Don’t Tug That War

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Don’t Tug That War
By Bernadette A. Moyer

peace by bernadette

Remember tug of war, that game where two sides came together and who ever tugged hardest won? It was a battle of might putting two sides against one another to determine a “winner” the winner being the team that literally dragged the other side over to their side.

There are people in life that enjoy this game; they thrive on building their team and then literally trying to drag you through the mud so that their side wins.

Just a few days after her 50 year old daughter “Jane” (not her real name) was found dead in her bed her mother called me. The mother was living in Las Vegas and her daughter in Baltimore, they had been estranged for many years and even when they were in communication it was a difficult relationship.

The mother said “I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I will be talked about if I show up for the funeral and I will be talked about if I don’t show up. I don’t really have the money for the flight so I have decided not to come.”

I told her I understood and how difficult a decision it must have been for her. This was her mother, a mother who already had a daughter die at age 29, a mother that tried to understand this second daughter who almost always tried to create a tug of war with her mother. This was the mother who brought “Jane” into the world, the mother who raised “Jane” and the same mother who now has to grieve her daughter’s untimely death.

As I am writing this I hear from my “Soul Sister” Gwen who brings a great word to me “release” and how we must learn to release things, situations, events and people that only want to hurt us. Gwen talked about nature and the animals and how they are set free.

Release, think about that for a minute so what could you release and set free that is not healthy and is harming you? (Thanks Gwen I will definitely be meditating on “release” today, what a gift you are to me!)

And what about the game tug of war? What happens if you decide that you are not interested in playing and you don’t tug back?

Recently I told my husband that if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have pushed our kids so hard to succeed. His immediate response was, “but that’s what parents do!”

Today I think more and more about accepting people and situations as they are and not as I have so often chosen to view them through rose colored glasses. Always wanting to see their highest potential and pushing and coaching for them to be their best.

The easiest way to peace is to give up the resistance, accept it, leave it, release it and don’t tug that war!

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.

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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!

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Enablers

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Enablers
By Bernadette A. Moyer

"Hello, my name is Roberto, and I will be your enabler this evening."

There are all kinds of enablers some may be knowingly enabling and others unknowingly. My father was an alcoholic and my mother the classic enabler. It was a typical co-dependent relationship. I am sure she thought she was helping him. She was a registered nurse and in a “helping” profession. She loved him and supported him and stayed with him even when his behaviors dictated that she shouldn’t have.

As a parent I am sure we enabled some behaviors that we would not have accepted from any others. We loved our children and often thought we were helping them. If we had it we wanted to share what we had with them even after they became adults. This often showed itself in “arrested development” the more we did for them, the less they did for themselves. This often leads to resentment on their side and our side too.

There is often a fine line between helping and enabling. What I have learned as a parent is that as hard as it is to watch your child fall and fail you have to step back and let them pick themselves up. Trust that they will figure it out, it is part of learning and growing up. Once they learn to pick themselves up they start to build their own confidence and become successful in life.

I hear about “enablers” quite often in my estranged parents support group. This is usually a person or a family that supports the “victim” the “co-dependent” and helps them to go against their parents. The “enablers” support them in making decisions they might otherwise never have made without the assistance of these “enablers.”

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A friend’s daughter recently was married and mom and dad were not invited, to make matters worse the grandfather gave the bride away. The grandparents took the young daughter in and supported her in estranging from her mother and father. What were they thinking and why? These are life altering decisions that will last forever. Dad is not only feeling betrayed by his own daughter but by his father too. Would the grandparents want this to have been done to them?

What should they have said and done? How about go home and work it out, all teenagers and young adults have struggles with their parents, you only have one mother and father, we love you but you have to go home and work it out.

I experienced this twice now myself with both my teenage daughters who found women to take them in and go against mom and dad. And it was always over a boy. One woman I never met even though I asked to meet with her. She “enabled” the behaviors of a struggling teenager. This woman has now raised my grandson who recently turned 18, my grandson who has no real relationship with his birth mother and who never met his maternal grandmother. So who won here? And I am left to wonder what kind of woman involves herself in another woman’s family without even meeting them for yourself and making your own opinion? Who has a better life because of her “enabling?”

