From sadness of estrangement to meaning

sadness of estrangement to meaningFrom the sadness of estrangement to meaning:
Anticipation, purpose, and positively shaping your outlook

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

When we’re distressed, we can fall into what’s known as “catastrophizing.” That means we think one bad thing will lead to the next and, before long, our entire outlook is clouded by doom and gloom. The good news is that we can shift gears, turn a corner, and create something to look forward to. That sweet anticipation helps us lose anxiety with its negative side effects such as compromised physical immunity and depression, and shift to a positive expectation, which makes us happy. It is possible to go from the doldrums of estrangement to meaning and purpose.

Right now, with so much worry and uncertainty filing the airwaves, we might feel as if we have little control of what’s to come. Giving ourselves something to look forward to activates what’s known as our sense of “agency,” and helps us to feel in charge and moving toward a desired goal. In my book to help parents of estranged adult children, Beyond Done , I talk more about how each of us can take charge, in unique ways that fit our circumstances. We access and shape our unique brand of resilience.

From the sadness of estrangement to meaning: Possible?

Research shows that when people anticipate future happiness, they engage in activities to reach that goal. Shaping activities to reach a goal ends up enhancing meaning and purpose in life too. Something we can all benefit from.

Here’s an example:

Right now, one thing that brings me joy is collecting and caring for houseplants. They give me something to do (water, feed, check progress, talk to them!), and something to look forward to (baby plants, cleaner air in my home, beauty . . . .). Do the plants give me meaning and purpose? In a small way, yes. They provide my life with structure, make me feel needed, and nurture my need to give.

An offshoot of my interest in houseplants and caring for them is that they enhance my social well-being. Who knew there were online groups where plant lovers talk about our green babies, share care or propagation tips, or just show photos? In the future, I may give some of my propagated plants to friends and family, bringing joy and beauty through houseplants to other people, and adding value to my own life in the process.

My experience with houseplants is like what I learned when I conducted a study to complete my master’s degree a few years ago. I researched happiness and gardening. One of the things that motivated gardeners was sharing their bounty with neighbors and friends, which increased their feelings of joy. As an aside, the lifelong gardeners reported the highest levels of overall happiness among the participants. That pleased me since I’ve gardened most of my life. Earlier on, when busy with my growing family, my gardening was based on practicality, which meant growing food as well as basic landscaping that served family gatherings and child’s play, and also creating serene spaces in the yard. Now, I can focus more of my time on ornamental gardening, such as indoor greenery and blooms. We do Turn! Turn! Turn! with every season of life.

Meaning, purpose and a happier outlook

Whether you think of daily things to look forward to, or plan bigger events such as a fun vacation, the anticipation is mostly positive, and you’ll shape your interim activities to achieve your future. There is no downside.

So, TODAY, right now, think of something—even a tiny thing—that will make you happy, give you something to look forward to, and positively shape your life. Then follow through. This can be something simple such as ordering a new book or making a date with a friend. Or opt for something more complex such as getting out grid paper, planning your seasonal garden (press “skip ads”), perusing the seed catalogs, and imagining the bountiful offerings you’ll share with neighbors and friends. As an alternative, consider what you’re already doing that brings you joy, accesses positive anticipation, and provides your life with meaning.

Please, leave a comment here about what you’re looking forward to, what future pursuit lifts your spirits, and provides life meaning. I am waiting with pure joy, excitedly anticipating your responses. Knowing that I have helped you in some small way provides my work here with meaning.

Related reading

Restful respite: A moon garden

In my garden

 

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55 thoughts on “From sadness of estrangement to meaning

  1. Deborah

    My son hasn’t spoken to me in four years. I was not invited to his wedding. I’ve never met my first Granddaughter who will be one in a few weeks. I’m disabled because I have brain damage. I was a single Mother and raised my son’s (twins) as best as I could. I probably was to kind and empathetic. Both of my son’s have reactive attachment disorder. Not only have they falsely accused me to others because of their maladaptive behavior. I’m alone it’s just me. My son who hasn’t spoken to me just called my parents who also never met their Great Granddaughter. They are about to reunite. My son apologized to my Mom but did not call me. I’m living with my parents now as I care for my sick Mom who has Kidney failure and is on dialysis every night. My Mom sides with my Son not for any reason it’s always been that way. If I even mention my son’s name she will act if she doesn’t know me. She will give me the silent treatment. Do not only am I suffering the lose of my son I’m suffering that my Mom never was a Mom. I never had love and support from her. My Narcissistic Dad continues to berate me and tell me I can work. So, I feel a lot of rejection and hatred. I’m the chosen scapegoat in my family. Only thing is I’m the normal one. The one who helps and genuinely cares. The one who is attached. I do not send my estranged son gifts or cards. I feel if I do that it’s enabling his behavior. I deserve to be treated with respect. I’m not going to chase my son. I believe that would be backwards parenting. I’m waiting for him to choose to have a healthy relationship. He needs to choose to be attached and give love back. I can’t try again with him and open my heart up only to hurt again. Not seeing my Grandchild has literally made my heart ache so bad. I have to focus on myself. It’s so hard to not ruminate on negative thoughts. Each day immediately when I wake up my thoughts race about how my son must hate me. All day I deal with those thoughts. The thing is those thoughts are a lie. I’m a child of God, I love others, I’m a good person. I’m a great Mother and Daughter. My son is broken, so broken he can’t see it as of yet. He married a girl that didn’t talk to her first Mother-in-law. I don’t blame her. I believe the blame belongs on my son. She didn’t force him to stop talking to me he chose it. I’ve seen my son in the store several times. Each time we looked at each other and I hurried away. He was holding my Granddaughter. I didn’t say anything, why would I? I don’t accept how he’s treating me. I didn’t teach him to act that way? I wouldn’t accept that behavior from a friend? If my son gets therapy and reached out to me I will consider talking to him but I will be careful. He needs a lot of therapy. I deeply believe he will never heal. Mother’s Day is is the worst day for me. As the years go on it gets worse for me. It affects me more. I’ve read others fare better after many years pass. Maybe, that’s because they have family support. I have no siblings or any friends that say their sorry or bring the topic up. This is not what God wants for the family. He is grieved. God does not allow this to happen. Our children are deciding to sin. They are in the flesh. I pray that God brings my son to repentance. I feel so sad that at age 30 this is how he acts. It breaks my heart he does not have empathy. I want him to care about others. God bless us all. You are never alone. God cares about you. You are worthy. He has a plan for your life regardless of how your children treat you. Give it to Him. Let him fix your child. I told God my son is His. I trust God to fix Him. I tried and failed. I’m trusting God now and staying quiet.

