Category Archives: What Parents Can Do

Articles and information for parents on the subject of estranged adult children. Includes assistance, strategy, coping, ways to get through the troubling emotional traumas and dilemmas common to parents suffering an adult child’s estrangement.

Estate planning (estranged parents) Is the paperwork done?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

estate planning estranged parentsOnce upon a time there were parents who loved their children. They devoted their energy and time to those kids’ well-being, and for the most part, they did well. As time passed and the children grew, those parents adapted. They let loose their hands as those darling children headed into kindergarten for the very first time. They saw those growing children through sports and scrapes. They were nervous when they went to middle and high school and learned to drive a car. But they smiled and let them grow and go. That’s what parents do.

With some of those children, the love went on, shared and returned. As adults, those children were more like friends in some ways, but the parents still played a supportive role. The parents listened when the young adults confided about college or work or a new love in their lives. They offered advice when asked, injected a wise comment here or there, and watched with pride as their adult children matured into good citizens of planet Earth. They were there to celebrate a promotion, help when someone got sick, and step into the role of grandparents to new darling loves they knew would grow and go. But for now, they would hold their grandbabies, love them, and cherish the moments. Time goes fast, and that’s what parents do.

estate planning estranged parentsHowever, somewhere along the way, one child (or sometimes more than one) changes. It can’t be considered growing in the typical way. It’s a veering off, and then looking back through eyes that no longer see the good. It’s revisionist history, a new story, a tale that doesn’t tell the truth. And sometimes it’s a twisted game. A cruel activity that tugs at heart strings and then chokes them off, repeatedly. It’s a weird racket that says I don’t want you, but you must still want me—forever.

The parent, remembering the person they once knew, hopes that son or daughter will return. Perhaps that hope never really goes away. But there comes a time when abuse, in whatever form, cannot be tolerated. So, the parents give in, move forward and make the best of things. Sometimes, that requires words (I won’t play this game anymore), or actions (block the phone number). Other times, it’s a decision to let the distance remain and even grow. The gaping gap gets knitted over because it must be. A bridge is required for a path forward. Maybe there are grandchildren from an adult child whose eyes have not changed. Maybe there are other reasons. Things like a decision to retire, an illness that puts priorities firmly on self-care and health, or a need to settle things so that firm ground is underfoot.

estate planning estranged parentsYou have a measure of closure in that decision. And you move on. You’re even happy—with the people who love you, the hobbies you enjoy, important work that brings meaning into your life. Whatever it is that makes you you—because you are back, maybe even better.

But doors that are closed can still be opened. And because you’ve seen the twisted hindsight, the abuse or manipulation, you make a more final move. One that protects the people you love who are part of your life. You decide to change your estate documents.

You’ve deliberated for years.  You know it’s all right to remove a child from inheritance, or perhaps to make a specific, limited gift. To exclude the children of an estranged adult child because they’re not born yet, you don’t know them, or if you have a son, he might have children out there somewhere. Your attorney says she’s seen people come out of the woodwork with claims. And you can always change the paperwork later if you need or want to. Your attorney tells you she advises people to do what is right for them at the current time. And the timing is right…now.

Estate planning: Estranged parents may be sad

estate planning estranged parentsAs you drive away, you feel secure. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t feel sad. Maybe you even cry. Maybe you wonder: What if you have it all wrong? What if my son or daughter doesn’t expect this, and will one day be filled with regret? You imagine that handsome face twisted in pain. You see tears welling in those beautiful eyes. And then you remember the truth. Those eyes have changed. And so, you tuck the sadness away. You’re practiced by now. And it feels good to have taken the action you’ve been putting off. You’ve signed the paperwork for a reason.

Your attorney has validated your worries. She sees estrangement all the time. After the parents are dead and gone, she has seen the disinherited try to guilt a sibling into splitting their rightful share. You don’t want that to happen, the manipulation and abuse. So, you have protected the ones you love. You have shut the door to added stress to the ones who will be sad when you die. You can always change the paperwork, but for now you have gotten your things in order. Because that’s what parents do.

More on end-of-life Decisions and estate planning for estranged parents

To find more specific help about making end-of-life decisions and on estate planning for estranged parents, there is a chapter in Done With The Crying devoted to this topic that provides examples, tools to clarify your feelings and come to decisions you can feel secure about.

These decisions are not necessarily easy, but they are important ones. And there is the security in knowing your wishes will be honored.

Mothers of Estranged Adult Children: Mother’s Day 2018

mothers of estranged adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

The generally recognized founder of the U.S. Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, never profited from the holiday. She fought against commercializing it, but Mother’s Day is commercialized. And all those newspaper ads and television commercials can trigger pain and sadness for mothers of estranged adult children.

The White Carnation

Did you know that the carnation does not lose its petals as it dies? Instead, it hugs them to its heart, according to Anna Jarvis. She likened the carnation to mothers whose love never dies and who hold their children close. Jarvis was against commercializing the holiday, but she sure knew how to spin a persuasive line. So do today’s marketers. The holiday is so ingrained in our culture that mothers of estranged adult children begin worrying and talking about it months in advance. What will they do to get through the day? What won’t they do, in order to protect themselves?

Before we get into some solid answers, let’s consider that maybe all the lovely images the media projects about Mother’s Day aren’t as accurate a portrayal as they seem. As I say in my book, the Norman Rockwell image of the family doesn’t truly exist. Even the happiest of families have their troubles.

