Ask Amy: Mother ponders family’s entrenched estrangement

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.

Estrangements 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), then you should consider making your own bid — using neutral language and a posture of reconciliation.

Dear Amy: I am a retired woman in my late 60s who is an avid reader.

For some reason I created a rule that reading during the day is acceptable, whereas watching even a very good show or series on a streaming service is somehow the behavior of someone who has “given up” and is wasting time during the day.

I think this is because my elderly aunt would sit in her Barcalounger and watch soap operas during the day. I don’t want to turn into someone like that.

There are so many great shows now, however, and only so many hours in the evening.

I’d appreciate your thoughts.

— Betwixt

Dear Betwixt: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to dredge up my own childhood memory. When I arrived home on the school bus, my mother would set up the ironing board (she was a homemaker at the time), and she would iron while we watched “The Edge of Night” together.

This is a practice I’ve continued. And while I do NOT iron the bedsheets (as my mother used to) I turn on streaming services while I’m doing chores.

In fact, knowing that I’m going to dive into a juicy documentary or favorite sitcom can make me actually look forward to doing the chores I used to dread.

Dear Amy: You gave perfect advice to “Wanting Some Friends,” the lonely country mom who was looking for other stay-at-home friends.

When I stayed home, the library’s “story time” was the perfect spot to be with other adults with children.

In a moment of need (with knees knocking), I announced to the group that the following week we should all meet afterward for lunch in the park.

Twenty-six years later, any one of the moms from that group would give a kidney to me if needed — that’s how deep and long our friendship is!


Dear DJB: Story time is a treasure, which promotes both literacy and friendship.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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