    Reply
  2. Jackie

    Thank you so much for the countdown during the holidays. It struck a cord. I too love house plants and sharing them.

    My daughter has been estranged since Jan 2018. She used to regularly contact her disabled father but that has stopped. Her last contact was Jul 2021. We too don’t know why we are not being talked too.

    I light a candle and say a prayer asking my higher power to take care of her.

    I did start using the puzzle apps in my phone too. Thank you so much.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you, Jackie (fellow plant mom!).

      Sorry about your daughter. The candle idea is a good way to take a small action with a prayer, and one many use as part of their spiritual practices. Thank you for the reminder.

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

    2. Marsha

      I have always been an avid gardener,and find peace in my sanctum, Santorum greenhouse. Numerous tomato plants,extras are sold and given away,pots and pots of succulents, thst demand thinning in the winter months. A large garden, and my husband started beekeeping. Still the hurt creeps in from our estranged daughters actions, but we find solace in dirt and our green friends! Keep growing,nurturing and finding pleasure in growing. Best wishes for 2022!

  3. Anne mcilroy

    Hello all,
    I am looking forward to a brand new year where the focus will be on ME for a change!!! I love my house and garden and my two little dogs. I have a renewed zest for life and intend not to let estranged children try and bring me down.

    Reply
  4. Donna S.

    When my daughter estranged she called me a ‘shit Grammy’ and refused to let me speak with my one year old granddaughter (that I haven’t seen since she was 3 months old). We were in different countries because of the pandemic. She moved from the US back to Canada, but I could not get back for several more months. By the time I got back to Canada, my daughter had convinced my family of origin to disown me, my husband and my other 3 adult children. My oldest sister had died suddenly while I was out of the country, and my other sister had been my best friend my whole life and my brother and I had always had a great friendship. I got off the plane and neither of my surviving siblings nor my daughter would speak to me. They still don’t.

    Why? Because I did NOT divorce my husband. He is the non-biological dad to my children – their biological dad passed away 30 years ago My husband raised my kids, we had been married for 28 years when my daughter estranged. There are tons of family dynamics to unpack as in any family. But trust me when I say that our home was the home that every kid wanted to come back to. We were loved and admired and everyone wanted to be assimilated by us.

    In the year and a half of estrangement, my other daughter and her husband successfully went through IVF and gave birth to a healthy baby girl; coincidentally, on the same date my estranged granddaughter was born 2 years before. My remaining 3 children and my son-in-law have been deeply hurt, yet have made super-human efforts to show their love and support for me, and my husband I am truly grateful for all the love I receive.

    Between estrangement/being disowned and the pandemic, people have been scarce and I’ve been lonely – as many of us have. I’m retired and managing my ruminating mind has been one of my biggest challenges. I have spent the past year taking up hobbies. I’ve been paint pouring, resin pouring – and I am already an avid photographer and seamstress

    I am healing. But the hole in my heart still hurts every day.

    So,we have decided to rent out our townhouse and return to the place we were ‘stuck’ at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s a place I love, a place where I don’t feel shamed by my daughter’s actions. I’m going to take my hobbies on the road! And – someone at my destination values my photography enough to have offered me paid shoots Lots of them. My second daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter are coming for a visit in February. My sons will heal better and faster if they don’t feel a need to protect me, if they don’t see the pain in my eyes.

    For the first time in a long time, I’m excited for me.

    Reply
    1. Marsha

      I know what you mean about the “hole in your heart”. Even though you go on, keep yourself busy,love your friends and remaining family, that face comes to your mind every day. It’s been 2 and 1/2 years since our daughter talked to us, or rather belittled,disparaged,accused,and totally disrespected all we did for our whole lives. We were completely broken,but resigned ourselves to the fact, that all these accusations came from a therapist who told her that all her problems were caused by us. No way out, except to dive into the things that make us happy,plants, beekeeping, other grand children, and our wonderful chain of friends who are just like family. My heart goes out to all of you.,and pray for release from unnecessary guilt feelings. Here’s to a better 2022.

  5. Looby

    I too have found the joy and pleasure in plants. I have three plumeria plants in pots and I care for them, love them, talk to them and watch them grow. This has been very healing for me. I named them Jackie Boy, Isa and Victor!!

    I highly recommend having something to care for as a healing tool and a complete pleasure.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      I bet they smell wonderful when they bloom, Looby! I’m currently thinking of bringing some fragrant houseplants into my collection. It seems that other than hoyas (I don’t have any of those yet), the fragrant ones are used outdoors but CAN be brought in (many) with skills.

      Hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

  6. Lisa

    Thank you, Sheri, for your candor and compassion in bringing this difficult topic to light. I am still in the “shock” phase, although the emotional abuse from my adult daughter went on for years before our break 3 weeks ago. Your book and this forum have been a life saver for me. I will try, like all of you, to get through this, even if it seems to be an absolute impossibility.

    I am so very sorry that all of you are going through this, too. What the heck is going on in this crazy world? What happened to love, forgiveness, and understanding? Although I cannot imagine what led to these circumstances in my situation, I am confident that I was a very good (not perfect) parent. I am finding kindness here amongst you and I am extraordinarily grateful to be part of this community.

