I went to visit my parents for the first time in almost two years. The first year was mainly because of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, but then last October we had a huge falling out. We've spoken since then, but the prospect of actually seeing them or going to their house was just too much for all these months. It's caused me a lot of stress and worry and depression, and I even briefly considered cutting all ties with them when things hit their lowest point. Even after they both apologized for hateful and hurtful things they had said to me, I didn't feel comfortable around them for a long time. I still don't, sometimes. Setting boundaries and protecting my own mental and emotional health has been so hard. I've felt really guilty about it all no matter how much I try to reason with myself that I'm doing the best I can.
The main reason I finally decided to woman up and go visit them is because my dad's health is really bad. Really, really bad. My dad's basic personality is sweet and gentle, although rapidly declining health, myriad medications, and some mental health conditions have led to a few outbursts. Overall, he's still my dad though, and he wanted to see me. My mom and my relationship with her is much more complicated, and that's been the bigger source of stress for me. I was nervous about seeing her for the first time in so long but I decided it was time.
Well, when I walked in the door my mom came and put her arms around me and started to cry. She held on to me for a long time and sobbed softly against my shoulder. It broke my heart. Just shredded my heart to pieces.
My dad was glad to see me, too, and I'm really glad I got to see him. His physical condition is somewhat shocking. If he suddenly up and died today, I wouldn't be surprised-- that's how grim things are. What did surprise me is how much my mom's physical and mental health have declined in the past two years, too. They're both in pretty bad shape.
We had a nice enough visit despite how sad I felt the whole time. Mom cooked a roast and we had lunch together. Dad kept up a cheerful demeaner and made a few jokes. I admired the new fence they had installed outside and the neat, well-kept flower beds in front of the house. Then I told a lie and said that I had to be back in Florence at 3pm for an appointment to have my teeth cleaned. I'd promised myself that I'd find a graceful way to leave after two or three hours if I needed to, and I did. I intend to visit again relatively soon, though, and I told them so.
I didn't cry until I was in the car and on the road back home.
Me and my dad, circa 1982 or so.
Great self care Jen. Family is so very hard but in the end the one we should be able to count on is ourselves. Not in that dejected "I am alone" kind of way but in the "I will do what I have to do to care for myself" kind of way. Way to go!ReplyDelete
I'm trying to take better care of my own emotional health. It's not easy.Delete
Oh Jennifer, dear friend - this has brought tears to my eyes, too. I well remember when you told us about the falling out, and the overall complicated relationship you've been having with your parents for years.ReplyDelete
I am really glad you went to see them, and by the sounds of it, you made their day (probably even their month, or year!).
I can imagine you were really exhausted. It takes courage to do what you did, and a good heart and decent character.
I really was exhausted. I came home and slept for two hours afterwards. I can't seem to shake the sadness I've felt since then, either. Thank you for the support, Meike. It means a lot to me.Delete
Poor girl. I feel so much for you. Just because they are your parents it doesn't mean that you have to get on with them, we are all indiviuals with different views on things. I'm pleased that you were able at least to begin the road back. Lots of bad things are said in the heat of the moment and most of them are regretted afterwards.ReplyDelete
Lots of hugs
Thank you. We've had a complicated relationship pretty much forever. I'm trying hard to be a decent adult who does the right thing. I don't want regrets later on if I can help it.Delete
Well done Jennifer to take that first brave step. Nothing will be as hard as that again I don't think. Family relationships can be so hard but brave of you to try to heal the rift. I am thinking of you as I am sure all your blogging friends are.ReplyDelete
Thank you for reading and offering me your support. I really appreciate it.Delete
You are so very, very brave and far stronger than you realize. Giving yourself an out when you'd had enough time with them was so smart.ReplyDelete
There is nothing that can hurt like family because family is supposed to be all about unconditional love and support and when it's not, the pain is quadrupled. At least.
You did good though, girl. I surely do admire you.
