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Fortitude doesn’t mean ‘going it alone’

support for parents of estranged adult childrenBy Sheri McGregor, MA

On California’s coast, a tree known as the Lone Cypress stands on a rocky precipice overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The tree is hailed as a symbol of fortitude, and people pay to drive a 17-mile loop just to see it. Many years ago, I was one of those people—and at first, was let down by the sight.

The tree makes a nice photo, and I liked the conveyed idea: a tree that clings to life, thrives despite adversity, and symbolizes courage, strength, and resilience. It spoke to a spirit of independence and strength that I admire.

Parents of estranged adult children: Even the strongest benefit from support

But if you make the trip, you’ll find out that the tree’s “fortitude” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In the blowing Pacific winds, partially hidden cables actually hold the tree up in place. Seeing those, I remember thinking the tourist write-ups had pulled a fast one.

But as time passed, and the storms of life pushed and pulled at me, I began to see the Lone Cypress and its moniker as a symbol of fortitude in a new light.

The word, “fortitude,” means strength in the face of adversity. Once-upon-a-time, a seed fell into the rocky soil. Its inner strength defied the harsh elements at the edge of the cliff. The seed began to grow.

Many of us are just this strong and independent, perhaps to a fault. We’ve survived adversity. We’ve even thrived in life’s rocky soils. But for me, as for many of us, there comes a time going it alone isn’t the best choice. Just as the tree might have lost its footing and crashed into the ocean if it weren’t for the cables, even the strongest among us, at times, need support.

Thankfully, we can choose to step away from the precarious cliffs of manipulative or one-sided relationships, calm the winds of negative, circular thinking, and plant ourselves among the nourishing forest of help and support.

How can you support your well-being?

Parker, a divorced father, tried to maintain a relationship with his daughter, who was 12 when his marriage ended. Their relationship grew increasingly tenuous, and after she graduated college, she made room for her father only for holidays. She’s now in her 30s. Over the last several years, Parker has repeatedly reached out to try and foster a relationship with her and his young grandchildren, without success.

“I needed to get free of trying so hard,” Parker explains. “In the last eight or nine years, the only time she contacted me was when she needed money. I’d give it to her, and then she’d go back to ignoring me. On the odd occasions we did spend any time together, or if she answered her phone, she’d pick a fight. It always ended badly.”

When Paker made the decision to give in, and lovingly disengage from the one-sided relationship, he realized just how much self-criticism and negativity had been taking up psychological space. “I was always wondering what I’d said or done wrong, and how I could be more careful next time. What would I say when I called her next? What possible ways could she react? How could I adjust what I said to avoid that response? It was exhausting.”

Entrenched habits can be difficult to break. Parker isn’t the type of person who readily asks for help. Like others who pride themselves on their independence and strength, Parker is used to being the ones other people ask for assistance. But even the Lone Cypress, a symbol of strength and fortitude, requires support.

My book, Done With The Crying, is not just for moms (as explained here). Since early last month, it’s also now available as an e-book, too.

Fathers, feel free to join the online support forum for parents of estranged adult children as well. While most of the members are women, a few men have joined and occasionally post. Quite a few fathers populate the Facebook Page too.

Are you a symbol of fortitude, standing all alone on the edge? Don’t suffer through the experience of estrangement all alone.

Related reading:

Fathers of Estranged Adult Children: You’re not alone

Father’s Day for Fathers of Estranged Adult Children

What do you prescribe for yourself?

Copyright Notice: All content of any post or page found on any page at this site is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. To share with others, provide a link to the page where the content is found. Reposting of any content is not permitted without express permission. Please see Copyright Notice/Restrictions in the right-hand sidebar for complete copyright notice

Abandoned parents: Comparing doesn’t help

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

abandoned parentsSome abandoned parents say:  It’s more difficult to move beyond the pain of estrangement when you’ve lost your only child and/or grandchildren.

Other parents say: It’s more difficult to move beyond the pain of estrangement when you have other adult children and/or grandchildren to worry about.

Which assertion is right? Both.

There are a few old sayings about whatever you think being true. In this case, if you believe your situation is more difficult than someone else’s, it will be.

Comparing keeps you stuck

Healing from emotional pain isn’t helped along by comparing your situation to another person’s. It’s about realistically looking at your own situation, and then devising constructive ways to move forward.

When we compare, we’re comparing an imagined reality rather than what’s real. Below are a couple of examples.

