a relationship with them outside of you) But it is also a fair to your situation- your kids will know if you are BSing them, and if you are giving your parents a direct cut, they will also have to know that you would prefer them to not answer the phone if/when your parents try to make contact.
meaghan December 16, 2011, 10:19 am
As someone with a less than stellar mother I van relate to you. And because of that I say send that letter then cut off all contact. Will it solve all problems? No. But I can’t even begin to describe how amazing I felt the moment I point blank told my mother I would not let her get away with what she put me through, and that she was a disgusting parent. Standing up to that person who made me feel powerless, cheap, and unwanted for so long did much more than writing and destroying letters or talking to other people about it ever did. She had no remorse, but that wasn’t the point. This time it wasn’t about her, it was about ME and MY feelings. In the past threes years I have not said more than a handful of words to her and you wouldn’t believe how less stress I am. So send that letter! And don’t give them a chance to reply and guilt trip you. Block their calls, burn their letters, and change your PayPal number. If they really are sorry (which they wont be) they’ll fly out and apologize in person. No matter what happens the important thing is you stood up, and see an amazing example for your children about standing up to abuse.
christine December 16, 2011, 3:15 pm
redessa December 16, 2011, 10:28 am
I think the next time one of them tried to give you a guilt trip for not being in touch more, I’d say very simply that the phone/email/text messages/facebook/etc all work both ways. I would remind them that you call regularly (in infrequently by their desires) and on every special occasion which is a curtesy they do not return. If they want to build a closer relationship, they are welcome to put in some effort. Don’t let them guilt you. They can try to pile it on but you have the choice of whether or not to take it.
And if you’re feeling particularly firey the next time this comes up, come on out and ask them why. Why do they want to be close? They spent your whole childhood trying to be rid of you, they don’t acknowledge your accomplishments now, your authority as a parent or even bother to remember their grandchildren’s b-days. Why do they want to be closer? This will most certainly put them on the spot. But if they want to try to put on some guilt trip, make them answer for it.
This is, of course, if you’re okay keeping the status quo. Because I really doubt either of hte above responses will promt them to take a more proactive role in your relationship. but if you really would rather just cut ties then go ahead and do that. Personally, I might just stop calling and see how long it takes for them to pick up the phone and see if you’re still alive. But if you want to tell them you’re cutting them out of your life, keep it simple. I think the letter you wrote is great therapy but will not be the blow/wake up call you might hope it is.
crazyayeaye December 16, 2011, 10:48 am
LW, I know you’re not looking for sympathy, but your letter made me cry. I am so sorry for what you have been through and so impressed by the loving family you have created for yourself despite your crappy childhood. Regardless of what you decide to do, I wish so many good things for you.
TaraMonster December 16, 2011, 11:00 am
Yesterday I was talking to my therapist about something similar. The last conversation that I had with my mother, who is schizophrenic, was rough and it really upset me. While I don’t think cutting my mother out of my life is a good thing for me to do, I certainly understand the desire. I think you’re well within your rights to cut them out, and I think you already know that. Believe me, I can empathize with the love and guilt and responsibility that you wish you wouldn’t feel for them because of how they hurt you. That nagging voice that reminds you they’re your parents, even though they’ve betrayed you. It’s confusing, even when you know for certain that they don’t deserve any of that from you. And that tiny voice that still wishes they could be the parents they should have been all along. As for the letter, I think it might be your best route. Just make sure you’re honest with yourself about why you’re sending it. Is it only to cut them out of your life? Or is there something punitive about it? Or are you hoping they’ll acknowledge the pain they put you through? It’s ok if any of those reasons are motivating you, just be aware of your feelings so that you stay the strong woman you’ve turned out to be. Good luck.
MissDre December 16, 2011, 1:50 pm
“The love and guilt and responsibility that you wish you wouldn’t feel for them because of how they hurt you. That nagging voice that reminds you they’re your parents, even though they’ve betrayed you.”
This is EXACTLY how I feel about my dad, and what I tell my boyfriend when he asks why I even talk to my dad at all.
kali December 16, 2011, 2:07 pm
MissDre – I was 50 years old when I finally decided I wasn’t going to allow my mother to have the power to upset me anymore. Before that, I felt just as you do about your Dad. It’s not easy, but please give yourself that peace of mind earlier than I did. You deserve it.
christine December 16, 2011, 3:13 pm
I know the feeling….I’ve been through about 8 months of therapy this year just to realize I’m upset I’m not enough for my parents, and that I need to not care about that. I need to stop aiming to please them. I need to just make myself happy. There IS a nagging ‘but you’re my Mooom!” feeling that comes with it, I’ve been learning to simply ignore it. It’s very hard, but ultimately extremely freeing.
Bossy Italian Wife December 16, 2011, 11:02 am
First let me say you are f**king awesome and insightful and I really admire the thought that you have put into this decision. I think that you should also include in your letter to your parents, though, that you LOVE them, and have always looked for their love to no avail. They need to know that your decision is based on this lack. I think that you have clearly outlined all of the things that have scarred you so deeply and that is important for them to know.
I also don’t think that you should wait for them to complain about you to send the letter to them. Don’t send it from a place of anger, instead send it from a place of peace for yourself, in the end I think you find it more effective for you, which is the purpose of the decision in the first place.
