Detaching in love: My parents are “dead”

mourning my parentsToday is the day I finally accept that my parents are dead.

More specifically, today is the day I come to terms that my IDEA of an ideal father and mother are dead.

These “ideal” people do not exist

My hope that they come close to what I expect of a father and mother are dashed – forever. Put into the respective graves in my mind.

Actually what I want in a father and mother are simple, fundamental. But sadly, these basic expectations can’t be met.

My father

My father doesn’t even know my name. He calls me by my dialect name, like a childhood pet name, a name that only family uses. But that’s it. And no, I don’t think my father is slow in the head (though sometimes his lucidity is questionable).

My father doesn’t know when my birthday is. He has written it down multiple times, but can’t put it to memory.

My father was apparently not present when I was born. He was not the first person to meet me fresh out of the womb. (This is according to my mom, and I’ve always given him benefit of the doubt regarding this. I don’t actually mind, though this is one of the many black marks of my dad in my mom’s books.)

My father has been absent for most of my life. I’ve never actually had a leader figure in my life that I look up to. You know when people say: Dad I want to grow up to be just like you? I have none of that.

A not-so-fundamental expectation: My father can’t get right the name of his son-in-law (my husband).

My mother

My mother practices tough love. She has never once expressed praise, approval or validation. She always praised others, be it relatives or friends, but not her own children. I don’t know if she said good things about us to other people when we were not around. I grew up insecure with low self-esteem. My whole life I’ve been trying to get her attention, her approval, but since this has been unsuccessful, I’ve become bitter, resentful, moody and critical around her. I have a perpetual “black face” on whenever in her presence. And since she is a Borderline, my threshold for her antics are an all-time low, I am easily triggered and flare up in an instant.

RIP my parentsWhy today?

My mother put the nail on the coffin (pun unintended)

Why I’ve decided that today is the day I put my “ideal parents” to the grave is due to this message from my aunt. She is my closest aunt, and my mom’s closest sister. She has been like a surrogate dad, or replacement mom, to me.

“Usually mothers do not praise their own children – very Chinese [sic].”

My aunt just texted to say my display picture on the instant messaging app we use was pretty – it’s a wedding day selfie. I started telling her that my mom didn’t even say one good thing about my wedding, or the fact that I looked good on my wedding day. So the above was my aunt’s reply.

But I’m boggled! Why is my aunt so different from my mom??? I’m not saying I prefer my aunt to be my mom instead, because who knows, she is a good aunt but really different as a mother? I’d rather her be my aunt than my mom any day.

But all my mom’s neuroses, how my mom is like, how they approach things, how nurturing they are (or not), it’s all so different.

Earlier on… my dad’s lack of honesty

What happened with my dad set the stage for the above.

On 11 Jan, at a family gathering on my dad’s side, my dad was anxiously trying to avoid getting a lift from us via Uber. I suspected something was amiss.

(To give some background, ever since my parents got divorced, my mom instructed us to never let my dad know where we live. So I thought it was only fair I did not ask my dad where he was putting up all this while.)

We met for dinner on 12 Jan. Just the immediate family and our partners. At the end of dinner, I got everyone to write down their addresses on a piece of paper, like a contact sheet. Incidentally my dad got a new phone number so he only wrote his new number. I asked, how about his address?

He said he may be moving soon so he did not want to give it. How weird and lame is that??? He just tried to change the topic and as if what just happened didn’t happen at all. My dad is so bad with facing “confrontation”. He worms his way out of difficult situations by pretending it isn’t there! In the past he would make it “go away” by losing his cool, explosively.

After all this time, I thought since I’m now married and living with my husband, and my sister is living with her fiance (of which my dad has stepped foot into!) I thought we were all past that stage of secrecy. But I guess I was FLAT OUT WRONG.

So I ask my uncle — my dad’s closest and very sensible older brother. He did not know that he was keeping his address from us. My uncle kindly checked in with him and shared with me that my dad is afraid we will tell my mom his address.

I was completely floored.

I guess my adult mind can comprehend that my dad thinks our allegiance is with our mom still. But my inner child just wants her dad to be honest with her. Which he did not do when he acted slightly sheepish and tried to change the topic.

I think his wounds are not healed completely. Therefore he does not trust his children, or he does not trust us to have a mind of our own, or he does not trust that my mother has stopped psycho-abusing his daughters. It was my mom who left him after all. But I guess I was expecting what he does not have in him — honesty. Or he simply isn’t equipped to express himself plainly and matter-of-factly. Does he not want to reject us (which he already did, actually) or did he not want to say anything “bad” about our mom to us.

This hurt me a tonne. I started to question ALL the meet-ups I had with my dad. I started to ask myself if all this was just a lie??? What purpose was there to see each other but without any true communication or honesty?

