Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Can I ask if anyone was brought up by family after losing their parents?

(71 Posts)
fairlyliquid Wed 30-Jul-14 16:02:18

I just wondered what it feels like to be brought up in the extended family and whether you felt loved. And if you didn't, what was that like.

I have personal experience of this myself by the way.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 30-Jul-14 16:48:07

Perhaps you could start the ball rolling by telling something of your experience? How did you lose your parents (assuming that's what happened to you) and who brought you up?

fairlyliquid Wed 30-Jul-14 17:50:19

Thanks Cogito. I'm bringing up a child who lost both parents. I am a parent to him, but for many reasons (mainly him being a teenager) it's not really a very loving relationship, although I do everything I can to look after and support him. I feel sad that he has noone he knows loves him unconditionally. I wondered if anyone had grown up safe and secure but essentially a bit cut loose from what a family is (at its best of course - I realise not all families are like that).

ThirdPoliceman Wed 30-Jul-14 17:55:15

Not me but my exH was brought up from birth to age 4 by one Aunt and then from 4 to 10 by another. His mother was diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy and he never lived with her. When she died his Aunt, who he thought was his Mum, gave him to her sister to rear.

This Aunt abused him and his siblings by denying them proper food, they were only allowed to eat after everyone else had been fed and sometimes there was nothing left. They were also denied proper medical attention, his sister was stitched up by the evil Aunt because she wouldn't pay for a doctor( Ireland) even though his father would have paid her back.

She shouted and screamed at them and punished them by making them drink sour milk.

His childhood reads like a Dickens novel. He can't talk about it as he becomes very distressed by the memories.

fairlyliquid Wed 30-Jul-14 18:02:18

Third that's terrible - I wonder what enters people's minds to treat a child that way? I'm glad your DH has his own family now.

I treat this child kindly and fairly, plus very generous with money etc. There is conflict, but the same conflict i think there would be with any other teenager I had actually given birth to. But he must feel a lack of love, as if I were a very good step parent, but there is no real mother in the background, if you see what I mean.

PedantMarina Wed 30-Jul-14 18:11:21

I was raised by grandparents from not-quite-3, after the death of my mum (Dad died later, when I was 7). I can't say the DGPs didn't love me, but so much of the whole arrangement was deeply flawed.

Are you and the DC getting the support you need? In DC's case, for instance, bereavement/trauma counselling (as appl)... Have you had guidance on how to deal with your/DC's new life? etc...

tapestryorrug Wed 30-Jul-14 18:13:12

I understand how you are thinking.
my ddis was 13 when our parents died.

I was 22 and eventually became her legal guardian, after quite a battle with social services at the time- 1970's
I did my best, having 3 children of my own at the time.

but... imust say, being without a mothers love was something that she always missed.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 30-Jul-14 18:24:56

In my family there were two sisters who grew up as orphans from age 2 and 4 in a pretty awful institution and deprived of any kind of love or parental influence whatsoever. One went on to be a complete monster of a woman and the other was kindness personified. What I'm saying is that you can't change the past for this child and, whatever the future holds, you can't accept blame or credit either. It's the same for all of us whether natural parents or not. You can only be the best you can be and, in time, he will have to decide what kind of man he wants to be.

fairlyliquid Wed 30-Jul-14 18:58:48

Such wonderful posts.

It's the mother's love thing that makes me searingly guilty sometimes, even though, as you rightly say Cogito I can only do my best.

He was nearly 13 when I got him. Both parents dead before he was 1. All very badly handled by his grandmother who took over till he was 12. No counselling, no information even. He found out how his mother died by going through paperwork, all alone.

In all our rows in that hideous first year, he never said, right, I'm going back to granny. Not even a threat of it. He must have known she wouldn't have him back. She always told us she couldn't do it again.

I just wonder how it will affect him when it comes to forming his own relationships.

In all this I say I, but he is DH's nephew and they used to be so close. We took him on holiday with us every year since DH and I first met. DH spent every other weekend with him. I was so confident they would have a great relationship but nada. Zilch. I've done it all on my own and sometimes it's like being stuck in a loveless relationship without the option of leaving.

Twinklestein Wed 30-Jul-14 19:12:13

There are many different kinds of love, and while you may not be his mother, you make his food and buy his socks, that's love of its own kind.

Rather than focus on what you feel you can't give him, what he lacks, why not concentrate on what you can.

I think birth parents can be over-rated, my own mother was a nightmare when I was a teenager, I would have gladly swapped her for someone more detached and less bonkers.

I think some kind of counselling would be an excellent plan.

fairlyliquid Wed 30-Jul-14 19:33:30

True Twinklestein I bet lots of young people would exchange kind and fair for the real thing.

Twinklestein Wed 30-Jul-14 19:38:00

You're doing an amazing thing that many people simply wouldn't have the kindness and patience to do. It's not your fault that his mother died and you can't replace her, I would try really hard to resist thinking negatively about that.

Coconutty Wed 30-Jul-14 19:43:29

My cousins were very young when they lost both parents in a car accident. They went to live with our grandparents. They are all really close now and although both my cousins have moved out ( one got married recently and one is now a high flyer with a job in the city) they are always phoning, visiting etc.

BitOutOfPractice Wed 30-Jul-14 19:47:58

My DP was brought up by an uncle and aunt from 14. He talks about the practical side of it all, like changing schools etc. But he doesn't really talk about the emotions.

I know his uncle and aunt were kind and he is very close to one (older cousin) that he went to live with.