Sheri McGregorMy article, What don’t you know? , features an honest portrayal of after-holiday conversations among neighbors and friends. Odds are everyone is telling the good stuff while leaving out the conflicts.

Mothers of estranged adult children may also pare their comments down rather than let it all hang out. And who can blame them? Many mothers of estranged adult children relate that they have experienced judgment. It’s common for people to suspect that a parent has done something awful to cause estrangement. But as I discuss at length in my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, it’s sometimes possible to get past the judgment. Parents can sometimes be honest, and then steer the other person’s response. You can do this by acknowledging a negative response as understandable, which lets the other person off the hook. A gentle correction can follow, because estrangement by adult children who come from regular, loving families is actually rather common. By steering people past their initial responses, we can begin to enlighten society to the epidemic of estrangement. But gosh, don’t feel obligated to do so. As mentioned, it’s perfectly acceptable to keep it to yourself. Especially in the beginning.

Early on, it was difficult for me to talk about my son’s estrangement. As time has gone on, it’s grown easier. I also see it as important, so speak out publicly to shed light on the issue of estrangement. In the fall, when my story was told to a Good Housekeeping magazine interviewer, she edited it down, and then they added dramatic headlines that appeared as if they were my quotes. When I agreed to that interview, I had no idea the story would be passed along to media outlets all over the world. As a result, I was bombarded by hateful, judgmental comments. I completely understand why some parents choose not to tell anyone about estrangement.

However,  beyond enlightening society to the problem, my intention remains the same as when I when I wrote the book: To help parents of estranged adult children. If parents can manage to let go of the whys and what-ifs, they can live a fulfilling life. Though the article that went viral generated hate, it also reached the audience it was intended for. I heard from many parents, some of whom had suffered alone for many years. They said they had no idea there were other caring parents whose adult children abandoned them. Just by sharing my story, I had helped!

Sheri McGregorSimilarly, a mother in the support forum shared that she bought herself a beautiful bouquet for Mother’s Day—to honor herself for all she’d done as a mother. The florist asked if she wanted to sign a card, and she ended up revealing the truth. It just so happens that the florist was also a mother of estranged adult children. The two shared a hug. This story is like others I often hear, where one mother lets down her guard, and discovers she has helped another by sharing.

If you’re not ready to open up about your estrangement, don’t feel bad. I completely understand, and have suffered enough suspicious stares to know how you feel. We are each on our own path. Although we share a bond in estrangement, our individual circumstances are unique, and so are we. Depending on the duration of the estrangement and any further contact that places you on an emotional roller coaster or uncertain about hope, you may or may not be willing to open up. And it’s your choice whether to let people in on your plight. Just as a carnation holds its petals close, you may feel the need to protect your heart—and that’s OK.

Mother’s Day: not always happy

Mothers of estranged adult children are not the only ones who dread the day. Last year, a newspaper reporter gave my thoughts a little space among experts and mothers for whom the holiday isn’t all lovely and fun. The article offers helpful tips and insights from mothers in other situations that make the day stressful. It’s unfortunate that my quotes come next to a those of a therapist who suggests we mend the rift. So be aware of that before clicking on the link. Mothers of estranged adult children know mending the rift is not as simple as that (and the therapist speaks of teens rather than adults).

Mother’s Day: Manage, get through or even enjoy it

First, don’t feel bad about your feelings. In acknowledging our emotions, we honor ourselves. And that often frees us up to more fully appreciate and enjoy the day with others who love and want to celebrate with us. For more specific tips and discussion, see Tending Your Heartache.

Second, take care of yourself in the days leading up to Mother’s Day. This involves recognizing the feelings the holiday triggers and making a few decisions for your own happiness. Be mindful, and then act. Even the tiniest of steps help, because positive action for yourself results in momentum. Be good to yourself.

Third, remember that holidays can influence a person’s thinking. If you find yourself contemplating doing something out of the ordinary to try and reconnect, take a little time to reflect and consider your actions more carefully. Like one mother who felt compelled to reconnect with her adult sons, ask yourself a few key questions. You may decide, as she did, not to act. See her story here.

Fourth, realize again that you are not alone in this situation or the feelings that come with it. Recently, I reached out to the women behind a website for women. They contemplated, and then ran a thoughtful review of my book because they realized they both knew people who were estranged. These days, it’s common that someone is estranged within most circles. The support forum for parents of estranged adult children at this site is filled with parents of estranged adult children who offer one another care and kindness. You may find it beneficial too.

Fifth, take care of yourself. If that message hasn’t been set forth clearly so far, let me say it now: Take care of yourself!

More help for Mothers estranged from adult children

Sheri McGregorThroughout this article, I’ve embedded links to others with more specific tips, techniques, and strategies. Below, I’ve listed a few more of the Mother’s Day and holiday related articles to help (and the opportunity to get a free audio book). Why not get out a notepad, and as you read the articles, take a few notes about what might work for you. As always, the comments, too, contain wonderful suggestions from other parents like you.

Can you help other mothers estranged from adult children? If you have a comment about Mother’s Day that can help others, please share. Thousands of people visit this site every month, and in the weeks surrounding Mother’s Day, the traffic spikes with hurting people looking for help. I hope you’ll take a moment to make a comment here.