Second daughter returned home seven years later, she sees now in her own words that she was “young and dumb” she got used by people that “enabled” her poor teenage behaviors. She admits to being a “defiant teenager” sadly the “enablers” used her for their own gain.

I think a lot of “enabling” points back to ego, thinking they know better or are better. Today I don’t question the young teenager who naturally rebels against her parents as part of growing up but I do question the real and true motives of the people that have enabled them. What was in it for them?

Motives, agenda and egos all play a role in the type personality that enables, ask yourself what is your true motivation and agenda and what part does your ego play? Are you helping or are you hurting? If you are doing things to impact another family that you would not want anyone to do to your family that is probably a good litmus test.

If you really want to love others and help others, stop enabling and start trusting that the people that you think you are helping will figure it out for themselves, they will! And they will love you and appreciate you all the more for not stunting their growth and allowing them to develop into their own mature and successful selves!

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The Lost Child

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The Lost Child
By Bernadette A. Moyer

lost child

My grandmother on my father’s side, (my nana) lost a son (Jimmy) when he was just seven years old and just weeks after his first Holy Communion. She never got over it. It was an unexpected illness that quickly took his life. I imagine that a part of her died too. She talked about him all the time. She cried about him often.

I was just a little kid that visited her and I knew very little about death way back then, but I sensed enough to know and witness her heartbreak, sadness and uneasiness. She was tormented by her loss. It showed itself in her verbal and consciousness and stream of thoughts and words. Her actions showed intense grief. Today I can’t help but wonder how different her life might have been if Jimmy had not died so young.

The lost child changed her; it changed how she related to everyone including the remaining family members. How did it affect her marriage? How did it affect her relationships with her remaining four children? How much of the way that she was determined how her children became? Really we can never know but I think a reasonable person could agree that everything and everyone in that family was altered as a result of such a loss, like the loss of a child.

We can lose a child to death, to estrangement and to mental illness, where there maybe different types of loss, losing a child brings a wide range of emotions with it. We lose a piece of our hopes and our dreams. We lose a piece of ourselves and a part of our futures.

Mothers put so much of their own wellness on how their children are doing; they want their kids to be healthy and happy. I’ve read somewhere that “a mother can only be as happy as her saddest child.” I sure hope that isn’t true, but I do appreciate the thought.

I’ve never known the death of a child, thank God, but I have known losing a child. My first child was lost to me through estrangement on July 4, 1998. This year marked 19 years, she has been gone longer than I had her. For me she is a lost child. I too grieved her intensely and often talked about her too. I think that we talk about our lost children so that we can somehow keep them alive. It is all so unnatural for any parent to lose a child, regardless of the type of loss and a loss is a loss.

I changed. Initially my world was forced into an upside down position. Everything that I once held so near and dear in my own life like being a mother was shattered. I had to look at myself, I had to look at her and I was forced to look at everything. Being a mother meant everything to me, perhaps more than it should. I was consumed with grief. I went through all the stages from denial to acceptance. It felt like a death to me. A death of my child and a death of a part of myself, today I am different, very different. I see from a broader perspective from more of a life experienced, my head learned much, my heart initially shrank but then as the years passed by my heart grew larger with more acceptance and a greater understanding. Funny how that can happen, but it did.

Remember when the best stories ended with the phrase; “and they lived happily ever after”? After you experience enough life you soon realize that not everything ends with “happy ever after” but that does not mean that your happiness has to end.

You find new and different things that make you happy; you learn over and over again that true and sustained happiness comes from within.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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If You Break It

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If You Break It
By Bernadette A. Moyer

broken-china

How many times have we read a sign in a store that reads, “If you break it, you bought it” I think the same can be said for our relationships.

