Psych Central

So Many Losses

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: 5 years ago, my Mother had a stroke paralyzing her left side, and passed away 5 months later. The day after her stroke my daughter began her Invitro procedures and became pregnant shortly afterward. A month after my Mother died, my daughter developed Preclampsia, was rushed to the hospital, and a few days later, my granddaughter was born 3-1/2 mos premature by caserian. Thank God, they were both ok and my granddaughter, after a few close calls, was released to go home 2 months later.

She had to be watched carefully by several different specialists for a year. My daughter was sick alot recovering from this…so I stayed with them alot to take care of her and my granddaughter off and on during that first year. After a year, my daughter had lost lots of weight and became quite thin after being quite overweight. She felt she had no life, was unhappy with her husband, and started staying away from home, leaving me with the baby, and met another man, not a nice one. I think he was a stalker and he saw her vulnerability and I shudder to think what he might’ve done to them. He was very wealthy and influenced her with his money. I think he had her drugged and for sure brain-washed. He still tries to tempt her with emails, even though he knew she’s back with her husband.

My daughter became increasingly verbally abusive to her husband and myself…I think she was on drugs of some kind. She was not focused and only thought of herself and what she felt was missing in her life. So my granddaughter and I had really bonded after all this time. I was afraid for my daughter, but, she wouldn’t talk to me….just stayed out and gone.

After awhile my daughter felt she couldn’t make it on her own as she was accustomed to a high end lifestyle, so she went back to her husband. She was still very abusive. She would make degrading remarks to me about my hair, my lipstick, my glasses, rarely a kind word nor appreciation or love. She treated her husband like he was dirt…telling him he was fat, etc. This has gone on now for about 3-1/2 years. She is better, but, now omits me from all the regular activities I used to share with she and my granddaughter, sometimes, telling my granddaughter I have other plans…which was not true.

Whenever I try to get her to talk to me about all of this, she screams and yells over my talking so she can’t hear me. I tell her I love her, I want a good relationship with her..I miss her.send her notes that I love her, I hug her anyway. She never responds..saying she doesn’t like hugs or affection and hates sex. She’s very cold, distant, artificially sweet at times. The only conversations we have are about my gdaughter or she talks about herself and how many guys try to pick her up, etc. If I try to have a conversation about something I’ve done or what I have to say, she cuts me off, yawns and has to go, and rarely asks me any questions about my life. Rarely compliments or has much good to say about me or what I do. Very critical of me and what I say and how I say it. If I say it’s black, she’ll say it’s white and act like she’s an expert on every subject. She’s just not interested in me as a person.

She is a good mother and has now been overcompensating, I believe, with her daughter as she feels guilty for ignoring her for about a year in there. She told me I was trying to get my granddaughter to want just me..and acts jealous many times that my gdaughter doesn’t want to leave me when we have to say goodbye. She will let me watch my granddaughter..I go and get her and take her home with me to spend the night or two. I take her to church if she’s here on Sundays..we have a great relationship. Her Mother knows we are very close. I feel left out of her life and she doesn’t want me in it except for her convenience. I never get invited to go places with them anymore…only to babysit.

So, it’s been bothering me for so long and I don’t know what to do. I feel so stressed over it and long for a family unit. It’s been so difficult since my Mother died…I was her caregiver also since my Dad had died 3 years prior to my Mother, and then all the problems with my daughter’s pregnancy and birth. I feel I’ve lost my Mother, Father and daughter. I have only my granddaughter. I couldn’t bare it if she weren’t in my life. She is 4-1/2 years old now. My daughter is 39.

A: What a difficult, difficult time you’ve had. This is a very complicated situation and won’t be solved by a few comments from me or in a short time. Maybe, though, I can give you some direction. It sounds to me like your daughter was traumatized by her birth experience. Terrified that her daughter might die, she distanced herself emotionally from her. To distract herself, she let herself get caught up in a self-destructive affair. At some point, something clicked back into place so that she wants to reclaim her daughter. But she also feels guilty for not being there for the first couple of years. She loves you for taking care of her child and feels terrible that you, not she, was mothering her. Sometimes the grateful part wins and you get to spend time with your granddaughter. Other times, the guilty part wins and she tries to distance you. She projects all her bad feelings about herself onto her husband and you. Unable to love herself, she won’t let you love her either.

You’ve done a wonderful job. You’ve tried to love your daughter through this instead of distancing from her. Your granddaughter has come through a hard beginning as an emotionally healthy little girl because you gave her the love and care a baby needs during the formative years. Now you all need help putting your family back together.

I strongly urge you to find a family therapist to help you. If your daughter won’t go at first, start with yourself. I hope your son-in-law will join you. Your therapist will help you find a way to invite your daughter into sessions. So much has happened that healing will take time. Please be patient. Enjoy your relationship with your grandchild and feel good about the stability you’ve managed to give her.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Nov 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). So Many Losses. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/11/13/issues-with-daughter/

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