Going batty

estrangementWhat if I told you this was Batman? You wouldn’t believe it. This little guy is too cute and not nearly muscular enough to be the caped crusader. I was excited to happen upon him in a parking lot in town one day. Resting in the crook of a small tree, he seemed to mug for the camera when I got up close to take his photograph.  

It wasn’t anywhere close to Halloween when I spotted the bat, but I’ve been saving this picture to share this month. I’m no joker but have added a few bat and Batman puns for fun. I hope you’ll hang around to find out how this bat fits the theme of this article.  There are links to other articles included as well.

Estrangement: Parents get a BAT RAP 

Many people don’t know that bats are avid pollinators and important to dispersing the seeds of the fruit they eat. Farmers love them because they also eat pest insects that can harm their crops. There are many species of bats, and although many are beneficial, they get a bad rap. They can carry rabies, as most people have heard, but so do other mammals, and only through the saliva of a rabid specimen. Did you know that bat guano is one of the world’s richest fertilizers? Bat guano can spread histoplasmosis, but most people aren’t in contact with it.  

In our society where rigid stereotypes shape the societal ideas about what sort of parents could possibly be rejected by their adult children, even the kindest, most caring parents who are abandoned can get a bat rap. That’s why it’s important to work at healing, and eventually, move past the worry over what others might think. You can reclaim your identity, or even reinvent yourself. Like the little bat in the photo, you can come out of the shadows, bat your eyes, and let your light shine.  

NOT QUITE READY? 

One mother of an estranged adult child recently related that she puts on a smile all week at work. Then when Friday evening comes, she closes the door and “cocoons” all weekend. One father called his weekends cave time. If this is how you feel since your son’s “no contact” rule or your daughter’s blame-fest, you’re certainly not alone.  

Our fast-paced society doesn’t often make room for the time and space to grieve or even allow a person the right to feel sad. We’re expected to just robot along, emotionless in our various roles. Feeling down can be an inconvenience, and emotional displays can make people uncomfortable. At the same time, you have very real things to grieve.  

This mother is wise not to let her sadness interfere with her professional persona. The decision to allow yourself some alone time isn’t necessarily a negative thing though. Cocooning can be positively beneficial. Staying perpetually stuck in distress isn’t good for anybody, but neither is masking the hurt or burying your feelings. 

Cocooning through time

In the past, the value of solitude held more prominence. Today, the immediacy of communications seems to have detracted from meaningful connections. News was once longingly anticipated. People pored over another’s written words and pondered their own useful reply. Twitter and texting have made shorthand of the pleasantries, and have shaped our interactions even in person. 

Also, traditional mourning periods were once expected. The duration allowed for the processing of emotions and adapting to a new role. Traditional dress helped others to understand and offer patience.  

estrangementMany tribal cultures incorporated alone time for the coming of age. During isolation, men learned how to fend for themselves. With only their own ingenuity to rely upon for survival, they then recognized the value of community and interdependence—and fostered that attitude upon return. 

In some cultures, women spent their menstrual time in isolation or with other women. Can you imagine the deep reflection, the emotional processing, and the peaceful rest they enjoyed?  

MAKE YOUR SOLITUDE PRODUCTIVE 

On the surface, restorative periods can seem inactive, but just as the dormancy of winter is alive with action beneath the cool exterior, your cocoon time can be productive. It can be a time of reflecting, letting go,and growing. 

The lore of butterflies infuses the word “cocoon” with promise. Maybe a little rest will help you process your sorrow, bud new growth, and emerge with eye-catching wings. 

If you’re like this mother who cocoons on her weekends, what can you do to remain productive rather than hang around in the dark (or in a Dark Knight gown!). Can you purposefully reflect? Reclaim your identity? Eat well? Start a new hobby? Work on some stretching … physically and emotionally? Turn to the listed strategies in Done With The Crying. Do the exercises if you haven’t.

READY TO FLY 

While an adult child’s rejection can ground a parent in a woeful rut, with compassionate self-care, you can emerge revitalized from your cocoon and flutter into the shiny new normal of a life you design. 

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4 thoughts on “Going batty

  1. Nancy

    Hi Sheri and all,
    I just wanted to give you and others a big cyber hug. As Halloween winds down, all the fun, all the fears I am now waiting for the dark and dismal “holidays” to descend upon me while I watch from afar. My only son and his ‘wife’ and my two sweet grands get spoiled by others, visited by others, and I get only a quick phone call, if anything. Technically not estranged, but might as well be. We are hanging by a thread and I came to this site because I know others have same or similar experiences and AM looking for guidance or insight as to how to proceed. I have been so strong in my own beliefs and actions, but then when a holiday or birthday rolls around, I get sucked it to it again. However, these last couple years have been 10 times harder with Covid and the vicious politics which are also complicating this whole thing.

    I don’t know how to condense an entire lifetime in to this comment box to explain my current sorrow but I will just say that I feel like I am not living my true life, it has been hijacked by DIL, in-laws, ex and even family I thought were ‘there for me’; clearly aren’t. Everyone likes to pretend, stay uninvolved and eventually blame me or not even speak to me—which is convenient so they do not have to listen to my cries for help while they continue to stir the pot, meddling and lying. Their claims to be “Christian” or “positive” are nauseating and if I dare speak up, they BAT me down with loud disagreement and chaste AS IF we live in medieval times instead of 21st century.

