Freedom for a new era (parents rejected by adult children)

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

parents rejected by adult childrenIt’s the end of an era. Changes that were once far out on the horizon are here. My husband’s retirement, my pursuit of a rigorous academic goal, and a few other life-altering situations. I recognize that trying to hang onto the old while embracing the new will only hinder my progress and keep me living in the past. That’s why decisions are being made, changes to support the changes. And I feel good about those.

Even so, as I contemplated giving up our decades-old landline, a pang of sadness hit me. That phone number is the one my children committed to memory when they were young. The one they shared with their friends before cell phones became a thing. The phone that rang at all hours. It was one of the few threads left connecting me to my estranged son, to the ideal of family I envisioned and worked so hard to achieve.

But why hang onto something we no longer need? Why pay a bill for what has become clutter? It’s a small thing, really. A tiny toe dipped toward even more changes to come. Disconnecting the thing became a test, too. With special offers to retain me as a customer, if I’d just keep it for another year. I didn’t. And the disconnection brought a sense of relief. One less thing to hold onto just in case.

What are you holding onto?

Parents rejected by adult children have lots of similar decisions to make. I know how it feels to find a faux fur-framed photo of an estranged adult’s first love—and wonder how long to hold onto it. I know about high school yearbooks, odds and ends left in an abandoned bedroom, handwritten cards or a box of artwork made by a dimple-faced son who once adored his mom. It can be difficult to let that stuff go.

There’s no rule about how long to hold on, but when something drags you down, it’s time to take action. Maybe that means putting stuff away and out of sight (if you have room for it). Or, parents rejected by adult children could choose to inform their son or daughter of a decision to hold the items for only a specific period.

parents rejected by adult childrenOne mother whose two adult sons have abandoned her couldn’t part with the lovely artwork her talented son once created. She also couldn’t stand to look at it. A few years earlier, he had requested she keep the items for him, but since their only communication dwindled to an occasional text in which he ridiculed her, the works that once brought her pride and joy grew heavy with hurt. Seeing them decorate her home kept her longing for happier times.

Although she was at one point so anguished over her sons’ abandonment that she considered suicide, this mother sought support and made a change. And as she clawed her way toward a better perspective and a happy life, she knew her environment needed modifications. She had her own endeavors to pursue. A new life to live, working toward social change, career goals, and at her own creative pursuits. Her son’s artwork had to go. Her solution was to put them away in parents rejected by adult childrenher attic. “For now,” she explained, thinking he might have children one day and want the art. But she also decided to revisit the decision in the future. If she ever moved, she would discard, donate, or give up the art then. For now, though, out of sight out of mind.

 

With the items put away, she could display her own works, and fill her home with things that represented her interests and brought her joy.

Will you adapt?

The truth is, even if estrangement weren’t part of the equation, our lives change. That’s why people retire to warm climes and downsize. If we’re smart and resilient, we modify our very selves to survive and thrive. An adaptive spirit is healthier (and more fun) than clinging to an old ideal—even a good one—if it no longer exists. Strategies, plans, and ways of being that protect and satisfy us in one era of our lives often don’t work in another. If we don’t adapt, we fail.

Are you a wily coyote? A clever crow?

In the three decades I’ve lived in this semi-rural area, the additions of a school, a church, new tract homes, and a shopping center have changed things. Traffic, noise, and people have increased as the natural landscape with its native resources has shrunk. Yet, the coyote population that has lived here longer than I have continues to thrive. The coyotes have adapted quite well.

parents rejected by adult childrenThey’re like the crows who live in this area. Twenty years ago, when the school was built, the city cleared a grove of old pecan trees. For many years after that, come fall when the nuts would have ripened, flocks of crows could be seen circling above the spot where the trees once were. It was if they were puzzled about where their food source had gone. Now, the crows are as prevalent here as ever. They feed from a tree on my property each fall and fill in with whatever else they can find all year. Their loss and longing evident as they circled the skies in search of the trees, they have nonetheless adapted. Like the coyotes, they’re survivors.

What’s your style?

