It’s my birthday today. 47. Birthdays are always the hardest day of the year to be disowned. It’s the day I am most likely to have a pity party. It also used to be the day I would most likely Google my father’s name to see how he was.
Why celebrate a birthday when my father did not celebrate me as his daughter? That’s the pity part. And then there is just the clear marking of time. Yet another year of hoping and waiting and nothing. Another year he did not respond. With his passing, I don’t have to hope any more.
But then there is my brother and sister too. As serendipity would have it, I won’t be home in New Jersey for my birthday. I will be away for work in Florida, just a few minutes from my brother’s home. So I emailed him, suggesting we meet. I called to be sure my email didn’t get lost. He never responds. I sort of understand– he just can’t go there. That’s the thing with a father who disowns a child. The ripples of damage go on forever.
After 20 years, why do I even bother? Why do I reach out to these people who at worst hate me or at best just can’t cope with the trauma that is our family? Is hate really so much easier than love? And therein lies my answer. Yes, I still love them. Even though what they have done–are still doing–is cruel and wrong.
It would be easier I think to cut them out of my heart. That would be my Dad’s coping technique. There’s so much love and beauty in my present family. Yesterday, my daughter and I went on a Bridges run with our church. It’s a service to bring food, and tooth brushes, and sweaters to homeless or almost-homeless people in New Jersey. We had been baking homemade chocolate chip cookies for Bridges for a couple years now, but we never had a chance to go on a run to deliver them ourselves. Our hope was that the cookies, soft and gooey the way we make them, would bring just a little bit of TLC to people down on their luck. A smile perhaps. I had heard they do, but never saw for myself. I am so proud of my children. They each bake two batches, 100 cookies eac. Even my son, who was 11 when we started, will bake on his own if I am away for work. I don’t need to remind him. He knows it matters. So my daughter and I brought the cookies yesterday morning. It was ten degrees out. We gave the children in the line some extras, wishing that they didn’t need to be there at all. It was heartbreaking when we ran out of gloves.
My daughter saw a woman pushing her cart and her bag down the street. She didn’t come over to the Bridges truck. Maybe not knowing what it was, Maybe not wanting the hand out. I don’t know. My daughter grabbed two bags of sandwiches (the cookies were long gone) and caught up to her. These are the grandchildren my father never met. He never responded to their birth announcements. So I think about the type of people my children are. I watched my daughter reach out to a stranger in need. These are the gestures that remind me: no matter how worthless my father’s disowning me makes me feel, I am not worthless. None of us are.
22 thoughts on “Birthdays. A Hard Day to be Disowned”
Hello. I want to thank you for sharing your experience. My father is also somewhat “rich and famous”.
I adapted this from what you wrote: Someone who has been estranged, disowned and/or disinherited by his or her father must have done something horrible to deserve such punishment. I do not picture a successful doctor with MS and MD degrees, who is happily married, to be such a person. Yet behind the smile of my present life, it appears that I have lost my father, and possibly soon my sister and my nephew.
We would have a lot to talk about. We have a small publishing company. Please let me know if you have interest in collaborating on a book together, with the content you have already posted as the ‘springboard’ for that project.
Thank you for the reply and sharing your story. So terrible. If only we can understand why a parent thinks the only option is disowning … if only the adult behaved like an adult. I hope you do not let your father rob you of the successful life you have built for yourself. And I wouldn’t give up hope on your sister and nephew. Sounds silly for me to say that, when my ending was so very hopeless. But indeed, I’m still hopeful my own siblings and I will heal in this lifetime, and I do believe my father just ran out of time. I would be interested in your book, but not right at the moment – I’m done a 1st draft of a full memoir (in addition to day job that involves finishing a business book). But please do stay in touch. I’d like to hear more.
Thank you so much for sharing your heart. We fathers often do not understand the depth of pain that we cause our children even though we may think (without ‘really’ thinking) that we have good cause to do so. You have helped me to see that.
I am so glad to see that you have your own family with whom you share your love and have obviously taught them well to share their own.
It reminds me that despite our own failings and the failings of all of us we yet have a loving heavenly Father who promises us that “All who come to Him will never be cast out” John 6:37. My love will fail, my own father’s surely did; but God’s never does.
Thank you again for opening your heart.
Thank you for your encouraging comments. A child needs a father and trusts him completely, even more so when that father is the only parent present. I rememember a friend saying once, “if a father tells a child the sky is green, she will believe her father.” So indeed, the power and responsibility a father has is enormous. I understand it’s not an easy role. I understand that fathers make mistakes, but I think as parents, we have a responsbility to try to understand and address our own failings. This is what my father was unwilling to do. Frankly, I think it was too painful for him.
