Parents abandoned by adult children: Shape your “new normal”

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

The new normal: Make it a good one

Parents abandoned parents abandoned by adult childrenby adult children often tell me they’ve come to a point of acceptance—which is good. Accepting what we have no control over can allow us to find a sense of peace and move forward. But sometimes, along with a statement of acceptance, parents abandoned by adult children make another statement that’s not so good.

“It’s the new normal,” they say.

Trouble is, their “new normal,” becomes less about peace and moving forward than stepping along in a dismal groove of loss, heartache, and even bitterness.

Acceptance: What does that mean for parents abandoned by adult children

Accepting something new almost always requires letting go of something old. For parents abandoned by adult children, that can mean letting go of a dream, a vision for the future that shaped how you lived your entire life. You sacrificed and gave with the expectation that you’d live to a ripe old age with your children and grandchildren around you. You’d have your tribe, your people, your family.

But parents abandoned by adult children are thrown for a loop. Where’s the grown daughter or son you imagined sharing life with on equal terms? The child you expected would grow into an adult friend—only better because of your history and family ties?

parents abandoned by adult childrenThose feelings are understandable. It’s okay to mourn what you expected, sacrificed for, and worked so hard to achieve. But if your “new normal” clings to the loss, you may be shuffling along in a path that limits you.

The real power of acceptance comes in letting go—not necessarily of hope. Hope can sit on your shoulder like a cooing dove. It’s light and feathery. It can take flight, lifting your heart and soul with it. But if you’re clinging to the pain, holding onto hurt, and lamenting the loss, hope gets grounded. Don’ let sadness, anger, bitterness, and woe weight your heart and limit your life.

What’s your new normal?

In my book, there’s a useful tool to get a clear view of just how much the estrangement has changed you. Identifying your new normal, specifically and across all areas of your life, provides a clear view of where you stand now.

You may be stuck in a rut of rumination that drags you down and darkens your valuable relationships. Instead of a weekly date where you and your husband have fun, you spend all your time talking about the son who stopped talking to you and broke your hearts. Maybe you’re on the edge, always waiting for a call from the daughter who rejected you.  You may be isolating yourself, fearful of judgment, or embarrassed that your own adult child cut you off. Maybe you cling to the hurt because letting go of the pain of this reality doesn’t feel like it’s proper for a parent (what about unconditional love?). Or maybe you’re envious of others’ joy.

For parents abandoned by adult children, all of these feelings are natural and normal parents abandoned by adult childrenresponses—but they’re not healthy when they persist to your detriment. At some point, you need to accept what’s happened, and find a new normal that feels good and helps you move forward in your life.

As a caring parent that people called an earth mother and a super mom, I know the pain of having that identity ripped out from beneath your feet. It’s as if a trap door opens and you fall right through. But for caring parents who did their best, a new normal that keeps you digging in, wrapped in a cold blanket of rejection and loss, isn’t new or normal at all. That’s why you need to fight for your future.

Give yourself a challenge

2016 has come to a close. Think about the year ahead. Wouldn’t it be nice to shift your focus, set the hurt aside and change your vision to one that suits you? You can still hope to reconcile, and if you feel the need or desire to, you can still make sure your son or daughter knows that. But you can also flutter your wings, turn your hope to your present happiness, and let it lift you in a new and helpful direction.

Help yourself.

Whether you have other adult children, lots of friends and relatives, or are all alone, the only way to happiness is to help yourself. In an article last year, I asked: Cut off by adult children: What do you prescribe for yourself?

The last calendar year has closed. Turn the page to a brand new year. Ask yourself what you prescribe for your own well-being. How can you shift your focus? What can you do to move in a new direction for your own fulfillment? Take out a sheet of paper and answer those questions for your own well-being.

Chapter Three of my book has some detailed help for setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals. If you’ve slipped into accepting a new low as normal, don’ let another year slide by without making changes that help you. Set your sighs higher for your own good in the coming year, and use the specific outlined techniques to stay motivated and realize transformation.

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13 thoughts on “Parents abandoned by adult children: Shape your “new normal”

  1. anonymous smith

    My daughter has narcolepsy. It’s getting harder and harder to blame the narcolepsy for her lack of energy to call me to check on me since she has been living 3.5 hours away for about 3 years now and she has NEVER called me to check on me or just to say hi. One time, she did call during a severe weather event, but that is only because her mother in law asked about me. Now they have invited me down to spend Easter with them, but I”m not allowed to sleep over and I have to drive my own car an hour away to their church!

  2. Vikki W.

    My son has not only been estranged for 27 years but refuses to tell me why? He has no relationship with my family and has surrogate parents, grandparents, aunts & and uncles, etc
    This Oct. 15 was his first birthday I didn’t call,text or email him so I am making progress.
    I realize he can’t hurt me anymore than he has.
    I don’t even think I want him anymore but I do want to meet my grandchildren. I stalk them on social media so I get to see them. I have no idea if they know I exist.
    I raised him with no interaction from his father but as a single mother. I never would of foreseen that as close as we were he would of been estranged. He is not the son I raised.

