Beliefnet
Dear Rabbi Shmuley,
I have not had contact with my grown son for over 2 years. He doesn't respond to attempts at contact via cards, presents, calls or emails. So I haven't tried contacting him for the past 6 months. Although I am deeply hurt, I am more concerned for his pain.

My daughter reports he is very angry, and recently missed his half brother's high school graduation, which upset everyone. He was raised by me from a baby of 18 months, his father re-entered his lives when he was a teen (we had divorced in 1975). When my son was grown, he relocated to the east coast to be closer to his father and get to know him.

How can I soothe my son's pain while showing respect for his feelings? I'd like to save (what I can of) the relationship, but the longer we stay out of contact, the harder that will be, I fear. I love him no matter what, and I hate to see my kid in pain. He wants no contact, and thinks he is healthier if he stays away from me. I am very sad when I think of him still suffering from divorce at age 34. Is there something I can do to help him? I don't have anybody to talk to as my current husband has no children and doesn't understand.

I'm at a loss for what to do.
--Dumped Mom

Dear Dumped Mom,
Let me first say that there is no such thing as a dumped mom. Kids need their parents, and want their parents in their lives, even if they are angry, and even if they are not completely conscious of it. Parents are not luxuries, they are necessities. It is our parents who give us self-confidence and self-esteem when we're young by making us feel intrinsically and unconditionally valuable. Without our parents' love, we are reduced to finding conditional love from friends and associates, people who will love us not for who we are but rather what we do, not for our person but rather for our virtue.

This is not only true when we're young, it's true when we grow up as well. We always need our parents support, approval, and love. And we seek it always, at every stage of life. We want our parents to be proud of us, to embrace us, and to love us. And we forfeit that love only at great cost to ourselves.

I tell you this so that you'll never give up on pursuing a relationship with your son, if you remember that deep down, he wants a relationship with you.

Something clearly happened along the way to make him, as you say, very bitter and angry. And that anger and bitterness covers over his natural love for you.

Our job is to unearth it. Here's my idea for how to proceed.

First, convey to your son through your other children how remorseful you are that he is not close to you, and how you would do anything to change that.

Second, give him a letter via one of your children telling him that you apologize for any pain you have caused him and that you want to make it better.

If he does not answer, then again ask one of your children to ask him to tell you, through them, what he is so angry about. If that still doesn't work, try and pursue it through one of his friends. Get them to speak to him on your behalf to ask what can be done to repair the relationship.

The key is to be persistent. Your son wants a relationship with you. But you have to overcome that thick layer of stubbornness and pain that has come between you. If your son sees that you're persistent, he will eventually respond, even if only to lash out. And once he gets his anger out of his system, the two of you will be able to re-start a relationship.

The key is for you to take responsibility for any pain you caused, and then to try and rebuild the relationship by continually showing him how important he is to you. Your decision to not try to contact him in six months may have backfired—it may have showed him that repairing this relationship is something you want, but not all that badly. You have to show him instead that you will never stop wanting him in your life.

I wish you every blessing in restoring your relationship with your son, and G-d bless you.

--Rabbi Shmuley
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