Parents in estrangement: Your year in review

in estrangement
In estrangement: Your year in review

by Sheri McGregor

When we’re down about someone or something, our minds will search for and drag out evidence to confirm our feelings. It’s that way in estrangement, and without recognizing what’s happening, we may find ourselves feeding an even deeper funk. On the eve of the New Year, the media often looks back on the year’s bad news and pulls us further under. Let’s turn that around. No. I’m not suggesting you look back at the year to find the good and be grateful (although that’s helpful!). Here, I suggest looking at what you learned. You’ll be aware of your growth, even in estrangement—and better prepared for the New Year.

What did I learn?

Start with this question and apply it to each month or season. Write down what happened, in short form, and tell what you learned. Here’s an example:

Last year, Bobbie’s estranged son began calling her before Christmas, down on his luck. The first time he called, Bobbie told her husband what was going on in their son’s life. “David raised his brows and shrugged,” Bobbie says. “He told me, ‘Well, it is the season giving.’ Then he went out to the garage.”

Bobbie understood her husband’s feelings, but she was also a little miffed that he could shrug it off. Even in estrangement, Bobbie says, “I got caught up in what kind of parent turns her back on her own child. Plus, it was Christmas, and there’s the spirit of forgiveness and hope.” So, when her son texted her a week before Christmas, and then called again, she didn’t tell his father. Instead, she wrote a check and popped it into the mail.

“He called early Christmas Eve all happy and saying he loved us,” says Bobbie. “He said he’d call back in a few days and we’d get together.” Bobbie didn’t have to tell her husband about the money. “He gave me a knowing look when I hung up the phone, and I darted away from him. I also had a sinking feeling in my stomach.”

Their son didn’t call in January. He also stopped answering texts.

Bobbie says she learned:

  • Her son hadn’t changed.
  • She’d knowingly let him isolate her from her husband’s good sense.
  • Keeping a secret wasn’t good for her marriage.

“Maybe our son will change one day,” says Bobbie. “But I can’t force him. I can only change myself.” Bobbie’s Year in Review revealed other learning points and truths, but this one had the most oomph. She realized that, in estrangement, her role as a mom had become twisted and strange. She knew she needed to focus more on herself and prioritize her role as her husband’s partner in life. The insight gave Bobbie at least one focus for the year ahead.  One she could use to set goals for and achieve with solid steps and plans.

What I learned.

My own Year in Review revealed a helpful truth about my calendar—and it’s a repeat. When I’m under stress, I sometimes pile on more responsibilities. There’s a positive side to this in that I get a lot done (which helps me derive self-worth…but that’s for another day!). The downside is the pressure I feel. I’ve learned to schedule in time off and give myself real breaks, but am recognizing that, at least at times, I ask too much of myself. When I really examined this fact, I identified one specific habit that I know helps: keeping my calendar current. I tend to take mental notes and fill in later, but the visual aid of seeing filled-in time slots help me be more realistic—and avoid the sticky situation of wanting to say “no” after having said “yes.” Saying “no” is a skill in and of itself.  Begging off after you’ve already agreed is even more difficult.

You might think this isn’t estrangement-related, but if you’re like me, you’ll fill your calendar when under stress–and estrangement is stressful. You might also have the self-worth component, which means you’ll do extra when you’re self-esteem is low. This past year has held a lot of distress and trauma for me, so it’s natural I’d lean on my go-to and get things done! However, taking note expands my awareness, which helps me put concrete changes into place for my well-being.

What did you learn?

Start by writing down a little about what happened in each month/season of the year. How you acted, what you got right . . . or wrong. Then, don’t get bogged in the mire. Instead, recognize what you learned.

In Beyond Done, I introduced one mother whose husband was gravely ill. She had expected to lean on their son and was shocked by his lack of concern. She says, “I needed him then.” After she and her husband survived that crisis, she reflects, “I can’t think of a time I will ever need him going forward.”

This mom learned that they couldn’t count on their son. This realization spurred action to consider what gaps existed in their plans for retirement and as they aged. They then expanded their plans independent of him. Your realizations can similarly guide you.

Maybe things aren’t as hoped for or expected, but we can adapt. Flexibility is one of five elements of resilience described in Beyond Done. Your Year in Review helps you home in on where bending is beneficial.

Don’t get hung up thinking you had to have learned huge or distressing truths either. Simple learned truths, backed by actions, can make huge differences in our lives. Maybe you learned that you are at your best when you spend more time with friends. Perhaps you’ve identified a particular person who has become a true friend, that you are a lifelong learner and happiest trying new activities, or that you need more time to yourself.

Use the Year in Review exercise to identify strengths, weaknesses, and growth points in general and in estrangement. When we’re cognizant of what we’ve learned, our awareness grows. When we’re aware, we can set goals and prepare to achieve what’s best for us.

I hope you’ll try this exercise. It’s one I have often done with my coaching clients to help them step into the New Year stronger. If you find this helpful, leave a comment as to what you learned and what steps you’ll take to grow.

Related reading

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50 thoughts on “Parents in estrangement: Your year in review

  1. Good Days

    Took a firm step last week by having my tattoo for my child modified into an ornate sealed bottle, which holds my memories. Sending compassionate care to all

    Reply
  2. Carrie-Ann

    2-2-22
    Happy 2022 Groundhog Day!!! Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and predicts another 6 weeks of winter…

    I love Spring…so will just have to get through 6 more weeks of winter… I love Groundhog Day…and watch the Bill Murray movie each year on that day…as well as other times of the year…

    It truly is about Radical Acceptance…Facing & getting through each and every day…Things may not change…but as one faces each day…being open to new things…somehow one finds and experiences Joy and Peace…So it becomes less important that things happened or/and are still happening…As one places one’s attention on the Now Moment, one experiences this Precious Life in a Fresh & New way…

    May Each of You Dear Ones experience the Joy & Peace in this Precious Life…With Each Breath…Each Moment…

    As for me, I am breaking out my keyboard & plan to get back into learning to play music better, to write music again, & to sing, chant, etc…(As in MeatLoaf’s last video before he made his transition recently, planning his next tour…saying with such Life & Joy, “I just want to rock!!!” Also, the comedian Louie Anderson also made his transition recently…saying that he was so ready for his upcoming tour plans…He truly made his difficult life into such laughter & kindness for others…).

