Estrangement: What’s your costume to help?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Costumes aren’t just suitable for Halloween. Choosing a sort of “costume” can be a helpful support in times of stress.

estranged from adult childrenMost of us are familiar with the old term, “dress for success.” The idea was that the clothes we wear convey a message to others about who we are and what we can do. But clothing can convey helpful messages to ourselves, too.

Your clothes:
It’s not always about what other people think

Years ago as a young mother of five, attending writers’ conferences and networking events for the first few times felt scary. Having to shake strangers’ hands and present myself as a professional writer had me trembling. On some level, those sorts of things still jangle my nerves a bit, but I learned a trick to help: put on a “costume” and step into the role. Back then, that meant business attire. Looking professional made me feel more confident. The new people I met didn’t need to know that I worked from a home office off my bedroom with toddlers playing at my feet.

Help yourself, help others
How your clothes make you feel

Just the other day, after a couple of stressful weeks full of … well, let’s just call them “situations,”  I fell back on the tactic to help me–and help a friend.

Feeling particularly harried on the day I’d planned a visit with a friend, the last thing I wanted to do was spread my tension to her. She had her own stresses—a daughter with recent health complications, career adjustments, family drama, and general stress. I almost cancelled that morning, but hadn’t seen her in months. So I chose a feel-good “costume” instead.

estrangement of parentsHere I am, exhausted but hopeful in my colorful, elasticized waist, handkerchief hemmed skirt and a bright blouse with embroidery swirls. Rather than trouble myself to style my hair, I swept it into a clip, buckled on my most comfortable shoes, and tossed some beads around my neck. That skirt always feels so breezy and easy. It flows when I walk—and I could imagine myself drifting along, a wave of peace and joy. Maybe it’s silly, but it helped.

I did tell my friend a little of what had been going on in my life, but my “costume” served as a reminder to let the troubles drift away. My costume felt a little like Glenda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz that day, but I was told I looked more like a kindergarten teacher. Either way, my role was one of peace.

Estranged parents: What’s your costume?

That evening, I thought about all the different “costumes” I’ve worn over the years. At one point, I had a sparkly duck lapel pin for an organization’s meetings where I played a leadership role. That pretty little duck helped me remember to let complaints roll right off my back like a duck sheds water. And once, for a trying personal meeting that required emotional armor, I chose a bell-sleeved tunic with a metallic print on the front. That top looked stylish but felt like protection for my heart.

With the holidays approaching, maybe you’re facing uncertain or uncomfortable situations surrounding your adult child’s estrangement. If so, consider what sort of “costume” will help. I wouldn’t feel good in clothes that bind, but someone else might feel supported by more structured apparel. Maybe you wear a soft jacket that’s suitable indoors (for an added layer of emotional padding), or a solid pair of shoes that keep you standing firm.

The clothing you choose can be another form of self-kindness and self-support. You’ve seen me in my good witch teacher “costume.” Now, leave a comment and tell me about yours!

For more information about estrangement and how to move forward after an adult child’s estrangement, read the books.

Related Reading:

Estranged? Enjoy the holidays anyway

Holidays for parents rejected by adult children

When adult children reject parents: Be kind to yourself this holiday season

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16 thoughts on “Estrangement: What’s your costume to help?

  1. Jenny

    Someone mentioned your books on Reddit and how your books helped them. I googled the books and found your site today. Then, I signed up for the emails. I have been on an endless rollercoaster ride that I am ready to jump off of. My husband and I team drive a semi, so I don’t have much time out from under the wheel. Therefore, I have been listening to books as I drive to get my negative voices to stop. I look forward to exploring your books. Thank you for helping us with our pain.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Jenny,

      I’m really glad you found the site! I’m so very sorry you needed it though.

      I hope you will find my work informative, soothing, and helpful.

      Take care out there, and I wish you safe travels.

      Hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

  2. Castaway

    It’s been almost a year!!! I’m afraid I’ve been wearing the invisible costume of a sad clown . I read your book Done with the crying 6 months ago and am reading it again. I am going to family councilling I have an excellent therapist helping me through this. Next I will read your next book. Thank you for helping me realize this is not my fault I did not choose this. My son still keeps in contact with my husband yes his Dad which makes it much mote difficult not just for me but both. My daughter has also been abandoned by them and my oldest son has difficulty with this as well. This has affected the whole family but I’m believing this has destroyed my estranged son the most. I have not seen my baby granddaughter since Nov 2021 nor has my husband because he is almost blind and needs me to drive him. What a shame. Now I will wear my skinny jeans with my a big smile on my face. That’ll be my costume from this day forward. THANK YOU

    Reply
    1. Carrie-Ann

      1-17-22
      Good Morning Dearest Castaway!!
      You say you have “been wearing the invisible costume of a sad clown,” and shared your thoughts and experiences of what that entails…As I was reading your comments, my Heart was filled with Compassion & Love for you…I Appreciate that you have really put in your time, energy, and attention with on-going counseling and reading Beautiful Sheri’s books. I also feel such Appreciation for Beautiful Sheri, her books, and this online community…
      And then, at the very end of your writing you put a “big cherry on top,” of the whole deal by saying, “I will wear my skinny jeans with a big smile on my face. That’ll be my costume from this day forward.”
      Sooo, of course, that put a big smile on my face…Sooo, I just had to reply to your comments, In Celebration of your wearing your skinny jeans with a big smile on your face…from this day forward…Amen to that sister!!!
      May You, Your Husband, and All Be Blessed In Body, Mind, & Spirit!!!
      In Gratitude & Friendship,
      Carrie-Ann

  3. Annie

    Thank you so much for this forum. This is truly a healing and safe support group. How we all can identify with the pain, confusion, and sadness of rejection. In my case, this punishment far outweighs the crime. I have three amazing granddaughters that I have been unable to have contact with. I continue to send gifts and letters to them, but only hear ( from my adult son and brother of my estranged daughter ) that they were received and that they miss me very much. I feel like I am losing my mind with mood swings worse than when I went through menopause!! It has effected my relationships with my siblings and husband ( not their father) I am trying to focus on self-love and care and trying to remember myself before I was a mother and grandmother. Therapists often don’t understand the debilitating pain, but the women in this forum do. Thank you. I am ordering the books now. Banishment is the cruelest form of hate.

    Reply
  4. MJ

    Just finished the first book and my husband is now reading it also , will be interesting to see how our thoughts , feelings and way of coping and working on things (healing) surface. Looking forward the continuing the journey with help from second book coming out in few days .

    Reply
  5. Sherry H.

    I am just beginning the journey of healing. Finding this site, this book, you, feels like I’ve just gulped my first breath of air in a sea of near drowning for the past 29 years. Thank you, Sheri and everyone who has shared their hearts and stories. I look forward to the healing.

    Reply
  6. Strong

    I use music. You can find this beautiful and empowering song on Youtube: Change on the Rise by Avi Kaplan.

    Reply
  7. Patricia

    So thankful I have found this site! Thank you Sheri for being “ you” so excited to get the book !!!! God be with you all!!!!!

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Patricia,
      I’m thankful you found your way here, too! (Although I am not happy you have the need.)

      Hugs to you,
      Sheri McGregor

  8. Intothemystic

    This is my first time here. I found this idea of a costume so helpful. I won’t see any of my kids on this coming Easter but this year I will put my costume on that makes me feel good and strong. I need goodness and strength right now. I’m grateful I finally found a forum that addresses adult children with parents. I’ve been looking for years and all I find is parents abuse kids. These are very wise words I’ve read here especially the woman who said this, “ it make s me feel good, is very comfortable for the climate i live in (israel) and it reminds me of who i am, not who my estranged daughter thinks i am.” Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Intothemystic,

      I am SO happy that you have found this site! Thank you for commenting. We do need to dress for our own success … at joy, at happiness, at feeling good.

      HUGS,
      Sheri McGregor

  9. Onlychildmom

    I’ve chosen to wear a colorful apron–the kind that hangs from the neck and ties at the waist. Makes me look like a typical mom and a little old fashioned and vulnerable. When the adult children arrive for dinner they seem to note the change from my usual attire. I think they let down their defenses a bit and begin to relax.

    Reply
  10. melanie z.

    i try conservative with a little flair. i have a plain blue loose cotton and bamboo weave dress, that i wear with a fringed vest in faux leather that is long (the fringes touch the hem of hte dress even) it make s me feel good, is very comfortable for the climate i live in (israel) and it reminds me of who i am, not who my estranged daughter thinks i am.

    Reply

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