Living a Lie

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Living a Lie
By Bernadette A. Moyer

illusion

My husband is famous for saying “he/she is just living a lie.” Sadly we have known more than a few people like that, people that create a narrative to help justify their own poor behaviors. There are people that knowingly lie so they don’t have to accept responsibility for their circumstances and life choices.

We live in a world where “political correctness” often takes the place of harsh reality. And many of us actually bless it and go along with it. You can declare what sex you are! I recently filled out an application where I was asked if I was male, female, and other or does not wish to declare. Next thing we will be able to adjust who our parents are if we can fill out forms like a birth certificate and “declare” whatever sex we are then maybe the next step is we can also “declare” and decide whoever we want our parents to be regardless of who they truly were?

The definition of “mental illness” used to be defined as living in an altered reality and yet in our culture today we almost promote it.

I remember so vividly back in the 1980’s telling my mother that her husband was a child abuser and I will never ever forget her response to me, “we will never speak of this again” she said.

What she meant was I will never speak to you again. Think about that response? Not something like he would never do that or why on earth would you say that? But “never speak of this” she knew the truth and she lived more than 30 years with a lie. She was living a lie. It was easier for her to deny the truth than to face the cold harsh reality.

What made it even harder to witness was how she aligned herself with others in the family that would also provide cover for her and go along with the lie because the truth was just so hard to accept. Who on earth wants to be married to a child molester or have one in the family? In order for her to believe the truth she would have had to leave him and she wasn’t going to do that.

I couldn’t live her lie, I couldn’t live with it for me and I wouldn’t put my three children around someone that was known to me as a child abuser. There were no winners but I knew I did what had to be done. And even though I seldom spoke of it, let’s face it; it’s pretty embarrassing having a known child abuser marry into the family. Initially I didn’t want to embarrass my mother and I didn’t want to bring further harm to the child who trusted me enough to confide in me. Then one day you realize that by NOT speaking out and by not speaking the truth you have contributed to making yourself the scapegoat and a target.

livingalie

The problem with living a lie though is that seldom is it innocent and seldom does it just include or affect just one person. It has been said “you are only as sick as your secrets.”

They say that many abuse survivors go into an altered state to protect themselves when they are being abused. PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions or other threats on a person’s life. Many survivors can’t face the truth. It is just so painful and therefore some will create an alternate reality.

For almost 20 years now I have been a part of several support groups for estranged parents of adult children. I knew that pain from both sides. I knew it from my mother and years later I would know it from my daughter. I have been supported and I have supported many others through their shock and pain and disbelief. It’s messy. Most parents take it on themselves blaming themselves and looking at what they did, didn’t do and could have done differently. After all we were the adults, we were the parents we were the ones that raised them.

What I have uncovered in many circumstances and from speaking to parents as well as the adult children that estrange is that often it starts out simple enough, something was said and done or perceived as a wrong and the child decides to dismiss mom and dad from their lives.

But … and a big but as time goes by it becomes more and more difficult to return. Much has happened and typically the adult child has others in their ear it could be a spouse, a husband or wife a friend, a family member someone that usually has an agenda of their own. The adult child doesn’t want to be the “bad” one because what “good” adult child throws mom and dad away and erases them from their life? So mom and dad have to be the bad guys.

Recently I had an adult child confide in me that they literally sought out others in the family that would side with them. Anyone that already had issues was a new alliance in the estrangement. Sides are drawn and sides are chosen, again making any meaningful reconciliation virtually impossible.

The road coming back becomes littered with more and more lies … they lie to protect themselves, they lie about their families, they lie about mom and dad and in being a “victim” many reap the rewards of victimization. So the lies continue.

One lie typically leads to numerous other lies and sadly and eventually they end up living a lie … it has been said, “The only people who are mad at you for speaking the truth are those people who are living a lie. Keep speaking the truth.”