    What do I look forward to? Well, I’m still so brokenhearted that it is difficult to look forward to anything but my hope is that I can continue to enjoy my time with my amazing husband (not my daughter’s father), and my step grandchildren who call me Grandma. I will also look forward to healing because I really need my heart to not feel that it’s been pierced with an arrow from a cross-bow. Time will tell.

    Thank you, everyone. I wish you peace and joy if you can grab it.

    Reply
    1. Wanda

      Aww Lisa I remember so well the shock phase with its crying and unbearable heartache. I am so sorry that you are going through this and I am sure the holidays make it even harder. It is an epidemic for sure but I found comfort in my faith and also knowing that I was not alone and was lovable. My daughter has also matured and is allowing me to have a relationship with my grandchildren so I am very thankful for that. I pray that you will also find healing, purpose, and peace.

    2. Lisa

      Thank you so much for your caring reply, Wanda. This means so much to me. I have an amazingly supportive and understanding husband who is helping me to get through this. And your kindness and support help immensely, too.

      Peace,
      Lisa

    3. Su

      I truly believe that sometimes it is the children and people who adopt us as family who are our truest famy. Parents who have estrangement issues with their own biological or adopted children, are very very very lucky if they can find others in their lives who love and respect them as one hopes their own chd would. You seem to have achieved that love from some step grandchildren.
      I wish the same for all those who are feing betrayed and abandoned.

  7. Barbara G.

    Aaahhhh houseplants
    My favorite !!! That is actually my profession “ plant lady “ has been for 30 years and still love it . Very grateful for a job that brings me so much joy and all the wonderful connections I have with clients !! There have been difficult days when my job doubled as “ Plant Therapy “ …. always works

    I dis get a one liner for Christmas ( 2 words) I used to ask all these questions and tried calling but I just don’t anymore ;
    I just let it be ; replied back in the same manner and it is ok !

    What has really freed me is when people ask about my son I tell what is ; we are estranged and let it stand ….
    The truth does set one free !!

    Reading Sheri’s book and being part of this wonderful community has helped tremendously
    My plants always appreciate my caring nature !!

    Reply
    1. Patricia

      I also love houseplants. They bring me joy. After being estranged from my son for a long time. We had a few really good mother and son years. He was good to me, came to visit, took me places, and he visited often. I felt whole.
      Then, out of the blue, estrangement AGAIN. He’s verbally abusive now. He’s 50 yrs old. Once again I fell into a deep hole of sadness. Last night I told him I loved him but our lives are going in different directions. He was surprised by my response. Truth b known I’m older now and the way he’s behaving towards me is very upsetting to me and throws my life off kilter. It’s sad and difficult to realize I’m better off without him in my life. I’m grieving now, and regret trusting that our reunion could continue. I don’t recommend trusting a reunion . Now I have to start over AGAIN overcoming heartache. I hope I am letting go of him once and for all.

  8. Eliza

    Something that strikes me as read these comments is that many (but not all) of us come from single parents, which I was, also, as a result of a bad marriage. I’ve wondered for a while whether we aren’t a “special case” among rejected parents? We all know how hard it is to be both mother and father – there’s no counter-balance to point out things we might not see or catch onto, and nobody on our side, to tell the kids to “knock it off and don’t talk to your mother that way…” or to insist they apologize when they should. Single parents do the best they can, often under very difficult circumstances, and it’s very hard to end up in a situation where our adult children not only don’t recognize that we did our best – they find endless fault w/us…even though we saw to it they got a college education, their teeth were straightened, and they had as many opportunities as their friends did. A friend of mine, who has an ED, once said that we did such a good job raising our kids that we ended up w/a bunch of spoiled brats, which I thought was an interesting point…
    Thanks, everybody, for all your comments…

    Reply
    1. Workingonme

      Gotta agree with the “spoiled brats” observation. Many of us have tried so hard to make things easy that our children are ill prepared to deal with conflict. I grew up in a family with little resources and many problems but we care about and supported each other through the ups and downs. It appears the idea of leaving the stress behind has gotten a lot of traction these days

    2. Lisa R.

      I am with you, Eliza and Workingonme. I grew up under very adverse circumstances and came to appreciate all that I earned and was given in life. More importantly, I learned how to be compassionate with those around me who struggled.

      My daughter led a charmed life and has absolutely no appreciation of what I did to facilitate her happiness and success. She also has no compassion for her brother who has serious (medically documented) mental health and autism challenges. He, as an adult, has apologized to her numerous times for any grief he may have caused her growing up but she doesn’t want to hear it. By the way, I did what I could to shield her from his difficulties while also explaining to her that things were sometimes beyond his control. She never learned to be understanding of him, me, or anyone.

      I haven’t seen her in 3.5 years and our break came a month ago when she told me that although she had recently promised to come to visit for a few days to work things out she had changed her mind. She said that she owes me nothing and that I never did anything for her. I have offered to go to therapy with her to find out what exactly is going on here but she said that she is choosing not to do so. Rather, she is relying on her FREE therapist from the internet who has told her to separate from me without knowing anything of her entire background. I was condemned from the start for no reason at all. FREE internet therapy should be outlawed. My daughter is very much a spoiled brat.

      Anyway, thanks for reading. I am with you both and wish you well.

