I Bumped Into My Estranged Mom Who Abandoned Me—What Should I Do?

Dear Newsweek, I am writing this in regards to my estranged, dysfunctional family. My mother moved away without saying goodbye, knowing she had a 3-year-old grandchild. Three years later, my husband and I decided to buy our child a new bed.

As we stood in the showroom, out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman at the purchase counter. I turned and looked at her face and there stood my mother.
She stared back as I held my daughter's hand. She stared back as my jaw slowly opened. My mother gathered her things, and walked right out the door.

I quickly went to the service desk inquiring as to who just made the purchase, asking: "Was that woman's name such and such? The person behind the desk confirmed that was her name... I stood there, telling the clerk and my husband, 'That was my Mom!'"

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Composite image of a of a women glancing round at a supermarket and inset of of a child cuddling a toy iStock / Getty Images

I never saw or spoke to her again, she passed away in 2003. She was negligent, and physically abusive. She allowed babysitters to abuse me as well without reporting to the authorities.

The last time I saw my mother was when she yelled at my 3-year-old daughter to 'shut up.' That was the last straw. She remained in contact with my brother. To this day, I cannot fathom, knowing I have a child, doing this to her. Ever. Never.

I do not have a relationship with my brother. He took sides with our father, who abused me terribly. My brother doesn't believe me. So, I haven't seen my brother for 20 years, despite living 20 minutes away.

This is my story.

Emily, Unknown

Newsweek's "What Should I Do?" offers expert advice to readers. If you have a personal dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice on relationships, family, friends, money and work and your story could be featured on WSID at Newsweek.

Your Brother Has Never Had Your Back, Why Would He Now?

Marni Goldman is a life coach and the founder of Peace, Love, Marni.

I just want to start off by saying how deeply sorry I am that you had to go through such unimaginable trauma. A mother is supposed to protect their children, like a bear protects its cubs.

For some of us, not having loving mothers (a club I wish no one ever had to belong in) leaves us with life-long residual effects, such as issues with self-esteem, PTSD, and abandonment. However, sometimes things are simply a blessing in disguise.

The negativities and darkness your mother represents has fortunately been alleviated from your family. Your daughter is so fortunate to have such a loving, protective and amazing mother. I experienced very similar situations, so I completely understand what devoted love we give our daughters.

The universe works in such mysterious ways. We get hit with an emotional two-by-four, when we see people for who they really are. Blood is definitely not thicker than water.

Your brother has never had your back, why would he now? Anyone who doesn't love you effortlessly, doesn't deserve a place in your life. Acceptance and awareness of people, places, and situations will help you keep going on the pathway to peace. When people show you who they are, believe them, and surround yourself with people who love you.

Estrangement Has Been the Best Option For You

Jennifer Kelman is a family therapist for JustAnswer, a licensed clinical social worker and relationships expert.

Growing up in an abusive household can have long-term consequences for the victims of that abuse. Sometimes, these family members estrange themselves from the abusers and the rest of the family.

In this case with your mom, it seems like estrangement has been the best option for you and for your daughter. It sounds like your mom was nasty to your child, and you did the right thing to protect her from experiencing some of the things you experienced.

It had to be terribly shocking for you to see her in a store and even more shocking for her to look at you and simply walk out. These are the types of events that may trigger many unprocessed emotions, and then for her to pass away with that being your last time seeing her must have been especially difficult.

These deep wounds take time to heal, and if possible, getting into therapy to process all that occurred when you were a child could be beneficial for you to move through it. Being estranged from your brother as well may also be keeping some of these painful feelings alive for you.

Even if someone has abused you, you may still have conflicting feelings around that person. You may have wanted to love them even if they could not provide you with the care and safety that all children need and deserve.

Try to become aware of what triggers these deep and painful feelings, and be open about how you feel, whether it be with a therapist or someone else with whom you are close. Keeping the feelings buried and bottled up inside can keep the hurt and anger simmering beneath the surface and may come out in other ways.

Anything you feel is okay so find that healthy outlet and begin to work through the abuse you suffered as a child and the continued shunning as an adult.