Get Free of the Pain of Betrayal

When People Hurt Us: Getting Free of the Pain of Betrayal

In the spirit of the Independence Day holiday, let’s talk about getting free of the hurt and pain that goes along with betrayal.

When it comes to betrayal, the effects that can seem to go on forever, Sometimes tough questions can help. Here is one to consider asking yourself. Take a few quiet moments to reflect upon the thought, and see how your own responses might make a difference.

Getting over betrayal: How am I participating?

When it comes to the emotional upheaval, the upset, the pain, the anger, and continued hurt that can go with getting over betrayal, are you acting in ways that keep the effects of the betrayal alive?

Getting over betrayal: Setting yourself up for hurt?

Laurie, the mother of a daughter who’s been estranged for nearly four years told me she never fails to send a card or text at every holiday and on her daughter’s birthday.

“I don’t know why I bother anymore,” Laurie says. “I’ve learned by now that it only means I’ll be waiting for a reply. Then when there is none, I grieve all over again.” This mom has reasoned that she can’t let those special days pass without comment. “I feel like it’s the only way to let my daughter know that I still love her,” she says. Laurie is hoping that one day, if she keeps up the contact, her daughter will come around. But she also admits, “I know I’m setting myself up for hurt, and I’d like to stop doing that.”

Getting over betrayal: Reliving the hurt?

Jackie, another mom, told me, “My son won’t speak to me anymore.” Jackie kept the email her son sent when he cut her out of his life. “For two years, I would pull up the email and re-read it,” she says. “And when I did, I was angry all over again.” For Jackie, the anger represented a bit of independence. “It was better than feeling sad,” she explains. “So pulling up that email now and again when I was sad actually helped.” Then Jackie’s hard drive crashed. “At first I was mortified,” she says. “My last communication from my son . . . gone.”

Losing the email was like facing the entire loss all over again. Jackie cried off and on for several weeks. “I even tried to remember the exact words he’d said and write them down,” she says. “But focusing so intently on remembering his horrible words also made me realize that I was continuing to relive the experience. I’d set up a shrine of sorts, holding those last words he’d said to me as sacred, even though they hurt. It was like engraving his cruelty on my heart over and over again.”

Jackie describes the realization like a weight being lifted from her shoulders. “I was lucky to have that computer crash to do the hard work for me,” she says. “Losing that email from my estranged son was freeing. Life’s too short to relive the past and be angry.” Since then, Jackie has taken down photographs of her son, and packed up his sports trophies and other effects she’d been hanging onto. “I don’t need the constant reminder of somebody who doesn’t care about me, even if he is my son. And it’s made more room for people who do care about being my life.”

Jackie isn’t the only mom to hang onto anger as a step up from the horrible pain that goes with an adult child’s estrangement. People in all sorts of betrayal situations find themselves holding onto anger because, at least in the beginning, the anger feels better than the crushing pain of rejection. But for many, there comes a time when anger hinders them from moving on.

Getting over betrayal: How can I hold myself accountable?

Once we recognize what we’re doing to renew our hurt, stay angry to avoid another type of pain, or otherwise act in ways that keep our hurting fresh, it can help to devise a plan to halt the behavior.

“I’ve decided that I won’t send out holiday cards anymore,” says Laurie. “And on my daughter’s birthday, I will only text. No card. No present or money.”

An emergency call out.

Because Laurie believes it’s so important to keep the door open with at least some contact, she’s made a compromise with herself to limit her efforts. Laurie believes this will be difficult, so she’s asked a close friend to provide support around the holidays and as her daughter’s birthday nears. “She won’t have to do anything, really,” says Laurie. “Just listen if I call or text, and remind me of the decision I made and why.”

Laurie’s plan is a sort of emergency call out, which can be effective.

Keeping reminders ready.

Candace, a young woman who had an unhealthy relationship with a boyfriend she kept returning to, created note cards to help herself. On each card, she listed reasons why she didn’t really want to get back together with him. In times of weakness, Candace would turn to those cards she pasted up in frequented areas at home, kept in several handbags, and in her desk drawer at work. “Whenever I’d get lonely for him, I’d pull out the cards,” Candace says. “Eventually, the longing went away.” Three years after making a decision and creating those note cards, Candace got married to a man who treats her well. “We’re a good match and very happy,” she says.

