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Mother’s Day radio interview with Sheri McGregor

Happy Mother’s Day! I hope all the mothers who are estranged from adult children will will glean something of value from this latest interview at Beyond 50 Radio.  It was a second take. The first interview had a technical glitch, so we did it again (I may sound a little tired!).

Mothers who are estranged from adult children can have a tough time with this holiday. Some tell me it’s the worst one for them. Please be kind to yourselves. Remember, it’s about you. Another adult’s opinion doesn’t have to define you.  It’s about you, so please do what it takes to cherish the day. Each one is a gift. Click on the Beyond 50 radio logo for the interview. Or click here.
radio interview with Sheri McGregorRelated:

Previous Beyond 50 Radio Interview (January 2019)

National Association of Baby Boomer Women Interview with Sheri McGregor (May, 2018)

 

Parents blamed by adult children. Are parents’ ‘mistakes’ worthy of hate?

A father recently wrote to me about an article he’d seen at AARP. Here’s a link to it: Avoid Mistakes That Could Make Your Kids Hate You.” 

Are parents’ mistakes, worthy of hate

parents blamed by adult children

Parents’ mistakes? Let’s turn that around.

Thousands of parents blamed by adult children for all their problems write to me. Among those, many have been called upon in drastic situations. A son or daughter makes a mess of things repeatedly and needs money or other help. The parent may help … and then try to tell the adult something to the effect of, “Look, you’ve got to wise up. . . .” In other words, the parents give advice.

As time goes on, the parent may see the adult son or daughter not learning anything from their mistakes, maybe not even trying to learn. Parents can begin to feel used. They may tell the “child” that the Bank of Mom & Dad is closing. Parents have their own bills or may be living on a fixed income or have a nest egg that needs to last their remaining years. It is often at that point that the child cuts them off.

Which makes me think of the abuse that sometimes happens. Parents can be isolated.  A parent may not be physically well, is disabled, or perhaps a widow or widower. The isolation makes them vulnerable to a son or daughter who knows what buttons to push. I have heard from many parents who say that they put up with abuse, financial, verbal, or even physical, because their child is their only family left in the world.

Parents blamed by adult children 

I hear from people almost daily who say, “My grown daughter blames me for everything wrong in her life.” Or, “My adult son says I caused all of his problems.” These children are often in their 30s or 40s or beyond, and remember with detail every “wrong” the parent has ever done. Sometimes the memories are completely different than that of the parent or even siblings and other family members. And many times, the “wrongs” are miniscule.

Twice in the last week, mothers shared that their daughters say all their issues derive from the fact they weren’t breastfed. One of these two moms was a single parent. It was a different world back then. Working mothers were not provided with understanding and a place to pump breast milk (as is the norm now). The other mom was encouraged to bottle feed by her doctor, as were many mothers in the 1960s. Yes. I said 1960s. . . . The daughter doing the blaming is 54. Maybe it’s time she did a little self-reflection rather than blaming the mother who worked two jobs to care for her.

Parents blamed by adult children, recognize the good you did.

It’s wise to recognize our own mistakes as parents, but it’s also wise for adult “children” to consider a parent’s point of view. One of my sons recently traveled to a very cold climate. Before he left, I said, “Do you have a warm enough jacket?” He made a funny face, and then we both laughed like crazy! It was funny, and I added, “I guess you’re old enough to figure that one out.” It’s a mom thing, but is it reason to abandon me. No. How about hate me? No. And he knows that (thank goodness).

The father who wrote to me about the AARP article said that one of the reasons he was successful in his overall life was that he had learned to recognize problems quickly and work to fix them before they were upon him.  When he sees his young adult daughter ignoring problems until she’s forced to deal with them, it causes him stress. His words, “The anxiety kills me.” So, he tries to offer her advice. She resents that advice. But is that reason to hate him or cut him off?

How about a rule?

The article mentions a parent forwarding emails, and not understanding that the son or daughter is already inundated. I know that feeling. A much older relative often sent me a batch of forwards daily. This individual wasn’t computer savvy, didn’t type well, and worried about his privacy on the internet, so I never received a regular note. Was it a reason to hate? No.

No, no, no. It was an opportunity for me to be understanding. And creative.

