What Are Your Thoughts About an Adult Daughter Too Busy to See Her Sick Mom?

Updated on August 10, 2015
M.Z. asks from Snohomish, WA
25 answers

I have been diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma, and my prognosis is fairly dire -- I may only have months to live, not years. Although my daughter only lives 30 minutes away, the most I see her is every month or two. Her boyfriend has a very large family, so I hear about every birthday party, wedding, friends party and other event happening with her "new" family. This is her justification/excuse about why I never see her. This is not new, it has happened consistently over the years, even before the new boyfriend and his large family. My diagnosis has magnified the hurtfulness of her actions. From my perspective, she may as well be saying "these things are all more important than spending time with you, mom". At this point, I just don't want to continue to be hurt by her. What can I do to help this matter?

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answers from Baton Rouge on

She is going to do or not do what she decides to do or not do.
You have no control over that.
Make what time you have left all about you and what you want to do, and stop begging her for her time.
Go do what you want as much as you can.

More Answers


answers from Boston on

I'm so sorry about your diagnosis and I hope for a good turnaround for you. This is a time for you to focus on your treatment as well as your mindset, and it's a time for reflection even more than what your have done in the past as you look at your mother-daughter relationship.

Your relationship with your daughter predates your cancer diagnosis by many years, and it predates this boyfriend and his family. So whatever the causes of your rift, they go way back. It's probably unrealistic to think that this is the time to go back to its origins and to try to undo hurts and decisions and paths chosen.

You are now feeling the lack of contact/closeness more than ever. If you don't have other family, you may well be facing the possibility of drying alone, and that's frightening.

There are 2 ways to go, I think.

One is, you can seek solace and support form any number of sources, from cancer care agencies/caregivers or from a counselor or clergy member whose denomination or spiritual viewpoint is similar to yours.

The other is, you can give your daughter a gift of your parting words/reflections that have nothing to do with the division between you. Go back to happier times and memories, and write them down, either as a letter or in a journal. How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant? How did you choose her name? How did you feel when you first saw her? When she took her first steps? When she went to school or brought home a special project or a mother's day card? How about her first prom or school dance? What about some special memories of not-so-special days - just those ordinary but spectacular moments of sitting on a beach or collecting shells, of doing a puzzle or doing each other's hair? What are your hopes and dreams for her? What was important to you as a mother - to raise her to be independent or strong? What about her makes you proud? Can you write this down, making only positive statements of joy and love? Leave out any mention of your loneliness or disappointment or what you've missed out on. This will do 2 things - it will make you focus on lovely memories that are overshadowed right now by your misery, AND it will leave your daughter with a memento and her mother's voice that no one can take from her. If your cancer turns around, which I hope it will, your daughter will still have your deepest and warmest and most positive thoughts about her and your role as her mother. Leave her with a book of joy and affection and of knowing how much you wanted her and how much she enriched your life. Maybe it will get through to her and you will have many more years together in a closer way than you have had so far.

Please leave out any negatives - you don't want this to be your legacy to her, a gift of bitterness and sadness.

Blessings to you.