    Sooo, Guys, let’s rock & see the funny side of things, while we are still in this Beautiful Precious Life…May You Find Your Bliss…

    Peace Out In Gratitude & Friendship,
    Carrie-Ann

    Reply
  3. GoodDays

    Hello everyone. My poor child was the pawn of the father’s alienation and my reactivity to that, which started at our divorce when our child was 6 mo and persisted until 25 years of age. My current husband and I were victimized by the father and his new wife and were used and unloved by the child despite investing 26 yrs on my part and 24 years on his part to the point we were facing serious health care and financial consequences.

    I told the child No More and was cut off entirely, blocked everywhere, immediately; the child and partner live abroad and I was shocked but not surprised.

    I hope that my child can heal from the past. Being able to demonize me is not healthy but at least I don’t have to experience it.

    I’ve had same experiences that others here have. My lowest was a hospitalization because I just hit the bottle until my husband called an ambulance. Now I trust God and am grateful that I raised a child who is healthy and secure and feels successful and empowered. It’s out of my hands.

    I am now rebuilding my esteem. All those years my child would frown, flinch, demean me and everything about my life… I am finally seeing myself as a whole and healthy adult after 26 years.

    My current husband and I support each other a lot and we are working to let go of the hard, twisted feelings and attitudes about what happened such as blaming ourselves or the child, loss of trust in humanity, feelings of insecurity. In a way the pandemic has helped us feel not so alone, as sad as that is, in dealing with loss, sorrow, upheaval etc.

    Best wishes. Thank you to the blog owner.

    Reply
  4. Dee R.

    Thank you Sheri, for your two books, so glad I found them! Reading that I am not alone , is helping me get through the heartache!

    Reply
  5. DP

    I’m so grateful for Sheri and all the parents on this site sharing stories. I never anticipated something like this happening. I gave my estranged adult child my life and we would have done anything for this child. I’ve learned that I need to save myself and focus on people like my husband and pets who really love me. My physical and mental health has taken a blow from this experience. My social circle has dwindled significantly. I have a hard time trusting others and feel judged. I’ve learned that some people are not patient when we share our grief with them. I know it can be burdensome when I keep going over the same story and questions, but the pain has been intense and I’ve needed support. I’ve learned to not share with people whose comments make me feel as though I’ve been kicked in the gut. I hope I’m not like that with others when they are experiencing a devastating loss. I’ve learned how shameful this experience can be and how I avoid people because I feel they are judging me as a bad parent. I’ve learned how to take a deep breath when triggered by insensitive comments of family members. I become much more cynical about family and feel we were sold a bill of goods. Next year I plan to not let Christmas cards with family pictures effect me so much. I’m hopeful that the passage of time will make this easier and am encouraged by the parents who have said this does get easier and we can actually have a good life despite what has happened. Love to all of you.

    Reply
  6. Teri A

    Well after 5 years of estrangement from my older son, I tried in the fall 1 more time and deep down I wanted to see my grandson who is now 5 and I haven’t seen him since a baby. When I pulled up with a box of Halloween gifts for all of them, my son and his wife were shocked to see me and because the door was open and I seen my little grandson I had to go up the porch. I had every intention of leaving box. Well was not good idea. When I pulled away my emotions took over and I’m lucky I didn’t have health problem that day.
    So what I have find out this past year is nothing is going to help. I left there with a different attitude I AM BEYOND DONE and maybe some day my grandson will want to know me as I will continue to do, as my friend suggested, have my hope chest of cards to my grandson for every holiday of things I wouldn’t have done with him and put $$ into an account. I will focus on myself and enjoy my relationship with my younger son.
    Sheri your new book is a God sent for me as your 1st. Happy New Year to all and focus on yourself and the family you have in front of your eyes even if not blood family. I love all of you and pray for all going through this. ❤️

    Reply
    1. Dee R.

      So sorry for your pain, what you have gone through sounds so much like what I have experienced! Please take care!

  7. Sharon

    What I’ve learned this year is that I’ve done my best and I can’t do better than that. I actually feel some relief knowing that I don’t feel pressure anymore to try to make a difficult relationship work. The last 14 years I’ve been extra kind, generous, tolerant, and forgiving toward my ES, hoping someday he would find the maturity and courage to open up about his underlying anger toward me so the healing could begin. I let him know I was always at the table ready to listen/apologize/talk, but he refused to join me. I overlooked and rationalized his rudeness, thoughtlessness and selfishness and put my broken heart back together privately more times than I can count. I was sad for both of us that he was exposed to slanderous narratives about me by family members and then began to create his own destructive victim narratives. My heart also breaks for the little boy who was used as a pawn by his father in a nasty divorce. The court system isn’t kind to mothers and children caught in dirty games and I know he continues to pay a price for that. This year I asked for his support. It felt like this was the excuse he’d been waiting for to finally shut me completely out of his life. He didn’t even find out what I needed from him. My instincts had known this moment would come. I will grieve the rest of my life for the loss of my son and the joyful moments we could have had. We had similar interests and there have been many moments when we connected deeply. I will cherish these forever. I think of Tyler Perry’s movie, The Family that Preys, when the mother says, “…no matter how much love and support you give your children, they are still human beings and you are not their only influence”. Part of my heart has been torn out permanently and some days I wonder how I’ll endure further pain when he gets married and I never get to meet my grandchildren. The truth is that the price I was paying to hold onto this relationship became too much and even if a reconciliation happened, I’d always be waiting for him to slam the door shut again. I couldn’t take that much pain. I’ve done my best. I take comfort in knowing I can’t do more than that.

