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Direct Answers – Empty Nest

For the past seven years, my son, his wife and three children, have been living in a country town, with only my son working and supporting the family. The children now range in age from 21 to seven. I did the usual grandma help with the children, and to a big extent financially also, helping with the mortgage, work equipment and cars.

My son’s issues with alcoholism were overtaken by a religion that meant the children were homeschooled in a Christian organization. They have a belief that the man is sole provider, and that God will provide, which has previously been me.

Our relationship deteriorated, on and off, for many years. In the last two years, all contact ceased. My iPhone was blocked, letters were not answered, and gifts for the children were not acknowledged. I have now decided against sending anything and given up trying to make contact, hurtful though it is.

I feel no loyalty has been shown from my son and an honest talk would be good. I realize my views/expectations are vastly different from theirs and feel religion has brainwashed them, keeping them in a tight seclusion.

Presenting myself at their door, and perhaps having it closed, is the only option, but I don’t really want to go there.

~ Deirdre

Deirdre, often with alcoholism, it is a case of a weak person looking to be strong. The same can be true with people who turn to religion.

Your son traded one thing for another. In both things, he is the top dog, regardless of whether he was or was not providing for his family. In this changing world, a man, on his own, often cannot easily provide for a family. But if he defines himself as provider, his identity is under attack.

You lost your son to alcohol before you lost him to religion.

He wants to appear to be the all-powerful man, though he is not. He tried alcohol first. Now he is using a spiritual belief that tells him, “You are the man.” He wants to believe this, though he was often dependent on his mother for the basic needs in life.

Whether he is drinking or not, he hasn’t solved anything. He is a man, head of his family, relying on his book, like the 5-year-old screaming, “I can do it myself. I can do it myself.”

Even if we discount his religion, most alcoholics remain alcoholics all their lives, in the sense that their basic personality remains the same. Often an alcoholic who is no longer drinking is still, mentally, a drunk.

When people use drugs or alcohol or something else to drive them, their interior world requires them to pick a scapegoat for what is wrong with their life. You are your son’s scapegoat. That allows him to think as he thinks without changing.

You want him to give you an easy answer to the question “What’s wrong?” but you are unlikely to get it.

It is probably not safe—emotionally or physically—for you to present yourself at his door. You don’t have a legal right to interfere with your adult son, his adult wife, or their 21-year-old. And you don’t have a right to bypass the parents to get to the other children. You are powerless.

You have no idea what he’s been telling the children. You could be the boogeyman. Often when we give and give to someone, they resent it instead of being thankful. They feel demeaned and angry, even when their problems are of their own making.

It is depressing to lose your child and grandchildren, but you must move forward. You can’t replace your child, but you must let this go. You must decide what to do with your life instead of playing grandma to those children.

Perhaps you may keep an idea in the back of your mind, that one day a 20-something will knock on your door and say, “Hi. I am…”

But now you have no realistic hope you will ever see them again. It’s like grieving over a death, and some of the material on grief may help you.

When you give birth, you don’t own the children, just as you are not owned by anyone. Others are allowed to choose wrong, just as we are allowed to choose right. For you to have free will, others must have free will too, even when it is not to our wishes, desires or happiness. It has to be this way. It simply has to be this way.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Column for the week of December 2, 2019

Email Wayne & Tamara: [email protected]

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