21 moms found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

I hear you.
I live 10 minutes away from my disabled mom but I dont visit her much. I go over and take her trash out on my way to town on occasion, I take her grocery shopping once in awhile.
She and I have never seen eye to eye on things my entire life, so she isnt someone I can go visit and enjoy the company for very long. Usually after about an hour of catching up on family and current events I'm pretty much ready to go home.
I could spoil my mom and be there for her all the time but if I had she wouldnt have all the WONDERFUL friends she has now. I sort of tough loved her into taking care of herself after my stepdad passed away a few years ago. She reached out to her friends out of desperation and now they are a tight group that meet for lunch every Monday and Friday, and they go on trips together and she enjoys their company.
Me? When I go over it usually ends with me leaving abruptly and her telling me I dont care about her and what has she done wrong and all kinds of stuff that has been said over and over and over again. Just because we are blood does not mean we have to be friends.
Granted, my mom is a sweet lady, I was never abused or anything like that. We just dont click. She thinks she wants to click with me, but in the past when I've tried to make that happen, well she really isnt into the things I do or say or like...... so it's pretty obvious that me going over to visit her just to do her biddings is really all she wants from me so she can tell her friends "my daughter came over Saturday and vacuumed and changed my sheets and took me grocery shopping and gave me a pedicure". Thats what she wants, and some mothers and daughters have great relationships that involve those types of things. Then there are those of us that dont have those relationships. There is nothing wrong with the fact that you raised a strong independent daughter, maybe she cant face you being ill, a lot of people cant face illnesses in the eye, they are not emotionally capable of it.
I've rambled, but from your post I feel that you've never really had a great, close relationship with your daughter and I'm sorry it's hurting you now, but my advice is for you to reach out to friends and maybe other family members that would like to help you and let your daughter off the hook.
You should never make her feel guilty for not wanting to hang around with you, she probably feels that to a degree on her own.
Be pleasant to her when you do see her, enjoy that bits of time you do get with her.
Leave her a journal of your thoughts so she knows how much you love her, something she can cherish if you do pass before you get the reconciliation that you are yearning for.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I think someday she's going to miss you a lot but it will be too late for her to do anything about it.
You can't change her - you can only change how YOU feel.
If there's a bright side - at least (assuming she spends her life with this boyfriend and his family) she won't be alone.

You are going to have to make your peace with the situation as it is.
Write her a nice letter to be delivered to her after you're gone.
Don't chew her out - would you really want that to be the last thing you say to her?
Tell her what a joy it's been being her mother and you're very proud of the young woman she's become and you hope her future is bright and filled with love all the days of her life.
Get it out on paper, and then let it go.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm very sorry. I know she will miss you greatly someday. We all know she has a bond with you but it may not be as strong as far as what she feels.

Example... My mom is the most selfish fake person I know. I love her but I have to keep my distance because she drives me bat crazy.

I know you're not my mother writing this post because my mother summons all the family together for every issue she has. She thinks of no one but herself.

I'm probably not the best person to answer this question but I'm doing so because I can so see my mom eriting this question about me.

I don't have extended family from hubby's side, we are on our own and we took that spot knowing where we stand with our parents. Hubby's parents are gone, it's just mine at this point.

My mom is drama mama for any ailment and calling all to her bedside.

Sorry..... I got off track... I'm sorry if you have a poor relationship with your children. Communicate with them now before it's too late.

As for my mom, she reacts to whatever happens and it's never her fault. Give your kids a break, listen a lot to what they have to say.

I truly hope you get better.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I am so sorry for your diagnosis.

You must feel scared and very alone? Are you receiving hospice care?

They have resources from social workers to grief therapists to errand runners. Perhaps one could help you with the issue with your daughter?

Either way please surround yourself with support.

Your daughter just may not know how to handle this and may be in denial. She may be afraid to tell you how she feels about this.

Please read Diane B's answer.

In my own experience? I had a VERY LIMITED relationship with my mother and her side of the family. She had mental health issues and dysfunction she/ they did not want to address.

Because I put boundaries up I became the black sheep of the family.

In her last two months of dying I spent time with her just about each day, helped her plan a detailed funeral, contact friends, go over her childhood pictures with her while her friends and family sat there and judged me.

You know what? That entire time she never told me she loved me. Even when I said it to her. Never talked about my birth, my childhood memories or funny times growing up.

It was not that unexpected given her mental health issues, but it still made me sad that my childhood was not that significant to her.

She is truly the only historian of my childhood and I didn't get "her records" of that :-(.

While my childhood may not have been that significant to her, her motherhood was to me because clearly one way or another it taught me how to be the bigger person, to forgive her faults and give her a parting gift of knowing she was loved and celebrated.

