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.

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

 

 

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?

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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?

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

 

 

 

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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Cut off by adult children and lonely

cut off by adult childrenCut off by adult children? You may feel lonely, but you’re not alone

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Many parents cut off by adult children feel all alone. The reasons for estrangement are often uncertain, and are varied. Divorce, parental alienation syndrome, drugs, an influential love interest…. Situations can be complex, and circumstances are unique. Regardless, parents cut off by adult children can feel isolated.

If you’re all alone or lonely this Valentine’s Day—or any day—take heart. Not only are you one of many in similar straits, but it’s even possible to see your alone time in a whole new light.

Valentine’s Day—and any day

Parents cut off by adult children may be emotionally exhausted and feel as if life is passing them by. They’re exhausted by their lack of power to fix the relationship. Estranged adult children ignore efforts to reconcile, or respond with icy words or actions that make it clear: they’re not interested in a healthy relationship.

cut off by adult childrenWhat’s worse, parents cut off by adult children can start to feel as if they don’t fit in anywhere anymore.  While friends share tales of sweet grandchildren presenting valentines with too much pasty glue, rejected parents ache for that connection, and worry they’re being maligned to grandchildren they deeply miss. Yet sharing their circumstances may be met with blank stares or judgmental comments. Arms fold. People look away and sit back in their chairs. Nobody seems to understand. “It’s enough to make you feel like a leper,” one mother explained. “That’s why I avoid people now.”

In reaching out for support and sharing your circumstances, you may have been met with blank stares or hurtful questions (What did you do to cause that?). Arms fold. People look away. Nobody seems to understand. You may feel as if you just don’t fit in anymore.

“It’s enough to make you feel like a leper,” one mother explained. “I avoid people now.”

cut off by adult childrenThese sad, isolating feelings can start to be the “new normal.” Be careful of letting estrangement get the better of you. As described in my recent article, you can positively shape your new normal to move forward in your life. How you look at loneliness can help.

Cause and effect

If you’re hungry, getting something to eat is the natural response. Thirsty? Get a drink. Why then, when you’re lonely, is enjoying the people’s company more complicated?

After my estranged son cut off the family, social situations became more difficult. All around me was the tinkling of glasses, the bubbling of conversations, the rise and fall of laughter…. I felt like an outsider. Similar to Lila, talked about in a previous article, I was disillusioned. It was difficult to trust.

My feelings mirrored those of this mother, quoted here from the pages of Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children:

“Sometimes, I even wonder if my own friends doubt me, like they’re measuring everything I say or do against the estrangement, and wondering if it was really my fault.”

Other parents cut off by adult children spoke of putting up emotional walls and shutting people out. Thousands shared what boils down to a pervasive fear of emotionally investing. They worry they will be hurt again. This sort of self-preservation is natural for hurting parents cut off by adult children. But it can also be unhealthy.  And the truth is, if you’ve been cut off by adult children, you are not alone.

cut off by adult childrenParents cut off by adult children: Join the club

Kind parents who did their best—yet were cut off by adult children—are everywhere. They work at your doctor’s office and sit in the pews of your church. They are your neighbors and are maybe even your friends. But they may not have told you. They’re suffering in silence, feeling all alone, and afraid to share. They may even look at you and think that you couldn’t possibly understand.

There’s a section in the book about sharing, and then steering other people’s responses. Talking about estrangement will help make known the reality of just how many decent, loving parents are cut off by adult children. You may be at a point when you’re more than willing to share, as I often do. Maybe you’ll even work toward informing society as has been done with this quilt by an estranged mother. Educating the public about this social issue that affects so many is a topic for another day. For now, let’s get back to the individual experience of feeling lonely, on Valentine’s Day, or on any day.

Solitude: Put being alone in a new light

Recently, a young father in his early thirties told me he missed having time alone. His children played nearby, their “watch me, Daddy” and “look what I can do” call-outs making us smile. This father said he realizes that one day they won’t be calling him to watch. He wasn’t contemplating estrangement, of course. Unless they’ve been touched by estrangement, parents of tiny tots rarely do. But he knows they’ll be busy in their own lives someday. And he’s planning ahead for that time.