Parents whose only child is estranged may imagine a remaining family in solidarity and support, but they’re overlooking what it can really be like for emotionally devastated abandoned parents to:

  • try and provide support to an estranged adult child’s siblings who are also suffering emotional pain.
  • parent younger siblings in a way that’s sound and wise, while wondering where they went wrong with the estranged one.
  • know their other adult children interact with the estranged one, while fearful they will be influenced to also estrange.
  • to encounter troubles with another child and struggle to remain patient and fair, rather than become defensive (perhaps taking on a “why bother?” attitude since this child will only hurt me too).

Obviously, there are struggles and complexities for parents who have other minor and/or adult children—often not considered by those who envy them. The converse is also true.

Parents who have other children and grandchildren may envy what they see as a sort of freedom. They imagine that parents whose only child is estranged have the time and energy to focus on themselves and their healing. But they may overlook the magnitude of what it’s really like to feel all alone and:

  • faced with forging a way forward when your entire history and everything you’ve ever worked for is ripped away.
  • try to form a “family” of unrelated friends.
  • faced with forming a new identity when you’re no Mom or Dad to anyone.
  • have no one left in your inner circle to turn to for help or support.
  • wondering if you’ll remain alone until the end.

Abandoned parents: Please don’t judgeabandoned parents

In the introductory pages of Done With The Crying, I ask that readers be kind and fair to the parents whose stories are shared in the book. I wanted readers to remain open to learn from the shared experiences, to find similarities that help them apply others’ experiences to their own.

Our stories are unique, but we’re united in the common bond of estrangement. We can help each other rather than compare (or judge).

abandoned parentsSuccess stories

Recently several parents whose only children are estranged (some with grandchildren they also miss) have taken advantage of their newfound freedom to pursue goals they put off to care for the family. Several grandmothers are off to earn graduate degrees, or finish ones they started. One is focusing on her art, another her writing. Others are pursuing volunteer and civic projects, or joining in social movements. Some parents speak of never remarrying after divorce or a spouse’s death because of the children, but have now tackled fears of being judged for their situation. They have sought and found partners with whom to share their lives.

Parents with other children and grandchildren have broadened their horizons, too. Some conclude that pursuing their own goals and dreams is a healthy investment, and are doing so now rather than leaning as much on their other children/grandchildren for happiness. This includes educational and career goals, as well as developing other interests and friendships outside the family—and encouraging their remaining children to also spread their wings. Others have learned to ask for support, which helps them in turn to provide support for the rest of the family.

See the weak spots and do what helps

Rather than comparing your life in a way that puts you at odds with other abandoned parents of estranged adult children and keeps you feeling stuck, focus on what will help. Take an honest look atabandoned parents your life. Then get started at helping yourself.

Find constructive help in Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children (which is for fathers too!).

 

Related reading:

Adult child’s rejection: Emotional and social fallout

Cut off by adult children: What do you prescribe for yourself?

Spreading happiness

Copyright Notice: All content of any post or page found on any page at this site is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. To share with others, provide a link to the page on this website where the content is found. Reposting of any content is not permitted without express permission. Please see Copyright Notice/Restrictions in the right-hand sidebar for complete copyright notice. You can always contact me with any quesions.

Freedom

Parents of Estranged Adults:
Are you tyrannized by the painful emotions?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

estranged adultsAnother year has rolled around to Independence Day. America gained its independence 241 years ago. But do you feel free now? Or are you tyrannized by painful emotions caused by an estranged son or daughter?

For some parents of estranged adult children, the shock is so new that disbelief sets in. You can’t imagine the cutting-off could possibly continue. Yet you worry how long it will, and how much time is passing. Emotionally raw, your mind plays and replays vile words or a torturous final scene. Troubling dreams wake you in the night—if you sleep at all.

I know the agony of feeling powerless over a situation. I’ve suffered the tears, anger, and bitterness that result when an adult child walks away.

But I also know those feelings can change. With a conscious decision and proactive steps to support yourself, parents of estranged adults don’t have to remain in pain.

Independence

I can honestly tell you that my heart no longer aches for my estranged adult son. If I sat and dwelled on the experience, then I could conjure up and recall the pain. But doing so would be a choice. Although it feels odd, maybe even harsh to say, the truth is, I don’t think of him all that often anymore. My life has moved forward. I have stepped into new places and situations. There is good in my life—and there are also more pressing hurts.

My estranged son lives his life, and I live mine. On the occasions he comes to mind, I wish him well. There’s no more imagining the what-ifs. No more putting myself through the torture of wondering whether he’ll come back. I don’t contemplate whether he’s okay, if I’ll ever meet his children, see him again, or even hear his voice.