Let me also say one more thing on a more somber note. Before you send this letter, I want you to think about what will happen with you emotionally when your parents pass away. I bring this up because I was abused by an older step sibling when I was a child. I ended my relationship with her when I became an adult, but I never confronted her about all the things that happened when we were growing up. She died suddenly at the age of 28, and it was so painful that I never had that discussion with her. I wish that I had the courage to talk to her about these things when she was alive, and now I will never have this chance. So, if you are truly going to get it all out there, think of it from this perspective because it may change the things you want to say, and how you want to say them.
Best of luck to you. This letter touched my heart.
SpyGlassez December 17, 2011, 7:01 am
I second what you said about thinking about when they pass. My grandpa was my hero, and by the time I came along, he was ready to be that man. However, he had been an alcoholic most of his life, and had been a real sonofabitch to my dad and his brothers and sister, and to my two older cousins. When my grandpa died suddenly, it was as though a bomb had gone off in the middle of the family. It destroyed a lot. No one had ever been able to talk to him about the pain he’d caused and the pain he’d felt, and it left craters that took a long time to heal.
Patrick December 16, 2011, 11:03 am
I vote for not sending the letter. Yes, it may make or help you feel good temporarily, but you must understand that the parents are in total, TOTAL denial. That letter will be handed around to other people and your siblings (curiously, you don’t say anything about other family members and their experiences……why?) and it will just be used to roast you.
The best idea I believe is I guess what could called WITHDRAWAL. You will have to talk about these issues but it should be done over the phone or face to face IF they want to come see you. Don’t call or phone them…let them call you or come to you. Lay out the issue. I would say there is a almost 100% chance they will not be sympathetic or be more willing to be responsive to your needs and that of your family. So get over it?
Splash December 16, 2011, 11:15 am
I can’t see having the discussion in person turning into anything except another opportunity for the LW to be abused. The letter gives the LW a chance to say everything she wants to say without being abused for it, mocked about it, or yelled at for it. If the parents are in denial, then a face to face conversation will not give the LW the opportunity to say everything she wants to. If the letter is sent, the LW can then decide how (of even IF) she wants to deal with a response from the mother.
And “get over it”? Personally, I don’t think that is advice I would give someone who grew up in an environment like what is described.
John Rohan December 16, 2011, 11:26 am
I don’t see anything wrong with sending the letter and then engaging in withdrawal. If she doesn’t see them anymore, then what does she care what the do with it? Moreover, I think it would be more embarrassing for the parents, so I doubt they will pass it around to other people.
Elle December 16, 2011, 11:41 am
I was thinking the same thing. If the parents show the letter to other people, those other people might say: “Everything your daughter wrote in here is right. Good for her for having the courage to stand up for herself.” I hope that there are people in that family that are normal. Of course, the reverse could also be true – the parents could show the letter only to people who they know will take their side.
Flake December 16, 2011, 12:41 pm
It would not necessarily embarrass the parents. They may have an excuse for their behavior (at least, in their opinion). I have a friend that went through something like that with the disowning part, also at 16. Her parents were Jewish Orthodox, and she was dating a boy that wasn’t Jewish.. To them, it was justifiable. They never went through with it, but they did ship her off to a boarding school for her last year. They said that she was destroying her life and that she would go to Hell, and since they could not stop her, they refused to be a part of the “degradation”. Most people have weird ways of justifying their behavior. I can totally see this turning into a fight. I think it is amazing that she put it on paper so eloquently, but I think it would be a better idea to keep the letter to herself.
Splash December 16, 2011, 2:33 pm
From everything the LW has written, she is pretty much done with the situation. She isn’t looking for anything from her parents, and based on what she has written, they already ruined her childhood…it isn’t like a nasty-gram response would be totally out of character. The best thing about a letter is that the LW does not have to even listen to or open a response. She can send it and then wash her hands of her parents.
Oddy December 16, 2011, 11:03 am
Something very similar to this happened to my family. My dad decided less than 7 years ago to stop all contact with his side of the family due to conflicts and past problems. I was young when this happened, about 13 or so. Today although i understand why my dad did it, for both his sanity and the safety of our family, i am still upset that i am unable to see my grandparents, as before the cut off, i was close to both of them, and i really value family in my life.
I am truly sorry for what has happened, and it is terrible that the relationship is un-saveable, i am sure family is very important to you and i really hope this brings you closure and that you are able to continue to provide a healthy and stable relationship with the rest of your family:)
fast eddie December 16, 2011, 11:12 am
I relate to this LW on several levels with physical abuse added to the list. Trying to connect with them as an adult proved impossible for decades so I terminated contact with them beyond Xmas and birthday traditions. After 50 years we sort of resolved to leave each other to have our own lives and accept the fact that there was no common ground. Their both dead now and I don’t miss them at all. Now I have a happy life with regret that it wasn’t what I wanted or needed at the time. In some cases there isn’t a solution to family dysfunction. A complete disconnect isn’t possible in most cases. I hope she finds a way to deal with it and accept the situation with a minimum impact on her kids. The formal termination letter sounds drastic but only she has the knowledge to make that decision and seems to be very aware of the consequences, but if that’s what it takes for you to have the life you want and deserve then do it. Peace be with you dear.
mcminnem December 16, 2011, 11:26 am
LW, I want to suggest that instead of sending the letter, you do the following. This is something you are going to do for you, not your parents – just your own closure and healing. And I’m being entirely serious – whether or not you are religious, or spiritual, or whatever else, this is a very cathartic and calming thing to do.
