Dear Mrs. Bluth,
My heart is breaking and I don’t know what to do or how to fix the damage I’ve caused. I’ve stopped eating and sleeping because I realize that my refusal to accept responsibility for what has transpired has made the situation almost impossible to rectify. I don’t know if I have the courage or the words to do it to fix what happened, but if I don’t do something now I stand to lose my wonderful daughter, son-in-law and my eight precious grandchildren.
Six month ago we had a family simcha; our children and grandchildren gathered for my nephew’s shabbos aufruf. My sister graciously found accommodations for my entire brood in her immediate neighborhood, and I was excited to have every one of my kids and their children together. My elderly father, who had come to live with us several months prior and who suffers from Alzheimer’s and is deaf and almost blind, wanted to come as well. However, the only place for him was in the house arranged for my daughter to stay in. It was optimal and I explained to him that we had a neighbor willing to stay with him, but he insisted on coming.
When I told my daughter that I would probably have to bring Zeidy along and that there was only room for him in the house where she would be staying, she was very displeased. She has her hands full: eight children, one of whom is autistic and another with Down’s syndrome. She said there was no way she could add another responsibility to her already overflowing situation.
I admit to having been completely overwhelmed – my father was adamant about coming – and without really thinking, I tore into her about her being disrespectful and her lack of kibbud av. She responded that she had enough on her plate without my adding to it and if I couldn’t understand, she didn’t need to come. We said some horrible things to each other and I was so furious that I hung up on her. We haven’t spoken since.
My daughter and her family did not come for Shabbos, which only exacerbated the terrible feud. I was suffering from both anger and guilt at what I came to see was my fault. How could I even have thought she could juggle another problem with what she already has to deal with? Where was my consideration and love for her? How could have even thought she could take care of my sick and fragile father, who needed constant care and couldn’t be left unattended, just so I could have all my family there? How selfish was I?
I think that reality was the most painful and gut wrenching moment. I had let six months of not speaking or seeing my daughter or grandchildren go by, six months of missing them terribly and not being able to help her out as I had before. How could I have allowed myself to get so lost and not made any effort to talk it out? I want to approach her, but I don’t know how. One thing I do know is that the guilt and the remorse I feel is absolutely destroying me. Please help.
It’s amazing how sometimes age does not necessarily translate to good old common sense, or, that because we are mothers we are exempt from poor judgement. Sometimes pain and disappointment are amplified when we are already stretched to the limits. Sometimes, we break under the stress and the pressure, and that’s totally understandable. Hurtful words will fly between mother and daughter, terrible things may be said in the height of the rift that will pierce the heart – it happens. We often hurt those we love the most. What is unforgivable is the length of time we allow such damage to fester because we can’t find the right moment, the right words or the right approach to resolve our differences.
“I’m so sorry” – three little words that can change a world, but not on the phone. Say them to face to face. She needs to see the truth of your pain in your eyes, as you need to witness hers. Admitting that you understand your responsibility for creating this horrific situation for both of you is the icebreaker that will, hopefully, open the way to dialog and a better understanding of what made you snap. Then, the love that was, is and always will be there between the two of you can begin to resurface. Parents make mistakes, we’re human, and it we must own up to and apologize for them. In fact, it’s a great lesson for adult children to see. As long as there is life there will be mistakes, it’s how they are dealt with that separates the children from the adults.
I hope you will find the courage and the love to visit your daughter and own up to your mishandling the situation for so long. Express your sorrow and pain at the long separation and ask her to forgive you. I have a feeling she will. It may take time for things to go back to the way the were, perhaps the two of you will come up with a “new normal,” one that will make you stronger, more loving and certainly more respectful of each other. Some lessons are hard-learned but as long as there’s life, we are always learning!