How to Find Grace in the Depths of Estrangement

Secrets –

People who haven’t seen me in years ask how my sons are.

Most parents can answer the question freely, but I want to hide. Should I politely say, “Fine,” fake a smile, and leave it at that?

This approach comes with the risk that they discover my deceit when they continue with, “So, what are they doing?”

Since I haven’t seen them in years, how do I reply? If I confess to not seeing them in thirteen years, I prepare for looks of pity. Or judgment.

I imagine they think, “There must be more to the story. I wonder what she did wrong.”

Most often, I try to recover the loose ball by asking them about their lives and hope my fumble wasn’t too obvious.

Other “social” exchanges, like Facebook, lure me into the past, into what seems like my other life. I read the words my son posted on a mutual friend’s page. I hear the sporadic squeaks in his adolescent voice. I smell the after-shave he wore as a high school senior. Staring at his name suspends me. In my mind, I see this name I gave him displayed on his birth certificate alongside the precious prints of his newborn feet.

Thirteen years have passed without seeing my sons.

Misplaced –

If someone had asked me what I wanted most in the world when I was a young mother, I would’ve said, “To be the perfect mom.”

I held visions cinched with Hallmark movie scenes, where forgiveness and long-term commitment wins out over personal mistakes and differing perspectives.

Instead, my divorce resulted in one of the biggest losses imaginable: the estrangement of my two sons. I felt alone, like a pierced balloon, aimless and losing air.

For years, I’ve battled internally. I tried to be a perfect mom, although I was not. But who is? I made mistakes. But who doesn’t? I wish I could have heard their perspectives, their reasons for rejection—and tell them I am sorry for the pain I inflicted, for entering into upheaved energies of the divorce, for making choices that caused their anxious nights and disrupted days—and their decisions for distance.

My desire to re-unite with them is deeper than the hollows of my hurt. I want to dive into this deep despair with them, wrestle through our torrents together, and surface to light and calm. Even if we reach land with a limp, we would be walking together.

I remain so full of love for them that it could sink me. Like a heavy anchor tied to my heart, my love lowers me into the depths of darkness. I hold my breath and hope for the miracle of them pulling me to safety.

Memory Keeping –

Sometimes when I see headlights stretching toward me at night, I recall my relief when finally seeing our family Suburban’s headlights reaching through the darkness, safely returning my teen-aged sons home.

Memories bounce up and down, much like the games of pickup basketball my sons played in the driveway. Six bantering teenage voices intersperse with the bounce, bounce, bounce, swish of the ball. The front door slams and lively voices rebound in the kitchen. The cookie jar top clinks after my sons grab as many cookies as they can, like palming a basketball. The boys tell me how delicious they are through mouthfuls of warm tollhouse cookies and traces of chocolate at the corners of their lips. As quickly as they tracked into the house, they’re outside again with my sons’ affections trailing behind them, “Bye, Mom! Love you!”

The last time I saw my sons, they didn’t say, “Bye Mom! Love you!” We were in a courtroom at the divorce hearing. They sat behind their father dressed in suitcoats, ties and dress shoes. I sat beside my lawyer, desperate to hear them say they loved me – or at least acknowledge me. I felt filleted like the pickerel we used to catch on our fishing trips.

Changing Perspectives –

It took me ten years to realize I cannot get to safety without first plunging into the strength of God, and holding onto His truths. When I read my Bible, I am reminded to come up for air—and breathe. I learn about forgiving the mistakes and inadequacies of myself and of those who hurt me. I inhale the goodness of God’s grace, and second chances.

The broken stories in us don’t go away; they can’t be undone. I learn to accept a life different from what I expected.

I savor gratitude for knowing my sons, and raising them to ages eighteen and nineteen. I squeeze every sweet drop out of my memories of our time together. While I miss them, I have learned to appreciate what is going right in my life, and not squander the many blessings in front of me.

I yearn for them to lead happy, productive lives. I pray they each accept God on their journeys, and find grace—for themselves and others.

After all these years, I still want to believe they love and long for me, just as much as I do them.

I dream of someday feeling their big hugs and hearing their sturdy man voices.