-If you haven’t already, write that letter out. On paper, by hand. In ink. Write until your wrist cramps, until your handwriting is all sloppy and you’ve got ink on your fingers. Scribble. Be angry. cry all over the page. And when you’re done, fold it up and burn it.
There’s a reason why cultures all over the world use fire for purification – you can picture all those negative things, all your hurt and anger, burning up and disappearing.
And then, clean your house. Open all the windows, scrub the walls, clean all the things. Burn candles. Smudge with sage and sweetgrass. Have a priest come over and give a blessing. Whatever works for you – just purge that shit right out of your home and your life.
And then cut them off, entirely, and don’t let them or anyone else make you feel the slightest bit guilty about it.
I hope you have a restful and loving holiday with your family – your real family – and can get some healing and a fresh start for the new year. You deserve it.
Internet love and hugs <3
MellaJade December 16, 2011, 11:41 am
Cut them loose. Block their numbers so they can’t call you. Its too bad you can’t get a restraining order against them.
Cherish the lovely family your have now and protect them from such evil. Look ahead to the future and don’t dwell on the past.
Best Wishes to you and yours.
christine December 16, 2011, 3:07 pm
maybe she SHOULD get a restraining order – since they tried to pawn her off on the government, she should, to them.
………sorry…..i’m bitter. haha
fast eddie December 16, 2011, 11:47 am
Another option would be to set down some rules and be prepared to follow through with them.
1. You will NOT express your religious views to my children.
2. You will NOT criticize my husband or his family.
3. We will NOT stay at your house(s) for visits EVER!
They aren’t going to change their beliefs nor can you change what they did in the past. As difficult as it is, try to let it go. I’m still trying for mine but forgiveness is elusive, like a shadow the never completely disappears.
kali December 16, 2011, 2:12 pm
Eddie – I only managed forgiveness when I realized that the only person being punished by the lack of forgiveness was ME! I kept myself locked in that battle… Forgive and then forget them!
SherBear December 16, 2011, 11:50 am
Man, you make my parents look like saints…and they are far from earning parents of the year awards – but at least they try to buy my love with birthday and xmas gifts!
I would imagine writing that letter in itself was quite theraputic. Whether you ever call them again or send it is 100% up to you. If there is an example of a person who should cut off communication with their parents you are (unfortunately) the shinning example. No one will judge or blame you for your decision.
I am glad that you have are not repeating their mistakes and are healing yourself in therapy. Best of luck!!!
eelizg23 December 16, 2011, 11:53 am
Wow, I sympathize with you unfortunately. It’s time to let go of the guilt about not being a good enough daughter, so cut those people out of your life! You don’t owe them anything, and you certainly don’t owe them an explanation for why you’re cutting them out of your life. I think it’s great that you can get your feelings out in the letter, but my fear about you actually sending it is that maybe you’re sending and hoping for a certain reaction. And then will you just be even more hurt when you don’t get it? I probably wouldn’t send the letter, but it’s up to you.
va-in-ny December 16, 2011, 12:01 pm
A lot of times, just writing it all out begins a healing process within us. I think that putting all you are feeling into a concise letter will absolutely help you to heal the wounds your parents have given you.
I would hold on to the letter for a while (if you wish) and send it if you ever become ready, but you may find that you already have come to terms with what needs to take place and don’t actually need to send the letter at all.
Really, what matters here is that you do what is best for you, your husband, and your children. Only you can know what that is.
Elle December 16, 2011, 12:07 pm
LW, I can relate to you. I have an overbearing and controlling mother.
A few years ago, sick of her criticisms and her comments that always made me feel like I’m not good enough, I sent her an email asking her to cut if off already. I’m an adult, with a great job, where many people trust me, why can’t she trust me after she’s known me for my whole life.
It took my mom a while to digest the letter and follow through, and afterwards, every time she would try to reverse to her old ways, I would cut her off. I think it was a lot easier for me than it will be for you because I had my dad’s back. My dad has been telling her these things for years, but she just dismissed him. I had to tell her myself for her to finally hear it. And I still have to remind her every now and then, but the frequency is definitely on a downward trend.
If you still want to have a relationship with your parents, I vote for sending the letter. With one slight modification – also include how you want them to behave towards you from now on. Your letter brings up all the things you didn’t like from your past, but it should also include how those issues should be addressed from now on. Also, tell them that you will cut off all contact if they choose to ignore your wishes. (Honestly, you calling them twice a week is incredibly generous on your part. I’ve been talking to my mom once a week for more than 10 years.) And then, stick to your guns. They will try to test you, they will try to revert to the old ways, but don’t let them get away with it anymore. They got away with it for 40 years. Enough is enough.
One thing I noticed that worked with my mom – bring up how other people treat their children. It definitely helps if they’re mutual acquaintances, and they can see for themselves how good parents behave.
They might come around (and if they do, it will be a long struggle, so be ready to give them a few years), or they might not. Either way, you will be better off.
In the meantime, look around you, at your husband, your daughters, the life you managed to make for yourself, and be proud. You are an amazing person!
