Category Archives: What Parents Can Do

Articles and information for parents on the subject of estranged adult children. Includes assistance, strategy, coping, ways to get through the troubling emotional traumas and dilemmas common to parents suffering an adult child’s estrangement.

Parents rejected by adult children: Looking for the good

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

parents rejected by adult childrenIf you’re a parent rejected by adult children and you’ve come to this site, you’ve probably read some of the comments and realized just how many are affected by parent-and-adult-child estrangement. Couple that realization with all the other chaos that’s happening in the world lately, and things can start to look negative all around. Bad stuff plays incessantly on the news and topples off tongues in almost every social situation. That means if you don’t actively look for the good that’s still around you, it may be obscured. Don’t let positive energy, kindness, and joy get buried. Look for the good.

National dog day

Did you know that August 26 is National Dog Day in the United States? When I think of my dogs and how much pleasure they bring to my life, I can’t help thinking that they represent everything good. What better time than National Dog Day to look for good in the world?

First, I’ll share this very short clip of a squirrel shaking its tail.

This guy loves to stand in the Japanese maple tree and tease my dogs. They stand at the slider waiting for him. Let’s just say I use a lot of window cleaner. . . .

Everyday is dog day at my house.

Want to find out more about this special day? Here’s the official page. Be sure to watch the video at the bottom too (you might need Kleenex).

Random acts of kindness

When things get crazy and sad, it’s easy to start thinking the world (and the majority of people in it) have gone mad. A steady diet of bad news isn’t good for anybody. Especially parents rejected by adult children who may already be feeling down. If you’ve been wondering if you’ve entered the set of some crazy version of Invasion of The Body Snatchers, then you need to take a closer look. There are still good people in the world, and this YouTube channel proves it. Watch the video and a zillion others they share.

I dare you

Now it’s your turn–and it’s a two-part dare.

First: Just as keeping a gratitude journal can be good for you, so is sharing with fellow parents rejected by adult children about anything you’re grateful for. Were you the recipient of a random act of kindness? Did a lizard share a nap in the sunshine on your porch today? Did the deer leave at least one rose on the bush to bloom? Did your package arrive on time? Did curbside pickup go smoothly? Did the checker at the grocer smile?  We can all think of something–a kind interaction, someone we love, or just a few moments of peace in an otherwise hectic day. I challenge you to think for a few moments and leave a comment about something good that happened to you today (or yesterday or this week).

Second: In the near future, be a random act of kindness. That means doing, saying, helping …. Think of a way you can make another person’s day bright. Even making your pet happy counts. Doing something nice for another person is good for you, me, everybody.

 

 

Estrangement: Are you a “firework”? Or still standing?

estrangementEstrangement
Are you a “firework”? Or still standing?

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

I love a good fireworks show but a popular song that goes on about being a firework never resonated with me. It’s a catchy tune but to blaze brightly for only a moment and then fade just as fast isn’t something I’d want to aspire to or be.

What does resonate is the fireworks symbolism related in the poem by Francis Scott Key that became the U.S. national anthem. In The Star Spangled Banner, the rockets glare through the night and then the flag is still there, or still standing.

It’s good to let our light shine (as written about in this article), even during the “dark night” parts of our lives. When morning comes, we can still be standing. That’s a goal worth setting … and achieving.

In honor of Independence Day, here are a few fun facts about fireworks you may not know. I’ve also included some links to past articles about your personal freedom—despite estrangement.

Fireworks facts

  • The first “fireworks” are thought to have originated in China around 200 BC when bamboo sticks were thrown into the fire. The air in the hollow bamboo popped when it was heated.
  • In 800 AD, the search for eternal life motivated an alchemist to mix sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate. Instead of eternal life, he got an explosion—voila! Gunpowder, which was then packed into bamboo for even bigger explosions.
  • The blasts were used at weddings and other celebrations to ward off evil. Eventually, gunpowder was used for explosively entertaining shows …

You can read more about fireworks history in these articles from other websites:

The Evolution of Fireworks, written by Alexis Stempian for The Smithsonian

Boom! A Brief History of Fireworks written by Benjamin Lorber for The Ladders

For your freedom (even in estrangement)

Here are a few articles from this site about your personal freedom:

Are you a wiley coyote or a clever crow? This article from 2018 helps you adapt, even in estrangement: Freedom for a era (parents rejected by adult children)

Support your emotional freedom with: Are you tyrannized by painful emotions?

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

Your Independence Day celebrations may look different than in the past. Whether you’re in the U.S. or in some other area, I hope you found something of value in these articles about your personal freedom even in estrangement. Will you share your thoughts by leaving a comment? Interacting with other parents of estranged adult children helps.

Fathers, on an adult child’s cutting-off

adult child's cutting-offby Sheri McGregor

This week, as the third Sunday in June rolled near, you probably faced comments and questions that, although completely normal, were awkward. A co-worker’’s, “Have a great Father’s Day!” may have made you want to crawl away and hide. Or, you may have been asked about your plans and wished your phone would ring so you could be saved by the bell. Those moments may have been worse because you were already thinking about the day set aside to honor you and wondering whether you would hear from a wayward kid, and if you did, how you should respond.

Even though you may be wondering these things, I only directly heard from one father this week. I know a lot of you don’t feel comfortable sharing your pain about an adult child’s cutting-off. I can respect that. Even so, your quiet strength doesn’t make your pain any less real, maybe especially on this day.

Although I don’t hear from a lot of you directly, some of you do share your feelings in reply to my surveys. The original one has nearly 50,000 responses to date. Here are just a few of the comments written by fathers, grouped by subject. Maybe seeing just these few will help to know you are not alone in your feelings.