I made a decision not to ask the questions that lead to endless loops:

  • Why did this happen?
  • What happens if he comes back?
  • Where did I go wrong?

Instead of wondering why he made his choices, I think: Why go there?

Even for parents of estranged adults: Peace in the present

It helps to have processed the hurt, examined where the
experience has changed me and my estranged adultother relationships, hopes, and dreams. Taking steps to make changes where they help, and make important decisions for the future can set the mind at ease. In my book, you’ll find ways to explore the future and make those sorts of decisions. How far will you go to reconcile, and what does that word mean? How does your estranged adult child fit into the end of your life—and how will your decision affect the others who are important to you? Realistically contemplating these and other situations, making decisions, and taking practical steps toward them paves the way for peace in the present.

Love

Many parents write to me about unconditional love. The word “unconditional” implies that love is not withdrawn for any reason. Does that mean we’re required to put ourselves in danger to fulfill this sort of love? Does loving another human being, an adult child, mean that we allow them to hurt us forever?

I love my son. But it’s love that’s sort of frozen in time. I remember the cuteness of him, the curves of his young face taken over by angles as he matured, the way his eyes lit, the strength of him not to flinch when his brow was stitched as a young boy. I remember my pride when a teacher complimented him. Or, as he grew into a strong young man, the way he calculated the space between things—demonstrated by a ball tossed to the basket or in eyeballing a length of string that he cut to perfectly fit. I remember the amazing things, and feel glad to have been a part of them.

If I really wanted to, I could think of him now in a similar way. I could imagine him as a husband who loves his wife and as a son-in-law who honors her parents. As a man, he must go about his days being courteous to others he meets along the way. And I can stop there. I don’t have to examine and re-examine the things he doesn’t do. The years we spent together were a season, a time. Now I’m in a new time. To be fair, so is he.

Where are you?

We can get stuck in the disappointment. We can put ourselves back in the hurt. Or we can move on.

Some parents of estranged adult children continue to reach out and try. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you choose to do so, it’s wise to honor yourself in the process. Set some goals that support your well-being. Contemplate practical issues such as how often you’ll reach out, how you’ll handle the possible disappointment of being rejected yet again, and how you feel about the choices you make—there’s help in my book for those things.

Among the thousands of parents in sustained estrangements who have shared their thoughts with me, the ones who have reclaimed happiness also stop putting themselves in the way of continued hurt. It’s a choice we make whether to give an estranged adult child the opportunity to continue to inflict pain. We can let the person know we’re willing, if at some point, they change their mind. We can set boundaries. We can decide what we would need from any future relationship. We can even change our mind at any time. And we can go on with our lives before it’s too late.

Stepping out

We can heal. The research, examples, question sets, and exercises in my book are designed to help you move forward one step at a time.  Parents of estranged adults can support themselves with self-compassion, our own wisdom, and the help of others who have walked a similar path. As thousands of parents will tell you, the path ahead gets brighter.

Related:

Spring cleaning for parents when adult children want no contact

Estranged from adult children: Take care of yourself

Fathers of estranged adult children: Happy Father’s Day

fathers of estranged adult childrenIn honor of fathers of estranged adult children everywhere, Happy Father’s Day.

I know it’s difficult. Maybe you don’t talk about the estrangement much. Maybe you don’t even think about it all that much. That’s what some fathers of estranged adult children tell me. But there’s a lingering pain in realizing that a daughter you’ve loved won’t call. Or that a son you have admired  doesn’t see you in the same kind light. Father’s Day can bring that distress to the surface.

Maybe you’ll get through the day just fine, but then on Monday people ask about the holiday and how you spent it.

Here’s a virtual hug, and links to a few of my past articles for all the fathers of estranged adult children on Father’s Day, plus a couple that aren’t so narrowly focused. I hope you’ll find a tip or two that helps, as well as some comfort in knowing you’re not alone.  There are myriad other good men who did their best and are not honored—and its a shame.

I’d like to honor you here.

What about Father’s Day for fathers of estranged adult children

Fathers of estranged adult children: You’re not alone

Fortitude doesn’t mean going it alone

Cut off by adult children and lonely

The Boat

Happy Father’s Day to all of you.

Hugs ~~ Sheri McGregor

 

 

Mother’s Day for estranged mothers: Tending your heartache

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

mother's day for estranged parentsIt’s here again. Mother’s Day, arriving like a bunch of wilted flowers on a day you’d rather skip. You’re not up for it. Are any of us up for it? Us mothers whose children don’t want us?

I know, I know. You’re used to me coming up with something happy and bright. Some soothing words. A plan to get through the day and to transcend its sadness.