Vathena December 16, 2011, 12:12 pm
I have nothing to add to the comments – Wendy and everyone else have summed things up very well. But I do feel compelled to speak up in support of cutting these toxic people out of your life. Also to voice admiration for the loving family you have overcome your past to build. I hope you all have a happy holiday season together. Give yourself a nice gift this year: NOT speaking to your parents!
Sara December 16, 2011, 12:13 pm
Every situation is different, but I’m a firm believer in the fact that people can change, and sometimes for the better. Cut them out of your life now if that’s what you want and what you think will make you happy. But I caution against thinking it will be forever. Family tragedies and life changing events can bring people together and open doors that were closed before. I’m not saying this will happen to you, but just be open to the possibility, especially if someone reaches out to you.
On another note…I gather from your letter that your parents are quite well off and have supported you financially. Can you support yourself without their paypal deposits? A letter like the one you send will certainly stop the money train. A good family friend of mine is from a wealthy, but extremely distant/cold family. His mother is a drunk and his dad is a workaholic, but they are like .01% super rich. He has a horrible relationship with them based on some of the reasons you mentioned, but he is unable to separate himself because of the financial ties. Don’t be like him! Figure out a way to get yourself on your feet if need be.
AKchic December 16, 2011, 12:43 pm
She didn’t specify how much the money into her paypal account was. For all we know, it could be $10 per person per year for gifts. Would you be willing to keep someone in your life for roughly $50/year?
Sara December 16, 2011, 1:49 pm
Certainly not for $50, but the promise of lavish vacations and/or annual deposits in the 4 or 5 figures are enough for someone to consider putting up with this behavior. I’m not saying I’d do it, but I’ve seen people put up with far worse for far less. I’m hoping and assuming she’s financially stable and the money has no impact.
Sasha December 16, 2011, 12:18 pm
Why bother to send the letter? Why not just let it go, and forgive them? They did the best they could, which perhaps due to undiagnosed mental illness, wasn’t very much at all. It certainly wasn’t anywhere near the love and compassion that you deserved.
Free yourself from any more negative emotions related to them (anger, hurt, resentment) and channel your energy into the positive things that bring you joy – your family, your life. It sounds like you had a lot to overcome. By continuing to hold on to these emotions, you are allowing your terrible childhood to continue to haunt your adult life. Instead, forgiveness (which doesn’t mean you have to maintain a relationship with them) would allow that to be some of the hardest times that shaped you, but no longer overshadowing the many things you have managed to find and create in your life.
honeybeenicki December 16, 2011, 12:26 pm
Its possible that this could be the only way for the LW to let it go (maybe not necessarily sending it, but definitely writing it and confronting her feelings to herself). It is a very hard and sometimes impossible challenge to just “let go” of anger toward people who treated you the way it sounds like her parents treated her for her whole life. Emotions like anger and resentment often need to be worked through before they can really be let go, if they even can be let go.
AKchic December 16, 2011, 12:41 pm
Sometimes, when you just stop communicating, the other party “doesn’t get it”, and continues to contact. In fact, they feel like the injured party and start pulling a pity party for the entire extended family to attend. Then you get guilt trips and others telling you that you need to at least inform the original party WHY you aren’t speaking to them.
It’s best to inform someone why you are stopping communications. So long as you aren’t in danger when doing so. As these people are far away, the LW has no real physical danger. The worst that will happen is getting on the damned list of religious door ringers so every weekend you have to answer your door to “have you heard the good word?” (to which I usually reply “yes, I heard you’re going to leave me alone now” and shut the door)
A letter is formal, and in this day and age, so formal that it’s insulting in itself (the party receiving the letter is so beneath the LW in essence of time that snail mail was used! *gasp*), that the words in the letter and the gist of the letter will be the meat of the insult and it should get the point across nicely. If anyone on the LW’s side of the family asks, she can be vaguely honest. “We had a falling out” or “we stopped communicating for personal reasons” or even “we had differing viewpoints and don’t talk anymore”. It’s simple, to the point, and so long as she keeps along those lines, SHE is the better person for not rehashing old drama amongst family (when I’m sure they already know the sordid details), while I have no doubt that the drama queen parents will still attempt to vilify her to all and sundry. As long as she keeps her composure and doesn’t say anything specific, she will come out looking (and smelling) like roses.
AKchic December 16, 2011, 12:34 pm
I’ve gotten rid of my own father, paternal aunt, half-sister, half-brother, and am about to drop my full-blooded sister – so please, feel free to do what you need to do for your own sanity.
In the end, this is about your own emotional well-being, which affects your HOME LIFE, with your husband and children on a daily basis, not the very fucked up one you have with your terrible parents, whom you only contact on a bi-monthly basis and see every other year at best. You aren’t losing much in the way of money (trust me, it can be replaced), you aren’t losing emotional support, and you aren’t losing any spiritual enlightenment.
If you were looking for permission, you’ve gotten it. From many people, including your therapist. Your children may get curious as they age, but I think that they will have your stories, the stories of your husband, and your husband’s loving parents to make up for the loss of two deadheaded idiots. I’m sorry for the loss of a potentially decent childhood. You are making up for it by loving your own children. It’s all we can do sometimes.
SpaceySteph December 16, 2011, 2:02 pm
I think this is a very good point. Your family is made up of your husband and your children. They come first. And if what your parents are doing jeopardizes your family (and your own sanity), then they do not get to be part of it.