“I know a lot of older people who waste their solitude feeling sad,” he said. “They’re free, they’re healthy, and they have a lot to offer. But some sit and wait for their family to come around.” He grinned. “And then I know others who learn to play guitar, continue to work, make things, or walk miles and pick up street trash to clean up the neighborhood. They’re happy and talk to people all along the way.” His eyes twinkling, he pointed to his heart as he spoke. “I like being around those people. They have so much knowledge and experience to share.”

I couldn’t help smiling at this young man’s passionate words. He must do a lot of deep thinking while his youngsters play on the monkey bars and swings. He’s enjoying his time with them now, but he’s already valuing the solitude that’s yet to come.

I thought about what he said. Part of me believes he can’t understand these older people’s plight. Still, he makes a good point. If you’re alone, do you value your solitude? Do you use time, and your freedom, wisely?

Parents cut off by adult children: The challenge

I know it’s difficult. It takes effort to reclaim confidence and adjust to a new future. But it is possible, even alone, to change, to grow, and to embrace a new way of life that’s healthy and good.

My book includes tools to help parents cut off by adult children see their feelings and in a new light. You can build on confidence from previous hardships you’ve overcome. You can recognize and give yourself credit for any ways you’ve grown since the estrangement began. It’s okay to admit any positives. There’s no need for guilt.

All alone? Not really.

Feeling lonely may be more miserable in a society that’s so connected. But when it comes to estrangement, you’re really not alone at all. If you’re looking for support and camaraderie from people who understand, “like” my facebook page for estranged parents, or join the conversation in “comments” that follow nearly every post here.  And sign up for my newsletter (the sign up form is on the right, near the top of the page.

You’re not alone among the thousands of other parents cut off by adult children. Mothers and fathers who have been estranged for years share their experiences to help others heal. In the safe company of others who understand, parents of estranged adult children may begin to feel more confident again. And in time, feel more social, and willing to risk getting out among friends and making new ones.

Be your own Valentine?cut off by adult children

Love comes in many forms. Let’s broaden Valentine’s Day to include love of neighbor and kindness to self. Take a moment to smile. You might make someone else’s day. And if you do that for another, you’ll be doing it for yourself.

Related articles:

Reinvent Yourself

Spreading Happiness

Parents abandoned by adult children: Shape your “new normal”

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

The new normal: Make it a good one

Parents abandoned parents abandoned by adult childrenby adult children often tell me they’ve come to a point of acceptance—which is good. Accepting what we have no control over can allow us to find a sense of peace and move forward. But sometimes, along with a statement of acceptance, parents abandoned by adult children make another statement that’s not so good.

“It’s the new normal,” they say.

Trouble is, their “new normal,” becomes less about peace and moving forward than stepping along in a dismal groove of loss, heartache, and even bitterness.

Acceptance: What does that mean for parents abandoned by adult children

Accepting something new almost always requires letting go of something old. For parents abandoned by adult children, that can mean letting go of a dream, a vision for the future that shaped how you lived your entire life. You sacrificed and gave with the expectation that you’d live to a ripe old age with your children and grandchildren around you. You’d have your tribe, your people, your family.

But parents abandoned by adult children are thrown for a loop. Where’s the grown daughter or son you imagined sharing life with on equal terms? The child you expected would grow into an adult friend—only better because of your history and family ties?

parents abandoned by adult childrenThose feelings are understandable. It’s okay to mourn what you expected, sacrificed for, and worked so hard to achieve. But if your “new normal” clings to the loss, you may be shuffling along in a path that limits you.

The real power of acceptance comes in letting go—not necessarily of hope. Hope can sit on your shoulder like a cooing dove. It’s light and feathery. It can take flight, lifting your heart and soul with it. But if you’re clinging to the pain, holding onto hurt, and lamenting the loss, hope gets grounded. Don’ let sadness, anger, bitterness, and woe weight your heart and limit your life.

What’s your new normal?