I also think it’s interesting that you quote from the Bible. Indeed, when biological parents forsake a child, at least God will not. My faith is a large reason why I have survived. But it sometimes feels like a small consolation. And certainly not one that works for a child who must deal in the here and now. A physical father gives immediate approval, guidance, love, and hugs (in theory anyway). With God, I can only guess when I am doing what he truly wants me to do.
My entire family and friends abandoned me with the exception of my father, who I am still on speaking terms with (I actually talk more wityh my father now than I ever did when I was at home.) The reason being that I wanted to work together with my fiancee as a career, but my mom said I should be more independent. I had already angered my family enough when I chose to forsake my full paid university scholarship because my mom was forcing me to take on 16 hour classes in university plus a part time job, and it was too much for me. I had wanted to come to Venezuela to live with the man of my life for nearly 5 years, so I left home in the States and came to Caracas. I am happy here, and my mom was talking with me until I told her I wanted to work together with him, because she thought I was just out of my mind at the time, would see that she was right as always and return to the States. The rest of my family don´t talk to me probably only because my mom doesnt talk to me, and my mom is even trying to limit my dad on talking to me by telling him that certain days he cannot get online for us to talk (he actually told me this) My friends don´t talk to me anymore for no real reason, so now all I have is my fiancee and his family.
“These are the gestures that remind me: no matter how worthless my father’s disowning me makes me feel, I am not worthless. None of us are.” – definitely, no matter what happened in the past, you can always do something to move up towards the future.
Your story is heartwrenching, yet compelling! I would like to say, “Hang in there!” After nearly 20 years, I reached out to my brother who was disowned by my parents. I was 16 years old and my sister was 10 when my parents threw my older brother out of the house. I had reached out to him from time to time over the years, but the reconciliation never seemed to work out. For many years, I was feeling the void in my life. Coincidentally, my son shares the same birthday as my brother. Last June, on my brother’s 40th, I contacted him through Facebook in hopes of building a new relationship. We never imagined how quickly things would progress, but it almost seems as if we began where we left off almost 20 years ago!
Unfortunately, my sister and parents are now angry at me for reconciling with my brother. I cannot understand their actions, as I have room in my heart for EVERYONE! I just hope some day your siblings realize the importance of family and extend the olive branch to you. I wish you all the best!
Its one of the hardest stories to tell, because its complicated. It is one of the hardest stories to tell because I do not chose to blame nor do I chose victim. Its hard to tell because it still hurts.
I was born gifted, and very very talented. And, my grandmother saw my gifts, and my grandmother loved my soul. My grandmother loved my heart, and I bonded with her’s. We saw each other on the weekends, and our time together was precious. Memories that will last forever.
Grandma and Grandpa were rich, but I did not know, nor did I care. Love was the most important asset in my life, and I got lots, tons, and in abundance. Grandma Marcia gave and gave, and I gave and gave, and we shared.
Mom and Dad were not bad people, most alcoholics are not. Mom and Dad were alcoholics, and they could not love themselves, so how could they love me? That did not matter, though, because Grandma Marcia loved, and all it takes is one. One soul to hold the light with another.
When I was 16 the phone rang in the middle of the night, it was new years eve. Then, an hour later, there was a knock on my door, it was grandpa. “Kenny, your grandma died last night”
Life has never been the same since.
Mom and Dad did not talk about the death. I was not supposed to feel grief. I did not know how to feel grief. Grief would upset mom and dad, and I showed no tears. Instead, I turned to drugs and alcohol. Anything to not feel.
Fast forward 3 years and Grandpa dies, and then we discover a $5,000,000 estate, and this is the beginning of the end.
Dad takes control of the money, and his personality changes. Greed consumes his heart, and mom escapes inside a bottle. My brother follows his father, and the two of them are enthrawled with money. It becomes their new god.
I cannot reconcile my own heart, my own grief, and I fall deeper inside of my own addiction until I reach bottom – I was 20 years old when I sought help.
My journey started with 12 step programs and then therapy, and, finally, the road lead to an attorney, which was the most painful.
I told my story over and over at 12 step meetings. I was only 20 years old, and newly sober, and few could comprehend the enormity of the legacy.
My psychiatrist listened and listened. And, my father sent him a very stern letter. “you get Kenny into shape!”
I did not know who to believe, I was only 20. Do I believe my own father, or a trusted psychiatrist? I chose the latter of the two, and this was the beginning of the end.
My psychiatrist suggested I seek my own attorney, and when I did, my father went ballistic. According to my attorney, the $5,000,000 estate was not an inheritance, but it was in a trust, and I was entitled to 1/3.