There's really not much to admire. For two years now I've avoided engaging with them very much even though I know that they're unwell and mentally ill. Those are the main reasons they act out sometimes. I've had to learn to put my own well being first, but I feel so much guilt over it all.Delete
I feel for you and can relate to the difficulty of visiting parents. I used to have to stand outside afterwards and literally shake off all the “bad energy”. You planned a graceful exit. You got through it! Now relax and restore. -JennReplyDelete
From the moment my car leaves the main highway on the way to the little town where I grew up, feelings of dread descend. I understand what you mean by shaking off bad energy--that's what I do on the way home after I get back ON the highway. It's not all about my parents, by the way. I hate the place where I grew up. It's tiny and poor and has been losing population steadily for years. It's sad, but my hometown is a depressing place. I think my parents would have been better off and much happier if they had left when they were younger.Delete
I can't pretend to know how it felt yo be in your shoes, but I think you best know how, and did, conduct yourself, and how far to push the comfort zone. It will be a starting point if need be to start anew. It always saddens me to hear when a parent and child relationship is filled with strife for a myriad of reasons...especially with mothers. It's nice you went.ReplyDelete
I love your relationship with your mother, Maddie. It's so nice to read about it, and you are lucky.Delete
I admire you for going to see them. It was hard but you did it and I know you are tired but you did a good job of facing them. I am glad it went well and that you can feel good about your actions. Well done, Jennifer!ReplyDelete
I think it was the right thing to do.Delete
I hope this is a new beginning of an improved relationship for all of you. You were very brave and selfless to make the first overture.ReplyDelete
Although my parents are relatively young, they've had hard lives and so their health is poor. I don't want the last months or years of their lives to be wasted on hurt feelings and estrangement. Once people are gone, they're gone.Delete
That was a brave and wonderful thing you did Jennifer. This is good for both you and your parents. I'm sure it meant everything to your mother and father but I have a feeling it was more important for you than you may realize. I can speak from experience that living with regret when it is too late to do anything about it is a painful experience. I'm proud of you.ReplyDelete
Thank you Bonnie. As I just said to Debra, when people are gone it's too late to change anything. I don't want more guilt to live with in the future than I already have.Delete
There's absolutely nothing wrong with your excuse. Remember, their reality is focused around their declining health. Keep things on a positive note if possible, two years is a long time and no matter how much you may hope, people rarely change much if they're entrenched in their ways.ReplyDelete
A good assessment, Dave, and you're right. People rarely change much but I change my expectations. All I can really control is how I behave and how I choose to react to stuff. More than anything, in the future I want to feel that I did the best I could.Delete
Keep up the good work, dear heart. You will not be sorry in the end.ReplyDelete
Thank you my sweet friend. I value your advice.Delete
Watching one's parents' health decline is always difficult, but sadly it comes to all of us and affects us in many different ways. It does sound as if your relationship with them has improved, and that must be a good thing.ReplyDelete
I'm trying to make things a little better. Thanks Cro!Delete
Great photo though. Love the sweaters!ReplyDelete
Me too! And I love the fact that I look like I was laughing. :)Delete
So sorry for the pain your family relationship has caused you. I hope this is the beginning of at least more peaceful times. I also hope you won’t tolerate (or experience) any abuse in the future. No one deserves that. I spent many times crying in the car after visiting my parents.ReplyDelete
Thank you my friend. I know you understand, maybe better than most, some of the stuff I'm going through. I hope you know how much your support means to me. xxDelete
Well done. You sounded absolutely right to have a time limit on this visit. You were so powerless as a child and really need to have control and limits in this relationship if it's going to go ahead at all.ReplyDelete
I don't know if you've heard the podcast 'How did we get here' with clinical psychologist Tanya Byron conducting real-life sessions with people dealing with various issues. A couple that stood out to me are 'Should I leave my family' and 'My mother walked out on me'. They really seemed to help the people involved to either accept or reject family relationships in ways that helped them let go of anger and guilt. The whole series is really recommended.
Good luck in the future.
Thank you for the heads up--I will check out that podcast later today. And you're absolutely right that there need to be control and limits if I'm going to be resuming a slightly more normal relationship with my parents. I'm determined to put my own mental and emotional well being first. I have to.Delete
Sending virtual hug your way. Sadly, I know complicated families all too well.ReplyDelete
Yes, I know I'm hardly alone in having complicated family relationships. Happy and truly well adjusted families seem to be the exception, not the rule!Delete
It takes tremendous courage to take that first step. I know. I didn't have it.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry that visit was difficult, but in the long run you'll be glad you did it. Your method of handling the timing is pretty smart -- set yourself a limit and get out before you're overwhelmed.ReplyDelete
Well done indeed!ReplyDelete
I am glad too to see all the Love and support you have here.
I bet you feel good about the way you handled that?ReplyDelete
I'm sorry that was so hard for you, but now you've broken the ice. I would love to see my daughter.ReplyDelete
Oh sweetie, you were bold and brave to do the hard visit, and had your I have to leave excuse lined up. Well done.ReplyDelete