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.

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.

Thanksgiving for hurting parents of estranged adult children (part 2)

hurting parents of estranged adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

In October, I posted about some different ways to think of Thanksgiving (to help Canadians who celebrated their Thanksgiving at that time). Readers from all over the world frequent the blog–and my aim is always to help with healing for the hurting parents of  estranged adult children.

Now that the U.S. holiday is near, give that post a read. Maybe you’ll agree that even as hurting parents of estranged adult children, Thanksgiving can be a time of harvest.

Below are a few other ideas and some more past articles for hurting parents of estranged adult children who might be spending the holiday alone or feeling isolated.

Time on your hands? Three ways to use those hours wisely.

Beat the crowds. Get a little holiday shopping completed early. Online deals abound even on Thanksgiving Day. Amazon.com has everything from gourmet food to health and beauty items, toys to tools, furniture to vitamins to gifts of every sort. Shop at Amazon

Take a nature walk at a state park. Many of the state parks host free admission on “green Friday” hurting parents of estranged adult childrenthe day after Thanksgiving. Check out your area’s parks to see if they’re participating, and spend Thanksgiving planning a take-along lunch. Wouldn’t it be fun to take a friend on a picnic on Friday, and get in a little nature time too?

Finish your holiday cards early–or just write letters. In these days of electronic cards and email, old fashioned paper greetings are getting rare. If you have time on your hands, turn on a TV marathon and write out some friendly notes. Your recipients will appreciate the extra care, and who knows? Maybe you’ll restart a tradition!

This year will be the first time I ever celebrated Thanksgiving at a restaurant. It’ll be a small party, and I am looking so forward to the varied buffet! Usually, I don’t mind cooking, but this year I felt the need to make a change. Do you? It’s okay to do things differently. Changing up does not mean you’ll never cook the meal again or you’re letting yourself or others down. There’s a saying I’ve come to believe: Change is good!

What ideas do you have for spending quiet time (Thanksgiving Day or any holiday) well? I hope you’ll help other hurting parents of estranged adult children by leaving a comment.

Also, don’t miss these past articles to help hurting parents of estranged adult children on Thanksgiving:

Giving Thanks–It’s the real reason for the holiday. And gratitude can help hurting parents of estranged adult children any day.

Help for hurting parents of estranged adult children for the holidays—How to manage them.

Hugs to everyone on Thanksgiving Day and every day.

Full disclosure, the Amazon.com link above is an affiliate link–that means if you use the link to shop, a small portion is earned to help fund this site.

 

Wall of Silence: an artistic expression about living with estrangement

parents of estranged adults

Quilt, copyright: S. Small Proudfoot

This beautiful quilt is an artistic expression about the powerlessness many parents of estranged adult children feel. The quilt itself is gorgeous—-and reveals the lovely soul of a mother who has been hurt, but who has also triumphed. Sharing the quilt here is a way for the artist to help bring attention to the growing trend of adult children who sever ties from caring families. As she said to me this morning, “I hope you are able to continue making strides for a more informed society about this issue of estrangement from family and children.”

Through October 16, the quilt is on display with others at the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, California.

What an inspiration Ms. Proudfoot is to other hurting parents whose adult children have cut them off. Read the artist’s statement below, and enjoy some close-ups of different areas of this inspiring piece of art:

quilt-wall-of-silence-4-the-skin-horseTITLE:  WAll of SILENCE” Dedicated to all parents of Estranged Adult Children. The grief felt by parents whose adult children chose to terminate parental relationships leaves nothing but everlasting quilt-wall-of-silence-5-the-velveteen-rabbitheartbreak and sadness.  Margery Williams book, The Velveteen Rabbit, is used as a metaphor for this quilt.  Rabbit, rejected by his beloved child, asks Skin Horse “when a child loves you for a long, long time, does it hurt?”  Always truthful, Skin Horse replies “sometimes”.  From the darkness of despair to the serenity of acceptance, a heart once broken never mends, not to the shape it once was.
quilt-wall-of-silence-2-puppet

Wall of Silence: (c) 2016 Sandra Small Proudfoot, AOCA ’89, Mono, Ont., in collaboration with long-arm quilter, Mary Light, Temiskaming Shores, Ont. Canada

Floral Inspiration:    Artist Carrie Schmitt “She Lived Her Life in Full Bloom”

Can creativity help you heal?