  9. Kaye Y.

    This was our first Christmas without our older son. We have been going through the torment of receiving emails tell us what horrible parents we have been; this was totally out of the blue. We have pleaded and begged with him to tell us what we did so we can set matters right, but he refuses to talk to us. We can only communicate through emails. We have tried to avoid texts because we want a record of what we have said – just in case. Our grandson means the world to us. Over the three years of his life, my daughter-in-law has used our grandson to punish us for whenever we do anything to upset her. We have walked on egg shells with her for 8 years; she has been abusive to us on several occasions, but because we love our son and want out family to be “normal” and happy, we have done our best to keep the peace. They have seen a therapist for almost three years and our son told us that the therapist explained to him that his mother (that is me) was the problem. Then accused us of hurting them and told us they needed time to heal, but still refuse to meet with us and help us understand what we have done wrong. Our younger son has been the center of our lives and when he had a son they asked us to move to the city where they live, we did and now they have put their house on the market and are moving several thousands of miles away – all behind our back as we found out from a friend. When we asked if this was true, they refused to discuss it. We pleaded with them to see our grandson to give him his Christmas gifts, they allowed us to see him for 1 hour and 14 minutes! Our grandson told us he loved us and had missed us. He did not want to leave and asked his father why he couldn’t have dinner with us, his father gave a lame excuse and they left. When our son and his wife were here, they acted as if nothing had happened and talked very little, just watched as our grandson opened his gifts and made some small talk. It was horrible, except seeing our grandson was too wonderful for words. We are trying to piece our lives back together. We will be doing OK, then something we see something reminds us of our grandson and we (both) fall to pieces, me more than my husband, but he is really hurting over this. He was the best man at our son’s wedding, and now this. We can bear the hurt our son has caused, but knowing that we will not be seeing our grandson is a bridge too far. I have your first book and just ordered the second one. We are praying for strength, wisdom and guidance each day. Thank you and everyone who has shared their stories. We are astounded that so many people are going through the heartache of losing someone they love, with no reason, or understand of “the why”.

    Reply
  10. Maya

    Hi, I am new to this site. Your book saved my life, seriously. I am so very sorry for the heartbreak that many of you are experiencing. This is the first Christmas for decades, that I experienced without a very heavy heart. I have an only son who lives about a 4 hour flight away. He was the light of my life and my main focus. He has a lovely family with two young children. My ex left us when he was 12, and then the trouble began. Anger, verbal abuse, hanging out with not so inspiring kids, drug using, etc… My physician said to me about the verbal abuse and threats that “I was a safe target”. I didn’t feel so safe. When he left home for college, he joined the Armed Forces infantry division reserves. (I hadn’t even allowed an action figure or violent tshirt in my house). He also joined the Mason’s. Then he went to Police school and became a police officer and he joined the Shriner’s. I think that these are now his family? After being hospitalized for PTSD, which he hadn’t told me about, he said that he didn’t want to hurt me, but he didn’t want me in his life anymore. I was stunned. Since then, it has been very awkward, as I still want to build a relationship with my grandchildren. The parents video call occasionally. My partner and I went out to visit them last summer and my son avoided us. He did accuse me of some stuff that I didn’t do, and then said, “That’s it,” and spun around and left the room. I think he may have a narcissistic personality disorder. You think? That was the last straw. I decided to estrange him after that, and felt my heart lighten considerably. I didn’t tell him. Since then, he has phoned me twice and was polite and friendly and he even bought me my first Christmas gift! Very strange. I don’t want to get sucked in again, only to be hurt by him again. I’m done, but will be polite to him. I didn’t expect this ambiguity and it kind of complicates things for me emotionally.

    Reply
    1. Su

      Polite

      That word stuck out for me.

      I am also polite

      I am being polite with a being who I carried and gave birth to ( a difficult labor). A being who I loved more than life itself for a long long time.

      And yet now it is the best I can do to only be polite.

  11. Sharon

    Sheri, I salute and thank you for the sustaining support you offer to this community of parents struggling through estrangement from their adult children. It is not a reality any of us would have wanted or deserved! I am now in the 15th year of this stinging loss, have tried for many years to change the situation but have not been able to. I have three lovely grandchildren who were 12, 10 and 8 when this rupture occurred. Through the years, I have strived to bring about reconcilation without success. My mother shortly before she died told me that she knew I had tried everything to heal this rift but that the ball was now in my daughter’s court.
    During the 1st year of estrangement in 2006 when I attemped contact with my grandchildren I was cut off and told “No Contact”, thankfully that changed and I was able to email and write them. I had a vital relationship with these children and I have thought many hours of how this may have affected them. They have all responded to my writing and 3 years ago my youngest grandson came to stay with me in Toronto while he did a modelling assignment. We had a wonderful time and I was taken with his kindness and understanding. He is about to turn 24. My eldest who is now 28..invited me to her wedding in August 2016 ..I was elated to take part in this important day in her life. Her other grandmother told me that my granddaughter said that while her mother had issues with me she didnt..this meant the world to me! Prior to the pandemic I was to visit her and her husband and to see the other two grandchildren ..this visit is on hold. My daughter completely ignored me at the wedding and when I attempted even the mildest communication she turned away. When photos were on FB she cut me out of group photos and prominently displayed her father and his wife. All of this was deeply painful, however, I detrermined it was my granddaughters day and it was going to be honoured by myself. The selfish uncaring of my daughter astounded me in that she couldn’t even honour her daughter’s wish to have me there. The story is complex and long .perhaps I will share later. I still hope for healing because I truly believe it is in everyone’s interest. Recently my eldest grandson moved to Montreal and I am hoping we will reconnect with a visit..so far there have been some texts and a phonecall.
    I feel that I have made meaningful progress towards acceptance of the situation, and work towards building some connection with my adult grandchildren while keenly aware of what has been lost over the years.
    Regarding the Christmas challenge you have presented:, I love gardening & am aware of its healing potential I ordered today “The Well Gardened Mind” the Restorative Power of Nature by Sue Stuart-Smith, a psychiatrist. One of the things that resonated for me re this book is that she was impacted by her grandfather’s gardening pursuits engendered by his attempts to heal after his war experiences WW1. I had experienced the same with my own grandfather. I await it eagerly and will share my reflections once read.
    I wish everyone here a peaceful hopeful Christmas season with some added sparkle! Once again Sheri..Thank you for your compassion and understanding.
    Warmest wishes to all, Sharon

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you, Sharon. I hope for continued contact for you with your grandchildren .. and the book sounds terrific!

