Should I Write an Amends Letter if I Have Nothing to Apologize For?Posted on 10/28/12, 02:08 pm
"Estranged parents often ask me how to write a letter of amends when they haven't done anything wrong, or they don't know what it is that caused the estrangement. Often they're told by their adult children that they should know, or if they don't, that they're not going to tell them. This is both maddening and upsetting to the parent, for obvious reasons.
There are a few reasons why this dynamic can occur:
1) The estranged child doesn't know either. Sometimes children estrange themselves for reasons that they don't fully understand such as when they're being unduly influenced by your son- or daughter-in-law, your ex, or a cult. It may also occur in the case of mental illness or if they need to estrange themselves to work on feeling more separate from you because they had a close relationship with you growing up and don't know any other way to feel separate.
2) They've told you their reasons but you don't believe them. While I do not think that all children estrange themselves because of their parent's behavior, I do think that many parents don't take their children's complaints at face value, try to talk them out of their feelings or perceptions (even if they're correct), or trivialize them. This can produce a downward spiral with the estranged child where the more the parent defends, denies, or ignores, the more the child escalates or exaggerates the complaint as a way to get the parent to listen.
3) The estranged child wants or needs to see the parent jump through hoops. Overall, I think it's better for parents to try too hard and too long than to give up too soon. This is because it's generally better to be accused of being too intrusive than to be accused of not caring. If you've heard my seminar Should I Keep Trying or Just Give Up? you know that there are typically signs for when to continue and when to stop. However, I do think parents have a right to stop when it's just too painful, even if the kid might prefer that they keep reaching out.
This Tuesday we'll be discussing this along with all of the other aspects of making amends such as
What to include and what to leave out
What is the child looking for?
What's helpful about it?
When to not do it or stop doing it?
What to say if you're giving up?"
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WEEK 5: OCT 30TH
530PM PST // 830PM EDT
THE RIGHT AND WRONG WAYS
TO MAKE AMENDS
A Step-by-Step Program
Reply #1 10/28/12 3:06pm
"Often they're told by their adult children that they should know, or if they don't, that they're not going to tell them." This is word for word exactly what my ED said to me in a very hateful tone....interesting. And I think #1 is the reason for her although I don't know for sure.
Reply #2 10/28/12 3:36pm
here's my letter:
I'm sorry that you both are embarassingly immature, into your 30s.
I'm sorry that we can't even agree on rules of engagement--like no name calling--something you learned in pre-school.
I'm sorry that you're so lacking in insight & tolerance that you don't even know what your problem is with me.
I'm sorry that you will find out the hard way that your beloved friends will not be there for you eventually, as they have families (& problems) of their own.
I'm sorry that it never occurs to you to pick up a self-help book or get some therapy, and that you see only my faults but not your own.
I'm sorry that I wont be asking you if you're affected by Hurricane Sandy, because, as I was told, "only old people care about the weather".
I'm sorry that you find my intelligence threatening or arrogant or whatever it is that bugs you about it.
I'm sorry that I had a better relationship with my parents than you do with all 4 of your parents. I'm sorry that there isnt even 1 in four that you respect.
I'm sorry that you, the lawyer, are so uncaring that we had to hire our own for our wills. I'm sorry that you wont be in it.
I'm sorry that you, the nurse, couldnt be bothered to respond to my text when I got bit by a snake last month. Im sorry that I won't be responding to your text today, with your Christmas list. You said "your gifts come with strings attached", so best not to give any.
I'm sorry that you dont find anything likeable or even tolerable in anything I say, do, wear, read, watch, or think.
I'm sorry that you see your chastisement of me as "helping you be a better person."
Of course, I wont send this, but it felt damn good to write!!
Reply #3 10/28/12 3:56pm
I love it Viva...that is how I would write one.. as honestly I cant think of anything I ever did so terrible as to deserve this kind of treatment from my only daughter...so it must be the good things about me that she cant stand...maybe because so far she is sorely lacking in good, civil, compassionate actions herself???
"They take your best qualities and use them against You" author unkn
No more for me...
Reply #4 10/29/12 7:36pm
Too bad you can't send it by osmosis, Viva. That would be an ear full.
Reply #5 10/29/12 9:10pm
Viva, Soooo could relate!!!! I read it to DH and he said "she should send it, if they don't talk to her anyway....what's the difference?" I like that for my "DD". We are not estranged but it fits so well. But what can we really do? This is how they are.
You mentioned how our relationships were different. Well I watch my DD's 6-yr. old daughter and she is a toughy. I love her to death but she is already quite calculating and I watch her "play"different family members, myself included. She is also not real huggy kissy, which I thought a 6-yr old would still be. And not real sensitive, only cries when if affects her. Oh yes....what goes around comes around and it might even be worse.
Not happy to reply like this, but just the way it is.....
Reply #6 10/29/12 10:17pm
No use to send it viva they really don't care
Reply #7 10/29/12 10:44pm
I love Viva's letter!
A few people have told me to apologize, but look at me with this big dumb look when I ask them what for? They give me some BS answer, 'you're the adult in the relationship'...'take the high road'...etc.
The only thing I honestly feel sorry for is that I didn't get her into intense therapy the minute I saw her withdrawl from friends and family. Her being my first teenager I just figured it was normal teenage behavior. When it she didn't out grow it I foolishly thought she would outgrow this loser and this stage. I had no idea how much he and espeically his mother was brainwashing and mentally breaking her down until it was too late.
Reply #8 10/29/12 11:50pm
Viva, love your letter!
Reply #9 10/30/12 11:19am
I would recommend writing your own letters. It made me feel much better!
I'm also writing (but not sending) letters to my "temporarily able-bodied" friends who whine about things like a bad hair day or not having anough money (who does?) or working too much (by choice!). I hate to say this, but these are the liberals, who have tons of sympathy for strangers but no clue what life is like for real friends & aquaintances who are suffering.
Again, I think it makes people uncomfortable.
Reply #10 10/30/12 1:26pm
Viva, Bravo!, I love it. That's one that part of me wants to send to mine.
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