    Reply
  8. J.

    I’ve learned that I don’t know how to navigate my way through this yet but I’m working on it. My son and I are estranged, my doing, as I’d had enough of being disrespected. He has shared custody of his toddler daughter and I now see her through her mother about once a month for about two hours, for the past almost two years. I haven’t seen her in a month. I was hoping to this past week for Christmas. My son has been an off and on jerk to me most of his adult life but it really ratcheted up after he had his daughter. I’m feeling heartbroken at this situation and so disappointed in his behavior.

    Reply
  9. Cc

    Dear All
    What have I learned this year.
    I’ve leaned that no matter what I do my daughter and grandchildren are lost to me now as well as hope The systematic cruel behaviour and the goal post moving to now a complete silence that has been 15 years in the making
    I’ve learned that my friends have been told lies about me some are still friends some are not.
    I’ve learned that it is possible to carry on and look for joy where you can but to expect the pain to catch you and kick you like a mule and bring you to your knees.
    The most important thing I have learned is my husbands love and kindness has endured tears depression and the unspoken thoughts of not living for another year.
    From the messages and books I am not alone but only I alone can move forward each day hour by hour.
    We learned to lawn bowl this year and I learn I am wanted in a team and that I will have a busy diary next year.
    I wish you all the strength and satisfaction in life and to be able to see any joy that passes before you to balance the days when the mule kicks us.

    Reply
  10. Ilene A.

    Perfect timing!!! Between your newsletters, daily countdown, and two books I have begun to thrive and not survive. Accepting truth, reality, remember the facts, how good it feels to not walk on eggshells or have fear, and focusing on me are lessons I have learned. The freedom I felt after taking my two children out of my will was amazing. Both of my children are narcissistic bullies and masters of manipulation. I’m sad that I can’t have a relationship with them. My daughter calls only when she “need” or wants something from me. My son doesn’t communicate. I do wish I could have a relationship with my two grandchildren; however, reality is that my son and daughter-in-law won’t allow this relationship to transpire. Truly, the anxiety I feel, when I’m around my daughter is not enhancing. How blessed I am with a plethora of friends that love me for who I am. Volunteering and giving of myself to others, whether teaching or assisting others with their knitting, playing MahJong, playing Canasta, facilitating a weekly virtual Happy Hour make me feel as a productive citizen. Taking classes is enhancing to me. If I can’t have a positive relationship with my children or grandchildren, perhaps I can have positive times with my friends. Giving up hope of a meaningful reconciliation has been a major lesson for me this year.
    Sheri, thank you so very much for guiding me to a meaningful life.

    Reply
  11. Pamelia S.

    My son is off and on again estrangement. He calls/texts from time to time, sometimes for money as he completes graduate school. He is 23 years old. He and I lived together until age of 15, then he chose to go live with his’ dad. That is when the anger, bitterness, resentment, lashing out, manipulation, etc began. It has been going on all of this time. However, I have learned that his’ behavior has nothing to do with me, but is on him(and his’ dad, who spends all of his time trying to make me fail). I’m successful, more so than my ex. I have also learned to not get upset when my son goes through these periods of no communication. I have learned to relish it. There is on occasion that he will call to see how I am doing without wanting anything. I cherish these calls, but if they don’t come, I’m okay. I’ve learned to be ok. I have learned to focus more on myself and my well being whether he calls/texts or not. I have also began to expand my plans as I age without him. He is not reliable, sometimes here, sometimes not. I stopped internalizing all of this. I don’t become so upset anymore. I don’t allow his abusive behavior, calling/texting meanness. I hang up on him or I don’t read the texts, just delete. I’m getting better and better! I’m living and enjoying my life. I did remove him from my will and am leaving all of my finances to charitable organizations that help others. I feel free, free to live and to fly! Thank God, I’m free at last! Happy New Year everyone!

    Reply
  12. Kate L.

    My husband and I just “did” the exercise standing in our kitchen talking about this past year. After much hurtful behavior, we were recently informed by our daughter that she was breaking off contact until we agreed to go to therapy with her. I suppose the goal of that would be to have us on our knees in front of her while a poor uninformed therapist beat us and confirmed how much we had failed as parents.

    It’s unfortunate, that we had had a pretty good year of interactions before we dared to disagree with something she wanted to do. But, that has been the pattern since our now 32-year-old was in middle school. We know we were really good, caring parents, but something about this last event was a real wake up call. I learned that nothing, sans medication will make things change. I’ve also decided that, while it’s really sad- she is probably happier not being around us. And we are too. So, I have decided to try to be the person that I was before I was a mom. We both refuse to struggle anymore with an adult that doesn’t want us around, is disrespectful, lies and so on. It is a hard thing, but I can live with that-because I want to be happy moving forward. Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  13. Kate L.

    Thank you Shari for your books, and for this forum. My husband and I just “did” the exercise standing in our kitchen talking about this past year. After much hurtful behavior, we were recently informed by our daughter that she was breaking off contact until we agreed to go to therapy with her. I suppose the goal of that would be to have us on our knees in front of her while a poor uninformed therapist beat us and confirmed how much we had failed as parents.

    It’s unfortunate, that we had had a pretty good year of interactions before we dared to disagree with something she wanted to do. But, that has been the pattern since our now 32-year-old was in middle school. We know we were really good, caring parents, but something about this last event was a real wake up call. I learned that nothing, sans medication will make things change. I’ve also decided that, while it’s really sad- she is probably happier not being around us. And we are too. So, I have decided to try to be the person that I was before I was a mom. We both refuse to struggle anymore with an adult that doesn’t want us around, is disrespectful, lies and so on. It is a hard thing, but I can live with that-because I want to be happy moving forward. Happy New Year, everyone!