Well, I do. I have. I will.

But it’s okay to feel sad or angry or tired too. It’s okay to mourn the loss, to wish things were different, and admit you don’t like Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day for estranged mothers: Tending the heartache

Mother’s Day for estranged mothers oftentimes comes with expectations. The day isn’t yours alone. For many of us there are other people—other sons and daughters, a spouse, other family members—who want us to be okay. They want to honor us on Mother’s Day. And some of us won’t feel good about ourselves if we don’t let them. If this is you, or even if you’re all alone for Mother’s Day, take the time to tend your heartache.

In acknowledging and tending to our hurt, we honor ourselves. That might then free us up to enjoy the way our loved ones want to honor us. Or to simply enjoy the day.

I’m not one to wallow. For many of us, wallowing isn’t practical. Follows is a list of ways to acknowledge the pain of estrangement on Mother’s Day in brief but meaningful ways—so you can then get on with your day. Use my suggestions as a jumping off point. You have good ideas and usually know what works best for you.

Use your words. Just identifying your feelings about the situation can help. Take five or ten minutes with pen and paper to identify how you feel. Don’t worry about thinking every thought through. Just write the words down. Recent studies indicate that just putting your feelings into words can help you feel better.

You might be surprised that after the most obvious words,
ones you didn’t realize come out. mother's day for estranged mothersAcknowledging those feelings might help you to deal with them. For instance, if you would underline “pressured” (as in the picture), you might then drill down. Okay, so I’m feeling pressured. Why? Because everyone else wants me to be okay. They want me to be happy, go to eat, enjoy the flowers they bring. They’re tired of everything being about the estrangement, etc. Then you can decide what to do with that feelings.

I’m using that example because it’s one I’ve felt. Identifying the feeling allowed me to then realize why, and decide whether to bow to that feeling. For me, I did want to be okay for everyone. I did want those who honored me to know I appreciated them. Drilling down like that helped me to put on a happy face. And you know what? It was okay. There have been studies about how our actions can lead to the feelings we’re trying to portray. Besides, the day passes as days do. The hoopla ends The next day begins.

Maybe identifying that you feel pressured leads to a decision that’s right for you. My solution won’t fit everyone. Maybe you tell everyone you’re not up to celebrating Mother’s Day just now, and that you’re going away for the weekend. One client with a son who is semi-estranged decided this solution was best for her. Making a decision and then acting on it can be such a positive thing.

Perhaps you enlist the help of others to come up with a new tradition for the day. Or you brainstorm some other way to deal. It’s about recognizing your feelings and taking action to let those feelings help you—not about repressing them.

Honor the missing. In another article I wrote about holidays and how to manage them, I spoke of setting out a carved wooden bird my estranged son once gave me. Maybe you do something similar. Or maybe you talk to other family members, and allow them to express their sadness or anger or frustration, too.

Many of us have mothers we miss on Mother’s Day. For estranged mothers, the love we feel for our own mother or motherly figures needn’t be overshadowed by a son or daughter’s rejection. Could you set out a photograph of your deceased mother and/or grandmother—or honor them in other ways?

Most holiday traditions involve special foods, many that are family recipes we cook and eat only on those special days. Mother’s Day seems an appropriate time to acknowledge family recipes. Maybe instead of going out, we could try to recreate a family recipe—and preserve it for future generations. Doing so is another way to honor the ones we miss.

How else might you honor those who are missed on Mother’s Day? For estranged mothers, it’s important to come up with a useful plan.

Treat yourself well. As mentioned above, you have to do what’s right for you. If that means you don’t celebrate Mother’s Day this year, that’s okay. Recognize what you need and honor yourself in that way.

Other ways to treat yourself well might involve getting a manicure, haircut, or a new outfit. If that helps you feel better, then by all means, do it.

One mother said she would be getting a massage. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? And with a massage, there is usually soft music—and not a lot of expectation for conversation. Good choice.

Maybe you get yourself a helpful gift. My book is a good choice!

Maybe you take a hike in nature, or sit by a pond and feed the ducks. Getting out in nature can be so calming.