Like the mother who couldn’t part with her son’s artwork, you may need to preserve the past for now. Or maybe you’re more like me, steadily letting go, never rushing but making forward progress. You may be like the coyotes, who quickly adapt. Or like the crows, who circled for years, puzzling, before letting loose the dream of nuts no longer there.

It isn’t so much the style of our acceptance that’s important, but the forward momentum that allows for change. We can hold onto memories, savor them as I say in my book. Reliving the good memories is good for us. The trick is to hold onto the joy without clinging forever to the loss of what we once thought would be, and the wishes that are beyond our control.

Adapting brings freedom

For some, embracing a new era may mean embracing relief. One mother recently sent me an email in which she recounted the experience of an estranged adult daughter who has come in and out of her life for many years. This mother, like many parents, instigated reconciliation after reconciliation. Unfortunately, the facts of their relationship never changed. Her daughter’s verbal, financial, and emotional abuse continued. The last time her daughter left, this mother admitted to a response she couldn’t previously accept: relief.

By owning the feeling, by voicing it to someone who could understand, she was free to finally begin the work of adapting to a new way of life. She could let go of the guilt and failure that had kept her chained to trying, to her own peril. She’s learning to adapt.

parents rejected by adult childrenIn adapting our attitudes, our environments, and our behavior to support us in the current era of our lives, we become free. This Independence Day, you may be thinking of past times. Of fireworks displays you oohed and awed at with someone to whom you were once very close. If you have good memories, hold them dear. Relive and savor those moments for the joy the hold. I hope you will also contemplate of the holiday in terms of your personal independence. Consider your own sense of freedom, and more specifically, whatever may be holding you back.

Through the Facebook page and in emails, I frequently hear from parents rejected by adult children. Many of these parents are doing wonderful things with their newfound freedom. Some continue to hold out hope for a renewed relationship. Others no longer entertain the idea. Regardless, they’re enjoying and finding meaning in their lives. You can too.

Won’t you help others by sharing your thoughts in a comment to this article?

Happy Independence Day 2018! Great big hugs to all the hurting parents rejected by adult children.

Related reading

New Year’s Resolution (not clinging to the loss)

Parents of Estranged Adults: Declaring Independence 2016

Freedom

 

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23 thoughts on “Freedom for a new era (parents rejected by adult children)

  1. Fluffy51Fluffy51

    Sheri, I read your latest post about Independence Day. Here is what is working for me. This may not work for everyone,
    but this is the only way I can go on and
    live my life to the fullest. I refuse to
    let my 2 Ed’s to win. If they know that
    I’m shutting down they would be so pleased. Believe me there are ways of them
    finding out through a family member
    of mine who I call the “Mole”. My husband
    and I decided in May of 2017, when he was in ICU for a heart issue that we were done
    with them. After notifying them and got
    nothing from them, he said we are “Done”.
    Every picture has been put in drawers,
    their bedroom doors stay closed, whatever they left here is gone. I had trash bags
    of stuffed animals that I was saving
    for a future grandchild that was given to
    a church charity organization. There is nothing in my home that belongs to them.
    I have read your book twice, and my husband is reading it now. He and I think
    it’s great. It has helped me tremendously.
    I also recognized that I needed some therapy and that helped me too. I’m at a good place right now. We are both
    enjoying life and everyday I’m thankful to
    be ALIVE!!! The heartache is over, the
    crying is over, I am free. I made a wrong
    judgement a few days ago by reliving
    my story with a new friend, but after your
    wonderful suggestions that will never happen again. I simply feel that the ED’s
    Do not exist in my life. This is my only way
    I can go on and live. I’m sure it doesn’t
    work for many, but it has helped my husband and I tremendously. What I
    learned from your book combined with therapy has helped me regain my life
    again. I know for sure if my ED’s thought I
    was depressed they would be so happy because that is their goal. I’m just
    the opposite. My husband and I are not
    happy with this by any means, but
    we refuse to give in and let it take our
    happy life together away from us.
    Let the holiday begin and we will enjoy
    every minute of it with joy. Hugs Sheri.
    Everything you do is so very much appreciated, not only by me, but by
    thousands. Have a wonderful
    4th and enjoy to the fullest.
    Fluffy51