I DID NOT grow up in a “safe environment”

My mother…

  • My mom “warned” me about the big bad world out there on an almost daily basis, but there was no assurance that she would look out for me – everyone in the world is just bad and waiting to backstab you
  • She had vilified my dad and his entire family (save for some of his relatives),
  • She put a fear in me that my dad would take advantage of me and my my sis sexually.

My father…

  • Was never really around. Maybe he just wanted to avoid my mom who pushed all his wrong buttons?
  • He did not know (or want?) to connect with his children.
  • He tried to be the best dad he could by giving me money secretly from time to time, and driving me to school on exam days. But I can’t remember much else.

This is why I’m screwed up.

my parents are dead


Difficult People

Few things can make us feel crazier than expecting something from someone who has nothing to give. Few things can frustrate us more than trying to make a person someone he or she isn’t; we feel crazy when we try to pretend that person is someone he or she is not. We may have spent years negotiating with reality concerning particular people from our past and our present. We may have spent years trying to get someone to love us in a certain way, when that person cannot or will not.


It is time to let it go. It is time to let him or her go. That doesn’t mean we can’t love that person anymore. It means that we will feel the immense relief that comes when we stop denying reality and begin accepting. We release that person to be who he or she actually is. We stop trying to make that person be someone he or she is not. We deal with our feelings and walk away from the destructive system.


We learn to love and care differently in a way that takes reality into account.


We enter into a relationship with that person on new terms—taking ourselves and our needs into account. If a person is addicted to alcohol, other drugs, misery, or other people, we let go of his or her addiction; we take our hands off it. We give his or her life back. And we, in the process, are given our life and freedom in return.


We stop letting what we are not getting from that person control us. We take responsibility for our life. We go ahead with the process of loving and taking care of ourselves.


We decide how we want to interact with that person, taking reality and our own best interests into account. We get angry, we feel hurt, but we land in a place of forgiveness. We set him or her free, and we become set free from bondage.


This is the heart of detaching in love.


Today, I will work at detaching in love from troublesome people in my life. I will strive to accept reality in my relationships. I will give myself permission to take care of myself in my relationships, with emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual freedom for both people as my goal.


Quoted from the book Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie.

my ideal parents are dead

My parents are dead

Today is the day I bury my idea of what I want in a father and mother.

Update 11 May 2016:

Though it is common sense and probably logic to “let go” of what will never be, I think I have been seeking what I can never get because there has been a longing of a childlike heart since a very young and tender age. A longing for the parents every child should have.

So now, it is my turn. My turn to finally “grow up” and take over the reins that were never held by my parents. To give my inner child what she never had — her ideal parents.

Through therapy and recovery, I’m now more equipped to listen in to my inner child, L, to be more aware of what she needs and when. When she cries, to comfort her, when she needs attention, to give her all the attention she never had… As I become a healthier person, I will become a better parent to L. I will learn to parent my inner child.

I guess the cycle is complete when I am able to do this fully, without resentment toward my not-so-ideal parents.

Excuse me while I go mourn.

My parents are dead.


For a more lighthearted take on parents dying on you, read: 6 Surprises To Expect When Both Of Your Parents DieI can relate to #5 the most, for sure!

Due to my mental health struggles, I have problems earning a stable income. In order to help myself financially, this post may contain affiliate links. This means that I may earn a small fee at no extra cost to you, based on your activity on this page. (See my disclaimer page for more information.) If you wish to show your support, you may take a look at my Etsy shop and see if anything tickles your fancy 🙂 Sending you warmth & gratitude in advance! Once again, thank you for reading my blog.


    • Girl says:

      Thank you for your kind encouragement 🙂 I’ve realised “letting go” is a process. Slowly but surely, I hope!

  1. rebecca says:

    Letting of parental expectations is difficult. I struggled with a mom who did not give praise only criticism. She was forced in therapy required by my health insurance to admit it was how she was raised herself. Took years to get to the point of acceptance with my mother’s way of loving not matching up with what I saw on tv, movies, in books, etc. I remember counting the times she had ever said I love you. By age 30, I believe we were at 3. Amazingly, having my own child has done wonders for our relationship despite my fears.

    • Girl says:

      Thanks for sharing, Rebecca 🙂 Yup, your mom sounds like my mom! I don’t think my mom has ever said “I love you” to me or my sister. Though, I recall she has expressed it in written form, for eg. when signing off on a greeting card.

      Her Love Language is probably “acts of service”. Even so, the verbal nit-picking and fault-finding in overdrive doesn’t help our mother-daughter relationship! I don’t feel love despite her “doing things” for me, because of her psychological and emotional abuse that she unknowingly inflicts on her children (and other people around her!)

