“Why won’t they thank us for the gifts they told us not to send?”

One of the things that perpetually boggles me is how members of estranged parents’ forums say their children have informed them that the relationship is over and they want no letters, calls, gifts, visits–no contact at all–and then the parents complain that their children haven’t thanked them for all the gifts they sent. Or they left a message about a relative who was in bad shape, and their children never acknowledged it. Or someone called their children because one of the parents was having a health crisis, and the children never called back, much less visited or offered to help out. Or they went to their child’s house, and their child wouldn’t even open the door. Or their child did open the door, and the torrent of verbal abuse the child heaped upon them was so vile that the parent was bedbound for days afterward from the shock. It’s like the parents think “no contact” means “I’m not coming around for dinner anymore, but sure, I’ll observe all the social niceties.”

An extended episode of this played out recently on a forum, and I wanted to go through it as an example of how deeply inground it is in the forum culture.

As a thumbnail background of the relationship between the member and her daughter, three years ago at Christmas the member posted this comment:

We are going to pop cards through door and leave presents on step, but am apprehensive, our son in law gave us police harassment warning 4 years ago and our local mp been brilliant trying to fight it for us, we managed to get permission to send cards and presents, but is enormously stressful, we never ever get an acknowledgment.

The member refers to the police harassment warning regularly, as in this comment from the current thread:

we spent first year or so fighting the police harassment warning that led to my arrest for delivering birthday present for e g d [estranged granddaughter].
Sent far too many lovley cards and letters every single one ignored,

Seven years of estrangement, opening with a year-long legal battle to get a restraining order that climaxed in the member’s arrest. This is where things stand.

The current incident began when the member learned through Facebook that her daughter was ill:

Oh dear will agony ever end found out today T [her estranged daughter] been seriously ill, not details so we feel like going over with some flowers, expect get rejected but is a gut instinct to trynreach out both upset poor Gra [her husband] worse than me.

The next day, after the attempted visit, she wrote,

Ladies no turning point, was horrendous, K [T’s husband] came door with little one and shut I and drew curtains. He would t Eve take the beautiful orchid from G.

A T Godfather [A, T’s godfather] was fantastic taking us and being so caring and supportive. He drove us To T Work and the locum was so kind telling us T off sick etc that I started to cry, Managed hold it together and walk off, then saw her car she was at dr she drove off Gra ran up to car I feel so desperately sorry for my caring lovely husband,

Then A took us to K parents, his dad was very short, told jsmT. NEarly died, I asked why no one thought to tell us he just glared and I said would he like it if was his daughter which point he shut door, he was goin job interview admittedly and his wife was t there.

Omg I feel In Bits my daughter I still love deeply could be dead and no one would have told me, I can’t put into words the deep sadness I feel it has really knocked us for 6 I left the orchid and flowers on step and we put a loving card through door but feel really is end of road now.

To recap: The member heard that her daughter was seriously ill, so she had her daughter’s godfather, a family friend, drive her and her husband to her daughter’s house. Her son-in-law came to the door carrying a child, refused the gifts, and closed the curtains so they couldn’t see in. The member, her husband, and the godfather went to the daughter’s workplace, where a replacement worker told them her daughter was off sick. Then they spotted her daughter’s car at the doctor’s office, and the member’s husband ran up to the car as the daughter drove away. The godfather drove them to the son-in-law’s parents’ house, where the member asked the daughter’s father-in-law why no one told her about her daughter’s illness, and whether he would like it if no one told him his daughter was ill. He shut the door in their faces. The member and her husband left the flowers on the front step (of the in-laws?) and put a card through the door slot, then went away.

The member’s focus is on satisfying her own concern about her daughter, and about her sadness at not being told her daughter was ill. She and her husband respond to this critical and stressful time in her daughter’s life by going to her house uninvited; going to her workplace uninvited; going to her in-laws’ house uninvited; and trying to chase her down as she leaves a doctor’s appointment.