My father lied had lied to me.
And, when I asked for my share, he threatened to disown me forever, and that was 25 years ago.
After settling in court, I received my money, and he never spoke to me again. My brother never spoke to me again. And, soon after, my mother also disowned me.
I tried for 15 years to reconcile. They told their friends I sued for my inheritance, and this rumor spread, and I was shunned. This was a lie.
When my father died I was kept at bay and I was not in the obituary
When my mother died I was kept at bay and I was not in the obituary
I was not invited to their funeral.
My brother wrote me a letter last year that contained hate and blame.
I chose to live my life as my grandmother would have wanted. I went to college and invested the money. I followed my heart.
I spent many years trying to forgive, and I have learned. I have learned that forgiveness takes time. I have learned that forgiveness is a life long process, and I have also learned that forgiveness is a choice. I have learned how to love because I have chosen (decided) to forgive.
I have learned that there are no “bad” people. I have learned about fear and greed first hand.
My father was not a bad person
My mother was not a bad person
My brother is not a bad person
They were afraid, and so was I.
Today I am not afraid. I am 45 years old, and I am free from fear.
Today my heart is open once more, and it is free to feel love
Today I forgive, and, I am greatful.
I am greatful for this story, because it has not become my gift.
Today I get to help others.
Today I pray for my brother, and I want him to experience this same joy that I know today
I love my parents, and this is my story
What a sad, difficult story. I am sorry you have experienced such loss and confusion. It is unfortunate that money is often at the crux of family rifts. For my family, it was more about ego and a limited amount of love that we had to fight for. I think money got added in the mix later on.
I hope that time and therapy have helped you heal. I don’t know about alcoholism, but I have found the book “The Narcissist Family” helpful to understand why parents don’t always do what’s right or what’s was in your best interest.
thank you so much for your encouraging words and sharing a positive story. It was brave of you to reach out to your brother and I am sure you both have felt that voide for years.
But as you shared, there is the flip side – that your sister and parents wanted to preserve the pattern of disowning. I have reached out to my brother and sister for years, and sometimes I am strong enough to do so. But with each rejection, with each unanswered card, unrecognized gift, it brings me very quickly to a dark place. I have been told by someone that it would be near impossible for them to get over the shame of their actions. While I can forgive them, they may not be able to forgive themselves, so it’s easier for them to just stay in the same pattern and story of hatred.
Anyway, I wish you luck in continuing to recover the lost time with your brother, and I sincerely hope that the rest of your family will also one day do the same.
Your story sounds so similar to mine. And yes birthdays and Christmas are especially hard. It’s amazing that at 41 the rejection of your parent still makes you feel like that little kid you once were – and even though times passes the hurt is still very raw. It’s just such a waste. As with you, I will never repeat this gut wrenchingly hurtful behaviour and will love and cherish my own children until the end of time.
Good luck and bless you.
I definatley relate to the rip tide i am currently in low tide right now…some days are tough.my parents are getting a divorce.they have. Been married 30 years.my father disowned me because i wont take his side.i am not on any side and i love them both..counseling is definitely a key to recovery. Also this page is useful to know im not alone.
My brothers have not spoken to me for years. While I can guess why they hold grudges, I only guess. One brother told me he was not going to talk to me, and not tell me why. I can only suspect it is about my attempts to be treated equally by my parents, especially my mother. They are old school and intend to leave everything to one brother. Primogeniture in this day and age. I became more open and direct than anyone else in the family, but they, waspy non expressives, prefer silent grudges. I also became Catholic, a sore point in my Methodist family. It is sad because I have happy memories of both brothers. I believe that, because I was the one who travelled, changed, moved, etc. that my family created stories myths,etc that made me the Other, that made me the blamed. If you blame the direct, but far away family member, then the family system remains intact and doesn’t have to change, grow, accept other possible interpretations of their truth. What bothers me is that I only vaguely understood I was shut out which is very gas lighting and makes me paranoid. Both brothers give me one word answers. One asks how I am in front of family but otherwise snubs me. The other almost leered in that he was never going to tell me my sins. I have guesses but otherwise no clue which lapse in my character, other than a direct, tart tongue, did the job. I think it is, as I said, I am an outsider and they created a reality scapegoating me and blaming me so that no one has to deal with communication and working on love and understanding.
I fully expect to receive no inheritance and no further communication once my mom passes. Family is important, but if it is too cruel and painful, it is better to create your own family and friends.
I feel so glad to have seen your blog and these comments.