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

  12. Belinda

    My heart aches for everyone experiencing rejection from their adult children.
    It has been 6 1/2 years that I have seen or spoken to my youngest son. He got married, joined the Coast Guard and cut off everyone in our families. Grandparents, his only sibling, his aunts, uncles, cousins….everyone. Including his 2 best friends from childhood
    I tried to Google him in hopes to just to see him. I did find out in 2020 he brought his first home and got a divorce but no pictures
    We were a military family, very close ,so this is puzzling and heartbreaking to my husband, our oldest son and me.
    This past July my precious mother in law passed away unexpectedly. She was his favorite memaw. I reached out to the coast guard Chaplin to contact our son.
    We never heard a word. Heartbreaking
    I pray everyday for God’s peace, comfort and healing for our family and all of yours.
    I am so thankful for this group, it’s tough for others that don’t know this pain to understand it.

    Reply
  13. Betsy S

    Thank you to everyone for sharing your stories. It helps to know other really great parents have suffered this fate.

    I have been estranged from middle of 3 children for 3 years. HIs choice not mine. He does not return calls or emails or texts. HIs wonderful grandmother was failing in the nursing home for two years and he never got his act together to visit or send a card or call. (She was the best grandma–in her 80s she went camping, tried to learn their video games, gave them significant $ to start their lives) I only send a Happy Birthday message on his birthday and do nothing more. My other two children understand he has problems ( ADHD, maybe bipolar). But they too are holding me at a distance. Oldest son has blown up at me twice in a huge over-reaction in my only two visits in over a year. Daughter doesn’t return my calls for months at a time but then acts like nothing is wrong.

    I’m reeling because I just learned she had COVID and her boyfriend arrived two weeks earlier than expected. She got COVID over two weeks ago and didn’t tell me. She has taken international trips without telling me any details of the trip–gone and come back and I learn about it from her brother. A good friend of hers that I had met got very ill and I didn’t learn the details of it until months later. So it seems like some partial estrangement.

    I’m just throwing out my experience to show that there are many different types of estrangement: Total cut off of contact, abusive contact, and the holding at a distance contact and acting like nothing is wrong.

    Again I so appreciate all the sharing of stories by other people. . .

    So to respond more specifically to Sheri’s post: What am I looking forward to in the new year:
    1. To delve into my job with the gusto i’Ve always had for it, but cut it off by 4:30 daily.
    2. To continue to enjoy the company of my boyfriend. I tell him at least every other day how very grateful I am for his presence in my life. I feel for all of you who perhaps don’t have a significant other in your life. It helps so much. Also we have been together now for 8 years and he has seen the transformation in my kids and backs me up that it is not my fault. The behavior is theirs to own. If you are open to a partnering relationship, maybe 2022 is the year we come out of COVID hibernation and you meet that special someone who fills the void.
    3. Looking forward to just simple things like enjoying a high school play, going on camping trips, reading a good book.
    4. The sad thing about estrangement is that if they are not responding to emails and phone calls; there isn’t much else you can do. So you sooth yourself with reminders that you have done all you could and the ball is in their court. I do self talk and remind myself of that and it sooths the negative thoughts.

    Reply
  14. swig

    Just a few months ago, everything that we had planned in our lives was subject to cancellation based on our son’s moods, needs, and his damaging words that brought us down. Today, we are moving forward. We even have a vacation planned for February! It’s a big bucket list trip that we are very excited about! I’ve also been thinking about other things I can do that will give me peace, occupy my thoughts, and provided exciting anticipation. A couple of examples…we got a keyboard and my husband and I are taking lessons….and I am already planning out the spring gardening. It’s a breath of fresh air to feel like I have my own life again. Not that some sadness is not still there, but life does and must go on!

    Reply
    1. Terri S.

      We too are planning a fun trip with our daughter, her husband and our grandson who will be 5. Our ES 2 sons will never know the joy of having loving grandparents. I think anticipating fun events is key to warding off depression. Reading and sewing are the activities that I engage in regularly that bring me joy.

  15. Joanne E

    Teejay – you could have been talking about me, as my experience mirrors yours. My husband left when my kids were 2 and 4. I married a kind police officer, and we provided a living nurturing home. I allowed my ex unfettered access to my children, changing the custody arrangement whenever his whims dictated. I allowed him to take the children on my days because I felt I was doing the best for them. I say ‘allowed’ because I could have fought him on things, but I didn’t have the strength after being married (and divorced) to a sociopath, which is what I believe he is. He never communicated anything about the children. When I tried to start a communication book, he ‘lost’ it. I knew at that point it was futile to think we could have a ‘normal’ co-parenting relationship. I (and the children) am a victim of Parental Alienation. I didn’t see it coming. He told my kids they had to choose between us when they turned 12. My son was beside himself – angry, crying, acting out. I didn’t realize how much pressure was being put on him. I did take him to counselling, but he wouldn’t talk to the therapist (therapists, like teachers, etc are stupid as per his dad). After a few therapy visits he asked if his dad could take him. I agreed. I don’t think he ever took him, not once. Fast forward two years. I had bought my kids a trip to Universal Studios in Florida for Christmas. We left in early January for a week. When we returned, on the way back from the airport, my son asked if I could drop him at his dad’s. I pushed back on that, but eventually relented. I didn’t know that was the last time he would ever spend with me.
    I will never know what my ex filled my kids’ heads with to make them despise me so. I know that my daughter (who I really believed had escaped his grasp) told me I had ‘gaslighted’ her her whole life. I didn’t know what that meant, but when I did find out, the only thing I lied to her about was the Christmas Turkey stuffing. It had sausage meat in it and she was a vegetarian. She took a helping and then had seconds – she loved it so much I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t vegetarian. So, not really a lie. Anyways, I know the why of my situation – my ex – but I spent years asking myself why my kids could treat me like this. I stopped asking that why. I will never know how the justified it.