More ideas on Mother’s Day for estranged mothers

  • Eat well (try a new food!).
  • Wear perfume.
  • Take a nap.
  • Sip a flavored coffee.
  • Get yourself a scented lotion—and use it.
  • Light candles.
  • Drink an expensive wine.
  • Use the day to plan a trip.
  • Drive to the country.
  • Walk a city block.
  • See a play.
  • Go to the movies.
  • Play a board game.
  • Go to the zoo.
  • Cuddle your dog.
  • Dote on a friend.
  • Buy a new rug.
  • Clean your mirrors—and smile at your reflection.
  • Try some aromatherapy in a new easy aromatherapy diffuser. Have you seen those?
  • Shop for yourself. Here’s Amazon’s Home Page so you don’t have to go out.
  • Sign up for a new TV channel.
  • Pull a few weeds, and imagine clearing out the garden of your life.
  • Listen to feel-good music.

What will you do to help yourself?

What will you do to acknowledge your feelings, tend your heartache, and treat yourself well for the holidays.

It helps to express your thoughts. Maybe your ideas can help others, so leave a comment here. It’s your turn now. What can you share?

Prodigal children? How many estranged adult children return?

prodigal childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Prodigal children—it’s a term I sometimes hear used by parents for their estranged adult children.  They’re hopeful that as happens in the Bible account of the prodigal son, their adult children will come to their senses, realize their errors, and return to the family changed for the better.

They may be right. Their estranged sons and daughters may turn out to be prodigal children. Adults who disconnect from their families may, in fact, at some point realize they want their family back.  It’s natural for parents to maintain hope.

How many estranged adults are truly “prodigal” children?

Recently, a mother asked if I had statistics. How many estranged adult children, she wondered, end up successfully reconnecting?

For me to come up with an accurate statistic like that would require taking the same people whose info I used in the book (9,000 parents) and reconnecting with each and every one of them. And then you’d have to reconnect again to find out if more reconciled in a later year. Or some left the family again. It would go on and on. Longitudinal studies like that are difficult to do. That’s one reason why, no matter the subject, few such studies are completed.

A study of a quantity of “average” families might also yield results, though perhaps less accurate. Families might be asked if they had ever had a son or daughter become estranged. And if they had, did they reconcile?

I am working on research right now about the families who do reconcile with their prodigal children (or estranged adult children, if that sounds better to you). Although I am more focused on the circumstances and experiences than the numbers.

If you have reconciled, please take the survey, Reconciling with Estranged Adult Children, and share the experience so that other parents might benefit from what you have learned.

Prodigal children? Or a gap that widens?

As of this writing, the survey has not shed much helpful light. It’s like a client said to me the other day: “The more time goes on, the wider the gap becomes.”

This mother of an estranged daughter—who she hopes will one day return to her—echoes the troubling feelings expressed by many other parents: The more years go by the less a return might feel like reuniting with a precious son or daughter as it would be about meeting a stranger.prodigal children

For some it may be even worse.  After all, this is a person they used to know. They may start to regard prodigal children more like a neighbor known since babyhood. A neighbor that grew up and put them on total ignore. Or maybe did and said hurtful things. Maybe even shocking things that sullied reputations, emptied bank accounts, and created additional rifts. The neighbor might have returned a few times for short stays and been welcomed with open arms and hearts . . . and then wreaked havoc and caused further damage.

After so many dashed hopes when contact is made for the wrong reasons, recognizing sincere intentions might be difficult. There are consequences to continued hurtful behavior, even when there’s forgiveness (as is explained in a prior article: Why forgive?). Trust can be a vulnerable thing.

Prodigal children: not necessarily a religious connotation

Obviously, the story of the prodigal has deeper meanings than how the term is being used  here. This is not intended as a religious commentary or lesson.

If you’re estranged adult child did return to you, please take the survey and share your experience. I hope to share some happy reconciliation stories in the future.

An unknown future: What can you do now?

Many parents pray for their estranged adult or “prodigal” children. Many wish for their happiness, that they live fulfilling lives, and also maintain hope that they will someday reconcile. Of course, maintaining hope doesn’t mean staying stalled, forever sad, and unable to enjoy life. Don’t fall into the trap of limiting your life until or unless your son or daughter returns to you.

Life is fleeting. Live it fully. Now.

Parents of estranged adults really can have happy, productive lives, and still hold out hope for a son or daughter’s return. Along with information to help parents move peacefully forward, that’s one of the messages conveyed in my book, Done With The Crying, To find out more, go to the Amazon store and put these words into the search box:

prodigal child

Hit enter, and you’ll find Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children on the first page of results. If you click the title, you’ll be taken to its main listing where you can read more about the book as well as reader reviews. It’s now available in either paperback or E-book (Get your Kindle). Watch for the upcoming audio version next.