Not many people know what it is like to be disowned or to be in a family with this sad epidemic. I am so sorry to hear about your family situation. I am hoping you might possibly be able to help me with my dilema. I have an extreme fear of being disowned. My father has already disowned his three sons, I am the only child that is left. I am much younger than my brothers so the reasons why he disowned them is not quite clear to me and I can’t ask him why he did it because I am too scared. I am now 30 and I want to try and start a relationship with my brothers, or at least let them know that I exist and they are always on my mind. I know my father will be furious if I don’t talk to him about it first. Even after talking to him about it I am almost certian that he will become extremely upset with me and demand I not contact them. He has come close to disowning me in the past and I felt like I was going to die. I also don’t know if I were to contact any of them how they might react. Maybe they want nothing to do with me? But I feel there is a hole in my heart that is reserved for the only three brothers I will ever have. Any advice is appreciated…
Dear MMay, Gosh, I know what you mean by a hole in your heart. I have several but my sister and father have left the biggest holes. There is no easy answer to your dilemma, sadly. If your father is the type of person who forces you to choose, then it is your decision to face those consequences. I suspect that what your father is doing to you is what my father did to my sister. She lived in fear of being disowned, and then that can hurt so much that it became easier for her to hate me, which at least it sounds you don’t have that added confusion. So what your father is doing is wrong and unfair to both you and your sisters. Here, I can only tell you that you have to fall back on your values in life, what is your view of what is right and wrong, and whom you want to be judged by. Without a strong faith, I think it will be very hard to disagree with your father, even though you are an adult. Would your father ever agree to family counseling? Mine wouldn’t, but I do believe that if you can have an honest conversation and get him to realize that your desire to have a relationship with your brothers does not mean you can’t also have a close relationship with him. While my story did not allow for this dynamic, I do want to offer you some hope. I am the second generation to be disowned. My aunt always maintained a relationship with her disowned older sister. It took decades, but my grandfather eventually reconciled with the daughter he disowned, largely because of my aunt’s resolve.
My father disowned me at 13 and sent me to reform school. I am now 60. My wife says I must meet him to forgive him to lose my anger. How do I forgive a man who till this day still thinks he is right and does not want to talk to me anyway. I can not forgive someone who will still not face any wrong doing. I can only forgive the past.
I don’t know that it’s necessarily forgiveness that is required to lose anger, but I do think losing anger is important to ultimately be happy in life. You had a right to be angry about what happened and to grieve what was lost. You and I had every reason to expect our father’s to care for us. That’s what a child needs and deserves. That didn’t happen. I’m not sure how I forgave my father. Probably just that I understood more how he became that way and how he was ruled by pain from his own past. My love was always stronger than his hatred, I guess. I once asked a priest how you forgive someone who is not sorry, and he said you don’t. You just choose to set the wrong-doing aside then. I have heard other say that forgiveness requires two parties – one to reconcile, the other to forgive. But letting go of anger and resolving the pain is something only you can do.
Best of wishes,
UGH!!!… I am 36 and a nurse, i have two beautiful daughters that i love with all my heart and soul, i think due to growing up with a brother three years older and a twin brother i never could b good enough for my parents, my mom would always tell me how she never wanted a daughter the only reason they kept me was the fact i was a twin to a brother, i was always talked down to by my family… Finally at age 18 i left the city they live in moved 500 miles away starte my own life without any of them. In 2010 my grandmother passed away unexpectedly, which brought a wall of guilt over me cause my daughters didnt have a relationship with my family, so tryin to be the bigger person i packed up and moved back home, only to live there for seven months to hav my mother and my twin brother beat me in front of my youngest daughter, the whole time i lived there thry treated my youngest daughter like dirt calling her “a lying whore” my daugher was 7 at the time…. Needless to say i pressed charges on all of them. They have totally disowned me my whole family has, i have moved back to where i was living. I havent heard anything from them. My dad and my mom both were in bad health, neither one of my brothers would do anything to help them so i dont know what will become of them. Really i feel they never have accepted me my whole life but we talked on occasions through the years until that day they totally disowned me. I hurt but try not to think about it, just sometimes layin in bed at nite and my brain gets to goin and i breakdown and feel so unwanted how can anyone dothis to their own child, as a mother it breaks my heart to know there are people out there that are so cold hearted to do this to a child nevermind their own. Theres NOTHING in this world that either one of my daughters could do for me to do somethings so cruel and hurtful to them to cause a lifetime of hurt and pain… I completely understand ur pain and wish no one had to feel this kind of pain!
