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Rejected parents: Your happiness can be independent of estrangement

Rejected parents: Your happiness can be independent of estrangement

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Rejected parents: You can be happy again

In the spirit of Independence Day, step away from the bondage of always thinking about the adult son who betrayed you or the adult daughter who walked away. Instead, think of this Fourth of July as a turning point. Then, support yourself in moving forward.

First off, if you don’t yet have my book, Done With The Crying, get it, read it, and do the exercises. People say it saved their sanity, helped them—finally—to move beyond the pain and sorrow, and to move forward in their own lives.

rejected parents

Rejected parents: Gain independence from the pain of estrangement

Here are six more tips for gaining your independence from the pain of estrangement, which may be the biggest shock of your life:

  • Get started. For some, just getting started in taking care of themselves can be difficult. This primer, Five Ways to Move On After an Adult Child’s Rejection , isn’t so much about moving on as it is about dealing with the thoughts and feelings that can keep you from moving at all.
  • Come to conclusions. Maybe you’re plagued by the Why? It’s a common stumbling block because, so often, parents aren’t told why. There’s simply a cutting-off, with no clear-cut answer. Here’s an article, written as I entered the fourth year of estrangement, that might help you come to a few conclusions. Settling on an answer, even if it’s incomplete, can help you gain independence from the question that can run on an endless loop.
  • Handle uncertainty. Another thing that keeps rejected parents from moving forward for themselves is that, as life moves on and events happen, they worry a son or daughter will have regrets or wait too long. But uncertainties are part of living, and adult children need to learn their own lessons. Learn to deal with uncertainty.
  • Get it out in the open— Our society has been conditioned to believe that adult children would not reject good parents. That’s one reason so many decent and loving, yet rejected parents feel shame and guilt that doesn’t reconcile with who they are or all they’ve stood for. It’s also why they might not talk about estrangement. Should you tell people? Taking small steps in that direction can break you free.
  • Get clear on hope. In estrangement circles, rejected parents often talk about hope, but that can be a two-edged sword. Are you hoping for something you can’t control? Are you bothered by lack of hope that you will ever reconcile? In Estrangement: What About Hope? you can start to clarify how hope can hurt or help.
  • Learn to cope. In the wake of estrangement, rejected parents are tasked with the question of how to cope. After estrangement, learn to cope. It starts with a decision.

Rejected parents: Gain independence

The articles linked within the blurbs above offer just a few of the ways rejected parents can gain independence from pain and suffering—and move toward a better future even after estrangement. If you’re a rejected parent, don’t get stuck telling yourself you can’t move forward until the estrangement ends. Instead, work at making your life great now. That way, you’ll be better off if or when reconciliation takes place later. Your happiness and fulfillment really can be independent of the estrangement. Get started by reading the articles linked above. Read or reread Done With The Crying and be sure to do the exercises. They really help.

For more articles, you can always click on the Latest Posts, or use the drop-down menus under “Answers to Common Questions” or “What Parents Can Do.” There’s also a search box that can help you locate information on specific topics.

Ask Sheri: What about parents who did something wrong?

what if a parent does something wrong?A mother whose daughter has cut her off emailed to ask: 

“What about parents who abandon their children for years or short periods of time? I did that for several years, but came back to fix my wrongs, to plead for forgiveness, to rebuild my relationship and thought all was O.K. In my daughter’s years from 20-38 we spent every vacation tougher. I spent countless dollars on my granddaughter and my daughter. I did everything I could to make up for my bad choices as a younger mother. Then out of nowhere she had a meltdown and blamed it all on me and has not had anything to do with me for 4 yrs. now. What about us parents who made bad choices and now have to live with them.”

Answer from Sheri McGregor:

Every parent has made a bad decision or two (or more). Yours may be a period that you regret, and you feel that you made it up to her as best you could. You can’t be sure that her meltdown has anything to do with that. And if it does, it’s something she will have to come to terms with.

Knowing so very little here, it’s difficult to offer much. But, if this was me, I would make sure that I apologized again, expressed my love, and offer to work with her in counseling in whatever way she needs. It’s certainly possible that for some reason, four years ago, feelings of abandonment have come up for her. These could have been triggered by something unrelated, yet she recognizes that her response in whatever situation relates to unresolved feelings over the time she left. I don’t know. These are guesses. But you can offer love, support, apologies.

Can you forgive yourself? Can you hold her in a good light, pray (if that fits) that she will be well, have good expectations for her…? Perhaps you could remind her of all that she has done well, how leaving her behind was never about her (it wasn’t, right?), and how you wish you could take that back.

And then, you may need to let her figure it out herself. We all have things that happen in our lives that hurt us, and we move on the best we can. We learn from them, we grow stronger (or we don’t). You spent an awful lot of years in happiness with her for this to suddenly occur and everything to be so bad for her. It seems kind of mean (to me) for her to bring up ancient history, blame you, and cut you off(she’s in her 40s now, for goodness sakes). There are a lot of possibles as to why this occurred at this point, and it may have little to do with you at all. It’s possible you’re being blamed for mistakes she is making with her own children even, and she’s not ready to see that. Or, it’s possible there really is something she has done that is related to what you did … but to cut all ties is not (probably) a wise response. I just don’t know…

Does this help at all? I hope so. I am not offering advice. These are just thoughts based on a very tiny bit of detail you provided, and my experience alone and in hearing the stories of so many parents.

