Coddiwomple to a New Way of Life After an Adult Child’s Estrangement
by Sheri McGregor, M.A.
Rejected parents are often uncertain about the future. They know what’s happening now, but they can’t believe their adult child’s estrangement will last. They want to move forward, but they’re afraid to make a change. For some, stepping toward their own satisfying life feels like giving up on the son or daughter they hope will return to them, relationship restored. Others keep a room ready, a stash of left-behind things, or try to reach out regularly … and then wait for the reply that doesn’t come or isn’t what they expected.
If this is at all like you, I have a suggestion: a coddiwomple.
Did you know that the first seven days of August are set aside as National Simplify Your Life Week? It fits for me because lately, I’ve been working purposely at simplifying. I’m heading toward change that I know is on the horizon but can’t yet clearly describe.
I’m like a lot of people at midlife who know that changes are (or may be) coming and want to move toward a new way of life that supports the next life phase—but don’t yet have a crystal-clear picture of what or where that will be.
It’s a sort of coddiwomple, traveling purposefully toward an unknown destination. Granted, most people use the word as part of actual, physical travel during which adventures take place along the way (I love that too!), but a coddiwomple fits for this determined work of lightening up for a lifestyle that isn’t yet defined.
The idea of downsizing in mid-life or after retirement is nothing new. People move to smaller homes, better climates, or where they can easily get to shops and healthcare. They look for places where they can access greenspaces to walk in nature and conveniently socialize with friends. But for many, the decisions aren’t easy and the process not quick.
That’s how it is for my husband and me. Do we want to move to another city? Be closer to specific family members? Live in more open space or closer to town? Join a neighborhood that fosters social connections? Or, is privacy and seclusion more important? These are just a few of the questions we’re asking ourselves. In the process, our goal is getting clearer. Financial entanglements and other ties mean we can’t make a move quite yet. And the need to put off final decisions gives us time to consider things from every angle.
We don’t know yet for sure where we’re going or when, but we do know we need to prepare. Better to be ready when the time is right than be forced into snap decisions. That’s why comparing this transitional period toward an as-yet-vague goal to a coddiwomple makes sense.
We’re going to travel a little during this time and check out areas we’ve been curious about. Other people make bigger changes toward an unclear goal. One couple sold their ranch and rented a downtown condo. When their year-long lease ends, they’ll try another city. Eventually, they plan to settle. Maybe near their daughter on the opposite coast. Or maybe in a spot they fall in love with as they coddiwomple across the states.
A single mother nearing age 65 is trying alternative and spiritual practices including meditation, attending sound healing sessions, and visiting churches. She describes this as a six-month sabbatical from making decisions about the rest of her life. It’s a gift to herself. She hopes to gain a sense of peace before taking big steps toward the next phase of life.
Goals and the required mindsets
- Deliberative: The point at which one gathers information about a potential goal and what will be required to achieve it. The deliberative mindset allows for sound judgment about the goal’s possible viability prior to the action it will take.
- Implemental: The doing of a goal. In the implemental mindset, focus shifts to how to get tasks completed and actively working toward achievement.
The two mindsets can work together. Right now, my husband and I are taking a deliberative approach about what will be the final goal, but we’re getting started anyway. We’re implementing as we work toward uncertain change by finishing projects like our bedroom floor. We’re redoing a bathroom, cutting some trees, and fixing a fence. We’re also culling material things. For my husband, that means selling equipment and tools. He doesn’t talk about it, but he’s letting go of an outcome that never materialized. One where our sons might take over his business.
Things seem to hold feelings; unrealized dreams, and old ways of life. In stacks of children’s books, I come across slips of paper styled like tickets, hints of long-ago games my children played. They each wrote their names in those books too, their individual handwriting as unique as the people they always were and later became.
It’s an emotional pursuit that digs at ideals and makes us sad. Yet ultimately, letting go of these things shakes us free of old dreams. It prepares us mentally for an eventual goodbye to the place we’ve called home for more than three decades.
Coddiwomple for life after an adult child’s estrangement
Regardless of what an estranging adult will or won’t do, working toward a stronger you will help. Get started, purposefully, on your own well-being. If you do reconcile, you’ll be happy and better prepared when the time comes. If you don’t, you will be happy and fulfilled, living your life to the fullest anyway.
For some parents, figuring out a life for themselves aside from what they thought it would be like is tough. If you’re feeling lost or troubled, imagine yourself on a journey, a coddiwomple, and get going with passion toward your own happiness without worrying so much about the destination. One way is to see how far you’ve slipped away from caring for your oldest friend (yourself!). You can do that with my Self Care Assessment. Another is to get a copy of Done With The Crying in which I’ll show you that you’re not alone in estrangement and gently guide you beyond the doldrums of loss and into a fulfilling life you design and implement.
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