Author Archives: rparents

About rparents

Sheri McGregor holds a Master's Degree in Human Behavior and is a life coach. She helps parents move beyond loss of estrangement through this website, and with her books, Done With The Crying and BEYOND Done With The Crying -- info: https://www.rejectedparents.net/sheri-mcgregors-book-for-parents-of-estranged-adult-children/ Find out more and contact Sheri about life coaching: https://www.balanceandjoy.com/home/success-stories/ Sheri has two public facebook pages. One that is narrowed to estrangement: https://www.facebook.com/SheriMcGregorRejectedParents And one that is her "author" page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSheriMcGregor/ Be sure to sign up for the newsletter--she has some projects in development you'll want to know about.

Perspective

by Sheri McGregor, MA

In the top drawer of my beautiful desk, a plastic wallet sleeve peeks from beneath sticky notes and stamps. When I pull it out, there stares a darling face. A boy I once knew. An innocent smile. Eyes so full of life.

There are two photos. At ages 6 and 7.

My throat tightens. My eyes tingle but don’t quite tear. So long ago. Another life. Still, a flood of memories rolls in. A boy who made cities of paper-covered boxes, rode bicycles over makeshift jumps, and whose jeans were always caked with grass stains or mud.

An old ache stirs. A longing. A wish. A realization of all that was . . . and no longer is.

I close the drawer and more recent pictures come to mind. Those sent from other parents. A father recently shared a photo collage of his daughter through the ages. The most recent were snagged off the internet: his daughter getting married, holding a newborn, and receiving a work award.

Another mom sent me a video link, saying she had read my books. “I believe you’re a lot like me,” she wrote. The pictures, a montage set to music she originally made for one of her son’s achievements, proved she was right: We were a lot alike. Moms of boys, moms of loving brothers who we figured would always be friends. Sweet little boys who were full of innocence and pranks, and who grew into handsome teenagers we imagined one day as admirable men. And then the change, the loss, the heartbreak.

Another mom sent me three photos she’d taken over time. She captioned them:

The boy who loved me.

The teen who wasn’t sure.

The man who doesn’t.

Clearing out

Since moving in 2020, I’ve been hating the desk I used to love. This gorgeous piece of furniture stands on carved legs, has bronzed-brass flower drawer pulls, and delicate, curving sides. But it’s too big for this new space. I’m determined to clear it out and find another that’s more suitable for my new office in my new life in my new locale. That’s why I opened the drawer and came across these unexpected photos. Bits of history that, for all their simplicity, embody so much more: My loss of innocence around my mothering, family, and kids. That’s not something I necessarily want to dwell on. And why I closed the drawer.

The truth is, since moving (a stress all its own), a lot has gone on. Family situations, illness, and let’s not forget the pandemic—which has left most of us craving more human connection, security, and a sense of literal and psychological freedom the pandemic and related lock downs took away.

There have been losses for all of us. Some in connection with associated deaths, long-term Covid effects, or relationships for which the pandemic and its dividing opinion tracks were the nail in the coffin. Others for economic security, dampened optimism, or a naivete over how much control we have over our lives. Tough stuff.

But … this post is less about what we miss or fear as what we can do to get ourselves back on track, or onto a new one.

Some of us have dealt with worry over health concerns by using more hand sanitizer, wearing masks, and beefing up our preventative activities to keep us leaner and stronger, thus less at risk.

Many of us have found new ways to connect—in online classes and video chats. Even with the good as ever old-fashioned telephone call (that starts with a computer we can hold in our hand!).

The coping includes remote work, limiting our screen time–filled with bad news–and focusing on things that bring us meaning and joy. We’re plodding along, moving forward despite the trauma. Making the best—or better—of our lives. What choice do we have.

Letting go

The swiftly passing month of January motivates me to accomplish my goal of eliminating this desk. So, I pull open another drawer. One I know contains file folders of basic records less laden with emotional traps.

As I sort through old papers, tossing some, shredding others, and thinning down to the most current and necessary ones, my mind wanders. I think of those photographs of my boy and remember the beauty and joy that came before the storms. The sweet smile, the apple cheeks, his bright eyes full of mischief and love.

With the file drawer sorted, I feel complete. One step at a time. I loved this desk. It fit so well in my old office and life.

I ponder the top drawer again and leave it closed. Not today. But soon. I stand back and look at the pretty desk that takes up too much space. Clearing out takes time.