    Reply
    1. Hope4self

      Fluffy51,
      Thank you so much for sharing. I am beyond thankful to hear about a married couple who are DONE with abuse from their children.
      I am a single father who’s estranged from my 22 year old daughter nicknamed Lokey Everywhere I go, I run into people who tell me to keep trying. Even after my daughter and her mother’s family destroyed my life for 4 years to the day.
      I just left my daughter tonight for the final time. Ive instigated peace several times throughout the past 4 years, only to have her use those attempts to do more damage to my heart, my life, my reputation, and my health.
      My daughter Lokey, knows full well that her abuse has almost put me in the hospital. And yet she has never shown an once of remorse or conscience.
      It took me a long time to get here, but I did it. I cut the final ties between us. Thank God there are others like you who have taken this controversial step at ending your relationship with your child. Thank you for making me feel normal.

  2. Godslove2

    I have been seeing my therapist now since December and I think I’m making progress finally after losing all my children to this they don’t talk to me or anything I have survived this now and I’m going to overcome my depression anxiety and crying. I told her how my husband treated me with abuse verbal mental and emotional abuse and that’s how the kids learn to talk to me I am free of that now that I did not do anything wrong that’s just how they know to treat me cuz that’s all they saw their dad treat me I took all the blame for everything. So I guess this is what they’re doing to me making me suffer but I’m not suffering anymore because it’s on them not on me and I am free from any guilt and I’m trusting God to see me through this He Will Carry Me Through and I will be free I can’t go on like this with the depression and anxiety I’m getting way down so I’m pulling myself up one time I will have a good Fourth of July I’m independent of any abuse from the kids that I will get from them if they were around so I thank God for my therapist he was a Christian and how she is taking me in and talk to me and listen to me and tell me things I need to know about myself but I need to be free of them children and their abuse thank you

    Reply
    1. Hope4self

      Wow, there’s more than one?! I just want to say how sorry I am that happened to you. You must be incredibly strong. I am so happy that you got away and healed your heart and have support. I support you now too.

  3. Fluffy51Fluffy51

    Godslove2, i am very happy to hear you are seeing a therapist to help you. I felt myself going downhill too with my 2 Ed’s and i wasnt going to let it happen. Thst would be just what they would want. I got help from Sheri’s book and through
    therapy. It helped me realize there is nothing wrong with me and my husband, but something very wrong with them.
    Good for you to take your life back. Thats what we did, we took control of our lives
    again and it feels great. Hang in there and I
    pray you get all the help you need to live in peace. We all deserve to be happy.
    Hugs, Fluffy51

    Reply
  4. simplifypleasesimplifyplease

    I live at the tip of the African continent, where we’ve been in the grips of a terrible drought. Water rationing has been so strict that I now feel guilty flushing the loo more than once a day. Seriously … But things have changed this year.

    We have winter rains, and it’s been pouring down for the past month or so: to such an extent that this morning there are FOUR waterfalls sparkling against the rocky backdrop of our very beautiful mountain. I can see them from my inner-city apartment with its magnificent view.

    The drought began two years ago, when I could sense that my eldest son (now estranged) was finding our relationship difficult and uncomfortable. He abandoned me nearly a year ago but – thanks to ‘Done with the Crying’ and Sheri’s wonderful support group – I’m over the worst and beginning to relish the freedom I now have after decades of criticism, alienation, disapproval and downright persecution.

    So for me, the end of our regional drought is symbolic. I took the water restrictions much more seriously than most people in my apartment block – just as I worked hard at the exercises in Sheri’s book, and as a participant in her support group. Now, the drought has broken and the pain of estrangement has receded. I’m free of the terrible burden of trying to keep a dying relationship alive. Our city is free from the grips of a punishing drought. The gardens across our city will recover, I’m already healing and a new chapter has begun.

    Reply
    1. rparentsrparents Post author

      simplifyplease,

      This is such a beautiful message. I often feel that our exterior lives and surroundings parallel our inner worlds and what’s going on in our lives. Seeing it in such a way can be so healing. I love that you shared this wonderful symbolism, and I’m glad the drought has broken!