Perhaps an adult son or daughter can create a “rule” in their email account. That way all the forwarded emails go to a certain box, don’t clog the general folder, and everyone is happy. A considerate son or daughter who recognizes their parents’ motivation to communicate and stay in touch (which is what is behind the forwarded emails) might do well to check the special folder now and again and make a comment in reply. What does it hurt to let parents know they’re appreciated for their good intentions? Beats hating.

Okay to hate?

This is getting long, so let me close with what I see as the main problem with the article this father shared:  It covertly makes the point that it is okay to hate your parents. From the title (“Avoid Mistakes That Could Make Your Kids Hate You”) on, the warning is that if parents make these mistakes, their children will hate them. HATE them. I see far too much of this in our society these days. Kind, caring parents who aren’t all that horrible yet are considered “toxic,” and worthy of hate.

Lift the veil. See the good you did.

To the father who wrote to me, I want to offer my empathy. When one of my five grown children became estranged, I mined every memory with a fine-toothed comb, wondering what I did wrong. Parents are very good at taking on the perspective of their adult child(ren), which has been demonstrated in research related to estrangement. The same research, however, shows that the children who reject parents are not.

In time, I hope all of the caring parents who are nevertheless rejected by adult children will not only see their own mistakes and even magnify them, but also recognize all the good they did.

When you can look past the veil of estrangement that clouds your memories and steers you toward any mistakes, you might even realize that the good you did as a parent far outweighs the bad. There’s an exercise in Done With The Crying that can help.

Hugs to all the hurting parents,
Sheri McGregor

Related reading:

Abusive adult children affect parents’ self-image

Beyond the shadow of estrangement

Freedom for a new era (parents rejected by adult children)

Estranged adult children: Why do they make contact now?

Mother yourself

Mother Yourself

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

“I’m sorry I hurt you.”

On a lazy weekend evening, the apology arrives by text. The number isn’t familiar, but I have an inkling. When I read the text aloud, my husband shrugs. We know who it’s from. Who else has reason to apologize?

Once upon a time, our hearts would have leapt at those words from my estranged adult son. Nearly a decade since he cut ties with his family, we’re not so easily moved. Not so eager to invest.

kids don't call on Mother's DayAlthough I’ve imagined my share of tearful reunions, hope has led to more hurt. Even so, every birthday, I blow out my candles with a silent wish: Please let my family be complete. On my last birthday, I stood over the glowing candles, the wax melting into the cake. Was the wish now a habit? Detached from any faith? So far, “reconcile” refers to a solo pursuit.

My son has said similar things in the past:

It was all my fault.

I want a relationship.

This isn’t the last time you’ll see me.

A history of soaring hopes. Deflated.

In the years of estrangement, I have changed. I have learned that there is no way out of the pain except to accept his choices. And then to mother myself with tough love, an occasional treat, nurturing food, and wise advice. I counsel myself about the text: Don’t get too excitedAn apology may mean nothing.

The problem of grown children who estrange from loving families is of epic proportions, but I didn’t know that when my son broke my heart. Like so many other parents, I thought I was the only one. It’s not something you talk about much. People are quick to blame parents, or mistake estrangement for a silly tiff. They don’t want to think it could happen to them. I hope it doesn’t. It’s emotionally brutal and not easily fixed. Parents who are in shock, embarrassed, and hurting feel isolated. That’s why in 2013, I started this website,  which has become a healing place of encouragement, information, and advice. It’s also why I wrote the book, Done With The Crying.

Contact from an estranged adult

Thousands of decent, loving parents tell of occasional contact that leads to further sorrow.  Grown sons or daughters reach out, are met with open ears and arms, but don’t follow through. Sometimes, an estranged adult reconciles with conditions for the parents: to babysit, give money, provide documents, or follow some strict set of arbitrary rules. If the criteria aren’t met with cheerful compliance, or if the need disintegrates, the relationship does too.

Other times, contact from an estranged adult child is prompted by outside influences. Mother’s Day (or other holidays) can be like that for an estranged adult. The media images of ideal families, set to music, and with bouquets and hugs, can tug at heartstrings or perhaps stir guilt. Sometimes, there’s an unknown factor in an estranged son or daughter’s life that prompts a call or card.