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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Growing Up Maturing and Viewing Life Differently

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Growing Up Maturity and Viewing Life Differently
By Bernadette A. Moyer

GrowUp-Series

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways.” Corinthians 13:11

Remember when we were young and we knew it all? Then we became an adult and realized you don’t even know how much you don’t know.

I was that strong willed teenager who thought way back then that I knew much. I raised a few kids that also as teenagers thought they knew it all, only to experience real life as an adult and then understand so much more. With some maturity and with life experiences we tend to view life differently.

Maybe as a child we have nothing else to compare our life with or maybe we just haven’t had many experiences yet to see things for how and what they were.

Our 25 year old daughter called a few days ago and in that conversation she stated, ”I have so many good memories from when I was little. I had so much fun then.” This was a far cry from her words and actions as a teenager. She was estranged from us for 7 years and in those years she struggled, fell down and picked herself back up. She needed to learn in her own way.

So what changed, was it her childhood or her perspective now as a maturing adult? Clearly her childhood didn’t change but her outlook on life surely has. My response; “you were just too young to appreciate all that you had.” And she was young.

growingup

It takes tremendous courage to be honest and to own the things that we might have said and done as a kid that later in life as a mature adult we can honestly say I know better now!

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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What Mom and Dad Really Want

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What Mom and Dad Really Want
By Bernadette A. Moyer

appreciate-your-parents

We are half way between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and I have been thinking a lot about what moms and dads really want from their children. And it is pretty simple too. At every age and at every turn they want their children to be happy and to be healthy. They want them to be the best that they can be, however that is defined.

Most adult children will buy mom and dad gifts and although that is really nice and appreciated, most parents just want to know that their children are okay and doing well. They want to see them. They want to hear from them. They want to know that they haven’t forgotten the people that gave them life and raised them. They want to be respected for having tried and having done the work even if it wasn’t always perfect.

Mom and dad want peace with their children. They want to hear their stories and hear about their struggles and their achievements. They want to share space and time. They want to have the opportunity to create new memories.

When I was a young adult I often went to visit my dad who had re-married. I liked just stopping by and he always seemed to enjoy my company. We drank coffee together. I would tell him about my boyfriend or about school or about the issues I was facing in my life. Often he shared his stories too. He would talk about his parents and his siblings and his time in the service. These were some of my best memories of my dad.

Sometimes we would go to the Farmer’s Market or make a cigarette run for him. However menial it was what we did, we did it together and just being in his company was healthy and good for me. It allowed me to see him not as a child and a parent but as two adults sharing time together, two adults that shared a history.

I wouldn’t give those memories up for anything in this world. Now that he is gone and I am older, I appreciate them all the more.

My dad came to visit me when I was in the hospital giving birth to my daughter. Later she would spend a week in the summer with him. She had a chance to get to know her grandfather.

Gifts are nice but spending time talking with mom and dad and enjoying their company is truly what most parents want from their children. Above all else parents want to know that their children are okay and safe and doing well. They want to be remembered.

So when Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and birthdays and holidays roll around no need to stress over the perfect gift. A simple phone call or visit is sure to make mom and dad feel special and truly is the gift that they want most in life.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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After The Hope is Gone So Often Goes The Love

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After The Hope is Gone So Often Goes The Love
By Bernadette A. Moyer

brokenhearts

One of my colleagues Renate Dundys-Marrello wrote a piece about losing hope after estrangement takes place. How it happens that by clinging onto hope we only continue to hurt ourselves. Her article chronicled the stage when we finally come to acceptance and are ready to stop hoping. For days I thought about the journey that she has walked and the one that we have shared and shared with far too many mothers and fathers.

Think about a break up? The relationship has ended and you just can’t and won’t accept it. You keep hoping for another outcome yet day after day, month after month and year after year it never happens.

Eventually you have to let go and even when it is your child, your own flesh and blood you have to accept it, that it is over and that no amount of hoping will change the outcome. And when you do and not long after you finally give up hope you will lose your ability to love that person the same way again. The heart that you once had for them has changed, maybe one day you can grow a new heart but after the hope leaves and we accept the loss our hearts are forever changed.

