Bearing the unbearable: When a daughter shuns you

 In Shunned, The Departure Lounge, Tools & Resources

By Janet L. Stanley, MA

Editor’s note: This month’s guest post reveals this mother’s powerful insight that gave her a measure of acceptance and peace while being shunned.- LC


There are no answers.

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve seen her beautiful face. Two years since I’ve heard her sweet voice. Two years since my adult daughter has chosen not to be in my life. It’s been two years of walking through the flames of un-mitigating and excruciating pain I have no language to adequately describe.

And, when asked why, the honest answer is, “I don’t know.”

How does a parent reconcile the absence of a child when it is a choice the adult child has made? I don’t have an answer.

What I do know is that I don’t believe I will ever reconcile her absence from my life. I also know, this is the greatest loss I have ever or will ever face. The gut wrenching terror of facing the fact that I may never see her again has been debilitating. Crying hasn’t been merely crying – it has been akin to keening – a wailing and lamenting practiced in Ireland that can literally go on for hours without reprieve.

Brought to my knees.

My daughter’s shunning brought me to my knees. When I believed I couldn’t go on another day without her I considered ending my own life. The depression was overwhelming and encompassed every cell of my being.

It’s like you’re holding on with your fingertips and your fingers begin to slip a little at a time, trying desperately to not let go, to will yourself to tighten your grip. No matter how hard you try, eventually you find yourself lost, fallen into the depths of despair, having no idea where to turn or who to turn to.

Asking for help.

I found myself in an ER Psychiatric Unit where I received compassionate and supportive care. I was diagnosed with hypomania, a mental illness on the bipolar continuum. With medication I am stable and grateful for an insightful and caring doctor who “got it.” You see, my daughter’s absence didn’t cause my mental illness. It did, however, cut away all my defenses leaving me in a very vulnerable place.

Accepting a new reality.

Missing her is a new part of my being that I have worked at integrating into my life. It’s part of my new reality.

There will be no phone call on Mother’s Day or on my birthday. There will be no opportunity to reminisce with her about the adventures we took together or her childhood. It has been a journey of faith for me. Faith I have questioned while considering myself “spiritual.”

I couldn’t understand why my daughter has made the choice she has made. And I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. And yet, as I have mentioned, I profess to be spiritual; to have faith and believe we are never NOT on our path. No matter where we are—no matter how much pain and sorrow, no matter what we are confronted with—we are never not on our path.

A crisis of faith.

So, I had to ask myself, “Do I believe? Do I truly have my faith or was it convenient to ‘be spiritual’ only when life is good? And, if I do believe in my spiritual journey, do these sacred tenets of life only apply to me and not to my daughter?”

Now, I’ve come to understand she too is on her path, that she is exactly where she is meant to be at this juncture in her life learning. She is learning whatever lessons, those far wiser than I, believe she needs to learn. The universe has “got this.” The Wisdom Keepers, the Ancestors, the Ancient Ones, the All Knowing, the Divine have got this under control and I either believe what I hold dearly as my spiritual life or I continue to question the very core of who I believe myself to be.


What I have chosen and what I have learned.

I am choosing my faith. It isn’t easy. I have good days and I have not so good days.

I miss my daughter everyday and pray for her everyday.

I still cry at times, wishing I could hear her sweet voice, see her beautiful face and hold her in my arms once again. I know there is as much chance I will see her once again as there is that I may never see her again. One doesn’t outweigh the other.

I have learned greater tenderness towards myself and have stopped being embarrassed and/or ashamed for a decision in which I had no say.

I have learned greater tenderness towards my daughter, knowing she is exactly where she is meant to be at this juncture in her life. I have learned that there is no moment other than this moment. And I’m learning the unknown is truly the great mystery of life.

I look at it in wonder and know that I am never NOT on my path.

Janet Stanley spent 30 years working in the non-profit community. She was the co- founder of the Coalition for Reproductive Choice, San Diego County and worked nationally as a trainer early in the HIV/AIDS pandemic. She was the Clinic Director of Planned Parenthood, Santa Barbara County and served as the. CEO for one of the largest organizations on the West Coast providing services to both the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities and later as the CEO for the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County. Today she is a Shamanic Practitioner and Celebrant. Visit her website to learn more about her work.


Showing 3 comments
  • Leah Roos

    Aunt J…so beautifully raw and real. My mother’s heart aches so deeply hearing your hearts story. Thank you for sharing these intimate feelings and what you have learned from all of this.

  • Angela Arabia-Meyer

    A friend suggested I read this in the hopes that it might help me. But there is a difference with your story and mine. I would love to hear your thoughts about my similar, but different story. My daughter left two days before her 18th Birthday, in November of her senior year of high school in 2014. She is my oldest child. I have 3 others. It has aged me. I don’t know how I can ever be okay again.

    • Linda A. Curtis

      Thank you for writing. I hear the understandable distress between your words. The blog you refer to was contributed by a guest writer, Janet Stanley. I am happy to introduce you to her via email. If you would like to reach out to her directly, this is her email:
      She wrote the blog to be of service to other parents, so I’m sure she would be happy to hear from you. I am also happy to speak with you. As Janet learned, while you can’t ever expect to ‘get over’ the absence of your daughter, there are things you can do to reconcile your emotions so you can continue making a contribution to the family that remains, and your community. My personal experience with leaving my family religion (which I describe in my memoir “Shunned: How I Lost My Religion and Found Myself”) brought me face-to-face with the challenge of grieving for family members that were still alive. I learned alot from that experience. I offer 30 minute complementary phone sessions, which can be arranged using the electronic calendar found under Services / Private Consultations on my website. How does that sound? Linda

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