  3. anon

    First, you should not nave to leave a name and e-mail to leave a comment on this highly personal a topic.

    But, to the topic, it is shameful today how we casually abaondon the elderly. Parents who are abusive should be but normal parents should not be. My daughter just got married. All of a sudden now it’s move to another state for hubby to go to school for a highly technical field that only a few schools offer certification in while unrealistically saying that she’ll make the six hour each way commute from Maine to New York to still bring me groceries and company and do some cleaning for me once a week as she does now living locally. I am having difficulty living alone these days and am dependent on her help. They are looking for an apartment in Maine next month which is the month in which I was born. Happy birthday, Mom. For your birthday this year – you get abandonment right when you need me most.

    My daughter will, meantime, become angry if I even suggest that I should go into assisted living no matter how I try to tell her that it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to living alone. She just turned 39; I am about to turn 64 but I have several chronic illnesses, chronic pain and mobility protems. I am not a healthy 64. I wish that were not the case, of course. I do not think she is being at all realistic in thinking she can make the round trip from Maine to New York weekly. Monthly, maybe; weekly, no. Grandson, 18, initially was going to stay here, for his job, to be near me to take over helping me out and be near his father’s family. Somehow my daughter and her husband have convinced him to quit his job and move to Maine with them. Happy birthday, Grammy. Your present this year – abandoment.

    And to think, I liked son in law and was happy about the marriage! Starting to think I should have known better.

    I struggled. My lease come up in spring and there is a 60 day notice clause. I did research. I simply cannot afford on Social Security and a pension from my employer the high rents in Maine. They are more than my income. I am in upstate New York and doing well financially as rents upstate are not what they are downstate. Maine also taxes pensions and Social Security on my income that is not taxable in New York. On top of the higher rents in Maine, I would have to pay several hundred a month in income taxes for the dubious privilege of living there.

    But searching, I found New Hampshire has actually lower rents than New York in several towns. And no sales or income tax. Ding! Ding! Ding! I thought looking at a beautiful appartment building literally on a river as it’s a converted mill where a 2 BR apartment is the same price as my current 1BR and the building has studio apartments which I’m all for – less for me to clean as well as lower rent and heating/cooling costs. I texted my daughter actually excited. Turns out New Hampshire’s affordable and no income tax. And I found this beautiful apartment building on a river. I live near a river now and she knows I love watching the wildlife and the geese come and go with the change of the seasons. I’m going to e-mail you an apartment in New Hampshire which is next to Maine, the commute would be half the time anyway.

    My daughter actually grew angry with me. She said don’t uproot your life around our plans (as if she wasn’t aware that I am somewhat dependent on her these days). I don’t want the guilt she says. What guilt? Who laid guilt on you? I was only letting you know that I could move after all. Previously, she was all for my moving to Maine so that makes it even less understandable. WTH?

    I swear the millennials are the most selfish generation to ever exist. They’re all into this I don’t owe anyone anything trip. Anything they did for me, they did of their own free will and I owe them nothing in return. I skipped state with her when she was 3 to protect her from her father who turned out abusive. He was later arrested for crimes against children and ended his life rather than do the time. I will be forever poorer because I protected her and likely saved her life because when we got to the new state, she also told me he held a gun to her head. Okay, yes, she’s right. I did it of my own free will and I don’t regret it and not an investment in what she could do for me in the future. I am very glad I protected her and kept her safe.

    But still, I’m sorry. Yes, you do owe me something. You do owe people who help you out when you’re down, your helping hand when they are. And I would think you love me as you claim. If you do, you would care what happens to me as I once cared what happened to you. When she was a young adult, she swore she’d take care of me in my old age. Now it’s I’m leaving and don’t follow.

    But somehow I’m not supposed to feel abandoned and unloved. It’s obvious to me she doesn’t give a hang what happens to me. Should I have a medical emergency when she’s six hours away, she won’t be there to take me to hospital. If my building burned down, she won’t be there to let me sleep on her couch while I find a new place to live. Or a million other scenarios in which one may need someone nearby in an emergency, not six horus away telling me don’t come where I am as if living near my daughter because I am dependent on her is stalking her.

    I may have to go into assisted living over her objection which I can’t afford without government assistance I’m not at all sure I can get because my income is just always just above that cutoff line for assistance and Medicare and my health insurance don’t cover long-term care which was a product that was not introduced until I was already disabled and in too poor health to purchase it.

    I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M GOING TO DO. Die old and all alone I guess. I wish at least the grandson had stayed behind. Funny thing too about my daughter is that she doesn’t want to do for me, grandson looks for ways to help his Grammy out and she is angered at seeing him do so and acts like his helping his Grammy out is him being treated like a slave. Wtf is wrong with the millennials? I raised her better than this.

    I realize there is nothing you can do for my heartbreak or to help me but thank you for letting me vent.

    1. Therese B.

      Please don’t feel totally alone,as I feel your loneliness also.Im 78 and have spent many holidays alone. I usually make myself a nice meal because I’m worth that. Maybe we can build each other up and enjoy some laughs too. I love to laugh at myself now and then.