So please read what Diane wrote and use this opportunity to tell your daughter how much she means to you, how much you love her, how proud you are of her accomplishments, about when she was a baby and her childhood. These are your accomplishments too!

I wish you forgiveness, peace and love.

It is now or never.

ETA: if you don't feel you can say these things, then put them in a nice letter and make sure she gets it. Even set certain mementos aside and pictures describing what they mean to you, why they are special or why you want her to have them.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


Welcome to mamapedia!

I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis.

I'm sorry also about your relationship with your daughter. There was a poster here last year who complained about her adult daughter not being involved in her life...

To be honest, you need to step back and see what is going on. You might be too clingy for her. You might have raised a VERY independent daughter. Or, I'm sorry to say, you've been a self-centered mom and she needs a break from you.

Does she know about your illness?
What do you expect from her?
What do you want from her?

I realize you must be scared, especially knowing the your life is ending soon. Have you tried to talk WITH her and not TO her?

Have you had a face-to-face conversation with her where YOU are not domineering the conversation?

Do you LISTEN to her or do you berate her on her NOT coming to see you?

Do you use sarcasm with her to cover your pain over your relationship with her or lack thereof?

Since you only have months to live? I would STRONGLY suggest that you contact your daughter and tell her you need to make amends and clear the slate...nothing left unsaid since you don't know how much longer you have.

I pray that you are able to settle this and have more than a few months.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My thought is that you need to realize that this is not new and unfortunately your illness is not a trump card. You need to be talking to her vs us and seek out other support if she cannot provide it. You help yourself by focusing on people that do care vs this daughter you cannot chase. IMO, you also speak to her frankly and then let the chips fall. I think hospice would be a good option for, you as they help you with both your physical well-being and emotional support.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'm so sorry. i can only imagine how scared and lonely you must feel.
have you contacted hospice? is someone living with and caring for you? do you have a support group? are your affairs in order?
the most important thing to do is to take care of yourself.
i realize that it must involve trying to fix things with your daughter. but please try to remember that this situation isn't sudden, like your diagnosis. it sounds as if there are years of anger and resentment built up, and that won't just go away.
i suggest you open the door and keep it open, but don't try to drag her through it. contact her regularly- call once a week, email from time to time- and be very conscious about keeping the tone warm, loving , cheerful, and free from guilt. if she perceives you as being whiny or clingy or attempting to guilt-trip her, i suspect she'll pull away harder. and however justified you feel about it, with limited time you don't want to squander it in being 'right.'
i hope you are able to forge a closer relationship with her, but don't let your remaining time be dominated by it. while it's possible to fix a lifetime of issues in a few months, it can only happen if both sides are working hard at it. the main thing is for you to be sure that she knows a) that you love her and b) that you know she loves you. however hurt you are, don't bequeath her a legacy of guilt. let your lasting gift to her be of unconditional love.
my very best to you.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Sorry but I can only answer this from the lens of my own life. All my life I tried and tried to bond with my mom and she would have none of it so when she was diagnosed with Alzheimers I was there for my dad, nothing more. When she went into hospice and died two weeks later I was there for my father. There is a very high level of cruelty that you must push on your child for them to turn their back on you like this.

Sorry if this isn't what you want to hear but I have never met anyone who could be bought by another family. When a child clings to their spouses family it is usually because they have found that family bond that they so desperately needed as a child. So you can go around blaming his family and continuing the hurtful behavior that drove her away or you can accept you harmed this relationship.

My mom did what you are doing, it is his family, it is your lack of love, it is you being hurtful and guess what, it made pulling away even more easy as pie.

Reading some of the answers I just have to say it seems like a lot of people think it is fairly easy for a child to turn their back on their parents or parent. It isn't. At least for me it came down to I just can't keep forgiving this woman so she can keep hurting me.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I'm sorry this is happening.

That said, you also live 30 minutes away from your daughter, and are seconds away on the phone. If your daughter is estranged, remember...you are also estranged from your daughter. She is not the only person choosing not to have a relationship here.

