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Feeling shame

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  • #375980
    Jane
    Participant

    I haven’t been here for a while but was feeling at a loss and I got directed back here! I hope someone can help.

    I have been trying to figure out why I’m feeling like I do and I came across an article about shame and wonder if this is my issue?

    I recently had to separate myself from two toxic people in my life; my son, and his partner. This means I am no longer in touch with my grandchild.

    Very few people know about this except a few very supportive friends, counsellors and other professionals.

    My family don’t know anything about this situation and although they knew things were difficult they don’t know how bad things have become.

    I have been reluctant to speak to them about this but I am making myself unwell and I realise it is because I feel ashamed. It seems they have stopped asking. I am sure they wouldn’t know what to say.

    Has anyone else felt this level of shame?How should I deal with it? Any help would be appreciated.

     

    #375982
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Jane:

    I re-read your posts in your May 2019 thread on the issue of your son, so to better understand your original post here. A few quotes and comments on what you shared there before I address the shame you mentioned today:

    A year and 10 months ago, you were still considering remaining in contact with your son: “I would really like to dispense with the whole mother/ son dynamic and just become a person talking to another person without all that other parent/ child stuff in the way”-

    – problem is that if it was not for your parent/ child connection with him, you would have no reason to be in contact with a man who kept asking you for money and receiving help, never or rarely said thank; a man who rejected your loving advice again and again, a man who needed professional help for his mental health issues but insisted that he has no problems, refusing to attend the medical appointments you made for him, blaming you for suggesting that he has problems: “If I try to suggest help he gets angry.. his tirade then got out of hand and I walked out anyway. I will not open myself up to verbal abuse”.

    You wrote at the time that his presence in your life caused you “constant pain” and that “For years I felt I was being punished by him”. Later on in the thread, you wrote: “I am prepared to completely cut those strings if need be- there is nothing more I can do”.

    In your current thread you mentioned shame in the context of (1) you having indeed cut those strings with your son, his partner and his child and (2) your other family members not knowing about it.

    Wikipedia, on shame: “Shame is a discrete, basic emotions, described as a moral or social emotion that drives people to hide or deny their wrongdoing. The focus of shame is on the self.. with respect to a perceived audience“-

    -seems to me that your perceived audience is your family members and you are afraid that in their minds what you did (end contact with your son) is a wrongdoing.

    Brene Brown on shame: “If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs 3 ingredients to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive”

    “It is important, however, that when we reach out for a supportive/ empathetic person.. that we choose the people who we have a relationship that can bear the weight of our story”-

    – not telling your family about your no contact with your son is your secret, and keeping this secret from your family leads to shame. On the other hand, if you tell them the secret, they may respond with judgment and lack of empathy for you.

    You shared about your older sister in your second thread, about how domineering she was when she visited you, how she spoke for you, telling people that you feel this way or that way when it was not true, that she asked you questions but did not accept your answers as valid if she disagreed.  I am guessing that if you tell her the secret, she may be judgmental and not empathetic.

    My closing thoughts: (1) It is crucial that you practice self- empathy, that you get to believe more and more that you are not a bad person for ending contact with your son, but a good person who rightly wants less pain in her life, (2) Having suffered pain when you were in contact with your son did not help him or his child:  your pain was useless then and it is useless now. It does not help anyone and it hurts you, (3) as you anticipate perhaps the judgment of your family members, ask yourself if they are your moral superiors, if their lives are free from what you believe to be their wrongdoings, (4) I suggest that you tell your secret to all your family members, telling them that your decision is not open to negotiation and that you want your decision respected, and then, be prepared to.. end contact with any family member who chooses to disrespect your decision, (5) The situation with your son and your relationship history with him is unfortunate, so there is no way to feel good about it, but there is a way and it is the right thing for you to no longer feel unnecessary pain about it.

    A closing quote from Brene Brown: “Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: ‘Who has earned the right to hear my story?’ If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky”.

    anita

     

    • This reply was modified 4 weeks ago by anita.
    #375984
    Jane
    Participant

    Anita thank-you for your wise words. I hadn’t gone back to read my previous posts but seeing those words in front of me were a sharp reminder of how far I’ve come and I am so glad you did that.

