For the past few years, my only daughter has been increasingly distanced from me. I respect her immensely because coming from a single parent family with no help from her father and only her elderly grandmother and myself for support, she made it to Oxford and has a glittering career.
Five years ago, she suggested I leave my home in the country and move near her, as she was worried that me living all alone in a remote area was unsafe. So I moved to about 20 miles from her — not too near, so I wouldn’t affect her new life and first job.
However, on the rare occasions she visited or invited me (four times a year), she became critical of small things — such as me washing up straight after eating. When she met her partner, they moved into a flat his family owns. After that, every interaction was tinged with mocking from both.
They started making fun of me — one time my daughter said: ‘We think you might be autistic.’
As someone who has worked as an NHS nurse for decades, I felt hurt. My job required a high level of communication.
She suggested counselling sessions to save our relationship. I organised them, as she made no effort, but then, when we went, she berated me both during and afterwards for ‘invalidating’ her.
After one session together, she blocked all texts, except those to organise the next session. Then after that one (which she had separately) she texted to say that for her ‘mental health’ she had to cut off contact and there would be no hope of reconciliation.
Thought of the day
Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow’ and others say, ‘Nay sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (Lebanese writer, 1883–1931)
I’m worried her new partner has a hand in it and that she’s now dependent on him and his family for a home. I’m sad it’s ended this way, but my reply to her final text was that I couldn’t have designed a better daughter if I’d tried and that help will always be given if she needs me. Do you think she will ever contact me again?
By the way, I’m 60 and have no partner or other relatives. Now I’m planning to go back to the countryside again, as I only moved here at her request.
I’m also changing my will and looking forward to a happier frame of mind because, for the past five years, contact with her has only brought stress and sadness.
This week Bel advises a reader who moved to be near her daughter, but has since been cut off
From time to time I receive a letter from an older person (or people) wondering whether to move nearer to an adult offspring.
Then I hear from those who warn against it: what if you change your life, leave friends behind, then it doesn’t work out?
What if your children then move away from you, because of work?
What if a quarrel leaves you marooned in a place you might otherwise never have chosen to live?
Duly warned by readers’ experiences (and, by the way, I really do welcome all your feedback) I’d always counsel careful thought before a move.
You, Marion, provide more evidence for caution. I’m so sorry you’ve had such a sad and upsetting time and hope that you will now return to where you knew people, although perhaps choosing a less remote home.
This story is strange as well as depressing, and it’s tantalising to wonder what else was going on behind the scenes.
Something must have caused your daughter to withdraw after asking you (with the best reasons, surely) to move near to her. Did she think 20 miles away was a snub?
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
Did your domestic habits (which she saw as fussy) cause friction back when she was still living at home? There must be more to this. Or perhaps the new boyfriend made existing differences worse?
Certainly calling you ‘autistic’ was wrong and hurtful. People can be very influenced by a partner with a more powerful personality and start to act in surprising ways.
It’s interesting she was the one who suggested those counselling sessions — and I would like all readers to be aware of that possibility (put ‘family counselling’ into an internet search engine for information about your locality) in case of seemingly intractable family difficulties.
But why did the counselling sessions make the problems worse? All I ask is that you’re honest with yourself about things you may be omitting from this narrative.
You are obviously angry or else you wouldn’t have mentioned your will. Honestly, I wouldn’t be hasty because your relationship may be mended — and I don’t think vengeful behaviour will do you good.
You told your daughter you will help her if needed, so your essential feelings for her haven’t changed, have they?
Will she contact you again? I hope and pray she does — and that all those reading your letter (and the second one on this page below) realise how short life is, and how prolonging quarrels is a waste of our time on this earth.
Think about healing. I wish you luck with your move back — and new friends.
Can I forget my brother’s awful insult?
When our mother was sleeping and dying in bed in March this year, my brother was on the phone to his wife while standing at the door close to our mother’s bedside.
I think obsessively about the conversation I heard. It was loud and extremely hurtful and I’m sure my mother could probably have heard him.
He told his wife how much he loved her and uttered extreme expressions of love for her loudly — so that our mother would hear.
I cannot forgive him for saying what he said — making sure Mum would hear him.
I didn’t react during this phone call or say anything to him because I was slow in understanding his reasoning for this behaviour and thought I would be overreacting.