Each and every single day I hear from people who are suffering a broken relationship. Where my general rule of thumb is that it takes two, it takes two people to create a relationship and it takes two people for a relationship to succeed and/or fail.

But what about the person who single-handedly decides a relationship is over? In my view the person who ends it without input or agreement from the other side, now fully owns the outcome. If they can live with the outcome and their decision so be it, but if not, then they are the ones tasked with making the effort to re-build it. They broke it, they bought it, and they own it.

One of the things we learn in visiting a ”china shop” is to be careful, and why? Because broken china can seldom be repaired to its former condition before the breakage, broken china is often replaced with new china.

The relationships that are long term and that we care about will test us, we grow together or we grow apart. Often a long term relationship is based on love but also includes acceptance and tolerance. A relationship that breaks down many times comes down to what we are willing to accept and tolerate.

Not every single person is supposed to remain in our lives; some come and go and some stay with us. In family we want it to work out and many times we will tolerate and accept things from family that we would never tolerate and accept in others. Some families remain close some just don’t.

A few days ago our son came home from work and shared with me that he ran into his former fourth grade teacher. His teacher asked him about his twin sister since he had both of them in his class and knew them well. Our son told him that they aren’t close and really have no real relationship. He is a twin and as the mother that raised them both it makes me sad. We always thought it was so special that they were twins and had each other like a built in best friend. But what surprised me most was his teachers answer. He said, “My sister and I never got along either.”

I have a hard time believing that families that suffer with estrangement are ever truly happy and healthy even for those that made the decision to estrange. How could you NOT think about “mom” on Mother’s Day or “dad” on Father’s Day or on their birthdays or on holidays?

Same goes for the parents, I don’t know of any mothers or fathers who don’t think about their children on their birthdays and on holidays. I don’t think it could be humanly possible to NOT remember the day that you brought a life, another living person into the world. This fact alone makes it hard to accept estrangement as any “norm” or normal behavior.

This July I will have been estranged from my oldest daughter for nineteen years. In my view she was young and foolish. She made decisions that were life altering and affected many others in hurtful and negative ways. She was just a kid and just shy of the age of eighteen. What makes it baffling isn’t what she did at eighteen but all that she has continued to do to keep it going. She is committed to her anger and to her narrative a narrative that many immature teens go through but most grow up and grow away from.

Like my many followers, friends and sisters and brothers who struggle with and suffer in estrangement, it is like any loss and grief with the many stages from denial to acceptance. I don’t believe that there is any stage that you are over it or 100% healed from it nor do I believe that estrangement has any winners. To deny your parents is to deny facets of your own life and who you are and what made you and where you come from. This is to live a lie.

My husband was the first to bring that line to my attention “they are living a lie” think about that? If you deny your parents and your roots, what does that say about the life that you are leading? And what stories now go along with that lie to justify living in such an abnormal way?

Things change. I suffered through shock and my heart was shattered when my child left home. I was completely broken. I never saw it coming. I didn’t think I could go on. I honestly believed I gave her everything any child could want or need. I beat myself up. I would have done anything for a different outcome.

Then I started to heal. I saw how easily I was to manipulate after her dad died. I became stronger. I went to work for several nonprofits that supported kids, many that were truly disadvantaged kids. I began to see clearly just how much I had spoiled my child.

But I still and for more than a decade I held out hope, I thought for sure she would mature, grow up and life would show her just how much she had. When she had her first child I was devastated not to be included but I also thought great now she will see what it means to have a child, to raise a child to be a mother. Sadly that didn’t happen.

Life is long life is challenging and life is filled with many decisions. I have always tried to live my life with the thought that yes I will stumble, I may fail and I may fall but I do my best to try not to do things that I can’t come back from or recover from.

And I do believe that if you break it, you bought it and you now own it …

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Broken china may not ever be able to come back together in its original form but many beautiful mosaic pieces have been made from the broken pieces. Beautiful jewelry and all kinds of beautiful newly created artworks can come back together and create something truly beautiful, different and unique from what was once broken and shattered.

