Recovering My Voice

Recovering My Voice

The following excerpt from ‘The Journey’ by Mary Oliver is apropos of the estrangement I have been experiencing for over six years. I am on a ‘journey,’ one where I struggle to find my voice again as I continue to work on silencing the internal negative voices that have shaped me and wounded me.

…It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Recently, after several months of feeling more relaxed and accepting of this situation, I suddenly began to cry. There was no immediate precipitating event, but when I was done crying, I became aware of an undercurrent of anger, mostly at myself.

As a result of years of dealing with my daughter-in-law, I lost my voice. In a normal relationship, there is a healthy, open exchange of ideas. Of course, there are always times when it’s wise to be diplomatic. In my work, I stood in front of classes, teaching, sharing and exchanging perspectives with students. I had never been in the habit of clobbering anyone over the head with my opinions, especially my daughter-in-law. However, because she found fault with me no matter how I comported myself, I eventually stopped speaking my truth and chose to be relatively neutral and, I thought, non-threatening. Ultimately, I allowed her to silence me.

My son, his wife and kids are getting on with their lives. They travel, visit the other grandparents and have full lives. I’m not privy to the inner workings of their family dynamics, but from all appearances, they are living the good life. I’m very thankful that everyone is healthy and doing well.

And me? I continue to work on releasing the trauma of losing my son and grandchildren. I have had therapy and body work. I’ve cried, I’ve screamed while punching pillows. I’ve beseeched the heavens for help and guidance. But, it seems that there is more work to do to heal the wounds and let them go.

In past communications with me, my son and daughter-in-law didn’t mince words or convey tact or kindness. On the other hand, I was so careful with my words that at times I compromised my integrity. Because I had been hurt and forsaken, I became afraid to speak up for myself. I became estranged from myself, disconnected.

I am angry, mostly at myself, because I used my self-esteem and integrity as bargaining chips to win their approval. I was terrified of losing what had become a heartbreaking game. In the end, I lost and all those fears came to pass anyway.

I keep going back to this conviction: We’re only as good as how effectively we can let go, surrender and release. By fearing disapproval, fearing losing relationships or fearing abandonment we only lose ourselves. The more I altered my behaviors to stay in the family and gain acceptance from my son and daughter-in-law, the more my own personal approval ratings plummeted. I understand now that their opinion of me doesn’t matter, only my self-respect does.

Fears and inhibitions are just bad habits and habits can be broken and replaced with life affirming ones. I will find my voice and my happiness. Maybe I’ll recite a mantra, say affirmations, pray. I’ll find a way to speak my truth again.

There are times when it’s difficult to rise above it all, but by being committed to evolving and staying in the present, it becomes possible. One moment, one thought, one breath at a time.

4 thoughts on “Recovering My Voice”

  • I am amazed by your story because it mirrors mine. My son and his ex wife refuse any communication what so ever with us. We have no idea what their reasoning is to refuse to allow us to see our grandchildren. Apparently the adults have slandered us severly with the grandchildren because the children won’t talk to us. We used to have them for a week or more at a time. We are now forbidden to go to the home where the children live and we are forbidden to have them to our home. We too are good grandparents, we pride ourselves in providing a safe loving secure environment for all of our grandchildren. I have exhausted every possible avenue to open a dialog with zero results. My pleadings have been ignored without exception. I must get it in my head and (harder yet) my heart that we have lost our grandchildren and we have no answers as to why. It tears our hearts to pieces. My heart goes out to other grandparents that are struggling with this insane situation and pain. There is no resolve to the situation when we are 100% blocked. It takes communication of some sort to resolve most problems between people. Our ex daughter in law is a licensed social worker and family grief counselor in Salem Oregon. It’s frightening that a professional in this field can be so cold and have such a lack of feeling.

  • Hello, Gill. Thank you for your comment. I know what it’s like to miss out on grandchildren’s birthdays. I also understand the frustration of trying to make sense of an insane situation. It’s inexplicable! The most sane thing you can do is recognize that it’s time to let go when all of your attempts at reasoning with those who insist on propagating the estrangements are fruitless. If they aren’t willing soften their stance, it becomes masochistic to continue to communicate with them. I learned this the hard way! Good luck to you and I hope your situation improves one day, hopefully soon.

  • I have just come across this during my search for answers and comfort … I could have written the above myself ! I hope you don’t mind but I visit this piece of writing and it gives me the strength to carry on . My Granddaughters 5 birthday today and my Grandson’s 3 tomorrow . I have been able to see them twice, they had no idea who i was …its like trying to hold on to sanity in a situation that has no sense or reason .

    Thank you


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