More reading:

Shape your new normal

Emotional scars after an adult child’s estrangement

The Boat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day, estrangement, and the unexpected

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Every year since starting this site, I’ve paid special attention to holidays. This Mother’s Day isn’t all that different. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find links to some of my past articles about Mother’s Day. Estrangement can make the day a tough one, and I always want to help. If that’s what you’re after, then by all means, scroll on down for those links for information and help. But if Mother’s Day estrangement has become your norm, or you need a good laugh or some distraction, maybe you’ll enjoy what follows.

Mother’s Day, estrangement, and Colonel Sanders

KFC’s Colonel Sanders didn’t always have his signature white hair and goatee. That’s the premise behind a new romance novel featuring the Colonel as a hunky pirate in a historical romance. In honor of Mother’s Day, estranged mothers (or anyone) can download the e-book for free. I haven’t read this yet. The cover looks a little spicy. Hopefully, the meat of the book isn’t bland. (Please excuse my silly puns. If you want to read better ones, look at the book’s reader reviews when you click through to the download link. They’re hilarious!) You can can read those later though. First, check out the video trailer for the book.

Mother’s Day: Estrangement doesn’t mean staying home sad

All around the country, there are special “freebies” for Mother’s Day. Estranged mothers count, too. Most of the restaurant freebies I found are for sit-down meals with one free entree per table. If that suits you, do an internet search for “Mother’s Day freebies,” and you’ll find restaurants around the nation.

On Mother’s Day, estrangement can make us vulnerable to sadness at seeing families out in restaurants together, so here are a few more ideas for free and fun things to get out and see or do on Mother’s Day.

  • Check out your local zoo. Some city zoos offer free entry for mothers on Mother’s Day. Take your spouse or a friend by the hand and get out for a wild day with the animals.
  • Local aquariums, museums and other venues regularly offer moms a free ticket on Mother’s Day. If you can find a free museum with Egyptian artifacts, well, who knows? It might be a good distraction to see a “mummy” on Mother’s Day.  🙂

To find fun, free things to do on Mother’s Day in your area, look around online . At google.com, try the following search terms.

  • Mother’s Day free entry+name of your city
  • Mother’s Day freebies
  • Mother’s Day giveaway
  • Mother’s Day special offer

As is done in the first one just above, you could add the plus sign (+) and the name of your city to any term you use for more localized results. But try the terms without your city attached, too. You might be surprised what sorts of finds you discover.

Mother’s Day, and estranged from adult children: Here’s help

As mentioned at the top of this article, this site is here to support you every day, including Mother’s Day. Estranged adult children complicate what might have previously been a favorite. Here are links to some past articles with tips and information to help you enjoy the day.

Mother’s Day: Triggering pain for mothers of estranged adults

T’was the night before Mother’s Day, for mothers of estranged adult children

Getting Through Mother’s Day when your adult child is estranged

Greetings from estranged adult children

Happy Mother’s Day

 

 

 

I could use your help

Dear parents of estranged adult children,

I’m planning an event and want to make it useful for you. Can you help by providing your thoughts in a short survey? It’s nine short questions.

Create your own user feedback survey

Rejected parents: Should you tell people?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

parents cut off by adult childrenRecently, some mothers of estranged adults brought up an article in a major publication that pegged meddling mothers-in-law as the main cause of estrangement. It’s a simplistic view. Having studied the topic of estranged adult children in depth, I know the problem is much more complex and varied. A long chapter in my book covers the causes at length. But our society has been conditioned to believe that kids wouldn’t reject decent, loving folks. So when it comes to parents cut off by adult children, it’s fair to say that most people wonder what the parent must have done to cause the break.

Unfortunately, kind, supportive parents cut off by adult children often feel a sense of shame or guilt, even when they know they did their best (often explained by the concept of innocent guilt). That, and the fear of being judged by others, can keep them suffering in silence. They may have even brought up the topic, seeking support, and received judgment instead. So parents cut off by adult children may stop talking and start to isolate themselves. Even in small communities where most people know about the estrangement, these parents veer away from the proverbial elephant in the room.

parents cut off by adult childrenEvery estrangement situation is different. For some of us, it may be possible and desirable to meet the estrangement topic head on. Doing so may educate others about the growing phenomenon of caring, supportive parents cut off by adult children.

If we remain silent and fearful of gossip, it’s possible that our silence feeds into the idea that we as parents are at fault or did something horrible to cause the estrangement. Also, by remaining silent on the matter, or keeping social connections superficial, we don’t provide the opportunity for another person to be our friend.

I know how incredibly painful estrangement is. Parents cut off by adult children can, without good reason, end up feeling very small. It’s like having your legs lopped off at the knees! But walking around with our heads bowed in undeserved shame isn’t wise or fair to ourselves. Oh, how the neck can hurt when we’re always holding our heads low!