Often, a few texted words, a short call or a cryptic letter is as far as it goes. Parents may open their hearts, their wallets, and even their schedules, then bite their tongues to preserve what isn’t real. Eventually they get hurt.

After a few go-rounds, parents may view an apology with more suspicion than enthusiasm. Is her birthday coming up? Is he in a 12-step program that requires the making of amends? Why is she contacting me now?

Happy endings are few. Especially as estrangement persists. In the absence of contact, distance grows. People and their situations change. The stories of failed wishes, hopes, and tries that parents share with me abound. After years of false promises and dashed hopes, parents do what they must. They take charge of what they can control: themselves. They give in to a child’s decision and the circumstances involved—a son or daughter’s addiction or mental illness, a selfish heart, a stingy partner, or some other factor that we accept we may never know or understand. And then they get on with living their own lives.

Without this sort of change, the legacy for caring parents who did their best and came up short in their child’s eyes is only more judgment, speculation, and hurt. In our despair, we suffer physical pain and illnesses caused by stress. Mental anguish, grief over friendships that falter, and the loss of identity. Siblings are confused, angry, and grieve. Our marriages suffer. Single, widowed, or divorced parents may long for a partner, but they fear that no one could understand.

Even so, if an estranged grown child asks for a meeting, regardless of how many years have passed, and despite the dread that there may be more drama and disappointment, most parents agree. And many of the moms who have endured long estrangements tell me those meetings are bittersweet. They offer motherly comforts but guard their hearts. Here are a couple of examples:

A Minnesota mom in her late 70s serves lunch to the 50-year-old daughter who indicates that she needs closure. The two haven’t spoken in 14 years. The mother feels for the woman, whose face bears the troubles she tells. But the hurt her daughter inflicted was raw and grinding. It almost killed her. As the short visit comes to an end, she notices her daughter’s thin blouse isn’t warm enough for the weather. She pulls a thick parka from her closet and helps her daughter on with the coat. She can at least offer that.

estranged son called on Mother's DayA Southern California mother makes homemade bread for her son who is recently divorced from the wife who, years earlier, convinced him his mother was bad. They didn’t need her negativity in their lives. He has flown in from Illinois, the home of his in-laws and the now-grown daughter his mother has never met. At the kitchen table, the son sits in the chair his father used to occupy. The resemblance is startling, but the talk is empty. Lost time is the centerpiece. Missed opportunities. A gap they can’t quite bridge. When he stands to leave, he promises to call. She knows he won’t. And she will be okay. She has made a life for herself in his absence. She will return to her hard-won peace. She wraps the bread loaf for him to take.

Taking care of yourself

Whether you are currently estranged from a grown son or daughter, or one is just far away or emotionally distant, take care of yourself. Embrace your present. Fight for your future. The expectations, the goal, the relationship you’ve worked toward may have sifted through your fingers like sand. Don’t let your remaining years do the same.

Learn to “mother” yourself. If you’re estranged from adult children, take yourself by the hand like you once did your young son or daughter. Lead yourself forward. Shape your future into something you can love. Do it for yourself. And then follow through. Don’t squander your own motherly devotion. (I have tried to help with my book.)

As Mother’s Day approaches, I think of my son’s recent texts. His apology had surprised me after what he said the last time we talked. His words had been hurtful then. In these newer texts, he said that we were the best parents. He said that he’d failed us, and that he knew he was wrong. I appreciate those words, but don’t wish on him the burden of guilt or regret. I replied with a reminder that I forgave him long ago: So, you’re off the hook.

Further Reading:

Adult children who reject parents. Why do they make contact now?

Estrangement: What about hope?

Parents of Estranged Adults: Reinvent Yourself

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Here’s a past article that’s still relevant for this season of renewal. YOUR renewal. See below, and read the inspiring comments as well.
Happy Easter to all! ~~ Sheri McGregor

parents of estranged adult childrenRather than another article on how parents of estranged adult children can get through holidays, let’s look at the spirit behind so many of the celebrations associated with Easter: renewal.

For practical advice on what you can do and ideas for enjoying the day despite the estrangement, see the related articles link at the end (these also have related links). Now, let’s look at renewal

One of the coolest things anybody ever told me was something my oldest daughter said one day: Mom, you’ve always been able to reinvent yourself.