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Dear Moms …

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Dear Moms …

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We are about to celebrate yet another Mother’s Day. For some of us our children will be here to celebrate with us. And for some of us our children will not be. Our adult children make that decision. Each year my adult son takes me out to lunch and a movie to celebrate Mother’s Day. It has become our tradition. Half the fun for me is witnessing his excitement in planning it and making it happen.

My husband always treats me special on Mother’s Day. I think the thought that he could have been left alone to raise newborn infant twins when his first wife unexpectedly died was terrifying for him. He has always appreciated me for stepping up and assuming the mother role and raising his twin children with him. Today we can’t imagine our lives any other way.

My oldest and I were extremely close when she was coming up; so many people thought we had the “ideal” mother – daughter relationship. I have the most vivid memories of her as a toddler and later as a young teenager. She was strikingly beautiful and just as intelligent. Often I sat in amazement at her spunk and spirit. My memories are mine and no one can take them away from me.

For some families the kids will come home to see mom and celebrate together with family. Some will travel to the cemetery and lay flowers in remembrance.

Today there are statistics that show that 1 in every 5 families has an estranged family member, many are the adult children who have mothers that will grieve their loss and the void left behind on Mother’s Day. Through the years and because of my writings I have heard from thousands and thousands of mom’s who suffer a broken heart because “John” or “Jane” decided that mom was just not worthy of any relationship. It is hard not to be angry when I hear such hurtful stories. It seems that many adult children have no love and no respect for the very person that gave them life.

But for all of us mom’s we can share in the knowledge that we were brave and filled with faith and trust in just becoming a mother. There is no greater task in life than the awesome responsibility of bringing another life into the world and then the depth of commitment that it takes to raise one until adulthood. My heart was never so filled with pure joy and genuine love as the day that I first became a mother.

Often we beat ourselves up or second guess ourselves when the truth is that for most all of us we did the best we could with what we had and what we knew at that time. Know that you did the best that you could have with what you had and what you knew at that time. Our parents were not perfect and neither are we nor are our adult children. Flowers, cards and gifts are often a big part of the Mother’s Day celebration.

If you are on the receiving end of acknowledgement this Mother’s Day know that giving is for the giver and although we may be the receiver, relish in knowing that your child thought of you and did so in a way that lets you know that he/she is capable of love and of giving.

If you are feeling the pain and the loss of an adult child who does not acknowledge you or appreciate you, just know that you are not alone. Allow yourself a few minutes alone to grieve it, let it out. Cry it out, shout it out, write it out, whatever it takes just release the grief so that you are freer and can cleanse some of the loss and heartache away. Know that it is normal to feel the grief and that you will always have a soft spot for your child no matter what they have said and done. Say a prayer for them and for yourself.

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Then do your best to pick yourself up and treat yourself with kindness and care. Whether you are acknowledged or not you deserve to be appreciated. Appreciate yourself! Take a walk or a long hot bubble bath. Buy your own flowers or candy. Go to lunch or dinner with a friend. Buy a new book and get lost in a story, treat yourself to a movie. Buy a new dress or new shoes. Take a day trip. Go to an event. Do something outwardly that shows that you are important and that you have value. You do have value, believe it!

We give others too much power over us; we allow their judgement to take center stage. The only person who truly knows you and your heart is you. Try not to get caught up in the negativity that your child has placed upon you. Estrangement is not an act of love or of kindness nor does it come from a caring person. We are not our children. We are not responsible for any of their adult decisions.

We gave them life. We gave them the ultimate gift. Celebrate! You deserve to be happy and you deserve to have peace and love. There are always people that can and will love you. Love yourself. Treat yourself well.

Always remember that you gave your child the greatest gift ever when you gave them life and you raised them, you deserve to be celebrated. If not celebrated by them then with others who can appreciate you and celebrate from within yourself.

Happy Mother’s Day with much love and peace,

Bernadette

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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.

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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

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