      My therapist did say having one’s own child helps in the process of learning to parent ourselves. It’s interesting to learn that your child helped in your relationship with your mom! That is encouraging to hear 🙂

  2. Kathleen McAuliffe says:

    So heartbreakingly and poignantly written! I feel badly that your relationships with your parents have been challenging, but happy that you’re tuning into your inner child and repairing the damage. Sometimes, making that decision to separate yourself from toxic influences is the only option. Props to you for making that choice for yourself! Wishing you all the best. 🙂

    • Girl says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Kathleen 🙂 Indeed, it’s a tough thing to admit one’s parents are toxic. In our Asian upbringing, we can’t say anything “bad” about our parents, because that would bring “dishonour” to them. So, I really struggled with this feeling bad, yet feeling bad about feeling bad, for a long time.

      I left you a comment on your blog too — sorry, I can get longwinded! 😛

  3. Jeff Neil says:

    My mother was also constantly warning me about the world and how people were not to be trusted. She also pitted me against my father’s family and still does. Because of this, your article hits home with me. It is sad that we have to carry all this baggage around from parents who didn’t care enough to do it right.

    • Girl says:

      It’s sad to hear that your mom was like mine. The ripple effect and how we now know this can “ruin” lives is scary…

      Whether they cared or not to do it right, I know my parents were not equipped at all. I think they struggled and were grasping at straws a lot — regarding dealing with their declining relationship and their kids. Not saying this takes away the hurt etc caused by them.

      On one hand I am sad and mad at them, on the other, I know that I should have empathy for their struggles. I think they did what they could and what they thought was the best or the right thing to do (not referring to their countless fights).

      In my Asian culture, parents think they “own” their children. Children are never given a voice, their identity is not important or non-existent. That’s why my mother constantly emotionally blackmailed me by saying my “bad behaviour” is a reflection of her not bringing me up well — she was more concerned about what people would think of her, since traditional mindsets perceive children as “subsumed into” their parents. But yes, that didn’t make me feel good AT ALL growing up.

      I’m not entirely on that side of academic empathy yet. I hope to reach that side one day. I hope to find that peace in acceptance of my flawed parents who never were and never will be.

  4. Ali says:

    I also buried my parents a few years back. I buried the illusion of them, my dreams of what they should have been. I’d constantly tortured myself on how different they were from what I wanted and mistakenly tried to control this by constant comparison, in my head. As if this mental comparison and pain would alter things! When I let go and accepted them as they were, much happier. I can now get my needs met by other people with whom I have healthier relationship, the way I now want to be.
    Thanks mum and dad for giving me the opportunity to create my alternative family…

    • Girl says:

      I think what happened with me is that I had a ceaseless yearning.

      As time went by, I recognised I had Daddy issues! Which included abandonment. I guess I tried to look for “a new father” in the men I dated. I always leaned toward hanging out with slightly older company in general. At that time I didn’t think much of it, I thought it was because I was “older than my years”, and also felt jaded. But maybe I was subconsciously looking for a family to “take care” of me.

      Indeed, I also tried to look for my alternate family, like when I used to go to church. And the large groups of friends I pulled together in school. Now I realise why I like large gatherings! I never had one, without fear, while growing up!

      But I guess I’m not as “lucky” as you, to separate the two; burrying the illusion of them vs finding an alternate family or people who can meet your needs which couldn’t be met by them.

      Good news for me is, I see that with therapy, CoDa, etc recovery tools, I will be able to reach the point which you have 🙂

    • Girl says:

      Thanks, Runnerboy. Yes, it is heartbreaking. And I agree that this should be liberation at its fullest. But I currently still alternate between being hurt and this sobering reality.

      I’ve learnt from my therapist that a child’s only source of comfort and safety is from their parents as they’ve no one else at such a young and tender age. I blamed myself whenever I had needs and gave my parents tonnes of excuses when my own needs weren’t met (I only learnt through therapy that all humans have needs, and they are legitimate). I’m still learning to forgive myself for the blame I put on myself all these years.

      In our Asian society, there is a struggle when one feels resentful toward their parents. So cycling between resentment and guilt for many many years has been very tiring. The liberation came when I was “given permission” by my therapist to FEEL my feelings, that ALL my feelings are authentic and should not be denied. There are no *right* or *wrong* feelings. Simply put, it is OK that I feel resentment, if these are my true feelings. I don’t need to be guilty for having these feelings of resentment.

      I’m still working through my feelings to “put away the past” for good to see my parents for who they are now — elderly (frail?) people who need taking care of…

      • Runnerboy says:

        Thanks Girlintherapy for your honesty and insight. I like what u said abt no right and wrong abt feelings. There are what they are and we are allowed to feel them. My feels inform me when something is good or when they are bad hence I’m learning to feel and honour them and to also guide (not control) me.

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