      Sheri McGregor

  5. forgetmenot1948forgetmenot1948

    Happy 4th to all our Sisters by Heart here,
    Thank you Sheri for your endearing and wise post here. As I’ve said before, this site is such a blessing for all who must endure this journey. After 5 years and even with my ED reaching out I have been able to move forward and maintain a happy, healthy life. Because of you, I’ve overcome days when I just wanted to stay in bed with the covers over my head, or drop to the floor in emotional pain from the unexpected emotional stress.
    Because of you I found higher ground and kept my integrity and civility. Because of you I guarded my heart and stayed away from those with hidden agendas pretending to show interest in my estrangement.
    Because of you, I gained back my emotional stability and self love. Because of you I began to realize I had to accept what I couldn’t change in my ED’s behavior. Although a huge disappointment in the abrupt change in our relationship, I was able to accept it for what it is and know although it affected me, it really had nothing to do with me but rather her issues. I choose to love her from a distance realizing things will never be the same and as you’ve so poignantly pointed out; life does change regardless of how we would like it to be. I’ve been busy getting on with life this past year; helping my husband in his practice, pursuing my photography hobby, learning to take time to smell the roses and appreciating those that truly care about me.
    For the newbies here, I wish them peace and joy. This journey isn’t easy by any means. But the growth for each one of us is invaluable. To have had so many here that have supported and reached out has been such a blessing because as we all know, there is so little support out there. Most counselors can’t even relate to our pain. It’s been a taboo topic but thanks to Sheri, who has raised awareness because of her pure, unselfish heart is certainly testament to her purpose here on earth. For those of you that have not read her book, please do as it puts EVERYTHING in perspective.
    Much love and hugs to all. AND Happy 4th. Hope you can find something to celebrate especially if you are finally able to feel independent from your heartache. Annie

    Reply
    1. rparentsrparents Post author

      Forgetmenit (Annie),

      So nice to see you post a comment. You always have something helpful to say. Thank you for your kindness and the encouragement you show!

      Have fun taking photos! It’s really healthful to take note of beautiful sights and things. Good for you!

      Hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

  6. trusting

    Thank you for your post. It has helped me to remove anything from my ED from our home. I still have pictures of her up at this point. However I don’t focus on them, they are not in my line of sight daily. This has helped me, I have adopted the attitude that I will love those that cherish me. She is just someone that I used to know, I can’t dwell on the what if’s, my health is to important.

    Reply
    1. Sailorgirl

      Hello, I am new to this community and am finding your comments and Sheri’s advice so comforting and also freeing. My 23 year old daughter (only child) and I were always very close and our easy relationship, I’m told, was the envy of many other mom’s. I thought that this bond could never be broken, no matter what happened in life, and that I would always have her love.

      I have mostly moved on from my daughter’s abandonment three years ago, and no, she has not ever told me why she abandoned me except for a vague request from rehab to read a book about boundaries, which I did and offered to talk to her about it. (Does one ever fully move on? ) I just finished my master’s degree, am studying for my board exams and, where one door has closed with my daughter, so many other windows have opened with new friends and “family”emerging to comfort me, especially at holidays. The universe has been good, and when I focus on the blessings, I can have days where I can honestly say, I’m happy, or at least content.

      I can only make this comment here, or with my therapist, but there are actually days that I forget that I have a daughter. As cold as that sounds, it has been what has saved me. I spent the first summer of her absence on the couch, not able to move. I was diagnosed with breast cancer the summer my daughter walked out on me, and she has never responded to any of my communications to keep her apprised of my recovery from surgery and now good health. I kept reaching out to family members and friends who were either no help, too busy or worse, duplicitous. After reading Sheri’s book, something lifted in me. I have used much more discernment about how much abuse I have taken from my ex husband and daughter, how my enabling contributed to my daughter’s drug and alcohol abuse, my letting her run rampant over MY boundaries over the years, and how she must really need to know that her Dad loves her, at this point, even if means letting me go. And, I now believe that I did the very best that I could to be a good, stable and supportive parent to her, given what I knew at the time.