    I only restored contact with my son because his father died and his daughter was born soon after. This was also in the middle of lockdown here and it has been a difficult year for all of us. My son and I were building a better relationship but so many things were getting in the way and now we are estranged again. So be it.

    I realise that shame is an internalised thing- being alone means I have no one here to objectify and so I am wounding myself, which is silly really. Once you know that it has reduced impact for sure.

    Interesting about my sister too because we now get on much better. She has been aware of my problems but not the latest developments. I feel I could share this with her now. Despite all the difficulties of Covid and social isolation my family are very much more supportive of each other. They are not my moral superiors, they just haven’t been in my situation and therefore may not understand why I have done what I have. I don’t feel they would judge me, rather I have been judging myself. If they ask I will tell them, I they don’t I won’t. Whether they discuss me among themselves is their doing, and I’m sure they will. So be it.

    Yes, I liked the little quotation. My friends know exactly what is going on and I’m privileged to have them for sure.

    I rang my brother. We spoke about my other brother. It was fine.

    Amazing how much better I now feel. In a few hours I may feel worse. So be it. I shall come back and read this. Thank you for giving me this space.

    #375985
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Jane,

    In your 2019 thread you said that it was your fault that your son turned out like that. You said: “It is my fault- I have been a negligent and incompetent parent, but yet I maintain healthy relationships with my other child, my grandchildren, my siblings, my nieces and nephews and my friends and their children. Just this one I have failed in and am judged by.

    Could you tell a bit more about why you believe you’ve been “a negligent and incompetent parent”? Because if you’re blaming yourself for how you’ve brought up your son, probably that’s one of the reasons why you feel shame for cutting him off now.

    #375986
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Jane:

    You are welcome. I am glad to read that you are feeling much better. Feel free to not read the following at this time, and instead- take a break so to enjoy the better feeling.

    “my family are very much more supportive of each other.. they just haven’t been in my situation and therefore may not understand why I have done what I have. I don’t feel they would judge me”-

    – in that case, it may be helpful for you to explain to them why you have done what you have done. Explaining, however difficult, can help you understand even better what led to the ending of contact, and what is behind the shame.

    Another quote from Brene Brown: “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable”- you are welcome to speak about it here more at length, if you want to, anytime.

    anita

    #376002
    Jane
    Participant

    Hi TeaK

    I think back then I was trying to accept some responsibility for the way my son had grown into the person he was.  When his father and I split I didn’t handle it well. At that time in my life I was dealing with so much other stuff maybe I overlooked the impact it was having on him.  He was a teenager at the time and we had always been close, but eventually he went to live with his father. He always blamed me for the split.

    In recent months since his father’s death our relationship has improved considerably, but due to events I don’t want to go into I had to step back. Since I said that he hasn’t contacted me at all and I’m fine with that.

    The shame and upset is really to do with my grandchild who I can no longer see. Most of my siblings have grandchildren and so it is a common topic of conversation.  When asked I will just have to explain I no longer know how she is. This will sadden them as it saddens me, so maybe I feel I have failed not only as a parent but as a grandmother.

    The fact that I have a good relationship with my other grandchildren brings me joy which is now tinged with sadness.

    I think when I posted before I was being very hard on myself- I do acknowledge to my son that I got things wrong but that doesn’t excuse the things he’s done either. He has apologised to me in turn.

    I think I’ll just have to see how things pan out. It may just as much turn out for the best as for the worst.

    #376003
    Jane
    Participant

    Thankyou again Anita. I will give your words some thought.

    #376004
    anita
    Participant

    You are welcome, Jane. You can come back to me with your thoughts anytime.

    anita

    #376008
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Jane,

    “I think back then I was trying to accept some responsibility for the way my son had grown into the person he was. When his father and I split I didn’t handle it well. At that time in my life I was dealing with so much other stuff maybe I overlooked the impact it was having on him. He was a teenager at the time and we had always been close, but eventually he went to live with his father. He always blamed me for the split.”

    You and your late husband’s divorce must have impacted your son a lot, especially since he was in a sensitive age. You say you were close before, but then I guess he got distant, to the point he chose to live with his father? There must be a lot of anger and resentment on his part, which he hasn’t processed.