It happens in just about every relationship that has ended so why would we think that it wouldn’t happen to us after so much time without any relationship with our own adult child?

Sadly we will lose that loving feeling. We have learned how to live without them and they in turn have learned how to live their lives without including us. Life goes on… it’s a different life. It is a life as a parent that we never envisioned but it now belongs to us, like it or not.

I think the longer estrangement takes root the less likely for any true and meaningful relationship. It would take a miracle, an awful lot of effort, hard work and a true desire for reconciliation and determination to face all facets of it; the good, the bad and the ugly.

Love can be so fragile; it can easily be destroyed and worn away. That is why when we find love we need to cherish it and protect it. We also need to understand that we are only one side of any relationship and if the other side declares that the relationship and that we are unworthy we need to accept it. Hard as that may be at times; the letting go and letting go in love is the ultimate act of grace.

What are we longing for? I don’t believe that any parent that has raised and invested in their children is ever going to easily accept estrangement. For those of us who were present and actually did the work it just feels so wrong. Yet for many of us estrangement forces us to live in a way that we never believed could and would happen.

lovelost

Like the quote above, we don’t miss what we have already had and shared what we do miss is the future and the possibilities that will never be realized. There is nothing harder than surviving a broken heart and there is no greater loss than to have lost a child.

Tin Man by Miranda Lambert
Lyrics by songwriters Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram, Jon Randall

Hey there Mr. Tin Man
You don’t know how lucky you are
You shouldn’t spend your whole life wishin
For something bound to fall apart
Every time you’re feeling empty
Better thank your lucky stars
If you ever felt one breaking
You’d never want a heart

Hey there Mr. Tin Man
You don’t know how lucky you are
I’ve been on the road that you’re on
It didn’t get me very far
You ain’t missing nothing
‘Cause love is so damn hard
Take it from me darling
You don’t want a heart

Hey there Mr. Tin Man
I’m glad we talked this out
You can take mine if you want it
It’s in pieces now
By the way there Mr. Tin Man
If you don’t mind the scars
You give me your armor
And you can have my heart

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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New Zealand

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New Zealand
By Bernadette A. Moyer

New Zealand, 2006

We never know. We never know when we write who our words will touch. As a writer who writes about life and takes the advice of many famous writers when they state “write about what you know” and I do. Recently I read another bloggers article that touched me deeply; I felt that I could have written every single word myself. Not only did I feel this way but my son and another friend thought it was me too. Thanks Renata! Well said! We are connected because we share a life experience, we are connected because we are mothers, we are connected because we have adult children that have estranged.

A few weeks ago I received a message from a reader who lives in New Zealand and this is what she shared with me; “You’ve become like a spokesperson, an advocate, a voice for us – all over the planet. Just knowing that someone else a mother, a friend, has experienced similar and can articulate those feelings so well … I’ve appreciated very much your openness and honesty …”

We chatted more about the weather and the time difference from where I reside in the United States and where she lives in New Zealand. Our exchange left an impression how nice to be “appreciated” and so great to feel the human connection from so far away.

Given the choice I would never have estrangement in my life but sadly it is a big part of my life story and I am thankful that any good can come from it. We never know when we open up and share just where our connections will take us!

Thanks New Zealand for reading me and for writing to me … you matter to me …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

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Going Home

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Going Home
By Bernadette A. Moyer

going-home-ian-barber

At first this blog was set to be called “Does your narrative match up to your life?” Then after more thought it seemed this might be a better title simply put going home.

In my opinion and experience there are four big reasons that adult children do not return home after an estrangement and they are;

1) The narrative that they have run with is “I am good and they are bad” good kids don’t leave a good home and a good family so “mom and dad” must be bad. Because it can’t be me.

2) The stories that they told to secure a new support system do not align with the possibilities of going home. For survival they need people that will support them. They become the “anti” family group of people.

3) Failure – they are not succeeding and the last thing they want is for mom and dad to be right and that they were wrong.

