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Question:

My daughter has had a hard life and has developed some very poor boundaries with my husband, many others, and me. She struggles with selfishness, addictions of all kinds, and is not always safe to be around. She is not welcome in my home unsupervised because she steals my possessions and my prescriptions; but her attitude suggests she won’t resume a relationship with me unless I am “all in”. Some of her siblings, in order to protect themselves, have drawn hard boundaries. As a result my family cannot be together. My time here on earth is limited due to a terminal illness and I am not sure what else I can do in the time that I have. I have written her letters when she won’t communicate with me, but she does not respond. She has many good redeemable qualities and I miss the good parts of her in my life. What can I do?

Answer:

The fact that you only have a short time left before you pass away certainly makes this lack of contact from your daughter even more urgent. It’s unfortunate that she’s unwilling to help make your final days on earth more peaceful. Even though she’s holding the relationship hostage with her demands, you don’t have to let her define how you spend your remaining time with your loved ones.

I imagine you would like to leave this earth with all of your relationships intact and knowing that everyone, especially your children, are getting along. You have made consistent efforts to draw your daughter toward you. I choose to believe that your efforts are not wasted. You won’t know of the impact you might be having on her. In fact, because she’s so self-centered and addicted, it’s likely it will take long after you’re gone for her to recognize her actions.

Don’t forget that you may also have opportunities to bless her after you’ve left this earth life. President Utchdorf taught that “our Father in Heaven mentors His children and often sends unseen heavenly help to those who desire to follow the Savior.”[i]

As a mother, you recognize that the fruits of your efforts aren’t always immediate. Most of what you do as a mother is planting seeds and patiently cultivating conditions so your children can have every possible advantage and opportunity to have the best life possible. You are creating those conditions for your daughter, even if she chooses not to move toward you and her siblings. You can take this truth with you as you finish up your time on earth.

You might even consider writing her some letters that can be delivered to her long after you’re gone, perhaps on special occasions. This will keep your influence active in her life, letting her know that you want to be a part of her life forever. I recall reading about a father who created a series of videos for his young children before he died that they could watch every birthday as they got older. He would talk about things he imagined they would be going through and lessons he had learned. He wanted his influence to extend beyond his time on earth. She may not be ready to hear from you right now, but you can record your words and thoughts for future moments when she might be more open.

Continue to surround yourself with the relationships that nurture you. Sometimes when you’re so focused on trying to connect with the one that got away, it’s easy to miss the others that are standing right next to you. Turn to them and let them know how much you appreciate them and what they’re doing to make your remaining time special.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves on the high council of the St. George, Utah young single adult second stake. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

 

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[i] Dieter F. Utchdorf, “Four Titles” April 2013 General Conference