An adult child’s cutting-off: Inexplicable and sad

  • “I worked hard to give my daughters a better life. They’re both very successful now, but the oldest hates us. She calls us materialistic, but to make sure the girls had what they needed, my wife and I went without.”
  • “My son and I had a good, communicative relationship, and I actively tried to afford him as much privacy, respect, and support he needed. I’m not a perfect father, but I am struggling to understand why, suddenly and without explanation, he would totally sever ties with me.”
  • “The years are passing. I keep photos of my adult children and my grandchildren on my lounge wall, I guess to reflect on, and to feel some attachment. I have tried numerous times in the last several years to arrange to meet up. They will say yes, but there is always an excuse of ‘being too busy at the moment’.”

Fathers on how an adult child’s cutting-off
affects their other relationships

  • “Periodic mood changes related to negative feelings over our son’s rejection have stressed my current marriage. It makes it very difficult to be my whole self when interacting with my not-estranged child. My parents, who are not estranged from my son, also struggle because they aren’t sure what they should tell me about him and how he is doing.”
  • “Tough on the marriage at times although we agree on the situation and I don’t know how much to burden my other son with it.”
  • “I have a strong relationship with my other daughter. But sometimes I feel like I walk on eggshells for fear I will do something to push her away. I know that’s not likely to happen but I worry.”
  • “I don’t trust people anymore, so spend my time alone.”

Why fathers don’t talk about an adult child’s cutting-off

  • “It is difficult to explain. I worry no one will understand, and I will be negatively judged.”
  • “Even people I’ve known my whole life don’t know what to say. My brothers change the subject. Other people tell me it’ll change. After 14 years, I don’t think that’s going to happen. The pat answers only show me they don’t understand. ”
  • “Fathers are scrutinized. People suspect us of doing something horrible. That’s even when one of my two daughters still has a good relationship with me and is on a good path. If one child goes astray or won’t talk to you, then people automatically judge.”

Although fathers (and mothers) have a difficult time talking to other people about an adult child’s cutting off, there are more parents facing this than you might think. And opening up, allows other people to also share, as this father relates:

  • “I can only talk about it when someone else tells me they’re going through it. Then I feel safe.”

Dear fathers, you’re not alone in your feelings. I hope that you will leave a comment to this post and share with other fathers suffering an adult child’s cutting-off. Your first name is all that’s needed, and your email address won’t show up with your words. You can help one another by opening up, and also by sharing how you’ve managed your pain.

Hugs to you all, and Happy Father’s Day.

Related Reading:

Fortitude doesn’t mean going it alone

Father’s Day when adult children turn away (includes links to past father’s day articles)

 

Estranged parents: Get out of the comfort zone

estranged parents comfort zoneEstranged parents: Get out of the comfort zone

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Venus, the perky young woman in brightly colored spandex, paused her pen on the intake form and looked up with a grin. “How tall did you say you were?”

“Five ten and a half,” I replied.

Ooh, girl!” she said with a squeal. “I hear Victoria’s Secret is looking for models.”

How many times had she used that line, I wondered, as she jotted my data on her form.

“Let me tell you about the program.” All business now, she launched into her sales pitch for the fitness program that included a meal plan, classes, and full use of the gym every day.

I squirmed in my seat. This was getting real.

As she went on about High Intensity Training classes she referred to as “HIT,” my mind wandered back to the advertisement I’d first seen online:

estranged parents comfort zone

In front of my computer, my index finger had hovered over the “join” button. I’d never liked gyms, but I did recently turn 60, and I was holding some extra pounds from a recent long-distance move, heaped-on stress, and Covid-19 (isn’t that last one everyone’s excuse right now?). It was time to get out of my comfort zone. Besides, how hard could this be?

I imagined a supportive group of older women, smiling and laughing, cheering each other on. Maybe we’d become friends—something I could use in my new town, which was just emerging from pandemic restrictions.

My nerves racing with a mix of fear and excitement, I had clicked on “join,” filled in my info, and was prompted to choose an orientation time. When I did, my phone almost immediately jangled. A text had arrived from my new personal trainer: See you tomorrow, Sheri. I can’t wait to help you crush your goals!

Now, as I met with Venus at a small desk near the entry door to the gym, I wondered: Am I really ready for this?

Cozy up

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the safety zone of home took on more importance. To varying degrees, many of us had no choice but to embrace isolation. Estranged parents’ comfort zone usually already means shrinking back from social situations to avoid awkward questions and uncomfortable explanations. The pandemic made isolation the norm.

Some estranged parents said knowing that made being alone a little easier. Others felt the sting of estrangement more acutely. If a global pandemic can’t make someone see how fleeting life can be, what can? It became a turning point. Regardless, now that the whole world is starting to step beyond the safe comfort of home, estranged parents can join in the collective momentum, push past boundaries, and derive benefits. That’s what I was thinking anyway, when I clicked on “join” for the fitness challenge.

Estranged parents, get out of your comfort zone

Estranged parents suffer deleterious effects to psyches, health, and self-worth. You might have caught yourself asking questions such as these:

  • Who am I if I’m no longer a dad?
  • What gives me purpose if I’m no longer a grandmother?
  • If my own flesh and blood doesn’t want me, who will?

Don’t get down on yourself about the thoughts. Estranged parents are thrust into a transition beyond their control. That’s similar to the pandemic’s effects. Only this time, we need to recognize the benefit of getting out of our comfort zone rather than leaning into it. Why? Because pushing our boundaries is good for us. Stepping beyond our boundaries builds mental muscles the same as I expected the gym to build my physical ones.

Pushing past boundaries: Good for estranged parents

Everyone is forced from their comfort zone from time to time. A looming deadline, a required appointment, or some other pressing need causes anxiety that spurs us to get things done. And when we do step out, we build confidence for the next time we must take action.