I know that's tough to hear. I'm saying this not to hurt, but from the perspective of someone whose mother never calls, doesn't make an effort to see me, and always expects me to make any visiting plans. I'm raising kids and running a home, Mom is single...yet she can't pick up a phone?

What is YOUR contribution to the effort to have a relationship?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I'm sorry to hear you are going through this.

I went through this with my aunt. We "went through the motions" for years and years at family gatherings. She did some things to my grandparents that to me were unforgiveable. My cousin told me she was not doing well after being in remission for breast cancer. We had about 2 months before she passed away. I decided not to contact her and she didn't contact me either.

I feel a "little" sorry about this but that was my decision to live with.

If I were you I would meet with her and flat out tell her what your diagnosis is and that you want to make sure things are "ok" between you since you don't have much time left. If she decides to not make an effort after that than that's on her and she will have to live with that.

As far as you go, I would reach out as much as you felt and let it go. It sounds like she is young and is busy with her life, which to a point is understandable. This is a hard place to be in and I wish you the best. Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

I'm very sorry for your diagnosis.
In the end, we raise our children to fly. That is what you've done. You can choose to be hurt by her choices, or you can choose to recognize she's no longer a little girl and makes her choices. She will have to live with them, and I do believe it will come back to bite her. But have you told her how you feel? In detail?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Have you said to her, Honey, I love you and want more of a relationship with you. Especially now. It would mean a lot to me if we could get together once a week. Can I take you out to lunch next week? Have you explained your diagnosis to her? When you see her it would be good to do this in person. You don't say why you really don't have much of a relationship with your daughter. There could be so many reasons. She could be busy. She could be avoiding you. She could have very valid reasons for this that you do not see. Anyway, I am so sorry about what you are going through. This is tough. I hope that your daughter will make some time for you. If she does not please do things that are good for YOU and make you feel happy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I'm sorry to hear of your health issues. That has got to be scary knowing you are very close to dying and have no relationship with your daughter.

My personal thought on this? You are smothering her and she is running as fast and as far as she can from you because she doesn't want the drama. I apologize if that comes off as rude or insensitive. I've stood on the outside watching a family implode and there was really nothing I could do to stop it. The mom hated that her son was no longer her son (he is transitioning to a female) and wanted to control everything about the transition, looks, etc. Our friend spends most of her time with us, while her mom calls her 5 times. She doesn't pick up anymore and avoids at all costs. We have tried to invite mom to our place and it becomes a "ME" fest, we have stopped inviting her.

I don't know if this is your or not. This is just my personal experience with a dear friend who took a leap of faith and decided to become who he thought he should have been.

I love the suggestion to step back and see what your actions are. Margie gave great advice too. I love that Julie shared her personal experience with you. I'm so sorry that happened to her. I can't imagine having a mother like that.

With the time you have left? Tell your daughter you want to get everything out on the table so that nothing is left undone or unspoken. Ask if she would be willing to go to a counselor with you so you two can communicate before you die.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My initial thought was "what a terrible daughter!" However, in giving your daughter the benefit of the doubt, there may be a number of reasons why she's this way.

Maybe she's too young to fully grasp the gravity of the situation. How old is she? Also, there is a possibility that this is the way she deals with devastating news -- by ignoring it. I know that's how I personally deal with difficult news. She might need more time. Or maybe she's trying to forget about your diagnosis by keeping herself busy because it's too much for her. There may be a number of reasons why she's doing this. You should talk to her about it the next time she visits.

