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Generations Apart

Community Member

Just because you can't see the tears falling, just because my eyes aren't red from crying, just because I seem to be listening and joining in, doesn't mean I am OK. Often as you get older, you are able to put on that brave face, that "I'm coping" persona, and pretend that life is great, retirement is fun, the drought is someone else's problem - the next generation can deal with the decision-making and worry.

But unfortunately there is another side, another you that only your secret self knows about and dreads when it tugs at your heart and wakes you from sleep, night after night. This is the anxiety side of me, the side that I have learned so well to recognise, to be wary of its influence, manage it and sometimes dodge its dangerous prompting. Sometimes it seeps into my mind like water leaking from a garden pipe...mostly underground and you don't realise until you see the damp patch, slowly spreading. Sometimes it hits me emotionally, prompted by a memory or some pain that I have stored in a mental box, marked "do not open". Sometimes it slams into me with physical force as I fight against the limitations of reaching seventy. But often, it is a combination that can best be described as a broken heart, as I struggle with wanting to be loved, wanting to be included, wanting to feel relevant, wanting to share.

Rejection that is unexpected is like the shock of plunging into cold water, and no matter how you try to call on the normal strategies to understand it, sort through the scenarios, drag your thoughts into perspective, it hurts and the hurt turns into self-blaming and that turns into a pointless, anxious search for reasons, which then consumes you with a fear of not being important any more and even a burden. The knock-on effect is compounded by your age, your "alone" status, your slowing fitness levels, some unexpected health issues, and a cursed history of being the "solver", the "fixer" the "rock" for children who have now moved on and left me with a huge hole. The scary thing is, the hole looks like a safe hiding place, where no one can hurt me anymore, and I can curl up and shut out the noise and the light and the world.

Normally my farm, the paddocks, my garden, pull me back from the edge of the hole, and with professional help, I get back on track. But of late, a heap of things have triggered really bad anxiety and my son openly rejecting my visit to meet my new grand child in Canada, has broken my heart, and I am struggling.

7 Replies 7

Community Member


I wanted to reach out. You are not alone, though it feels like it. There are too many parents with empty nests navigating as you said the shock and unexpected rejection of their adult children.

I am really sorry to hear about your Son declining your turning up for the birth. Birthing is a tough time. As a woman I would know. Maybe there's hope for a visit after they have settled in with the new bub?

Either way, don't stay in the hole. It's not safe. What we all need apart from paddocks, open skies and the bounty of nature is people. One way or another reach out, I mean you did good. You reached out here. And you find out you are not alone.
How good is that???

You have reached out for help before and found that the mental health professionals can turn it around. Why not let them have a go at it again.
It's what I am about to do.

It feels scary. I dont want to make the call.
But with all the drama and sadness around my adult child rejecting me. Total surprise. Shock.
I need help. Because the worthless feelings creep up.

So Mr Paddocks ...go out, get some help. Same advice I am giving myself.
Will make the call after this. Being a ROCK for your family is no small matter.

I applaud you. Go get some help. You are not alone.

Community Member
Hi Farmer J:
Your post was very interesting to read. You have a great way of expressing how the anxiety affects you, using words to make us see a little of what it's like for you.
It would be so hard for you to be the rock for your family, i have watched some of my friends go through this. It is equally hard to feel unneeded by your family, I have experienced this. It is hard for me right now because the person who needed me the most, my fiance, passed away a few months ago and i feel like no one really needs me now, even though i know that isn't entirely true, I have friends who love and need me.
I'm sorry your son rejected your visit, that must really hurt. It's hard when the things we rely on to help us get through the hard times don't help us as much as they usually do. I hope you can get some help and find things to do that will help you get through this.

Community Member

Thank you so much for reading my post and taking the time to reach out to me in such a caring and understanding way. I really appreciate it, and it takes a load off your shoulders when you find someone else knows some of what you are going through. There are too many friends and family members who I just could not commence the whole process of trying to explain. Feelings are such personal reactions and often don't make sense to others....even those close to you, so you just bottle them up and look for that hole to hide in until it goes away - if it goes away.

Again thank you.....today is no better in terms of dealing with the rejection feelings and now the "what did I do wrong" questions and the "I must be a failure" emotions, but at least I have heard from someone who understands, and that takes the loneliness away each time I read your reply....and I have read it many times this morning.

I know a fair bit about grieving, and I know time is a great healer (if not a complete solution), but as you get older, you realise every day is precious and there are too many missed opportunities to share a moment, a conversation, a hug. And how as a mother do you tell the one you wanted the most, that your heart is breaking because the ties are unraveling and time is running out?