That was over a decade ago. I’d begun going to college for the first time in my life. Back then, I hadn’t been setting out to reinvent myself. But years later, after my son’s estrangement, I had to. After all, I felt like I’d lost my identity.

A great many of the thousands of parents I hear from feel the same. They’ve lost their confidence. They feel as if they’re not the same person anymore, and wonder if they ever will be. Probably not. But they can be somebody even better.

This Easter, rather than sitting around, thinking of of your estranged adult child, and feeling blue, get started on the new you. Spring is a time of new beginnings. The long dormant winter is over. If you were a tree, you’d have been collecting energy. Pretend you’re like a tree. Figuratively sprout some new leaves, and let your blossoms show.

When we’re children, everything is new and fresh and exciting to us. That’s why something as simple as walking out the door can bring a child such joy. What lies ahead in the day? What new sight will they see? What will they learn? Maybe now we’re serious adults, but wouldn’t it be fun to feel excited again?

how parents of estranged adult children manage holidaysIn the spirit of spring and renewal, here’s a sampling of ways to recapture wonder and reinvent yourself:

Make a list of things you’ve always wanted to do or try. Then investigate how and get started on at least one. These don’t have to be huge adventures like parachuting, learning to surf, or taking a tree house vacation in some remote jungle. Maybe you’d like to learn to sew, have always wanted to play golf, think it would be fun to make your own tamales, or wonder if your natural drawing talent could benefit from instruction in art. Is there an interesting volunteer opportunity you can do in your spare time?

Break your routine. If you walk in the morning, go in the late afternoon instead. If you don’t exercise at all, take a walk. Take a different route to or from work. Instead of doing the same old thing for lunch, try a new restaurant. Or pack your own lunch and take it to the park or to a mall. You get the idea. Doing just one thing differently can shift everything. One change leads to more.

Go on a quest for wonder. How many days are you oblivious to a gorgeous sky, the way the sunset paints the air a violet hue, or how puffy clouds sweep swiftly by? A lot of us only hear the sound of traffic, the annoying clank of the pipes in the wall, or turn the television to news all day (it’s mostly bad!). Tune your ears to soothing sounds. Do you hear the birdsong? The lulling hush-hush of a breeze? Find a bit of wonder. On your terrace, your porch, or around the block. Of course there are drives in the country, galleries, museums, your neighbors’ landscaping. . . . Open your heart to a renewing sense of wonder.

Whether it’s getting a new hairdo, stopping a habit that pulls you down, or deciding to smile at everybody you see, this spring, take a small step toward reinventing yourself. Who knows who you might find? So you’re not the same person you once were. Work to uncover someone better.

Related Articles:

Holidays: How to manage them

Mothering Sunday for UK Moms

I know it’s tough when moms are estranged on Mother’s Day. Make sure you honor yourSELF for the day. You were there, you did the work, and you deserve to make the day good for YOU. Use the search box here to find past articles and search for Mother’s Day that offer help for estranged moms.

In honor of spring’s arrival (here in the U.S., at least), I wanted to share this card with you. Do the puzzle if you feel like it (you can choose the difficulty level), and then maybe go out and count a few butterflies in your garden or a local park. Here where I live, a mass migration of the beauties in the last few weeks was a bit like colorful confetti blowing on the wind.

Happy Mother’s Day to my UK friends. Click on the butterfly below to go to the card & puzzle.

 

estranged mothers

This photograph was taken on a mindful photography outing, in Anza Borrego Desert State Park (for which I wrote a hiking book, btw).

Hugs,

Sheri McGregor

 

College scandal

college scandalThe college scandal.

News of parents who committed fraud to make sure their children got into the best college leaves most of us angry or scratching our heads. I sometimes hear from parents of estranged adult children who wonder if they might have done too much for their kids. They worry maybe they somehow created the selfish adult the child grew into. But my guess is most (if not all) weren’t talking about the level of “too much” that’s been in the news. Nothing like these parents whose enabling rose to the point of committing fraud or paying bribes. And what kinds of lessons are those parents teaching?