What ways can you hold yourself accountable and break free of activity that keeps the hurt of betrayal fresh?

Please share your thoughts and your wins by leaving a comment below.

Related articles:

Five ways to move on after an adult child’s rejection


11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. My daughter and her husband moved to the other side of the country 18 months ago, leaving four kids here. I told her she should not leave her two kids because they needed their mother etc. I help my former son in law a lot with the kids care….daily. He is doing a good job but they still should have their mom. My grandson won’t speak to her (he is 16) and my granddaughter is 13 and is becoming distant to her.
    I have finally decided It’s not my fault and the kids and I will survive. My granddaughter said her mom and step father may be moving back to CO. I hate to say it but I dread the day. She was so cruel to me over the last few years I had to walk on eggshells constantly which finally resulted in two heart attacks. I finally let go of this, but now what. I can’t live in the past. I don’t even know if she will try to speak to me but she hurt my babies and that will never happen again.

  2. That is really good. Just made this decision myself…no taking this crap anymore. Bullies dont respect kind ppl. Im taking charge now.

  3. Wonderful article with some great tips. It’s hard when you try to leave a door open and face constant rejection. It’s also hard when my mind/heart plays tricks on you and I think “maybe this will be the time when she responds and this nightmare is over”. When I miss her and want to “fix” everything, it helps when I reread emails that I’ve sent in the past and confirm that I have left the door open and offered to reconcile. She either doesn’t respond or responds in a way that is hurtful and rejects me again. I have to remind myself that I can only control my actions and not hers. If she doesn’t want to resolve this issue, there is no magical think I can do to change her. I need to focus on enjoying the people who do want to be in my life.

  4. Wonderful article and tips, thank you so much. My husband and I have both been rejected by our daughter for the past four years. I am finally learning to let go. She has blocked her e-mail set-up and her facebook page. I don’t reread her angry letters or e-mails anymore which has helped me. I also don’t call or send Christmas cards or birthday cards anymore as she never responds. I forgive her but I will not be a victim anymore. I have a wonderful family (my brothers and sisters) and some very good friends.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      Thanks for your comment!
      I’m so glad to hear you are moving on! Yeah…why revisit old wounds by looking at those emails? UGH. Good for you, and I’m so glad you have lovely family and friends who appreciate you An adult child’s estrangement makes appreciating those people so much more clear!
      Thanks again for commenting and visiting the balance and joy site.

  5. I keep my daughter’s last e-mail sent 3 years ago, which was the one in which she banned me from her home. I rarely read it, but I keep it to look at in case there is any attempt on reconciliation (on her part, it won’t be from me) to remind me of the awful emotionally abusive situation that I would be getting myself back into.
    After several years of emotional abuse, disrespect and lies, during which I just kept bending further and further backward to try to understand what she needed from me, what I was doing wrong etc. she gave me my life back by issuing that ban. Because I would probably have kept trying forever to be the bigger person, the understanding and forgiving mother. It was only after I was ” set free” that I realized what had been happening to me prior to that. I had become terrified when I saw her e-mails in my Inbox although I had learnt not to open them until I was at home and had a glass of wine in hand. Worse was when I saw her number show up on my phone, because I would wonder if she was in trouble, in need of urgent help, and I would answer. It was never that. I regret that I have no contact with my grandkids, and regret that I will never know what was the trigger for this behavior in a daughter brought up in a caring family and whose siblings remain part of the family. But I have moved on, and life is pretty good otherwise.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Annie. I know other people will read it and be helped by what you have said. I’m glad that you’ve found that life can be good!

      Sheri McGregor

  6. “Betrayal” is the word that best defines the act of rejecting then estranging from a parent. Nothing can prepare a parent for the impact as it is sudden and blindsiding. The aftermath is where we are left sitting alone in the midst of a fog so dense that finding your way to tomorrow seems impossible. Embracing the pain too long allows it to become “familiar”.

    This article is the best written depiction of a parent betrayed by their love for their child and the comfort of this familiar embrace. I regard it as required reading for anyone wounded by the act of betrayal.

    Thank you, Sheri,

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