I really hope everything works out between you and your daughter.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm very sorry.
Have you tried telling your daughter exactly what you've told us here?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charleston on

I am sorry for one about your illness. But like someone else posted sounds like there is an issue between you two that needs to be addressed. Try to bring up why she doesn't want to be there like you feel she should. Me and my mother have never gotten along I mostly lived with my grandmother until she passed. I also realized the anger I felt toward my own mother and finally brought it up and talked to her about it and we now have a very strong relationship.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hi, sorry to hear of your situation. It's rough I know - I am far away from my family ad being ill is hard without that family support nearby. In your case, I think it's unfortunate you're letting your expectations for your daughter get in the way of just appreciating her for who she is. She likely senses your disappointment, and that's enough to keep some people away.

Remember it's expectations that hurt people - it's not like she's intentionally saying "I'm going to do what I can to let my mom down" but you're likely making her feel that she is. My MIL does this to my husband and doesn't understand why he's not more interested.

When I was about 20 I realized my mom and I would never have the kind of relationship my best friend had with her mom. And I was like "so?" - I let that expectation go. Then I was so much happier. My mom and I are really close - more like friends now. It's not the idea I had in my head (it's not some TV version of the perfect mom-daughter relationship) - she is who she is, and I respect and like her - but she was a tough cookie, not the cuddly mom I always thought I needed and wanted. I see her for who she is and appreciate that. Maybe you need to realize your daughter isn't going to fulfill your expectation of what a daughter should. Be ok with who she is and I think she will be more inclined to come around.

You sound very hurt and upset with her and I'm sure she picks that up. No one likes to feel like a disappointment.

Good luck and I really hope your health improves :) take care

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

first, sorry that you are ill... My prayers go out to you.. I think since you know time is of the essence here, there is no beating around the bush.. Which means in order to clearly and carefully communicate to your daughter that you would love to see her more often, you will have to be VERY direct, yet in a tactful way so as not to pressure or push her away.
Let her know how much you enjoy her company and now having been diagnosed with cancer, you have come to realize even more so how much you love her and want spend more time with her..
Be open and honest, but not pushy and needy... Truly, the cancer diagnosis may be too much for her and her way of dealing may be to distance herself even more, although you said this has already happened in the past, which leads me to believe there is possibly some other issue going on between you and her. However, there is no time for blame here, what's important is you express your feelings to her, again, not in a resentful or needy fashion, but in a way that simply says, hey let's spend some time together. I also think it's important that once you express your feelings to try and not wish for a specific outcome.... meaning, that she will say, SURE!!! let's get together asap !!! she may not... so all you can do is put the positive energy out there and turn the rest over to (in my case, I 'd called it my higher power) in yours, use what works for you.. could be the universe.. point is... we only have control over ourselves and the rest you have to be willing to let go of... if she doesn't call you back or suggest you get together.. it will hurt no doubt, but know that you did what you could... serenity is your best bet here.. otherwise, you will continue to hurt and right now, you need your energy to try and get better... even if the doctors say otherwise, you never know... a miracle can happen and I believe in them...
good luck.. I wish you all the best..

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Please find a support group that knows what you're going through. One where you can find support and a soft shoulder to cry on and new friends that will be there to do things with you.

I feel so bad for you. My daughter lives about an hour away but she hardly ever comes here. I hardly ever go there. We basically pass in the night likes ships. She drops kids off here when she comes to town to hang out with her friends then she comes to pick them up and heads home a few days later.

If we go there we drop off kids for a visit or we're picking up kids.

So we're not close either. I think it's sad she isn't realizing what you're going through. She is making her choice known though. Let her know you love her in what ever ways you can. That's to make you feel better not for her to recognize.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

She will only know how you feel if you tell her. Humans don't have the ability to read minds so we are dependent on others telling us how they feel and what they want. So I'd say to talk to your daughter and let her know your situation and that you'd like to spend more time with her since your time is short. Don't lay a guilt trip on her. She may be trying to fill her time with positive things because once you are gone all she's going to have is other people.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I completely understand. All of our family lived 20 minutes away from each other for most of our marriage. . The difference was that my husbands family always planned get togethers. At least 1 time a week we were all at his grandparents home, they lived up the street, they did not work. It was a quick call that we were doing a pot luck, or that there were special visitors to see, etc.. But they had been retired for 30 years! Heck his grandfather lived to be 103. They had tie to plan things each week.