HUGS to you,
Sheri McGregor

Reply from the mother:

Your reply is perfect.  It will help me to stand strong in what I’ve been doing as far as she is concerned.  I spent the first few years apologizing then this past year I realized I have done all I can do and just stand by for if and when she seriously wants to correct this.  You are right about her meltdown also, it had nothing to do with me, that took me a while to come to terms with that, but I was out of sight and out of mind and an easy target to blame.  We live in states that are very far apart.  I’m so over my guilt now. Well, every once in  awhile something will trigger those guilt feelings, and then I have to work hard to put them behind me again.  I am so happy to have you and your website, it is a relief to know I am not alone.  So many things and feelings people write about that I have felt over and over.

“The outcome of her meltdown was an overdose and a trip to the hospital.  I hopped a plane and flew there overnight. When I walked in her room, she looked at me and told me how much she hated me, that she had always hated me, and she had spent her whole life trying not to be like me.  That was a punch in the gut and that is when the separation started.

“So you know, I have been clean and sober for 25 yrs.  My husband and I are hard working, well liked people in our community.

“Thank you, Sheri, for listening, thanks for your advice I will be following your website closely.”

Further comments

If this mom would like to keep the door open to future reconciliation, perhaps it’s wise to reach out again in several months’ time. Depending on the response at that time, she can reevaluate for later.

Are you a parent who has “done something wrong”? Maybe this correspondence helps you to better come to terms or work at a way forward. Even with situations that are not the same, there is often something to learn in the experiences of others.

Share your thoughts by using the “leave a reply” link at the top of this posting.

Hugs to all. ~ Sheri

Father’s Day: When Adult Children Turn Away

Fathers: When Adult Children Turn Away
by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Most men don’t talk much about estrangement. At least that’s the consensus among a lot of the fathers who do reach out to me (and among their wives, too).

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” says George, father of a 42-year-old daughter who hasn’t spoken to him in years. “I don’t want to talk about something that makes me feel like a failure.”

fathers when adult children turn away

George’s own father wasn’t around much, so being a family man was important to him. He did all the things he thought was right. Attended school functions, worked hard for the family, and spent time with his daughter. They had a good relationship. “Yet here we are,” he says. “I know this isn’t because of me. I don’t have guilt, but I also can’t fix it.”

George’s pain over the estrangement makes him angry, too. “Because of my daughter’s choice, I can’t make my wife happy anymore. It’s just us two now, and the loss of our daughter and the three grandchildren we don’t know is always between us.” George tries to be supportive, but it’s difficult to see his wife so sad. “She used to be so cheerful,” he says. “Always humming. Always making plans.”

George distracts himself with work and hobbies. He tries to cheer up his wife, too. Sometimes, the trying backfires. “She thinks I don’t care about it all,” he says. “And I do.”

This Father’s Day (2019), I hoped that providing George’s thoughts might provide a little insight. Maybe some fathers can relate. Maybe some father’s wives might better understand.

I hope to be sharing more about the experiences and feelings of fathers when adult children turn away. While it’s still mostly women who answer the surveys, lately, more fathers have been contacting me to share commentary, news, and feelings.

Meanwhile, here are a few more Father’s Day and other articles.

Fathers of estranged adult children, you’re not alone

Fortitude doesn’t mean “going it alone”

What about Father’s Day for fathers of estranged adult children

Cut off by adult children? You may feel lonely but you’re not alone

Why do they make contact now?

 

Elder Abuse Awareness

Elder Abuse:
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15)

elder abuse by adult childrenWhen Mary’s 52-year-old son was in an accident and needed help, she came to his rescue. She agreed to let him live in the second bedroom of her home in the small community she had recently moved to and was sure he’d want his independence and wouldn’t stay long. Mary was wrong.

“At seventy-four,” says Mary, “I’m doing his laundry and cooking his meals.” Mary has noticed some valuable items missing, too. And she’s convinced her son has taken them.

Is the above situation one that involves abuse? Some on the outside would be quick to tell her to oust him, but that’s not always so easy. Mary doesn’t have any other family left, and although she moved to this small community thinking she’d make friends, she didn’t have much time to get started before her son needed help. Although he hadn’t been in touch with her beyond the occasional text or holiday phone call for the last 20 years, his wife had recently divorced him. She felt for her son. He was alone after years of marriage, injured, and coudn’t work. “And he expressed regret,” says Mary. “He said it was a chance for us to get close again.” Instead, Mary stays in her bedroom most of the time now, because to be in the room with her son means enduring lectures about everything she did and does wrong.

Although he’s physically healed, he says he can’t find work. He says he’s depressed, but isn’t getting help. Mary’s son recently told her that if she turned on him too, he didn’t know what he might do. “He meant that he’d kill himself,” says a distraught Mary. “And I can’t be responsible for that.”