    Reply
  14. Mik

    My husband and I are somewhat estranged from our son and for a long time I felt it was something we had done that hurt him. To be around him is like walking on Eggshells. Although, he can be fun he’s more often demanding and hard to get along with ~ behavior we ignored and put up with until recently when I told him I had, had it with his nasty attitude.

    I was hurt and grieved for a long while because he was not thoughtful in showing he cared even during illness. Sometimes he would answer a Text or Email but more often ignored them. He isn’t appreciative of generous financial gifts by even simply saying Thank You. His wife is always cordial but she makes sure the family spends all their summers and free time with her side of the family.

    After his last visit my daughter decided she’d had her fill of her brother. It was after that, during one of his nasty replies to a Text that I told him I was Done with dealing with his nasty responses ~ He then cut off all communication. We have changed our Will. He’s still in the Will ~ at this time but his part is more limited.

    Although, we don’t know his children very well they are now old enough that I’ve started communicating with them through Text messaging. We send them money and gifts for special and other occasions, ask about what they’re doing and share information about their counsins and this side of the family. The granddaughter is very chatty and likes to sent photos.

    We live in an intergenerational home with our daughter and her two boys now 15 and 18. She moved in with us almost 13 years ago.

    We have not heard from our son since April 2020. He was a difficult child, hasn’t changed as an adult and isn’t a child I can trust but we had some good times and he has a personality that is attractive to people. But, when my daughter and I think about having to endure a visit with him ~ we have second thoughts.

    So … I think th estrangement maybe mutual.

    Our son may have some hard feelings about some past experience that’s he’s not shared But, he’s now a 50+ year old man who has made a lot of mistakes himself and needs to move past childhood hurts … if that’s the problem. Or … maybe he just doesn’t have the capacity to care.

    Reply
  15. Diane M.

    Looking back on my year, I realize that I focused on things I wished for (to reconnect with my daughter and her family) and focused less on what I have, a relationship with my adult son. He is almost 50, is on disability and lives in a rooming house. After several suicide attempts, he has finally gotten the medication he so badly needed. I am grateful that he is alive. My ED has no contact with him either. So, it’s not just with me. Her family is now her dad, her step-mother and all her step brothers/sisters. I haven’t seem my son as much, do to COVID concerns and he lives an hour away. I hate driving now because I need cataract sgy. But I will go out to see him in spring or summer. My “goal” for the New Year is to focus on there here and now. What I already have and really am so grateful for. Like this site here. I hope we can continue to connect in 2022 too. What would I do without Sheri’s wisdom and great ideas, and all your wonderful, honest sharing? I am grateful for all of you !

    Reply
  16. Looby

    What I learned this year.

    I learned what a huge price I was paying AND making others pay for my daughter’s estrangement of 6 years. My despair and depression almost ruined my health, my marriage and my relationship with my adult son so I learned that the cost of “losing” someone who didn’t want me in her life was enormous.

    I also sadly accepted the fact that my daughter derived pleasure from disowning me and this nearly killed me emotionally and psychologically.

    From this I have set new intentions and they are my 5 H’s that will come first in 2022. They are my Happiness, my Husband, my Home, my Heart and my Health.

    From my heart to yours Sheri, there will never be enough words to thank you for your work. God bless you and everyone in this group of wonderful parents.

    Reply
    1. Jane Ann

      Thank you for your five “H’s!” I have written these down to affirm with my Self daily. This has been a particularly “bad” day — we all know what those are like — but your words brought much Hope and Confidence to me.

      I have been blaming my husband today, too, wondering why he has never reached out to my ED, (his stepdaughter) as I’ve asked him several times to do, to see if he can find answers to the WHY’s, and so that he might help me in my struggles and pain. But he never has. He’s known her for 27 years. Has anyone else had this issue, and how do you handle the anger at your spouse in this regard?

      I wish all of you on this site a very Happy New Year! Sheri does so much to soothe our souls, and we all contribute to this soothing for one another. I am so grateful for Sheri’s website and for all of you.

      Take care, everyone, and stay well! May your hearts be at peace.

  17. Jan P.

    What I have learned this year in particular is that I deserve to be happy. I cannot allow my daughter’s rejection and abandonment ruin my life. With help, I beat off the deep depression that had plagued me for nearly a year. I know in my heart that I was a good mom (not perfect), and as a single mom for most of her growing up years, I did the best I could. Fortunately, my ex and I always maintained an amicable relationship—we always put our children first while we were together and also after our divorce in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, I have very few good friends (numerous acquaintances), so my social activities are somewhat limited. My closest friend is 1500 miles away. I have a wonderful and supportive husband who has gotten along well with my children, and no other family except my son who lives out of state. We will be seeing him and his family in late January—something exciting to anticipate. Still, I continue to hope (but no expectation) that my 48 year old ED will someday decide she needs her mother in her life. I have not seen her or my grandchildren (18 & 15) in over 2 years. I did send holiday gifts to the grandchildren, but they were not acknowledged. And yet, I still have much for which to be grateful and a good life ahead whether or not a reconciliation ever occurs. I have come along way toward acceptance through the latter half of 2021. Although I don’t hold much stock in New Year’s resolutions, if I had to make any for 2022, they would be to focus on the positives and enjoy my life, travel widely, and build new memories.

    Reply
  18. Sarah N.

    Hi this past year has given me other challenges to focus my energies on such as supporting my friend as her husband our dear friend passed away so cruelly. I also underwent difficult surgery navigating through the pandemic restrictions. It has made me a stronger person and put the past 10 years of estrangment from my only child and daughter into a compartment i just had to let go and focus on the here and now! My ED made her choices i cant do anymore?? This group is my saviour thank you xx

    Reply
  19. Terri L.