Related reading

Adult children who hate parents: The ties that bind

Moving when you have estranged adult children

Letting go of estranged adult children

Navigating emotional drama

estrangement

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

by Sheri McGregor, MA

Decades ago, in the psychology of relationships, a model called the “drama triangle” was introduced by Stephen Karpman, M.D. Each point on the triangle identifies one of the shifting roles: the victim, the rescuer, and the persecutor.

Over time, this model, which is used in business, family, and other relationships, has been finessed, further developed, and altered by others. Relationships are complex. Here, I’ve tried to simplify with somewhat blatant examples.

Uh-oh, an emergency

Stan and Leslie’s adult daughter calls needing help. She is short of money, thought she could wait until payday to make her rent, but received a notice to pay up or vacate. She is the “victim.”

Stan tells her to talk to her landlord and explain. He’s angry. It’s about time she learned how to budget, and this is the real world. He’s given enough and she needs to learn responsibility. For purposes of the drama triangle, he is the “persecutor.”

Leslie secretly phones their daughter and says she’ll meet her at the ATM. She is the “rescuer.”

Not so simple

I could give all sorts of scenarios for the daughter’s emergency. Did she waste money on partying? Or did she have a vital medical need she paid out-of-pocket? Notice how your feelings shift with these scenarios. For now, let’s just say she has been irresponsible.

Here, Stan is in a “persecutor” role, but let’s look at his possible motivations. What if he has repeatedly seen their daughter pluck her mother’s heartstrings? This isn’t the first time she has called when she needs something. And then, after she receives Leslie’s help, she always goes silent. He can’t stand to watch Leslie suffer. Here, he sees himself less a persecutor than a loving, protective husband (the “rescuer”) for his wife (the “victim”).

Leslie, on the other hand, is distressed by her husband’s efforts to help their daughter learn life lessons and stand on her own two feet. Her mind fills with worries about their daughter’s safety and feelings. What if their daughter loses her apartment? and How must she feel that her father isn’t there for her? This mom could openly tell Stan that he’s being too hard on their daughter and, once she did, might shift into the role of Stan’s “persecutor.”

In this scenario Leslie secretly became her daughter’s “rescuer.” But Leslie’s worries are complex. If her daughter gets kicked out of her apartment, then what? The thought of their troubled daughter (and all the chaos and drama) moving back in with her and Stan is unbearable. So, she allows Stan to act as her own “rescuer” while secretly fulfilling that role for them both by keeping the daughter out of the house. In this way they are both victims and both rescuers. Stan also remains the persecutor in their daughter’s eyes.

The shifting, multiple roles may or may not be within the individual’s awareness. Here, Stan’s interactions with their daughter may trigger reactions in Leslie that date back into her own history.

It’s also true that Leslie could have been the one to say “no” to their daughter. A father can be in the rescuer role to an adult child just as much as a mother. I’m not attempting to stereotype anyone.

Stepping away from the triangle

Consider which of these roles you may have fallen into, not only with estrangement, but in other relationships as well. Also, don’t get hung up on the labels.

No one wants to be identified as a “persecutor,” but the example here makes clear that the “persecutor” role isn’t necessarily abusive or even harsh—although it may be felt (or portrayed to others) as such by the “victim.” The persecutor’s actions might even trigger some old compulsion or emotional wound in the “rescuer.”

In the scenario above, perhaps the father and mother could have paused and talked things through. Sometimes that’s the best tactic when we’re faced with an “emergency” that a) isn’t specifically ours ; or b) isn’t immediately life or death. Not jumping into a hasty decision or quick reply allows parents more time to form a united front. That’s what I advocate for. Of course, that would require talking about these sorts of things openly and ahead of such critical moments. That way, couples can find more agreeable plans, and avoid falling into old patterns where their roles are at odds.

These sorts of marital discussions aren’t easy. We run the risk of casting blame, causing resentment, or sowing further discord and disagreement about how to proceed. In Done With The Crying, I offer some marital scenarios that you may find helpful. And in the next book (Beyond Done) discussion examples are broadened to include others in the family. Communication is important but even long-term couples can sometimes hit snags. Without awareness and work, estrangement of adult children can destroy good marriages. Don’t be afraid to seek couples counseling, which can often help.

