Kneaded: Resilience illustrated for parents of estranged adult children

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

adult child won't talk to me

Photo by Life Of Pix from Pexels

During the first year, I took up making bread from scratch.  I bought glossy, coffee table recipe books with beautiful photos of freeform artisan breads, out-of-print books with healthy recipes requiring obscure ingredients, and fat paperbacks chock full of variety that became well-worn. I bought a pizza stone, a pizza peel, loaf pans in an array of sizes, serrated knifes and a countertop slicing guide. I experimented with flatbreads, made dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls and bagels. I made bread every day. It kept me occupied. And in looking back, I can see that it was also about my family, about breaking bread together and all that means.

I tried a bread machine with a kneading function, but it wasn’t the same. There was something therapeutic in the hands-on approach. As I kneaded, working up a sweat and toning my arms in the process, the dough became stretchy and strong.  I could feel the gluten strands doing their magic in the way the dough held together, smooth and soft, tough yet pliant. I could see that too, in the little “windows” that revealed themselves in stretched-thin dough that didn’t break.

I learned about the need for moisture in the oven and what a difference a few degrees of heat can make. I learned how yeast functions, too.  Even with the scientific knowledge, leaving a small, smooth ball in an oiled bowl, and returning later to find a puffy pillow, doubled or tripled in size was nothing short of a miracle to me. And each time I punched it down, it would rise again, resilient.

The toughest lesson was the need to wait. While the air swirled with the scent of fresh baked yeast bread, patience was essential. Hot loaves crush rather than properly slice.

My favorite recipe was one that made my family happy. It added bits of cold butter and powdered milk to the dough. The bread required longer kneading, and a third rising period that brought it spilling over the bowl. All that beating and punching down, yet it rose ever higher—the finished loaf as light and fluffy as a cloud, yet also strong.

As I would knead that dough, I sometimes imagined it a bit like me. My son’s estrangement had me emotionally rolled, twisted, and flattened. Punched down and left on a shelf. And like the gluten in that dough, I imagined the strands of my soul growing stronger, more flexible, and holding together. I could take an emotional kneading, a punching down, and be resilient like that bread dough rising yet another time. As the years have passed, I have found this to be true.

In my daily life, I am tough like that dough. Pliant and flexible and holding together.  On some days, I’m even as light and airy as the finished product.

You can be resilient too

Thousands of parents have read Done With The Crying and found it informative and empowering. I think you will, too. It’s chock full of ingredients to help.

Related Reading

Adult child won’t talk to me: Is it time to go with the flow?

Adult child won’t talk to me: When the world is scary, bend and twist

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8 thoughts on “Kneaded: Resilience illustrated for parents of estranged adult children

  1. AvatarC.A.

    Dear candleinthewind, stoneangel3, Kate, and others,
    Relative to candleinthewind sharing, ” My trouble is that my ‘need’ for affection, company, reassurance (and the list goes on), not least the ‘need’ to come to terms with what seems a nearly intolerable level of loneliness…,”and stoneangel3 sharing, “can’t expect your children/grandchildren to fully extinguish loneliness and lack of connection.”:
    The very difficult part of experiencing “estrangement” is that it is so-much-more than just expecting children/grandchildren to meet all needs. It is far more than adult children being independent and living out their lives. It is about something almost akin to a death experience. Death is traumatic enough, but to have those lost from our lives and still living with no contact is unbearable…
    Even though knowing on some level that they are independent and free to make their own choices in living out their lives, I felt confusion. As a parent I was and am truly happy that they are independent and living their lives. For ever-so-long, the guilt I felt for missing my son and daughter, and seemingly not able to move on, I was consumed with worry and concern for them. My mind tried to understand but couldn’t, and still can’t. I was not able to even taste the food I ate, found it so difficult to take care of basic needs and responsibilities. Things in Life, like influences and manipulations of others, are sometimes beyond our control. I did the very best I could. It takes time to gradually move in this deep grief. Estrangement is not understood by others that have not experienced it…so it can be isolating, making the lonliness even harder.
    In Kate’s Kind reply she shares with candleinthewind, she says, “My family & close friends have all passed away. I live on a farm & I do take care of the animals but there’s so many things here at the house that I’ve just let go. Years of total estrangement from my daughter & now this covid problem–it’s been hard to take, all alone, especially.”
    I truly Appreciate stoneangel3’s suggestions…due to Covid, some of us are on lockdown…so cannot volunteer, go to lunch, clubs, attend religious services, etc…I do so look forward to the Covid Vaccine…and getting back to some semblance of former life…
    In the meantime, I check in with you guys here on Sheri’s website…Thank You All for your sharing and suggestions…It truly is comforting and adds to my Life…We are truly not alone…As the old song goes, “I Got You Babe!!”…In Gratitude, C.A.

