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How to let go of guilt and regret about adult child and move on?

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  anita 2 weeks, 4 days ago.

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  • #315827

    Vesper
    Participant

    I am having trouble letting go of an adult child who has recently moved on. I know I’m not the first parent in history who had a child leave the nest (LOL) and I’m wondering why I’m struggling so much with this situation? I’m not sure if I’m looking for advice or just need to vent, or perhaps need a word of encouragement from someone who has been through this and is able to share their wisdom.

    My 21-year old daughter left home about five months ago. She left while myself, my husband and her older brother were all at work. She sent me a text message saying she was sorry to leave without saying goodbye, but it was better this way. She said she loved me, that she was going to live with a friend and that I shouldn’t worry. Then she shut off her phone and boarded a flight.

    I get asked all the time if we fought the night before she left – the answer is no. We never fought. I mean, she went through some teenage angst at around age 14; she snuck out of the house and lied to us and wore a lot of black lipstick, you know…normal teenage stuff, but our discipline was always fair and level-headed. There were no beatings or screaming fits or drama. After she matured a bit, she became my kindred spirit. We baked cookies together and texted each other memes and introduced each other to new music. I know she loves me very much.

    So, yes her leaving was a shock, and yes, at first it felt like she’d died: Suddenly she just wasn’t there anymore, but most of her stuff still was. I mourned. Eventually we made contact with her and I met the man she’s now living with. I actually like him. I’ve had a chance to ask her questions about why she left and tell her how hurt we all feel. I now understand she wasn’t running from us, but from herself: That she’d been struggling with crippling self-esteem issues for some time, and depression and anxiety. She met a man she felt truly listened to her and when he offered her a new life, she took a leap of faith with him.

    I’ve made peace with all of that. I truly have. I like the way the two of them seem together and I would not wish her home again. I want them to be happy. But what I can’t seem to shake is my guilt. How did I not recognize she was so miserable before she left us? How can I help her recover her self-esteem and improve her life? I feel like I’m trying to finish up parenting her, like the job was somehow interrupted when she left and now I see lessons that I didn’t quite get a chance to finish teaching. But she doesn’t want my help. She recently asked me to give her some space, and I don’t blame her. I was texting her almost every day and asking if she’d made an appointment to see a counselor and hovering over her like a creep!

    The past two years have been difficult for me: Among other things, I have had to put my father-in-law into a nursing home, have helped my mom fight two rounds of cancer, have had to put my beloved dog down, have been watching my husband’s business slowly fail, and am going through perimenopause (sorry for the overshare). And I feel guilty that so much of my time and focus was everywhere else except on my daughter. She was HERE and I could have done more – or spent more time with her – or listened better, but now she’s gone and all I can do is regret.

    I know I need to let go. I know I can only control MY actions, My reactions and MY attitude. I know it is not my daughter’s job to fill the void in my heart that she left behind. The logical part of my brain accepts all of these things, and yet there is a heaviness in my soul that defies all logic. I feel like I could use some words of encouragement to assure me this will get better.

    Thank you for reading. 🙂

    #315851

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Vesper:

    I am listening to vespers Mass by Rachmaninoff as I type this. It is late morning here but the sun didn’t come  out yet. The sky is very grey, no sign of a sun. I see trees, a tiny bit of breeze outside. The music fits the view perfectly.

    Your daughter at 21 felt comfortable enough to leave home,  to make the break she wanted to make. Later, after reconnecting, she felt comfortable asking you to give her space.

    It makes me think of all the adult children feeling trapped with their parents, feeling too guilty to leave, to scared to ask for space, never making the break into real independent living.

    “I feel guilty that so much of my time and focus was everywhere else except on my daughter”-

    – but isn’t it wonderful for her, isn’t she fortunate, that she didn’t feel too guilty to do what she wanted to do, and to ask for space she needs to continue to do what she wants to do, where, when and with whom?

    I know guilt too well, it robbed me of choosing a life for myself for decades. It is nice to read about a 21 year old, only three years out  of childhood, feeling free enough from guilt to leave, without even saying goodbye.

    Congratulations for raising a guilt-free child, one free enough to choose her own life- a job well done.

    anita

    #315895

    Vesper
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I’m so happy you are enjoying the music. It sounds like you have the perfect weather for it.

    Thank you for your response. I needed a different perspective. I have only been able to see my own perceived failure as a parent, thinking she would not have gone if I’d been a better mom, and that my family is forever altered. Broken.

    Shortly after she left, I said to her, “Do you have any idea what it was like for me to get that text from you?” and she said, “No. I can’t imagine, but right now I have to do what’s right for me.” At the time it sounded so selfish, but in reexamining it through the lens you have offered me, perhaps her words show a gutsy determination to be independent.

    I visited her a few weeks ago and she told me the one thing she wanted from my husband and I was for us to have faith in her. I told her I would try, but I think my actions have shown her just the opposite. Yesterday I sent her a text to say I was sorry. She hasn’t responded.

    I’m trying to have faith that she will reach out when she’s ready, and in the meantime, refocus my energy on what I want the next chapter of my life to look like. I want to be done grieving. I want to be able to walk through the store and see a cute Halloween decoration and not tear up thinking, ‘she would have loved that.’ That happened yesterday. My husband said, “Why don’t you buy it just because YOU like it, even if she’s not here to share it with?” I thought, ‘now why didn’t I think of that?’ 🙂

    Thank you again for your response.

    #315899

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Vesper:

    Yes, I enjoyed the music, thank you for introducing it to me. I will be focused enough to read and reply to your recent post (and any you may add to it) tomorrow morning in about 13 hours from now.

    anita

    #315915

    Vesper
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I just wanted to add that she returned my text this evening with a warm response and thanked me for my love and support. I’m very content with that. I hope you have a wonderful evening and I thank you again for your wisdom and perspective. Hugs to you. Goodnight.