With the limited context of the presented scenario, it’s difficult to choose what might have been the best way forward. Perhaps the better answer might have been for the parents to agree together to help but then pay the money directly to the landlord. Perhaps a warning about future emergencies with decided upon specifics is needed and/or a way for the daughter to pay them back. That will be yours to decide, but the point I’m making is to be aware of our own tendencies to slip into these drama triangle roles (or other repeated actions).

Other common scenarios I hear about where these drama triangles may ensue include:

  • Aunts and uncles who step in as “rescuers” to adult children
  • In-law families with cult-like “rescuing” behavior who see the newcomer as a “victim” of a family they disapprove of in some way

These third-parties, whether relatives or in-law families, become “persecutors” of the parents who are being cut off by their adult child. The parents then become the “victims.”

These scenarios are just a sampling among many. They demonstrate the complexity that is often present around estrangement from adult children—and that people untouched by this sort of dysfunction would not imagine.

Eyes wide open

Reflect upon these roles and identify where you might find yourself fitting into one or more. Consider other situations where you might have had knee-jerk responses or ones that involve feelings of compulsion or resentment. A little self-examination can provide helpful insight.

Karpman’s drama triangle is useful in a variety of relational settings beyond the family. Do you end up rescuing co-workers? Are you or have you been the victim of a hard-nosed “persecutor” boss? Or are you the one who is rescued?

By looking at our present and past relational experiences, we may be able to identify not only our tendencies but perhaps their roots. That’s not to say I’m advocating for blaming your parents or anyone else, but our experiences and environments throughout life do affect our innate natures. By recognizing our own unconscious traps, and bringing them into our awareness, we can better understand and empathize with the emotional pitfalls of others and of ourselves.

Self-compassion for sad situations

Let’s add grandchildren to the semi-estranged or fully no-contact scenario. For purposes of illustration, let’s give the adult child a difficult or even diagnosed personality disorder. Rules are imposed that determine whether the grandparent is allowed to spend time with the grandchildren. The grandparent complies but the rules then shift … again … and again.

These loving, supportive grandparents are always uncertain and on edge, forever waiting for the next lecture about what they did “wrong” to justify the adult child withholding the grandchild yet again. If they defend themselves the punishment is longer and worse. Meanwhile, they worry the grandchild his being told lies about why they aren’t coming around. If the grandparents capitulate, they become the victim, with no rescuer in sight. Yet, by sliding into the powerless victim role, and complying, they can be in the grandchild’s life (at least for now)—thus rescuing the grandchild from the distress of believing they’re no longer loved.

While Karpman’s drama model doesn’t contain answers for every scenario, seeing ourselves in this context, however the roles fit (exactly or in shades), provides intellectual distance. This allows space for our logic to kick in and our critical thinking to outshine the emotionally compelled role-playing that can seem the right course or the only way.

The lesser evil?

Thinking about this final scenario, many grandparents spend years believing they cannot step away, yet eventually conclude that their continued involvement causes additional suffering. Ideal scenarios weren’t within their control. The circumstances of maintaining contact, with escalating rules and punishments, became a threat to their own and their grandchildren’s well-being. Stepping away from the drama [triangle] became the lesser of two evils.

By exiting the drama, they retain more energy for their own self-development, health, and resilience—things they have the right to and hope to preserve. Often, this is tied to the hope that their adult children will change or that their grandchildren will one day seek them out alone. Whether either of those things happen, I empathize with those who say “no more” to an adult child’s machinations. They do this not only as heroes (rescuers) but as reasoned, sensible, and loving grandparents.

Knowledge is [the first step to] power

I hope that considering this relational model and the roles you may at times fall into has been helpful. By examining our tendencies in how we interact and respond to others our awareness grows. And with awareness, we can become more self-possessed and -determinative no matter the relationship.

Related reading

Ask Sheri McGregor: Contacting estranged granddaughter

Grandparent alienation

There are no “right” words when. . . .

New Year: New “day”

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

It’s a brand new year, with a fresh new slate. You get to choose what’s ahead. I hope that you will courageously and boldly get on with living the life you choose. Will you make this year the best it can be?

In Done With The Crying, there’s an exercise about looking ahead. It’s one of many exercises to help parents like you, who don’t deserve the crud they’ve been dealt by adult children, to move forward for yourselves. You’ll want to get the book … and then the next one (Beyond Done) to fully benefit. But right now, I’d like to give you a choice.