    Reply
  2. AvatarC.A.

    Dear Kate,
    Thank You for your Beautiful reply…You mentioned posting my reply on your wall, I have a 5″x7″ picture frame with one word “BREATHE”…I have it on the wall where it is visible from living room, kitchen, hallway, entrance…Also, for many years I have used this anonymous quote, “WHEN ONE PUTS THEIR ATTENTION ON WHAT ISN’T, ONE MISSES WHAT IS.” This has helped me focus on the Now Moment and what IS in front of me…For example, one night I awoke from an unsettling dream…fear and doubts started, then I remembered to Breathe, and immediately I heard and felt my cat Bennie’s purring and Presence…and it was so soothing and Peaceful that I went right back to sleep…I vowed I would not allow the selfishness of others, to miss Bennie’s purring and Presence and Preciousness of what is in my Life…Animals have such a short life span, and I do not want to miss a moment of loving and sharing my Life with them…They remind me how short and Precious Life really is…I guess that is what has made this estrangement from my son and daughter so sad, because I do realize deeply how time is passing and what we are missing…BUT I do realize it is their choice, and I do Honor their right to live as they see fit…I also have the right to live a Joyous Life…

    I finally decided it was a waste of time to dwell on the heartache for those that are out living their lives, with little, if any thought for me…I say this because my daughter has told me several times in past years, “Actually, really, we don’t really think of you at all.” That hit me deeply as I have tried to live without expectations, other than expecting basic human kindness, and have truly only wanted happiness for her. All the worry has cost me time and troubles…I recently came across another very to the point and helpful anonymous quote, “Accept that you are not important to some people, and move on.”

    So, Kate, I celebrate your Life also…It is amazing how just breathing and putting attention on tasks at hand allows one to clean our homes, take care of our bodies, and as Sheri shared, open up to activities that brings us happiness…It takes the “sting” away…sometimes tears may fall, tears of pain, loss, frustration, hopelessness…just let them fall. At some point, one realizes it’s like the old saying, “crying over spilt milk.” (There are so much more fun things to think and do!!)

    I am the Gate-Keeper of my Life…and my boundaries are being set to protect me from the narcissistic and negative…I choose to pop some popcorn and have a Netflix marathon every now and then…prepare delicious, healthy, yummie food…set goals like walking 10,000 steps (even inside on a treadmill or with a you-tube walking video that takes me on walks all over the world, beaches, mountains, cities, etc)…stretching and moving my body…etc…So, Kate, I’m with you in Spirit…May You Be Blessed In Mind, Body, & Spirit…Your Friend, C.A. p.s. ENJOY your Magnificent Self!!

    Reply
    1. AvatarKim

      Have thought about finding some young people who don’t have parents around. They would possibly want a time to share family and bring them joy.

