4/17/2023 | By Amy Dickinson

A mother’s disappointment in her adult daughters has led to a three-year family estrangement, and she wonders how to move past her disappointment. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson has to say in this edition of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy: 

I am the mother of three daughters, and I’m hurting so bad.

During the pandemic in 2020, my middle daughter (an anesthesiologist) passed away suddenly. She lived several states away from me. My oldest daughter and youngest daughter immediately flew out to her town. They did not invite me to fly with them.

I was simply crushed.

I had an accident years ago and lost a great portion of my hearing, so navigating an airport was just too stressful for me to handle alone. Driving more than 1,000 miles alone was not an option, either.

Sadly, I did not get to attend the funeral.

I told my oldest daughter how hurt I was over their actions in not helping me to get to the funeral.

I got no response.

It’s been almost three years now since I’ve spoken with my daughters.

Last week was my birthday and I received birthday wishes from one of my daughters. I answered back and told her once again how crushed I was over their actions.

I have tried to justify this over and over, and still I am simply floored that both of my daughters could be so cold and uncaring.

How do I move past this?

– Hurting so Bad

Dear Hurting: 

I’m so sorry for your loss, and for all the subsequent loss that seems to have resulted from it.

My own way of trying to understand seemingly incomprehensible events is to try to reframe them. This would involve you shelving your understandable hurt and anger in order to understand that your surviving daughters were likely as shocked and hurt as you were by this sudden loss. This might have been a factor in their regrettable behavior.

In addition to this loss, you have also forced them to confront their guilt over their callous disregard toward you.

When faced with guilt or shame, many people pull away because they simply are not brave enough to face the consequences of their actions.

A family estrangement can be extremely challenging to surmount, and the more time that passes, the more entrenched an estrangement can become. The walls just get higher and higher.

You had one daughter reach out on your birthday. This was an important bid for connection. You responded by reminding her of how crushed you continue to be by her actions. While true, this would not necessarily inspire further contact.

If you do want to try to forge a connection (I’m not sure you do) and overcome this family estrangement, then you should consider making your own bid – using neutral language and a posture of reconciliation.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from family estrangement to dividing caregiving duties and not-so-supportive partners. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

Amy Dickinson