by Sheri McGregor, M.A.
The new normal: Make it a good one
Parents abandoned by adult children often tell me they’ve come to a point of acceptance—which is good. Accepting what we have no control over can allow us to find a sense of peace and move forward. But sometimes, along with a statement of acceptance, parents abandoned by adult children make another statement that’s not so good.
“It’s the new normal,” they say.
Trouble is, their “new normal,” becomes less about peace and moving forward than stepping along in a dismal groove of loss, heartache, and even bitterness.
Acceptance: What does that mean for parents abandoned by adult children
Accepting something new almost always requires letting go of something old. For parents abandoned by adult children, that can mean letting go of a dream, a vision for the future that shaped how you lived your entire life. You sacrificed and gave with the expectation that you’d live to a ripe old age with your children and grandchildren around you. You’d have your tribe, your people, your family.
But parents abandoned by adult children are thrown for a loop. Where’s the grown daughter or son you imagined sharing life with on equal terms? The child you expected would grow into an adult friend—only better because of your history and family ties?
Those feelings are understandable. It’s okay to mourn what you expected, sacrificed for, and worked so hard to achieve. But if your “new normal” clings to the loss, you may be shuffling along in a path that limits you.
The real power of acceptance comes in letting go—not necessarily of hope. Hope can sit on your shoulder like a cooing dove. It’s light and feathery. It can take flight, lifting your heart and soul with it. But if you’re clinging to the pain, holding onto hurt, and lamenting the loss, hope gets grounded. Don’ let sadness, anger, bitterness, and woe weight your heart and limit your life.
What’s your new normal?
In my book, there’s a useful tool to get a clear view of just how much the estrangement has changed you. Identifying your new normal, specifically and across all areas of your life, provides a clear view of where you stand now.
You may be stuck in a rut of rumination that drags you down and darkens your valuable relationships. Instead of a weekly date where you and your husband have fun, you spend all your time talking about the son who stopped talking to you and broke your hearts. Maybe you’re on the edge, always waiting for a call from the daughter who rejected you. You may be isolating yourself, fearful of judgment, or embarrassed that your own adult child cut you off. Maybe you cling to the hurt because letting go of the pain of this reality doesn’t feel like it’s proper for a parent (what about unconditional love?). Or maybe you’re envious of others’ joy.
For parents abandoned by adult children, all of these feelings are natural and normal responses—but they’re not healthy when they persist to your detriment. At some point, you need to accept what’s happened, and find a new normal that feels good and helps you move forward in your life.
As a caring parent that people called an earth mother and a super mom, I know the pain of having that identity ripped out from beneath your feet. It’s as if a trap door opens and you fall right through. But for caring parents who did their best, a new normal that keeps you digging in, wrapped in a cold blanket of rejection and loss, isn’t new or normal at all. That’s why you need to fight for your future.
Give yourself a challenge
2016 has come to a close. Think about the year ahead. Wouldn’t it be nice to shift your focus, set the hurt aside and change your vision to one that suits you? You can still hope to reconcile, and if you feel the need or desire to, you can still make sure your son or daughter knows that. But you can also flutter your wings, turn your hope to your present happiness, and let it lift you in a new and helpful direction.
Whether you have other adult children, lots of friends and relatives, or are all alone, the only way to happiness is to help yourself. In an article last year, I asked: Cut off by adult children: What do you prescribe for yourself?
The last calendar year has closed. Turn the page to a brand new year. Ask yourself what you prescribe for your own well-being. How can you shift your focus? What can you do to move in a new direction for your own fulfillment? Take out a sheet of paper and answer those questions for your own well-being.
Chapter Three of my book has some detailed help for setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals. If you’ve slipped into accepting a new low as normal, don’ let another year slide by without making changes that help you. Set your sighs higher for your own good in the coming year, and use the specific outlined techniques to stay motivated and realize transformation.