Tell Me About It: ‘ I left the country as soon as I could as I could not bear to be the sole carer for both my parents, whom I had come to resent as I grew older’
I come from the west of Ireland originally and was an only child to fairly elderly parents. Growing up, I felt that I was smothered by them and was also too close to their troubled relationship.
My mother always felt that she deserved a better life than my father gave her and she was resentful and often tried to get me to take sides. She was not completely wrong as my Dad was a person of some consequence and did not actually buy a house until I was in my teens. He was also an only child so inherited lots of properties and money eventually and now with his death and my mother’s death subsequently, all this has fallen to me.
I left the country as soon as I could as I could not bear to be the sole carer for both my parents, whom I had come to resent as I grew older. I did visit twice a year as I knew I owed them that, but I have created a life and a family for myself abroad.
The strange thing about inheriting all this wealth from them is that all I feel is guilt about it and now I have to consider moving back as it makes such total sense. The properties are actually lovely (not my original house) and the local schools are excellent for my children if I move. I know I do not deserve all of this as I ran away from my responsibilities as soon as I could and moving back would resurrect all my old ambiguous feelings about my parents, plus my family would be very well known in the area and I would have to put up with people talking about them all the time.
I have tried to safeguard my children from the negativity that was in my own upbringing and, if I go back, I am not sure I could keep the past from engulfing us.
On the other hand, the opportunities to have a good and secure life are very tempting.
What is clear is that you have some reconnecting to do. Leaving and creating a separate life abroad clearly worked for a while, but much of the past feels alive and present and now needs to be dealt with.
The danger here is that real opportunities might not be taken because of past difficulties and your tendency to run away might not work as well now as previously. We know that patterns and legacies from our families of origin have a way of creeping into our lives, sometimes in a very subversive way – and we can be shocked when they loom large in our current existence.
Your family pattern of resentment and cut-off is well-established and if this is not to be passed on to the next generation you must address it now. The way to do this is through psychotherapy which offers both a safe and a challenging space in which to explore and process your anger, guilt and resentment. You feel you are undeserving of these extensive gifts in your life and perhaps this too needs to be overcome so that you and your family can enjoy your inheritance. There is little point in having wealth and being unable to allow yourself to use it for the betterment of your life, or indeed others’ lives if you want to donate some to charity.
Facing our own mistakes and the parts of ourselves that we are not proud of is hard, but doing so is a sign of evolution and self-development that benefits our relationships and more particularly, our relationship with ourselves. You may also need to engage with your parents’ lives in a way that is different from your childhood understanding.
Comprehending their actions and behaviour from a perspective of their own upbringing and culture might allow you to develop compassion and forgiveness that in turn leads to an ease and sympathy with yourself. If you dedicate time to engaging with psychotherapy (and you have the means to pay for it) and postpone the decision of what to do with the inheritance for a number of months, you may be in a much clearer and freer place to make a decision.
Also, your partner and children need to be involved in this decision and the most respectful way of involving them is to let them know of your process and not hide it from them. Imagine if your own parents had the self-awareness to seek psychological support and the difference it would have made to your life – this is your opportunity to reverse that piece of heritage and if you take it, you will be laying a piece of your past to rest.
As you are not living in Ireland, you can seek support from accredited and registered psychotherapists or psychologists in the country that you are in.