    As it stands now, my DIL is running whole show, has surrounded my son with her weird family who never say anything about her own brand of viciousness, I know she shows it to them as well, or doesn’t because she is manipulative and my son just goes along with it, as she had commanded him to do decades ago. She is so duplicitous I fell for it so many times, now that my son is doing well—working hard while she sits on FB and gossips about me, and anyone she hates. She is evil, who does this? So, in a nutshell, am wondering if I am a fool to still send money to the grands, or even gifts? I did start a savings account but always feel like they are being made to forget about me. Everything they do will be a memory that will replace any one they may have of me. I am walking on egg shells at 62, they live far away in US but might as well be overseas. Like others have stated, I had ‘problems’ very young and with my own mom, and trauma and sorrow, early on, so I wonder if this is just the way it is for me. It wasn’t enough to suffer when I was younger, now it repeats, and apathy continues? “Gifts” just keep on coming from bat**** crazy folks who love money and that is it.

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  2. Billie Jo

    I have been estranged from my only child now for almost five years, it started when he was 16 and moved in with his dad, he is almost 21 now. It has been a rollercoaster ride for me. When he was younger I always fell back on the fact that he was only 16 and his dad was alienating me, but as soon as he turned 18 he moved into his own place and still didn’t want to be part of my life. The sting of rejection has made me go through so many emotions. I am bipolar and a recovering addict been clean for 7 years now, so these emotions that I feel sometimes feel like my son has died, thank God he is alive and doing well but my heart feels this grief. It’s been almost five years, does it get easier?? How do I learn to live with this? I am artistic & crafty and that gets me through a lot of emotions but I feel guilty when i am happy, I feel like I shouldnt be happy when my son isn’t part of my life. I don’t think I will ever be normal again.

    Reply
  3. Donna C.

    Hi Sheri,
    Thank you for this article (for all of them).. I have been tapping into your wisdom – learned and earned by the same pain I have endured. I have survived estrangement by 2 AC for well over 7 years. I am very blessed with 4 other children who want me and each other in their lives. In my case I suffered sever depression & anxiety (brought on by child/teen traumas) at a crucial time for my children. The eldest 2 where early 20s, middle 2 mid/late teens and the younger 2 tweeny years. In this time I made a few choices that disrupted everyone’s lives. But the main choice I made – leaving my cruel husband – was something I just had to do… I am sure you have heard it many times…I had several choices and all of them where going to hurt us all badly in some way or another. I chose the choice that gave me space to heal myself so I could salvage what I could of me, my kids, my family. The eldest 2 children where left as heart broken, confused as all of us but they also chose anger and estrangement as part of their own coping. Do I blame them?… not really. I do however feel that I, and my younger children…and the family unit does not deserve for it to be forever. Ironically the gaps – pain and anguish – the EC have left is as cruel as the reasons for leaving!! – they don’t see that yet. I am not expecting they ever will. The anger they harbour still is what is giving their estrangement strength. I do so worry about them as I know that when that anger can no longer keep them together they will fall apart so painfully and they won’t have their mum their to support them. Also ironically… because of what I have been through and what I have learned from my own healing journey, I could be of immense support and love for them. But for now I will love them from afar. The healing and recovery of my youngest 4 has been a huge part of why I finally got off my sad bed and got up and started plodding the path of healing.
    And I have reached it… 5 decades in the making, and in crisis for 10 years!! (6 of wallowing and 4 of serious recovery work) later… I am now 60 and I am feeling really good now – there is always a tinge of sadness and worry, I will never reach that 100% of recover unless my 2 elder kids re-enter my life. But that’s okay…because 95% is good enough.
    I am physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally very well now… always a work in progress and of course I have my ‘slide backs’…they are my reminder to go back to the basics of my healing tools and patch any holes sliding back left 🙂 🙂 … Leading up to the 7 year mark of total estrangement from my 2 EC I made a decision to do something that would end my years of pining… because that’s what I found exhausting…pining for them to come back, pining for them to hear my side of my story, pining for them to learn that I was broken and that I wasn’t capable of being their ‘proper mother’ – their words. The physical/mental/emotional drain the pining did… wanting something that just wasn’t going to happen and that I had absolutely nooooo control over!!
    My healing all started with the seeing that my other kids needed one healthy – alive – parent, they did actually see that I was emotionally broken down, that I wasn’t my healthy self, that I was just like them and struggled with our situation just as they did…and as they have gotten older they (the four younger ones) also recognised that not only did/do I have my own wounds to heal, I was also hurting badly for each of them and that too needed healing.
    Well we 5 have moved along a long way…albeit very clumsy in places…and very triumphantly in many others. They each have their own partners now and are moving along with their adult lives – including navigating the varying degrees of estrangement from their elder siblings.
    I still have my moments of pining… and I deal with that as it rises up – I limit myself to max of 1 lost day at a time now… and then I move on with “all and everything else that is good in my life”…
    I resonate ‘batty’ because I have been batty many times and on reflections it has helped…
    My wish and prayer is that every estranged parent may find some peace, to enjoy all the other many, many good things in their lives while travelling through this part of life’s journey. Not all the pot holes are dangerously deep and not all of the shadows have monsters in them… and around every corner is a new scene.. Cheers Donna

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  4. Lala

    This was VERY good. Though I do not live- outwardly- in a bat rap- internally- I know it is there. There IS an internal cave! About the reinventing yourself suggestion- I have found this to be true. If there had been any co-dependency- that inevitably heals with time BECAUSE of the estrangement. I cannot claim to be totally healed as yet, and it has been ten years. However, I have seen within myself that I care much less about their opinion of me! In a way- it is setting me free to be truly myself. If they ever choose to come back- they may be shocked to see either a different person or one who is less submissive to their bullying. I highly recommend to others- especially someone in new grief- to find out more about temperaments and/or Myers Briggs 16 personalities. One needs to know oneself better before understanding others. And an absolute must is to learn everything one can about narcissism. Love!!!

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