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Just found out my estranged mother died seven months ago

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
How do I process this? What feelings should I expect? I'd like to end up with "closure", but right now I only have "confusion".

It hurts that no one on that side of the family thought to contact me. But maybe they DID. M stalked and harassed us for a long time when the big break-up happened (over a decade ago), and I purposefully made myself hard to find, both through traditional sources (telephone book, etc) and online. Maybe someone tried, but couldn't find me.

I've cried. I'm crying as I write this. But I'm not sure that it's grief. Not grief over a loved one. Maybe more like grief that I never had a normal relationship with my mother, sadness for what could have been but wasn't.

I had been searching the local newspaper from her last known address whenever I thought of it, for years. But the search engine there was really clunky and for a while only worked for obituaries printed in the last two weeks. I never got any hits, but I was never real sure of the results.

Then, night before last, I had a very compelling dream. I saw my step-father, J (M's husband, who has been dead for almost 14 years). I hugged him, told him I missed him and said it was good to see him. Somewhere in the background was M. When I woke up, I called my DH (who is out of town) to tell him that I had a really good dream about J, sort of a visitation.

Then last night, as I was going to bed, I remembered that M was in the background. With J, who is dead. I just got this FEELING... So I got up and did some searches, and at 2:30am came up with one little tidbit of information indicating that M was dead.

This morning, I was able to confirm it. I now have my nephew's phone number - he was executor of M's will.

I've had virtually no contact with any of that family since the break-up happened. I tried to contact a cousin, and an aunt, but was told in no uncertain terms that they did not want contact with me. My nephew was only a teen at the time, so I didn't contact him, figured I knew where he stood, and didn't want to place him in a difficult position.

Should I call my nephew? I will be in the city where my nephew lives this weekend. We had already planned a little family get-away. Should I try to see him while we're there? DD only met my nephew (her only first cousin) while she was a baby, and does not remember him. But I don't know what kind of reception to expect, so maybe any initial meeting should be just me (and maybe DH), to protect DD.

Maybe I should just send a card, as the first step to contacting him.

But why would I even want to contact him?

I'd like to know what M's health was like. I went to a new doctor several months ago, and as I filled out the "Family History" part of the form, I realized that I have NO idea on some of it.

I do not think she left me anything in her will. Maybe, a tiny chance of DD having something coming to her.

I'd like to know where she is buried, mostly because J (my step-dad) is most likely buried near her. I never got to visit his grave (long, complex story of why not).

And I'm sick with a cold today. I already felt weepy and weak. Now I get to add confused, curious, and some other emotions in to the mix.

I'd love support, and advice. I know this is a long shot, but anyone been there, done that?
post #2 of 26
I found out that my dad died a month after his actual death. I was devastated. It's not something I will discuss in public but feel free to pm me.
post #3 of 26
I'm so sorry.

I think you should call your nephew. You don't know what kind of reception you will get. Just very gently let him know you'd like to see him again.

I am only imagine the horrors you must have gone through to come to the conclusion to cut contact with your mother. I'm so sorry. I know that must have been really hard.

I hope you're able to find closure to all of this.
post #4 of 26
No real good ideas on what you should do but I wanted to offer support.

I think that even if your nephew doesn't want to resume contact with you he would at least be willing to tell you where she was buried.
post #5 of 26
I saw the other thread, but decided to post here instead (if you saw my thread over in TAO then you can see I'm in a similar stae of confusion...)

I dread getting some kind of notification that my mother/father/family member has died bc I also cut contact and dropped off the radar for a looooong time. I dread trying to figure out what to tell DD (4 and very perceptive) even now about my little bro (her uncle). Kiddo knows I'm upset and knows it doesn't have to do with her, though.

Ok, so here's my advice, coming from someone who has been through the ringer too many times:
1. If you know the county, call the coroner. They should keep death records for 2-5 years. Death certificates are public record, and he/she should be able to tell you over the phone (btdt-- it helped to get official cause from someone official, yk).
2. Call your nephew. People are interested in their family, especially if they didn't know you exist. Even if he has been warned away from you, he'd probably be curious enough to meet you-- especially if you are wanting some kind of medical history or want to know where she is buried.
3. If you feel the need for more privacy, tell him you are an old friend and are wondering what happened... he might know who you are and not like it-- it's a crap shoot. I've been on both sides, and no matter what, it will never be perfect. It just is.
4. If you do meet with him, take your DD if you think the climate will be civil (with me right now, I am going to be "friend from high school" instead of relative to my nephews because their mother needs it to be that way. That is fine for me-- our kids will meet, but not know they are related at this point)