In my book, I shared the stories of many who have healed through art in all its forms—-gardening, cooking, knitting, writing, and more. Formal art therapy works—but people have long turned to creative pursuits on their own as a means to work through troubling times and come away stronger.

Maintaining this website, and writing my book to help parents of estranged adult children has been part of my creative healing process. How have you used creative works to manage and heal from your pain? And if you haven’t yet, what might you get started on today that can help you express yourself and heal. Remember, not all creativity is expressed in traditional art forms either. Creativity can be a facet of many activities.

I hope you will leave a comment appreciating the artistry of Ms. Proudfoot’s quilt shared here, as well as share your own creative ideas that help you to heal.

 

 

Thanksgiving for parents of estranged adult children

Parents of estranged adult children:
Can Thanksgiving be a time of harvest?

Thanksgiving for parents of estranged adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

This Thanksgiving, many will notice the physically empty chairs around the table. Probably, they’ll be sadly aware of the psychological presence of missing an estranged adult child.

Thanksgiving, for parents of estranged adult children, can bring sadness over the absence of a son or daughter that once fit so uniquely into the holidays (and every day). While frustration, regret, anger, and sadness are typical responses, try contemplating Thanksgiving in another way—a way that helps you take care of yourself and even moves you forward.

Thanksgiving for parents of estranged adult children:
Set yourself on a forward path

Clear, Rest, and Restart: While it’s natural to mourn the loss, try thinking of the holiday in terms of the harvest it is so often intertwined with. This time of year involves clearing away, to make way for the rest and recuperation that leads to an eventual new beginning. If you find that you’re in a rush to fill the void, consider that a farmer clears the fields for a fallow season—which allows the soil to rest and recoup for later new crops. We too can clean the slate for a new start.

Self-Care and Self-Compassion: For some parents of estranged adult children, this could involve a physical clearing away. If you turned to comfort food during the trauma of estrangement, maybe you’ll start a new health routine to lose excess weight. Physical exercise can be a way to energize dormant muscles, and build strength. Healthful foods and plenty of sleep are ways to take care of your physical body, which will also help you emotionally. Take kind care of yourself. Be your own best friend, and step with strength and energy into a brighter future.

Physical Space: Other parents of estranged adult children will clear a physical space like a closet by weeding through things an estranged son or daughter left behind. Is there a box of items you’ve been holding onto, but that makes you sad? Maybe keeping physical items also keeps you emotionally stuck. While it may not be wise to dump everything on a whim, weeding through held items, and perhaps letting go of some things will help. In my case, it was helpful when another person assisted by going through left items, and disposing of actual trash. I could then re-box what might be held for my estranged son, or donated. The box got smaller, and so did my estranged son’s presence in my thoughts. That meant the influence of his estrangement over my emotional well-being—my everyday mood and happiness—grew smaller, too.

Mental Help: For some parents of estranged adult children, the clearing away will be more about losing unhealthy mental habits that dig them into a depressing rut of sadness and pain. Looping thoughts that go over and over the hurt can be traded for new and more positive thinking that spurs you forward to embrace your own happiness. As I say in my book to help parents of estranged adults, moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean giving up. You can hold out hope, even while taking care of yourself. Move into your own happy future—so that if or when your estranged adult child rejoins your life, you’ll be strong and well, ready for the energy and wit that reconciliation may require.

Gratitude: Thanksgiving every day

Any discussion of Thanksgiving, for parents of estranged adults or anyone, would be incomplete without talk of gratitude. As I say in the book, while the practice of gratitude may sound all gooey and wonderful, it does work. Gratitude attunes us to finding the good. A grateful attitude helps no matter how long your adult child has been estranged, whether you’re in the throes of disbelief or years past the separation. Focusing on what’s good can shift your perception to a more abundant outlook, making each day a new adventure.