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth to have a thankless child.” – Shakespeare

Are these parents buying their children’s love? Infantilizing their adult children? Blocking their sons or daughters from the benefit of valuable life lessons? Yes.

Yet, if they wouldn’t have been discovered, their lives would be going on as if nothing bad ever happened. They’d be chumming it up in family shots on red carpets, smiling in their designer clothes and bragging about their brilliant kids.

If nothing else, the college scandal proves something important: things aren’t always as they seem.

Parents of estranged adults, if you have been shrinking back in shame, don’t. Very often, things that seem too good to be true really are. There may always be people who wonder what you did to cause estrangement, but you can’t let them define who you are or reinvent the truth about your parenting. Besides, their thoughts probably only reflect their own fears. If it could happen to you, that means it could happen to them (and that’s a scary thought).

If you’re suffering from a self-esteem smackdown, fight back. Right now, consider all the good you did. Your intentions as a parent, any sacrifices you made, and all the joy, pride and love you put into the child who has now estranged.

Whether or not your hope is still in reconciling or you’re at the point where you’re done expending energy into what’s become a losing battle, seize the day for yourself now. It’s your life. What will you do with it?

Related reading:

What don’t you know?

The College admissions scandal and estate planning

Adult children won’t talk to you. What does it mean to cope?

Sheri McGregor radio interview for parents of estranged adults

In February, I appeared on Beyond 50 Radio for a talk with host Daniel Davis. As it turns out, he is also the parent of an estranged adult. We touched on many facets of estrangement. I hope you’ll find the radio show helpful. Please give it a thumbs-up.

If you’re the parent of an estranged adult, listen up. You’re not alone in this heartbreaking situation. And you can be happy again. Click the Beyond50 banner below to go to youtube and listen.

radio interview with Sheri McGregor

Making friends after estrangement

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

estrangementDuring January and February here in inland Southern California, morning frost can be a mainstay. That doesn’t stop an array of hardy perennials from carpeting the ground like the sprouts that cover a Chia Pet’s back. Some are soft, like a feathery carpet to the feet. Others, like the single-stalked stinging nettle with its serrated leaves, have a bite.

When the deep green, mint-like stinging nettle plants first emerge, they’re difficult to discern among the plant variety that grows here. But walk barefoot and you’ll know it’s present. That’s what happened to my puppy, Gingersnap, whose little feet got stung by the nettle. The next day she was wary—and who could blame her?

Gingersnap had to learn that some plants sting. Others don’t.

estrangement

Beyond the sting

For parents of estranged adults, making friends can feel as scary. I know the feeling of talking about the estrangement and being met with judgment. Once or twice is all it takes to make us wary of telling more. Just as Gingersnap hesitated before stepping into any new growth, we might be fearful of stepping into new friendships.

If you’re like so many parents of estranged adult children who are lonely but fearful when it comes to making friends, read on for a few tips. Not all people bite, and a tiny foray into small talk can not only get you started but have big benefits for you and your life.

Making friends after estrangement: Start small

The benefits of casual interaction are bigger than you think. Chat with the supermarket clerk, share a thought with the postal carrier, or make small talk with someone pumping gas alongside you. Those who enjoy many social interactions, even with weak social ties, are happier and have an increased sense of belonging than those who don’t.

That’s good news for people who may be feeling extra cautious or whose self-confidence has taken a hit. Making small talk is an art in and of itself, and one that can be learned. Not all small talk leads to deeper friendships, and that’s not the point, but it’s good practice and can raise confidence.

Define what friendship means to you

If you’re seeking friendships, first define what you really want. Your lifestyle, schedule, and social style will dictate the best types of friendships for you, as well as help you find them. Ask yourself:

  • How much time do I have to devote to friends? Some hope for constant companions. Other people are happier with more time alone and prefer seeing friends at planned intervals.
  • What are my boundaries? Do you want friends who feel free to call on you at all hours or stop in for unexpected visits?
  • What does friendship mean to me? A writer friend once told me she has her tennis friends, her art friends, her book club friends. . . . While she may occasionally see friends outside their respective groups, her friendships are largely based on mutual interests. Her description contrasts with another friend who considers these group-related friends “associates.”