In my book, there’s a useful tool to get a clear view of just how much the estrangement has changed you. Identifying your new normal, specifically and across all areas of your life, provides a clear view of where you stand now.

You may be stuck in a rut of rumination that drags you down and darkens your valuable relationships. Instead of a weekly date where you and your husband have fun, you spend all your time talking about the son who stopped talking to you and broke your hearts. Maybe you’re on the edge, always waiting for a call from the daughter who rejected you.  You may be isolating yourself, fearful of judgment, or embarrassed that your own adult child cut you off. Maybe you cling to the hurt because letting go of the pain of this reality doesn’t feel like it’s proper for a parent (what about unconditional love?). Or maybe you’re envious of others’ joy.

For parents abandoned by adult children, all of these feelings are natural and normal parents abandoned by adult childrenresponses—but they’re not healthy when they persist to your detriment. At some point, you need to accept what’s happened, and find a new normal that feels good and helps you move forward in your life.

As a caring parent that people called an earth mother and a super mom, I know the pain of having that identity ripped out from beneath your feet. It’s as if a trap door opens and you fall right through. But for caring parents who did their best, a new normal that keeps you digging in, wrapped in a cold blanket of rejection and loss, isn’t new or normal at all. That’s why you need to fight for your future.

Give yourself a challenge

2016 has come to a close. Think about the year ahead. Wouldn’t it be nice to shift your focus, set the hurt aside and change your vision to one that suits you? You can still hope to reconcile, and if you feel the need or desire to, you can still make sure your son or daughter knows that. But you can also flutter your wings, turn your hope to your present happiness, and let it lift you in a new and helpful direction.

Help yourself.

Whether you have other adult children, lots of friends and relatives, or are all alone, the only way to happiness is to help yourself. In an article last year, I asked: Cut off by adult children: What do you prescribe for yourself?

The last calendar year has closed. Turn the page to a brand new year. Ask yourself what you prescribe for your own well-being. How can you shift your focus? What can you do to move in a new direction for your own fulfillment? Take out a sheet of paper and answer those questions for your own well-being.

Chapter Three of my book has some detailed help for setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals. If you’ve slipped into accepting a new low as normal, don’ let another year slide by without making changes that help you. Set your sighs higher for your own good in the coming year, and use the specific outlined techniques to stay motivated and realize transformation.

Give yourself a break

holidays abandoned parentsThis morning, I awoke from a shopping dream. Sounds a little like the end to the holiday rush, doesn’t it? Only in the dream, I was shopping for iced tea. Each vendor was offering something different to go with the drink. Iced tea with a cupcake, or iced tea with fried fish. Iced tea with any side dish, or no iced tea at all. All I wanted was iced tea, but I couldn’t get that without adding something on the side.

My dream probably relates to all the multitasking I’ve been doing lately. I’m sure many of you can relate. Busy taking care of other people, handling business and the holidays. . . . Maybe you wanted “iced tea,” too—a refreshing break amid the festivities and chaos. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the quiet space of a calming break when you’re hurting or worried, too. But it’s needed. Especially over something you can’t control or have no choice in.

Whether you’re busy with the holidays, or your mind is cluttered with hurt, give yourself a break. You deserve to rest and refresh. In the spirit of the season, will you join me in giving yourself this special gift?

Merry Christmas. Or Happy Hanukkah to you.

In the next few days, give your mind and heart a rest. Take a break from the worry, and let go of the sadness. As I talk about in an early section of my book, when your thoughts turn to your concerns or heartache, recognize and release them. Turn the page, and turn your attention to something that makes you happy instead. A bird fluffing its feathers in the winter cold, sunlight on glistening snow, or plans for the New Year ahead.

Give yourself a break (no side orders needed).

Hugs to all.  ~ Sheri McGregor

Related posts:

Holidays for parents rejected by adult children

My adult child rejected me: Why do I have these disturbing dreams?

Your vivid dreams: Help in moving forward after an adult child’s estrangement?

