Relationship Connection: I’m on my deathbed, my daughter won’t talk to me

Question

My daughter has had a hard life and has developed some very poor boundaries with my husband, many others, and me. She struggles with selfishness, addictions of all kinds, and is not always safe to be around. She is not welcome in my home unsupervised because she steals my possessions and my prescriptions; but her attitude suggests she won’t resume a relationship with me unless I am “all in.” Some of her siblings, in order to protect themselves, have drawn hard boundaries.

As a result my family cannot be together. My time here on earth is limited due to a terminal illness and I am not sure what else I can do in the time that I have. I have written her letters when she won’t communicate with me, but she does not respond. She has many good redeemable qualities and I miss the good parts of her in my life. What can I do?

Answer

The fact that you only have a short time left before you pass away certainly makes this lack of contact from your daughter even more urgent. It’s unfortunate that she’s unwilling to help make your final days on earth more peaceful. Even though she’s holding the relationship hostage with her demands, you don’t have to let her define how you spend your remaining time with your loved ones.

I imagine you would like to leave this earth with all of your relationships intact and knowing that everyone, especially your children, are getting along. You have made consistent efforts to draw your daughter toward you. I choose to believe that your efforts are not wasted. You won’t know of the impact you might be having on her. In fact, because she’s so self-centered and addicted, it’s likely it will take long after you’re gone for her to recognize her actions.

As a mother, you recognize that the fruits of your efforts aren’t always immediate. Most of what you do as a mother is planting seeds and patiently cultivating conditions so your children can have every possible advantage and opportunity to have the best life possible. You are creating those conditions for your daughter, even if she chooses not to move toward you and her siblings. You can take this truth with you as you finish up your time on earth.

You might even consider writing her some letters that can be delivered to her long after you’re gone, perhaps on special occasions. This will keep your influence active in her life, letting her know that you want to be a part of her life forever. I recall reading a father who created a series of videos for his young children before he died that they could watch every birthday as they got older. He would talk about things he imagined they would be going through and lessons he had learned. He wanted his influence to extend beyond his time on earth. She may not be ready to hear from you right now, but you can record your words and thoughts for future moments when she might be more open.

Continue to surround yourself with the relationships that nurture you. Sometimes when you’re so focused on trying to connect with the one that got away, it’s easy to miss the others that are standing right next to you. Turn to them and let them know how much you appreciate them and what they’re doing to make your remaining time special.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • Planned Life June 18, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I wonder how many parents are disappointed with their kids failing to live the lives their parents had planned for them? Do parents just plan lives for their kids or do they help develop their lives? I hear it’s not uncommon for parents in southern Utah to completely disown their kids, cut them out of any inheritance and separate themselves from their children because the kids stray from the church. It’s sad when parents disown their children, because the children want to find their own way which may include their own religious pursuits. What a shame that parents won’t recognize any of the successes of their children, just because the children refuses to have religion belief dictated to them. I don’t uphold the religious belief of my parents. Yet, I respect my parents and think of them, because they are proud of my own accomplishments. If they disowned me because I didn’t follow their church as they did, well, that would be their problem, not mine. Just because a parent brought a child into this world doesn’t mean the parent owns and dictates the life of that child and child’s off-spring forever.

    • OBAMAS COMMIN' TO TAKE THE GUNS!!! June 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      IKR!! that religion is a bunch of fabricated lies and BS. Sheeples who need morality dictated to them are not moral at all in the end.

  • San June 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

    It sounds as if she has caused distraction and heartache for years. How sad that she is so selfish now but also, how predictable. I hope you can minimize the effect she has on you, not only for yourself but also for your other children and their relationship with her after your death. If someone treated my mother that way, and I saw it bring pain to what should have been a time to build memories for her, I’d have a hard time forgiving it. The same would hold true for my spouse. You’ve always shown her respect, just stick to it and invite her to the family gatherings…but again, minimize the drama. Take care!

  • Katrina June 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Is this woman that ignorant!!! Your saying how selfish your daughter is that she’s not going to see you on your death bed and how your daughter doesn’t care about you. It’s sounds like your the selfish one here. Your putting her down and saying how horrible your daughter is then you say she has “some” redeemable qualities!? No wonder she wants nothing to do with you! You’ve degraded, put her down and say she is a bad person and don’t give her any support. If your daughter has pulled herself away from you it’s because there is something wrong with you! And if she did take pills it was probably to get over the tramas you’ve put her though. Which I’m assuming you either deny or are completely clueless about since your writing this letter instead of trying to do what you can do now that you’ve lost and burned that tie which is, pray that you will not be judged to harshly by god and get on and be happy with what life you have left.

  • PLANNED LIFE June 18, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    I’ve heard comments about parents absorbed by religion making arrangements on who their kids are supposed to marry and other domineering control on their children’s lives. And if those kids don’t abide by their domination and set plans, they are cast out on their own without any financial or emotional support. I’m surprised how many children accept that as normal, perhaps impress the same behavior upon their kids. I’d distance myself as far away as possible, because that level of parental, no, that’s not parenting… that level of control freak control is not normal and not healthy.

  • Iwill Answer June 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    First everyone has free agency to choose the way they want to live. We have consequences with each choice we make. Let’s start at the beginning Cain follows Satan and kills his brother. His parents are disappointed but they let him make his choice and then consequences followed. I’m sure they were upset to let him wonder as a vagabond and stay away from the teachings of God. I’m sure they thought of him prayed for him and hoped he would change, but they didn’t forget him made the choice and paid the price. I have family members just like it. Life is short don’t be upset or feeling guilty. In the next life you can straighten it out when you stand before your make along with the whole family. If the vagabond hasn’t changed at that point(another free choice) then you let them enjoy eternity with Cain and Planned Life.

    • Wow! June 20, 2014 at 9:30 am

      Are you serious with the free agency crap and then your preaching about following god? I can see how that would drive children away, parents telling their kids they are disobeying god when the kids aren’t following every instruction and order the parent gives them. Some perverted polygamist men were like that toward their collection of wives, telling them it was god’s plan that they abide by his (the perv polyg hubby) rules. It’s no wonder that more kids don’t run away from their control freak parents. Utah already has one of the country’s highest rate of suicides and anti-depressant medication.

  • Sergio June 18, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    The answer to the problem is in the first paragraph. The daughter suffers from addictions, steals prescriptions and other things from family and around the house. All people who are actively addicted to drugs or alcohol are very selfish. So, as mom is suffering severe health problems, the last thing an addict is going to do is be compassionate or caring about her mom’s situation. I think mom needs to focus on those family members who still love and care about her. She can still show love for her wayward daughter, but she should not lose any sleep worrying about how she will return that love.
    @Planned Life- I’m not sure you even read this article. Your rant was off topic and has some other motive for the explanations and reasons given for whatever it was you were trying to explain to us all.

  • Mary June 18, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    San,you honestly couldnt forgive your own child? Families of murder victims can forgive the person who killed thier family member..Why is it difficult to forgive anyone,let alone your child for something like this..The apple doesnt fall too far from the tree.

    • San June 18, 2014 at 11:17 pm

      It’s not about forgiveness, it’s about realistic expectations. If the parents had to set boundaries in the past then why would you expect any difference in the adult daughter’s conduct now? If anything, someone who has issues with healthy relationships is going to decompensate in that scenario, not pull it together. From the cheap seats, the mom needs to forgive herself and keep it simple right now, or risk creating a whole new set of unresolvable dramas (between her children). Peace out!

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