Living a Lie

Standard

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
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

The Lost Child

Standard

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
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

What Mom and Dad Really Want

Standard

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
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

After The Hope is Gone So Often Goes The Love

Standard

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
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Going Home

Standard

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
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Raising Someone Else’s Children

Standard

Raising Someone Else’s Children
By Bernadette A. Moyer

raising-kids-to-be-kind-not-perfect

“Did you ever think of adoption?” I asked

“I’m not going to raise a kid for 18 years and then have them at age 18 turn around and say, YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER!” she said.

This was a conversation I had with a female friend who was having difficulty conceiving a child. It hit home in a big way. I had already raised twins that were not my biological children and almost as soon as the daughter became legal age she declared “you are not my mother!” This was the same daughter that years earlier and when her friends asked, “Is that your step-mom?” Her response then was “no that is my mom, the only mom I have ever known.” Her birth mother died not long after she was born and I started mothering them at just 87 days old.

Raising kids is a challenge. It is a tremendous commitment and a whole lot of work. And when they are babies and really little it is so much easier than any teenage daughter ever would be. I raised the twins with their natural father. We became involved the same year that his wife died. I too had been widowed. We had an instant connection. It has lasted and is coming up on 25 years now.

Early on friends said to me, “that really is asking a lot of you from him, to raise his kids.” I shrugged it off. The same way I shrugged off the child care director who on her own stated, “He fell into a rose garden when he met you.” I shrugged that comment off as well. I loved him and I loved his children. We took two heartbroken families and tried to mend them together to form one traditional family.

It was never easy. In the beginning it would be my then 11 year old daughter that would declare with conviction “I think I want it even more than you!” She was onboard and at that time it meant the world to me. My husband and the twin’s father did everything he could to make sure that we were one united family. I think he was more hurt and upset to have his daughter become so unappreciative and so unloving and unkind in her very hurtful declarations. I knew it wasn’t me. I had already done the work. I had already raised her. Her narrative needed to go along with the choices she was making in her life.

Another friend was raised by devoted parents a loving mother and father, his birth mother gave him up at age 16 and never looked back. In his early thirties he started having problems with alcohol, he was addicted and just before seeking treatment he went on a quest to find his “real mother.” Those were his words. All his life he wondered about her. Did she ever think of him? Wonder how he was doing?

He finally tracked her down and with much anticipation he met her. The meeting went well. They agreed to continue with a relationship. He tried, his mother never tried to see him again. Now he lives with what he calls “twice rejected” it happens. Not all efforts to reconnect last and grow. Some never take root.

My son gets upset when his twin sister calls me “Bernadette” it doesn’t bother me, that’s my name and I know that we don’t get to rewrite history, well maybe in our own minds. I didn’t mother and parent someone else’s children for any awards or special acknowledgements; I did it because I could. They were children in need of a mother; I was in a position to be their mother. I loved their father and by extension I loved his children too.

I remember a little girl who adored me. I have the pictures and her journal entries to prove it. I have my memories of taking her to all her pediatrician appointments and being there for all the first and last days of school. I sat in the counselor’s office when it was time to decide what kind of course for her education. Years later I sat in the different guidance counselor’s office fighting for her and why she shouldn’t have to take the same algebra class for the fourth time! We won that argument too!

We had our nails done together and I helped her pick her dress for prom and gave my advice on dating etc. For years we watched back-to-back episodes of the Gilmore Girls from my bed. We told the boys, her brother and my husband that it was “our time” and we enjoyed every moment and every single episode.

Years ago I wrote an article titled “Perfect Parents” it is about parents that died and went to heaven and ultimately became “perfect parents” because we don’t speak ill of the dead. I suspect that is how she looks at her “real” mother now.

Raising children is a huge challenge! Some days are great and far exceed any expectations and other days you know what wearing your heart outside your body feels like, in the end I wouldn’t change anything. Everything is an experience and a learning opportunity. You learn that you really can love someone else’s child as though they were your very own child.

At the end of my life I can say, I raised twins! I raised someone else’s children! And regardless of the outcome, I am so proud of the many efforts that both my husband and I afforded them. In our care and with our love and guidance they did well. They went from pre-mature twins with a variety of health issues to functioning young adults. Our work is done. They are soon to be 25 years old and we know that we gave it all we had to give and did our very best. What more could you expect from any parent?

Here it to all parents out there, the ones who actually do the work whether it is for a biological child or someone else’s child … it is noble and truly an act of love and often an adventure!

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

The Heart and Head Conflict of a Parent

Standard

The Heart and Head Conflict of a Parent
By Bernadette A. Moyer

mom_dad-1024x722

My husband and I have often lead with our hearts, when in retrospect it might have been better to lead with our head. When it comes to raising children it can be a real challenge making decisions for our children when our heart is telling us one thing but our head is saying another.

It has been said that “bigger kids means bigger problems.” Our kids enjoyed a certain amount of success while under our care. When we made all the decisions they were all doing well and set for success. Each child looked and acted fit. Each child was encouraged to do their best and to lead with their own unique talents. We wanted them to be happy but we also wanted then to be successful in life. We knew that our job in being “in control” would end one day and they would transition from child to adult.

As I read through social media earlier today a friend wrote this statement:

“I feel that the toughest part about parenthood – once our kids are adults is that we lose control. We have no control any longer, like we did when they were under our watch as toddlers and teens. We lose control of the five W’s:
– Where they go/Where they live
– What they do
– Who they choose to be/Who’s attracted into their lives
– When we get to be together
– Why they want/do/pick/think/decide
We are forced to trust our babies to themselves, to others, and to the world … and that’s a LOT to ask of a parent. We hope we did our jobs okay when we did have control.

So now we want to, have to, and do … trust our precious beings to God and to the universe … and we pray for the best outcomes possible. While we sit here and watch. Out of control. Cheers to all of us parents. The most emotional, challenging — and rewarding — job on Earth.” S.S. 10/12/16

Only a seasoned parent with years and years of parenting under their belts could/would fully appreciate the quote above. Kids are so ready to call us “controlling” yet those “controls” often were what was necessary to avoid further hurts and conflicts.

As we become those “mature parents” with our own rich history in parenting, it doesn’t take much thought to think back to all the times we challenged our own parents as we also needed to transition from child to adult.

“A parents job is to give a kid what they need and not what they want.” Dr. R.

One of the hardest decisions any parent will make is in the letting go. We think we know what is best and even if we are right, they still need to learn and to grow and to see and experience it all for themselves. Even if we are “right” we don’t get to decide when our children are adults.

Prayers up for all the parents of adult children who are learning to let them go, and doing so with grace and love.

Prayers up for all the adult children that are exercising their adult status and making their own decisions.

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

All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes and Noble