    Reply
  16. Tracy

    I’m glad the holiday is over,I’m just numb and have cried all the tears I have left.I see the damage he has done to the kids besides me.It’s so heartbreaking.

    Reply
    1. Diane M.

      Tracy, yes it can be difficult during the holidays. Is this estrangement new to you? If so, give yourself time. If you can, get Sheri’s books, they will be of tremendous help for you. Just take baby steps. Soon, you will slowly start to feel better. Believe me, for at first, I had to cry in towels, for Kleenex was not enough. It took a long time, and one day at a time, but slowly I can say that I’m feeling better. Be kind and patient with yourself. You will get better and one day, you will find yourself enjoying all the holidays during the year, in your own way. Bless you…

  17. Charlotte

    Look at all y’all rocking it! Our situation is a bit different, we have chosen estrangement due to our adult son and his wife choosing to side with our daughter’s narcissistic ex husband in a nasty custody/divorce. Im looking forward to learning how to play the piano! And we love to camp and bike, so we will do that as much as we can. We will continue our volunteer activities….feeding critters at the local nature center and helping with market day in a local shelter that provides food for needy folks. We are continuing to move forward, and wish no ill to our son and his wife.

    Reply
  18. Debbie M.

    I’m so sorry for all of the heartbreak all of you are going through! We have been estranged from our 28-year old daughter for 4 months now. I have 3 grown sons whom she will still communicate with, so I’m thankful for that! I know many of you have more than one child not communicating with you, or it’s your only child you’re not in relationship with, and I’m so sorry!
    It’s still surreal that estrangement is part of our story and that “no contact with parents” is such a prevalent thing. Now that we’ve gone through our first holiday season and still no response to our attempts to reach out to her, we know this will be our story for a while. So grateful for Sheri’s emails, and I plan to order both books. So grateful for this community of encouragement and support! So grateful God is walking us through each day and that there are so many things I can be so grateful for! It’s still going to be a good 2022. Saying a prayer for each of you and your families today!❤️

    Reply
  19. Cindy M.

    I feel good in that I have tried to reach out to our estranged daughter with love, hope and saying she deserves happiness. I have used the word deserve instead of needs. Now I can take a deep breath and start planning a trip with my granddaughter this summer. The rest of my family has gotten even closer so I am enjoying my other daughter and my grandkids with our new close relationship. My other daughter is so happy to have her parents back in her life. We never realized how our estranged daughter took over every aspect of our life.
    Time to move on making new memories and just hoping that our estranged daughter finds joy in her life.

    Reply
  20. Jan P.

    Travel! With all of the plans put on hold or canceled due to the pandemic over the past 2 years, we have several trips scheduled for 2022. Traveling to an exciting new place, taking lots of photos, and enjoying the local customs and culture takes me out of myself and away from everyday mundane issues and problems, such as the heartache of my ED. I return feeling refreshed with lots of new memories to enjoy, and I’m ready to tackle whatever comes along—while planning and getting excited about the next adventure. I create a photo journal of each of our trips. When I have a sad day with thoughts of the estrangement from my daughter and her family, I review our photo books, revisit these pleasant memories, and remember the fun times and joy we still have in our life.

    Reply
  21. Gracie2021

    Good morning ! Husband and I love to travel so planning our next trip really helps with ES’ nastiness towards his family. I wholeheartedly concur, having something to look forward to, and plan, is a mental health lifesaver in our home.

    Reply
  22. Tammy

    I am at a loss on what to do. Another Christmas, I have purchased gifts for my four grandchildren, 8, 5 and two that are two years of age. I have requested permission to deliver gifts or mail gifts or send by someone else. No response but this> Merry Christmas to you mom as well.

    Should I give up. It has been four years of estrangement. I have no spouse. I do have another son who allows me to be part of his life as long as I not mention or asks any questions about his brother. I have never been given any reason for the estrangement other than He can’t have me in his life since he is a recovering addict. No, I am not an addict. A well respected CPA who raised them in church and gave them everything. Their father has recently came back into their lives with the young woman he left me for when I was pregnant with my second child. They were 5 and 1 when he left for good. We were married 15 years. Yet he is allowed in his life. An additional hurt to endure. Should I just severe all contacts? So tired of trying and pretending all is ok.

    Reply
  23. Jim E.

    I am a Dad who has been estranged by my 23 year old daughter for no discernible reason understood by me or my wife, her step-mom. I have read every comment on here for the past 3 days and am struck by the fact that there hasn’t been any from a Dad? I can assure you that I have felt the exact same pain as many of you. I’ve been therapy for 3 years but it has only helped minimally. I have some tools but almost every day I am triggered by an external observation that reminds me that my daughter and I have almost no relationship. The “why” is a constant on my mind and heart.
    Any thoughts as to the reason I would be the only Dad commenting of the past 80 posts or so? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Jim,

      Fewer men talk openly. It’s that simple. They are hurting too though. More reach out to me in private than they used to though. Maybe your post here will help other men to talk.

      Hugs to you
      I hope you will read my books and take charge of your beautiful life…because it can still be a beautiful life.

      Sheri McGregor

  24. Dana

    I am looking forward to training my dog for our next level of competition. I am looking forward to planning a trip a friend and I make – around a place we want to visit that has a dog competition that we can also compete at. I am looking forward to a new couch and chair that I ordered six months ago to arrive….I am visualizing enjoying a good book and a cup of tea in my new chair! I also am looking forward to spending more time at home outdoors with my husband enjoying the fruits of his labor – his garden – of course the snow and cold must go first…but that is just a season 🙂

    Reply
  25. Suzanne

    Thank you to Sheri and everyone in this group,even after 2yrs the holidays still have me filled with so many different emotions. I am hoping this year to make some changes and remember I am worthy.