    I am new to this group. And I am thankful I found it. Divorced mother of 8 grown children, my 2nd oldest daughter has been estranged from the family for close to 8 years. Never thought I would survive all of this trauma, but God…and true friends, and this new group should help me even more to love myself enough to step into what God wants for me and my future. I am still fairly young and healthy at 59, so I have a good many years ahead of me and I want to be a blessing to those in my life. I still have young single adults in their 20’s that are wounded and acting out all of the pain of their dad’s abandonment/restoration process with them, but I believe they are headed in a good direction, but it is still painful all of the challenges of us all being in different phases of our growth and healing. One thing I know is my other 7 children and I have stuck together, without cutting each other off, no matter how painful things have gotten. I have tried to example forgiveness for my children. Even though I have to admit, sometimes its hard to do that and still have boundaries for yourself, in the midst of children that dont always honor and respect you and your values, as a parent. Sometimes I get so emotionally exhausted, I dont know where to turn, but my Heavenly Father is always there for me when I realize again that He is the only one I need, and His approval and acceptance is ultimately all I need. His love is unconditional, and He will never leave me nor forsake me. If I could keep reminding myself of that, and not allow the other voices to dominate, then I would do well. Thank you for allowing me to post, and thank you for your ministry.

    Reply
  20. Steve

    Every year, and every holiday, its the same thing…maybe next year at this time. To many holidays, New Year wishes, and the hardest of all, father’s day (my absolute most dreaded day of the year). I am a father of 4 boys. At the time of the divorce, my kids were 17, 14, 13 and 7. They completely deleted me from their life, and much of this started well before the divorce. My ex convinced them that I was an alcoholic (because I drink beer), a drug addiction (because I chew) and an abuser (I guess because it seemed like the next best accusation). I requested a child custody study, which dispelled each of these claims. It was in the Child Custody Report that I first read about how my kids were severely estranged from me as a result of her “enmeshment” which lead to this syndrome called Parental Alienation. These terms were unfamiliar to me so began researching and reading everything I could get my hands on, and with each new reading, my heart grew deeper and deeper into hopelessness. As part of the divorce order, I convinced my lawyer to include language requiring participation for the use of a Parent Coordinator in hopes this would allow opportunities to restore some degree of a relationship with my kids. Despite making everything very clear as to the expectations both my ex and I would follow in our work with the Parent Coordinator, it still failed. My ex thrawted every effort made by the Parent Coordinator and she eventually resigned. She did outline her reasons, which documented my ex wife’s failures to abide by the steps recommended by the Parent Coordinator. Yes, I did file a contempt petition to the family court commissioner, and this yielded nothing. So 12 years later, I remain a compete outcast for my kids. I have not spent any time with them in 12 years, and not due to any lack of trying. I remain lost, hopeless and heartbroken. I know that someday, I will die with this void in my heart, and it haunts me daily. Before casting judgements on those who are the targeted parents (either the mother or the father) just know there are those of us who exist who feel a sense of loss with an unbearable pain that no therapist can erase. I’ve tried, yes I have learned some coping methods, but at the end of the day, I will someday die and have no fatherly memories to cling to when taking my final breath. So many have shared, “when they get older, and wiser, they will learn the truth and want you back in their life”. This advice has little merit and is often shared by others who haven’t experienced what it’s like to be on the other side of a person with a narcissistic personality and whose major goal is to rob someone of the one pure joy always wished for, a gift of fatherhood.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Steve,
      I HEAR you. There is too much of this going on. Narcissistic abuse often does include parental alienation, and the court system hasn’t stepped up its game all that much over the years. I’m not sure what the answer is, because the coordinator may not even truly “get” what happened. And once someone gets going on another with this sort of abuse, it can be hard (and sometimes impossible) to undo. Your boys will live with the pain of this in one form of another even besides their loss of a father in their lives. There are no winners. HOWEVER, you do have a small bit of comfort in your own integrity … and you can still have a good life, even with the sadness of this loss due to abuse. I’m sorry this happened to you and your family, Steve. In my research about estrangement and for my latest book, I talked to many fathers (and mothers) who have experienced this heartbreak. It’s real and I HEAR you.

      Hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

    2. Looby

      To Steve

      Your story touched my heart. I am so sorry that you have had to endure so much despite your best efforts to have a relationship with your sons.

      I hope this new year is good to you. Bless you and good luck in 2022.

    3. Dee R.

      Please take care of yourself! I have raised two children by myself, a son and daughter! My son , has alienated me from his life, taking my grandkids away hurts! I feel your pain, sometimes just knowing that someone out their understands, that your not alone helps! Live, enjoy friends, find new hobbies, you matter, your happiness matters!

  21. BarbW

    This is the first holiday season in the last 3 years that I have not cried off and on the entire time. I now feel calmer inside and less engaged in revisiting things I have no control over. Both of my sons (early 30s), do not accept me, the new person who emerged from a toxic marriage, as a happier person in my new relationship. They talked to me until he asked for their blessing for us to get married. Now, it seems they think I have chosen him over them. This is not true, but as they won’t communicate there’s no way to reset their perspective. What they don’t comprehend is, I really chose me after years of abuse. I chose to fill my own life with joy and love and kindness. I was not going to be a doormat for their cheating father nor for them any longer. Looking back I was a glorified housekeeper and dad was the fun one. Crazy but fun.
    Now I feel calm. I married someone who cherishes me for me, and tells me he appreciates everything I do for him. This came as a huge shock. In all my life, I have never been told I was worthy and respected. I have accepted poor behavior for 30 years from my sons’ father, and what they saw modeled was apparently okay with them.
    I don’t think they are mature enough to realize parents are people too. Until they have kids of their own, they’re clueless.
    As I look back, I am sad at their loss, but during this time I lost both of my parents, and I know they loved me. My sons’ lack of emotion and support of me during their deaths is another indicator that I do not need to waste time hoping for a change of heart. I am determined to live life, live whole-heartedly and grow old gracefully.
    Thank you Sherri for providing guidance along the way. HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

    Reply
  22. Shawn K.

