"I didn't talk to mom for 6 years, but now we're making amends"
A deeply personal story about estrangement, forgiveness and moving on
There’s power in a sincere apology, but those two words — ‘I’m sorry’ are also the hardest to say to someone. Making amends after a falling out is tough, more so when it’s between parents and their children.
It had been six years since now 23-year-old Resham Tewari last spoke to her mother, Shilpi, who she once shared the closest connection with. Rejected when she came out as a lesbian at age 17, she was kicked out of the house when she came out to the rest of the family.
“I can’t make excuses. What I did was abandon my daughter and I was justifying that by saying it was under the influence of in-laws but it was my doing,” Shilpi tears up on the phone as she talks about how their relationship broke.
Making amends is not something she ever thought would be possible. “I never expected her to forgive me.”
Resham says she’s lucky, as compared to other LGBTQIA+ folk who’ve been rejected by their families. She had a friend who took her in after she was kicked out.
Six years went by. Resham moved cities, got a job and grew up. She never heard from her family, until one cool February morning, when she answered a call from an unknown number.
“I heard my mother’s voice for the first time in years.”
Having made amends, the two are now living under the same roof and working on repairing their relationship.
They share their experience of seeking forgiveness, moving on and making a fresh start:
Making amends with your own parents
“I was at a family dinner at my grandparents’ house when I shared with them that I was lesbian. I grew up very close to my paternal grandparents and uncle’s family so I wanted them to know.
There was silence, and I saw my mother’s eyes dart from one person to the other to gauge their reaction. Some people nodded, my grandmother cried and there were a lot of cold shoulders.
My mother and I left and came home. There were tears and screaming. I knew there would be some waves but I felt mom would eventually come around. When we went to bed for the night, I thought we could talk calmly the next day.
We barely spoke for the next three-four days. I gave her space, letting her come to terms with this.
I woke up one Saturday and I could hear her on the phone, I didn’t know who she was speaking to. When I entered the kitchen, she looked at me and asked me to leave. I wasn’t going to be a part of the family if “these were my life choices”.
I tried to explain it to her, but that was that. I was emotional, angry, threw some things in a bag, went to my friend’s place and I’ve never gone back to that house since.
There were long periods of depression after I first moved out. I couldn’t believe my mother, of all the people, would react this way.
Life went on. I got myself together, finished my studies and started working. I was interning at places and eventually landed on my own feet in Bengaluru.
Six years later, I heard my mother’s voice on the phone for the first time. I had so much anxiety — this was the moment I had been picturing and reenacting so many times in therapy sessions. Now it was happening out of the blue.
I started tearing up. She sounded the same. Hearing me tear up made her tear up but we were still just making small talk. She said she was in the city and asked if I’d be comfortable with us meeting.
I was holding on to so much anger that my initial reaction was ‘no’. She said she wanted to fix her mistakes and explain herself so I thought I’d be the bigger person and let her say her piece. A chance she had never given me.
She came to my flat. In that first moment, it all came back to me — the anger and resentment. She apologised, asked for forgiveness and whether we could ever recover what we had before. It was all too much in that first meeting and I didn’t see any kind of resolution.
One ‘sorry’ wasn’t going to fix years of abandonment. We met again, and again. One day she came with a handful of dated and stamped letters that she had written to me over the years but hadn’t sent.
It was like a Bollywood moment, but something in me clicked and I could see that she wanted to try.
I had nothing to lose at this point. I could either fix my relationship with my mother, and or I’d lose her like I did the first time — it wouldn’t be much different. I didn’t know if I could forgive her, but I was willing to try making amends.
We started with baby steps. We’d meet every other week and talk about what we’ve been up to. As time went by, our conversations got deeper as we grew more comfortable with each other.
She later told me that she had relocated to Bengaluru as well, to work on our relationship. With time, my anger faded but my guard was still up (some part of it is up even now). She joined a support group for parents of LGBTQIA+ children to educate herself more. She started coming to see my therapist with me and that has really helped us.
It’s taken a year for me to start trusting her again but there’s still a little part of me that stays alert.
We moved in together last year. Our relationship is more like that of flatmates, rather than the deep mother-daughter bond we used to have.
Can it ever get back to that stage? I’m not sure it’ll ever be the same, but it can evolve into something else. Maybe something better, and I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t given this a shot.
Holding on to the anger and resentment I felt for all those years would only lead to me staying bitter. That terrible act would forever hold a space in my head and undo me from the inside. Forgiveness isn’t easy but letting go and trying again can be cathartic and liberating. It’s worth working towards.”
“When Resham told us she was a lesbian I couldn’t believe it. I thought, why is she making this kind of personal announcement in front of the entire family? Why couldn’t she just tell me first when we were alone? A lot was going on in my head.
I didn’t want to believe it. No parent wants their child to be different and make life any harder than it has to be for themselves. I sought support and advice from my husband’s family. They’re a lot more traditional, their initial reaction was denial and rejection.
I know it’s an excuse that I was under their influence when I told my daughter to leave. I have to take responsibility for my actions. What I did was abandon her when she was going through a difficult time. She was opening up about something important to her and I rejected it.
At that time I felt like I was a bad mother because my daughter was a lesbian. I heard all kinds of nonsense from my in-laws about bad parenting and wayward children. The only way Resham was going to sort out her life was tough love. My in-laws accepting me seemed to be dependent on that as well.
I thought I was doing the right thing by pushing her out, hoping she would learn the hard way. Over the next few years, I realised what a mistake I had made siding with the family instead of my child.
I had written to her a few times over the years but didn’t dare send the letters. Her cousins and she were in touch and they’d share some snippets of information with me.
I had a health scare that made me evaluate a lot of things in my life. What I wanted to get out of it, what I had done so far and the regrets I had. The main one was what I had done to my daughter.
I grew up at a time when homosexuality didn’t exist. We never spoke about it, so it wasn’t real. We grew up being told it’s unnatural and wrong. That’s the mindset that I had, and that influenced my reaction to my daughter’s announcement.
I had two options. I could either come to terms with who my daughter is, start making amends and have her as a part of my life again. Or I could continue living a life of regrets.
I had to take the first step, say sorry.
Making amends wasn’t going to be easy. I didn’t expect forgiveness but I needed to try. There was so much I wanted to say but didn’t know where to begin.
I made it my singular mission to reconnect with my daughter so I moved to Bengaluru to be near her.
I entered and erased her number multiple times before actually calling. I don’t know why it was on that particular day but I just woke up with an ache in my heart and a need to hear her voice.
I gave her space and the time she needed to decide if she wanted to let me back into her life or not.
I started doing what I should have a long time ago. Reading about being a lesbian, what it’s like and how to be a supportive parent.
As much as I wanted to keep explaining why I did what I did, I knew it wasn’t right. There was no justification, I had to hear her out.
We had several difficult conversations, started slowly and then met more often. It hurt my feelings sometimes but I knew this had to happen on her terms. Respecting boundaries and accepting that we have different lives was the most important — but also difficult.
Seeking forgiveness from her is the best thing I could have done. The fact that we are moving ahead together has been the greatest gift she could have given me.
If you say you love them, then you need to show up, be there for them and only then can you expect the same in return.
My daughter and I need to learn to respect each other. And I’m doing my best to earn that back.
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As told to Sara Hussain