Dear Amy: My husband and I raised two great kids. Our son is now 30 and our daughter 28. Both of them finished college with high honors and with business degrees. They both got nice jobs in their professions.
We are atheists, but at 18 our daughter starting dating a pastor’s son. His family and church started grooming her with their beliefs, so she would fit nicely into their family belief system and eventually marry.
After going off to college, that relationship ended, and she got serious with another pastor’s son. Again this fellow and his family groomed her to believe, get baptized, and go on mission trips to South American countries with the intent of her marrying into their family. Well, he dumped her. She quit her job, moved out west and joined an evangelical Christian group.
She pays them to live on their campus while they teach her about the Bible and Jesus. She raises funds for them by asking others for money to support her.
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She has been leading this extreme religious life for three years now with no intention to quit and get a paying job. She has rejected our traditional life, and seldom visits.
Her professional clothes hang in our closets and her stuff is in the basement. Her medical care is paid for by the state since she lives under the poverty level.
We are very sad about her decisions. We worry for her safety and her future.
We grieve the loss of our beautiful daughter. We miss the way our family used to be. Now we have nothing in common with her. Any suggestions on how to cope?
Atheist Mom and Dad
Dear Mom and Dad: Some religious groups operate as more or less closed systems, and their adherents turn away from their previous lives in order to operate within the system. I can understand why this is such a loss for you.
You should keep the door open to a relationship with your daughter, regardless of where she is or what she believes. You are going to need to continue to grieve this loss, while accepting her choice and her freedom to make it. Continue to emotionally support her, while not supporting the group or cause.
Visit her. Don’t pressure her or force an ultimatum. Don’t dwell on the life and belief system she has rejected. Focus on your own acceptance, and make sure she knows you are always in her corner, no matter what.
Research the group she is in and see if you can connect with ex-members or family members of current members. Communicating with other parents will help.
Dear Amy: Our married son and his wife and their two daughters live in the same city as my husband and me. Our relationship with them is not warm, but cordial.
The daughter-in-law communicates with me by email, as we get together for birthdays (her family does the holidays without us, which we prefer).
When she emails me, she always addresses me: “Hello there,” never using my name, even though it is short and easy to write.
Do I ignore it, confront her, use “DIL” for daughter-in-law instead of her name?
My Name Isn’t Hello
Dear Hello: I am familiar with this “Hello There” salutation, and I agree that it is offputting, certainly from a family member, because you are left sincerely wondering if the person knows your name. When I dealt with this exact situation, I responded, asking, “Could you do me a favor and use my name when you write to me? I’d prefer it.” This seemed to work, with no hard feelings (I hope).
Your daughter-in-law might feel some awkwardness because she is not quite sure what to call you. If at some point you asked her to call you “Mom,” for instance, she might not feel comfortable, and this is her way of avoiding it.
You should also model for her the behavior you would like to see. It might help to bring some warmth to what sounds like a chilly relationship.
Dear Amy: “Sad Mom” reported snooping in her son’s basement and discovering that he was growing weed. I can’t believe that you admonished her for snooping! Of course she should confront her son about this!
Dear Wrong: Because the mother didn’t include details about the scale of this operation, my response was nuanced, trying to account for a variety of possibilities. But yes, when someone cops to “snooping,” my first reaction is that she shouldn’t be snooping.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.