Family and Abandonment: An Open Letter

A little back story about this open letter…

I will not be clear throughout this post as to who I am referring to out of respect and privacy for the family.

A few months ago, I received a text that one of my immediate family members passed away due to COVID-19. This was an estranged family member from my mother’s side, one of many estranged members, unfortunately. My abandonment issues run deep. A large amount of my mother’s side of the family turned their backs on me, since a young age. Not all, but a large amount. I think what has bothered me all these years the most is that I had no involvement or control in their reasonings. I did not have a fair chance. And although I cannot say I am exactly disowned, I would consider myself involved in a worse scenario- ignored and forgotten. I am not really acknowledged as a family member. I have no idea where my deceased family member is buried nor was I considered to participate in a remembrance of life. It is bad enough that I have not talked to this person for over 15 years. A lot of pain and resentment sits in my heart.

When I received the news, my reaction was spontaneous.

At first, I was too stunned to give a reaction and for a split second, I felt unbothered due to my lack of connection to this person. Practically a stranger at this point. But rather quickly, the anger set in. Most of my childhood memories involved this person. This person was a big factor in my upbringing. Why was I not enough? How could anyone watch a child grow and be involved in that child’s growth and then just up and leave and never look back? I could never understand it. Ever. The anger set in when I realized I will never have these answers. I decided I was going to confront my family and I had one member, particularly in my mind.

Below is THAT letter. And now months later, I am sharing it with you all:

Hi [name of family member],

Remember this child? Do you know how long it has been since you have spoken to her? Or visited her? Do you even care how she is doing and what she has been up to the past 15 years?

I wish this conversation was more positive but honestly, I was never given a fair chance. You and [name of deceased family member] decided to walk away and stop calling. Somehow you decided that I was not your [relation] anymore. I never did anything to you. I was a child. You three including my mother, are the main reasons I do not know how to form a strong family bond with any of my family members, my father’s side included. The damage your actions have done on me are borderline irreversible. Congratulations. You did one hell of a number on me.

I was informed that [name of deceased] passed away. I am sorry to hear this and offer my condolences. I was heartbroken and resentful when I heard the news. I realized despite being angry and hurt all these years because you both decided to discard me out of your life like I was nothing to you, I still loved her. Crazy, right? So, I think it is time that I am owed an explanation. What did I do to the both of you to make you decide it was best to turn your back on me? You cannot be that cold of a person. It must cross you mind from time to time. Seriously, why? If this year has taught you anything, I hope it has taught you that time is precious and short. Too short to abandon ‘loved ones.’ I want to make it VERY clear that is what you both did to me. So again, why?

I do not even want an apology. I see no point. But if you can do one thing for me, is to please give me an explanation. For my own healing and closure.

Not that you care, but I have done well for myself despite all the toxic damage that I had to grow up with. I have managed to become an intelligent, strong, and compassionate woman. I was able to graduate with my bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I have a career in Human Resources. I am a published writer. I have traveled around the world. I have an amazing fiancé and we plan to marry at the end of this year. And hopefully, God will bless me with a child who I can raise and love the way I have always yearned to be loved by my mother. I can build my own family.

I would be highly surprised if you respond to this but at least I have said my peace. If you do not respond, I wish you the best in life. I hope you come to terms with the mistakes in your life. And I want you to know that it is never too late. It is never too late to try to reconcile with me. It will not be easy and the way I feel, I most likely will not be welcoming at first. But efforts do not go unnoticed. It is never too late. Goodbye.

If you are wondering…

No, I did not send it. Call me a coward or acknowledge that I chose not to for the sake of my own peace, both explanations would be correct. I decided it was healing for me to write it and that was for me alone.

I often find myself wondering if I will ever truly heal from this situation and forgive my family. It is a long, long, strenuous road. You take 5 steps forward, only to take 10 steps back. I may never truly heal from it. I have thought about going to therapy to address it. I honestly feel like I need to. For the sake of my own future child and the generations to follow. Part of my healing process has been finding awareness that a lot of my damage came from my childhood. The generational curses. I am determined for it to end with me. I have no problem carrying that cross if it means that my lineage after me will be filled with love, compassion, and awareness. It is one of my ultimate goals.

