Parents moving beyond estrangement: Gather energy for your shift

parents moving beyond estrangement from adult children

Image by wandaquinn from Pixabay

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

My last post was about making a defining moment of the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice . The longest period of annual darkness results in the shortest day, which brings our longest physical shadows. And coincidentally, this physical lengthening of shadows occurs at a time when estrangement’s metaphorical shadow looms bigger than almost any time of year: the holidays. This psychological “shadow” gets clearer at this festive time when family-centric reminders abound. Of course we think of our loved lost ones and feel longing, sadness, or despair.

The Winter Solstice has passed, which means the nights will now grow gradually shorter. By day, so will our shadows. In short, that’s because the Earth tilts incrementally in the opposite way.

My Challenge: For parents moving beyond estrangement from adult children

Now, as we enter the season of shortening darkness and lengthened light, I dare you to shift as well. Make plans for incremental, sustainable change that will accumulate exponentially into mountains of positive personal growth. Baby steps, small habit shifts, lead to bigger change. By summer, when our physical shadows are the shortest, you can look back on concentrated effort from a stronger, more realistic vantage point.

To do this effectively, you’ll need to identify your sticking points. Here are a few ways to get started on that.

Re-read my articles on:


Make a list of these trouble spots and then brainstorm ways to counteract them. Get support too.

Moving beyond estrangement: Reflect, rediscover, rekindle

Once you’ve reflected upon areas that hold you back, drag you down, or further lengthen estrangement’s shadow, consider, places, people, and pursuits that will pull you up and forward, bring you fulfillment, purpose, and joy. If you’ve read Done With The Crying, pull out your completed “Take Stock” exercise and see where you might make further changes. Also turn to the later chapter on moving forward and review core elements of yourself that may have been waiting in the shadows for your rediscovery and rekindling. In moving beyond estrangement and all its related chaos, it’s wise to look at other areas too. Examine parts of you that may have been pushed aside because you were busy raising children, pursuing a career, or in some other way engaged.

Using nature’s cycles

As you work to drop the gloomy shadows of estrangement’s effects, imagine tapping into the energy behind Earth’s natural shifts. Contemplate the shortening of physical shadows, and all the other ways nature demonstrates shifts to a new season. Ancient peoples were more in tune with the natural cycles that affect the Earth and its inhabitants. They ate food in season, capitalized on their area’s resources, and prepared for the season ahead. Working with the natural cycles is a lot like going with the flow.

In my second estrangement book (Beyond Done With The Crying), I share examples of how the way we view life events such as estrangement make a difference in how we respond and fare. We can shape our experience by being conscious of what we think. How can you consider the seasons of nature as they relate to your “seasons” of estrangement? Notice the trees with their falling leaves that ready their limbs to withstand the burdens of snow.. Identify the birds that migrate to or from your area during winter months. Watch the summer-dry moss grow lush and green with winter rain.

We’re beyond the winter solstice. Take note of your physical shadow shortening each and every day. Join with the natural energy of the Earth and sun. Turn toward a new season, and purposefully work to also shorten estrangement’s shadow on you and your life.

Related reading

When your adult children don’t like you: Lean on the bear (and do some shadow work)

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14 thoughts on “Parents moving beyond estrangement: Gather energy for your shift

  1. Andrea C.

    Thankyou! I just took a moment to look at how this Christmas and New Year felt compared to the last 2. I can see things evolving in many ways, I haven’t made a conscious effort to distance myself or disassociate from my EDs, and used thus community and Sheri guidance to get through. The first 2 years have been spent hopeful and at times desperate to reconnect and try to fix our relationship. Mixed in with grieving the death of my mother I grieve my EDs. But nature and time seems to be gently pushing me forward since I resigned myself to the facts that it’s out of my control. I just had a thought that nothing else in my life ended when they left me out to dry, everyone else who loved me still here, life is good and now I accept the big hole they left its filling up with “me”. The love is still there, tearful moments of sadness for what I THOUGHT we had. All I know is I am beginning to see that their absence also means an absence of misunderstanding, misjudgement, disrespect, scorn and tension. I must have been in denial or blind not to see the superficial reality of my relationships with them. I was given to believe by both that I was a great mum and very loved, until when mum died. Gaslight?? Who knows. But I begin to feel comfortable with letting all that go. I wish better times for us all in 2024.

  2. Therese A.

    Very familiar with all of the previous statements. The hurt is so deep it goes to the very core of your being. Per youngest daughter I’m toxic and a narcissist. Per oldest daughter I ruled their lives with an iron fist and never loved her.