As a special Mother’s Day gift from me to you, I have two digital copies of the audiobook version of Done with the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children to share. Here’s how to possibly receive one:

  1. Comment directly to this article with a thought about Mother’s Day to help mothers estranged from adult children. You can do this by using the box below, or by clicking on “Leave a Reply” at the top of this article. In your comment, be sure to talk a little about your estrangement–and don’t worry, although the comment form asks for your email address, that will not be shared or visible on the page when your comment appears. (Your comment will not immediately appear, so don’t worry when you don’t immediately see it. Comments are moderated for approval.)
  2. Do include your real first name.
  3. Comment between now and midnight Sunday, May 13, 2018 (Pacific time).The two winners will be chosen randomly by draw. You will receive a redeemable code to use directly from the audiobook publisher’s website. Until next time, Happy Mother’s Day! And lots of HUGS to the hurting parents.

Sheri McGregor

Related articles

Getting through Mother’s Day when your adult child is estranged: 6 Thoughts to help

‘Twas the night before Mother’s Day

Holidays, how to manage them

Happy Mother’s Day

Greetings from estranged adult children

Mother’s Day for estranged mothers: Tending your heartache

Mother’s Day: Triggering pain for estranged mothers

The mother who isn’t, the grandmother who isn’t allowed

 

Abusive adult children influence parents’ self-image

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

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NOTE: I don’t often use the word “abuse” when talking about estrangement. For some, though, the term fits. Estrangement itself, by adult children toward caring parents, can be viewed as a form of abuse. If you’re not comfortable with this terminology, use the search functions to explore other articles with specific topics relevant to parents of estranged adult children. — Sheri

Abusive adult children: a scary reflection

Have you ever looked in one of those magnifying mirrors that highlights every imperfection? Fine facial hair looks forest-thick, and skin pores appear as large as craters. But there’s a value in looking closely—even if, as a friend says, “Those magnifying mirrors are scary.”

Whose Mirror?

The perverse opinions of abusive adult children can make parents see themselves in a warped mirror. One that distorts them so much they no longer recognize themselves. This might have happened over time, or overnight.

abusive adult children“All I could see were my failures,” recalls Barbara. “My own daughter told me I ruined her life, and she had a million detailed memories of how I did everything wrong.”

Imagine waking up one day and seeing a monstrosity reflected. That’s how parents can feel when an adult child’s abuse includes blame, accusations, and twisted memories.

In the beginning, Barbara spoke up. “It was as if my daughter woke up one day and had brand new memories,” Barbara explains. “She recounted her life with a black cloud of doom over her head, and the cloud was me.”

Because the vast majority of parents want their children’s happiness above all else, they reevaluate themselves through the son or daughter’s perspective. They’re willing to look at how their choices may have been seen through their child’s eyes. All parents make mistakes. Also, it’s possible a child didn’t understand a parent’s choices, the motivation driving them, or what might have been happening behind the scenes. Those sorts of things can be discussed and worked out by willing parties.

Unfortunately, of the one hundred or more emails I receive from parents of estranged or abusive adult children each week, many of them have tried—unsuccessfully. Barbara certainly did. Offers for mediation, counseling, or to just sit down and talk, have been met with such things as flat-out refusals, silence, or more abusive rants.

Seeing the real you

Many parents are surprised to find that there are so many like them who have suffered from cruelty, abandonment, put-downs, and endless blame. And because it’s a controversial subject, they’ve been afraid to tell anyone for fear of judgment. Or, as is often the case, they’re keeping quiet to protect their adult child’s reputation.

Barbara knew she had done her best. She’s like other parents whose self-image can get lost to a flawed reflection provided repeatedly by abusive adult children. I routinely hear from parents convinced they’re failures, deserving of the pain or abandonment their sons and daughters inflict. After all, they reason, if they were a good mother or father, their children would love them.

They may try everything to maintain a relationship. Barbara’s daughter threatened to keep her grandchildren away, so she walked on eggshells.  “If I said anything out of line, which could be anything depending on her mood, then the tirade would begin.” Eventually, Barbara’s then 36-year old daughter began posting lies on Facebook about her. At the time, Barbara was recovering from surgery. At her breaking point, she replied, publicly asking her daughter why she’d lied. The postings were deleted, but Barbara’s daughter went no-contact. “It wasn’t the first time,” says Barbara. “But it has been the longest estrangement so far.”

With a health scare that became a turning point, Barbara knew she had to make a change. That’s when she began to look for help. But after years of warped opinions from an abusive adult child, she had little self-confidence.  “If I raised this person who turned out to be so cruel, then how could I be a successful mother?” she asks.  “My daughter had reminded me what a failure I was every chance she got.”

Take a closer look.

abusive adult childrenWhen suffering parents discover my book, they tell me they’re shocked to read so many experiences that mirror their own. And although it’s sad to know there are so many suffering, the knowledge is also heartening. They’re no longer alone. In reading other parents’ accounts, they get a clearer view. They see themselves in others’ stories, and recognize they were also good parents who did their best.

Once parents have a clearer reflection, they can explore positive changes to help themselves move forward in their own lives. One of the first steps is to look more closely at how much an abusive adult child has affected their lives. The inflicted suffering entails more than sadness and grief. Bitterness, lack of confidence, anger, fear, and anxiety have often crept in. In Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, there are many exercises, and one designed specifically to help with this vital step. Holding the magnifier up to examine changes in themselves is one of the first steps to making positive, concrete plans to regain confidence, find meaning, and happiness again.

Take action.

One woman who found this website and my book after 20 years of grief described her life as a “living death.” Now, she’s glad to have found a way out of the rollercoaster of emotions, the shame and sorrow, and to stop crying and to start celebrating life.

abusive adult childrenBarbara says it’s too late to reconcile with her daughter. There has been too much heartbreak, and her daughter has refused any sort of counseling or mediation. “I miss my grandchildren,” she says, “but I’m hoping to one day see them again.”

