Is your adult child estranged? Be careful

Is your adult child estrangedadult child estranged? Be careful.
by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Around the time of my son’s estrangement, I dropped a heavy piece of equipment on my big toe. Many months later when the fracture healed, I fell, and broke that toe again.

Like many other parents of estranged children confide, I seemed accident prone. Some tell of car accidents, or falls, kitchen cuts, and other mishaps. Could an increase in accidents and injuries be related to estrangement?

Adult child estranged? Be forewarned

On a trip to San Francisco’s China Town some years ago, a steep flight of stairs led down to a basement sales floor. As shoppers descended, a soft voice on a recording repeatedly cautioned, “Watch your step. Be careful of stairs. Have a nice day. Watch your step. Be careful of stairs. Have a nice day.”

As you navigate the stress of an adult child’s estrangement, be forewarned: emotional distress can make you accident prone. So keep these cautions in mind: Watch what you’re doing.  Be careful. Keep yourself safe.

The ongoing stress and anxiety that plagues parents of estranged adults can have side effects. Are you losing sleep? Then you won’t be as alert to danger or as quick to react. Are you forever thinking of your estranged adult child? Preoccupation can put you at risk for injury. If you’re like many parents of estranged adults, feeling sad and lonely, and perhaps still in shock, you may also have dropped healthy exercise routines that aid physical coordination and balance. As a result, you may slip, trip, or fall into a series of mishaps that hurt.

In a study of more than 5,000 men reported on in the January, 2014 issue of Age & Ageing, stressful life events correlated significantly with increased falls. And the risk grew with the occurrence of additional stressful life events. In my book to help parents when an adult child is estranged, you can read about Rowena who is hit with a number of taxing life events at once (as are many of you). Using a method I call P-B-&-J, Rowena took control. She made a careful plan that prioritized tasks and got things done. Taking charge provided Rowena a sort of road map to face her challenges, and stay aware of her needs and actions. Whether you have many life stresses or estrangement alone has shaken your world, awareness of potential risk can help to protect you.

Adult child estranged? Then be careful.
Remain focused. Live one moment at a time.

adult child estrangedIn a 2010 workplace study, researchers found that ongoing emotional stress was particularly predictive of injuries.  An adult child’s estrangement, with all its uncertainties and dashed hopes, brings just that type of emotional distress.

Distraction over emotional issues leads to poor safety habits. Our minds may be divided, which means we’re less likely to notice a pool of water on the floor—and slip. As we cut carrots, or reach into the oven to retrieve a hot dish, our thoughts might be elsewhere—leading to cuts and burns. Exhausted emotionally, and perhaps even physically because of fitful sleep with vivid dreams, parents of estranged adult children may trip over a bump in the sidewalk we just don’t notice, or miss seeing the traffic light change to red.

Maybe you’re more forgetful, too, which can complicate matters, make life feel out of control, and increase stress. One mother of an estranged adult son went to the doctor to have her stitches from a careless kitchen accident removed. While there, she lost her car keys in the medical building. Distraught by the sudden mishap, she hurried back toward the doors, tripped over the curb and fell, breaking both wrists.

Mindfulness can help

The first chapter of Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children provides examples of mindfulness to help with negative thinking and move parents into a calmer, more helpful state of mind. The same principle of staying fully present in the moment, rather than letting thoughts drift into painful rumination about the past or uncertain speculation about the future can protect you from accidental injury, and help with forgetfulness too.

If you’re like many parents who confide they’re extra clumsy since the estrangement began, awareness is a good first step to taking better care of yourself. As you go about your day, remind yourself of what you’re doing, where you’re going, and to take extra care—just as that soft voice on the narrow stairway in that China Town shop reminds customers.

Remaining in the moment helps you see potential dangers. Fully absorbed in your current activity, you’re more likely to notice a rock in the hiking path or an upturned rug in the hall. You’ll be better prepared to react as well—to a car that pulls out in front of you, a stray ball that flies at you in the park, or to a kind friend’s story or joke.