You know, reading this letter again after a few months still stings.

So much anger and resentment in the tone. I find myself feeling guilty for being so cold, especially after a death. I feel all my mixed emotions burning in my stomach as I reread the letter. But I know that this is normal. One of the biggest steps of a healing process is truly sitting in your pain and wholeheartedly feel it. I know that brings me a step closer in my journey and I am learning to find peace in that itself. We all have skeletons in our closet. Family traumas that run deep. I happen to be a little more open about it but that does not mean you have to be. Whether you keep it hidden or open, just do yourself the favor and feel it regardless. Do not ignore it. As painful and difficult as it may feel, it is necessary. If you can relate to my situation, I feel for you. You are not alone, and I am sending you so much love. Be kind to yourself. Here’s to healing ❤

Generational Curses: Forgive us, for we have sinned.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis

What do you consider a generational curse? It’s typically based on ministry teachings that you are able to inherit misfortune based on the sins performed throughout generations in your family. Some examples to consider are depression and other mental illnesses, addictions to drugs and alcohol, marital problems, even incest. Since a child, I was exposed to the majority of these things, particularly on my mom’s side of the family. I would like to put the disclosure that I would never want to disrespect or offend that side of my family. It will never be my intent. However, it’s hard to ignore the circumstances I was exposed to so young. The term ‘generational curse’ has me thinking of the concept of nature vs. nurture. The difference of what is embedded in us since before birth and what has molded us as we continue to grow in life. This is my story. It has no end goal like the majority of my blogs do. I cannot offer advice how to overcome this because I still live with it everyday- I am still figuring it out. But because I remain true to my need to be as vulnerable and raw as possible, not only for my own healing but for others’ as well, I am here to share this part of my life with you.

Since a very young age, I was well aware of what mental illness looks like. I’ve seen it in many of my family members. Cases in which they physically harm themselves to shut the ‘voices’ out. Cases in which they committed suicide. Cases in which sporadic episodes appeared in numerous family parties, frantically trying to make sense of what is taking place in their own mind and body. Heavy alcoholism took place. There had been several times when I saw family members stumbling and unable to hold themselves up. I’ve seen extremes of family members being carried away in stretchers and placed in the ambulance to be treated for alcohol poisoning. I’ve witnessed incest…cousins marrying cousins. And for a while, all of this seemed normal as a child. I honestly knew no better. It never impacted me much…at first. Not until my mother got sick. It hits differently in your own household. Before my mother got sick, my household was a healthy environment. My mother and father were happily married. It was a two person income, I never needed for anything. I was spoiled with all a child desires plus love. My parents had a healthy routine for me and kept me protected from all that a child could be exposed to growing up in Bronx, NY. They laid the foundation for my education, exposed me to libraries and museums, took me to day trips out of the city on the weekends. I say this to elaborate on the fact that despite what I witnessed growing up from other family members, I was pretty sheltered and protected. But then when I was 8 years old, my mother got sick and life became unrecognizable.

My mom suffered from migraines for as long as I could remember. It turns out she had a brain tumor that acted as a ticking time bomb. At 35 years old, she suffered a brain aneurysm, which caused her to suffer from a stroke, which left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. She had to have brain surgery to remove the tumor mass. She stayed in the hospital for two months trying to recover. She became epileptic and will be on medication for the rest of her life. She will never be able to move the fingers on her left hand. She has to wear a sling for support of her left arm because it is literally dead weight. She has to wear a brace on her left leg to be able to walk, and even then, her balance is so unsteady that she has to use a cane as well. As I approach my 30th year on this Earth, 35 doesn’t seem so far away. She was so young and her life changed COMPLETELY. She had to stop working all together. She needed help using the bathroom, bathing, and changing. She was not allowed to be independent anymore because she was no longer capable of doing so. I place myself in her shoes at my current age and honestly, I’d probably become clinically insane. Just like that, so much was taken from her and she had to process and figure out a new way of living. Not to mention, living in constant fear. If she falls and hit her head, she is likely not able to survive that. If she has a seizure and it lasts more than 3 minutes, she can have extensive brain damage. And even with knowing all of this, in my heart, the way our relationship changed for the worse still hurts. My mother was the first person to ever break my heart. And decades later, I’m still trying to come to terms with it.