Barbara’s expresses the sentiment of many grandparents who, due to estrangement, have lost touch with precious ones. But I sometimes hear from grandparents who have received their wish. There’s a knock at the door one day, and it’s a grownup grandchild with that same sweet smile, wanting to reconnect. When that happens, you’ll want to be ready, so take care of yourself. As one grandmother recently advised, “Get dressed and put on lipstick every day.”

Don’t wait and hope, mired by inaction that only adds to your grief. You can clean the mirrors of guilt and shame and see yourself for the loving parent you have always been. Like thousands of parents who are learning to accept what they cannot change, and see their goodness again, you can be done with the crying. Take action for yourself and your happiness by reading more of the articles at this site, getting Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children and committing to the included exercises. Subscribe to my email newsletter (below) and take the survey using the link on the right. By taking action, you can be like so many parents who have recovered from the sadness and pain caused by abusive adult children, on-and-off or full-on estrangements. Treasure your life. You can find happiness and meaning again.

Related reading:

Rejected parents: Should you tell people?

Parents: Have you had enough?

Elder Abuse Statistics

Beyond the shadow of estrangement

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

The Shadow of Estrangement.

When the sun is high in a brilliant blue sky, our shadows are short. As the sun moves, our shadows lengthen, shorten, and change position—sometimes on the right, other times on our left.

But this isn’t a lesson on shadows! It’s just how I choose to view the shadow ofestrangement.

Estrangement’s “day”

The presence of estrangement can change over the course of time. With acceptance comes the admission that you cannot control another adult’s decision. You can move forward, and whether you believe it or not at this moment, you can be happy;  so that you no longer think of your estranged adult children and are no longer plagued by the shadow of estrangement, even for very long periods of time. Still, with the arrival of a life storm or two, a birthday, a holiday or a brush with death, the presence can shift, grow, or reappear.

shadow of estrangementThis is true even for people who’ve reached the high noon of acceptance over what they know they cannot change, who have moved forward in joy and are cherishing what’s good and creating new meaning and purpose in their lives. Even for many years.

People write to me all the time with a situation or date that has caused them grief. Times when the shadow of estrangement looms. Statements like these are common:

  • I’m back to square one.
  • I’ll never get past this loss.
  • What if I haven’t tried enough?

The Shadow of estrangement: Make a choice

But we do have a choice. We can see the setback as oppressive and horrible and something we just can’t shake. Or, we can make the choice to see the shift as temporary. We can tell ourselves it’s a minor setback, that we will feel better, that we are still strong and will move beyond this day. We can envision ourselves leaping forward again to square four or six or ten or one hundred—and then we can do what’s necessary to make that leap.

Estrangement: Is there a gift in the pain?

shadow of estrangementWe can even choose to find the value in revisiting the pain. Maybe it provides an opportunity to remind ourselves we did all we could. Perhaps in re-examining the facts, we re-identify the words and events and decisions that a parent’s forgiving memory has softened. In the shadow of estrangement, we can bolster ourselves with reality and mourn the loss as we might for a loved one who is long deceased, with good memories and a tinge of sadness, longing, or regret.

Or, if we feel the need, we can reach out again (always with an emotional insurance plan).

One woman recently wrote that she had been doing so well, but then her estranged daughter made contact, and it wasn’t for reasons that made any good sense. There is was again: the shadow of estrangement. This estranged mother wrote to me, saying, “I’ve pulled out your book again. It helped me before, and it will help me again.” Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children was her first line of defense.

shadow of estrangementOthers look at a favorite article here at rejectedparents.net, or do a search for ones that fit  their experience. You can use the collapsible categories to the right to look through all past article titles, and then click through. Or, there’s a search button to the right to help you find specific subjects.

Maybe for you it’s a good friend who will be sad to hear what’s happened, but there to make you laugh. Perhaps it’s getting close to God, to your spouse, to nature, or a loyal pet—and then reconnecting with the activities you enjoy. Maybe it’s a combination of these things.

The sun will set, the stars and moon will shine, and the next day brings a new beginning. We can choose to see the shadow of estrangement as a reminder that we are okay, that we can reclaim our space and happiness despite it.

“The landscape of loss is fertile ground for growth.” Sheri McGregor

In time, we may even find gifts hidden in the shadow of estrangement, as so many parents tell me they have. Gifts of strength and clarity and growth. Gifts in seeing how other puzzles within our lives fit. Or even the gift of peace. Have you found any such gifts? Feel free to comment here on this article so that other parents can benefit from your experience.

Related reading

Estranged Adult Children: Why Do They Make Contact Now?

Estrangement: Dealing With Uncertainty

Estranged from adult children? Done With The Crying Audiobook release

estranged from adult childrenEstranged from adult children?
I’m excited to announce that earlier this month, the audiobook version of Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children was released by Tantor Media.

adult children estrangedFor awhile today, Done With The Crying took the number one spot for new releases in its category at Amazon. As I write this it’s at #4. I’m happy the book is helping people, but it’s also sad proof of a common breakdown in today’s families: estrangement.

Have you been waiting to read the book? If you’re estranged from adult children, I do recommend the print version because the tools and exercises provide real help to move beyond the pain, and there’s space provided in the printed book. But you could listen to it for free right now, plus get a bonus.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Please know that although you may feel alone in the estrangement, you are not. I hear from parents every day who are estranged from adult children, suffering similar pain and looking for solutions. Please, take care of yourself. There is a good life ahead, and you’ll want to be strong and well to enjoy it. Buy the book, and take a step forward today.