    #315959

    Peggy
    Participant

    Hi Vesper,

    What is the point of regretting all the things you might have done but didn’t?  There is not one thing that you can change.  Your daughter was ready to step out into the adult world with a man who she felt supported her and with whom she has a loving bond.  I’m sure that if she had told you of her plans, you would have put up some form of resistance.  Perhaps she didn’t need that from you at that time.  I don’t see it as her running away, I see it as her running towards a new life and so far it seems to have worked out for her.

    Have you ever heard the saying that everything must be learned, nothing can be taught.  That being said, we are all teachers and we are all pupils.  Your daughter is just as capable of teaching you what you need to learn as you are of teaching her.

    I’m glad that the way is open for you to have loving communications with your daughter.  It sounds as if you will be just fine now.

    Peggy

    #315981

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Vesper:

    I want to review what you shared in this thread: five months ago, while you, your husband and son were all at work, you received a text message from your 21 year old daughter stating that “she was sorry to leave without saying goodbye, but it was better this way.. she loved me, that she was going to live with a friend and that I shouldn’t worry”. She then shut off her phone and boarded a flight.

    About your daughter and your relationship with her before she left, you wrote: “We never fought.. she went through some teenage angst at around age 14; she snuck out of the house and lied to us and wore a lot of black lipstick.. normal teenage stuff, but our discipline was always fair and level-headed. There were no beatings or screaming fits or drama. After she matured a bit, she became my kindred spirit. We baked cookies together and texted each other memes and introduced each other to new music”.

    Eventually, in the last five months, you reconnected and you met the man she is living with. You wrote: “I now understand she wasn’t running from us, but from herself: That she’d been struggling with crippling self-esteem issues for some time, and depression and anxiety. She met a man she felt truly listened to her and when he offered her a new life, she took a leap of faith with him”

    What you can’t shake, you wrote, is your guilt: “How did I  not recognize she was so miserable before she left us?.. She was HERE and I could have done more- or spent more time with her- or listened better”

    “- I think I may have the answer for this question. I know this answer is true for some parents and it may very well be true for you too. It is certainly true for me in regard to a child I was very close to. I will answer using the first person, as it is true for me: I cared so much about him, so much wanted him to not hurt, to not feel the excruciating feelings I have felt as a child, and onward, that I couldn’t, wouldn’t hear his distress. I heard some, but put it away from my mind as soon as I could. My empathy for him was extreme (and as almost anything extreme, it is ineffective). It hurt too much to see him hurt. He told me at one point, still younger than 10 I believe, he told me: you are not listening to me!

    I was shocked, why.. I care so much for him, of course I am listening.

    But I wasn’t listening because I was not removed enough from him emotionally to really hear him as the individual that he is. My mind was distracted by my own overwhelming emotions and conflicts, not yet resolved.

    So I see that it is possible for you too. There she is and she seems unhappy, but you say to yourself: oh, this is normal teenage stuff. And so, you put it away from your mind best you can, so to not feel the pain.

    Can this be the case, do you think?

    anita

     

    #316015

    Vesper
    Participant

    Peggy,

    Thank you for your response. You are correct. The man she now lives with told me, “She was afraid if she told you she planned to leave, you would try to stop her.” and she was right. I would have tried. I will admit that. Seeing her so happy now, I’m glad things turned out the way they did, but yes, at the time, not knowing him or what sort of life she was heading toward, I would most certainly have tried to talk her out of it. I think I still see her as a little girl. Perhaps she sees me more clearly than I see her?

    Since she left she’s called me for help cooking, tips on how to save money at the grocery store, to get my advice on applying for jobs. In reading that sentence just now I think how fortunate I am that she values my guidance, but at the time I think it helped cement in my mind how unprepared she was to take on a life of her own. I’m laughing at myself as I sit here writing this wondering if maybe all along I’ve been thinking she needs me, when really it was I who needed her.

    Oh my. :-0

    #316017

    Vesper
    Participant

    Anita,

    Yes, you are right. I can’t bear to see her hurt. I am the same with my son and even my husband. I FEEL their moods. When my son has a bad day, I too feel bummed out. When my husband’s father says something nasty to him (as old people sometimes do to their children) I ache for him. When my daughter complained about how insecure the acne on her face made her feel, I recalled my own insecurities with that as a teenager. Sometimes my inability to step back from my emotional connection is almost paralyzing. I’m happiest when everyone else around me is happy. So, you are exactly correct in your assessment: I thought I was listening, but I didn’t really HEAR her.

    Thank you.

    #316065

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Vesper:

    About guilt- for hurting and for not noticing and helping those we love most who depend on us so much- I share this too, and it is a pain I have to endure because there is nothing I can do about it, no way to undo and redo. But I can forgive myself because I am devoted to healing and learning every day (this is what I am doing there, on tiny buddha)-

    – healing so that I can see beyond my powerful emotions from childhood, so that I can see other people as they are and not (inaccurately) project myself into others. I am earning my self forgiveness through this hard work of healing. That is all I can do.

    Let’s continue to talk about this, if you want to.

    anita

    #316067

    anita
    Participant

    * did not reflect under Topics

    #316135

    Vesper
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    You are earning stars for your crown.

    I think that line comes from an old church hymn from the 1920’s or 30’s, but my grandmother used always say it to people like you who give selflessly of themselves to help others. You are going to have quite the dazzling tiara when you’re all done. 🙂

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thank you again for being you this week.

    #316159

    anita
    Participant

    Thank you, Vesper (the One and Only Vesper), these are beautiful words, how kind and gracious you are. I hope you have a wonderful weekend yourself and post again, anytime.

    anita

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