    Dear Sheri, ALL of your words today resonate with me or describe specifically my own “go-to” methods… I just wasn’t fully aware! So I am jazzed about doing your proposed exercise! I certainly see how helpful it will be to growing awareness in a sort of “name it and claim it” fashion, which is a method I’ve been using in an advanced art class that I teach adults in my community. It, too, is based on identifying one’s own strengths as well as areas needing/wanting improvements, then setting tangible, realistic, customizable goals.
    THANK YOU for helping your readers learn from you, connect & support one another to heal, grow, and truly make the most of the gift of each day.
    I wish you and your readers a most HAPPY 2022 New Year!

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      You’re welcome, Shawn K! I am excited to think of you as an art teacher, and know your classes must be dynamic and inspiring!

      Hugs to you! Happy New Year!
      Sheri McGregor

  23. Bette S.

    For me, the reminder that living in the present and accepting what is, ‘for now’ helps me remain hopeful. After 4+ years of estrangement from my ES, I got to see him at a birthday party for my younger daughter’s son. He acknowledged me, with a focus on his son, 9 yo grandchild and with a hug and ‘I love you mom,’ the interaction ended. Perhaps unrealistically I though things would progress, now amount later, the checks to his children for Christmas are not acknowledged. However, I believe that remaining hopeful is far better than the anguish I felt almost 5 years ago when the estrangement started. My life continues with faith and joy in ‘giving’ back through charitable time, resources and talents. I look forward to living each day to the fullest.

    Reply
  24. Carrie B.

    We have been estranged from our youngest daughter for over a year and a half and just in this last month of the year stumbled upon your website, newsletters, blogs and books. It has been a life saver, a game changer and most importantly, a reassurance that my husband and are not alone and are still good parents and people! If only I had found this a year and half ago but am beyond grateful for finding it this month. Looking back, I can reflect on how much I’ve learned about my self, my extended family and friends through all this. It’s taught me the importance of focusing on the people that do want me in their lives, that genuinely care about my life and happiness vs those that don’t. I’ve had to divorce myself from the situations and some relationships that fed the pain, hurt, self-doubt and dwelling. Just like you mention setting the fledgling free with the knowledge you did your best, wasn’t perfect in the book, I’ve finally been able to set myself free as well and felt happiness again for the first time since she left. It was truly an awakening and I can’t think of a better way to end this year and head into the next. So Thank You Sheri from the bottom of my heart. You helped me learn how to save me and reinforced the empowerment of knowing my self worth – by not basing it on my one estranged child anymore – but from all the other people that still genuinely love and care about me – my husband, stepson, oldest daughter and grandchildren and father. I’m focusing on them, our happiness and not on her or the others that don’t anymore. I’m done wasting time and energy on trying to win peoples approval that don’t genuinely care about me, my happiness and family and focusing it instead on those right in front of me that do.

    Reply
  25. Gracie2021

    Good morning, Sheri. You brought a smile when you were discussing your calendar. If I don’t write “it” (whatever “it” may be), immediately on the calendar, it’s gone from my head! I’m always writing myself emails on my own phone to remind me to place on my calendar. I still don’t use my phone’s calendar … have a kitchen wall calendar and a purse calendar. I’ve got to be organized (one of my traits).

    Just like Elizabeth reiterated, I’ve realized that I have to love my youngest ES from a distance because we are incompatible too. I just cannot listen to his arrogance for very long, sad to say. There has to be something to this gene thing as my Dad had the same personality.
    Make it a great day. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2022.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you, Gracie. I do like my phone calander… gotta remember to have my reading glasses with!
      🙂
      A great day? Yes, let’s!

      Hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

  26. Dana

    You are so RIGHT about the calendar and filling it up when under stress. I try and keep it current, but when things start piling up, I tend to say yes and fill it in later and then realize how packed that calendar is with commitments and responsibilities that I can’t back out of.

    Each year I have a ‘word’ that is my focus for the year. When I was thinking about 2022 and what my word was going to be I kept thinking REST and then I would think why….I am in a good place I don’t feel tired or weary. But it keeps coming up and I have decided to make it my ‘word’ but it will be for rest as in slowing down, thinking before committing, scheduling on the calendar time to relax….not just fitting it in on a ‘free’ weekend.

    I have enjoyed each day of these Sheri. Thanks for all you do!

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you, Dana. REST can apply in so many ways. More time off, rest your case, be at peace,done enough, rest your mind….

      Hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

  27. Valerie M.

    Hi Sheri:
    It’s been a second year of learning while going through a pandemic. I’ve learned to make plans but to remain flexible.

    The biggest realization this year has been that, although our oldest daughter remains estranged from both of her siblings and us, we can still go on as a family to enjoy life together by working with what and who is compatible.

    We had to establish a firm boundary to protect our youngest daughter (who is 30) and is also a trans woman, from the attacks of her oldest, religious sister (aged 46 and a failed lawyer who loves to argue and purposely misgenders her sibling). Our middle daughter, her husband and our two grandkids (aged 9 and 11) are all wonderful allies with us and our youngest daughter.

    Our oldest daughter (ED) has been estranged from her middle sister for 8 years and her youngest for 4 years. She has basically been homeless, housesitting and living off others for 4 years. We closed the Mom and Dad ATM 3 1/2 years ago after she lived with us for free for 6 mos and made no progress. She has not paid taxes or repaid her student loans or held a job for 4 1/2 years. I did keep giving her birthday and Christmas gifts but that stopped this year. She purposely refused to cash an e-transfer from last Christmas twice, saying she was mad at us for “rejecting her and not inviting her for Christmas 2020.” We were in lockdown in our province in Canada and, like everyone else, were restricted to just the two of us, the turkey and Zoom for Christmas. ED spent Christmas at a remote lake up north in a cabin with no cell service.

