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 ❤

Life After Death: 8 Ways to Cope with Grief During the Holidays

“As long as I live, you will live.”- Unknown

As the temperatures begin to cool and the leaves on the trees begin to change colors, it becomes more evident that the holiday season is quickly approaching us all. Usually a time of year that brings joy to many people, is a painful reminder to those who will not be spending those cherished holidays with their loved ones who have passed. Losing a loved one is never easy, and there are no easy solutions to offer that can heal the pain- only time can do that. And even then, it remains a faded scar engrained in our hearts. However, there are a few tips that will not only help someone to learn how to cope with grief during the holidays but will also allow that person to honor their loved ones during this precious time that comes year after year.

1. Acknowledge that the holidays will be tough without your deceased loved one(s).

Unfortunately, denial will never grant you the opportunity to heal. The first step is acceptance. Mentally prepare yourself for any emotions that may surface during the holidays. Know that it is completely okay to feel this pain; be present in it. It might even help to keep a journal to further explore your emotions and transform your pain into something tangible- to release.

2. Accept that other people may not be grieving with you.

I’m sure this sounds harsh, but it’s a reality. When I lost my baby, all I could do was grieve and then become extremely angry when others did not understand my pain. Please do not do this to yourself. I’m speaking from a survival standpoint. Be mindful that you are valid in your pain, but others may not understand what you are feeling. It is perfectly healthy to lean on another loved one for moral support if you are respectful of the fact that they may not say or do the actions you consider to be the ‘right thing.’ And always say yes to those who offer support or help! It is coming from a loving place.

3. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one(s) who have passed.

So many times, we focus on the death of someone. We grieve and morn their loss, and this is normal. But it is acceptable to celebrate their life as well. Creating a new tradition not only keeps their memory alive but allows you to continually feel connected to your loved one for years to come.

4. Seek therapy.

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are not okay and need help sorting through those internal issues with a medically trained person. Often, emotions are at an all-time high during the holidays and may not be as easy to ignore compared to the rest of the year. Talk to someone. You deserve to take that load off your back.

5. Visit your loved one’s gravesite.

It sounds depressing, I know. But if you can handle to do this, it might be beneficial. Consider it a way to ‘catch up’ with your loved one. You can tell them about all the amazing things you have experienced this year, your holiday plans, your New Year’s resolutions, and so on. Tell them how much you miss them and are thinking of them. It is also an opportunity to bring a gift for them to leave at their gravesite during the holidays.

6. Join a support group.

Because not everyone may feel the same pain you are experiencing, sometimes it helps to speak with others who can relate. As humans, we have a vital need to connect to others. We crave it. We thrive off it. Not only are you able to vent to others who understand, you may be able to make new, meaningful relationships.

7. Be honest about how you feel.

This tip alone covers so much ground. Be honest about how you are feeling. Be honest with others if you do not want to engage in holiday activities or join others’ events. Be honest about wanting or needing help, someone to talk to. But most importantly, never feel guilty or apologize about your honest emotions! You must heal on your own time, in your own way. Those around you who love and support you will understand, especially considering the circumstances.

8. Remember to enjoy the holidays.

It is easy to become consumed with sadness during the holiday season without your loved one(s). But never forget the foundation of the holiday season- this foundation consists of love and joy. There is so much love and joy to be experienced during the holidays. I encourage you to feel these positive feelings. And once again, do not feel guilty for enjoying this season. Your loved one(s) would have wanted you to do the same. Honor them by celebrating life.

Sending so much love and light to those who are reading this column. For those who felt the need to read this because they are desperate for solutions- solutions to overcome the pain. You are not alone in your grief. You do not have to apologize for loving someone so much that it has completely interrupted your life in the most painful way. But I also want to tell you, that there IS life after death. Life continues; a constant that never stops moving. It is up to you to decide if you want to continue living it and not just existing. I read a beautiful quote while surfing the web that resonated deeply with me and I am hoping it brings comfort to those who need it. An unknown source states, “Perhaps they are not the stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” Your loved one(s) are at peace. With a kind heart and a virtual hug, I urge you to find your peace during this holiday season.

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