I can tell you what he's like now. Kind. Compassionate. A fabulous, very loving and possibly a bit too soft father who is demonstrative and caring in emotional and practical ways,

Don't beat ourself up OP. It sounds like you are doing a brilliant job in trying circumstances xxx

OvertiredandConfused Wed 30-Jul-14 20:19:59

I spend a lot of time with three teenagers whose mum died very suddenly. It's different because they still have, and live with, their dad who is great. Plus they are not related to me or DH.

We have a very close relationship - not day to day in their pockets but I see them often and they know I'm there. I'd crawl over hot coals for them - and they know it.

The eldest has been very seriously ill - in HDU twice in the last six months - and she has wanted me there. I've spent hours at her bedside, juggling my family and work to be there for her. I don't pretend to be her mum and I can't replace her. It's a very different relationship, but I love her very much and know she feels the same.

Madrigals Wed 30-Jul-14 20:31:54

My dm was sent away to boarding school as her dm died suddenly when she was ten and her DF couldn't cope. She was sent to board with one of the teachers in the holidays too sad

She was safe and materially ok but wasn't brought up by people who loved her. This has profoundly affected her, though she is still one of the very kindest and loveliest people I have ever met.

Madrigals Wed 30-Jul-14 20:33:09

Can you look for points of commonality and celebrate those? Fake it til you make it with showing affection?

Can your DH do more male bonding stuff with him?

Probably silly ideas, but just thoughts.

fairlyliquid Wed 30-Jul-14 20:34:00

overtired that is lovely, I really hope she gets well very soon - I'm sure her mother would be very happy to know she has you.

Bitout that story really resonates. I think DN will look back and say she was very kind to me and supported me in every way. He arrived too late for us to ever have cuddles or any sort of closeness - he was already hormonal and angry and quite possibly depressed.

He is very emotionally intelligent though, much more than the average teen boy. He reads a lot and understands complex emotional stuff. I think in the future he will revisit his childhood and make peace with it. DH's family very secretive, so it's hard for him to be open about his feelings. I always say I will tell him the truth - I think he's too scared to ask.

mignonette Wed 30-Jul-14 20:40:25

Hi Fairly

We gave a temporary home to a friend of one of my childrens after one of their parents died of an illness and the other killed themselves. They were too old to go into care but not yet old enough to live alone. They stayed with us for over a year and then made arrangements for a career that would give them a home too.

It was hard at times because the grief, anger and pain (ours too) was immense but we used the counselling services of the local hospice and my colleagues in CAMHS gave me a lot of support. We kept in touch with the siblings of the child concerned who were taken into care and all in all I am glad we did what we did.

I had to tell the child each time that their parents had died because there was no other family in the region (long story I cannot tell here). I would have given anything to not have had to do that. Rivers of tears and rage from the child.

The child (sorry, don't want to identify gender) is doing very well now- is adult and appears to have formed loving stable relationships with a partner and friends. I wasn't a given that this would happen BTW for various reasons connected to poor parenting but so far so good.

RandomMess Wed 30-Jul-14 20:50:42

fairlyliquid be kind to yourself too.

I have a very difficult relationship with my eldest (loooooong story) and one thing she does appreciate is that I'm honest about my failings, I don't pretend it was all okay, I say sorry and I tell her (and therefore she knows) that I will always be there for her the best way I can no matter what.

It will never be the same as with her younger siblings but their is no pretence that all is ok?

fairlyliquid Thu 31-Jul-14 08:52:04

Thanks everyone. I just wondered how it felt to be in his shoes as clearly, however hard it is for me it's much harder for him.

burgatroyd Thu 31-Jul-14 08:58:10

fairyliquid he seems lucky to have someone who cares as you do.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 31-Jul-14 09:05:53

It probably is harder for him but (and I could be reading this wrong) try not to allow your desire to sympathise and empathise to get in the way. You already say you're over generous financially and I wonder if there's a risk that you're over-compensating? Whilst it is obviously difficult for a child to grow up without their natural parents, I think more damage can be done if the responsible adults around them (including natural parents) treat them as too much of a special case and fail to set good boundaries in the process.

Staywithme Thu 31-Jul-14 09:14:05

I had a young friend of my youngest boy come to live with us when he was sixteen. His dm was NC and his father had a new family so the boy ended up homeless. I'm a very tactile person and would give the boys a hug before they were going out. I saw the confused look on his wee face the first time he saw this and it would have broke your heart. I walked straight over to him and gave him a big hug (I'm 5'5, he's 6'3 and was always treated as older than 16) and you could feel the tension in his body. After a few experiences like this he then started hugging back and now when he comes for visits he comes straight over for a hug. :-) I'll never be his mum and he took a long time settling in but he knows my husband and I love him and he loves us. It's not going to happen overnight but as another poster said "fake it until you make it" and eventually that love will become real.

Bty I come from a 'challenging' background and was never shown love or affection. It took my husband to show me that people don't have agendas just because they show affection and physical contact is healthy. I love a good hug now and make sure my boys are hugged regularly, wether they want it or not! grin

fairlyliquid Fri 01-Aug-14 10:47:42

Thanks for sharing your stories. Stay I wish we could develop that warmth. Sadly, the early years (13 and 14) were all about dealing with his behaviour and he hated us so we never really developed that dynamic (for want of a better word).

Cogito I do agree about the special case thing. It was definitely the case before he came to us that he was treated as 'special' and spoiled materially out of guilt for all he didn't have (and all he didn't know too) so I think he probably did feel different. I always give him money though, because I would rather he went out than stayed in his room. I also do it when I know I think I've been a bit harsh - I sometimes just really lose it with him over quite small things and when I do I get this surge of anger that has me almost in tears. I don't really understand it.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now