A New way of life after an adult child’s estrangement

Coddiwomple to a New Way of Life After an Adult Child’s Estrangement

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

life after an adult child's estrangement

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.

Lightening up

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.

Preparing now

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.

life after an adult child's estrangement

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.

Related Reading:

Estrangement: When letting go hurts

Dealing With Uncertainty: Help for parents estranged from adult children

Spring Cleaning When Adult Children Want No Contact

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8 thoughts on “A New way of life after an adult child’s estrangement

  1. Sue Z.

    Wow, Sheri – This is exactly where my husband and I are at the moment. We thought with the announcement of another grandchild, we would stay on our farm. But since being forbidden to see them and no hope in site for this to change we have made the decision to downsize and eventually move. I read a book “The Happiness Project” (cant remember the author) where one chapter was about getting rid of clutter. I went through my house and did just that from closets, drawers, attic, barn and cleaned house. It really felt good and I felt lighter when I finished. Still more to do, but not much. We are also in the process of downsizing the farm, selling cows, doing work on the barn. We are going to move to another state where we still have family that are more accepting and like us in a lot of ways. That has given me something to look forward to and are taking a road trip in the near future to look at areas of this state to help up decide when the time comes what area we would like to settle.
    The next chapter in our lives…..one I did not imagine writing this way, but I am coming to terms with it.
    We all deserve to live a good happy life. Still suffering with estrangement from my boys and from mom and sister who dont care. But moving forward, new life, new area, new friends. Seems like a good start, dont you think?

    1. rparents Post author


      It sounds great! There really is a feeling of freedom in lightening up. I’m very excited for you! One day, maybe you could report back. I’d love to hear! Hugs, Sheri McGregor

    2. Kathy N.

      Hi Sue, i also have an adult son from a previous marriage who is estranged from me and 2 younger sisters who don’t care. My mom passed away about 3 years ago. I am very blessed to have an adult daughter who is very loving & close to me. I think you’re doing the right thing by making plans to move on. You definately deserve to live a good happy life. I wish you and your husband the best of luck & much happiness! I also would like to downsize and move to another house/location. I just need to convince my husband because he doesn’t want to move yet. Maybe I can convince him to move in a couple/few years. Take care and all the best.

  2. jakatak

    Don’t know how to start a new thread. I am a 70 year old who is estranged from my second born. I have seen him no more than 5 of 6 times in the last 10 years.
    He has always presented himself with severe anxiety. Decision making was always a problem. He would stick his head in the sand, as an alternative to deal with life decisions. His Mother and I are divorced, and if I am honest, he was a major factor in our separating. She an adult child, who could only please and rescue, and I, the probation officer, providing the discipline. Our first born was the “perfect” child. Zero issues raising him. Our second born was constantly getting into trouble. Partying and raising hell.
    He won’t even acknowledge my existence. He barely is involved with his mother….the woman that has rescued him from all and any consequences to his not paying his bills, rent, or short on college tuition.
    The story goes much deeper, but the long and short of his refusal to get help has led me to believe, that I have to find a way to move on. He has a girlfriend, has moved in with her, and appears to be happy. I wish that I could say the same.

  3. Molli04

    So sorry Jakatak that you are going through this. I have been estranged from my son for four years. We were very close to the granddaughters and they were suddenly taken from us. I have a grandson I have never met. My daughter-in-law has mental health issues and makes up things about me and my daughter. My son just goes along with the lies. I don’t hate her. I just want her to get help. I still can’t wrap my head around how my son has rejected us. We did everything and then some for him.
    Ten years is a long time. I know it is hard, but you are still alive and have a right to enjoy life. This is not how any of us thought our lives would turn out. But we can script a new future, a new way to be in the world. I have always been devoted to family, but my family has dwindled with this estrangement and deaths. I think it is ok for all of us to focus on our happiness. We earned that right by all we did for our children. Whether they appreciate it or not, we have to know our truth.
    My biggest concern is for the generation of children being kept from their grandparents. Our children are teaching their children that family is disposable. It is very sad!
    Take it one day at a time. That has worked best for me. One day I am ok and the next not so much. Just forgive yourself and do what you need to feel better. Take care!