Prune out extras

One of the strategies among those sprinkled throughout Done With The Crying, is something past clients have used to calm the chaos in their lives. In times of extra stress, it can help to see your life as a beautiful bouquet. You can’t keep adding flowers to an already full vase. Even the loveliest arrangement requires trimming some stems and removing some flowers as they fade. Take a look at your life bouquet. Where can you trim and simplify? By reducing your commitments, even by a little, you’ll have more time to focus. Hurrying from one commitment to the next and multitasking only make you scattered, and inhibit concentration. Do yourself a favor and prune a few non-necessities from your life. It’s a small step toward thriving in the midst of estrangement stress. You’ll have more time to pause between tasks as well. The time to take a deep breath, give yourself a pep talk, or remind yourself of any good in your life.

Support yourself physically

Earlier, I mentioned exercise for its helpful properties in terms of balance and coordination—two things that can help in preventing accidents. While it’s not wise to jump into a vigorous exercise regime that may only add stress, and increase risk of injury, gentle physical training can help. Like a gradually increasing walking routine. Or perhaps the Qui Gong title I recommend in my book.

Sleep is also important to keep you strong and alert. An upcoming article will include ideas for better rest for parents suffering distress when their adult child is estranged. Meanwhile, utilize the strategies in my book that resonate with you, and make a practice of being mindful in the moment.

In short, watch what you’re doing.  Be careful. Keep yourself safe.

Have you found yourself accident prone since the estrangement? Feel free to leave a comment.

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4 thoughts on “Is your adult child estranged? Be careful

  1. Emilee

    This article was an eye-opener. I used to say that my son loved me because of me and in spite of me. I also used to say that my life actually began when he was born. Both are true. We are our only family and were great friends. Many awful things happened to him 4 years ago. Betrayals, rejection, loss. Then someone lied to him about me saying I did something I did not do. He beieved it. Since then he pulled away effectively shutting me down. Not long afterwards I fell, and fell, and fell again. Then, I became ill and had surgery. He wasn’t there for me as he would have been. I recovered but became ill again for 16 months resulting in more surgery. I believe that not only being accident-prone can be expected, but also being ill. Colds and flu last way too long. I believe the immune system is affected by this type of grief. It becomes a nightmare from which you cannot awake. Four years now, and all I have are empty days and holidays. Voice mails are not retuned and mail is ignored. I’m in a lot of pain, but it’s partly because he is, too, and I can’t be there for him. I failed him many times and I spend every day with a “punch” in my stomach. To think about his pain makes it all worse. It’s very, very wrong.
    I feel so badly knowing that so many other parents know my kind of pain. It’s awful. I’m struggling, but please everybody, trust the Lord and keep reaching out to each other. Thank you for opportunity to share.

  2. Teri S.

    I am also experiencing the ignored texts, calls and letters and cards I send. Extremely hurtful. As I write this I have that punch in the stomach pain and cry as I relive this experience. I try to have a positive appearance but I am crying inside and want it to stop. I have wonderful friends and companion but in my solitude I hurt. I am newly retired and because I refused to join a fitness bootcamp my daughter told me I don’t want to better myself and she is through with me. I can’t understand her hate of the parent who stayed with her during the estrangement of her father we eventually divorced while she was in elementary school. What could be so bad to make her hate me? I pray for strength and continued support of friends.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Terri,

      I hear similar stories more often than I can count. I believe she must be confused or have something else troubling her. Please look back on all the good you did and give yourself credit. I’m sure you are and have”bettered” yourself in many ways over your life. We’re on our own timetables. One day, perhaps your daughter will understand that.

      Meanwhile, please take care of yourself as best you can. There are many here who “get it.”

      Virtual hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

    2. c

      Satan.- Sounds crazy but It is the only thing I can comprehend. I went on pinterest and put spiritual warfare in the search -wa la prayers. Then I made various pages. Some for when i am angry, some for when Im hurting. some for when I have to put the hurt aside and ultimately love, some for prayer for him. I do not mean to preach to you. This is what helps me. She will face God someday as will we. I am only responsible for my own stuff and how I parented him. I have no regrets. I have unfounded hurt, pain but I am confident I am not the cause. The shame is on them. Check out the 5th COMMANDMENT. Bless you stay safe

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