Under the Kilt: Grieving the end of a family relationship

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I first started using the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at UCR last fall quarter. As my parents’ only daughter and a first-generation student growing up was difficult, to say the least. My clinician helped me accept the past and move forward with my life and studies. By the end of winter quarter, I was ecstatic to visit my family. I don’t think my clinician or I expected our next session to be as heart wrenching as it was. 

When I visited my family for the first time in months, my parents told me they were getting a divorce. Growing up with their toxicity, I expected it. I only wondered why it took so long. A little while after, my mother pulled me aside and told me she was seeing someone. Her “boyfriend” was a pediatrician from Nebraska she had met on Facebook. He planned to marry her and kept telling her he would visit California, only for work to come up. The process would repeat again. I never thought I’d have to warn my mother about strangers on the internet despite all her warnings to me as a teen, but there I was.

I questioned the validity of this man she had never actually seen and all the empty promises he made her. I wanted my mom to find happiness, but I also wanted her to be rational and not drag my siblings to live with a random man. My mistake was telling her that she was possibly putting my younger siblings in danger. She got upset with me.

In the days that followed, my mother did not talk to me, or if she did, she gave me half-hearted answers. The day before I was set to go back to school, she exploded. She said I wasn’t her daughter, that she did not love me, that I never support any of her decisions to live a happy life, that her boyfriend was real until she finally kicked me out of the house. She did not want to accept that her boyfriend was probably not real. My mom would yell at me over my antics while growing up, but it was never to that extent. Her words truly hurt me, and I was absolutely heartbroken.

Spring quarter had now begun by this point and it was the most difficult time of my life thus far. I wished my mother a happy birthday in April and was met with a “May God bless you. Don’t talk to me or message me ever again.” I recounted the message to my clinician and expressed my hopelessness over the situation. It was then that my clinician told me that I was grieving the end of a significant relationship.

I knew that the end of friendships or romantic relationships could have a huge impact and that you can grieve the end of those relationships. I did not know it could be the same for familial relationships. Who really wants to think about ending a relationship with someone as important as your mother? Despite wanting to talk to my mother and work things out, I knew that in her state it was simply impossible. 

I focused on school to the best of my ability, keeping my mental health afloat with the help of my clinician at CAPS. If you ask me how my spring quarter went, I still have no idea what happened. I was juggling my mental health, supporting my dad in the divorce process, submitting assignments, studying and working. I felt so alone, but with each session I had at CAPS, I was reminded that I was not alone. I had my friends by my side who understood my pain and gave me space to heal. The last words my clinician told me was that she was proud of how far I came, and it made me cry. 

It’s been a few months after that ordeal, and I have since reconciled with my mother. Her boyfriend turned out to be a catfish and she apologized. I know that we won’t have a close relationship like before but I’m glad there has been a little progress. My clinician has since left UCR, as she was only an intern, but I am grateful that she helped me grow so much as a person.

I know many of us may be going through similar situations, if not worse. Adding school on top of personal issues makes life much more stressful, and communicating with professors about your hardships can be difficult. We focus on what’s currently present while neglecting ourselves in the process. I believe it is important to practice self love in the midst of the chaos of life. Utilizing CAPS has proved to be the best decision I made in my second year at UCR, and now I am ready to tackle my third year.

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