    1. Sky

      Hi Mollio4, I love your comment, I have been estranged from my daughter for the last 20 years, she comes in and out of my life, at the beginning I live a life of a broken mother/person, as time moved on so did my pain, letting go, is not easy but I have come to a place of contentment, I have a grandson, but she and her husband are separated, he is a very good son in law and keeps in touch with me when he’s has him, he’s now 5 and beautiful. I have a son, who over the years we had some issues, he doesent speak to his sister or his dad, we are divorced many years now. I had a very close relationship with my son, he met his partner 1 year ago, beautiful man, I was delighted for my son, at last he found love, our relationship went a bit wobbly I danced around on egg shells, the for no reason at a I started to get very abusive texts, he’s 35, I have supported him all through his life emotionally and financially, I live on my own so is very difficult to come to terms with, I feel broken, I’m glad I found this forum as it is a support for me and don’t feel so alone, I’m trying to take small steps going forward. I have the book done with crying, struggling a bit to read it, I think I’m still in shock, last contact was 2 months ago, I think I’m in denial that this is happening, great to read other posts like you, thank you, warm wishes

  4. Molli04

    Hello Sky, So sorry you are going through this. It is a nightmare! My son has been so abusive to me. I never said those terrible things to him, ever in his life. It is very hard to wrap your head around the severity of their treatment. But you have to know that you do not deserve this and something very wrong is going on with them. I worry more than I am angry. But, I also know there is nothing I can do to change the situation. Believe me, I have tried everything!
    I had trouble reading the book at first. I just could not believe I was in this situation. I thought surely, this was going to turn around soon. Well, it’s been four years and no sign of change. You will read the book when you are ready. It will be helpful to you at that time. Take care and be good to yourself!

  5. Pamela christian

    Hi I’m still in my 60 s getting close to 70 ,I too was close to my so. ,I was abused most my life trued keeping my son out if it all I left them yet he seemed to held a grudge I was there for him and I think gave way too much me and my mom gave home couple houses cars trick etc paid his taxes e5c May mom just passed away been hard and he never even called her or saw her whole alive inpast few years except when we paid him and his wife to help me I was her care giver mother got mad went I got sick and was going to go out there shift was over I was dizzy asked why they wouldn’t help me ,he raged on st me fir not appreciated anything they’d done etc was very scarey and awefull his wife heard started packing there stuff never asked a question and they moved out did these from them fir months It broke ,my heart ,I thought it was going to kill me ,then he calls months later acted like nothing happened ,yet it did ,it’s not the first time has been onto me yet this tome I fekt I didn’t deserve it min been on egg shell ever since when they do come around or call ,I don’t know what sets them off?,he’s been married few times and is always on there family’s side and supportive of them financially too ,his wife now told me few years ago when sges not with my son is very abusive to me ,she said your going to need help and your not going to maje it and we won’t help you and they have lived up to it ,yet help her mom and family , my son makes good money ,Iv been working hard to keep my house but looks like gling to need to sell it ,Iv never asked anyone for help before yet I did about a year ago no help ,they stayed with me few wks have asked me to stay with them but I’m afraid cause wife gets me alone is mean to me ,so I’m pretty much on my own now mom passed we lived together fir 21 yrs I miss her ,any way my son is usually mad at me thru the years . I love ve him very much ,he says he loves me yet not there at all fir me barely hear from him .this has gone in fir years 24 yrs ,it’s been hurtful and I have made my mistakes yet her family had too yet they are preferred ,I’m looking into a trailer community so I won’t be all alone ,need sell my house been in 21 yrs I’m. Comfortable here yet don’t want to grow older alone ,plus I need money ,be down sizing ,I’m glad found this site ,Iv tried thru the years find support it’s been lonely and scarey and feel abandoned .i diubt they’d even know that Iv moved if I do ,it is hard to talk about I don’t much parents aren’t known to he abandoned ,even though Iv made mistakes I regret I really don’t feel Iv been treated fairly at all ,I was always there for him and mom ,he won’t even by me a drink if we go out to eat knowing I have very little money ,he’s taken me to his wives house to cook out for her on mother’s day and did n9ting fir me just le5 me sit with them. And haughty his wife a $299 gift ,it’s just showkngbme how they put me at the bottom, of the list that really hurts ,he took my bad, infkrmatj9n down several months ago ,Noel g I need help I didn’t ask ,never git anyth8ng yet see her mom on there Facebook thanking them fir all there hello and ask8 told me few j8tgs ahi ahe can rely in my son ,very hurtful and now I’m needing to leave my house it’s hard place .anyway I do have Jesus and I will maje it ,than,you for being here


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