      I know that nothing that I did would ever warrant the abandonment that my daughter has done to not only me, but my entire family. Looking at her Instagram page, it’s like we never existed at all. The only picture she posted me me was when I was much thinner, many years ago and with it, a snarky comment.
      She is my 93 year old Dad’s only granddaughter and his heart was also broken. He, too, has moved on, and I have decided that I feel no obligation to let my daughter know when he passes. If anything still angers me at times, it is her treatment of her once beloved Grandpa. It is my anger that snaps me back from my funk. And then I take a deep breath, and let it go. I make a ball of this energetic, and toss it up to heaven. Giving this hurt and anger to God has allowed me to handle my own work on this planet and remember my own path.

      At this point, much of the estrangement has become academic for me, and yet I still “want to know why” at times. I have analyzed it from every angle, looked at blogs from children who have chosen estrangement, read everything about this topic that I can find. Letting go of this “need to know ” has been what has allowed me to move on, and yet, there is still a niggling thought that I should leave no stone unturned in my attempts to let my daughter know that the door is open. She clearly feels that she must cut me off to live happily, or at least, successfully, and that she believes that she has a legitimate reason for doing so. Because her wealthy father supports her in a lovely lifestyle, and demands loyalty over all, and she has half siblings from her Dad’s first marriage, she doesn’t really need me in her life.

      The familiar themes in many of your own stories seem to be drugs/alcohol abuse AND having an ex spouse that either actively encourages the estrangement, or, at least does not do anything to help heal the rift. This is true of me, as well.

      I know Sheri is working on another book and I can’t wait for it to come out. What I am most interested
      in is the theme amongst many of the blogs from children who have chosen estrangement is their belief that they DID tell their parent why they are choosing to cut them off, and yet, the same parent will comment that they don’t know why their children have abandoned them. In one survey taken (not hard research, just a survey), 67% of children said they told their parents why they were cutting them off and 60% of these same parents when queried, said that their children never told them why. This disconnect astounds me and seems fertile ground for a new modality of communication within families or for family systems at large.

      Thank you for your listening!!

    2. Hope4self

      Wow! That is amazing strength! I use that way too. I say I used to be her father. But not anymore. It makes me feel like the chain is broken. I am learning so much here. Especially that I am NOT a loser or a terrible human being for letting go of my toxic, abusive daughter. Thank you.

  7. Kona4Kona4

    One of the things that has helped me move forward was getting rid of my daughter’s bedroom. It was right there at the top of the stairs taunting us all on a daily basis. One winter break when my son was home from college, he convinced me to “just get rid of it.” We spent days cleaning it out. We sorted through everything and set aside things that we thought were valuable or meaningful. We packed them up in a big container and stored it away in the basement. Everything else was either thrown out or given to charity. I gave away the furniture to a friend. I repainted the room. I then transformed her bedroom into a “She Room.” It is now a quiet and tranquil space with soft colors, a love seat, a cozy reading chair, a desk, and things that make me feel good. So now, instead of this space that represented so much pain and hurt, there is a beautiful and calming room that brings me peace.

    Reply
  8. Fluffy51Fluffy51

    Hi Kona4, i think what you did is a great
    Idea. I keep my ED’s bedrooms closed, but
    I would like to get rid of the furniture and make them both rooms that are quiet rooms and nice to go into. I really feel thats a great thing to do in order to move forward. Now when you go into that room
    it brimgs you a sense of peace. Good for you. I believe we hsve to do everything
    Possible to move forward. Hugs, Fluffy 51

    Reply
  9. AZRVersAZRVers

    I love this! After 3 years of estrangement from my daughters, reading your book, and getting support from this forum, I found ny freedom. My husband and I traveling in our RV, exploring beautiful landscapes, hiking mountains, meeting wonderful people. Of course, I’m still sad, especially at the loss of our precious grandsons, but I refuse to allow their mean & heartless rejection ruin our lives.
    We will be ready when our grandsons turn 18 and come looking for us…..I know they will!
    God Bless Sheri. You have helped so many of us, I can’t thank you enough….hugs

    Reply
    1. bhmom

      So glad you’re enjoying travels etc. I hope and pray your grandsons do indeed seek you out after they turn of age. My granddaughter is 20 and still has not reached out. It’s sad.