Community Member

Thank you Rishie, your reply is much appreciated. The need to be "needed" has always been so strong with me and yes I have sought help previously when my 16 year old daughter died suddenly and I felt a failure and useless and just didn't want to carry the burden any longer on my own. There have been lots of ups and downs and that mysterious thing called "inner strength" has got me through, but now when I am a bit vulnerable, craving connection with my children and feeling relevant to them and my grandchildren in my retirement, a knock like this is a shock as well as a reminder that some of these unwanted feelings can gnaw away at you mentally and physically, no matter how hard you try to push them aside.

Thanks for sharing about your own loss. It is so true, when you lose someone, it often takes a long time for people to realise they can't assume what your needs and feelings might be. Take care.

Community Member

So today is not that great.....at least the tears have dried up...or I have run out of tears, more like it. Drove into town to post a letter to Canada and some of the Christmas things I was going to deliver in person, only to be told that Australia Post is not accepting any mail for Canada until further notice, due to industrial action in Canada and a backlog of overseas mail. Trivial inconvenience...my normal reaction, but driving back home with those items staring at me on the passenger's seat, those gifts thought through carefully, wrapped with love and anticipation, now taunt me and cause those negative feelings to rise again. A casual meeting with a friend and the hurried, "can't stop now", before abandoning the other chores I was supposed to do this morning and coming back home to hide. Bit messed up aren't I?

Got 2 responses to my post from my dark hole yesterday and that has certainly helped, and I will have 2 grandchildren to collect off the bus this afternoon, so that will be a distraction. Writing all this down is also good for me, and I don't mind if no one reads it, it just feels good to put things down rather than going down the paddock and just sitting there wishing I wasn't here.

Dear JF

Welcome to the forum and thank you for your post. It is hard to feel unwanted especially when you have been used to being in the centre of things. As my grandchildren grow up and have less time with me I do miss them. My children do make an effort to visit or invite me their homes. We talk about the children's progress and it is interesting how these children are beginning to test their wings, almost without mom and dad noticing. They do of course notice but I wonder if they remember doing the same thing many years ago.

I miss my parents, both have passed away, and I would have liked to have the same relationship with them as I have with my children. However I live in Australia and they were in the UK. Not so easy to drop in for a cuppa.

When I retired I became a member of several groups and activities which I enjoyed. Book club, meditation group, bible study, chairman of a charitable trust, pastoral care. Others I tried but did not pursue. I came to Beyond Blue on the recommendation of someone. My husband and I separated 18 years ago and a year later I fell into a huge depression. Not a nice place to be and was a huge shock as I had never imagined such a dreadful place. It did take time to heal and I lost contact with my family a little at this time. Fortunately I was still working which helped enormously.

On the whole I like living alone but there are times when I enjoy company. That's when I need to make the effort to meet others. Attending church has always been good for me but moving to my current home has been good. I have met so many lovely people at church. What I like most is the mutual help and support that is so freely given.

I have taken up the space talking about myself. I am hoping that activities such as these or others you may be more interested in can be a part of your life. I don't take part just to give myself something to do. I very enjoy my activities with much of the joy coming from helping others. Is there a Men's Shed near you? I know many older men value the friendship and camaraderie of other older men and the mutual enjoyment of making things with your own hands.

Good meeting you.


Thank you for getting in touch.

So much of what you said in your post makes sense....there are times I crave solitude and just being able to get out of the hustle and bustle of day to day living, only to find other days, I just feel so lonely and out of touch with what the rest of the world is doing. Some days, I like to watch that frantic pace of life from a safe distance, other days I hunger for involvement and trying to keep up. Some days I drive all the way into town and sit in a coffee shop corner, hoping then dreading that someone will come up and say hello. Many times I leave without having spoken to anyone, other times I will make an excuse for not being able to stay, when spoken to......then I drive all the way back to the farm mixed up, struggling and trying to work out why I am like this at times.

I crave the affection of my family...I raised four kids on my own and have lovely grandchildren who I see almost daily, but there are days when the clucky-hen side of me knows my brood is not all together and I am no longer important...they have flown the nest and it is me trying to make sense of this whole getting older bit, and wondering why they can't see or care what is happening to me.

Like I said at the beginning, life is so fast these days and not keeping up is seen as failure, not getting calls or emails is seen as rejection, the effort to branch out and make new friends or try new things is hard work. It is easier to hide and pretend, so thank you for your words.