Estrangement: Are you an octopus mom?

by Sheri McGregor, MA

estrangement

Sheri, diving in a pool
Photo credit: J. Wininger

Octopuses are smart. They can learn how to work through mazes, figure out how to open jars, and they like to play—all signs of intelligence. That’s why it surprised me when a friend mentioned that a mother octopus lays her eggs, then devotes herself so selflessly to them that she dies.

 

In one documented story, scientists observed a giant Pacific octopus who brooded over her eggs for more than four years. She neglected her own care, going without food to the point of death—and then her offspring floated off into the ocean to live their lives alone.

Caring for children

When our children are young and growing up, we protect and care for them. For us, it’s more than preserving the species as it must be for the octopus. We love them. We want to develop good relationships with our children, expecting they will grow older and we’ll remain emotionally connected and close. But that’s not how it is in situations of estrangement. The children we nurtured and loved grow up and cut ties. The distance can range from never talking to an occasional text. Or, worse, many parents say their adult children only call when they want financial help.

It’s fine to help people you love, but with estrangement, I routinely hear from mothers (and fathers) who have repeatedly neglected their own care, health, and happiness. Some have sons or daughters who are in their 40s and even 50s and have a history of anger and abuse toward the parents they blame for all their troubles. These parents come across my book or this website, and that’s when they discover they’re not the only ones.

Estrangement: Don’t be a mother octopus

In the shame of estrangement, parents will sometimes give more than they can really afford to sacrifice. Trying and trying even though the estrangement is beyond their control. As one woman on the FB page for rejected parents recently said, “Didn’t break it. Can’t fix it.” (I’m paraphrasing from memory.)

Parents brood for years over an adult who wants nothing to do with them. Hoping their son or daughter will one day decide to change, and end the estrangement. Waiting, remaining emotionally invested to the point of exhaustion—but the adult children move on in their lives alone.

It’s okay to remain hopeful. It’s fine to think that one day your son or daughter will return. But there’s no sense neglecting yourself while you wait. Go on and enjoy your life. Find some meaning. Do what makes you happy and strong.

If that Pacific octopus would have eaten a few of those crabs she nudged away when they got close, maybe she wouldn’t have withered away while standing faithful.

estrangementObviously, we aren’t octopuses. Maybe it’s a stretch to even use this fact to draw a parallel for parents suffering in estrangement. Then again, maybe it’s not such a big stretch at all. . .

In estrangement, don’t neglect your own health and happiness.

In Estrangement: Intervene for yourself

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Have you seen the television show called Intervention? The few times I’ve watched, the stories are heartbreaking, and the interventions have limited success. But something in the show the other night stuck with me.

estrangementIntervention: Who gets help?

If you’ve have ever watched the show, you know that the addict’s family members have suffered. Sometimes a grandparent cares for the addict’s child. Family members have tried to talk sense into the individual, and have offered all sorts of help. They may have felt as if they had no choice but to enable the adult child with money so he or she doesn’t end up on the street. But nothing has worked. They’ve watched their loved one’s life unravel—and often, parts of their own lives have unraveled too.

The family’s decision to do an “intervention” represents more than helping the addict. The family members are helping themselves. They all agree that enough is enough. Something must change. They can no longer enable and allow the addict to interfere with their own happiness. By setting up boundaries to support themselves, which includes things like disengaging from the relationship, no longer giving money, and letting the addict suffer the consequences of their behavior, they hope the addict will agree to get immediate help.

How’s this apply to estranged parents?

In the episode I’m referring to, the family waited for the addict to arrive at the pre-intervention meeting as always. The counselor brought up some important points that apply to estrangement from adult children.

First, the counselor said: Whenever you think or talk about the addict, it’s a mood-altering experience.

estrangementThe family agreed. No doubt, parents experiencing estrangement from adult children can relate. Thinking about an estranged adult child brings them down. It’s a mood-altering experiencing. And it’s no wonder. For most parents, it’s difficult to even believe the estrangement has occurred, let alone try to accept it. The emotional trauma of estrangement is tough to contend with and bleeds into other areas of parents’ lives. It can be so draining. That’s why I wrote my book to help parents of estranged adult children cope, founded RejectedParents.Net, and am sharing with you in this article now.

Next, the counselor told the family: The thing is, the addict may never change.

It’s the same with estrangement. Many parents hope for their estranged adult child’s change of heart, and for a reconciliation like the prodigal child. But it’s important to realize that this may never happen.

Finally, the intervention counselor told the family: You cannot be casualties of the addict’s behavior.

Parents estranged from adult children need to think the same way.  Your estranged adult child may never change. Don’t be a casualty.

No intervention for your estranged adult children

For absolute clarity, let me say outright that I am in no way suggesting you do an intervention with your estranged adult child. Many families have tried this, and of the stories I’ve heard, the results were not good. I’ll share a few of those experiences in a future article, because I hear from parents all the time who are wondering about the tactic.

Estrangement: Focus on you

In Done With The Crying, there are examples of how repeatedly reaching out can become hurtful to parents of estranged adult children. Suffering rejection over and over again can further dismantle self-esteem, and puts parents at the feet of a child to whom they’ve handed all the power. Reconciling may not even be wise if the relationship will be hurtful. Coming to terms with estrangement involves examining the situation with clear eyes rather than through rose colored glasses.