I've gone over so many times in my head, what will I do when this finally happens to me with my mother. So far, it has been friends and other relatives to die without anyone telling me anything. Do I try to find out anything? I have an estranged aunt, uncle, and who knows how many cousins that probably know nothing about me. I assume they would want to know when they are adults. I mean, if they knew the deceased, then they probably figured out they were only human, too.

blech-- I'm probably only making sense to myself right now, but maybe we can help each other just by talking about it... for some reason, "polite company" rules kinda shy away from such topics
post #6 of 26
I would call. It's obviously hurting you that she has died. And for whatever reason you were estranged, that doesn't mean you didn't love her or care.
Let him know you'll be in town and see if he can meet up. If not, ask him the questions you want to ask. Don't be afraid.
It was a nice dream and I think it's a good idea to follow your heart.

good luck
post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HarperRose View Post
I'm so sorry.

I think you should call your nephew. You don't know what kind of reception you will get. Just very gently let him know you'd like to see him again.

I am only imagine the horrors you must have gone through to come to the conclusion to cut contact with your mother. I'm so sorry. I know that must have been really hard.

I hope you're able to find closure to all of this.
The family I grew up in was just really screwed up. My mother (M), my sister (R) and I are all estranged from each other. My nephew (K) was estranged from his mother R, the last time I knew.

And that brings me to... What responsibility do I have for informing my sister of our mother's death? I do NOT want her to have my address or phone number, and I do NOT want to encourage a relationship with her in any way - she's violent and dangerous and chemically dependent (and I mean HARD "chemicals"). But I feel some obligation to make sure she knows.

But if I do a letter or phone call, and she already knew of M's death, then that will be at best unnecessary, probably awkward, possibly irritating or depressing to her. (And has a small, but possible, chance of putting me or my family in harm's way - she has attacked family members with weapons before.)

Thanks, HarperRose.
post #8 of 26
I tried pm'ing you but your inbox is full.
post #9 of 26
: for you
post #10 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MomToKandE View Post
No real good ideas on what you should do but I wanted to offer support.

I think that even if your nephew doesn't want to resume contact with you he would at least be willing to tell you where she was buried.
Yes, I don't think anyone would object to that, or the family medical history type information.

And nephew mostly got raised by his father (R's ex-husband), so last I knew, he seemed to be a normal, reasonable person.

Thanks.
post #11 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thixle View Post
I saw the other thread, but decided to post here instead (if you saw my thread over in TAO then you can see I'm in a similar stae of confusion...)

I dread getting some kind of notification that my mother/father/family member has died bc I also cut contact and dropped off the radar for a looooong time. I dread trying to figure out what to tell DD (4 and very perceptive) even now about my little bro (her uncle). Kiddo knows I'm upset and knows it doesn't have to do with her, though.

Ok, so here's my advice, coming from someone who has been through the ringer too many times:
1. If you know the county, call the coroner. They should keep death records for 2-5 years. Death certificates are public record, and he/she should be able to tell you over the phone (btdt-- it helped to get official cause from someone official, yk).
2. Call your nephew. People are interested in their family, especially if they didn't know you exist. Even if he has been warned away from you, he'd probably be curious enough to meet you-- especially if you are wanting some kind of medical history or want to know where she is buried.
3. If you feel the need for more privacy, tell him you are an old friend and are wondering what happened... he might know who you are and not like it-- it's a crap shoot. I've been on both sides, and no matter what, it will never be perfect. It just is.
4. If you do meet with him, take your DD if you think the climate will be civil (with me right now, I am going to be "friend from high school" instead of relative to my nephews because their mother needs it to be that way. That is fine for me-- our kids will meet, but not know they are related at this point)


I've gone over so many times in my head, what will I do when this finally happens to me with my mother. So far, it has been friends and other relatives to die without anyone telling me anything. Do I try to find out anything? I have an estranged aunt, uncle, and who knows how many cousins that probably know nothing about me. I assume they would want to know when they are adults. I mean, if they knew the deceased, then they probably figured out they were only human, too.

blech-- I'm probably only making sense to myself right now, but maybe we can help each other just by talking about it... for some reason, "polite company" rules kinda shy away from such topics
Thanks, thixle. I am sorry for what you are going through, too.