 

 

 

 

Fear: Common after estrangement from adult children

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

estrangement from adult childrenDuring the first holiday season after my son’s estrangement, my self-worth crumbled. While the Earth outside stilled into winter’s quiet, I rushed about, determined to keep my family’s spirits bright.  I cleaned, cooked, and shopped. I wrapped and prepared. I raced around, creating a Christmas to remember— and perhaps to forget. My heart wasn’t fully in it.

Looking back, I can see there was an anxious pitch to my behavior, as if making everything picture perfect for the holiday would make me picture perfect. And prove to myself and others that I really was a good mom.

In the silence of night after Christmas was done, I wasn’t satisfied or content. Did I do enough? I imagined myself alone and old. Is that how I’ll end up?

My eyes opened to the darkness. No matter how silly and self-indulgent, the thought rang true. I had told myself my holiday frenzy was normal, but fear was at the root. Fear had me working my fingers to the bone to make the best holiday ever, to hang onto my remaining family.

Tears welled, and I felt powerless. My estranged adult son had made choices. No matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t change that. That night in the darkness, I realized that all the presents and favorite foods in the world wouldn’t hold the rest of my family together. If my four remaining adult children chose to leave, this perfect holiday wouldn’t stop them.

After estrestranged from adult childrenangement from adult children: Uncertainty reigns

I know the fear that plagues parents after estrangement from adult children. If something so precious and basic can fall apart, then what is safe? What can you count on? Who can you trust?

The whole world looks different and bleak.

Fear can be paralyzing, so don’t let that feeling become your new normal. Shape your new normal into a good and happy life.

In my book , the word “fear,” or an iteration of it, is mentioned more than 60 times. There are examples and tools to help. That’s because fear is so common to parents of estranged adults.

Estranged from adult children? Get clear on fear

Don’t let fear take over your good judgment. Don’t compound your problems and over-drink, overeat, or indulge some other unhealthy behavior to numb the feeling. Instead, get clear on your fear. Identifying your specific fears can help you get a handle on them.

Do you fear your other children will also leave? Maybe you worry your estranged daughter won’t be safe—and you can’t get in touch to make sure. Do you imagine the future, and worry your estranged son will have regrets? Are you afraid of being judged? Fearful you did do something to cause the break? Afraid you’re losing your mind?

Does the fear that you’ll never see your son or daughter again steal your peace? Or maybe you’re afraid that if your child does return, you’ll never be able to trust. Some fear that their grandchildren they were once so close to will believe vicious lies. Others worry their raw emotions will burden other people they love and drive them away.

Among the thousands of parents who have reached out to me, those are a few of the most common fears expressed.

Fear: Like a riptide

It’s easy to get caught up in our fears. If we don’t identify and confront fears, they can carry us  along and take control without us even realizing. That’s what happened to me during that first frantic holiday season after my estranged son walked away. Like me, you might find yourself catering to others to the point of exhaustion. Or maybe you attempt to protect yourself by isolating, and shutting out the possibility of pain. If you do that, you can end up like Lila, watching the world pass her by, whom I wrote about in Emotional scars after an adult child’s estrangement. Fear is a powerful emotion. If we let it, fear can hinder our recovery from the trauma of an adult child’s rejection, and keep us from moving forward in our lives.

Among the thousands of parents I’ve heard from, many concur that that after estrangement from adult children, it helps to honestly examine fears, and identify they’re effects.

Fear: It’s all in your head

By pinpointing your specific fears, and taking stock of how they affect you, you can then begin to take control. The truth is that fears are all in your head. After estrangement from adult children, many of the fears we worry over can’t be controlled. If you fret for fear your adult child isn’t safe but you have no contact, there’s not much you can do to put your worry to rest. You may worry you’ll never see your child again, but if your adult child won’t connect, it’s beyond your control.

For some, it might help to recognize why you have the fears you do. For instance, if you fear everyone will leave, maybe fear of abandonment derives from the past. Somebody else important left you, or you always feared they would. It’s okay to have the feeling. It might even be normal for you. But it’s not okay to let it rule your life to your own detriment.

If you fear for your child’s safety or health, your fear may come from some concrete reason, such as knowing your son or daughter uses drugs. Your fear may be rational, but your fear can’t control your child’s choices, or the outcome.