As the New Year is set to start (or any time!), draw the curtain on the dark thoughts such as where you must have gone wrong. If you’re like most parents, in estrangement from your adult children, you’ve beat yourself up for every possible mistake.

Starting this new calendar year, let go of the worries and what-ifs about your estranged adult child’s possible future regrets. Instead, focus on the good you did, the times you tried, andestrangement the effort you made to be the best parent you knew how.

Don’t be a casualty. Do a personal intervention on yourself. Join thousands of parents who, despite estrangement, have embraced their lives and moved happily into the future.

Happy New Year!

Related reading

Estrangement from adult children: Five ways to move forward

New Year NOW

What don’t you know?

 

Abandoned parents: Let your light shine

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

abandoned parents

Photo credit: Craig Burrows Photography

I recently came across photographs of something most of us never see–natural flowers that light up!

The truth is almost any organic matter glows in response to UV light by what’s called “fluorescence.” As flowers are hit with sunlight, they emit a glow in return.

I shared a video of some glowing flower photos at the RP facebook page. It’s not one that I created. Even if you’re not on FB, you can see some of the photos via links and a video below. Photographer Craig Burrows took the beautiful Angel’s Trumpet flower here, and has more examples at his website. I’ve included a list of links at the end of this article, and there’s also a YouTube video that features this photography linked below.

Right now, I’d like to talk about how each one of us has a special light of our own, just like the unique ways the different flowers glow.

Abandoned parents: Let your light shine

Every day (and even more during the holidays), I hear from hurting, abandoned parents whose adult children have rejected or abused them. Many feel a sense of shame about what’s happened, even though they’ve wracked their brains to figure out how the son or daughter they loved and supported for decades could be so unkind. I’ve written about why undue guilt can plague parents in my book, Done With The Crying, and in an article about what’s called “innocent guilt.”

Unfortunately, parents who did their best can get stuck in what one mother whose been estranged for more than two decades calls “the pit of despair.” But life really is too short to let another adult’s lousy choice define you and keep you stuck. This mother, who spent years walking on eggshells and crying, has come to the realization that enough is enough. (See the article: Parents of estranged adult children: Have you had enough?) This mom is  quick to tell others, “Get out there and enjoy life.” And she’s taking her own advice. She’s letting her light shine.

Abandoned parents: Will your glow show?


In the flower photos, we can see their glow because of a special sort of photography called ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence photography, or UVIVF. This photography gives us eyes to see. But if the flowers weren’t out in the sunlight, they wouldn’t glow.

It’s similar to what happens when we step out, smile, and interact. Some people will like us, and some won’t—but that doesn’t mean we don’t glow, just like the flowers.

Abandoned parents: Step into the light

By stepping out into the “sunlight,” even abandoned parents who have spent years in the painful shadow of estrangement can begin to shine. All the crying you might do, all the searching for an answer that finally makes sense won’t change what has happened. You didn’t fail because of your adult child’s choices. Don’t remain a hostage to his/her decisions.

What is one good thing you can do for yourself? Right now, identify at least a single thing you can do to reclaim your glow? Think back to who you were before trauma. Deep down, you’re still in there. Step into the light—and shine!

Maybe this means that you literally step out into the sunlight. Despite all we’ve heard about sunlight causing skin cancer, that link isn’t as direct as you might think. And there are benefits to sunlight. In addition to increased Vitamin D with its stronger bones benefit, moderate exposure to sunlight can improve mood and promote deeper sleep—and sleep is something abandoned parents need. (Abandoned parents, here’s help with sleep.) help with. At the bottom, I’ve linked to a couple of articles on sunlight that may help.

It’s not only the sunlight that helps, though. More doctors are prescribing walks in nature to help with anxiety, depression, and stress. Some of you may know that I have written several popular hiking guides for my area. At some of the most stress- and worry-filled times in my life, getting out in nature has soothed my soul. People report that physical pain improves as well.

Abandoned parents: Re-ignite your light

You might start to let your light shine by purposefully altering a thought habit that puts you in a bad mood. In this way, you re-ignite your light from the inside.

Abandoned parents often tell me they awaken early, plagued by sad thoughts. My question: Why lie there and suffer? You’re not sleeping anyway, so use the time wisely. Even in the wee hours, you can do a quiet project (and sometimes, busying the mind will relax and tire you, so that you can get back to sleep). Here are a few ideas:

  • Get a craft kit for those sleepless times.
  • Turn to some fun reading (women might enjoy the Hot flash club series).
  • Meditate on calming words or scriptures.
  • Marvel at the moon, the stars, and how vast the universe is.

Abandoned parents: Shine up your surroundings

When we’re feeling overwhelmed emotionally, our surroundings can start to reflect that feeling back at us. Maybe our sadness shows up in yesterday’s clothing slopped over a chair, or the stress we feel shows up in a mail pile of mail we don’t look at—and that keeps getting bigger. Losing a little physical clutter has a way of clearing the mind, too. Start clearing in some small areas with big impact—like decluttering a drawer or cleaning out the refrigerator. Consider some emotional decluttering too (here’s how). There’s no need to wait until spring.

Small positive changes can make you feel better about yourself, which can start to re-ignite your inner glow. For more strategies to help yourself, get my book, Done With The Crying—or read it again.

Add spark other people can see

Have you gotten into a rut with how you dress? Maybe you’ve spent years wearing business black. Is it time for a change? Perhaps all the stress has caused you to take less interest in your appearance. Maybe you even want to hide. Well, how about dressing to help you feel better? I’m an advocate for coming up with an outfit that helps. What’s your costume? You can read about mine here.