We can purposefully build self-confidence by choosing activities that cause a little productive anxiety. Researchers call this “optimal anxiety,” which means enough stress that we’re not overchallenged or paralyzed in fear but we venture just beyond the comfort zone that keeps us stagnant. Optimal anxiety drives us to act. Then, we can feel good about pushing our boundaries, even a little, and trying something new or challenging.

Estranged parents’ self-esteem takes a hit. Fight back. Getting out of your comfort zone, in planned, manageable ways, helps you regain your self-worth.

Another benefit is that igniting optimal anxiety helps you better manage anxiety in general. Estranged parents face a lot of uncertainty about the future.  Will we ever get past this? Will my child have regrets? Can I really move forward?

One thing about the future is certain: Time is precious. We might as well get joy and fulfillment out of life while we can. As scary as it is, moving beyond our comfort zone is required.

Pushing yourself, even a little, can help you feel more alive. To mope around and think sad thoughts, get stuck in anger, or worry about the future only digs you more deeply into ruts of despair. Remember when you were younger, and everything was new? Pushing past your comfort zone sparks those old feelings of life being fresh and new. That may mean you feel more like your old self (or even better).

Fine wine may sit in a barrel and get better with age, but people must shake themselves up and take action to get the same result. Stretching the mind and engaging the body maintains or even enhances cognitive abilities as people age. Pushing past the comfort zone helps.

We gain new territory when we try new things. Our boundaries widen when we push beyond them. Bottom line? Getting out of the comfort zone improves us.

Escaping the comfort zone: Strategies

Start small. For me, that meant acting without immediate commitment. I pressed the join button, chose an orientation date, and then showed up to meet Venus and learn more about the program. I committed to explore the idea, but that didn’t mean immediately signing on the dotted line.

You may be like me and feel the need to know more before deciding something big or challenging. I tamped down my anxiety by keeping my thoughts in check: This is just an orientation. I’m exploring the program. I haven’t committed yet.  This wouldn’t work for everyone, but for me, just agreeing to the orientation pushed my boundaries. I’d never joined a gym and never wanted to. The thought of entering one now was a cardio exercise in and of itself.

Accountability. After booking the appointment, I told two people who I knew would cheer me on. Confiding plans keeps you accountable. Choose someone who will be supportive and who will follow-up. You’ll want to report the good news!

Overcome opposition with benefits. After 38 years of marriage, including my husband in decisions is second nature. I knew he would be supportive and told him immediately, but in remembering that conversation for this blog post, I realized something else has become second nature: featuring his benefits. As I told him about my fitness challenge, my benefits morphed into things that he might like. I’d want to ride bicycles with him more often, or maybe after the program, we could join the gym and workout together.

If you face opposition, find ways to present your plan so it benefits the other person. Or, if you’re your own opposition, present the benefits to yourself. Write them down even. Then turn to them if you start to feel scared.

Look at my results

You’re probably expecting before and after photos . . . but things didn’t turn out as planned. That day at the orientation, Venus began throwing out specifics about how the HIT training would work.

“You’ll do a bunch of jumping jacks, drop down to the floor for a set of planks, then get up and run around the building three times, and get back inside the gym for more.” She continued about class sizes and the coaches who would “motivate” me. My anxiety began to rise.

“What about the women over 60?” I asked.

“Oh, there will be a few of you, girl,” she said. “You’ll be required to take at least three classes a week and they’re open to everyone. People drop in and out however that works for them.”

I glanced around the gym where a bunch of twenty- and thirty-somethings in clothes as tight as their bodies lifted weights, ran on treadmills, or climbed stairs in place. Their taut skin gleamed with a sheen of sweat. My dreams of a supportive group of women like me evaporated.

“HIT is the only way to lose weight,” Venus said. “The classes are kinda like P90X.”

I’d seen the infomercials full of hard bodies and lots of sweat. Those workouts involved a variety of maneuvers that were INTENSE. “P90X?” I repeated.

Venus shrugged. “Kinda.”

Suddenly, the goals that had begun to take shape with Venus’s first motivating text seemed impossible. This wasn’t what I’d imagined. Remembering the painful joint problem that had left me unable to walk for more than a week two autumns ago, I knew this particular challenge wasn’t for me. That’s because I know myself. Not wanting to look weak or call attention to myself, I’d work so hard to keep up with a bunch of youngsters in Spandex that I’d end up hurting myself. I’d crush my goals all right—in self-defeat.

Venus must have sensed me wavering. “Don’t let your mind hold you back,” she said, probably as she had a thousand times. . . . Even so, I wondered if I should go ahead. She’d spent her time to sell her product.

She winked. “A few classes with our coaches and you’ll crush your goals.”

I imagined the coaches like sinewy P90X drill sergeants in tight shirts, barking orders, pushing me to perform.

Gir-ril,” Venus chirped. “That modeling contract is waiting for you!”

Modeling contract? More like a heating pad and a walker. I laughed. “I’ll need to think about it.”

Immediately, Venus stood. She knew I wasn’t going to fork over the $300. “Well, thanks for coming in,” she said, ushering me toward the door.

“No, thank you,” I replied, glad she didn’t persist. I exited the humid confines of the gym and stepped into the sunlight.

Not a failure

While the program wasn’t quite what the advertisement had presented, it wasn’t all a loss. Just by entertaining the idea of joining a gym and a fitness group, I’d pushed my boundaries. Attending the orientation built my confidence, made me feel alive, and even more eager to get myself back in tip-top shape—on my own terms. That means getting back to my active lifestyle (swimming, hiking in beautiful places, daily walks. . . ).

Knowing what’s right for you, accepting yourself even when someone pushes their own agenda, is another way to press past boundaries. I wonder how many 60+ women clicked “join” and attended an orientation with the same fantasy as me? Especially after all the months of Covid-19 restrictions, how many long for the camaraderie of like-minded, age-similar people to cheer each other on? Some may feel cornered, end up paying the fee, and then not follow through.