Worrying about the possibility your adult child will have regrets might come from your own experience with regrets. Or from natural parental love that wants to protect. But our sons and daughters are adults. Decisions have consequences. We don’t live in bubbles, and neither do they.

After estrangement from adult children, take action where you can

By identifying fears and their effects, you can recognize them when they creep up. No more surprise ambush in the darkness on a holiday night. You can observe fears as they occur, and loosen their control over you.

You can recognize fears for what they are. Don’t cling to imaginings that lead you down paths of despair. Appreciate fears for what they are, appreciate any rational reasoning behind them, and then you can purposely dismiss them.

Try a positive spin about a negative feeling: I don’t like not knowing, but since it’s out of my hands, I can accept it for now. Or: This isn’t ideal, but I’m strong. I can tolerate it.

Don’t let worrisome imaginings carry you helplessly away. Instead, Train your thoughts on what’s constructive and empowers you.

The Landscape of loss is fertile ground for growth

Every one of us has had struggles. We have all had situations and circumstances we’ve had to rise above. For many of us, losing a child by estrangement is our most significant obstacle to date, but recalling how we’ve handled past difficulties can help. By taking stock of fears, and supporting ourselves with understanding and acceptance, we can get through this too. We can let go of outcomes we can’t control, dismiss fears that don’t help us, and take action for our own happy lives.

 

Rat-ical Change

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

holidays estranged from adult childrenChange is good when old and lovely traditions make empty chairs conspicuous (as they often are during holidays estranged from adult children). We’ve created new adventure to nearly every holiday the last few years, and it’s been great fun to try new things.

This year, for the first Thanksgiving ever, I decided to leave the cooking to a restaurant. Everyone agreed, and I made reservations for a buffet serving seafood and breakfast as well as traditional holiday fare. We were excited. That is until I shared my plans with a relative two days before Thanksgiving.

“No, you don’t want to go there,” he said. “They’ve had complaints about food poisoning. My buddy works at that place, and he says he would never eat there.” He went on to relate his friend’s descriptions of the kitchen that left me anything but eager to eat there.

I cancelled our reservation and began the arduous task of finding another restaurant on such short notice. Very few places had any seats left, and when they did, it was for the late evening, which wouldn’t work for us. Finally, I found a buffet that sounded promising practically in my own backyard. Why hadn’t I thought of them before?

We all arrived at the restaurant and filled our plates and bellies with delicious foods. We were sleepily contemplating dessert when some movement caught our eyes. A rat! It scurried from the kitchen to the booths across from our table, followed by a chef and his staff who all swiped at it with brooms. Eventually, the rat darted beneath the skirt of the buffet table where they cornered it.

Our party of six didn’t get dessert. Instead, we decided loudly not to rat out the restaurant to the authorities. Then we ordered marga-rat-as and sat making jokes while we drank. Why let a rodent rat-tle us?

Thanksgiving has passed, but we’re already making changes to our Christmas and New Year’s plans. It’s fun to try new things, and experience new adventures.

Holidays estranged from adult children: ideas to help

In the support forum and in website comments, people have been talking about some of their plans—not just for the holidays, but in the days leading up to them as well. Here are a few ideas:

  • Visit inpatients at a local hospital who can’t go home for holidays.
  • Listen/watch online church broadcasts.
  • Sew curtains, a tablecloth, or do some other project that keeps you busy now—and rewards you all year.
  • Go to the movies (there are new ones out this time of year).
  • Honor a loved one who has passed away by making their special dish or dessert. Or set up a memorial with candles—consider adding a candle for your estranged adult child if that feels right.
  • Play board games and invite a friend you know is alone to play.
  • Serve yourself champagne, and consider all you’re thankful for.
  • Focus on the spiritual meaning of the holidays.

Or try on a new, lighthearted perspective? Like: Imagine you’re from another planet and arrive during the holidays. What’s funny that you see?

What’s new that you might do to change up the holidays and make them fun? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments to this post. I bet you have some rat-ical ideas.