My mother never did have gatherings, except major holidays, She and her husband worked full time and weekends were days to catch up on the week. . My husband and I lived in a very small home, only one bathroom and only room for about 4 adults in our living room so it was hard for us to host anything. We also worked full time. Most times even weekends.

My mothers family has never been people that got together again they d not live close by and they are all working people. . My fathers people were almost all alcoholics, so those always ended up being uncomfortable. My grandfathers family are wonderful but live out of town.

Your daughter may need to be reminded or at least have direct requests for her to visit you during this time. She is in denial and does not know what you can handle.

Are you sleeping most of the time?
Is it ok for her to come and go?
What should she do if you need a nap or are just not feeling well?
Is it ok for her to just watch tv?
Read a book to you?
How much assistance are you needing?
When my business partner was dying, she had an open door policy, come for a visit anytime. Call to give her a heads up, but she wanted everyone to visit, Sometimes she slept and we the visitors, spoke with each other, Sometimes, I just read a book while she slept. Sometimes, I cleaned her kitchen.

I loved when she asked for some assistance or made a special request. A task was what everyone wanted.

Your daughter could be uncomfortable being or staying in your home if it was not her childhood home. We have always told our daughter, our home is her home, no matter where we live and she lives. She has her own room, and we had her decorate it. So tell her, she is always welcome and you want to spend time with her before you die. Even if there is a movie you want to see, have her bring over a video. Ask her to read to you. Have her bring over some take out food, even if you cannot really eat it, just having her and her husband there helps your spirits.

Organize a board game.. And see if you all can play together. Sitting on your deck and watching thenneighborhood.

As we get older, we do not always feel as though we have a place in our parents homes. We have become visitors.

Have her come over and go through old photos, have her document your memories on the back of the photos, or have some placed in envelopes for other family members..

If you do not ask directly and make your wishes known, how is she going to know what it is you want?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

This happened to me, but I was the kid. My dad was fighting stage IV colon cancer and I didn't make a big enough effort to see him. I didn't avoid him, but I also wasn't making more of an effort to see him.

At the time, it was not something I was consciously aware of - I never thought to myself "gee I need to stay away" but now it's 10+ years after he passed and I can see clearly now that it was too painful for me to see him. My dad meant the world to me - he was my savior from a mother who was lets just say less than adequate.

It was the worst unconscious decision of my life - my only real regret. I wish I knew then what I know now - living proof of the saying. And I've made mistakes, absolutely, but haven't regretted them. I can't answer your question about how to help, but I can say that it's sometimes easier for the family of the sick individual to put their heads in the sand, as a coping mechanism and not even realize explicitly realize they are doing it. Especially if she is in her 20s when we are more caught up in our selves and our own lives.

I've since moved about 5 minutes away from my step mom, as to not make the same mistakes with her. I wish I lived here when my dad was ill...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, that must be very difficult.

Some thoughts, and I don't intend to be cruel, but this is just what occurred to me (I have also been estranged from a parent so I do know a bit of what you're talking about). First I would suggest being honest with yourself - are there things you have done to help precipitate this situation? She is a product of her raising, to some extent. So there might be something there. S., it is hard to face a parent in your situation. It may be painful for her. You should try to realize that. It's not just you having to come to terms with this. Maybe she is having a hard time. Last, I'd ask you to ask yourself the question, "Are all these bad feelings more important than seeing your child?" If it was me, I don't care how many times she forgot to call or didn't come - I'd still be calling, myself. This isn't the time to give up on your child. Have you had a serious discussion with her about this? That especially now, it's important that she come see you? Or is this just a case of you complaining to us but being a silent martyr in real life (or maybe worse, nagging?) Just some things to think about. I hope you find peace and can figure something out. Good luck.

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