  3. AvatarCarrie-Ann S.

    Dear Candleinthewind and Kate:
    Reading your replies touched my Heart…Just wanted to share a few thoughts…Although feelings of loss, isolation, fear, sadness, silent desperation, anger, etc., seemingly out of nowhere sweep over and through me at times…in the middle of the night, in the day, even during times that I find myself enjoying whatever is going on.
    It does get better…Inner Awareness guides me and I remember to Breathe Deeply…as I start to exhale the pain and feelings begin to dissipate…The duration of these “episodes” are happening less and less, in time and effect…I immediately remember to focus and stay in the Now Moment…These thoughts and feeling come and go, just as all things in Life come and go…I have no control over any of it…One of our greatest powers, if not the greatest, is our Attention…What we put our Attention on becomes our reality…I then shift into Gratitude, and immediately, as I breathe in this Beautiful Life, express Gratitude for the very Breath I have…for the Dear Precious Animal Family that share my Life on this earth…for my Precious Life, Body, Mind, and Spirit…for my home, food, all things…As I express this Gratitude, the thoughts and feelings have passed, and I realize I am smiling in Joy…
    Each morning I log onto Beautiful Sheri’s website and read her messages and the replies…It eases me into my day…Remember we are not ever truly alone…Just listen to your Heart and feel the Love and Peace…
    I loved Sheri sharing about making bread, recipes, etc…For the longest time I couldn’t focus on any of the activities that I had enjoyed in my life…Then gradually, as I shared before, with less frequency of the pain, I began to experience, beyond painful emptiness, an Emptiness of Beautiful Space, Peace, Love, & Joy…I slowly began watching you-tube channels with others sharing their gifts and talents…It feels so Empowering to learn how to fix and repair things in the home, crafts, sewing, etc…Especially cooking…One’s mental health can affect one’s physical health…You-tube has exercise, stretching, yoga, walking, etc…Music…Dancng…etc…Back to cooking, I learned how to make vegan tamales, how to freeze foods…Dr. Oz’s book, “Food Can Fix It”, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Nutritarian book, “Eat To Live”, are great resources…Although I have had a healthy lifestyle, I have, and am, learning to take better care of myself…Food can affect the mental and physical.
    It was on you-tube that I happened to see Sheri in an interview…Currently, I am working through Sheri’s book, “Done With Crying”, as well as reading Sheri’s, and those who reply. I am so thankful for this resource… I am also learning to let go more and more…realizing that each person is on their very own journey and have the right to live as they choose, whether or not I understand it…So I choose to Love and Let Go…moment to moment…
    Candleinthewind, Kate, and all in this Beautiful online community, and of course Beautiful Sheri, May You All Be Blessed In Mind, Body, & Spirit…C.A.

    Reply
    1. AvatarKate

      Carrie-Ann, thank you so much!!! I needed this & I am going to print out what you posted here & put it up on my wall so I can reread it occasionally to remind myself TO BE MORE GRATEFUL for what I still have in my life. (I’ve only been thinking about what I didn’t have). You’re absolutely right about everything you wrote. And I’m also gonna get up off my butt & start doing what needs to be done around here. Like you, I’m going to change what I’ve been focusing on. Bless you

  4. Avatarcandleinthewind

    I wonder why there are no replies to this post; the advice in which sounds reasonable enough. My trouble is that my ‘need’ for affection, company, reassurance (and the list goes on), not least the ‘need’ to come to terms with what seems a nearly intolerable level of loneliness, seem to prevent me from doing anything as constructive as making bread, making clothes, doing the gardening, even if I’m capable and think it’s a good idea.

    Reply
    1. AvatarKate

      Candleinthewind, I know exactly how you feel. And I do agree that Sheri’s post is very good but like you, I am so down and so lonely (even more so than usual, this year). My family & close friends have all passed away. I live on a little farm & I do take care of the animals but there’s so many things here at the house that I’ve just let go. Years of total estrangement from my daughter & now this covid problem–it’s been hard to take, all alone, especially. But I do hope & pray for better & happier days ahead for us all. Please do take care of yourself.

    2. Avatarstoneangel3

      I hear you CANDLEINTHEWIND. At times, I’ve felt this myself but I think we need to keep busy and hold steadfast our friends, get out there and volunteer, help others, join a club. It seems that you can’t expect your children/grandchildren to fully extinguish loneliness and lack of connection. I always feel better after having lunch with a friend, doing a good job at work, making someone else’s life a bit brighter. Believe me, this has been difficult for me- my son continues with episodic estrangement-but I can’t count on him and his family to build me up, so I need to turn elsewhere for that. I’m considering sponsoring a child this Christmas instead of gifts and looking forward to meeting her and becoming familiar with her culture. Do things that build YOU up! You’re worth it!

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