Struggling to rebuild family after ugly divorce
Dear Annie: At the end of 2015, I decided to end my marriage of 30 years. My ex made the divorce very long and expensive, and he tried to financially destroy me in retribution. He involved our daughter and son and turned them against me. I have tried from the beginning to maintain my relationship with my kids, but they quickly shut me out of their lives. They haven’t responded to texts, phone calls or voicemails — hundreds of them over the years. I was extremely close with them and was shocked that they had taken sides and allowed themselves to be dragged into a very ugly divorce.
From the beginning, I moved into our second home in another state, 500 miles away, and because of the way things went, I had to make it my permanent home. My ex threatened me and stalked me for years ever since I left. He was arrested once. I had to get a restraining order. He had a warrant out for his arrest in my state, and he crashed our daughter’s car while he was here trying to follow and terrify me. He had two credit cards in my name, which he ran up to $16,000 that I had to pay, and much, much more.
Throughout this time, my son got engaged, married and had a baby. He excluded me and everyone from my side of the family through all of this. His wife blocked me on social media. My daughter still won’t speak with me either. I felt that I was disposable and became severely depressed. I have been seeing a therapist for years trying to build a life for myself without my kids and my grandson. Although I have made a ton of progress, I’m still not sure who I am without them. My kids were my world, and now I am just a broken mom. Any advice to regain our relationship that maybe I haven’t tried yet? Thank you! — Still Sad
Dear Still Sad: With the help of your therapist, try to figure out why your children have cut you out of their lives. Did they have a difficult childhood? Do they blame you for the divorce? Whether it’s fair or not, it is unlikely that your children cut you out for no reason at all.
I would then write a letter to each of your children explaining how much you love them, how desperately you want to be a part of their lives and, if applicable, how sincerely you apologize for any trauma they endured in the past. Do not bring up their father; your children do not need to witness any more drama between their parents.
If they do not respond to such an outreach, then I’m afraid there isn’t much more you can do. You cannot, in any healthy capacity, force your way into somebody’s life. It is important that you focus on the future, not the past, and integrate yourself into your new community. And it should be immensely encouraging to you that you have already made a ton of progress!
“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?”
— Annie Lane’s second anthology, featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.