It can be really painful for a parent watching his or her child suffer or feel down, and it’s natural, of course, to want to “fix” it (whatever “it” may be — a broken heart, depression, low self-esteem); I think these feelings are amplified when a child is in any way atypical — when he or she has any sort of disability or deformity or even simply looks different from his or her peers. But it’s important to remember that EVERYONE experiences disappointment and rejection, and the fact that your daughter, at 25, has experienced this once or twice recently is actually super normal and typical. And while she may attribute the disappointment and rejection to her physical “defect,” the truth is that it may have nothing to do with that at all.
My advice to you is to back off and let your daughter wade through these very normal experiences and feelings without too much input from you. I know the temptation is great to assure her she will find love, and that if she simply focuses on what she’s good at, others will follow suit. I know you just want to boost her self-confidence, and in my opinion the best way to do that is to let her figure this out herself. She’s 25, after all. You don’t mention anything atypical about her mental and emotional development, so she’s certainly old enough to function on her own. She doesn’t really need you to be too involved in her social or romantic life. Of course, keep an eye on her if you’re concerned that she’s depressed, but as long as the depression is temporary and low-grade and doesn’t interfere with lifestyle or ability to work or care for herself, it shouldn’t be anything to obsess over or worry too much about. (Naturally, if it seems the depression is getting worse or it drags on for a long time, talk to her about it and about how you can help her get help.)
Another reason you need to back off and let your daughter live her life is that you may be inadvertently projecting your own desires and wishes and expectations on her, which could be a real burden and be adding to her feelings of disappointment. She may really want to fall in love and get married, but she may also really not want to disappoint you. It can be hard sometimes, especially at your daughter’s age, distinguishing between what we want for ourselves and what we think our parents want for us. You say you want her to focus on what she’s good at (like singing), but I would encourage you to focus on what she’s already accomplished — the prestigious job at an IT company, for example, and not on what you might consider deficits (like how she’s not married yet… at 25).
Your daughter is still really young. She has her whole life ahead of her — a life that may include more than one big relationship and more than a couple heartbreaks. It may or may not include marriage, and she may decide that wishes and dreams she had when she was younger have or will change. That’s ok. It’s also ok if she makes mistakes as she goes back to dreams she had and then pushed aside for a while. It’s all ok! You need to trust in the foundation you gave her and accept that her physical differences are such a small part of who she is. As her world and life continue expanding, those differences are going to be relatively smaller and smaller, and the people who matter simply won’t care. And the people who care will, eventually, matter to her less and less.
Let go, Mama Bear. She’s going to be ok!
I’m so sorry to hear about your brother! I know you are grieving and you’re sad. So is your mother, and so is your SIL — in some ways even more intensely, or at least differently, than you are. Losing a child is a unique pain that I don’t think any of us can fully fathom unless we’ve experienced it ourselves. And unexpectedly losing a young spouse whom you imagined spending decades with has to be equally gut-wrenching. It is natural that two women closest to your brother and probably most affected by his death are seeking comfort in the company of each other. I’m sorry you feel excluded by and jealous of that, but it’s encouraging that you can name your feelings, you know where they’re coming from, and you have compassion about what your mother and SIL are going through. I’m especially impressed by your empathy for your SIL who does not have a particularly caring mother herself.
As for what you can do, I would encourage you to continue naming your feelings and continue telling your mother that you are grieving too, you miss your one-on-one time with her, and it would mean a lot to have a standing date (maybe a Friday movie night or a Sunday dinner). I also think spending some one-on-one time with your SIL could help you both. You’ve all lost someone very important to you — someone with whom you each had a different relationship and for whom you will grieve a little differently. It sounds like your mother and SIL are also dealing with some feelings of guilt, which add another layer to their grieving process.
Sometimes people lose themselves in the grieving process, which is why it may feel like you’ve lost your mother. Your mother and SIL may feel equally lost in their grief and may feel most understood — and less lost — when they are in each other’s company. This is temporary. It may take a few months, but the fog and haze of grief will eventually begin to lift — for all of you — and you and your mother will find your way back to each other, probably becoming even closer than ever. Give it a little time and trust. Your brother died; the relationships of the loved ones he left behind did not and will not. I promise.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.