  4. Mia

    Who would ever know that one of my beautiful twins would grow up and act like we dont exist… im beyond sad.. trying to accept and just LIVE….

  5. Jullianne F.

    I think that if the daughter is sending occasional texts with a heart, she really does deep down inside want to remain in contact, even if she’s truly incapable of having a good healthy relationship. I believe a reply back would be warranted if the Mother truly wants to try to have a relationship with her. The Mother could simply say that it’s nice to hear from you and I would still be interested in being able to have a good healthy relationship and she should continue to reach out in positive ways if that’s what she also wants. This way the ball is left in the daughter’s court anyway. If there’s no response then the daughter may think the Mother isn’t interested in reconciliation and she might also use that to justify to herself why it’s better to stay apart. I wish my daughter made any effort to try with me!

  6. Mary Jane

    “The New Normal”, made me think of Fauci, CDC, and the Pandemic I was about to turn away when I decided to continue. I have experience in these matters for almost 30 years my youngest daughter has vehemently denied me any contact with my grandchildren. My oldest and I have had an off again on again relationship which has become closer. She took her children away when she was angry with me. She is struggling with loss of contact with her oldest child and has turn to me to help her. I have guided her to self love, self enrichment, new inspirations, and independence from a toxic narcissist. Her life changed drastically she came home where we made a peaceful recognition that when she off and on pull the grandkids from me they learned how to censure and shut out what they do not like. She has apologized to me for what she did and we have healed.
    It is my youngest who has decided to enter my life. She sends me gifts for expensive dinners out. She has told my oldest that she intends on helping her out with me as I age. I reached out and we have only written text messages. They are hard for me I am blind in one eye and my right hand is severely arthritic I have tried calling her she rarely picks up. When she does it is to discuss my eldest divorce which my youngest daughter and her accountant husband are handling the lawyers. I am pleased they are doing this for my oldest. However, My oldest has moved on with a new life partner and I am happy for her. My youngest is not meeting me half way she knows how difficult writing is for me. She pretends 30 years did not pass by I am 71 with a plethora of problems. My sweet husband who has been here through out these difficulties remains skeptical that I am heading for another hopeful event where I am blindsided by her.
    What I can offer others who are suffering is this: You have one life enjoy it take those trips you always imagined. Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow with yourself the inspiration of change, acceptance, and growth. Flower with the soil God gave you there is more to life than an adult child.

    1. Chantelle H.

      I think children that become estranged are embracing today’s “culture” instead of family. Estranged children were once rare, now it’s described as an epidemic. Responsibility is no longer encouraged today, it’s always someone else’s fault. I wonder if it crosses the EC’s minds that they might have not been perfect either. What have our children given up? It’s an eye opener to read responses of estranged children communicating, the empathy is gone, the blame is in full force and the hate they have is made up. Sorry to say this but we got “canceled”. Our children embraced culture and it’s a ton easier to blame and cancel those you disagree with. The terminology EC use is more proof of my view, “they need space”. We lost this fight, culture has created bogus “safe places” where instead of communicating they hide, instead of loving they hate, instead of embracing differences they cancel them and run to those that fit their perfect idea of family. Sorry us parents were never told the rules of this game so it’s difficult to play. I gave it my all and it sounds like so did most the parents on this forum. It’s time we embrace those that want our love, our help, our guidance and our companion. There’s so many out there that would give everything to have what our children gave up. We have been discarded like trash it pains me to read the stories of parents, NO ONE deserves this treatment. Our EC do not experience the damage they have done to their families and they do not care. They belong to culture and it will be culture that will chew them up and spit them out. They will embrace the bogus stories they made up and give feelings justification and they will view themselves as righteous. I think our EC are the people most run from, they are the takers instead of the makers, the people that cancel instead of understand and the people who blame instead of communicate. My Disney loving daughter learned more from Disney then us, parents are not needed. Sorry if this sounded negative but it’s so obvious what is happening unfortunately it’s too late for many of us to push this horrible culture away from our previous blessings.

  7. Pam Pam

    Your updates are so inspiring. Last year after reading your book, I started a journal. Many statements you make are written there. They are so uplifting and give me hope for creating happiness for myself while moving away from my adult daughter. One of the main comments you made was that I need to set my daughter free and stop lurking in her life. When I read that I wanted to cry but I have been able to “stop lurking in her life”. I no longer call or text or try to keep in touch with her or her husband. She will occasionally text me and attach a heart. It makes me think she’s really does care but I know if I respond, she really doesn’t want that so I don’t. I’ve just floated off into oblivion. For now, this is working for me. I know she and her family are “gone” and I have accepted that. I never will understand but I have learned to accept. Thank you for all you do for us estranged parents.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Pam, thank you so much! I am so grateful to have said anything that was helpful to you in any way.

      Maybe one day it will feel “right” to respond to one of her texts (or not…that is your call entirely). Meanwhile, yes, creating happiness. That sounds so great, doesn’t it? Can I just say that your note made me happy tonight.

      HUGS and Happy New Year,
      Sheri McGregor


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