Family to me has a large aspect of choice- you chose your husband, you chose to raise your kids and be good to them; your parents did not choose to be good to you, and so you don’t have to choose to keep them.
MiMi December 16, 2011, 12:44 pm
Sadly, you can’t expect your parents to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. Your letter will bring on no “Aha” moment for them, no light will go on, and they won’t take responsibility for any of their doings. If you send the letter, I suspect they will react with righteous grievance, because you know there are no people more sensitive than the ones who ride roughshod over everyone else’s feelings. Your parents are damaged, selfish, ignorant, and pathetic.
While it would be easy and satisfying to tell them both to go to the devil and never see them again, you are a model for your teenagers and I think you need to carefully consider how your actions affect them. My mother’s experience growing up was similar to yours. As her child, I can tell you that it was a burden to me to hear the horrid things she went through as a child and confusing to be made to have an ongoing relationship with my poisonous grandmother (in particular) while my mother tried fruitlessly, for years and years, to improve that relationship.
Before you relate any more stories to your impressionable young teenagers, make dramatic gestures, or see your parents again, how about some family therapy sessions so everyone in your nuclear family gets to express their feelings about this situation and state their wishes for how to proceed – your husband and children have all been affected by your sad past, they all know things aren’t cozy and copacetic with the grands, and they have a right, as your nearest and dearest, to be heard by you before you come to any final conclusions or take a final actions.
AKchic December 16, 2011, 1:04 pm
You bring up an excellent point about the kids. There are certain things that kids should not be told as children. Kids are kids; not friends and certainly not surrogate therapists. I certainly wouldn’t tell my children the majority of my life experiences out of the blue. Hell, most of my life experiences would have no purpose for them (I would hope). The only time I broach some of my “colorful” experiences is for teaching tools. My oldest knows I did drugs, because I was younger than he was when I started (he’s 11 and in the 6th grade), and he knows that if he starts, he isn’t going to like what happens (not just from me, but from what it will do to his life). My oldest has a basic overview of sex education from me and from the school (they start “Reproductive Health” starting in the 4th grade here) and got quite a talking to on the value of birth control, and talking to me if he needed birth control, the value of self esteem, etc. As much as I hated to do it, I even have condoms in the house, and he knows where to get them, in case he needs them (which I know he doesn’t at this stage, but it’s always a “just in case” thing – always be prepared, y’know).
My kids don’t need to know the sordid details of my life. It won’t help them prepare for their own. Some information may just confuse them, or, give them ideas to try. Or, by becoming my sounding board, make them feel like the psuedo-adult in a quasi-parent/child relationship. My mom and I had that for years and when she tried to reassert her role as the parent when I moved out of the house (15) and had kids, it didn’t work.
The suggestion of family therapy for her and her “nuclear” family is a very good one. It will make sure that she has established the appropriate boundaries when it comes to the information she gives about her parents, and why she is cutting off ties (should she choose to).
OneSpiritEternal December 16, 2011, 12:45 pm
Dear LW – I did something similar with my father, and it was quite cathartic for me. Before I sent it to him, I made sure that I was sending it for the right reasons. My intent was not to hurt him (because I’d gotten to the point where I was indifferent), and I had to also be sure that I expected nothing in return, which is exactly what I got. I haven’t heard from him in 7 years, and though I might be able to look around and see everything that he’s missing, I have to remind myself that it was (and continues to be) his choice to miss out on it. I certainly didn’t lose anything by sending him the letter (basically telling him I wasn’t going to be his child at his convenience any longer), and I gained SO MUCH. I finally had freedom.
I just don’t understand people who have children and them treat them the way they treated you – you deserved then, and definitely deserve now, so much more. I am very happy to see that you’ve gained control over your life.
One thing I might caution against is your last point about your therapist suggesting anything, because if they’re of such a mind, they could say that it’s not you choosing to do this, it’s your therapist saying you should do this. Just tell them, for the emotional well-being of my children, you are not permitted access to them while they are in their growing years. I will not have them feeling as bad about themselves as you made me feel. Therapist or not, this is and should be YOUR call.
Please continue to work with your therapist, though, and make sure that you are able to get over any lingering anger directed towards them. Don’t place the blame for things that happen in your life now on them, because that still gives them a tie. At some point, you’ll feel strong enough to see the one good thing they did, and that was bring you into the world. Without you in this world, your husband wouldn’t have you to love, and your beautiful daughters wouldn’t exist. So no matter what else, you’ve touched lives, and you’re making your life into what you want it to be.
May the best of everything come to you, and may the worst that made you who you are be released into the universe for healing. Take care of you, and if/when you do decide to send them that letter, don’t spare them another thought.
IDreamofElectricSheep December 16, 2011, 1:08 pm
I’ve followed DearWendy for awhile now but have never commented. But I’ve been in your position with my mother and sister. Long sob story about my childhood environment and my family’s actions during my years as an adult are not needed here, but suffice to say I have put off having kids for a long time (none yet) because I was terrified about repeating the cycle. I’m in therapy and as you are too, I’m sure you’ve heard about control; how the only thing you can truly control in these situations are your actions and your reactions to other people.