  3. Heartbroken

    We have three adult children in their 40’s, 6 grandkids, and are now estranged from both our daughters. We’ve been fully estranged from our eldest daughter for 15 years , which took many years of grieving to accept . But now also our younger daughter whom I’ve always been very close to. This happened recently when we refused to take sides against our son when he and our DIL divorced after a long marriage. The divorce was his fault and he was so devastated he became suicidal and reached out for our emotional support. He’s always been very respectful of us despite his personal struggles. But our daughter and SIL saw our support of him as betrayal of them and our DIL, so they wrote us a parental Dear John letter.

    Our kids were raised in a loving happy home. We’ve hosted Christmas for them and the grandkids for nearly 50 years. This year we were all alone. Didn’t bother with a tree. We mailed the 4 grandkids we’ve had relationships with Christmas gifts and not one thanked us.
    We’re in our 70’s and heartbroken. My husband had a heart attack last year and I’m in poor health. It feels like this is killing me. I can’t sleep and wake up with panic attacks.

    I bought Beyond Done With the Crying and devoured it. It saved me from going completely off the deep end.

    1. Anonymous

      I had my first ever holiday season without my two daughters. One of them is a diagnosable personality disorder and she converted her sister and brother in law against me on a really stupid issue — she’s jealous of someone who is in my life and reacted like a child when I posted a photo on facebook. It was ridiculous. Anyway, I now have exactly zero of my children as a part of my life. But, I decided to stand on my principles — I get to have a social life that does not require my daughter’s approval. And to be honest, it was the most peaceful holiday season I have ever had. I wish you peace and joy in spite of your children. We deserve it!

    2. R. M.

      “This happened recently when we refused to take sides against our son when he and our DIL divorced after a long marriage. The divorce was his fault and he was so devastated he became suicidal and reached out for our emotional support. He’s always been very respectful of us despite his personal struggles. But our daughter and SIL saw our support of him as betrayal of them and our DIL, so they wrote us a parental Dear John letter.”

      What did he do?

  4. Trish J.

    I got my book, Done With Crying. I am done with all of it. I will continue to give unconditional love and not expect any in return. I am ok with this now. I am not the one who has the hatred thing going on. What the heck, I don’t even know what I did to cause this estranged thing.

    I took a step back and realized I have been disrespected and was allowing it. Now I have chosen to draw the line at being disrespected.

    Being estranged is turning out to be not so bad for me. It’s possible I will feel sad and cry over this again. At this point, I am really busy with work that I love doing.

    I pray all of us will find our way to peace and happiness.

  5. Lorry R.

    I have not seen my adult daughter in two years and reminded her of this when I called to wish her a Merry Christmas. She then said I have no reply, I said to her that as long as they were happy I would not worry and I loved her. She immediately hung up on me I did not respond but late that night she sent a text — Christmas night and she stated that I no longer want to see you and “that is all”. My son in the Coast Guard has been listening to her I can tell and is not responding to me.

    I am at a loss as to where or not to send my grandchildren their birthday money. I am so very hurt. Lorry

    1. Diane H.

      Dear Lorry
      I have lived this experience and from what I have learnt, please don’t send anything, close shop and find a way that works for you to continue to live. To do anything else will only expose you to further hurt and pain. Take kind care of yourself. Maybe your children need the space and silence to hear themselves without the distraction of your presence. Take yourself out of the loop of judgement, accusations and justifications. The worst result will be nothing, the best will be peace.

  6. paula s.

    It has been 6 yrs since my son decided to not have contact. I am even past blaming myself. It took me lots of therapy work, but, in the end, I realized, with help of therapist, my sisters, my husband, I really did NOT cause his estrangement. He did that on his own.
    The saddest part, is I have grandchildren I don’t even know, or haven’t laid eyes on. My biggest ally, is PRAYER, for him & his family.

  7. Diane H.

    Again, all so true! Take care everyone, I hope we all succeed in some way this Christmas day, that it will be a day of self care and enjoyment, even for those alone, watch your favourite movie or be like me and have a stack of books at the ready. I live in New Zealand, so today felt like the first day of summer as I have a few days holiday. I have just come home from my first swim in the ocean for this season. I ended up on a bodyguard racing towards the shore with a bunch of children also on boards. I skidded across the sand, grazing my knees and collecting sand in my swim suit and finally came to a stop at the feet of one of the young lifeguards – LOL!! Oh my gosh, I think I just may be happy!! It’s been quite the journey, thank you to everyone who shares on this site, and of course warm thanks to Sheri for making it all possible.
    Happy Christmas.


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