4) Not worth fixing – It is just too hard after so much time and so much hurt, it hurts to go home and it hurts to stay away so let’s just leave it as it is because staying away, this is a hurt that I can control.

The narrative – Mom and dad can’t possibly be good people if you decided to cut them out of your life. Right, we don’t abandon good people we leave the “bad” ones. Truth is sometimes we leave because it is time to grow up. Sometimes we leave because we want our independence and sometimes we leave because the rules our parents have set are rules that we don’t want to adhere to.

(Some kids do grow up and they leave because “home” truly is an abusive place and/or a place where they don’t feel good about themselves or feel loved.)

The stories – I have heard many stories that adult children tell to justify the estrangement. Some seem normal and easy to believe and some seem like a convenient narrative to justify their own actions and behavior. But once a negative narrative is declared that becomes the story.

Failure – A grown adult that estranges and is failing is a lot less likely to rejoin the family than the one that is happy and successful. Successful and happy kids typically want to share their success and happiness. Kids that know their parents won’t approve of their choices in life or kids who are ashamed by the things they did will often continue in shame and continue to hide and remain estranged.

Not worth fixing – The damage has been done and it may be too hard to fix it. If you blow up your parents, called them horrible people and even worse, how do you then come back to them? It takes a lot of growing up and a lot of maturity and being honest to face parents after lodging hatred and anger and insults at them.

Parents need to remember “Don’t take it personally, it isn’t about you, nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” Don Miguel Ruiz – The Four Agreements book.

The road back home, there is always a road back home if you want it and are willing to work at it. Parents aren’t perfect people and neither are their children. To come back means that forgiveness has to be a big part of the equation and so does love and acceptance. Parents also need to take heart and remember you did the best with what you had and what you knew at that time. Forgive yourself.

Relationships that work are built on trust and mutual respect. If a relationship isn’t working on one side it isn’t working on the other side either. Both parties contribute to the success just as both parties contribute to the failure. Sometimes we grow together with people and sometimes we grow apart.

If a relationship has been strained and been difficult we may have to lower expectations. There are also relationships that are best left to die their own natural death. Below one of my favorite quotes from Bishop T.D. Jakes.

“There are people who can walk away from you … let them walk. I don’t want you to try to talk another person into staying with you … Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left. And I don’t mean that they are a bad person, it just means that their part in your story is over. And you’ve got to know when people’s part in your story is over …”

After an estrangement going home will be different, it is not going to be the same and that should be expected. Time changes people and it changes things. We grow and we learn and hopefully we want to do what is necessary to create and maintain healthy relationships and if not, then being away from home is probably a better choice.

The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
The brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself

songwriters Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin

Time and life experiences and maturity have a way of ferreting out the truth and what relationships should last and stand the test of time … Breathe and let being home and going home unfold naturally and in its own way and own timetable.

If it is meant to be, it will be …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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Reunited After a 7 Year Estrangement

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Reunited After a 7 Year Estrangement
By Bernadette A. Moyer

reunited2

I thought it would be much more awkward but it wasn’t. I thought maybe she wouldn’t show up, she says she thought maybe I wouldn’t show. I thought we would struggle to keep the conversation going, we didn’t. I can’t say we picked up where we left off because she was different and so was I.

There was a long heartfelt hug as we met one another after a long seven year estrangement. I never thought she would have done it, leave home and not look back. I still don’t believe she would have done it if not for her half-sister my daughter who was already estranged for over ten years when daughter #2 chose the same path. They teamed up together which often happens with estranged adult children, they try and take others with them. And at 18 years of age and with some normal teen/parents growing up clashes she was easy to sway and an easy target.

This child had a father and a twin brother too that she left at home, a father who was angry and crushed by her actions and behaviors. It didn’t seem that she could ever come back from the things that she said and the things that she did. But that was seven years ago.

Then one day she e-mailed, a long lengthy e-mail stating, “I was young and stupid, I’m not 18 anymore, I am soon to be 25 and newly married and I don’t want to carry this around anymore. I am in therapy and I have grown up, I am working on myself and on my life.”