I didn’t join the fitness challenge, but this wasn’t a failure. Rather, by admitting my limitations and honoring my intuition, I built my interior strength. I may have gone in with the goal of more physical strength but I gained emotional fortitude in the process.

Your Turn

By pushing past my boundaries, I see myself as strong in a whole new way. Proving to ourselves that we can step beyond our comfort zone helps us hold a new vision for ourselves going forward. How about you? Is it time to break out of your comfort zone, build confidence, and see yourself in new and inspiring ways? I’ll answer for you: YES!

Some of you already successfully do this. I hope you’ll leave comments and share how you estranged parents get out of your comfort zone and reap the benefits. For those in the planning stage: How will you push past your comfort zone and expand your boundaries? For some of you, that will mean learning to say “no,” and stop people-pleasing. Others will have physical goals for better health. Some may need to take a step for emotional self-care.

What will you try, what are your fears, and how will you overcome them? Later, you can report back with your insights and wins, and that will inspire even more estranged parents. Let’s cheer each other on!

Related Reading:

Abandoned parents: Are you chewing?

Estranged parents: Going batty?

Estrangement: Parents, use weepy days for your own good.

Memorial Day, 2021: Let me tell you about some heroes. . . .

parents whose adult children disown themBy Sheri McGregor, M.A.

This weekend, the United States celebrates Memorial Day. The holiday honors those who sacrificed their lives in past wars to preserve our treasured freedoms. Since people all over the world read my books and visit this site, you may not be familiar with Memorial Day. But you can surely relate to the peace of mind and emotional freedom sought by at parents whose adult children disown them. Those are the sort of freedoms this article will discuss.

I’ve received many emails from parents about their changed perspectives, their opened eyes, and the new direction they’ve taken for their lives. At some point, most parents come to accept what they cannot change. Eventually, with continued effort and support, most learn to break free from their emotional bondage to adult children who snub and abuse them.

As I once did, these parents make a purposeful decision to stop focusing on the loss. And then they follow through with a concerted effort to remember all the good they did. Things like sitting up with a feverish child or patiently explaining complex homework they themselves may have had to learn first. They served as a team coach, cooked healthy meals each day, or white-knuckled their way through practice sessions with their teen driver behind the wheel. These unsung heroes are the veterans of estrangement who fought their way back to a fulfilling life. Read on and allow their thoughts to inspire you.

Finding her self-worth

Augustyna is a widow whose son is her only living family. As he grew into a mouthy teen, she tolerated his disrespect because she loved him and hoped he would change. In his 20s, he periodically cut off all contact with Augustyna. In his absence, she didn’t miss his temper tantrums or lies, but she was also lonely. Eventually, she always reached out again, mostly to silence.

Once, when her son had lost his job, he reconnected and stayed with her for a few months. At first, he seemed to want to get along, and she hoped their relationship was on the mend. Then, as he regained his footing, he began badmouthing and rejecting her again.

In a fit of anger one evening, Augustyna’s son slammed her hand in the door of her top-load washing machine. For the next few days, she hid the injury from everyone.  A week later, her son arrived to collect his belongings. Augustyna tried not to grimace as she tucked her painful, bruised and swollen hand into her jacket pocket so her son wouldn’t see that he had hurt her.

A few years later, Augustyna was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When she called to tell her son of the diagnosis, he cursed her and said he hoped she’d die soon. Depressed, Augustyna agreed with his hope, but lingered on in misery. Her son cut off all contact again, and at the urging of her doctors, Augustyna continued her treatments. Now, five years later, her cancer is in remission.

Augustyna recently asked a priest and a rabbi why God didn’t just let her die. They both said He must have a reason for her to live. That’s when she found this website and shared her experience to help other parents. Until now, she hadn’t told a soul about her son’s physical abuse.

When Augustyna reflected on her life, she realized the injury to her hand wasn’t the first time her son had physically hurt her. There were previously a couple of slaps and pushes. He also called her deplorable names that I won’t repeat here. His ongoing verbal abuse had left her feeling demoralized, questioning her ability as a parent, and lacking self-worth. That’s what abuse by someone you love and sacrifice for can do to you.

These days, Augustyna looks back on her life and sees all the good she did. After her husband died, she worked to provide for her son. She supported his interests, was always there to help, and says he wanted for nothing. She also paid for his education. Augustyna knows that she is not to blame for the person he has become. His decision to hurt and abandon her is all on him.

As a cancer survivor, Augustyna has looked death in the face. She will never allow another person to make her doubt her self-worth, or abuse or control her. She’s not sure how many years she has left to enjoy life, but she won’t waste another minute on her abusive son.

Sadness: Just a few days out of the year

Martin and his wife, Joan, also had one child, a son who is now in his 40s. Like so many parents whose children disown them, Martin and Joan were sad for a long time over the rejection. They attempted to reconcile, but other than a few phone calls and texts, never got far. At times, their son would say he wanted a relationship. He even apologized. Soon after though, he always shifted gears. He would call them names, lay blame, and make accusations that had no basis in reality.

When their son was to be wed, they received a formal invite from the bride-to-be’s parents. At that point, Martin and Joan had been disconnected from their son for six years, the last three with absolutely no contact. After much deliberation over whether to attend the wedding, they texted their son to make sure he knew they had been invited. He replied with a casual, “Oh yeah. You’re welcome to come.” They decided to go, which they regret.

The event was awkward at best. They were placed at a table with the bride’s distant relatives and were ignored by their son and his new in-laws. During the ceremony and for much of the reception, Joan fought back tears. Martin’s asthma flared up and he ducked out several times to use his inhaler. Distressed, they left before the gifts were opened and even scrambled to get an earlier flight home.