I wrote one long, detailed letter (much like yours) to my mother and never emailed it. Simply because it was more cathartic to me than anything else. A year later, I emailed an edited version of it. The response – contrition and sadness – was unexpected and has led to much improved communications. I sent a letter to my sister based on a situation similar to yours which ran along the same vein; she suddenly wanted to be my friend and acted like nothing she did had ever happened and I responded with a letter reminding her that they had. Her response – that according to her therapist, she has some kind of mental condition that prevents her from remembering things she had done and that she also has no empathy, therefore making it hard for her to understand what she does hurts people – astounded, disappointed, and shocked me.
I understand that people are saying that you should do what you think is best for you. I get it. What you should consider is the longterm impact; not what is less stressful now, but down the road. I tried the “cutting off” for years. Then I tried becoming involved again, in a limited way. Neither worked. In fact, I got alopecia areata that, after much medical testing, was attributed to stress. I finally entered therapy.
I debated awhile about sending the letters. But ultimately I thought, “What’s the worst that can happen?” And you know what? I could live with the worst. Being cut off, yelled at, hated, etc. Because giving them the power to make me so angry and sad was actually even worse than anything they could actually do. So I emailed them. For me, it was ultimately freeing. Because no matter whatever happened, I could say, “At least I let them know how I felt” and “I made my stand”.
I’m sharing this because I was in a similar situation with two family members, both of whom I sent letters to and received opposite responses. In the end, for me, the responses didn’t matter. It’s easier to talk to my mom now, but we’ll never be close. I realized the answers to my “Why”s may help me logically understand their actions more, but never give me what I actually wanted: to not have had to live that life.
Wow, sorry this is so long! I don’t have concrete advice, per se. Just insight into how someone in a similar situation went through the same debate in her head and the results of sending her letters. In the end, it was (still is) about taking control of my life. Having my say. Letting go. And being okay with their opinions and actions because we get to make our own lives. And, ultimately, that is a glorious and beautiful thing.
Wendy December 16, 2011, 1:17 pm
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure it helps the LW — and anyone else in a similar position — to hear from someone who’s been there, done that.
haggith December 16, 2011, 2:16 pm
i agree with you with the fact that the letter is cathartic; sometimes there are things you need to say without any kind of interruptions. it is freeing and powerful. i wrote a similar letter to my mom when i left for a week trip by myself. i just left it on her bed and disappeared. the act of naming, making sense of painful experiences and let the one who allowed so much pain to happen know how it felt like let me unburden the weight of my silence. i didn’t expect an answer, i just wanted to be heard. my mom and i never talked about it after my return but i knew she knew and that was enough for me then. i took some time to understand that she and my dad didn’t know better, forgive them but most importantly, forgive myself for harboring bad feelings towards them no matter whether they’re sorry or not. it takes \ time but i assure you it’s not impossible.
*HmC* December 16, 2011, 1:37 pm
I would like to pile on the bandwagon and urge you, LW, to consider exactly why you want to send the letter. As Wendy says, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong to that decision, but managing your expectations here is essential. As others have pointed out, it is highly unlikely that your parents will even recognize themselves in the letter, or take any kind of responsibility for their horrible behavior. Are you truly prepared for retaliatory anger, possibly even directed at your daughters?
And, even though it is highly unlikely, would you even *want* them to suddenly take responsibility and apologize? After decades of abuse and neglect? Wouldn’t that be sort of unsettling? I feel like even remotely desiring this reaction from them is giving them too much power. You clearly recognize that they are manipulative, uncaring people that don’t deserve to be in your life. It doesn’t really matter what they think any more, so why does it really matter that you explain to them your point of view? I think that writing the letter must have felt amazing. But, as you seem to already know, you have healed because of yourself and your therapist and your family. Why involve them in your healing at this point? I feel like they don’t deserve it, and they really only have the power to further harm you and your family.
I believe that family is very important, but these people sound like they have absolutely nothing positive to offer you or your daughters. You have a wonderful family, and you know what the truth is. Why does it really matter if they do?
christine December 16, 2011, 1:55 pm
I’m surprised to see everyone thinks you shouldn’t send it. I think you should send it. I think it will help bring some serious closure to your feelings, knowing that they *may* FINALLY know how you feel. I think sending it will affect you better than it may affect them, but who cares what it does to them? Send it for you. Being someone who holds some serious resentment about my mother, I wish desperately I could tell her everything I think without having her interrupt me. I’m also sorry to hear they are Mormon and treated you the way they did. That is highly unusual. I’m sorry for your childhood, but very proud to see you grew out of it. Change that cycle!!
christine December 16, 2011, 3:55 pm
Oh, also, LW, I’ve been reading this blog for about a year now and this is my first time commenting. That’s how strongly I feel for this situation. This is probably the most gut-wrenching letter of the year.
Turtledove December 16, 2011, 2:06 pm
I’m going to go against the popular grain here– send the letter, own it and damn the consequences. While it’s true that it’s doubtful that your parents will ever believe that they did wrong, this isn’t about them; it’s not about their feelings, their wants, their abilities to deceive themselves. This is about YOU, LW, in a way that your childhood never was. I had a similar childhood, and the one thing that’s hardest to get over is that I never mattered and it’s difficult to come out of that and believe that you could matter, that you have a right to matter. But right now, in this moment and for herself, the LW gets to matter.
It’s entirely likely that the letter will not get through to these people and that they will walk away from it feeling like the injured party. They aren’t, after all, likely to change. But I don’t think that’s the point– the point is that the LW finally feels able to stand up for herself and tell them that she won’t be ignored, neglected, or bullied by them anymore. Simply cutting off contact with them without an explanation will just be putting a band-aid on a festering wound– it needs to be cleansed, not covered.