What a sad story and I am sorry for your heart ache and despair. People have sometimes said to me, “you are better off without them.” I always hated that remark, because I never thought I was better off. How can any child be better off without their mother, father, siblings. But I do think that in your case. No parent has a right to be that cruel. You are also now a mother and we have a duty to protect our children from whatever abuse we suffered. To call a 7-year old a whore is unbelievably abusive. So saying your family is wrong is easy. Saying you are better off without them is easy for me to say. But I know too that it is hard to let go, hard to heal, and hard because we should be able to trust our parents. They should be kind and loving, period. I can only wish you peace and good luck in that process.
Thanks for sharing so openly! Any advice how to help a ten and six yr old deal with recently being disowned by their great grandmother? I am the one who has actually been disowned but as their mom, we come as a package.
I am sorry you too are going through the heart ache of being disowned. Yes, each generation is a package. But I would be careful to assume the conflicts need to be passed on to each generation. So much depends on what the source of the conflict is. If you want your children to have a relationship with their grandparents, and they want the same, I believe that is possible. But often, an estrangement is complete – that was the case with my father. So for me, I spent a life time telling my children about their grandfather, through my eyes, with whatever stories and memories were age appropriate. As they got older, his denial of us was harder to explain and harder to ensure that they understood he was not mad at them, but only mad at me. I would try to focus on what they would need to know to keep their hearts open and to be able to forgive if your mother (or grand mother) ever re-entered your life. I also would read some of the books I listed – I am liking the book “I Thought We’d Never Speak Again.”
I just wanted to say thank you very much for sharing your story… I’m yet to read everything, but I’m very grateful for what you’ve given to the world in helping others like yourself, so we don’t feel so alone. I was thirteen years old when my father disowned me. He left my Mum and I when I was two and a half and re-married about the time I was seven. In 2001 and 2003, they had two sons, then in 2006, about 15 months after I’d been disowned, they had a daughter. (who I still haven’t met) My father’s second marriage, which he’s still in, was fraught with turmoil, stress and very high anxiety. His wife was very passive aggressive, to the point where it was overwhelming. You could always tell she was angry and I felt at any moment she could snap, but she never did, which gave the house a very tense, almost suffocating atmosphere. It was the kind of place where after I’d get to my bedroom for the night, I’d close the door and sigh a breath of relief. My stepmother had and has a lot of problems… and would use me as a scapegoat for a lot of them. She always made me feel inferior and stupid, like every movement and word of mine was scrutinized and judged. I was always in fear of the next cynical and sarcastic stab she would give me. She wouldn’t talk to my Dad for days after I’d left the house. (I was only at their house for one weekend every two weeks) From the time I was eleven, my Dad talked to me in great detail about how bad things were and how unhappy he was. I felt I should have been able to help him or “save” him if only I found the right advice for him. Of course, all I could do was sit back and watch. I ended up with so much anger that I felt too scared to direct at my stepmother as she was so intimidating, so I ended up turning it in on myself, which started off with self injury. When my dad found out about this, that was when he disowned me. He said I was too sick to be around his children or his house, conveniently forgetting in the mix that I happened to be his child too… In retrospect, I see he kicked me while I was down, so to speak.
Him cutting me off and not allowing me to see my brothers sent me into an unbelievable tailspin. I ended up developing generalized anxiety disorder, major depression and very severe anorexia nervosa. I tried to take my life four times between the ages of 14 and 16, one of which would have been successful if my mum hadn’t woken up when I collapsed in the middle of the night. Between 2007 and 2008 alone, I was hospitalized seventeen times across four different hospitals. Trying to bring myself up again, nurture myself and try living has been quite the process and has happened very slowly….but surely… 🙂 I’ve been recovered from anorexia for four years now. It still isn’t easy… My Dad and I are okay, there’s no hatred there or ill feeling anymore, just a lot of disappointment in many ways for me whenever I let myself think about it. He lives very close by. I’m amazed I haven’t bumped into them out and about. It’s my second brother’s birthday next week. I find the week leading to their birthdays to be very hard, then I come around again. But the pain always jabs at me at this time. It makes me painfully, painfully aware that another milestone has gone by that my father and stepmother haven’t let me be there for, another twelve months of memories my brothers and sister will look back on as adults and find I’m not there in any of them. I think of all the concerts, sports games and little moments I won’t have shared in…. I’m being robbed of sharing in their precious childhood years and I find that very hard to forgive.
As it so happens, my partner of six years no longer speaks to his mother after she left the family three years ago. And now I feel ill at the thought of what my partner and I will do if we decide to get married or have children. I don’t want to keep her away from our wedding and I definitely want her to know her grandchildren, but my partner is very adamant about how he feels. The last thing I want to do is take part in doing to another person what my father did to me….and nearly destroyed me with. Thanks for letting me ramble on here. Thank you so much. If you have any advice as to what I can do about my partner and the situation with his mum, that’d be great. Cheers.