After suffering the stroke, her behavior changed drastically. She became isolated and paranoid. She started having hallucinations. My dad attempted to help her in any way he could, but her behavior was mean and nasty. He felt we needed a change in pace and scenery, so we moved from NY to MO. My grandfather lived there at the time and my father felt this would be beneficial for my mother. But her episodes only got worse. One time when I was 10 years old, we visited my grandmother in NY. While sleeping in bed with my mother, she woke me up in the middle of the night, hysterical. She accused me of trying to suffocate her in her sleep. She said she saw me on top of her with my hands around her neck. Needless to say, whenever I got around her, she shunned me. Called me all sorts of ugly names, even attempted to physically remove me from her sight. The episodes would come and go. Some days were unbearable and other days were tolerable. You could instantly see the switch between the moods in her eyes. There were nights when she woke me up, told me to help her cover the air vents in our home, because she felt someone placed cameras there to watch our every move. As the years passed by, her behavior became more unusual. Hiding random food items in the cabinets of our bathroom. Some days it was as if she was an empty vessel. Sitting in her beloved rocking chair in the living room, rocking back and forth, staring into the distance. By this point, my father and I were used to not being acknowledged. Sometimes we even preferred it that way because when she did acknowledge us, it was never in a pleasant manner. At this time my dad was kicked out of the room, subjected to sleeping on the couch every night. Eventually, he gave in and purchased a cot to sleep on. My dad would work nights and during those nights, I would lock my bedroom door because I felt unsafe alone with her. This way of life became normal for me…at least I thought. But unfortunately, I began suffering from anxiety attacks at age 11. I experienced full blown depression at the age of 13, particularly after my mother leaving my father and I, moving back to NY. The year to follow, I didn’t hear from her. And honestly, you would think that I would be happier after she left because at least she wasn’t around to treat me the way she did, right? No. Her leaving felt like rejection and abandonment. It was as if she gave up being my mother. To this day, Mother’s Day stings…now for more reasons besides my relationship with my mother…but I have always craved a mother-daughter relationship. I still do and it makes me sad that I will never genuinely experience that.

Sometimes I think that my mother was a product of a generational curse. My heart hurts for her. For me. For us. But then I find myself challenging that idea because in the end, we have the power to determine our reactions despite the obstacles. Over the years, I’ve kept in contact with her. The relationship is not as toxic, but it’s definitely strained. I haven’t completely forgiven her in my heart. I constantly struggle with letting go of what has happened between us. It’s an internal battle because I know she has pushed everyone away and is completely alone, and that thought alone breaks my heart. I don’t know what to do for her because as much as I want to open up and restore that relationship, I am guarded and feel the need to protect myself from her. Time never seemed to heal us. After all these years, it’s still not easy. I can’t cling to the good memories because my heart is flooded with the bad ones. Too much over too many years. It has left me damaged and distrustful. Anxiety and depression is a constant in my life…it makes up the majority of my core because I am conditioned this way. I am proud of where I am today mentally, but the work is never done. I know at some point, the pain will creep up on me again. I told a friend something today that reminded me I am on the right path. I said, “Life is filled with hard times sprinkled with happiness, not the other way around. What has helped me cope is realizing that for every bad moment in my life, a good one follows. I’m always looking forward to that next happy moment.” That’s what it’s all about right? You have to be this constant in an everchanging life. You have to be resilient. You have to fight and be okay with the fact that the fight will never be over. 50 cent said it best, “Death gotta be easy cause life is hard.” Life IS hard. It’s inevitable. But you owe it to yourself to create happiness within you. You owe it to yourself to overcome the obstacles. You owe it to yourself to break generational curses. Perhaps generational curses are not out of your control. Maybe you allow a generational curse to continue because you have been conditioned to do so. Maybe it is simply the concept of nurture. I’ve learned that in some of my darkest times, the most beautiful circumstances appear shortly after. Little specks of happiness within our reach. The question is, are you willing to reach out and grab it?