 Consider what you want in a friend as well as what sort of friend you will be. Maybe you’re like my writer friend whose schedule is always full. Or perhaps you would enjoy fewer groups and a close friend or two who will respect your boundaries and need for solitude.

Friendship facts

Friends are good for us. Those with strong social relationships are more satisfied and live longer. Cultivating a few close ties is worth the effort, so even if you’ve been hurt in the past, it’s wise to try.

Making good friends takes time. A recent study found that it takes around 50 hours for someone to go from an acquaintance to a casual friend and another 90 or more to grow even closer.

Friendship takes interest. Despite the discovery about how many hours forming good relationships can take, more than time is required to create friendships. To grow close, you need to show an interest in the other person and feel the same interest coming your way.

Making friends after estrangement: Know yourself

Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Some people are energized by a crowd and love interacting all day every day. Others feel drained by even moderate amounts of group time. Some feel enlivened in the short run but can later start to feel weary. When looking for ways to make friends, choose situations that are a fit for you.

Finding groups of like interest can foster friendships. Already having something in common with a stranger is like getting a head start. Join a meetup.com group or volunteer for a cause you believe in. If you feel good in a crowd, consider situations where you will be at your best. Maybe you volunteer somewhere with lots of social interaction and people to talk with. More of an introvert? Consider quieter situations such as working one-on-one with people who need help learning to read. Or walk pets at your local animal shelter. Then engage in small talk with other volunteers. Brief, positive interactions can set the groundwork for deeper connections.

Are you the type who will feel more at ease if you have a bit more control of your social situation? Consider starting a group yourself. Meetup.com offers both public and private settings, so you can be extra cautious about who can see your profile online. If you’re the one heading up a group, you also get to choose the purpose as well as how often and where (a public place) the group will meet.

Where I live, there’s an online community group (Nextdoor) that helps neighbors connect. I’ve seen people start hiking and book clubs, a sewing group, and even a morning dog walk. Imagine how you might fit. Maybe the security of your four-legged pal in tow is right for you, or you have a closet full of sewing supplies you could share with new friends.

Be a friend

The best way to make a friend is to be one. The old saw is as relevant today as ever. Bring treats or something from your garden to share with the team down at work. Offer to help when a moment presents itself. Just holding a door, offering to refill a coffee cup, or asking if anyone needs something from the corner store since you’re going anyway, reveal that you are kind, friendly, and interested in other people’s feelings. Maybe you’re not a witty conversationalist or need time to feel your way toward trust. Your good will, demonstrated through acts of kindness, sends a positive message and makes you a friend.

To deepen friendships, you’ll eventually need to talk about yourself. As you become more comfortable, sharing bits about your life makes others feel at ease sharing bits about their own. Disclosing information about ourselves, as it turns out, makes us more likeable. We also feel closer to those with whom we share  Of course, there are limits to sharing. A friend isn’t a place to dump all our emotional trash.

Social anxiety after estrangement

Emerging from the shadow of an abusive relationship, which is true of some parents of estranged adult children, can cause social anxiety. Some parents are out of touch with their own value. They wonder where they fit and whether anyone would like them. After years of eggshell walking, careful not to state an opinion that will start a tirade, it can be difficult to converse at all. In our increasingly “social” world, it can feel as if everyone else is outgoing and has a million friends. A quieter person might wonder if they seem strange, but there must be a reason we have two ears and one mouth. A friend with a quiet nature can be a welcome change in a noisy, look-at-me world.

Worth the work

Try not to get discouraged. Just as Gingersnap had to learn which plants would sting, and which were fun to get closer to, finding companions with whom we can truly connect and trust takes time and patience. This may be especially true after complex issues such as estrangement muck up our lives and self-confidence.

estrangementRemember, friends come in all shapes and sizes. Finding good ones is worth the work.  Friends can help build our confidence and lend a caring ear (or shoulder!) that can buffer stress and even boost our immunity and overall health.

References:
Sandstrom and Dunn (July, 2014). Social Interactions and Well-Being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Holt-Lunstad et al. (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk. PLoS Medicine.

Hall, Jeffrey A (2018). How many hours does it take to make a friend? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Hall, Jeffrey A., and Daniel Cochece Davis (2017). Proposing the communicate bond belong theory: Evolutionary intersections with episodic interpersonal communication. Communication Theory, 27.1: 21-47.

