WHEN you cut a parent out of your life, there are moments you dread every year – birthdays (theirs and yours), Christmas, Mother’s/Father’s Day… And then there’s the big one – the day they die.
So I empathised with Adele, whose estranged father Mark recently died from cancer, aged 57.
Adele has always been open about her fractured relationship with her father, who left when she was three, even announcing on stage at the Grammys in 2017: “I don’t love my dad”.
Some have suggested that Adele is cruel for not having made amends with him before he passed away, but unless you know the pain of breaking away from a toxic parent, it’s impossible to understand.
I decided to cut my mother out of my life two years ago.
People are shocked when they find this out, and often respond, “But she’s your mother?” or “Family’s family”, or some other line straight out of EastEnders.
A few have patronisingly explained that nobody’s parents are perfect, or reminded me that she won’t be around forever and I don’t want to have regrets.
Unless you know the pain of breaking away from a toxic parent, it’simpossible to understand.
Doubtless it comes from a well-meaning – if privileged – place of having a good relationship with your own parents, but it’s exhausting to have to constantly justify my choice.
It may still be somewhat taboo, but familial estrangement is surprisingly common. According to Stand Alone, a charity that supports estranged adults, there are 5 million of us in the UK.
To explain why my mum and I are no longer in touch would take more words than this column allows.
We had a dysfunctional relationship – with episodes of what I now feel were neglect (around seven years old, I got into a boiling hot bath and ended up with blisters all over my feet) – and after my parents divorced, she left to live with her new boyfriend when I was 15.
Although we stayed in touch, I would come away from our meetings feeling angry, sad or hurt.
I began to realise that she was never going to change, or be the sort of mother I wanted or needed.
Eventually, aged 34 and going through my own divorce, I stopped answering her calls and blocked her number.
My relationship with my mum has caused me many years of pain, and giving myself space from her is one of the best – and hardest – decisions I’ve ever made. And yet, because the parent/child bond is seen as so special, particularly between mothers and daughters, I still occasionally wonder whether I’m doing the right thing.
The birth of my daughter Blake last year brought questions about my mum to the fore – whether from well-meaning midwives who asked when my mum was popping over, or from my partner Guy, who wondered if we couldn’t patch things up for Blake’s sake.
I still occasionally wonder whether I’m doing the right thing.
But I feel strongly that I have a duty to protect myself and my family from the unhealthy feelings and patterns that my mum brings into my life.
Of course, I’ve imagined what it will be like when my mum dies.
I’ve wondered how I’ll hear about it (she’s still in touch with my father, but not my sister) and how I’ll feel. No doubt there will be sadness. But because I’ve already grieved the death of our relationship, there will also be relief.
Sources close to Adele have reported that she’s been shaken by the news of her dad’s death, though mainly feels a sense of “liberation”. I think I will feel the same.
● Follow Kate on Instagram @katewillswrites.
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