Try adding a colorful scarf, or change up your hairstyle (or color!). Today, when a lot of young people are coloring their hair gray as a desired style, mature women are choosing to accessorize with a splash of neon pink or blue. Look it up online. You might be inspired.

Shine your light to help other abandoned parents

You can shine your light by leaving your ideas about how to shine in a comment here in response to this article. Won’t you light the way for yourself and other hurting parents of estranged adult children?

Related reading:

More spectacular UVIVF photography

Benefits of Moderate Sun Exposure

Six Reasons Why You Need More Sun

For parents abandoned by adult children, sleep can be elusive

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

parents abandoned by adult childrenThankful for good sleep

I can remember my mother draping a heavy afghan over my lap when I was four, and asking me if I’d like it for my bed. Done in tightly crocheted, multi-color granny squares framed in eggplant-purple, the heavy blanket snuggled me like a hug. Yes, I wanted the beautiful blanket for my bed—and I used it for nearly three decades, until it was ragged and falling apart and almost real. If it were a stuffed animal it would have been like the Velveteen Rabbit, which inspired the beautiful quilt called “Wall of Silence” that was designed and made by a rejected mom.

Our sleeping environment, what we put on our beds and fill our minds and bodies with in the evening, can improve our ability to sleep. Good sleep is one of the things I’m most thankful for. Restful sleep is a necessity that positively affects life. Oh sure, I still have the occasional evening when the dogs are barking or someone else in the house makes noise in the night. We all do. But I’m no longer troubled by the insomnia that commonly plagues parents abandoned by adult children. I remember well those nights of lying awake, wondering how this could happen to me, and even if everyone else would leave me, too. Troubled sleep and disturbing dreams are common after emotional trauma, but sleep is important.

Sleep: A basic for mental and physical health

Sleep well, and you’re better able to cope. It’s a fact. People with chronic insomnia have a higher parents abandoned by adult childrenincidence of developing depression, and the inability to get good, restorative sleep is also associated with physical complaints and disorders. Restorative sleep is essential for physical and mental health.

There have been many studies on insomnia and its relationship to all sorts of other conditions. At the bottom of this page, I have linked to an article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that provides a comprehensive overview. You might want to read it on a night when you can’t get to sleep.

Ways for parents abandoned by adult children to sleep better

One helper is your sleep environment. You can find articles all over the internet with tips about making the bedroom conducive to sleep and to keep the bed a place you use only for sleep. If your bed is associated only with sleep, the school of thought is that you’ll fall asleep quicker when you go to bed. Try ear plugs or muffs, light blocking masks and drapes, and the right sort of pillow. Ideas about comfort make sense, too. Use sheets and blankets that feel good, invest in a good mattress that feels cozy and promotes relaxation, and choose bedroom décor that’s restful and enhances a sense of calm. One of the most detailed books on the subject is Start Your Day with a Good Night’s Sleep: A Guide for Rest, Relaxation, and Blissful Sleep by Robert Sachs, who draws on his education, experience, and philosophy to break sleep down to the minute details that might make a difference for you. Give it a try if you want an all-inclusive guide.

Here, I’ll cover a few things that have worked for me or other parents abandoned by adult children—which brings me back to my eggplant-purple afghan from childhood. I I remember crawling underneath that heavy afghan at night and feeling swaddled in love. I know some of this was the special feeling of my mother bestowing the gift of handmade love from a family friend on me, but I believe its sheer weight also played a role. After that afghan unraveled and became too ragged for daily use, I missed its weight.

parents abandoned by adult childrenFor years, I tried to recreate the feeling by piling on multiple blankets. Of course, my husband likes little more than a thin sheet, so my attempt at better sleep contributed to his insomnia. Why do opposites attract? That’s an article for another day maybe. . . .

Recently, I’ve discovered a solution: the weighted blanket. A former Occupational Therapist who is a member of the support group for parents of estranged adult children here at the site first brought their use to my attention. MJMom, I’m forever grateful!

Weighted blankets were first used in medical settings and for autistic children, but they’ve gone mainstream for good reason. Studies show that weighted blankets decrease anxiety and increase the brain’s feel-good chemicals. Thankfully, the blankets come in sizes for one—meaning the cozy, soft, warm, heavy blanket I use on my side of the bed doesn’t bother my husband who’s relaxing under his featherweight covers. The blankets are a bit pricey, so beware. For me, it’s been a great investment. Maybe you ask for a weighted blanket as a gift (or get yourself a gift).

My weighted blanket is a fleece one made by Sensory Goods in the U.S. (washable and dryable, too), but there are a variety of brands in differing styles, colors, and weights. Be sure to read the information and choose one that’s right for your body weight. Customer reviews also played a part in my choice of a blanket that’s about 10% of my body weight. Those not accustomed to heavier bed covers might prefer a lighter-weight version.

You could also make your own weighted blanket. Go to YouTube.com and search for how to “make a weighted blanket” videos. If you don’t sew, try using the words “no sew” in your search. There are some very talented and creative people who have posted how-to videos.

More tips for better sleep

Here, we’re not covering supplements or medications. What follows are tips and techniques that I’ve found useful, or have been recommended by other parents abandoned by adult children.

