A Difficult Lesson: Severing a Relationship

There is something that I feel compelled to explain, it is something that I often allude to in my writing, and it is something that I am afraid—if not explained properly—may be misunderstood by my daughter when she is older. Of all the fears I have for when she grows up, the one that I worry about most is that she will somehow think it is normal for a child to not speak to her parent—that she will walk away from me and not look back—that she will reject me. This fear is rooted in the fact that I have done exactly that to my father—I have turned my back on him, I have cut him out my life, I no longer speak to him.

The end of my relationship with my father did not occur at the time of my parent’s divorce, nor in the aftermath when he married another woman just weeks later. It did not happen four years after graduating when I discovered that he had lied about making payments toward a college loan, thereby ruining my credit. It did not happen after he turned his back on me, refusing to accept my anger at his thoughtless and irresponsible behavior. Nor did the end come as a result of him not showing up at the hospital to meet my daughter for the first time, or when for the next six months I spent each day wishing that he would finally meet his beautiful granddaughter. It did not end when, after reconciling, we were seldom invited to his home even though he lived just minutes away. It did not come to an end when he divorced his second wife, nor due to the lies he told about having a relationship with a woman six years my junior. The end did not come even after he announced he was marrying for a third time—and that I would be a sister once again—this time to a boy a year younger than my own son. It did not end because of the months—the months throughout most of my entire adult life—without any communication, the missed birthdays, or the general lack of interest in the happenings of our lives. In the end, there was no one specific falling out between us, no argument or misunderstanding that led me to walk away. Instead, our relationship slowly fell apart under a steady deterioration, a slow chipping away of it, until one day there was nothing left but a façade.

My decision to walk away was not an easy one, and it was not meant as a punishment to my father for any one action. In fact, after so many years, I have no anger toward him for the things I have described—the only feeling I have left is a sadness at the knowledge that I will never have the father that I deserve, and my children will never have the grandfather that they would love to have. This final decision came after I truly realized that keeping up the façade took a toll on me mentally—each visit left me feeling like a shell of the woman I am—leaving me unable to be the mother I wanted to be for my own children.

I take my job as my children’s mother more seriously than I do anything else in my life. As I have said before, the very idea of my daughter walking away from me causes me to catch my breath—sending a silent scream throughout my entire body. I do not know if this fear will ever truly subside. I do know, however, something that I don’t believe my father has ever known: there is no greater gift in life than a child, and in order for a relationship to grow between a parent and a child, it needs to be cherished, to be nurtured, to be cared for. I promise both of my children that I will never forget this lesson that I have learned. My advice to my daughter is to never give up on someone you love, but that it is also important to be able to recognize when the tending of a relationship is one-sided, and that sometimes, difficult decisions need to be made in order to preserve your own sense of yourself.

Published by Erin Rehill

A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter told me that she wished I could write down all the things I told her so that she wouldn’t forget them when she got older. In that moment, my daughter gave me such a sense of validation, something I hadn’t really experienced in that way. As parents, we don’t often receive confirmation from our children that we are doing a good job, or that we even know what we are talking about. Since that time, I’ve started to pay more attention to the things I tell her, often thinking to myself “Will she remember this when she is older?” So, this is for her, my words of advice to be read, thought about, laughed at, and maybe even used, when she is older.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I’ve thought about how to explain it so many times, and when I finally just sat down and did it, it was amazing how the words all came together.

  1. I’ve never even thought about this, maybe because I have no children. I too cut out my father after years & years of trying to have a relationship. In my situation there was a big fight. He betrayed me. I am certain as long as we are not an ounce of what are fathers were to us our children will never reject us.

    Stopping by from the cancelled #commenthour =D

    1. Thank you for your comment. Of all the relationships I have had in my life, dealing with the one with my father has been the most challenging. I’m sorry that you have had a similar experience—I know how painful it can be.

  2. I teared up while reading this… it was so beautifully written. When you love a child so deeply & show them that love… show them how important they are to you, they won’t walk away.

  3. We have similar stories, though it was my mother I walked away from. Now that I’m a mom….well, let’s just say I made the right choice and, since part of my job is to protect these children of mine I’m glad I did what I did.

    I admire your courage to put it all out there. Thankful that #commenthour brought me here and will be back.

    1. I’m sorry that you had to walk away from your mother, thank you for sharing this with me. It can be so difficult to tell people that you don’t speak to a parent—I am always afraid to be judged. And, in fact, I often judge myself for it. I know, though, that only you can know the reasons why, and what is best for you and your children. Take care, and thanks for stopping by.

  4. Really, really powerful stuff.

    My favorite part was probably that you promise that you’ll remember this lesson and let that invigorate your relationship with them.

    Great post.

  5. Family relationships can be so tough sometimes. How very brave of you to take the actions you needed to.
    I’ve enjoyed your posts.
    I hope you don’t mind, I’ve posted this blog as my feature blog this week.

    1. Penny, Thank you so much for you comment, and especially for what you wrote about me in your blog. I cannot begin to explain how much that means to me. When I have some time later today, I will be heading over to your site to do some reading. Thank you . . .

  6. What an emotional piece of writing. Hugs to you for all you have gone through in regards to your dad. Believe me when I say the love you have for your children is building an unbreakable bond. I’m a grandmother and was married twice; once for 12 years, and now for 28. I know from whence I speak. You have a new follower. I stopped by from SITS and I’m glad I did.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment—it really touched me. it wasn’t easy to find the words to capture my relationship with my father, especially since I am not proud of my decision to not speak to him, even though i know it is truly necessary for me. I appreciate you recognizing this, and taking the time to make a comment.

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