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

  1. 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….

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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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