Lavender—The scent of lavender is known to promote sleep. Fragrant oil can be dropped on a tissue or cotton ball and placed under your pillow. Or try a diffuser. The scented pads are very convenient. I used to take them along when traveling because odd environments can disturb my sleep. The pads worked great, and came individually wrapped or in a tin, but I haven’t been able to find them lately. If you know where to get them, do tell.

Meditation and Muscle Relaxation—A technique called “progressive muscle relaxation” can parents abandoned by adult childrenease stress from where its held in the body, and help you get to sleep. For instructions and a video about progressive muscle relaxation, try this site. You’ll find some other techniques at this site too. This is just one site with this kind of information–so if it doesn’t resonate, do your own search for progressive muscle relaxation or guided meditation.

Sleep music—There are some music and video-plus music arrangements created specifically for better sleep. Some are based on the brain’s waves during typical sleep patterns. Others are simply soothing rhythms and/or sounds from nature. Music has always seemed more of a distraction to me than a soothing sleep aid, but it works for some. A friend who has a distant son tells me she can’t go to sleep without her music that’s based on brain waves.

Prayer—There’s something about mentally going through my good wishes for the people I love (including my estranged son and his wife), and trusting that all will be well, that calms me. Some other estranged parents have told me they feel the same. “I don’t know how many times I’ve fallen asleep mid-prayer,” said one mother whose worries over her estranged daughter plague her many evenings. If you’re a spiritually minded person, prayer can help.

Soothing drinks—Calming chamomile tea is a favorite of mine. On a winter night, even a plain cup of hot water can have a soothing affect. Some say warm milk promotes sleep. One thing is for sure: alcohol does not promote restful sleep. People may say alcohol calms them, but it’s known to disturb sleep patterns.

Practicing gratitude—Similar to counting your blessings, thinking of a few things each night (especially if you write them down) can have a calming affect. Remember the smallest joys of the day, and as you lay down to sleep, let them play and replay in your mind. It sure beats ruminating over the what-ifs and whys.

Having trouble sleeping?

These are just a few ideas for better sleep. What do you do to promote the restorative sleep you need? I hope you’ll share with the parents abandoned by adult children who regularly read this blog by posting a comment. Then they can be thankful for a good night’s sleep too.

Related reading:

Insomnia: Definition, Prevalence, Etiology, and Consequences (Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine)

Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket (abstract)

Thanksgiving: Can it be a time of harvest?

 

Estrangement: What’s your costume to help?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Costumes aren’t just suitable for Halloween. Choosing a sort of “costume” can be a helpful support in times of stress.

estranged from adult childrenMost of us are familiar with the old term, “dress for success.” The idea was that the clothes we wear convey a message to others about who we are and what we can do. But clothing can convey helpful messages to ourselves, too.

Your clothes:
It’s not always about what other people think

Years ago as a young mother of five, attending writers’ conferences and networking events for the first few times felt scary. Having to shake strangers’ hands and present myself as a professional writer had me trembling. On some level, those sorts of things still jangle my nerves a bit, but I learned a trick to help: put on a “costume” and step into the role. Back then, that meant business attire. Looking professional made me feel more confident. The new people I met didn’t need to know that I worked from a home office off my bedroom with toddlers playing at my feet.

Help yourself, help others
How your clothes make you feel

Just the other day, after a couple of stressful weeks full of … well, let’s just call them “situations,”  I fell back on the tactic to help me–and help a friend.

Feeling particularly harried on the day I’d planned a visit with a friend, the last thing I wanted to do was spread my tension to her. She had her own stresses—a daughter with recent health complications, career adjustments, family drama, and general stress. I almost cancelled that morning, but hadn’t seen her in months. So I chose a feel-good “costume” instead.

estrangement of parentsHere I am, exhausted but hopeful in my colorful, elasticized waist, handkerchief hemmed skirt and a bright blouse with embroidery swirls. Rather than trouble myself to style my hair, I swept it into a clip, buckled on my most comfortable shoes, and tossed some beads around my neck. That skirt always feels so breezy and easy. It flows when I walk—and I could imagine myself drifting along, a wave of peace and joy. Maybe it’s silly, but it helped.

I did tell my friend a little of what had been going on in my life, but my “costume” served as a reminder to let the troubles drift away. My costume felt a little like Glenda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz that day, but I was told I looked more like a kindergarten teacher. Either way, my role was one of peace.

Estranged parents: What’s your costume?

That evening, I thought about all the different “costumes” I’ve worn over the years. At one point, I had a sparkly duck lapel pin for an organization’s meetings where I played a leadership role. That pretty little duck helped me remember to let complaints roll right off my back like a duck sheds water. And once, for a trying personal meeting that required emotional armor, I chose a bell-sleeved tunic with a metallic print on the front. That top looked stylish but felt like protection for my heart.

With the holidays approaching, maybe you’re facing uncertain or uncomfortable situations surrounding your adult child’s estrangement. If so, consider what sort of “costume” will help. I wouldn’t feel good in clothes that bind, but someone else might feel supported by more structured apparel. Maybe you wear a soft jacket that’s suitable indoors (for an added layer of emotional padding), or a solid pair of shoes that keep you standing firm.

The clothing you choose can be another form of self-kindness and self-support. You’ve seen me in my good witch teacher “costume.” Now, leave a comment and tell me about yours!

For more information about estrangement and how to move forward after an adult child’s estrangement, read the book: Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children (Fathers, it’s for you too. See Note to Fathers)

Related Reading:

Estranged? Enjoy the holidays anyway

Holidays for parents rejected by adult children

When adult children reject parents: Be kind to yourself this holiday season