I don’t think the parents will be able to retaliate in any meaningful way towards the LW. If she lets her family know that it’s possible that a storm may be coming, and blocks their ways of contacting her directly then their possible avenues are really limited to things that will seem childish and petty to the rest of the world. What will they do, lambaste her on facebook? Will anyone who matters actually care? Most things that are within their power to do will just make them seem unhinged. The worst is not as bad as what fear would make us believe.
*HmC* December 16, 2011, 2:18 pm
I totally respect where you’re coming from, but I guess to me, cutting them off without an explanation isn’t necessarily a band-aid and sending the letter isn’t necessarily cleansing. But, I suppose it all comes down to how the LW views it.
Like you pointed out, the parents aren’t likely to change, and LW’s healing is not about the parents’ feelings. So if it’s not about them, why involve them at all? I see involving them as intrinsically giving them power. And they do not deserve it.
I was once in a position where my therapist encouraged me to send a letter to someone I had loved. Of course that was different, since it wasn’t my parents, and my person wasn’t crazy or abusive. But, that experience did teach me a lesson about healing. It has to come from within.
christine December 16, 2011, 2:31 pm
I don’t think sending the letter involves them, it just tells them how she feels. I think she should ignore them forever the moment she sends that thing. Just as they did to her as a child.
*HmC* December 16, 2011, 3:30 pm
Ah, but I think that telling *them* how she feels does involve them. I think it just comes down to how you would define involvement. To me, you are intrinsically involving the parents if you go through with the act of sending the letter to them. You are inherently involving their reaction, their emotions and thoughts, and caring about those things, on some level. If you don’t send it, then they truly aren’t involved. But I guess this is sort of a semantic issue. As others have said, I think the LW’s decision should be based on her true motivations for sending the letter, and her expectations. And only she really knows what those are.
christine December 16, 2011, 3:48 pm
I see what you’re saying. It’s funny, it seems that everyone’s own childhood truly determines their responses on this issue. Which I find fascinating. Depending on the trials we went through, we react differently to this. I identify greatly with LW here, and personally, I’d send the letter. My mother never listens or wants to know what I thought of her terrible parenting. To me, sending the letter would give a final ‘this is how I feel you treated me, whether you like it or not’ and she doesn’t need to think about their reactions, listen to their responses, or even recognize their existence once it’s sent. But, as I said, this is how *I* would do things in this situation. I would find sending the letter truly liberating. Then I’d cut them the eff off. haha
AKchic December 16, 2011, 4:47 pm
Think of the letter as the rebreaking of a bone that didn’t heal properly. Not a bandaid. She may need to mentally rebreak a bone so it will set and heal properly. Re-opening the wound so she can clear the air, and then either let her parents cut off contact on their own, attempt to make amends/acknowledge their behaviors, or to continue as usual so she can be vindicated in her convictions that cutting off contact (even long-term temporarily) is the right thing to do for her own sanity and self-preservation.
mandalee December 16, 2011, 2:41 pm
As someone who could have a Phd In “Messed Up, Never Ending Parenting” based on my family tree, I feel very bad that you had to go through what you did with your parents. I am also very amazed and commend you for breaking the cycle, that is truly hard to do. Believe me, I know. However, I do not think you should send the letter. I think it’s great that you wrote it, so you could properly channel your feelings on paper, but in reality, your parents aren’t going to care. If they would have, they would have heard you by now, its only been how many years?
My dad has a mom that physcially abused him and treated us terrible, and after years of my begging as a teenager, he finally gave me trying to get her “to understand” or change. She simply wasn’t going to. He had a much more difficult time than you breaking the cycle, he wasn’t abusive, but I felt his anguish, it painted my whole childhood. My best advice would be to cut all ties, and shield your children from this. They will experience the pain with you and be brought into a mess they don’t need.
I would be thankful for the family that you created, and remove the focus from the one you had no choice of being born into. Channel the anguish, sadness and anger from your parents, into the love and warmth for your children. By doing this, you’ll be able to be the mom that you never got to have. While it’s not perfect, it should heal some of the wounds.
Best of luck LW!
heidikins December 16, 2011, 3:04 pm
My Mom is pretty toxic, and for years I tried to put up with it/run to my therapist to deal with it, but a few years ago I finally decided that I didn’t need toxic in my life and stopped all communication. We live close, about 45 miles apart, but I never call, she never calls, I see her two or three times a year at, say, my sister’s birthday party or my nephew’s baptism, but other than that? Nothing. It has been surprisingly freeing. I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s awesome.
At the time of the Last Big Offense (when I decided to stop with the mother-daughter charade) I wrote her a letter and posted in anonymously on a friend’s blog. I got it out of my system and I got some response to it, but mostly response that verified my position and did not start a huge family war. (I am still close to my siblings.)
I certainly hope you can find something that brings you the same kind of peace with your relationship with your parents. And if that means you are sending them the above letter, great. If that means you ignore them completely for the rest of you life, great. If that means you ignore them for a year (or a decade) and then re-asses? Great. Do whatever works for you.