    This year, I STOPPED TRYING! My husband’s 70th birthday was this Dec and I rented a huge chalet that sleeps up to 14 people at our local ski mountain (1/2 hr from our house). I told all 3 daughters 9 months in advance that we would be staying 3 nights on the mountain Dec 10th-13th if they wanted to join us and covid permitted. Instead of working on relationships, which were too far gone, ED went on the warpath. The other 6 members of the family (including the youngest’s boyfriend) all wanted to come but did not want ED ruining our family time with her tantrums and meanness. We decided to go with the 6 who get along. The ED was invited to visit us alone in January but we made it clear that she was not invited to the mountain or forChristmas because of her estrangement from her siblings. She said she “didn’t care” and “couldn’t stand being around all that drama anyway.” She then went and complained to my husband’s brother, who got angry at my husband and refused to join us up the mountain for his brother’s 70th birthday.

    I am very proud of my husband because he explained to his brother how much it hurt us and the whole family not to have good relationships with ED, that she had been doing damage for years to her closest family while maintaining a facade with the extended family but they were free to continue to be in a better relationship with ED if they could. As it happened, our sister-in-law’s Dad passed away in another province so they were busy with that all month.

    Our youngest and her boyfriend flew 5,000 km Dec 5th to be with us for a month while working remotely. Our middle daughter and family drove 5 hrs through a snowstorm but we all arrived safely on the mountain (after being dug out of snowbanks twice by my my husband who is, luckily, a fit 70 year old!). We had the BEST EVER weekend living in luxury as 2 ft of snow fell. It cost me a small fortune but it ended up being so invaluable as we all learned that we CAN have fun, we DO like being together, we don’t need to be held back by what is not working. We are all in therapy, by the way, except for ED, learning to hold each other gently without obligation. My husband and I were prepared to enjoy 3 nights alone in a 14 person chalet. No obligstion, just come as you are able. Instead, we had 8 of us, each family unit with their own floor and multiple beds, to themselves. Our 2 daughters spent time figuring out where we could all go next summer as a family!

    We aren’t a perfect family, we do have a huge hole in the middle but we’re no longer falling into the hole or standing around in mourning. We’ve built a bridge and are moving on to more positive adventures together.

    ED is working for 9 mos for a charitable organization and now is settled in a condo with a female roommate who is a doctor. She spent Christmas with the doctor and her elderly father. She called once before Christmas and has texted since. She didn’t ask about our time up the mountain or Christmas and didn’t ask about or give presents. I did send her a $50 e-transfer from my 99 year old .Mom that was meant for Christmas from Grandma. She hasn’t redeemed it yet. She’s not happy with her job and is looking to move on by the summer. Weather and covid continue to keep her from being able to visit as she would need to fly here. We’re not sure if she’s double vaxxed but she’d have to show proof to fly. Our youngest is staying on indefinitely in our suite because of omicron lockdown in her city She is responsible, pays her own way, has a high income from her IT job, can work remotely, us considerate and is fun to have around after 9 years of living across the country. ED is not going to visit for a while yet, it seems!

    Thanks, Sheri, for your support and this group and Countdown. Noone else really understands how difficult family estrangement is but, also, how it can lead to healing and growth for thise who are open to it Msy 2022 be kinder to us all! XO

    –Val M

    Reply
  28. ML

    After ten years of on/off again estrangement, I finally learned this year that having my EC in my life is more of a detriment to my well-being than a good. Really seeing that concretely through actions this year has truly enabled me to find peace. I no longer miss, or YEARN, for relationship with EC.

    This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t see EC again. I simply now see EC as someone who cannot be a person I rely upon for anything relationally. It’s not in them. I pity EC, but will never be EC’s emotional punching bag again.

    A popular phrase right now is, “I will not comply!” I’ve made that my own.

    I will not comply with EC’s rewrite of history. No more examining ( a necessary exercise to go through in estrangement, but after ten years, enough is enough), no more second-guessing. No more slinking about as if what EC claims is true. I’ve reclaimed myself.

    Reply
    1. Catherine C

      Thank you for your account of the “slinking around” feeling, wearing a cloak of shame until your EC might lift the curse of bad parenting. I cannot comply either, realizing how detrimental it is for physical and mental health. As Sheri suggested, we must reflect. In doing so, I am accepting that I cannot rely on my EC for support as I am aging. Her presence one day after my brain surgery was so upsetting, I had to ask her to leave. I believe this was the first time I didn’t acquiesce to her behavior. I didn’t have the energy, and my survival instincts kicked in. Thank God. Reading the feelings and experiences of other parents is very healing. As well as the empowerment and strength that follows. Oddly, I feel orphaned after this rejection/abandonment. I grew up orphaned and it’s a rudderless feeling. Thank you all and Sheri for your brave stories and support. Happy New Year.

    2. ME

      Dear ML,
      I appreciate the idea of refusing to adopt the rewritten history; We have one daughter, who has been estranged from us for 10 years. I am tired of apologizing without clarity about what it is that did not work for her, I am tired of working so hard to recover what we had.
      I am tired.
      After all these years, I may need to become hopeless about the possibility of healing, as this may be the healthier way to go.
      Peace to us all.

  29. Beth

    What i have learned this year is the loss feels less devastating as the years pass.
    Ive learned that i am missing the idea of family more than my daughter and granddaughter. Why would i want people who solve their problems by hurting others in my life?
    Ive learned i did the best i could with what i had and maybe it is best for my own mental health to not be held hostage by people who only see their own viewpoint.
    Ive learned to have enough self respect to not force myself on someone who clearly doesnt want me in their life.