Imagine standing at a fork in the road. One path loops back to more of the same (sadness, regret, rumination, unrequited love, despair). Imagine stepping onto that path, imagine the weight of it all slumping over your shoulders, dragging at your feet, and pulling you down.

The other path is uncertain, but you get to pave it however you want. That means steering the journey to almost anywhere you choose. (New adventures? Meaningful pursuits you now have time for? Fun?) Now, imagine stepping onto that road. Suddenly the air is charged with excitement. Possibility sparkles like sunlight on the horizon. A butterfly flutters by … and you have the urge to follow it to unknown flower fields and places of beauty that you’ve so been missing.

It’s decision time.  Which road do you choose? More of the same? Or a new frontier? (And that’s not a Star Trek reference! Although, some of us do have more space to explore now.)

Related reading

Happy New Year 2020

New Year: Blanket of Snow

Parents moving beyond estrangement: Gather energy for your shift

parents moving beyond estrangement from adult children

Image by wandaquinn from Pixabay

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

My last post was about making a defining moment of the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice . The longest period of annual darkness results in the shortest day, which brings our longest physical shadows. And coincidentally, this physical lengthening of shadows occurs at a time when estrangement’s metaphorical shadow looms bigger than almost any time of year: the holidays. This psychological “shadow” gets clearer at this festive time when family-centric reminders abound. Of course we think of our loved lost ones and feel longing, sadness, or despair.

The Winter Solstice has passed, which means the nights will now grow gradually shorter. By day, so will our shadows. In short, that’s because the Earth tilts incrementally in the opposite way.

My Challenge: For parents moving beyond estrangement from adult children

Now, as we enter the season of shortening darkness and lengthened light, I dare you to shift as well. Make plans for incremental, sustainable change that will accumulate exponentially into mountains of positive personal growth. Baby steps, small habit shifts, lead to bigger change. By summer, when our physical shadows are the shortest, you can look back on concentrated effort from a stronger, more realistic vantage point.

To do this effectively, you’ll need to identify your sticking points. Here are a few ways to get started on that.

Re-read my articles on:

Consider:

Make a list of these trouble spots and then brainstorm ways to counteract them. Get support too.

Moving beyond estrangement: Reflect, rediscover, rekindle

Once you’ve reflected upon areas that hold you back, drag you down, or further lengthen estrangement’s shadow, consider, places, people, and pursuits that will pull you up and forward, bring you fulfillment, purpose, and joy. If you’ve read Done With The Crying, pull out your completed “Take Stock” exercise and see where you might make further changes. Also turn to the later chapter on moving forward and review core elements of yourself that may have been waiting in the shadows for your rediscovery and rekindling. In moving beyond estrangement and all its related chaos, it’s wise to look at other areas too. Examine parts of you that may have been pushed aside because you were busy raising children, pursuing a career, or in some other way engaged.

Using nature’s cycles

As you work to drop the gloomy shadows of estrangement’s effects, imagine tapping into the energy behind Earth’s natural shifts. Contemplate the shortening of physical shadows, and all the other ways nature demonstrates shifts to a new season. Ancient peoples were more in tune with the natural cycles that affect the Earth and its inhabitants. They ate food in season, capitalized on their area’s resources, and prepared for the season ahead. Working with the natural cycles is a lot like going with the flow.

In my second estrangement book (Beyond Done With The Crying), I share examples of how the way we view life events such as estrangement make a difference in how we respond and fare. We can shape our experience by being conscious of what we think. How can you consider the seasons of nature as they relate to your “seasons” of estrangement? Notice the trees with their falling leaves that ready their limbs to withstand the burdens of snow.. Identify the birds that migrate to or from your area during winter months. Watch the summer-dry moss grow lush and green with winter rain.

We’re beyond the winter solstice. Take note of your physical shadow shortening each and every day. Join with the natural energy of the Earth and sun. Turn toward a new season, and purposefully work to also shorten estrangement’s shadow on you and your life.

Related reading

When your adult children don’t like you: Lean on the bear (and do some shadow work)

Winter Solstice and the roller coaster of estrangement from adult children

estrangement from adult children

Image by Mario from Pixabay

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

On every roller coaster, there’s a peak moment when you reach the highest point. And for an instant, you linger, waiting for the drop. It’s the point of no return. Or, more cheerfully, the turning point. And that’s how I think of this time of year.