Elder abuse: An ugly truth

Although some people don’t want to think about the abuse of older persons, it’s an ugly truth. And as we age, for our own benefit, it’s important to consider.

The abuse of elders come in many forms. Some older persons are bilked out of their savings or denied their needs by a caregiver. Others are physically abused or mentally and emotionally tortured. The list goes on.

One of the most sobering facts is that in 60% of elder abuse/neglect cases, the abuse occurred at the hands of a family member (adult child/spouse). This fact, and many others about abuse, can be found at the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Elder abuse is grossly underreported. NCOA reports that only one case is made known out of every 14 that occur. People might ask why that is. I’d like to share with you a short clip about a man, a father named Norman who was in his 70s at the time of filming.

The video was produced some time ago by Erna Maurer of Wise Owl Multimedia. She is a senior citizen who continues to put good out into the world.  The thoughts of the students before and after watching the video themselves are as eye-opening as Norman’s. (I’d love for you to share your thoughts about the video in reply to this article. . . you can click “leave a reply” at the top). Click on the screenshot below to view the video.

elder abuse by adult children

Old age: Prepare

One thing the video brings home to me is that it’s important to consider the older age years while you can. In my book, Done With The Crying, there are questions about end-of-life scenarios, and facing the tough questions in advance so that your wishes will be honored. Parents of estranged adult children can have lots of complexities to consider.

Norman is socially isolated. Having suffered elder abuse by his adult children (themselves middle-aged men) who exploit his generosity, to create social ties and seek help has become difficult for Norman. For those reading, consider making changes in your life now, so that you won’t end up isolated and at risk. That means facing reality. At the bottom of this article, I’ve included some additional articles that may be helpful.

Also, here’s a book to help. I like this one because it’s comprehensive and empowering.

Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?: Plan Now to Safeguard Your Health and Happiness in Old Age by Joy Loverde prepares readers to take charge while they can, and empower themselves for decisions rather than leaving them to chance.

Elder abuse statistics

Often, in discussions among here about adult children who reject parents, the issue of financial abuse comes up. I’ve talked exhaustively elsewhere about the parents who have done so much (contributed down payments on houses, paid for schooling, helped time and time again … ), so I won’t go into that here. Many believe they have been abused financially by adult children, but wouldn’t think to report it as abuse. I wonder how much bigger the numbers in statistics about elder fraud would be if they did?

Recently, a research team broke elder fraud statistics down for a comprehensive examination. Near the end, some links to individual state research offers further breakdown with a variety of stats. It’s exhaustive, and interesting.

The United States of Elder Fraud

Elder abuse is real. I hope you will share that fact, and help raise awareness not only on this designated day, but all year long.

Related Reading:

Abusive Adult Children Influence Parents’ Self-Image

Adult Child’s Rejection: Emotional and Social Fallout

 

 

 

 

 

Grandparent Alienation

Grandparent alienation

“I’m over my estranged daughter,” says Cleo. “It’s my grandchildren I worry about now.”
grandparent alienation

Cleo is like thousands of parents around the world who are not allowed to see their grandchildren. A daughter or son’s estrangement, which can happen for a variety of reasons, usually means the grandchildren are also cut-off. It’s a breakdown in the family where innocent children are hurt.

Some grandparents have formed groups, organize rallies and awareness campaigns, and are fighting for changes to law that would support their efforts. And legislation is moving along the judicial pipelines with some success.

June 14: Grandparent Alienation Awareness Day

It’s a tough road when the grandchildren they have so bonded with are yanked away. “I always wonder what the kids are being told and what they’re thinking,” says Cleo. “Are they wondering if I don’t love them anymore?”

It’s not always estrangement that causes the separation. When one parent or both is incarcerated, sometimes one set of grandparents will swoop in and make it difficult for the other.

One mother whose son (in his 30s) went to prison, spent a small fortune in legal fees fighting against his in-laws for visitation of her young grandchild. Although she was an upstanding citizen with no criminal record and a history of emotional stability, the in-laws alleged that if she raised a son who committed a murder, then there must be something wrong with her. Her son’s was a crime of passion, and he had no previous offenses. Do you think what they alleged is automatically true?

Grandparent alienation: What do grandparents do?

Are you suffering grandparent alienation? Perhaps in connection with estrangement from adult children or for some other reason? Some grandparents consider their options, and decide it’s in the best interests of their grandchildren not to pursue a legal remedy. Others choose to fight with all their might as well as rally for more awareness. Each situation is unique. I hope you’ll share your thoughts by leaving a comment in reply to this posting.

For more information on grandparent alienation:

Alienated Grandparents Anonymous, Inc.
Offers telephone support calls, news of legal efforts, and groups in 50 states and 22 countries.

Grandparents Rights Advocates National Delegation (GRAND USA)
Legislative news and resources and support in 50 states.

Alienated Grandparents Anonymous Canada
Regular meetings, resources and support.

Bristol Grandparents Support Group (UK)
Championing grandparents rights.

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