Adult-children of a parent or parents with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are often trapped in very painful, dysfunctional, and toxic relationship with their borderline parent(s). What keeps adult-children trapped in the unhealthy, unrewarding, and toxic relationships is the need for validation that could bring about closure to the gaping wound of abandonment.
My mother has BPD. She is a borderline. For years I chased the validation that I thought the capturing or winning from my mother might give me some healing closure to what was left of my abandonment wound.
Admittedly I didn’t spend a lot of conscious time or energy, effort or focus on this quest. Why? Because I knew better. I knew better because as someone who had and recovered from BPD I knew only too well what would actually have to happen for my mother to meet me even part way down this road, let alone half-way.
The search for closure with a borderline parent can last a lifetime if you let it. It can last well after your borderline parent dies if you let it too.
In the case of my borderline father the only closure I was able to achieve was in my own recovery and in and through disengaging his on-going borderline pathology. I went no contact with my father seven years before he died. He died without either of us resuming contact.
In the case of my borderline mother, who I also went no contact with for those same seven years, contact was made with me eight months after the time my father died to tell me he had died. We then had very sporadic and surface contact off and on over a few years. I again made the choice to initiate and maintain no contact with my mother. She is 83 and still as borderline as ever. She is still as toxic as ever. She lives so deeply in the past, emotionally, that to her, I am still 10 years old. That is her perception. That is how she would relate to me. Life sucked when I was 10 years old. She was very abusive to me when I was 10 years old.
The search for closure for the adult-child of a borderline parent can keep you stuck in or overly-focused on your past in ways that obliterate your here and now and in ways that can ruin your present-day relationships if you aren’t careful.
This search for closure, which for me in periods of my life felt more like a manic quest, is really futile. The only way that healthy closure can be found with a borderline parent is if they themselves seek treatment and are able to make considerable progress in therapy.
This search for closure does not have to keep winding its way to your mother or father’s doorstep, physically or emotionally. In fact, my experience has been that the best one can do is find this most sought-after closure on one’s own. Just as the relationship that never was really, between my mother and I, was not ever mutual, it made sense to me that neither would the closure be mutual.
There is so much grieving and so much letting go that one must do in the work that is one’s own process of closure with a parent with BPD who chooses not to participate or who is incapable emotionally of participating.
As the adult-child of two borderline parents I had to radically accept who they were and what that meant for me. I had to just radically accept that I was not ever going to be able to get what I had so longed for, so needed, from both of them, either of them, and then grieve that loss.
Each one of us has a choice to make. We can choose to remain victims of our pasts. We can choose to let the borderline parent or parents hold the cards that we were dealt emotionally in life or we can choose to take our emotional cards and leave the table from which the toxic relational style of the borderline parent will continue to reject us, wound us, abandon us, invalidate us, emotionally abuse us.
We can set up our own card game in our own lives and we can learn the rules by which the emotional card game of life “should” be played. We can learn how to be there for ourselves in the ways that we had so needed and hoped the borderline parent would have been or would one day, still, be.
If you are an adult-child of a borderline parent (or parents) like I am and you haven’t found your way to let go yet, please know that you can find that letting go when you are ready. Know also that if you do not choose to find your own way to healing and your own closure the borderline parent or parents can and will control you, still hurt you, still negatively affect and impact your life from the grave.
I feel blessed and fortunate because even in my borderline father’s passing (in 1997) he didn’t take anything from me. My hope for closure with him was already dead. I had let it go. In fact I’d say that I have more peace and more of a sense of love and empathy for my father now than I ever did when he was alive. In many ways it feels like a very spiritual experience.
While my borderline mother is still alive, for me, she really isn’t. She has emotionally passed from my life. She first chose this many years ago. I then chose this on my own, in a very final way that is the most closure I can get, not all that long ago.
I have love for my mother. I have sympathy and empathy for my mother. There is still some sadness there. Sadness of an adult though, not the sadness or neediness of a child. It is in my love for her and my love for myself that I have found closure through the grieving of the relationship that never was between us.
To find your own closure in the absence of the participation of the borderline parent is possible. It is not easy. It is a process. It is painful. It is very sad.
This closure requires ending any and all blame of that parent (or those parents) for where you are at in your life or for things that haven’t thus far worked out for you in your life. Surrendering the blame means taking personal responsibility, remembering, and letting go. Letting go means opening up inside to the tender and vulnerable pain of your inner child and getting to the other side of the rage and/or anger to the loss that sits underneath and the weeping that is the way to emotional freedom.
There is a sacred and lasting letting go that you can achieve through radical acceptance and through the making of a choice, a decision, to just let go of all that never was and to let go of the false hope for all that just can’t ever be. Let it hurt. Feel it. Grieve it. Release it. Set yourself free from it.
© A.J. Mahari, July 20, 2008
I am currently writing my memoir about my recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder and my journey of recovery as an adult-child of borderline parents. You can check for updates about my up-coming memoir at ajmahari.ca