Juliette December 16, 2011, 5:59 pm
Congrats on breaking the cycle. You are my hero, really and truly. I love to know that there are broken children who grow up, heal, and create for themselves what they need. Truly wonderful and I hope you are aware of how special it is.
When I faced a similar issue, I learned an empowering phrase, “no one and nothing outside of me ever needs to change for me to be happy.” What the belief has meant for me is that I had to go one step beyond writing the letter. I had to reach a place where I could release all of the expectations (those lists of apologies and answers I hoped to get one day) that I had of people who had victimized me as a child…especially my mom.
I had a list like yours of the injuries I’d endured, and by working hard with a counselor I was able to let go of all of those list items and any expectation that my mom would ever acknowldege them or apologize for the pain. The hardest was my beloved pet dog, Pepper. That sweet dog had been the most nurturing influence in my life until I turned 12, some folks were raised by wolves, I was raised by a labrador-dalmation cross. My mom took her away during a custody dispute to hurt us and then let her die a horrible death all alone. It wasn’t until I quit carrying the weight of my dead dog around that I gave up the anger and truly broke the bonds with my toxic mom.
My message is this, if you don’t also rid yourself of expectations and anger that you carry inside of you these people will still be able to mess with your noggin, there will still be negative connections between you and them. The letter is good because it focuses concerns on the list of real injuries you have suffered. My thoughts would be to process through the list asking yourself, “What if I let this issue go, just completely let it drop?” for each item on your list and don’t stop until you can say “because I let it go, nobody and nothing outside of me needs to change for me to be happy.”
It was the hardest work I ever did in my life and has brought the most amazing rewards. I think it might work for you because your letter describes people who, like my mom, feel that they’ve never done anything to anyone who didn’t deserve it. That mindset does not lend itself to the introspection necessary for personal change and true remorse which must come before accountability and apology.
When I finally visited my mom to de-monsterfy her, I was ready for anything she might say…including how it wasn’t her fault we couldn’t keep Pepper, and how it was my step-dad’s fault that Pepper was locked in the house and left to die, and how my Dad, who is a kind person and has always been my role-model and support structure, didn’t want the dog around so it was really his fault she died so horribly. Being ready, by giving up expectations, meant she couldn’t hurt me with those words…regardless of their veracity.
I really hope to hear you will find a way to free yourself from any unnecessary weight you might be carrying around because I see you asking the universe for what you want and being willing to do the work it takes to get there.
katie December 16, 2011, 8:24 pm
LW, like everyone else, you are so strong and amazing for finally making the decision that you have. you wont take it anymore- you are relieving them of their control over you and your emotions. i think that your actions after making this decision dont even matter. send the letter, dont sent it, call them, create crop circles in their yard– it doesnt matter. the decision has been made. in your heart, you have let go. and THAT is the commendable part. your awesome, LW.
i saw a show about a group “retreat” that dealt with abuse and neglect. they did an exercise there that may help you. you may have heard of it- heck, your may have done it, but here is just another way to rid them. so it was role playing exercise. the abused person would assume the role of themselves when the abuse took place. another person would assume the role of the abuser. they would “act out” mostly using words, the abuse that happened. then, the abused would be able to confront them. they would do exactly as you have done in your letter and lay everything out- accuse them of what they had done, just asked WHY, ect. then, the two people switch places. so the abused is now the abuser. and then they answer the question. it is an exercise where you can finally get the closer of all those questions, which i would think would be the most maddening part. the man who i saw take part in it was able to answer, acting as his mother, that she was a bad parent. she had her own demons. that the reasons all rested with her, it had nothing to do with him. it was amazing to see him be able to let go of all the bad after having the internal realization that the problem wasn’t with him. maybe this, or something like this, would be another technique you could use to get them out of your life- and out of your head and heart.
I truly believe that you are allowed at any point to cut people out of your life- it doesnt matter who they are. As someone who doesnt have a family (all the issues happened before I was born- they are already in their not talking for the rest of forever faze), i truly understand that family doesnt have to be the people you share DNA with. your family are the people you hold the closest in your heart, the people who support you and love you just as much as you love and support them.
ape_escape December 17, 2011, 6:11 am
One isn’t a good person just because they are a parent*.
(*Sperm/egg donor? …I digress.)
I’m sorry your parents were/are terrible. Everyone else has spoken great advice; just know that I feel for you and I hope you move past this as best one can.
lrcc December 17, 2011, 8:11 am
Don’t send the letter. Spend plenty of time rewriting it, get everything written down, leave nothing out, but don’t send it. Your life is too valuable to allow yourself to be drawn into what would doubtlessly become a long, drawn-out, intensive, and emotionally painful battle.
Instead, put the letter away, and then break off all contact with them. ALL contact. No explanation why, just cold turkey. I predict that in a few years you’ll look back and wonder how and why you ever maintained a relationship with them for as long as you did.
The best revenge is living well. From the way you describe your own family, it sounds like you’ve achieved this. Best of luck to you, your husband, and your kids.
Roux December 17, 2011, 8:49 am
Don’t send the letter. Some people are just naturally self-centered and selfish. Telling them isn’t going to make any change in their behavior.
If you don’t want to send them cards or make the telephone calls or go on vacation with them, then don’t. Just drop it and move on. You have two daughters to raise and apparently a wonderful husband. Spend your energy on that and forget about and yes, forgive and accept your parents as they are. It will help you help you move on and put your energy and love to better use.