Having authored my book on the topic to help parents cut off by adult children move forward and find happiness again, I am forever in a position to talk about the subject of estrangement. I’ve grown used to doing so. Still, I’m occasionally hit with one of those looks, odd questions, or rude responses—and sometimes it even bothers me. I’m human after all. For the most part, I parents cut off by adult childrenrefuse to participate in someone else’s warped view of me. I’m a good person. I’m a decent human being. I’m a good mother and wife, a stable, accomplished person.

Talking about the experience is easier if you steer another person’s responses. It’s about making the other person more comfortable with the truth. It’s about saying, well gosh, here’s this cruddy thing in my life, and I get that you probably wonder what I did, but you know, I’m not so horrible. It happens to the best of us.

In fact, I’ve met all sorts of really, really kind, caring people from all over the world who find themselves in shock, in a situation they would have never expected. Either there’s a phenomenon of some sort, or we’re an army of monsters wearing aprons, spending time with the kids, and looking through old albums of photographs we somehow altered to make it look like our families were happy.

Parents cut off by adult children: Some food for thought

I understand that the people reading this blog have experienced estrangement for different amounts of time. Some of you have been estranged for many years. Others for only a few months. I get that you may not want to talk to people about the experience, maybe foparents cut off by adult childrenr fear others will judge your son or daughter (with whom you’re sure you’ll eventually reconcile).

But for those who have come to accept that estrangement is long term, perhaps forever, by confronting the subject head on, you shed light. You shed light on just how many of us there are. And there are multitudes. In the article mentioned earlier, the writer said there was an estimated 75,000 grandparents cut off from their grandchildren in the Ontario area. I’m not sure if that figure is accurate. Statistics about the actual numbers of parents cut off by adult children (thus their grandchildren) are hard to come by. But I can say that this website is busy. To date, more than 16,000 parents of estranged adults have answered the survey about being estranged from adult children.

You are not alone in your estrangement. As much of the world celebrates holidays centered on renewal and rebirth, and as spring unfolds to tell the story of another season, consider how you can personally grow in a new and more self-compassionate attitude about the situation of estrangement.

Maybe one way is by beginning to talk a bit more openly about what has happened to you, even online. At articles like the one mentioned in the opening above, consider leaving thoughtful comments that enlighten others. I left a comment at the article I hope accomplishes just that. A few others also did.

Related articles:

Emotional and Social Fallout

You may feel lonely, but you’re not alone

The void: Feel it or fill it?

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Spring cleaning for parents when adult children want no contact

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

After a long “winter” of disappointment, parents of estranged adults can start to feel closed off and cluttered. Just as you might with a house that needs a good spring cleaning, take action for yourself. Organize a more personal spring cleaning for emotions, well-being, and health. Clear the path for your forward momentum.

Energy dump

adult children want no contact

Pulling weeds in the pre-spring sunshine here in California the other day, I noticed the silvery crowns of several small dusty miller plants I had put in last fall. They peeked out above the thicket of grassy weeds.

adult children want no contactWhen I cleared the weeds away, the leafy clusters looked a little silly atop the spindly stems—but I marveled at their innate ability to thrive. They didn’t waste energy trying to grow leaves down among the thick weeds where no sunlight could reach.

Seeing those plants made me consider where I might be wasting energy. Why expend energy where it can bear no fruit?

As part of an emotional spring clearing, you might ask yourself:

  • What habits no longer serve me?
  • Where and how can I better manage my time?
  • Am I getting a good return on my investment of energy?

Digging in the dark

As an example, let’s consider reaching out when adult children want no contact. Parents often continue to reach out to their estranged adult children from time to time. They intend to convey a message of love, and that they’re still interested in reconnecting—even though the adult children want no contact now.

But when nothing comes of parents’ messages or gifts other than soaring hopes that are dashed by silence, or worse, verbal abuse, it’s time to make a change.

Cultivate self-care

Emotional spring cleaning intends to support your own well-being. Examine whether it’s wise to save your energy, cut back on times you reach out, or to stop entirely. Done With The Crying helps you set limits, yet still achieve the intended goal.

You might also be expending precious energy in other ways that don’t serve you. Make a list. Here are a couple of examples that are common in times of stress:

  • Emotional eating/drinking
  • Other unhealthy habits, such as smoking
  • Staying up into the wee hours
  • Excessive shopping (shopping for your estranged daughter or son)

Pause to make an honest assessment of what you spend time on, and examine whether it’s helping you. Spring is the perfect time. Take your list and make plans to change. For instance, to support yourself, you could stock up on healthy food choices, make a plan for better sleep habits, and throw out the catalogues.