In the meantime, I hold onto God’s grace and praise Him for His many blessings. I pray for the possibility of earthy second chances.

If someone would now ask me what I wanted most in my life, I would say, “To know my sons… and go from there.”

 

Photo Credit: Ondrej Supitar via Unsplash

19 Comments

  • Dena Wade
    2 years ago

    Oh, Sharon, I know how much pain writing this story must have dredged up, but how much release you must have experienced getting it on paper and out into the open. You did a great job with sharing your pain and your longing and what you have learned through it without sharing details that might malign others, That is the way I want to share my experiences when I write. The thought also came to me as I read that you have the privilege (if one can call it that) to share in the disappointment and longing that our heavenly Father experiences when so many of His children turn their backs on Him, which, as you indicated, helps you to draw into a deeper relationship with Him. I pray that you will also be able to share in the joy someday that He experiences when one of His children comes back to Him as He runs to them with open arms!

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      2 years ago

      Dena, I, too, have considered what our Father must feel like when we turn away from Him, and how joyful He is when we run toward Him. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Hugs.

  • Barbara
    2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing. I’m sure this will help others on this same journey. Although it won’t change the circumstances right now, sharing helps us heal and move forth with our life though the memories never leave. Praying you find grace through it all.

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      2 years ago

      Barbara, So true. And I pray others will find healing as they work through their own individual circumstances.

  • Lynne
    2 years ago

    What a beautiful testament to the pain each of us estranged parents lives with; testament as well to the grace you’ve received through your faith. Blessings to you!

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      2 years ago

      Lynne, I appreciate your kind words, and sorry for the pain you carry. Peace to you!

  • Donna Procino
    2 years ago

    Sharon first of all your such a good writer you could be published. I had a little bit of what your experiencing. My son ignored me, told my sister things like he couldn’t stand me. I would still see him because he lives with my sister. We argued a few times. One day he just started treating me better. There’s no comparison to what your going through all these years. I hope my testimony gives you hope. Out of the blue my son started talking to me and treating like his mom again. God moves in wonderful ways. God Bless you.

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      2 years ago

      Donna, Thank you for sharing. Yes, God does move in wonderful ways!

  • Andy
    2 years ago

    You demonstrate your strength by having the courage to be vulnerable with such a difficult subject.

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      2 years ago

      Andy, In reading your comment, I am reminded of Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I’ll try to paraphrase one of her quotes: In the vulnerability, we experience connection.
      I believe we find strength in our connections with others, as we show up being who we are.
      Thank you for showing up for me.:)

  • Karen
    2 years ago

    oh Sharon–this is beautifully written and I think of you often and the heartache you must endure. It is simply a case of pure and simple parental alienation–and someone should be extremely ashamed of himself but I am guessing is not. I do know some of how you’re feeling as I raised children who were not my own who did the same as yours when we divorced, the pain was unbearable at times, I will say after many years they matured and came around. I pray the same will happen in your case someday. No one is perfect as you said but I knew you enough to know you were a wonderful Mom to those boys. I love your outlook on life and how you have gone on and count the blessings you now have–I will continue to send prayers that they will figure things out on their own.

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      2 years ago

      Karen, Thank you. I wasn’t sure if this piece would ever see the light of day. Over the years, I have encountered many others going through similar situations. I wanted people to know despite the outcome, there is a bounty of other blessings that can’t be squandered – and always hope.

  • Kim Wood
    2 years ago

    Sharon, I’m so sorry. My heart hurts for you. Please know that I will be praying for restoration!

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      2 years ago

      Thanks, Kim. I am blessed to have such wonderful people, such as you, in my life.

  • Kathy
    2 years ago

    What a well-written testimony on such a difficult personal subject. My heart goes out to you even as I know you have gained much strength during this journey with God by your side. May peace be yours.

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      2 years ago

      Phil 4:13 has been one of my favorite verses: I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. It was the verse I quoted when I gave testimony at my baptism, and continues to provide strength and perspective today.

  • 2 years ago

    Sharon – oh my. Thank you for sharing this piece of you. Your story.

    Blessings.

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      2 years ago

      You’re welcome, Darlene. So happy to have “met” you through the workshop. Peace to you.

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