I now realise I should have asked him to leave the room immediately. At the time, I was not thinking straight and beginning to accept that our mother was dying. My grief was overwhelming. Mum and I were very close.
But now, over time, I have been thinking about it more often. It’s playing on my mind and I’m just finding it very difficult to forget.
Unforgivable, unbelievable and unforgettable are now my thoughts. How do I put this behind me?
He and I have not had any further contact since May because of other family issues. Maybe you can help me with this sadness and hopefully forgetting this conversation, offer advice for putting this hurtful conversation to rest.
I don’t think I will ever forget this.
And will my mother be resting in peace?
Oh dear, the horses are stampeding dangerously here so it’s time to pull hard on the reins and shout: ‘Whoa!’
I have tried hard to imagine the very sad scene (and, of course, offer my condolences for the loss of your mother), but still I cannot follow why you are so sure (a) that your brother wished your mother to hear his phone conversation, and (b) that she (‘sleeping and dying’) actually did hear.
And what was it about the conversation that was so ‘hurtful’ — since surely a man telling his wife he loves her might be a bit embarrassing to hear, but hardly designed to inflict pain on a sister and a mother?
Yes, a loud conversation is better taking place the other side of the door — so that was tactless. But try as I might, I’m afraid I cannot understand why this was so appallingly offensive to you. Why do you use the words ‘Unforgivable, unbelievable and unforgettable’?
What if your brother was just as distressed as you were at witnessing your mother’s last decline — and so felt compelled to remind his wife of his feelings for her in an outpouring of emotion? I can identify with that — the clinging to the idea of life and celebrating love, in the face of death. Unless he said nasty things about you and your mother, I’m afraid I cannot see what sin he committed.
Now you are thinking about this ‘obsessively’ — which can only be harmful to you. Many families find themselves in situations where somebody has caused offence to somebody else — and the whole thing escalates to a point of no return, when it could perhaps have been halted if only there had been communication.
Yet when you say you have had no contact since May ‘because of other family issues’, then I am sure we probably find the key to your problem. You are now obsessing over this offence caused to you and your late mother because you are angry with your brother for other reasons. Perhaps you don’t get on with your brother’s wife . . . who knows?
Only you know what has gone on within your family in the past few years, but I beg you to consider whether this estrangement is what your poor mother would have wanted.
You can only ‘put this behind’ you by realising that real harm is done to those who consciously choose to nurture resentment in their breasts, watering that poisonous plant with tears of anger and self-pity, until it snakes around their necks. Dramatic? Yes, because these situations destroy families.
It will be Christmas soon. The only way this can be resolved is for you get in touch with the brother who, as well as being at your mother’s bedside, presumably stood in silent grief at her funeral — and tell him it’s time to end the feud, no matter what caused it. In no time at all, you will both grow old and face the end of your lives, as your mother faced hers.
And finally…a triumph for a great country
A few weeks ago, I vented my irritation at ageist statements from callow young people suggesting the over-70s shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Many of you wrote in agreement — and thanks for those intelligent and passionate emails, which made me feel better.
When you reach a certain age, you survey politics and realise you’ve seen just about everything before. Governments come and go. Yet the nastiness of this election hit me hard.
The shock-horror of young people (especially those within our universities) at something ironic a politician wrote 20 years ago reached absurdist dimensions. And on social media the deluge of vitriol against Boris Johnson was shocking. A madness seemed to have overtaken the nation.
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected]
A pseudonym will be used if you wish.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
Until two days ago. The staggering Conservative victory has confirmed my deepest convictions about the British people. When you write a column like this, you gain a particular perspective on human nature. People write in because they are unhappy (of course), but also to share thoughts and reflect on what they most want.
They send poems and memoirs — and I read it all. And so even though I am all too aware of the harm people do to each other, I still believe in essential goodness. People long for stability — a settled life in which to do their best for the people they love as well as for their wider communities.
Surely that’s what the Conservative victory has demonstrated. Born and brought up in Liverpool, I now live in the West Country, having little to do with the London media / intellectual / Liberal-Left circles I used to belong to. What do they know about the everyday wisdom of the silent majority? The evidence says: ‘Nothing.’
My experience convinces me people are patriotic and essentially tolerant — far more open-minded than the Corbynista cabal and all those who spewed hatred of ‘wicked Tories’. That is the triumph of this great country. Now it’s time to reach out and grasp each other’s hands.