Susanne Margraf (name changed) has suffered from radio silence to her son for over 20 years. Now she has founded a self-help group in Friedberg to encourage abandoned parents.
You founded a self-help group for “abandoned parents” in Friedberg. How did it happen?
I myself have been affected by the situation that I have not had contact with my child for over 20 years. I have always treated myself, but about six months ago there was an incident with my son that knocked the rug out from under my feet. So I thought, I’m gonna have to do something, change something. I came in contact with the other two self-help groups in the Wetteraukreisen, but they were already full and have long waiting lists. And then I thought: why not? I have already lost everything, now I have nothing left to lose. I’m a doer, I’m starting a new group.
What does “self” mean? treated “?
I have never gone into therapy and I have always managed to get myself out of this hole somehow. I have always been a very positive person and I fight my way through. Many of those affected do not even know where they can get help for this situation. Psychotherapy can always help to deal with it better. A self-help group is not a substitute for this, but a support that can help through exchanges with other affected people.
Why is it if children in contact with break up with their parents?
There are a number of possible reasons. I’ve heard it all, from jealousy over a sibling or a new husband or wife, to a parent’s ugly divorce, where many things went wrong, to blaming a parent’s death. Economic reasons are also often a cause. But: If you ask children why they no longer have contact with their parents, they often sit and shrug. You just do not know. This has a lot to do with oppression, because there is always a reason in the subconscious. It is mostly a gradual process.
Is it yours too? participants?
In the first two sessions of the group, it became very clear that for many there is no real reason to break the contact. This is especially cruel when you do not even know why your child left you.
Who did you create the group for?
The group is for people who, for various reasons, no longer have contact with their children. And that means: not sporadically, not even every six months, none at all. You do not know if the child is married or divorced, what it is doing, or where it is. It’s important to me that people did not just find themselves in this situation.
If you are still in the absolute grief phase, you often do not have the necessary distance to share your experiences and feelings. It is important to mourn and weep – after all, one has experienced a great loss. But after a few years, it’s better to open up and talk about it. The duration of the phases is individual for everyone.
What phases of Is there?
There is everything from absolute despair to helplessness and sadness to euphoria when one hears something again. Cheering sky high or ruined. For me, at first, it was like my son would come by when I sought contact. However, there has been radio silence for years now. It is especially bad because he lives very close and there is always the opportunity to meet each other.
There is still room in your group.
Yes exactly. I would like to create a permanent group with a maximum of twelve people who can be seen regularly, trust each other and talk openly about their vastly different experiences. Currently, there are still vacancies. At this point, I would also like to mention that affected men are of course also very welcome.
Will it be affected parent ever easier?
It never gets easier. But different. Anyone who is not themselves involved does not know what it means to have been abandoned by their own child. It is important to look for alternatives: you should pursue hobbies and build a stable circle of friends. External support is everything and end everything. The group should help with this.
How can the group help with?
My goal is to develop a stable community where those affected can get to know each other and gain mutual trust. You must also have the feeling that you can get in touch with each other outside the group meetings, that you can meet for a cup of coffee. That you can call someone and say, “Hey, I’m not feeling well today, can you come by?” The group must be a long-term support. No one rolls their eyes here when they tell their story for the fifth time, as can often be the case with relatives. Everyone here sympathizes, listens, nods and understands the situation. We want to learn from each other. This disorder must not determine the whole of life.
You have not led a support group before. How did you prepare for this?
I’ve read a lot, I’ve thought about what to do when suddenly no one says anything and there’s a pause. Or with how much speech each one gets at the planned two hours per meeting, everyone who wants to have a say must have a say.
How was the response?
The initial feedback was really very positive. Many participants have since told me that they are already feeling better. You said, “I’ve been waiting for this for so long.” It was a great feeling because it was also very good for me. It is a long process and we have now embarked on it. It is a kind of gray area because many of the people affected in the situation do not even know that there is help to be found. We will change that now.
Susanne Margraf has arranged a room in Friedberg, where the self-help group for bereaved parents meets on Fridays from 19 to 21. These should take place weekly at the beginning, and later possibly every other week depending on the group’s strength and needs. There are still some vacancies. Those interested in participating can send an email to email@example.com. Emails are forwarded to the initiator. laf