The other members respond with love and support, and tell the member to take good care of herself, since she runs the risk of making herself sick from stress. (But not her daughter, apparently.) One member says, “How could anyone shut the door in your face with your daughter so Ill. it beggars belief.”

The member follows up:

Was sending lovely get well card and 2 notes I asked her to let us know how she is now as I give birth to her and do have feelings also said how would she feel if it was M ?

I very much doubt she will have common decency to respond would t be suprise dif she threw flowers and orchid away we left, I just do t know mydaughter anymore.

She sent her seriously ill daughter a card and two letters laden with guilt-ridden demands for information, and says her daughter probably won’t have the common decency to reply… to the people who responded to a no-contact request by going to her house, her job, her doctor’s office, and her in-laws’ house when she was sick. The member also complains that her daughter has changed so much that she doesn’t know her any more, and her daughter will probably throw out the gifts the member gave her… after she asked for no contact, and after her husband and father-in-law refused to take them.

The member finds her daughter’s posts on a support group:

Today went on t support group for her condition and read all her posts fled. Out so much and it broke my heart that she doesn’t want us anymore and is so ill.
Apparently started from knee op but took 6 days to diagnose hence the life death scenario. 25-30% don’t recover!

And then:

Sadly finding out sooo much T posting on support group almost daily and breaks my heart that her mum dad, brother and entire blood family and loving godparents are totally discarded.

She is still quite ill according to posts, recovery is slow from p.embolism,s as lungs damaged by scarring from what I gather, seems her husband is caring for children, we would have been delighted to help.

After the weekend:

Had lovely time With good friends over weekend but it is hard for them to know what hell to say is amazing how cruel and heartless T is, and her in laws.

The topic of conversation with her friends wasn’t her daughter’s life-threatening pulmonary embolism, it was how cruel her daughter and in-laws were about not resuming a relationship during her daughter’s life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

Another member shares the poster’s bewilderment:

I wonder, too, why AC don’t “give in” at dire times and let their parents back into their lives, at least a little. Is it stubbornness? I guess I don’t know, as I could never be this way. To me, no matter how great the rift with someone, you (general) soften in times of illness, and so forth (except maybe if there’s a history of abuse, but that’s not what we’re talking about). But I guess not everyone sees it that way.

Several members of an abuse survivor’s forum* were participating in the thread at the time, and were shocked by some of the member’s angrier comments. They pointed out that the member knew her daughter was reading the thread, so why would the member say such things when she wanted to reconcile with her daughter? Another member comes to the member’s defense:

Despite having reached out to her so many times, with cards, letters and small gifts for her and the children and getting absolutely nothing in return, they tried to be there for her again and again she’s failed to respond. [Member] has expressed her anger and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s angry because her ED could have died before they’d even found out she was ill; she’s angry because having tried so hard for so long, even in this potentially life threatening situation their ED still fails to respond, she’s angry because her ED’s f.i.l. treated them so coldly and I wouldn’t mind betting that what she’s angry about the most is that she couldn’t and can’t be there for the D she loves. If I’m wrong [Member] I know you’ll tell me sogrin.

So before throwing our hands up in horror, picking her posts apart and judging her, we should try and understand what a terrible time she and her DH have had.

…which is more or less the estranged parents’ consensus on the case.

The member continues to complain about her daughter’s ingratitude and cruelty, and the forum continues to console her. She continues to mention that her daughter and son-in-law fought for a year to have her legally restrained from contacting them, and the forum continues to tell her how sad and awful that is. She continues to complain that she’s sent her daughter all manner of gifts, cards, and phone calls without a response, and the forum continues to agree that it’s baffling that a woman who tried to legally bar her from contact isn’t happy to be pelted with goods and visits to her home, her job, her doctor’s office, and her in-laws’ house at a time when she’s struggling for her life.

After all, if the daughter had any empathy, she’d see how much she’s put her mother through.

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