The Longest night

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice falls on December 21 this year (2023). There is slight variation that shifts it a day or so annually, but this date marks the longest night, and represents the shift toward lengthening days. The Southern Hemisphere enjoys the opposite effect.

I won’t get into ancient celebrations or spiritual beliefs about this factual event named to describe the moment when the Earth tilts its farthest from the sun. But ancient peoples did have reasons to celebrate—and with the right mindset, so do we.

Unsteady footing

As I say in Done With The Crying, when our own child rejects us, it’s as if the bottom falls out and our whole world tilts (like the Earth upon the winter solstice).  Just as we don’t always notice the gradual, day-to-day changes in the Earth’s angle toward or away from the sun, we may not have noticed a shift in our kids. Or, if we did, we blamed it on teen angst, individuation, or some other explanation that sounds sensible enough for us to believe the weirdness would end. And, so, we wait, expecting them to shift. Here’s where things get tricky.

Getting back to that roller coaster where this article started, imagine choosing to sit in that ride car at the highest peak. Suspended. At a standstill. Stuck.

While you’re strapped in at the peak, the world moves on. But waiting and hoping? I hope you brought food and water, because as you sit there suspended on hold, life continues without you. Far below, people are having fun, buying popcorn and hot coffee at kiosks, seeing shows, and hopping onto other, more pleasant, rides.

Dark night of the soul

According to about a zillion online sources, the “dark night of the soul” originated from a poem that described joining as one with God. Modern use of the expression refers to a loss of faith, whether religious, in humanity, or in oneself. While all of these apply to at least some parents of estranged adult children, consider whichever one, or a combination or variation, best describes you.

With these thoughts in mind, as the winter solstice brings Northern Hemispherians (Is that even a word?!) the longest “dark night” of the year, consider this a pivotal moment. Instead of remaining paralyzed, strapped in without options and looking down as the tantalizing aroma of fresh popped corn fills the air, and waiting for your unkind adult child to change, lean forward. Shift momentum. Enter the downhill stretch, exit the powerless position of agreeing to remain on someone else’s ride.

As we move beyond the solstice and the days grow longer, use this enlightened time wisely for your own life. Get the support you need to escape the dark night of your soul. Join the happy crowds. Choose your own next ride.

Escape the dangerous waters of estrangement, learn to find peace in the moment, recognize that you’ve changed, or make sensible choices for and even protect yourself if you hear from your adult child. Find something to anticipate (as I wrote about in a winter solstice article in 2022).

Related reading

Abandoned parents: Let your light shine

Holidays, how to manage them

 

Amends letter to estranged adult children: Should parents write one?

amends letter to estranged adult children

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Parents of estranged adult children often ask me about an “amends letter.” That’s probably because they’ve heard an amends letter to estranged adult children touted as an effective way to reopen communication channels and regain a relationship with adult children who have gone “no contact.” It’s a popularized tool that I’m surprised hasn’t gone to the trash heap along with things like tobacco companies using doctors to promote their cigarette brand.

Does that sound harsh? The reality is that bad advice from seemingly reputable sources is nothing new. As I discuss in BEYOND DONE, experts used to recommend putting babies to sleep on their tummies, which has now been associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They also advised tired nursing mothers who were worried about inadequate milk supply to supplement with bottle feeding—even though less suckling decreases milk production. I’m sure there are many other examples of ill-advised recommendations in the annals of parenting advice history.

While an amends letter might be useful if you’ve done something that needs forgiveness and you’re dealing with reasonable individuals, making unwarranted apologies to the unreasonable only feeds the beast. As I say in BEYOND DONE, it’s my opinion all the subservience and babying trains adults with difficult personalities that they can get away with bad behavior—and even be rewarded for it—which is a disservice to the individuals and to all society.

Do amends letters to estranged adult children add to the problem?

Once upon a time, doctors didn’t realize smoking caused health problems, but a 1940s spike in lung cancer provided a clue. Even so, it took until 1964 for the U.S. Surgeon General to report that smoking caused lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, and chronic bronchitis. Even then, tobacco companies continued to raise a smokescreen of doubt around whether the evidence was conclusive.

Today, more estrangement in the news and increased traffic to websites such as mine make clear that adult children estranging from parents is on the rise. Internet searches reveal adult children (and even some therapists) who villainize parents, blame them, and approve of the rejection. Perhaps some of the so-called expert advice, including the amends letter, worsens the problem.