I chose to post this in early October for Canadians. Thanksgiving for parents of estranged adult children in Canada comes more than a month earlier than for people in the U.S. But the holiday’s ideals are wise for all year long.

To get the benefits, gratitude requires repetition. It’s the practice of gratitude that makes a difference. The Thanksgiving holiday arrives once annually, but a grateful attitude brings a harvest of blessings every day. Benefits like better sleep and health—as is discussed in my book at length, with current research and studies. Gratitude reaps practical benefits. Help yourself to a healthy serving of thanks each and every day.

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

Related articles:

How to heal with an adult child’s rejection

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

Holidays for parents rejected by adult children

Emotional Triggers: Set yourself free

estrangement from adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

On a pleasant day late in summer, my husband and I sat on the sofa together in comfortable silence. Outside the window, our massive fig tree was alive with birds, feasting on the fruity spoils. My husband’s mobile phone rang, startling us from our reverie.

Brian glanced at the screen, and then he answered, his voice immediately strained. . . .

Some of you may recognize this passage from my book. If you do, then you know the caller was my estranged son. He asked to speak with me, and my husband held out the phone. But I hesitated.

Panic flared, the wreckage of our last few exchanges coursing through me.

That call on a summer afternoon came close to a year after the estrangement began. I had worked hard to move beyond my sadness and pain because I knew my adult son’s estrangement was out of my control. Yet there he was on the phone, opening the wound.

It’s like that for many who are estranged from adult children. We hear some bit of news, and the pain comes slamming back. Maybe there’s soaring hope, muddied by distrust and fear.

Emotional triggers can occur for many reasons: memories surrounding a certain time of year, specific events, holidays, or even when we least expect them and don’t immediately recognize a cause.

As I’m writing this, the birds are again in the fig tree outside my window, but I’m not thinking of my estranged son and feeling sad. Those memories no longer have a hold on me.

Triggered emotions when estranged from adult children:
Are we controlled like Pavlov’s dogs?

Some parents who are estranged from adult children have likened this triggering of old hurt, and the anger, fear, worry, or sadness that follow, to Pavlov’s dogs.

Russian psychologist, Ivan Pavlov, did experiments in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, which paved the way toward what’s now known as classical conditioning. In short, Pavlov rang a bell when he fed the dogs. Therefore, the bell became a sort of cue. The dogs became conditioned to the sound. So, when they heard the bell, they salivated, expecting to be fed (even when no food was present).

When it comes to triggered emotions, we can recognize what’s happening. We can observe our feelings. We can take them out and examine them, put leashes on and feed them positive input that nourishes and makes them better. To exhaust the Pavlov analogy, we can make them heel.

And we can recondition ourselves. We can view our feelings in a new and helpful light, and then respond wisely to them.

On the other hand, we can choose to let our feelings rule us, run wild, and lead us into despair. When we do, the agony of estrangement smothers joy, strains other relationships, and can even cause physical illness.

Some people do make a choice not to move beyond the bad things that happen to them. Some even feed the pain, and keep it thriving. Others don’t intend to remain victims, but slip into defeatist thinking, and even convince themselves (and others) that they can’t get over the pain.

And there are others to whom this article doesn’t yet apply. Their estrangement is very new, and they can’t imagine “moving on.” Even these parents can benefit from some emotional pain management.

Emotional triggers: Must they have a hold on us?

Let’s face it. Some of us require more time to heal than others. Some of us may even need to work harder at it once we’ve made the choice to reclaim our self-worth and move on with our own lives. But with determination, the right tools, and support, I believe that most of us can.

There are parents who, in their stress and grief, might be suffering from clinical depression. Or for other reasons might be best supported by a licensed clinician in their locale. In time, and with the right support, I’m hopeful that even these people can develop happiness and meaning in their lives, despite estrangement from adult children.

Getting free from emotional triggers: How long does it take?