  10. Luv@meLuv@me

    Thank you Sheri. Your articles are quite effective for my optimistic reflections. Today would typically be a day I would’ve spent with my adult children and my siblings. This year it will be different because my son will more than likely avoid the festivities. I love your article. I love the support this website ignites. Refreshes. Renews. And fosters my independence. Ready for the day. Happy 4th!

    Reply
  11. AlbertaLady

    I am so incredibly happy that I found this site. I always thought one child that wouldn’t talk to me was bad enough, but I have two. After reading all your posts I see that there are lots of other Moms who have 2 or more estranged children. For many years I have had a poster sized picture of my son on my computer room wall. Thank you, Fluffy51 – you gave me the push I needed to take that picture down. I miss the sweet little boy in his cowboy boots in that picture; but the nasty grownup man I have to learn to live without. Its been over 10 years since he walked out of my life – its time.
    Its been 18 months since my daughter decided she no longer wants anything to do with me, so I am gathering up pictures and gifts she gave to me, not sure if I should give them back to her or just put them in a box in the basement.
    In closing, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you – All, for sharing your stories with me. It’s so much easier when you know you aren’t going through this alone.

    Reply
  12. rparentsrparents Post author

    AlbertaLady,
    Ten years is a long time! I’m excited to hear what you’ll do with your new, freed-up space!!

    Hugs,
    Sheri McGregor

    Reply
  13. Rowen

    Monday’s I garden. It’s also trash day. We try and hike or bike around the lake.
    Tuesdays I fill the bird feeders and pull the weeds that showed up from yesterday.
    Wednesdays I work and do basic house chores.
    Thursdays I like to paint or make a craft.
    Fridays I work and do laundry.
    Saturdays I pack ( getting ready to move).
    Sunday I go to work. After work, I look for a happy movie on Netflix and do laundry if needed.
    I am also practicing to say no. I know that one of them will be calling, texting or sending smoke signals for something. I will listen, say no. Then, tell my darling that I have to clear it with my husband. Enough is enough. I love them. Until I am treated like an equal, I am not a bank.

    Reply
  14. Bella1958

    Alberta Lady, I too am from Alberta, although I had the good fortune of moving to the southern USA about 15 years ago. Both my children a son (36) and a daughter (33) have shut me out. My son for moving to Kentucky and divorcing his dad, my daughter because I apparently abused her when she was a kid. I’ve apologized to her; but this in her mind is not enough, because she still has her unhealthy life to fix and to do that is going to take a considerable about of work to do. It is instead easier to blame me and her upbringing. I have the edge in that I’ve only seen her about 1 x per year for the past 15 years and my son not at all. It’s an adjustment; but I reckon they’re not in jail, on drugs, and both are taking care of their families so I did pretty good. I thankfully have many other fulfilling people in my so it’s all good. I feel that with Gods help I created life. I took care of that gift, raised them the best any flawed human could who worked full time, went to university, supported them, wasn’t a drunk or drug user or hooker, and the fact they don’t want anything to do with me is beyond my control. I’m not going to beg, if they don’t come around I’m changing my will to reflect THEIR choice and leave my suzeabke estate to friends or charity. Good luck!

    Reply
  15. MsExistentialMsExistential

    I have held several baby items, shoes, baby book, tiny clothes, school things. They are boxed in the closet. Recently there was a call from my 47 year old ED of 10 years no contact. She moved didn’t tell me, husband left her very distraught. My hope soared for reconnection, but I also needed answers. I hoped for a discovery meeting to clear the air. I feel like I have given her a pass to many times. This time the past needs to be addressed, not just move on forget what she did or I did. Well I am sure you already have a clue how its turned out. She just could not fit me into her busy schedule. I of course, replied. She initiated the contact, then cannot find the time to meet with me. Of course I got my bak up. I intended to take the box, an opening so we could connect with our loving past. She works, has no children, lives in an RV with very few responsibilities. Need I say, we are back to no contact, I told her I would send her the box. In the mean time I decided the box contains my memory treasures, not hers. I sent a note, as she did give me her new PO Box. My apology for over the top expectations and that I would be keeping the box myself as it is more my memories of a loving child, than it is hers. I don’t take it out, it will just live in the closet, like or relationship has.

    Reply

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