As I understand it, unless you are a beneficiary in the will, there is no requirement that anyone contact you when a relative has died.

And yes, calling the county where she lived was how I finally got confirmation that M is dead, and they were able to give me the phone number of the attorney that handled M's probate. Then the attorney gave me K's (nephew's) phone number.

I think I will contact my nephew. He does know I exist - we knew each other pretty well until he went to college, and then I "divorced" my mother shortly after. I've searched for him online every so often, and he has a wife and couple of kids now.

It's just... he had (back then) this sort of idealized image of his grandmother, that was completely different from my experience of her as my mother. Out of all the strained relationships in our family, he was always fiercely loyal to M (which eventually hurt his relationship with his own mother).
post #12 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rach View Post
I would call. It's obviously hurting you that she has died. And for whatever reason you were estranged, that doesn't mean you didn't love her or care.
Let him know you'll be in town and see if he can meet up. If not, ask him the questions you want to ask. Don't be afraid.
It was a nice dream and I think it's a good idea to follow your heart.

good luck
But I don't WANT to still care!! That hurts too much! I don't want to know (once again) that no matter how much I loved her, needed her to be a good mother (or even just an average one), that I will never have that love returned, will never have what every child deserves from their mother.
post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 
DautherOfKali, I've cleared my pm box.
post #14 of 26
Thread Starter 
AngelBee, thanks. We've communicated on MDC enough that I feel like I have met you.

I just figured out that M was probably staying with nephew K when she died. Her death certificate was from the county where he lives, rather than the last address I can find for her.

I don't know whether to hope that K grew up more normal than the rest of the family (since his father raised him), or fear that he is/was still idealistically and fiercely loyal to M.

I am going to go take a nap. I've got a cold. And I can tell Aunt Flo is about to arrive. And my head is spinning with all of this. And we have what was going to be a nice weekend away barreling down upon me, and I have so MUCH to do. But I just need to rest.

Thanks, everyone. With DH out of town, the support of you on MDC has been really comforting today.
post #15 of 26


I'm thinking of you and sending love and strength as you navigate this
post #16 of 26
The death certificate will list burial location as well...

I am sorry for your loss.
post #17 of 26
Sending you peaceful vibes as you navaigate this situation.
post #18 of 26
My dh is in a similar position as your nephew, acting as the go between for his mother's family. His grandparents had contact with only two out of their four children when his grandfather passed away and his mother and sister are estranged also. He ended up contacting over half of the family to notify them and running around with his grandmother to the union hall and lawyers office. I would go ahead and contact your nephew. Dh's perspective is that none of the hurtful things that were said or done were directed at him. He did get to hear about them secondhand but didn't take sides in it and he is a peacemaker at heart. Good luck to you whatever you decide to do and sorry that you had to find out about your mother's passing this way.
post #19 of 26
There is an excellent book, Motherless Daughters, (and the followup Motherless Mothers) which addresses estrangement as well as death, and how we, as daughters, have a lot to work through in those relationships. I found them extremely helpful, if only because they validated so many of the conflicting and confusing emotions I was dealing with. I hope you are able to make peace with this soon.
post #20 of 26
I am very sorry.

My mother (and my father) and I were also estranged for a very long time. I have since started speaking to her when I found out that she has a terminal illness. Since that time, my aunt (her sister) and I have been in contact. My mother was really screwed up, and I grew up believing (because she told me this) how horrible my aunt was, so I never had a relationship with her, and never liked her (because I was told not to like her from a very young age).

Since contacting my aunt when I found out about my mom's illness, we have grown somewhat close. I discovered that she shares many of the feelings about my mom that I do, and since she grew up with her, she really shed light on how my mom turned out the way that she did and on some of the things that she did to my sister and I. I am so happy that I contacted her. Also, she is the only family member that I talk to on a regular basis, so it was really a blessing finding family at the time that I am loosing my mom.

If I were you, I could contact the nephew. You never know the kind of person he has turned out to be, and he may be somebody who can help you through this situation. If it turns out that contacting him was a mistake... at least you tried. It may give you some peace. Becoming close with my aunt has really brought me a lot of peace - not only about my mom's imminent death, but at peace with my screwed up childhood and all of the crappy stuff that happened with my family.

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