Dear New Shrink,
I was once a happy family of four, but now I am alone. I had two sons, now I have only one and he won’t speak to me. We are completely estranged and I am at a loss as to what I can do.
My youngest son died years ago from a drug overdose. About a year later my wife, his mother, came down with breast cancer. She never really recovered from the loss of our son and just did not seem to want to fight the cancer. There are many breast cancer survivors but she is not one of them. She lasted about three years before she died.
My oldest son was completely devastated by all of this and has somehow decided it is my fault and has quit speaking to me. He has not returned my calls or spoken to me since the funeral two years ago.
I am heartbroken, but he believes I am cold and that I don’t care. He won’t give me a chance to work it out. He says I was never there for any of them so why should he be there for me now.
It is true that I worked a lot and still do, but besides liking my work and being good at it, I always thought I was working hard to make good money to provide a nice life for my family. I never felt like I was being selfish. I am at a complete loss.
Dear Heart Broken,
Your story does indeed sound like a sad one, if not tragic. I have been a therapist for years now and still find it amazing how so much can happen to one family. It is almost like a snowball effect.
I do want to tell you that you are not alone. There are many estranged families, many children that do not speak to their parents. You might find some solace from a web site called www.estrangedstories.com.
I don’t really know why your son doesn’t speak to you except to say that often when there is severe emotional pain people will look for someone to blame. It feels far easier to be angry than sad. Albeit not healthy for him, your son may be using anger to hold himself together. He may feel that if he were to be close to you now that the floodgates would open and he would be in a puddle of sadness, perhaps forever. This might all be subconscious with him. Did you ever have time with him during all the loss to know whether he grieved or not? Was he angry with you before this all happened? Were you ever truly close?
Sometimes these relationships can be repaired, but it does take the two of you. You might want to start by reaching out to him in small ways just to let him know you are thinking about him, care about him and miss him. Try not to ask for anything in return from him and don’t get too upset if you don’t get the response you want at first.
We all can get our feelings hurt and all too often we let our egos get in the way. If you really want to get your son back or start a new relationship with him you cannot let this happen. You have to be the bigger one, be strong and come from a truly loving place. If he cares at all he will feel this and may eventually be willing to see you or speak with you some.
I certainly would recommend that the two of you get some counseling together if you can break the ice with him in the way that I have suggested. If you never had much of a relationship there may be little to touch inside of him and this may not work. If you were ever close, appeal to him in a heart-to-heart way, but do it slowly and carefully, just a step at a time.
In the unfortunate event that you get no response at all, you should find yourself a support group with others who have similar problems. You might also want to seek counseling to work out some of your own feelings and questions. And while this should not be the reason for your own counseling, if it creates changes in you for the better it might be what he needs to come back to you.
I wish you all the best. I know that nothing feels worse than the loss of children and the horrible breakup, destruction of a family like this.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your inquires and replies to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters, because it does!