After the wedding, Martin and Joan stopped reaching out. “We gave in like your Done With The Crying book says,” Martin explains. He and Joan felt they had no other choice but to go with the flow.

These parents have worked hard to build their lives in new directions that support their well-being and keep them engaged in life. For the most part, they are happy. “We were parents for a season,” Martin says. “I still have pictures that show what a beautiful a time that was.”

Martin wrote to me around Mother’s Day because Joan was feeling sad. He was looking for something to cheer her up. He and his wife are like many parents whose adult children disown them and find that special days revive their sadness. Some write in utter anguish, saying they are “back to square one.”  Others say they will “never get over the estrangement.” They wallow in a dark alley of thinking that dooms them to continued despair.

I understand these thoughts.  When my son disowned me and the rest of the family, I became all too familiar with the “dark place” many parents describe. I know how bleak life can look for rejected parents. One hopeless thought can lead to the next so that life doesn’t look worth living. The rut of such despair is a trap that I’ve written about extensively to help parents break free. One way is to put things in perspective. Rather than get caught up in the mire of defeatist thoughts, we can think the way Martin does.

Having done the work of building a good life despite his son’s decisions, Martin puts it this way: “In reality, the sad days are only a few out of the year. A birthday, a holiday, and then we’re back to our regular life.”

Martin is right. There are 365 days in every year. How many will you allow to be all about the sadness of estrangement?

Your turn

What can you take from these stories? What can you empathize with, relate to, and learn? You may have another helpful perspective. As these veterans of estrangement have done, I hope you will share your stories of courage in the fight for your peace and emotional freedom. Feel free to leave a comment. By sharing your experiences, you help other parents whose adult children disown them—and you help yourself.

Related reading

Five ways to move on after an adult child’s rejection

Cut off by adult children: What do you prescribe for yourself?

Freedom for a new era

The void: Fill it or feel it?

Mother’s Day 2021: Cancelled!

mothers of estranged adult childrenBy Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Mothers of estranged adult children are gearing up for a day they’ll be down. They’re making travel plans and deciding what they’ll do to cope in the commercialized climate leading to the first Sunday in May. Generally, mothers of estranged adult children are dreading what, to them, has become the mother of all bad days.

It’s wise to plan, consider sights or events that will make you sad, and devise ways to handle those. Otherwise, triggers can open like trap doors and send you spiraling into the pit of despair. So, while you’re deciding how to stay busy, entertained, or distracted, consider another idea: cancelling Mother’s Day altogether.

May: The Month of Creative Beginnings

Each time a mother adopted, took on a step-kid, or birthed a baby was a new beginning. Motherhood is all about that, so I was excited to discover that May is the official month of creative beginnings. I love the idea of a whole month dedicated to creative starts! Might as well cancel Mother’s Day and grasp that idea instead. What will you do to celebrate the month of creative beginnings? Let’s consider a few ideas.

I recently heard from a 70-year-old woman who had started horseback riding lessons. Her creative beginning is less about the lessons and more about her decision to nurture and bring to fruition a dream of her own. In the past, her life was more about doing for those around her than doing for herself. Trying something new for her own benefit was last on her list. Now, she gets to choose.

Maybe you don’t want to get up on a horse, but in this May month of creative beginnings, at least hop into the proverbial saddle. What does a “creative beginning” mean to you?

For some, this will mean a new hobby, redecorating, or changing the way they eat. For others, a creative new beginning will have more global or personal implications. Putting themselves first for instance. Or deciding to stop (or start) coloring their hair. Is there a spiritual inclination that’s been calling? Now there’s time.

Mother's day mothers of estranged adult childrenMaybe you can relate to the idea of finally embracing some part of your body you’ve seen as a flaw. That’s me in the photo a couple of years ago when I decided to embrace my upper arms (and actually took a blurry selfie on a bad hair day to commemorate the decision!). My mother always hated her arms and kept them covered. As I grew older, I adopted her attitude—until I didn’t. Hating a part of myself was limiting and unfair. My arms have held people close, pushed things away, and generally served me well. I kind of like the way they look now. If someone else doesn’t, they can look away!  And they’ll have to, because my summer wardrobe is sleeveless.

Mothers of estranged adult children: Say “yes” to yourself

Your creative new beginning could have to do with your outlook, how you take care of yourself, or something you finally say “no” to. Any of these are a “yes” to yourself. What will you do to celebrate May, the month of creative new beginnings? Give this a little thought, choose something valuable to you, give “birth” to whatever you want, and then nurture it as something worthy of a mother’s love.

Keep at it

Like most change, creative new beginnings can require work. I still sometimes pull on a tank top, look in the mirror, and think my arms are like faces only a mother could love. But I remind myself that hating my arms doesn’t change them. It’d be better to exercise them than hide them away. Besides, my feelings about them are irrational and inherited—like a lot of the things that imprison us.

It’s the same with Mother’s Day and the idealism we’re bombarded with about the perfect mother, family, and how to celebrate. We’ve learned these things at the mother’s knee of society, but that doesn’t mean we have to hold them close forever.

To let go of ideas that hurt us and work at creative new beginnings takes time and requires some dedication. In this month of creative beginnings, I hope you will commit to try. Choose at least one thing and get started. It’s a creative beginning!

Here’s help

If you’re drawing a blank, I’d like to help. The following links are to books that might get you started (they’re affiliate links, meaning that RejectedParents.net will get a tiny commission to help fund this website if you purchase any through these links). Even without buying, just reading the write-ups could be a spring board for your your own ideas for creative beginnings. Have a look, and then return here to read on and share your thoughts.

I could probably share a zillion books on everything from trying your hand at ceramics to learning to raise goats. You know what appeals to you, so I’ll keep the list to these three, plus my own book, Done With The Crying, which mothers of estranged adult children (also dads) say has helped them make a turnaround for the better.

