Tell Me About It: When she was 13, I became sick and had a late stage cancer diagnosis. She has referenced that in the past – that everything was great until l I got sick
My daughter is 26. She’s been married for a year. Her anger used to be directed at her brother, but over the years it’s now been directed at me. When she was about 13, I became sick with back surgeries and had a late stage very advanced cancer diagnosis. She has referenced that in the past – that everything was great until l I got sick.
I feel she’s resentful, but now at 26 she lives with my elderly dad, and she is so mean. She calls me names, she insults me, she refuses to help me even if it’s help I need to get stuff for her. I used to be a teacher. Now she is a teacher, so I have a lot of teaching equipment and supplies that she wants but she won’t even come over to help me get it together for her. She’ll just come pick it up. And yet there’s never a ‘thank you’, there’s never a time to just hang out with me a little bit and there’s never a time to go do something together.
I finally was able to work again after my illness – I messaged her several times asking her for some help and some advice and things like that, but I have not heard back from her. Now it’s been three months and I still haven’t heard back from her, although I know that she hates me as she had a Christmas list on the wall that did not have my name on it. And she’s blocked me from her social media accounts as did her husband.
I have been a good mom, I never yelled at my kids, I’ve never called them names and I’ve always tried to be there for them. Even when I was sick, I did my best the best I could, so I just don’t understand. Her father was an alcoholic, that’s why we left and even though things were awful at times, I’ve never treated her like she treats me. It seems like all of her anger is pointed at me, but now it’s hurting her younger siblings’ relationships with her and it’s hurting all of our relationships with my Dad.
Your daughter sounds like she is suffering and lashing out at the people in her life. She has had a traumatic past that includes one parent’s alcoholism and another’s life threatening illness, and this may have left a huge mark on her life and wellbeing.
That she is a teacher and is in a long-lasting relationship is good for her and so perhaps she can take a little push back from you. Your whole family, including you, have suffered and while you would like for your daughter to open up to a relationship with you, this cannot be forced but that does not mean you do nothing. There is enough in your story to warrant investigation and seeing a family therapist (familytherapyireland.com) could begin a process of understanding for you. This might lead to some self-awareness and self-compassion and open up avenues for a different type of communication with your daughter.
Sometimes, a child can only fight with the parent they know will not give up on them. In this situation maybe she challenges you knowing that you will keep trying with her and thus validate her existence. While your daughter is now an adult, we all know how easy it is to revert to childhood behaviour when there are unresolved hurts, pain and fears in our lives. As you attend your therapy, you will find that you gain a sense of stability in yourself that allows for you to be patient and to wait for opportunities for communication with your daughter.
Think of what you want her to get from you at this time – is it love and unconditional being-there for her or is it something else? If the former, you might think how to get this message across and what you might need in order to sustain yourself going forward. You will need lots of companionship and joy in your own life, especially after such a life-threatening illness, which can be a focus of your next stage. Can you develop a social circle and meaningful activities for yourself?
You can ask for suggestions from your other children and even your Dad, as he is likely to know you well. As you become less bothered and more grounded in yourself, you might find that you are able to stand back and not accept rude behaviours while remaining open to a real and honest relationship with your daughter.
Always start with yourself, and when you are resourced enough, you will find that options open up and your own willingness to self-examination (through therapy) might create a similar influence for your daughter.