It was hard to hear some of her stories, her half-sister just got up and left her one day. She moved clear across the country and more than a thousand miles away. They are no longer in communication. She said she was in an abusive relationship that lasted for five years before it ended. She worked two jobs, and at times slept on friend’s floors. She had an accident and had rolled a car and injured her head. She talked and she talked and before I could respond she said, “I know that I brought much of it on myself.”

But there was much success and accomplishments too. She went to school and she became a Certified Nurses Aid. She maintained her independence and learned how to multi-task and hold down the responsibilities of a full time job. She survived.

She said that she goes to church and reads the bible she said some things made her think and she shakes her head at all the untruths she told as a teenager. In her words she was a “defiant daughter.” She seemed happy but different. She talked with a slight lisp that I don’t remember her having. I took it all in. At times I held her hand. She made me cry. They weren’t sad tears but tears of relief. I was just so happy to see her. I was genuinely happy that she was doing well and okay.

After two hours at our local coffee shop I was surprised that she didn’t want to leave me yet and I said, “Why don’t you come home with me and see your father?” I text messaged him that I was on my way and bringing her home with me. He can be more intimidating than I am and I told her not to worry I would help ease any awkwardness but it turned out that it wasn’t necessary. By the time I arrived home she was already there and out of her car and they were chatting. He said the first thing she said to him was, “I was young and I was dumb and I am sorry” he hugged her.

She came inside the house, this was her childhood home where she lived for 18 years and 10 months, and she recited the exact date that she left home. She said she always remembered it and it was October 2, 2010. Today we have a new date, a date of reconciliation, February 25, 2017.

Her dad asked her if she wanted to see her old bedroom. She did. I could see and feel her checking out the house. We chatted before sitting down at the kitchen table to chat even more and take some pictures. I was amused in a good way by her. She was definitely grown up and matured, she was also confident and really chatty and at ease within herself and with us. There was no game. It was all real.

In the past and for many years, almost two decades now, I have shared my stories and written much about estrangement. I wrote articles for parents of estranged adult children and for the adult estranged children. I have been interviewed on this subject and I have talked with thousands of estranged mothers and fathers across the country and beyond. For many years I have belonged and participated in several estranged support groups for parents of estranged adult children. I have seen and I have heard it all. As much as I have written on this subject I have read so much more.

The stories may be different and some are amazingly the same the emotional journey is often quite similar, it starts with shock, hurt, anger, shame, denial and sadness. There is a whole lot of hurt and anger and sadness that comes when an adult child decides to estrange themselves. Then comes the hardest part that seems to arrive after anger, and that is the acceptance. There is a new normal in learning how to live without your child. It feels wrong it feels awkward, it just doesn’t feel right.

A large majority of adult children never return home to mom and dad, they just don’t. I give our daughter a lot of credit, it took courage it took guts and it took maturity to face us again. She has grown up and she has proven to be a survivor. It had to be when she was ready; it had to be on her terms.

Today I feel like I received a huge gift from her and from God and so did her dad, I hope that she feels that way too. Her dad was hurt and he was angry but there wasn’t a single day that he didn’t pray for her.

She says that she is sorry but also acknowledges that she wouldn’t be where she is today, the person that she has become if not for the road that she chose. Today she is newly married and in love with her new husband and a home owner with a job and a dog called Bailey. She is happy. Sweet, what more could any parent want for their adult child?

“Reconciliation means doing away with anger, bitterness and resentment.” Healing.com

So the takeaway is never stop praying and always be open and receptive and if and when the chance comes for a reunion and a reconciliation just have those arm open and be ready to listen and to embrace and love your child. Just love that child!

And in the meantime don’t stop living and loving and learning because life with or without your child is a gift and it is a gift that should never be squandered and always be appreciated.

Here is to the future … however much or however little let it be grounded in love and in acceptance. We pray. Amen.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble