What don’t you know?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

adult children's betrayalA recent discussion about statistics made me think of all the parents going back to work or other pursuits on this morning after the holiday.

Statistics are like bikinis.  What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.  ~Aaron Levenstein

Maybe you miss your estranged adult son or daughter, and so it’s trying to hear your co-workers talk about what their families did for them, and how much fun they had. You’re sincerely happy for those people, but you might also be a little envious. It hurts to hear that others are enjoying great relationships while you are suffering. Or maybe you see all the good times posted on Facebook (hardly anybody posts their woes…), and feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t have adult children who love them.

Let’s be truthful—you might be envious. You might even have some thoughts about how you were a good parent, maybe even a better parent than your co-worker, friend, neighbor, or sibling who’s still close to their adult children. So why are you estranged, and that person isn’t?

Dealing with those sorts of emotions can be a challenge. In Done With The Crying, managing the tough emotions like envy, anger, and resentment are discussed throughout, and dealt with in a specific chapter. That’s too big a topic to cover here, but on this day after the holiday weekend, considering statistics might help (at least a little).

Stats: What aren’t you being told?

This is no consolation—but in hearing others’ fun, consider what you’re not being told. People present the best in their lives. The most horrific and embarrassing personal challenges aren’t usually the ones we openly share.

All those social media images are carefully chosen. All those beautiful scenes your co-worker shares about a holiday are only a slice of their life they choose to let you see. Even the most perfect people aren’t. Even the most hunky-dory families aren’t all rosy all of the time. There may be things you don’t know about—and that won’t be shared—just as you may quietly tell them you’re glad they had a good time, then duck out of the breakroom without sharing more about your own holiday.

Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.  ~William W. Watt

Maybe this doesn’t help. Maybe it’s even wrong to point out that other people likely have secret pain. But the truth is, we don’t always know what sort of personal traumas people have been through.

Obviously, knowing that others suffer doesn’t mitigate our own emotional pain. Nor does it make up for the loss of special relationships, and bonds we believed were unbreakable. It’s just something to think about on this new day—another brand new start.

Related Posts:
Adult Child’s Rejection: Emotional and social fallout
Five ways to move on after an aduld child’s rejection

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14 thoughts on “What don’t you know?

  1. Jane

    It may be something that is not a surprise to me, but it was helpful to be reminded that what seems to be what others have is not likely to be exactly what they do have. And, it makes me feel less isolated. It reminds me to continue to be grateful for every little positive thing in my life and in the world around me. Sometimes, I forget that for a moment, or an hour. Thanks!

  2. Jayne

    I love to see my friends happy with their families and while I’m not envious, it makes very sad for all that I have lost. At times the pain is unbearable, but seeing friends in this way also gives me hope that one day, things may be better. Thank you for your thoughts and posts, it helps more than you know

  3. Connie

    I have been there in the place of rejection and pain from being estranged from my son and daughter-in-law for 25 months. I cried all the time and hated holidays and birthdays the most. I missed out on the pregnancy and birth of my only grandchild because of their desire to have nothing to do with us. I missed out on the first seven and a half months of her life, but God answered my prayers and restored my family. Please do not give up. God is softening their hearts with each tear and word of prayer. It has been so rewarding to be with them and we are closer than ever! Praise the Lord for His perfect timing.

    1. Jen C

      That is uplifting to hear. I pray for my daughters heart to be softened, it’s been 14 months and we’ve heard nothing from her at the young age of 21 years old. Don’t know where she lives exactly, just that it’s half a country away. There was no fight, fall out, bitter words said — I never got a chance to say I Love You. Sometimes I wonder where God is, I’ve been so patient, let her live her life, but no words from her…

  4. Gloria

    My husband and I are at a place in our life where our 2 adult children can’t stand us . We have a mentally challenged son that idolizes us . I just found out some of the reasons this week. . I thought we raised them right. Our son told us that he doesn’t come much because his Dad always talks about politics or CNN news and he doesnt want to hear about everything. He says there is a lot of tension when he is here because Dad is hard of hearing. i would have to agree with that and I told him that things probably will not change because we are the same as we have always been ,just getting older.He brought up things from the past that are trivial too. We did just move from a house that we had lived in for 26 years and I think he was mad about that. He never grew up in the house so that’s not the reason. We have never abused them or their children. We have always helped with their family anytime we could. It seems since we have gotten older they don’t want us around. We are just kind of stuck in our own little world. I just don’t know what to think anymore .I am ready to quit birthdays and holidays altogether. We have some land and they are beneficiaries and are thinking about selling that and spending that money.That will really make them mad..I dont want to make them mad but if they don’t want anything to do with us ,why should we leave them anything. We have 5 grandchildren and have around $10000 a piece set aside for each of them for college. I would think they would be happy about that but I don’t know that they are. i just can’t figure it out .I always thought we were good parents but apparently we are not. i will just keep praying for all things to turn around.