What’s your creative beginning?

Give this some thought and share your creative beginning by leaving a reply. Your enthusiasm will encourage other mothers of estranged adult children (dads too). If you come across this article later, no worries. May is the official month of creative beginnings, but new starts can happen all year long. Share now or share later. I’d love to hear about your creative beginning, so don’t be mum about it. Leave a reply.

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Are you an octopus mom?

Hoppy Easter from Sheri McGregor

Sheri McGregor

If you’re expecting an eggceptional article for the holiday, you might dye waiting for it. This Easter, I’ve decided not to make myself a basket case trying to come up with just the right thing.  Perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Instead, I’ll offer a heartfelt Happy Easter to all my peeps and link to past articles I hope you’ll be hoppy about. If you don’t like this idea, then eggs-cuse me. Sometimes, I’m just fresh out of clucks. I hope you’ll be a good egg, tuck your hare under your Easter bonnet, and crack a smile—it’ll benefit us both.

Oh, for peeps sake, let’s get crackin’!

Sheri McGregor

 

Parents of estranged adult children: Reinvent yourself – Here’s a look at the spirit behind so many Easter traditions, renewal.

 

 

Sheri McGregor
Define yourself—More than a discussion on what it means to be “estranged.” This article helps parents realize: “One way to move toward recovery is to no longer allow the betrayer to define you, your feelings or your thoughts about yourself.”

 

Done With The Crying book

 

Should I forgive? – Articles on forgiveness haven’t been all that popular. This one offers a renewed look at the old idea, aimed to help even when there’s no apology.

 

done with the crying book
Do your questions keep you stuck?—Parents of estranged adults are often plagued by questions. The big WHY? and ones about the future (even your child’s). You may not have answers and the questions might just keep you stuck. In taking charge of your well-being, you get to the bottom line: “You can be you. And you can be well. ”

 

estrangement

 

Kneaded–What Easter would be complete without something about rising? Easter really is about resilience, and this very personal article gets at that.

 

estrangement
Parents of estranged adult children: Your new normal (no, it’s not about Covid-19). For caring parents who did their best, a new normal that keeps them wrapped in a cold blanket of rejection isn’t normal at all. Fight for your future.

 

Bottom of the Easter basket

In putting together this basket of oldies-but-goodies articles, I’ve come out of my shell. Now it’s time for you to get hopping and show some bunny some love. Consider putting Done With The Crying in your own Easter basket (I promise, it’s much more than puns!). And be sure to share your thoughts with me and other parents by leaving a comment. I’m all ears!

Parents cut off by adult children: Resume the battle

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

March was once considered the first month of the year. January and February weren’t even named in ancient times because they were considered a winter period of dormancy and doldrums. Everything got going again in March.

That’s when warriors returned to the battlefields. March is named for the Roman god of war, Mars. This isn’t an article about March or any ancient gods or war, but it works as a segue into what I do want to talk about: Parents cut off by adult children resuming the battle—for themselves.

After the year-long “winter” of lock-downs and letdowns and all things Covid-19, spring is literally and figuratively on the horizon. For parents cut off by adult children, resuming the battle will mean something personal to each. Despite how some people stereotype any rejected parent as narcissistic, abusive, or as having about as much self-awareness as a fence post, we are all unique. Even so, right now, I’m hearing similar struggles from parents cut off by adult children. Here, we’ll conquer a couple of those with tips to prepare and wage war for your own well-being.

Reality re-set

The pandemic caused many parents to face an uncomfortable truth: Their children don’t care whether they live or die. Seeing those words written out is harsh, but reality sometimes is. I know, I have faced it. There’s an upside though: When you know facts, you can deal with facts.

Some parents cut off by adult children have previously come to this conclusion. For others, the pandemic brought it to the fore. One father, Terry, put it like this: “If a son won’t check on his dad during a pandemic, then he’s not a son.”

Terry and his ex-wife co-parented with their son’s best interests in mind. When Leo turned 13, he balked at his mother’s rules and was angry she remarried. He moved in with his dad, who also had a few rules. Terry corrected Leo when he was dismissive of his mom. Terry says, “I figured he was just a mixed-up teen, but how he treated her was the writing on the wall.”

With Terry’s encouragement, his brought his grades up, did well in high school sports, and worked in his father’s restaurant. Terry taught Leo everything he knew about running a business, and then watched with pride as his son started his own successful endeavor. When Leo married, the calls home stopped. Terry’s calls were met with “too-busy” responses that soon grew stronger. Leo would answer his phone, tell his dad he was busy, and say, “I’ll call you sometime.” Eventually, he ignored all calls, texts, and voicemails. Silence stretched out between them.

Two years passed. Terry saw a therapist who persuaded him to write an apologetic letter. Father and son reconnected for a while, but in retrospect, Terry wishes he hadn’t sent the note. Nothing really changed, and they were soon back to the same old silence—only now Terry was embarrassed. He hadn’t owed his son an apology. “The letter made me sound weak or begging,” says Terry, who had put himself on the line. Leo didn’t have any real complaints about his dad. Terry realized the hard truth that his son just didn’t care.

Fed up and with no other choice, Terry handled the cutoff the way he’d always handled setbacks. He got on with his life. He even remarried and was so involved in living that he didn’t think much about the past, or Leo. “I was happy,” he says.

Then the pandemic hit.

Concerned about Leo and his daughter-in-law, as well as their baby—the grandson Terry’s ex-wife had seen on social media, pirated a photo of, and shared—Terry reached out. His son ignored the voice message, the email Terry sent a month later, and two texts sent a few months after that.

