Abandoned parents: Let your light shine

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

abandoned parents

Photo credit: Craig Burrows Photography

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

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

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

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

Abandoned parents: Let your light shine

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

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

Abandoned parents: Will your glow show?

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

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

Abandoned parents: Step into the light

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

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

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

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

Abandoned parents: Re-ignite your light

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

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

  • Get a craft kit for those sleepless times.
  • Turn to some fun reading.
  • Meditate on calming words or scriptures.
  • Marvel at the moon, the stars, and how vast the universe is (or create a moon garden).

Abandoned parents: Shine up your surroundings

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

Small positive changes can make you feel better about yourself, which can start to re-ignite your inner glow. For more strategies to help yourself, get my book, Done With The Crying—or move forward to a new healing level with my latest book, Beyond Done With The Crying: More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children.

Add spark other people can see

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

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

Shine your light to help other abandoned parents

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

Related reading:

More spectacular UVIVF photography

Benefits of Moderate Sun Exposure

Six Reasons Why You Need More Sun

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5 thoughts on “Abandoned parents: Let your light shine

  1. LR

    I am encouraged by your action(s) in self-care (peaceful place and puppy). Since I am a single parent, I do not have the advantage of having another parent to give updates on how my child is doing. (My family doesn’t even mention his name as if he’s non-existent or dead which confirms the fact, they know “something” based on my son’s version, spread across the family). He has made no contact since 2018 and yes, my heart is broken; holidays are the worse but I am alot better than I used to be. I hope and pray you (we) find peace.

  2. Laura C.

    Hi, I had heard about the book Done with Crying but I hadn’t read it yet. I have I’ve heard about several other books on this topic that just seemed to make Is the parent feel guilty as though they should apologize. I’m done with apologizing. I did it twice to their faces and considered an amends letter, but ditched that too because they (ES & his wife) used the apology against me, making the assumption that because I am apologizing that I have finally realized that everything truly is my fault, that they are blameless.
    After 21 years of this insanity, I still have no idea what it is I’m supposed to have done to cause this estrangement. When my ES can tell me what I’ve actually done, I may consider it, but not until then.
    But I do have one question that has racked my brain for years why is the huge majority of estranged parents the mothers?
    Anyway, after reading this article, I believe it has changed my mind about doing some more reading on this insane reality so many of us have found our lives have fallen into and I’m going to read your books. Thank you for that!
    The upside though, and there is one, is that just over 8 years ago I took a complete swan dive out of my comfort zone my and changed my life entirely! I went full time in my RV, comment as a Patriot Guard Rider for our veterans and to explore this country we live in! I have seen so many things that I have only read about all my life, made wonderful friends along the way, and have absolutely no intentions of hanging up my keys until I cannot drive anymore.
    I still carry the sadness with me, and I know I always will, a piece of my heart has died. But it’s nothing like it used to be. I don’t cry very often anymore at all. When I find myself starting to ruminate about the situation with my ES, I start repeating to myself to not let myself sink. More often than not it does work. And I keep myself so busy with everything I’m doing and seeing that I really don’t have a whole lot of time to spend In the vacuum of pain caused by my ES and his wife.
    Sadly, besides myself, the collateral damage in all of this is my grandchildren. I don’t see any of them anymore, haven’t seen my son or his family since 2018 and have no intentions of putting myself into that hurtful and hateful position with him again. It’s not good for me, it’s certainly not good for my grandchildren. They barely know me anyway, thanks to their mother initially and after 10 years my ES as well.
    So thank you for this article and that little boost I apparently needed to continue reading. I know this is my life for the rest of my life, I know it’s not going to get any better in regards to my ES, he has made that very clear. So I have moved on with an entirely new life for myself that gives me great enjoyment along with a purpose close to my heart, our veterans. This life I’ve built could truly have benefited my ES and his children in so many ways as well. But, instead, I’m showing myself a wonderful life and I love it! I’m done crying!
    Merry Christmas!

    1. LR

      Happy that you have found a vehicle in which to recreate your life focus (I hope to do the same). I admire your strength. I have learned (& tend to accept) both parents suffer estrangement equally the same but fathers tend to (internalize) handle it differently. Women are more emotional and tend to talk more so the perception may be it affects mothers more but I think, it’s the same.

  3. Lisa C.

    Thank you Sheri,
    You have helped so much. I really find it a life saver to understand the ‘thinking’ issue. Thinking is exactly what it is, it’s not who we are. I imagine a roaring river under my feet that when I over think I can drop my pain into and it’s gone down the virtual waterfall. It’s much healthier to let it go and let yourself be free to be in your own life.

  4. Maria K.

    Those are some really good tips! I created my ‘happy place’ on my patio this year finally. Just by adding a new colorful indoor/outdoor rug, some plants and a hammock. I love the peacefulness any time but at night especially. I also got a new puppy who keeps me so much busier than before, this is our second dog now. Dog #1 wasn’t too happy with the new little intruder but is warming up to her now. I hardly have time to feel sad anymore….but yes I still do feel sad,rejected, hurt and angry at times.My situation is strange to me. My ES stays in contact with my husband but still has nothing to do with me. For that reason I feel they’re both against me now in a way I can’t quite explain. It hurts to say the least. But I am doing everything I can to stay busy and not dwell on the horrible situation that it is. I hope WE ALL find peace and contentment for ourselves because we all deserve that. I personally refuse to give my ES any power over me anymore. I will keep my dignity and self respect intact and he can be miserable if that’s what he wants. Also, for those having trouble sleeping at night I wanted to add that I recently began taking 250 mg of magnesium about an hour before bedtime (helps me sleep) and I threw out all my cotton PJ’s. Cotton doesn’t breathe well and makes me sweat and nobody likes waking up in a puddle. 😉 Best wishes!!


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