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When a grown daughter is mean to her mother

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Q. I have post-traumatic stress disorder because I was physically and emotionally battered by my father, an alcoholic, and my mother, a drug addict. But the abuse I get now is much worse.

My beautiful, sweet little girl once loved me, but she’s 33 now and has hurt me more than anyone ever has. This saddens me beyond words and makes me wake up in a panic.

I got pregnant in college, and though her father married someone else, we had a series of affairs whenever they separated. These repeated appearances and disappearances were hard on my daughter, however, and she was very angry when we finally got married.

My daughter and I lived on welfare for the first six years, however, until I got a job as a zookeeper. Here, they treated my daughter like their mascot and then hired her at 13, which helped her get a full scholarship at a prestigious private high school. Though consumed by her studies, she received many awards, won many friends, captured the hearts of many boys and was respected by both teachers and classmates.

In those days, she never asked for anything. She comforted me when my depression got worse and we remained close even as she morphed into a grumpy, harried, impatient, selfish teenager at an all-women’s college. It was there that she had a lesbian relationship with a woman who had been abused by her parents, which led my daughter to accuse her father and me of abuse and neglect; to treat me with sarcasm and cruelty and to tell me that she was disgusted by my illnesses and how I dealt with them, even though I seldom talk to her about my problems. She even said that she wanted a mother who was a mature, professional woman she could respect, not someone who was weak and depressed.

Later she broke up with this woman, married a man she met in India, moved with him to his native Australia and now has a toddler. She tells me that her son is very close to his other grandparents, but will not tell me if my packages have arrived safely or even thank me for the items I’ve sent.

My daughter is expecting again and said that I could name the baby. But she doesn’t like the name I chose and won’t use it. When we told her how disappointed I was, she said I was acting like a drama queen and that our selfish, childish behavior had ruined this happy occasion.

I don’t want to communicate with my daughter anymore, but what if she cuts us off from our grandchildren? What then?

A. You’ll always be cut off from your grandchildren to some extent unless you and your daughter learn to let each other go.

This should have happened when she was a teenager, the time when children either leave their emotional nests or rebel, get depressed or angrily blame others for their own behavior. Unfortunately, the safest person for your daughter to blame was the person she had loved so long and so well, which must make her words hurt all the more.

Don’t dwell on them, though, and don’t talk to your daughter as she talks to you, for words, once said, cannot be unsaid. Instead, set boundaries for yourself and be more aloof. This will make her reach out to you, if only to see what’s going on.

If she’s rude or accuses you of some mistake however, simply say, “You must be tired; I’ll call some other day” and don’t phone her again for a couple of weeks. When your daughter gets the same treatment, over and over, she’ll realize that her tantrums don’t work anymore.

Send fewer packages, too, and ask the post office to tell you when they have arrived, instead of asking your daughter if they got there. Don’t compete for your grandson’s affection, either. It’s not for sale. Just Skype him once a month; mail funny postcards to him and send him the same treats his mother loved at his age.

Finally, there’s therapy. Your daughter clearly needs it, although you shouldn’t tell her so, and you need it, too, for you’ve endured more than you can handle alone. Look for a psychologist who’s trained in cognitive behavioral therapy and in energy therapy, too, because it can sometimes help with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Life is a journey which must be walked, even when the hills are steep and the valleys are filled with despair. There is no standing still.

Questions? Send them to advice@margueritekelly.com.

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