Terry felt isolated and sad. The lock-downs had drastically reduced his restaurant customer base. Unable to turn a profit and trying to comply with the frequently changing pandemic red tape that added stress without an upside in sight, he closed his business doors for good. With less exposure to the public, he did feel safer, but at home alone while his wife worked in a career deemed essential, he had too much idle time on his hands.

What’s a person to do?

parents cut off by adult children

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

As the vaccines began to roll out and hints of spring arrived in early fruit tree blooms, Terry realized that the events of the past year had put him in a funk. The TV had blared bad news, he had lost the business that had become so much a part of his identity, and he saw his son’s lack of communication in a new, stark way.

Maybe you can relate. I’m hearing from a lot of people who are exhausted from the uncertainty of the past year and fearful of what may lie ahead. Some have lost all hope. If that’s you, consider whether you might be clinically depressed, and consider seeking help.

Even with therapeutic support, making lifestyle changes can make things brighter. As a Life Coach, I’ve assisted many clients, and have included Terry’s plans to prompt your own. Read the next few paragraphs with your own life—your history, your strengths, your circumstances—in mind.

Parents cut off by adult children: Fight for yourself

To move forward, Terry must remember his stronger, more capable self. Doing that puts him in touch with the reserves of strength he knows got buried beneath the gloomy news, all that had happened over the last year, and the hopeless uncertainty that has plagued him. Terry has gone through other tough times . . . and he has prevailed. He can remember what worked for him in the past, lean on those strengths, and prevail again.

Ask yourself what you have previously been through. How did you manage? What helped? What didn’t? Write it down. The more detailed you can get with this, the more you arm yourself to get on with living.

As an alternative or in addition to this self-mining, think about others who inspire you. Historical figures, a family member, or friend. We can borrow ideas from others’ resilience.

As is true for most people, good things often sprang from Terry’s past troubles. Keep in mind though, that in the midst of the battle, any good, any meaning from the experience, isn’t always evident. That may be true for you, and if so, turn any “why do bad things always happen to me” thinking around. Deploy yourself to fight against negative thoughts and win. Try considering your experiences with a sense of mystery or hope. Use words that uplift. Here are some examples:

  • The good that will come from this is unknown to me right now.
  • The meaning in all of this will reveal itself in time.
  • The lesson in this struggle is a mystery right now.
  • One day, I will look back on this loss and see the gift that was there all along.
  • I don’t understand this right now, but God will reveal its purpose on His time.
  • Something good will come from this.

For Terry, the most important positive things he found from past struggles involve his inner being: His strong sense of right and wrong, his faith in a higher power, and his determination to do well for his family. Those truths can provide strength now.

What good things derive from your past struggles? Use the estrangement if you can, but don’t limit yourself. Think in terms of your identity. Every person can think of at least one thing, and usually more. Did you learn that you were stronger than you thought? More creative? Maybe you learned that even when you feel powerless and confused, you can do something in the moment that helps. My grandfather used to say: Sometimes, you just have to put your head down and work.

Reflect on any good that came out of past trauma. Write these down. Remember your strengths.

Terry also recognizes that he must take better care of himself. The side effects are only positive. Better health, better mood, and more.

Read on, consider how this helps Terry, and then come up with your own ideas. Or use the paragraphs below as templates and fill in your unique circumstances, experiences, and truths. You can tape a sheet to the refrigerator as an affirmation or use note cards you can easily pull out for motivation. Written ideas remind you to persevere and progress.

parents cut off by adult children

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

About taking better care of himself, Terry realized:

First, he would feel better about himself. Seeing in the mirror an unshaven man who hadn’t brushed his teeth by dinner didn’t encourage him to do much. If he felt better about himself, he was more likely to get outside for a walk or interact—even at a social distance. By getting up and dressed, he would prepare himself, as Terry said, “For a life.”

Second, he could make other people feel better about themselves. This might seem counterintuitive when you’re thinking of yourself as a project, but Terry knows better. In mentoring employees, he explained how their demeanor influenced customers. When customers feel important, they more highly view the person in front of them (and the overall business).

Third, it all connects. If Terry takes better care of himself, he feels better and is more likely to interact. His simple smile or friendly greeting makes other people feel better, and they respond in kind. Their response, then, makes him feel good too. It’s a positive feedback loop that’s easy to begin and maintain.

Whose line is this anyway?

One final thought: Consider what you’re telling yourself. If you’re allowing an inner refrain of uncertainty and pain, do some inner housekeeping. Be mindful. When your thoughts dip into unhelpful territory, tell yourself to stop, and then change up. I like to use the phrase: Catch and rephrase. You catch the negative thinking, and then you rephrase it.

What negative thoughts come up for you? This can be due to the pandemic and related distress, or, for parents cut off by adult children, to the disconnection, dismay, and even disgust. It’s normal to feel those things but not helpful to dwell. Terry has learned to limit exposure to news or social media. Otherwise, his thoughts wander, and his self-talk grows dark.

If you’re filling up on news that highlights the bad stuff to keep people tuned in, you might find your own thoughts replaced by media headlines. When you catch yourself thinking negatively, ask: Whose line is this anyway? Then come up with a few of your own lines, and make them positive.

Terry says, “Winter is ending. There are vaccines out now. Spring and Easter are on the way. I can’t change my son, but I can change me.” He memorized these sentences and uses them together or on their own whenever he feels the need to lift his spirits or shift his focus. It has become a sort of battle cry.

With all these ideas, Terry is following in the footsteps of ancient Roman soldiers, returning to battle—for himself.

How are you going to battle for yourself? I hope you’ll leave a comment here for other parents cut off by adult children. We can help each other as we help ourselves.

For more strategies to help parents of estranged adults, consider getting the book, Done With The Crying. You can also sign up for the monthly newsletter by filling in your information below.