    You say he has mental health problems – what kind of problems, if I may ask? You said he’s claiming there’s nothing wrong with him, and that professionals say there’s nothing wrong with him either. Has he visited at least one counselor?

    I must say I feel compassion for him, and maybe I am partial, because I know that people often engage in self-destructive and irresponsible behavior, because they haven’t received something from their parents. They’re in pain and their behavior is a mirror of that pain. It doesn’t mean you should blame yourself for his actions, since he’s an adult and is responsible for his own life, but just perhaps try to see him beyond his current demeanor and understand that he might be hurting.

    #376009
    Jane
    Participant

    Hi TeaK

    I don’t want to go into details. I feel compassion for him too. I have tried to support through the past few very traumatic months but he will not see how destructive his behaviour is. He causes chaos for his partner, his sister, for myself and now for his child.

    He now has the chance to put his life back together without any interference. He knows he is loved. My hope is that he will finally see his own worth but it will be difficult.

    My best hope is that a kind and compassionate person such as yourself might come into his life instead of the drug addicts and alcoholics he surrounds himself with.

    He is my son and no one else knows how much I care about him. I have told him this over and over. It has been his choice to absent himself from those who love him, and it will have to be his choice to come back.

    #376026
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Jane,

    “He now has the chance to put his life back together without any interference.”

    Is he open to getting help, such as attending AA meetings, or he refuses everything? If he doesn’t even want to try to help himself, you can’t really do much but to keep him in your thoughts and prayers, and hope that he will turn around some day.

    You said his partner is a toxic person too – is she also a drug addict or alcoholic? Because if so, their child might be in danger and might need help of the social services?

    #376066
    Brandy
    Participant

    Hi Jane,

    I’m sorry to read that the relationship with your son is broken but based on our earlier communication I support the difficult decisions you’ve had to make. We parents make plenty of mistakes so we take responsibility for them and try to do better, but we can’t always control what happens. Parent-child estrangements are painful and common. I’m so sorry you’re no longer in touch with your grandchild, but this is not your choice. It’s out of your control.

    Your son is now a new father and will make his own parenting mistakes, like separating his child from a loving grandmother. Eventually, he’ll figure it out.

    In the mean time, may your siblings provide the comfort you need when you tell them of the sadness you feel.

    B

    #376073
    Jane
    Participant

    Hi TeaK  my son rang me today. He said his partner made him ring because it is Mother’s day here. I said it was good to hear from him and he was back with his partner but says he is still making plans to leave. That is his choice. I said he could ring me anytime and he admitted he didn’t need me to help, but just listen.  I consider that a breakthrough for me too, as I am always seeking to solve problems. It is in my nature, but I realise it is ok to solve my own problems, but I have to leave the problems of others alone. He won’t seek help. Yet. Maybe he never will.

    I have been in contact with social services but his partner will not engage with help from them either.

    He said we could meet up separately without his partner knowing but I said I won’t do that because it is dishonest.

    He could only ring me today because she had gone out to see her mum with the baby.

    #376075
    Jane
    Participant

    Hi Brandy

    I have come to realise estrangements are common.  Babies bring us so much joy and hope, and I suppose sometimes it is unfair to overburden them with the responsibility to make us happy. I have other grandchildren who I will be able to see soon and I have a good relationship with them.

    My son is making plenty of mistakes, including leaving the home and then going back at whim. I always felt he wouldn’t be a fit parent but neither is his partner. I feel so sorry for the baby- but at least she has taken her out to see her other grandma today.

    I find it hard listening to my son,in some ways it feels like enabling but I think it is important for me to listen when he rings as it is the only way I can keep contact with the baby. At least I don’t get the abuse and bullying I get from his partner.

    The shame I felt the other day has dissipated- I think the first person to tell is my daughter who is ringing me later today.

    I feel calmer and will get plenty of support this coming week.

    Thankyou for your kind words.

     

     

    #376124
    Brandy
    Participant

    Hi Jane,

    You’re welcome, and I’m glad the shame you felt earlier has dissipated. I agree that it’s important to listen to your son. Keep being a stable, calm and honest person in his life while also protecting your own boundaries with him, and then try to shift your focus to your own daily peace and happiness.

    B 🙂

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