    Reply
  26. Debs

    Speaking from experience, the key word in our recovery has been acceptance, acceptance of our daughters decision to cut us off, acceptance that this is now our life and that we must move on.
    Our son has returned to our lives along with our three grandchildren. Still some work to do there but he has separated from his wife which removes the main cause of angst. This is not something we wanted for him or especially the children but he is adamant he is happier.
    I don’t think I will ever feel the same joy as I did when our brood were young. Everything became so complicated and because I’m an empath I have jumped through hoops to make everyone else happy, forgetting myself.
    The good thing is, I can still love but, I love myself more.

    Reply
  27. Dianne

    Sheri I love your analogies stories connecting to the topic. To hear your love for plants was fun. Although I’m not great at house plants every summer I get my hands in the dirt and plant flowers and sometimes veggies. My joy is going out for walks and many times I love taking my big camera out and taking landscape photos and enjoying the fresh air. I love to also connect with family and friends either calling, facetimeing or even dropping them a note on social media or snail mail. Also I’m enjoy my new venture of coaching others who are living with fibromyalgia/chronic pain. I’m a new health and life coach although experience over 40 years. Help others before in some form in the community has been a passion but the pandemic sure put a little twist on that. I sure hope the spider plant my daughter gifted me on Christmas will stay alive and well. For all those here I sure hope you can keep those passions going even if it’s of a smallest of things like step outside and breath the fresh air in. Many hugs…. Thanks again Sheri for all you do for this community. Your book is wonderful. Happy soon to be New Year 2022

    Reply
  28. Jane

    I am growing herbs. I am surprised at the enjoyment I get from nurturing my garden, and then using them in my cooking. A couple of years ago I took up swimming and playing the piano so my plan is to continue to improve these skills.
    A little exercise I do for myself when I’m not feeling great is recall 3 things from the previous day that gave me some enjoyment. They can be simple things such as going for a walk by myself or sitting in my favourite chair reading a book. I find this can exercise can completely change my frame of mind.

    Reply
  29. Celia L.

    In my family a sequence of events prompts me to believe that estrangement is contagious, both within a family and in the wider community. If that is so, then it seems to me that to change the flow of energy from negative to positive, individuals must endeavour to be compassionate, encouraging forces for good.

    My personal hope is that, by this conciousness, I may play a small part in healing the wounds of estrangement.

    This Christmas I was on the verge of meltdown over my children but I found myself incredibly supported by friends and neighbours (and some family members) who showed me in so many ways that I am someone they care for. I am so grateful. I feel loved.

    Reply
  30. Elizabeth L.

    Houseplants really resonate in this corner Sheri, I left my previous crop to the new lady who’s going to live in my house.
    Do you name your plants? I used to have a peace lily called Sherpa Tensing because he thrived best on top of my bookcase and a boston fern called Sideshow Bob, because, well, he looked like he had dreadlocks from a distance.
    Now, it’s time for new plant friends. My new place will be a well kept second floor flat, but in the less salubrious part of a very cultural small city.
    As I intend to have another cat friend ( is also like a dog, but aware of having to work long hospital hours ), there can be no peace lillies, but perhaps a Christmas cactus to remind me of my temporary ‘ no room at the inn’ situation I find myself in, till it’s possible to move into my new life.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you for indulging me, Elizabeth. I haven’t yet named my plants but I do call them sweetie and beautiful.

      Some houseplants are not toxic and not all cats bother them or their dirt. I was surprised at that but have seen some in those online groups talking about it.

      True Christmas cactus isn’t easy to find anymore in stores. They sell Thanksgiving cactus mostly. And sometimes Easter cactus. (Yes, these exist!) But someone would give you a cutting maybe.

      Hugs, and Thank You again.

      Sheri McGregor

  31. Teejay

    Our 2 adult children are now 27 and 25. Neither of them talk to my husband (their step-father) and me. You may think that this is our fault (normal reaction) but their biological father (who left when they were 2 and 3, after having an affair) has waged a vitriolic propaganda war against us. This is called parental isolation syndrome and it was done in secret, with clear instructions not to tell me anything. I brought them up and paid for everything whilst running my professional consultancy from home. I gave them the best of everything, the best private schools and so much of my time. I married a fine, kind physician when they were 11 and 12, who loved them as his own. I was exhausted and suffered immune disorders but kept going. Yet they have turned out lazy, unproductive, entitled, rude, blaming, and nasty; I am sorry to say, just like their father. Perhaps they will turn their lives around. At this point I must just let them be. All my wonderful, kind, intelligent friends (who were there during the kids’ lives) tell me that I did everything I could but as soon as I expressed any frustration with their characters or rudeness, I was wiped. I used to think that if kids don’t talk to their parents, it is the parent’s fault. In this age of entitlement and sloth, I no longer think that. Having kids is no guarantee of a happy time parenting or a happy ending, particularly when they are the product of a broken marriage. All you can do is work on yourself to be truthful, kind, compassionate and worthwhile. Ethical behaviour is the key. It is the only thing you can control. If I had my time again, I would not provide so much. I would not send them to expensive schools, and I would prosecute their father to provide his share and not be so accommodating to him, giving him open access to the kids and our home, thinking that we could afford to pay and do most of the nurturing. This route would have been better for him and the kids.