Collins and Miller (1994). Self-Disclosure and Liking. Psychological Bulletin.

Uchino, B.N. (2006). Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29: 377. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-006-9056-5

Related reading:

Beyond the Shadow of Estrangement

 

How do I love me? Let me count the ways. . . .

cut of by sonsby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

How do I love me? Let me count the ways. . . .

Does that title sound selfish to you? In this month when we celebrate love, I hope you will remember that you’re deserving of your own kindness and care. When we’re cut off by sons or daughters, we need all the love we can get. Below, I’ve listed a few points that link to posts to help.

How do I love me? Let me count SIX ways!

  1. By being compassionate, kind, and patient with myself.
  2. By taking good care of myself.
  3. By remembering my own strength, or the examples of others, during times of adversity.
  4. By participating in life; not letting time pass me by.
  5. By spreading a little happiness to also increase my own.
  6. By remembering that it’s good to give and to celebrating love.

cut off by sonsHappy Valentine’s hugs to all, and especially to the parents cut off by sons or daughters.

 

In my garden . . .

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

son doesn't like meIn my herb garden, thyme and oregano become woody in the face of cold. Sometimes, I think they won’t recover, but when intermittent warm days hint at spring to come, the fragrant leaves begin to sprout. Even when the air again chills to icy frosts, they know the future is bright and they thrive.

Not all growing things have such a strong internal clock. A string of warm fall days can trigger plum tree blooms. Like tiny pink bows, they peek from between the drying leaves, eager to give. Too eager. When winter winds blow, they flutter and fall. Energy expended but no fruit produced. Still, the trees have the good sense to rest. In the silent months, separated from their loving sun, the trees grow strong. So, when the timing is right, they are ready.

son doesn't like me

 

The apple trees, a crabby variety bred for drought, are resilient. Their blooms open in January, cling and remain. By June, they have ripe fruit. Their branches may be drooping, heavy with apples one day and then picked clean by coyotes in the dark of night. Often, the apples start afresh, and the trees bear a second crop, though smaller than the first.

The pomegranate trees are late to lose their son doesn't like meleaves. Then their pale gray branches stubbornly resist the sun’s flirtation. A few fruits that are left hanging grow tough through winter but can sustain a wayward bird with an insistent peck.

The chaste tea tree is numbed by winter. So much so that as, all around, spring springs and greenery greens, the barren sticks seem dead. Every year, I am nearly fooled. I snap off a twig and find it wick. This makes me laugh. There is life inside. It only needs nurturing.

As the years have passed and estrangement endures through its seasons, I have seen myself in all of these. The herbs with their steady inner clocks. The plum trees that are, at times, too eager.  The pomegranate trees that grow tough and stubborn but eventually live up to their varietal name (Wonderful). And the chaste tea tree that numbs and deadens. I am wick inside. If only I will not be fooled.

Using the garden to heal

Whether you like growing things, just spending time in a garden, or even looking at plant catalogs, can you parallel your growth or endurance in estrangement with that of plants and trees? Seeing ourselves reflected in a garden’s growth can be a healing. Can you imagine yourself recovering from the cold of a stressful season by stretching toward the sunlight? As you add water and special food, imagine treating yourself to loving care. Can you see yourself blooming? Even if you feel numb, as if your leaves droop and you thirst for sustenance, can you imagine you are quietly doing the work of resting, like my plum trees do in winter? Are you seeing bulb flowers sprout through the snow? If so, can you imagine yourself pushing up through the muck of a difficult relationship or the icy cold of rejection?

Whether you call it horticultural therapy or just call it fun or relaxing, cultivating plants or spending time in gardens has benefits. Reductions in stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, as well as enhanced self-esteem are all known positives.

If it’s still too snowy to do any outdoor gardening, consider getting started inside. I hear geraniums do well in pots. Or maybe just remembering being outdoors last summer would feel good. Imagine your feet, stepping into a soft carpet of grass, or the sunlight warming your back.

son doesn't like meAs the dead of winter marches toward spring, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment to this article about your own garden and how it helps you. I like reading about people’s gardens, and others do too.