As I mention in my first book on this topic, Done With The Crying, parents of the 1980s were advised to build their children’s self-esteem , even apart from achievement. While I’m not against championing people for who they are, I also believe bad behavior deserves a reasoned and realistic response. Sharing an adult child’s delusional view of our parenting, or our character, and capitulating to irrational demands to preserve a “relationship” that no longer fits a healthy definition doesn’t make sense.

In BEYOND DONE, I offer examples for when apologizing may be appropriate. However, parents (just like anyone else) do well to recognize when they’re being raked over the coals for revisionist history that doesn’t add up. Sure, there could be a misunderstanding, and if that’s the case, reasonable adults who want to mend a rift will find a way to talk things out, continue to love one another, and move into the future with mutual respect. Sometimes, though, that’s not possible, and I would no more offer you a cigarette as recommend some other ill-conceived advice that hurts you or keeps you stuck.

Amends letter to estranged adult children … or to someone who really deserves it?

Kind, supportive parents, who nevertheless find themselves estranged from adult children, have frequently been the ones who have repeatedly swallowed their pride and reached out to an unkind adult child who should have been the one to say “sorry.” I hear from parents every day who know the pain of walking on eggshells to avoid conflict that always erupts from volatile offspring at some point anyway. It’s appalling to me how many adult children abuse parents’ loving kindness, and bank accounts, until the parent is physically ill or no longer has financial resources for them to exploit. And it’s reprehensible when adult children use their own kids as tools to gain authority, compliance, or control over grandparents who care so deeply and know they enrich those young ones’ lives.

By the time parents read my books and articles or join the membership support group for parents of estranged children here at this site, they have usually come to realize all the time they’ve spent, or wasted, working on trying to fix something they didn’t break. Something that makes no sense. They know they were good parents. Without the rose-colored glasses on, they have come to understand how much they have been neglecting themselves. They can see that they deserve their own kind care and a life of joy and peace.

Sometimes, though, in looking back at all the wasted energy, money, sadness, and time that stole happiness and connection from their other relationships and worthwhile pursuits, parents can start to beat themselves up. They might tell themselves they should have known better. They should have seen the truth. Or they ask themselves: How could I have been so dumb? Why didn’t I wake up sooner? The thoughts dishonor the beauty of who they are—loving parents who have, for a lifetime, given to their children.

In my Five Ways to Cope with the Holidays presentation, one of the ideas was to look toward the New Year—now. And that’s how an amends letter to yourself can help. Let’s close the door on all the ways we hurt ourselves to try and make things right.

You will have your own unique amends to make to yourself, to learn from, and to move past. And this doesn’t have to apply only to estranged adult children.  Sometimes, their disregard or abuse—and our compulsions toward them—can teach us more about ourselves, our other relationships, and life.

Get started writing an amends letter … to yourself

To help you get started on your own amends letter to yourself, first spend some time reflecting. Find a quiet, private space and, as you look through the following bullet points, write down what comes to mind. The more detailed you can get the better you will be prepared to let old habits go. Also, if any of this begins to feel too emotionally burdensome, give yourself a break. Get up and take a walk where you can enjoy nature. Even looking at the sky helps. Obtain support as needed. Here you go—

Consider times when you:

  • neglected your own needs in favor of another’s
  • dishonored or disregarded your values to avoid conflict or gain approval
  • gave when you knew you shouldn’t
  • said “yes” when your gut said “no”

When, or in what ways, have you ever:

  • felt compelled to comply or give in
  • ignored the voice of reason inside you (or that of a trusted companion)
  • done something you viewed as stupid but did it anyway (and later berated yourself for it)
  • took action you now understand was irrational or unwise
  • given money you couldn’t afford to give or knew you shouldn’t

 

Of course, we can all look back in hindsight and see more clearly. Don’t get hung up wishing you could change the past or engaging your inner critic. What you can you do is use the insight for your better, more self-compassionate and intentional future. We’ll talk more about that later.

Don’t limit yourself to the bullet points either. Whatever comes up as you reflect, use it for your own forward momentum, toward a freer future where you are kind to yourself. Once you feel your self-reflection is complete, write yourself a letter. Make amends with your past self. The one who did things because you felt compelled to keep the peace, obtain love, or gain approval. The one who put your needs behind those of someone who hasn’t appreciated such sacrifice.