Does your thinking zap energy?

An overstuffed closet could use a good spring cleaning. Your thinking might need a little organization too.

Take a look at when the sad thoughts creep in. If your mind wanders back to dark places on holidays or special occasions, plan ahead to combat the thinking. Decide this year will be different. Make plans to busy yourself or try something new. Making new memories surrounding holidays or special events gives them new life.

As a closet can benefit from shelves or hooks, the times you know you’ll feel down could also use some structure. Make plans for activities, hobbies, travel, or friends. Even small changes can provide structure for positive change. Try a new food every weekend. Eat a new vegetable each week, or cook one a new way. Make pizza with cauliflower crust, or tacos with lettuce wraps instead of tortillas. Or grow a vegetable, even in a pot. Radishes will grow in a shallow container on the windowsill. Listen to music that lifts your spirits, or go for a walk.

What new support structures can you add to your life? One retired grandmother whose estranged children don’t want contact recently told me she’s making a habit of getting up, showered, and dressed by 8 a.m. She says she feels better if she’s up and ready, and often follows through on activities, commitments, and connections. “It sure beats lazing around in my pajamas full of self-pity,” she said.

A father shared that he checks his calendar each evening, and makes plans. Things like call a friend, go to the gym, or research senior sports leagues in his town. As a result, he’s added structure that helps him look forward to the next day. He wakes up feeling more purposeful.

Sweeping out feelings

Use the momentum of spring with its energy of renewal to sweep out and examine feelings that don’t serve you. For your own good, can you let emotions such as guilt, anger, and shame go? Let’s look at a couple of examples of how feelings can clutter up our lives.

Are you worried and fearful of what people (or your estranged adult child) will think? Some parents confide that they continue to send birthday or holiday gifts to adult children who want no contact out of fear. They’re concerned others will negatively judge them. Even after many years, some worry that if they don’t continue to recognize an estranged adult child’s birthday, the son or daughter will accuse them of not caring. If you can relate, are these sorts of worries serving you well?  Will there ever come a time when enough is enough? Halting (or reducing) obligatory contact with adult children with whom you have no real relationship can be freeing. “I spent six years trying,” says one mother. “I refuse to live the rest of my life enslaved.”

Do feelings of shame, or the possibility of being put on the spot keep you from social situations? In Done With The Crying there are examples to help you handle questions and steer others’ responses to your situation. Some of us are more social than others, but remaining isolated is not healthy for anyone. Step forward. Sprout a new attitude, and shed the shame as part of a spring clear out.

Reassess and make adjustments. Tug out and cast aside mental and emotional blocks. Reclaim the confident pre-estrangement you. Better yet, embrace a new, more self-compassionate you.

Pulling out the physical weeds

Don’t forget the physical side of spring cleaning. Are you holding onto actual things left behind by adult children who want no contact? Now might be a good time to free up extra space. Storing, donating, or disposing of unused items can be mentally and emotionally liberating. Try taking down a photograph that reminds you of pain, and see how you feel.  There really is something to the old saying: out of sight, out of mind.

You might also make a physical change for this new season of your life. I recently cut my hair, and imagined shedding negativity along with those overgrown locks. The easy style is representative of a fuss-free life—and goes along with my newly adopted motto, Lighten Up. I like that my motto can apply in several ways: weight, clutter, and mood. Will you join me?

Adapt

adult children want no contactWhile we might feel a little spindly and awkward as we turn ourselves to a new light and grow, we can take a lesson from my dusty miller plants. Once the weeds were cleared away, those bare-stemmed plants began to immediately adapt, filling in with foliage to soak in the sunlight.

It’s spring. Spread your own foliage. Stretch toward the sunlight of people, things, and activities that make you happy. Expend your energy in ways that help you progress toward meaning and joy.

Keep watch, too, for old habits to creep in (like those snails in the picture!). Pluck them out before they can do damage.

Spring forward

adult children want no contactFor inspiring stories of other parents who’ve moved beyond the emotional wreckage of estrangement, as well as more in-depth information about releasing negative feelings, thoughts, and behavior that are holding you back, get my book. Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children was recently named a finalist in the Indie Book of the Year Awards—which I hope will raise awareness about the growing problem of estranged adult children from loving families. You can help by clicking on the Facebook “like” and Google + buttons below.

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For full copyright restrictions, please see the notice in the column to the right of the
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