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  • Writer's pictureDiana Creel Elarde

Silently Adrift

Updated: Jan 18

My daughter and I are in a rift right now. Actually, as it has carried on for nearly three years, perhaps rift is too mild of a word. Broken--very broken--would now describe the relationship, with no path in sight toward reconciliation. 

I say these words and I write these words in disbelief. I wonder often, was I so bad as a mother that this is my ultimate fate? Or was it something I said or did? Or is the person I am beyond her sense of acceptance? Why is it that silence is the only explanation given? 

It is harsh when good friends or family members cut you off without a word. It sets you adrift without a defined motive, answer, or reason. And truly at sea is where you remain, where some days the stormy waters are so chilling that you believe that you will never find refuge. Other days, there are rays of hope when you think this will end and end well. But all of this is quite beyond any known element of control. 

My first husband quite often used to employ “the shun,” as I began to refer to his silence. No words, for hours or days, would follow his statement of “you know what you did.” Surprisingly, I never did manage to figure any of them out. And after a long while, I didn’t care to even try anymore. I just wanted a peaceful life with someone who could discuss the wrongs or praise the rights and not shun me.  

Psychology will tell us we are never angry about what we say we are angry about. And through the years, I have come to believe this to be true. I tell the classes I teach that anger is never about not washing the dishes. The reasons for anger run deep and they cut hard. Certainly, anger and the ways we respond to it can be complex, and silence the most complex of all. 

Studies also show that when couples argue, men equate it with a lack of respect, while women have doubts about the love. So males and females don’t even come from the same perspective, which often leads to bewilderment and walk-aways in opposite directions. If we don’t make efforts to reach within ourselves or outward to the other person to have that deep conversation, the silence/argument/silence/argument becomes the vicious cycle we play out year after year. 

Do these studies mean my daughter and I are swimming in constant doubts of love, both of us harbored away in our pain of feeling so unloved that no words are expressed that could bring peace to this unresolved break? It is easy for me in my times of grief to succumb to thoughts of she must not love me or she must see me as a toxic person in her life. Other times I want to strike out at the unfairness, the pain, and especially the overwhelming feeling of extreme loss. 

But in her selfness, there also lies what she feels and what she believes is fair. In her stand, she moves forward, directing her anger, disappointment, hatred, boundaries, hurt (you pick a word, I’ve tried all of them) in each moment of that silence.  

I know in this current era I’m not the only mother who is persona non grata. One friend suffered a stroke after her daughter cut her out of her life, also taking her only grandkids with her. Villainized for having helped her sister move into a memory-care facility, her daughter’s accusation was that the only acceptable level of care was for the sister to be living with my friend. Why was one way the only way? I would like to say a story like this is an isolated one, but I hear tales of condemnation by son/daughter among my peers over and over again. Current research finds that a third of young people have cut out one or more family members from their lives. Are the good friends of today, who might be the strangers of tomorrow, truly the preferred replacement options? Have we become the generation that failed in parenting or family relations? What has failed? Who has failed? 

Do I now stand as the villain in my daughter’s life? Perhaps, as a representative of a world that I promised and a world that never delivered. I, as a parent, thought I encouraged her. However, as most of us parents discover, what we offered up might not have been what was needed or even correct. Knowing that regrets do little to help us, I tried to act on the words of Maya Angelou, now that I know better, I do better. Perhaps that “better” just came too late.  

If there is a wing to wait in, that’s where I remain. Hidden with a life I feel I want to lead, with the years passing quickly for me now. I can’t succumb only to the pain. I have others, such as my current husband, who are such examples of what love can be that I refuse to let the pain that feels intentionally bestowed upon me destroy the other areas of happiness in my life. 

I try to contain my minutes of grief and tears to the early hours of each day. And as dawn approaches, I walk my designated route, greeting the sun’s first rays and repeating the Hawaiian healing prayer for forgiveness, Ho’oponopono, over and over and over: 

   I’m sorry 

  Please forgive me 

Thank you 

I love you 

I’m not helpless in the efforts I need to make to find what peace I can, and I do hope that prayers will bring us together again. Still, sadness also walks with me that such a precious light in my life shines now only in silence. 


Diana Creel Elarde is a PSYCH-K® facilitator and Psychology Professor, author of the book, A Star in My Hand, and a three-time contributing author in the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. You can reach her at  

 Silently Adrift, copyright DElarde, 2023 

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