You can format your letter however you want. Here’s one possible example:

————

Dear Me (insert your name, address your highest self, or your inner wisdom),

I apologize for all the times I said “yes” to someone else when it meant saying “no” to myself.

I’m sorry for pushing aside my own feelings because I worried what my daughter/son/others would think.

I forgive myself for not listening to XX, because s/he was right about XX. I should never have . . . .

————

Your letter can take a more traditional form with lots of detail. Or, you can stick to the basics as above. This is your healing journey. So do what’s best for you right now.

End your letter with a statement of forgiveness that pulls everything together and sets an intention for a new beginning. Here’s an example:

“I forgive myself for all the ways that I have hurt myself by—fill in the blank—and vow to take better care of myself from this moment forward. I will recognize, hear, and honor my inner voice. I will pay attention to that feeling in my gut (head, neck, chest … you define this and fill in the blank). I will honor me.”

Make a few more relevant statements of self-forgiveness as you see fit. End the amends letter to yourself with gratitude and love for all that you have learned. You can now use these insights to enrich the rest of your days and enjoy the ones who are around you and love you. Finally, keep your letter in a safe place. You can refer to it later and even make changes as you grow in knowledge and compassion about yourself and your life.

A turning point

Writing an amends letter to yourself helps you usher in a new beginning. Imagine this moment, month, or year, as a turning point or as the end of an era. Leave behind the baggage of fruitless efforts and self-neglect. Stepping into the future in a new, bold, and self-kind way can take some practice, but you’re worth your own best effort.

Recently, in a members-only live event in the community peer support group, parents of estranged adult children contemplated the nature of decisions and what it takes to carry out plans for their own wellness. I asked a question that also works well here: Are you “all in” for your own well-being and peace?

In a December 15 live event, parents used the ideas in this article, and their amends letter to themselves, to move solidly into the New Year, focused more intently on their own strength, well-being, and peace. If you’d like to join events such as this one, or watch replays on your own time, join the membership community.

Regardless, an amends letter you write to yourself will help you in letting go of estranged adult children and in releasing the pain. It’s time to be self-compassionate, focus forward, and be “all in,” for your future. (Hint: That “all in” thought was part of another recent members-only event.)

Related reading

60 Minutes Most Famous Whistleblower

Letters to estranged adult children

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A dash of . . .

A dash of . . .

holiday loneliness

Image by vivienviv0 from Pixabay

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

There’s something about the holidays that draws me into the kitchen. The jaunty tunes, colorful displays, and homey scents of cinnamon and pine conjure comforting memories: Poking toothpicks into cupcakes, sucking on candy canes, and my mom following recipes she clipped from the newspaper. She committed the steps and ingredients to memory long before the food splatters and faded print rendered them unreadable. My mom was a practical cook who could stretch staples like milk and flour, or beans and potatoes, into tasty, stick-to-your-ribs food. Maybe you can relate.

I’m more of a toss, dash, and experiment sort, but in my own way, with my own creations, I’ve become a fantastic savory cook. Other than my bread making phase, baking hasn’t been my forte, but I know enough to get by. And as a busy working mom, one thing I learned was to substitute. Not enough butter or oil? There’s always applesauce … .or shortening (is that still around?). No buttermilk? Add lemon juice, white vinegar, or cream of tartar to regular milk. Low on cocoa powder? Well, dark coffee provides rich depth to decadent cakes. And that’s how it is in life. As our circumstances change, we learn to substitute and adapt.

I’m not suggesting that a new hobby or a few drops of almond extract will bring you to bliss, but just as applesauce instead of butter lightens the fat, fun pursuits can lighten the load. A spiritual retreat, travel plans, or a lighthearted friend can make life rich. Being engaged in our day-to-day routines, open to the people we meet, and trying new activities, gives us something to happily recall as we close our eyes and settle into sleep each night.

This time of year, when the holidays can bring feelings of loneliness and despair, learn to lean on and savor anything good. A favorite book, a catchy song, or an entertaining show. Friendly chit-chat with a fellow shopper, the service rep over the phone, and the neighbor who is also taking out the trash.

Do your children neglect or abuse you? Love yourself.

Give yourself the gifts of compassion, forward focus, and support

Add a dash of fun and keep what’s best for you in sight.

Related reading

Be sure to click on the highlighted words, which are links to related articles, within the text above. Also see:

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