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BEL MOONEY: How could my family cut me off without warning?

Dear Bel

Spring will mark six years since I’ve seen my son, daughter-in-law or youngest daughter. I still do not know what I have said or done, as no one has allowed me to explain or apologise. I have been ‘ghosted’.

In the middle of that time, I was in phone contact with my daughter, but she still wouldn’t (or couldn’t) explain what I’d done wrong.

Then one day, when I came back from shopping, I found my partner lying dead on the kitchen floor. Still my daughter did not come, despite living 20 miles away. I didn’t share my sadness because I didn’t want to face the silence again.

Last August, I became upset when my daughter was telling me on the phone about all she was doing for her in-laws, with no mention of visiting me.

Because I blurted out my feelings, she blocked me on her phone. I tried to call at least 11 times between then and Christmas — but no luck.

At Christmas, my youngest brother was in intensive care with Covid. My sister told me I should let my daughter know, but she didn’t care — and used it as another reason to have a go at me.

I’ve heard nothing since. I’m 75 now and have three grandchildren. I could be a great-grandmother or have lost one of the family to Covid, but wouldn’t know.

I spent Christmas on my own — and I’m crying as I write this because it drives home the futility of an existence I’d swap in a heartbeat with someone on a Covid ward whose family loves them.

Being ‘dumped’ also impinges on other relationships. How can you reveal that your family don’t want you? So I spent a lot of time alone with my little dog, who is also getting old.

My two brothers and sister have their own lives and I don’t want to bring them down with my sad story.

I hope this doesn’t depress you, Bel, but it’s helped me to release some of the pent-up misery I carry all the time. Do you have any advice?

JANE

This week Bel answers a question from a 75-year-old woman who has been cut off from her family without warning

Why shouldn’t I be depressed by your story? What other response can there possibly be?

Truth to tell, of all the problems I see, it is exactly this kind of family issue which makes me saddest of all — and all of us can bow our heads before the sorrows of others.

Why do family members hurt each other? Why are parents neglected or totally ignored by those to whom they gave the gift of life?

Thought of the day 

Sometimes these hearts of ours 

Must have the sweet, the seasonable showers 

Of tears; Sometimes the frost of chill despair 

Make our desired sunshine seem more fair…. 

From On Change Of Weathers by Francis Quarles (English poet, 1592-1644)

Again and again I have heard what you tell me — that the rejected person has no idea what went wrong. And yet surely something must have happened?

This is a cue to repeat the words which open Tolstoy’s tragic novel, Anna Karenina: ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

It means that while happy families probably share a common set of attributes which lead to happiness, any number of personality problems, quarrels or other circumstances can cause a family to fracture.

What explanation would your adult children give if they spoke to me?

What could possibly be the reason for leaving a 75-year-old all alone on Christmas Day and cause her to weep as she communicates with a stranger to get the misery off her chest?

Please don’t write to tell me that of course there are always ‘reasons’ . . . and here I am not referring to secrets like abuse.

In normal life, there are usually two sides. I print this letter because there’s really no ‘answer’ I can offer Jane, who may be more sinned against than sinning. This column has already served a purpose by being somewhere for her to unload her sadness.

But I will plead with those of you who recognise the situation and are like Jane’s children — unwilling or unable (for whatever reason) to reach out a hand to a sad, lonely, bewildered parent.

Perhaps they were unduly critical when you were a child, annoyed you, said the wrong thing, harmed a marriage, formed a relationship with a partner you disliked, or disappointed you in any number of ways.

But can you not forgive? Can you not allow your children to know their (flawed, as we all are) grandparents?

Can you not show some pity for Mum’s loneliness or Dad’s grumpy isolation? Just imagine me on my creaky knees — begging. Don’t let your parent die alone.

Jane, you must tell the truth to your siblings. Don’t seek to protect them from your unhappiness. Since your beloved companion dog is getting old, why not give both of you a new lease of life by rescuing a silly puppy or young dog?

Why not write each of your children a calm, pleasant greeting card for New Year, saying cheerfully that you hope you can all have a reunion?

I am so sorry you find yourself in this situation, and hope and pray that it can still be mended.

Only money can cure my loneliness

Dear Bel

At nearly 32 I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve never kissed a woman, held hands, or been in a situation beyond friendship.

I’ve had a couple of long-term crushes — infatuations, really. But I was rejected or had to watch as they married someone else.

And why wouldn’t they? I’m not much to look at and I’m socially awkward. Every time I talk to someone I feel scared, like they’ll immediately turn on me. I came from quite a nice household but school was hard for me, a weird kid.