    1. Dolly

      I’m glad to hear that you have some insight into why a child closed the door. It is still haunting me and makes me second guess everything I do. Although no one will acknowledge that I am right, I think it has to do with money. As we were retiring we found it necessary to cease monetary assistance. The child who has abandoned us is the child who needed and received the most financial help. The other children didn’t resent it nor did the require it. The loans they were given were promptly repaid. Now I think we become less of an emotional relationship and more like a bank. When the bank closed, the frequent flyer flew. Yet when I try to get some input to this, no one wants to agree. Especially my husband.

      Friends who watched our family grow up say we were terrific parents. They won’t point fingers. But I need an answer! I need to know why I am punished!

    2. rparents Post author

      Among the thousands of parents I interviewed, many tell of similar situations as yours (money stopped, relationship stopped). It’s a partial answer to the burning “why?” but not complete. In my book, there is a chapter devoted to the question–and getting past it. I hope it will help you.

      Sheri McGregor

  5. Sandy

    I have not been able to move in with my life after going through estrangement from my adult sons. This has been very tramatic for me, I hope and pray that a miracle will happen, in God’s time. I pray and trust that God will soften their hearts.

  6. Susan

    My son has been married for a few years now and they have a daughter who is 3 years old. I was part of their lives before my granddaughter was born. They decided to set a lot of boundaries when the baby arrived…you need to call before you come over (I never did that at all anyway)….all purchases for the baby need to be discussed with both of them ahead of time, just to name a few. Because of their work hours, they prefer to be left alone on the weekend and have their own family time. But they visit my daughter in law’s parents on the weekend and frequently spend the night at their house. This Mother’s Day, my daughter in law wanted to spend it with her mother, so my son called me and told me we couldn’t be together on Mother’s Day. Our relationship is not going well. They spend every holiday or special occasion with her family. I am usually invited to spend holidays, birthdays, etc with them. I am a widow and my parents and sister have passed away. My son is my only living relative. My husband passed away over 20 years ago and I raised my son by myself. I have never remarried, own my house, continue to work full-time and now, since my son has his degree, he criticizes everything I do. Slowly, over the years, every tradition that my son and had over the years has changed to her family’s traditions. If I say, I really would like doing some of the things we did in the past, I get more criticism. He tells me I am self-centered. The few times they do come, they leave as soon as the meal is over. They spend up to about 2 hours at my house when they visit about every 3 to 6 months. On Mother’s day, I had enough of it and told him how I felt. I was told I am self-centered. We have not spoken since. There was something that just sort of snapped in me and I feel I have had enough. I understand relationships change especially when your only son marries. I understand his wife is his priority. I am not in any kind of “competition” with her, but I feel disrespected by both if them.

  7. thompsoncat.

    Because of our daughter’s unusual methods of child rearing family gatherings are chaotic and regrettable. My wife went to talk to her to try and establish some boundaries regarding our home.
    Our daughter seems to think that our home is her home and that whatever she does in her home will be done at our home. Her children are pretty much feral and not pleasant to be around. Anyway my wife said her piece (very diplomatically) and our daughter leaned forward into her mother’s face and screamed “F*** YOU F*** YOU F*** YOU.” Since then there has been no contact. We have started counselling and hope to improve how we feel. Sorry about the profanity but that’s what she said.

  8. Happyfeet

    I’m sooo sorry for this experience with your daughter! Hang in there and know there are many others like me who feel your pain.

  9. sunflowermom

    This article struck a cord with me. It’s been really difficult since our estrangement with our daughter to continue to be around other moms (relations of mine and my husband) who seem so much better off in their relationships with their daughters. I don’t begrudge them that, but I am definitely envious and it does hurt as it just emphasizes my own lack of a relationship with my own daughter. And it is embarrassing that they all know about that.

  10. Better4it

    As a mother of three, we currently have our oldest who has decided to “exile” herself from the family, for the second time. She has taken her two children along with her, destroyed her marriage and ruined anther marriage and family in the process. We have not seen our grandchildren for three years, we are aware of the lies she has told them, and others, about our family. Knowing the damage is done, we have nothing left to do, but move forward. It has not been an easy task, I know my grandchildren had their doubts about their mother, but she has removed them from a strong, safe, and loving family. In our state, we have very little rights. Without our oldest in our lives, our life is less violent, stable, and stressful, although we worry about the state of our grandchildren. All you can do is hope, that when the grandchildren come of age, they can reach out, and find a safe haven.


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