    Reply
    1. Becky J.

      Love ❤️ this. I too have felt the loss in my heart, not seeing our son and his family – but the heartache has somewhat lessened through the past 3 years. Our friends at church asked us how many children we have, my husband replied 1…. Talking about our daughter that is in our life. My husband told our pastor “ it’s easier to just say one than have to go into details of the situation ”. And he followed it up by, “ you just get so use to NOT having them in our life that you start forgetting “. Seems harsh, sounds very harsh, but true in a sense. I’ve prayed to my Father every day. I will not stop and always be ready. He chose to give us that “life” for a reason and I know that if He didn’t think we were capable He would not have.

    2. Catherine C.

      Thank you for response. The unwillingness of these adult children to see a parent’s perspective is really cruel and closes the door to forgiveness and acceptance on both sides.

    3. Barbara G.

      So agree !! It is freeing to stop forcing myself into my AS life when he clearly doesn’t want me in it ….. a huge burden has been lifted letting that realization settle deeply into my bones makes life so much more enjoyable!!

      Sheri’s book and knowing I am not alone has also helped tremendously!!
      Peaceful ❤️
      I also had to let go of a few “friends” that seemed to somewhat relish in rehashing why this happened ; felt a lot of judgement……

  30. Ms Jennifer S.

    What have I learnt this year ? I believe I’ve re found true joy. Yep it’s sad that my daughter doesn’t want to know me any longer, and I no longer can see my grandboys are they grow. In spite of that sadness, I’ve re found joy by re focusing on what’s important to me.

    But in saying that I’ve re found joy in so many ways. The joy of seeing someone’s face light up when you arrive bearing some of your own Christmas baking.
    Many business here in Australia (as I sure the rest of the world) have found life tough during lockdown and restrictions. Many stressed too. My local butcher stressed to the gills about folks who would put in a large Christmas Meat order, which he would get from his supplier, to then cancel at the last minute.
    The joy of giving of myself (without expectation) has given me great joy.

    I decided this year to donate to a group called the ‘tear fund’ they do great things in 3rd world countries, to do with building wells, taps for hygiene.
    With this you get a child friendly card which explains what your donation has done. I named my grandchildren in the email when the donation was made.
    The joy of getting a small written note within the card, naming the boys and thanking for the donation. I included this not within the card.
    I’ve not recieved a reply, in fact I don’t expect to get one. But the joy of giving in spite of sadness.

    Wishing all a very happy safe new year. Jennifer.

    Reply
  31. Elizabeth L.

    Thank you for these daily awakenings Sheri, they’re so well timed and relevant.
    For my part, I’ve come to the realisation that I couldn’t give my daughter what she needed, in fact, I never knew what she needed because she never made it explicit and i’m still in the dark about it, so I gave her what I could. A stable quiet home, supported her to reach her dreams ( she expressed them at the time , but then backtracked and said she’d rather have been a check out girl than a government advisor – there was more to life).

    So I’ve learnt that we were basically incompatible, not the sort that would ever have become friends had we not been related, and that eventually I was just the money provider.

    I’ve also learnt how resilient I am, how I can redesign my life, make things happen for me instead of just for her, that I’m at my best when making things better than I found them, that I can move forward without a backward glance.

    Moving to a new town, with loads of things to do and see, I have a job interview this afternoon, a new home to renovate , two new friends already this week, a ticket to a comedy show that wouldn’t have toured to my last town.
    I need less time to myself ( never thought I’d say that!). Take care of yourselves everyone, here comes the new year!

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      I love this, Elizabeth! It sounds so wonderful, this switch you have made! I see you moving swiftly along, wind at your heels, smile on your face. No wonder you make friends everywhere you go!
      🙂
      Good luck on the interview, too.

      Hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

    2. Lori F.

      This is exactly how I feel. I’ve learned so much in the last couple years. My daughter and I apparently are not compatible either. I have found my joy again in my own life with my loving husband of 34 years. We have found each other again with all the chaos out of our lives. Pulling up our boot straps and moving forward. We know we raised a beautiful loving daughter. How she deals with life at 35 years old is on her. It is so liberating to finally figure this out. Life changing. These books have been so informative and it’s comforting to know I am not alone. Not everyday is perfect but with the new tools we have it makes it a bit easier as these feelings slowly slide away. New day everyday to do something great. This Christmas the money we would have spent on the grandsons we sent money to an orphanage in Uganda. Actually spoke to some of children. It was so fulfilling and heartfelt. Wishing you all a healthy and happy New Year. We’ve got this parents.

    3. Megan

      I’ve been through the same thing with my grown daughter. I don’t know her anymore- incompatible is a great way to describe it. I wouldn’t have for a friend- different values and moral standards. I was a single mother after having been battered by her father who she maintains contact with. Sometimes I think I was only her money supply and crying towel and now she is married to a guy with little ambition and expensive tastes while she is the breadwinner. Not sure I will turn out. They have a 3 year old daughter now so I miss seeing her but can’t deal with her parents.

    4. Sharon O.

      Your first paragraph could have come from my own mouth. Amazing how much we all have in common. Thank you for your thoughts!

  32. Sue W.

    Four years into my sons estrangement. New Year’s Eve is always a difficult time as the anniversary of my dads death. But I’m feeling stronger in so many ways moving forward. I no longer receive gifts and cards from my son at my request as they were always sarcastic and point scoring. It feels good to put that new boundary in and I no longer dread the cutting sarcasm from the cards that arrive late.. I still choose to send cards and a small token at Christmas with the freedom of not wanting anything in return and knowing that I don’t even care if I get a text to say thank you as I can now hold my head up high knowing that I am still just doing my best as a mum but not allowing the bullying to remain in my life

    Reply

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