Dear Annie: A few years back, my stepson, “Jaime,” at age 23, announced to his dad (my husband) that he would be changing his middle name and last name, which are my husband’s first name and last name, and using his mother’s maiden name. He said he needed “space” from his dad and asked him to cease contact “until further notice.”
We racked our brains but could think of nothing that warranted this – no specific negative incident – and he refused to explain why but was clearly emotional and upset.
Nonetheless, we have respected his wishes. After a year, my husband checked in with him to see whether he was ready to reconnect and got his head bitten off. Now nearly four years has passed with no word from him. We send birthday and Christmas gifts, and recently, when we were going to be visiting the area where he is attending school, we asked whether he would like to get together for dinner. Silence has always ensued.
We are heartbroken, especially my sweet and loving husband, who has been so devoted to Jaime and would do anything to heal whatever rift he has caused. We don’t know from one day to the next whether he is alive or dead, whether he is happy or suffering. Plus, we just miss our boy.
What can we do? We have given up hope that, as everyone tells us, “he’ll eventually come around.” – Hand-wringing Gets Me Nowhere
Dear Hand-wringing: Living with a Jaime-shaped hole in your heart can’t be easy, and I’m sorry you and your husband are going through that. Of course you’re replaying events in your head, looking for anything that might explain the sudden cold front that swept over him, but it’s possible that you’ll never find an answer, and you must find a way to come to terms with that. If it helps, you and your husband could send Jaime a letter stating that if he’s ever willing to open up about what happened, you would love to know so that you can make it right by him.
Then turn your focus to what you can control. The U.K.-based group Stand Alone offers resources for parents dealing with estrangement. Visit http://standalone.org.uk for more information.
Dear Annie: I would like to pen a reply to “Neil,” who is grieving the loss of his wife.
As cliched as it sounds, time really does help one to heal from the loss of someone.
Fourteen years ago, my mother lost her battle to breast cancer. For the longest time, I didn’t want to deal with anything – cooking, cleaning, etc. I did what needed to be done, but I didn’t want to do anything with her clothes or go through the paperwork that she left behind. Four years ago, my boyfriend moved in with my father and me, and this gave me the courage I needed to move on and start to change. Two years ago, I started going through everything. I donated most of her clothes. I shredded paperwork that she’d been hoarding in the attic for 30-plus years. I started changing things up around the house.
There are still days when I miss her and feel sad, but those days are getting fewer and further between. -- Will in Newport
Dear Will: I’ve passed your letter along to Neil directly. I was touched by how many people wrote in to express their empathy for him. Thank you all for reaching out.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.