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Five ways to move on after an adult child’s rejection

Forgive for your own good

by Sheri McGregor

It’s often said that we should forgive for our own good. To forgive sets us free. That’s different than the forgiveness that comes when someone who has wronged us is remorseful and wants to make things right. To forgive doesn’t always require that we forget.

Forgiven or not, a person’s bad behavior often has consequences. Forgiveness can be a solitary act. To forgive doesn’t require that we forget everything and place ourselves, precariously, in a position to be hurt again. Read more about that, with a fuller look at forgiveness, in this article:

Why Forgive?

Today’s look at forgiveness is short—and oh-so-sweet!

forgiveness

Hugs to all the parents of estranged adult children. Your forgiveness is a gift to yourself.

~ Sheri McGregor

Neglected parents self-love exercise

By Sheri McGregor

Valentine’s Day post

Most holidays, you will find new articles here because I know how lonely those special days can feel for neglected parents. Adult children who rarely call, have cut their parents completely from their lives, or only reach out when they need something, leave their parents’ hearts in shards. For neglected parents, the only way beyond the emotional pain is through. That means digging deep for your own strength, looking for ways to support yourself, and then taking action. Valentine’s Day provides an opportunity to let your love loose on your own life and for your own benefit.

In my work as a life coach, I’ve routinely used exercises and questions to help people guide themselves through a variety of situations, increase productivity, and get out of their own way as they move way forward. Today, I’m including a short exercise for neglected parents and, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ll use the word “LOVE.”

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • An open mind
  • A willing spirit
  • A sheet of paper
  • A pen or pencil

Option: Fancy paper and/or colorful pens/pencils. Use what makes you feel good.

Don’t discount the first two bullet points. Those may be the most important.

FIRST STEPS

As you see in the photograph, fold your paper in half and then half again. When you unfold the sheet, creases mark off four sections. Eyeballing the space is okay, too. Or use a computer document and not worry about space at all. There is no perfect way to do this exercise other than to see it through for your own benefit.

BEFORE YOU START

You’ll be writing, so make up your mind not to censor yourself. If this exercise prompts you to spill out your feelings with no action steps, let it happen. You may be holding onto energy that needs a place to land. Let those thoughts and feelings emerge. Your feelings are valid—even the ones you judge yourself for.

GET STARTED

To the left of each of the four paper sections, write each of the letters in L-O-V-E, one per section, so that the word is spelled out vertically. Use flowery writing or make it bold—it’s up to you.

Below, after each letter, I’ve chosen a word that starts with that letter. You’ll also see a few questions. Spend a few moments answering them as they pertain to your unique situation:

  • Estrangement from adult children
  • Coping as a neglected parent
  • With a disrespectful adult child living at home due to Covid-19 (or for some other reason)
  • Your unique circumstances

This and similar exercises work for a variety of situations where the aim is to analyze thinking and behavior, and then move toward better self-care and past the problem.

L: Limits. How can I limit how much of my energy or thinking goes toward the estrangement (or: problem, relationship, situation)? Have I spent enough time being miserable? Have I let my adult children surpass the limits of how I would let another adult treat me? Is it time to set some limits now, and get on with living my life? What does that mean to me? What can I do right now to start setting limits and/or enforcing them?

O: Observe. Am I listening to myself think? How often does my mind wander to this problem I can’t solve? What’s a new way to think about this? Do I still think I’m the only one? Do I still blame myself?

V: Value. Does what my adult child say about me, or how s/he treats me, truly define who I am and who I’ve been? (HINT: The answer is NO.) Does this other adult’s decision or opinion change history or define who I am now? Have I been devaluing myself? How can I show myself the value I deserve for all my hard work and loving care?

E: Evaluate. Where am I on this journey as a neglected parent? (Name your spot like a town or venue, i.e., Tearsville, City of Hope, Onward Town.) Where do I want to be at this time next year? How can I get there? (Name at least one step.)

Same Time, Same Place

Once you’ve spent some time considering each of these and writing out your thoughts, fold the paper so the writing is all on the inside. Then pen yourself a silly note on the blank side: Same time, next year. Or, Will you be my Valentine? Whatever feels right. Then tuck it away somewhere safe. Next year, pull this out and see how far you’ve come.

If the thought of looking at this later to observe your progress pricks panic, don’t ignore the feeling. If you worry that you will still be crying and miserable, take action now. Let this be a solid step toward your progress. It’s for your own good. Get your copy of Done With The Crying, read it again and use the WORKBOOK, or do the exercises for the first time (some readers skipped them). To move beyond the pain, you must set goals and work toward them. After a while, taking care of yourself becomes a helpful habit.

EXERCISE YOUR OPTIONS

If you have ideas about how to make this exercise your own, feel free to put them into action. Creative pursuits are freeing and fun. Honoring your own ideas is validating and helpful. Here are a couple of options:

  • Use your words. My example words for each of the letters aren’t set in stone. Come up with your own or even choose a word other than LOVE to start. The point is to get your thoughts on paper, begin the work of setting goals for your own happiness and self-worth, and move toward a fulfilling life only you can design. You’re in the driver’s seat on this self-love train. Don’t get sidetracked or derailed.
  • Get crafty. Create a keepsake. Once you’ve done the exercise and tucked it away, use the basic words (limits, observe, value, evaluate) as a visual reminder. Make a painting or a Valentine card and display it as a gentle reminder of where you’re at and where you’re headed. Make a bookmark and tuck it into something you read daily so your goals will be in front of you—or just as a reminder that you deserve your own kind care. (I’m tucking my folded page with my note into a book where I can see it often, plus find it next year.)

Do you gain insights from using this exercise? I’d love to hear about your experience. When you comment, you help other neglected parents move forward too.

Hugs to all on this journey, Sheri McGregor

Related Reading

Cut off by adult children and feeling lonely

How do I love me? Let me count the ways

Estranged from adult children, Love Yourself