    After the breakdown in the relationships with my progeny, I offered them family therapy. My ED stipulated that she would not “unless you prove you have been to therapy twice a month for 6 months”. I found that condition to be evidence of that she was not really committed to the aim of therapy and had a somewhat closed mind. She then told me not to contact her unless I apologised (for finally losing my temper, really in a state of righteous indignation). I apologised to both of them, which is what they said they wanted, but I have not heard from them for years now. I send them texts wishing them happy birthdays, Christmas etc. The ball is in their courts.
    Their father, continues to obsess with me, writing me countless emails using hidden email addresses and letters with disguised addresses and handwriting and sending me gifts. He is a nutter and has been interrogating the kids for years to get info about my husband and me. This compares radically with my style which was to never ask or expect information about Their father to be supplied from the kids or talk about reasons for our breakup. I now know that he was filling them with lies about how everything was my fault and that I was a neurotic, money hungry, person. The last email (which I started reading before I knew it was from Theur fsther) stated, “I am the only one who can help you now”. Clearly this position was his ultimate aim. Unfortunately for the kids, “One of the saddest lessons in history is this: if we have been bamboozled for long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We are no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” (Carl Sagan). Their father personifies the worst evil, a hypocrite and a man who would sacrifice his children’s integrity for his own purposes.
    I have done a lot more work on myself these 2 years. Studying philosophy, working through personal implications, getting quite fit, drinking less, doing yoga, meditation, deep reflection, and diarising. I have come to the clear realisation that it is impossible to control another’s emotions and decisions and trying to just gets me into strife. I give that up now and work with things I can control: my own decisions, perceptions, and acts. Of course I am still grief stricken, particularly in the early hours of the day.
    I have flipped the whole nastiness and shock that has accompanied the adult children’s rather prolonged decade of intermittent estrangement and looked at it as an opportunity. They have displayed disrespect, rudeness, entitlement, arrogance, lack of humanity, extreme laziness, dismissiveness, unforgivingness, deceitfulness, greed, and treachery (what an awful list!) and I (after a long ride of patience) momentarily got angry at that a few times. I forgive myself. I am not perfect. I pat myself on the back for being the best single mum I could, running a demanding professional business and paying for them both alone, putting up with their father strutting around their schools— acting like he was the one providing that whilst I was working 60 hours a week— coping with a major disability (severe deafness) and a number of surgeries, creating a rock solid marriage to a fine man, looking after our mothers etc.
    I now have the opportunity to live my own life without having to worry about them, trying to help them improve, watching them be all of the above things and constantly being appalled and disgusted. It is good to have a break from those things. It is also good for them to get out there and be their own people and learn their own lessons. If they hate me (and it appears, my husband as well) then so be it.
    As for their father I believe that if I give him any attention at all, he will gorge himself and I will be the diminished one. He displays covert narcissistic characteristics, and the best action is to starve him. I want him out of my life and the progeny’s estrangement has facilitated that. I suspect he knows that and is feeling deprived of information because now my ED is not reporting back my every move, feeding his sick, envious, superiority/inferiority obsession.
    Of course it is an absolute tragedy that we have been rejected as parents and “our later years look like being spent without the consolations and joys of family get togethers and grandchildren.” However, now I see that there are some benefits. I am concentrating on them and getting on with my colourful, eventful, productive, and enjoyable life. I love my wonderful husband, fabulous, good friends and I love homemaking, cooking and eating good food, drinking fine wines in moderation, keeping fit, socialising, going to the ballet, gardening, working, reading and high thinking etc. I don’t hate My ex-husband, just pity him. I totally forgive the progeny and would gladly welcome them back into my life but would be very careful about what that actually looked like. I will also survive if that never happens. Being a parent of estranged adult child/ren is actually very very common, as is parental alienation syndrome—where one parent actively tries to turn their children against the other parent. This is my current fate, and I cannot really do anything constructive about it. I therefore quit trying and will just accept it until I can clearly, definitively, do something about it. That time may never come, and I accept that.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth

      Teejay, I feel for you. The hardships of single parenthood while wrestling with hard work, health issues and malignant influences are all very familiar, as us the self sacrifice to provide good education.
      IMHO, you’ve more than proved you are a good person and a great parent. I hope you manage to keep this sick man out of your life. It would be so good if the law took any interest in sick folks like him. I’m sure he should be cooling his heels in the local police lock up for stalking and harassment.
      Sending best wishes, thank goodness you have a lovely husband to balance out the previous one.

    2. Dianne

      Teejay, Thank you so much for that! Your situation is almost exactly the same as mine. I am a doer which makes this situation so frustrating. There is nothing I can do since most of the damage is done in secret, secret lies. How do you fight what you don’t know is going on? I just let them be and put one foot in front of the other with a very heavy heart.

    3. Shawn K.

      Teejay, thank you so very much for sharing such a personal and detailed account of your experience with estrangement, as well as how you’ve managed your life within that experience. I’m thoroughly impressed with your strong heart and mind, truly.
      Also, I wish for you to know how meaningful your sharing is for me, and likely for countless others who feel most supported and encouraged by the strength, clarity, love & wisdom of people who share common trials and who have common intentions to heal and maintain a good heart, and a good life.
      Of course, I must use this opportunity to add Sheri McGregor to my gratitude! Having found this source has felt like an answered prayer, indeed.

  32. Dee

    I am taking a yoga, and a strength class online and have done the first two days out of fourteen. It’s fun. I feel stronger in my upper body already. I am staying present with our pets who brings hours of joy. I am finally moving on. I have learned to ground myself by staying in tune with my senses. Thank you.

    Reply
  33. Laura T.

    I am looking forward to several things in this New Year. I have been asked to help organize and direct a small Choir at my beloved country church. I feel a joyful anticipation of being with my Church Family, who are a great source of comfort to me. Also, I will be teaching piano lessons again (something I did years ago, but for many reasons, got away from).

    Most of all, I look forward to my husband and i watching our precious grandaughter, aged 17 months, grow and begin to embrace life!

    Reply
  34. Diane M.

    I’m really looking forward to the New Year! We made it through Christmas Eve/Day. My new journal is all set. Journaling has helped me a lot to get things “out of me.” That helps a lot. I have a neighbor that is also estranged from her adult daughter and little grandkids so it helps when we can talk about things too. I got her both of Sheri’s books and we both read them. They have been a lifesaver for us. I write down my goal for the year in my new journal plus, then have a monthly goal to work on also. I plan to do much more this coming year, have more fun! Even if it’s going out to dinner by myself. Time for more fun and less heartache. Time for me to ask, “is this what I want to do?” or, “Is this who I want to spend time with and share my life space with?” Not everyone is good for me. I will be more selective. I cant’ wait to see what the New Year holds not just for me, but for all of you too.

    Reply

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