Some are able to move on quickly. One mother recently said she had gotten on with her happy life in just a few months. She made a choice and followed through—and is an amazing testimony to the strength of intelligent will.

I’m really happy for her, and for all the others who have sent me emails, Facebook messages, or posted reviews about how my book has helped them to move on with their lives—sometimes after many years of walking on eggshells, and/or allowing hurtful drama to cloud their lives. I’m rejoicing right alongside you!

Even so, the fact is that just as each estrangement is different, so is our progress forward. A parent’s ability to move joyfully on doesn’t necessarily mean that they will never ever feel hurt again. We are human after all. At some point, even those who have successfully moved beyond the shock and sorrow, and are happy, might one day have a reminder, and perhaps feel sad. You might be like the mother in my book who happily went to get a kitten who needed a home, and was reminded instead that she was orphaned herself!

In those sorts of moments, you might even catch your thoughts turning a sad or self-pitying corner. Maybe you wish things were different. It’s okay to allow yourself that honest thought. But then, you can remind yourself that you’re resilient. You can recognize that your power lies beyond wishes. And you can reaffirm your path.

There’s no set time to be done with the crying—but the sooner you convince yourself (and others) that you can, the sooner that day will come.

Reclaiming our own lives doesn’t mean we won’t ever experience bad feelings. But when sadness, anger, guilt or fear barks at the door, or claws at our hearts, we have a choice. We can let our emotions take over. We can react—similar to the way Pavlov’s dogs reacted to a cue—or we can choose to recognize the feelings for what they are: proof that we’re human. Our emotions are normal. Our feelings are a product of the vast stores of love, time, and energy we invested in people we at one time thought would be in our lives forever.

And then we can take ourselves by the hand. We can lead ourselves on. All any of us can do in the face of loss that we cannot change or control is to adapt. In the book, there are examples, questions, and tools to help.

Estranged from adult children? Get Ready, Get Set, and Prepare

To expect that you’ll never have residual feelings is unrealistic. That’s why a chapter in my book is devoted to managing the ambiguity, uncertainty, and ongoing nature of estrangement, and the emotions that can accompany it.  As some parents have shared on this site and in reviews, they plan to refer to those pages as needed. They’re interacting with the book and its tools as was intended. Learning to recognize and understand your feelings, and accept and manage them for your own health and happiness, can take practice. Some people are quicker studies. Others are more equipped, or perhaps more committed to work at it.

Estranged from adult children and moving on: Invest in yourself

If you like the idea of moving forward in your own life, perhaps even while holding out hope for an eventual reconciliation, make the choice. Invest in yourself. Choose to get educated, and get the tools you need to plan ahead, and prevail over pain. It may take commitment, and even some work. It may require facing uncomfortable feelings, finding new and helpful ways to see your feelings in a new light (per Chapter 5), and the desire and discipline to retrain your thinking and how you respond.

Will you remain bound by pain, forever reacting to the “bell” of estrangement’s hurt and uncertainty? Will you feed the pain, and continue as a victim? Or, as one estranged parent said in an Amazon review, will you wish your beloved children well, and get on with your life? We can remain forever caged, “imprisoned” as this parent says in her review, or we can choose, as she did, to give ourselves “the gift of freedom.”

estrangement from adult childrenCan you be free?

You may feel a strong desire to move on, and to look forward to your life. But maybe the cutting pain you’ve experienced makes you doubt the possibility.

I believe you can. Take a step. Even the tiniest steps can move you forward.

In my book, I share about Meg, an estranged mother with one friend she felt she could fully trust. That friend allowed Meg to wallow a little in her sorrow. Her son chose to estrange himself, and it hurt. Meg’s friend empathized and cared—and then she did what the best sorts of friends do. She reminded Meg of her previous life struggles, and that she’d gotten through those and gone on to live a successful life. She reminded Meg of her strength.

If you’re estranged from adult children and have a friend like that, thank her for her help. And even if you don’t, be that friend for yourself.

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

Related reading:
Handle your emotional triggers