I spent years of my life being told that people hate me, that I’m ugly, that I’m a failure.

People seemed to like me when I was good at things. My teachers liked it when I was funny or did well on assignments, so I did that.

My parents liked it when I made jokes or did as they asked. People seemed impressed when I ran, so I did it so much that I developed an eating disorder.

I’ve been told all my life that the only way I’ll stand out in a good way is if I’m exceptional in some form.

I enjoy writing and am working on my novel. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s more than that now — if I am successful, everything I’ve gone through will have been worth it.

If I’m rich and have social prestige, then someone will want to be with me. I can’t imagine someone liking me for me.

I want to enjoy writing. I want to enjoy life. But I can’t shake the feeling that this is my last chance to find love and start a family. I fear it may already be too late. How do I move on?

AJAY

You are still so young, with a whole life before you, but before I address the sadness underpinning your email, I must give you some advice about these writing aspirations.

Of course, the novel you are writing might become a smash hit and bring you fame and fortune, but it’s more likely that it won’t.

So I beg you not to pin all hopes of turning your life around on the view of a publisher’s reader. That would be more heart-breaking than everything else you feel you haven’t experienced.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

Believe me, I’ve had a lot of fiction published (for adults and children) and know many writers, too — so should warn you that the whole business brings as much disappointment as delight. Not to mention poverty. Carry on, of course — but because you enjoy the process, not because you’re putting all your fragile eggs in that basket.

Your email subject line said: ‘I feel I need to be exceptional for someone to love me.’ Isn’t that a bit of a chicken-and-egg conundrum? Surely the most ordinary people — with no particular qualities of good looks, brains, talent or personality — become ‘exceptional’ because they are loved? What’s more, being able to give love is one test of character that does not depend on exceptionalism.

One thing I believe is that, with such low self-esteem, it would do you good to talk to an experienced counsellor about all your fears.

Find somebody near you by using bacp.co.uk/search/therapists or welldoing.org/find-a-therapist. This might help you look outwards and identify what went wrong, exactly who told you negative things, and so on.

When you get to my age you shake your head at somebody not yet 32 writing, ‘I’m worried it may already be too late’. You have decades ahead of you to develop your personality, have new experiences, meet people, write, take advice on what to wear and what to do, and so on.

Years ago I knew a young woman — the most socially gauche person you could imagine: shy, awkward, clumsy, with no boyfriends. Recently I heard she had married for the first time — in her 50s.

Why not try to put a different spin on reality by telling yourself you’re going to make sense of your life by talking to someone — and realising that loving and being loved can happen at any time?

But your assumption that good things will come through a superficial dream of being rich will only keep you locked into an unsatisfactory present.

And finally… No need to be jealous of happiness

Last week’s column introduced the Finnish concept of ‘Sisu’ which means grit or resilience, and I contrasted it with Danish ‘hygge’, or cosiness. I poked a bit of fun at that (‘snuggling under a soft blanket’), although I love being cosy.

But one reader, D, picked out two phrases (‘. . . and perhaps somebody lovely to talk to’ and ‘. . . add three little dogs’) and commented: ‘This morning I seem to have taken offence at the ease with which you describe a scene that we can picture in our mind’s eye, and which causes me an innate sense of loss.

‘I can only think it’s due to not being in the same envious position that you find yourself in.’

Contact Bel 

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 bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk.

Names are changed to protect identities.

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Oh dear. D tells me her husband, who had dementia, took his own life three years ago, and that she hates living alone.

Two of her family members have Covid at the moment, and she adds: ‘This is not helping my low feeling. I know I am very lucky to have a comfortable life, but when I read your article it filled me with dissatisfaction and sadness.’

But the vital point of that particular column was about ‘staying determined to cope, whatever life chucks at you’.

So I replied to D assuring her that I have plenty of worrying things to cope with myself, including the osteoarthritis which causes her pain.

But I’m glad she wrote because it made me reflect on how, when passing people in the street, we have no idea of their troubles. And if people seem on top of the world, remember that they may in fact be feeling the weight of the whole globe crushing their spirits.

So let’s be generous. Please don’t be jealous of the apparent happiness of others. Don’t dismiss the good news just because you’ve had bad news. Don’t sneer at happy families, because yours made you sad, mad, hurt. Don’t pour scorn on romance but try to rejoice at the fact that love exists.

Remember that one of the most beautiful phrases in our language is: ‘I’m so glad for you’.

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