Parents of Estranged Adults: Reinvent Yourself

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Here’s a past article that’s still relevant for this season of renewal. YOUR renewal. See below, and read the inspiring comments as well.
Happy Easter to all! ~~ Sheri McGregor

parents of estranged adult childrenRather than another article on how parents of estranged adult children can get through holidays, let’s look at the spirit behind so many of the celebrations associated with Easter: renewal.

For practical advice on what you can do and ideas for enjoying the day despite the estrangement, see the related articles link at the end (these also have related links). Now, let’s look at renewal

One of the coolest things anybody ever told me was something my oldest daughter said one day: Mom, you’ve always been able to reinvent yourself.

That was over a decade ago. I’d begun going to college for the first time in my life. Back then, I hadn’t been setting out to reinvent myself. But years later, after my son’s estrangement, I had to. After all, I felt like I’d lost my identity.

A great many of the thousands of parents I hear from feel the same. They’ve lost their confidence. They feel as if they’re not the same person anymore, and wonder if they ever will be. Probably not. But they can be somebody even better.

This Easter, rather than sitting around, thinking of of your estranged adult child, and feeling blue, get started on the new you. Spring is a time of new beginnings. The long dormant winter is over. If you were a tree, you’d have been collecting energy. Pretend you’re like a tree. Figuratively sprout some new leaves, and let your blossoms show.

When we’re children, everything is new and fresh and exciting to us. That’s why something as simple as walking out the door can bring a child such joy. What lies ahead in the day? What new sight will they see? What will they learn? Maybe now we’re serious adults, but wouldn’t it be fun to feel excited again?

how parents of estranged adult children manage holidaysIn the spirit of spring and renewal, here’s a sampling of ways to recapture wonder and reinvent yourself:

Make a list of things you’ve always wanted to do or try. Then investigate how and get started on at least one. These don’t have to be huge adventures like parachuting, learning to surf, or taking a tree house vacation in some remote jungle. Maybe you’d like to learn to sew, have always wanted to play golf, think it would be fun to make your own tamales, or wonder if your natural drawing talent could benefit from instruction in art. Is there an interesting volunteer opportunity you can do in your spare time?

Break your routine. If you walk in the morning, go in the late afternoon instead. If you don’t exercise at all, take a walk. Take a different route to or from work. Instead of doing the same old thing for lunch, try a new restaurant. Or pack your own lunch and take it to the park or to a mall. You get the idea. Doing just one thing differently can shift everything. One change leads to more.

Go on a quest for wonder. How many days are you oblivious to a gorgeous sky, the way the sunset paints the air a violet hue, or how puffy clouds sweep swiftly by? A lot of us only hear the sound of traffic, the annoying clank of the pipes in the wall, or turn the television to news all day (it’s mostly bad!). Tune your ears to soothing sounds. Do you hear the birdsong? The lulling hush-hush of a breeze? Find a bit of wonder. On your terrace, your porch, or around the block. Of course there are drives in the country, galleries, museums, your neighbors’ landscaping. . . . Open your heart to a renewing sense of wonder.

Whether it’s getting a new hairdo, stopping a habit that pulls you down, or deciding to smile at everybody you see, this spring, take a small step toward reinventing yourself. Who knows who you might find? So you’re not the same person you once were. Work to uncover someone better.

Related Articles:

Holidays: How to manage them

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18 thoughts on “Parents of Estranged Adults: Reinvent Yourself

  1. Grace P.

    I do believe that this is a no win deal. My two children have been estranged from me for many years and now I am widowed for the second time. I feel I have started over too many times. Maybe it is time I was not here to be available if they needed me. They have never been there for me even years ago. I have reinvented myself so many times it seems like there is just no more to push ahead with. I wish for friends but avoid most social contacts. My daughter the last time we spoke she told me “Well you know mom you are nit a very nice person.” For which I had to say she was not a very good daughter either. They have kept my grandkids from me, I spend too much time thinking about all of it and wishing that I could just make me go away. This is just another year of the same things. Wish there was a support group I could find that would be of a help to me not to be so alone. I reach out and try to make things better but it never is. I have a trust for which I cannot see my kids as being involved with it. Have no friends that I can say are close., My family lives in the mid west and I live in California. All of the hateful things I read about that other people have had I have had numerous times. I don’t know what the future holds for me but they do not care and I can’t seem to find away out of this bad place I am in. I have read the books and tried to keep my chin up but I lost my significant other in May of 2022 so I am alone again. He had dementia and was very difficult to deal with right to the end but my kids never even said one word to me about his passing. There are many things I need to do now but I just cannot seem to find the direction. I don’t want to travel as I am getting to the point I get lost at times.
    Thank you for letting me vent. I love a good “pittie” party.

    Reply
    1. Nancy

      Thanks for your honesty. Most of these sites are “I know it hurts, but…”. People have no idea of the depth of pain that people experience. Some are able to move on and accept. This ghosting… the unwillingness to just spit it out and tell me what I have specifically done to hurt my girls… Without conversation and listening there is no hope of reconciliation. My dream was to be a Mom. Childhood Memories don’t take the place of making new ones.
      I don’t keep pictures out. It’s too painful.

      Reply
    2. Ann D.

      Grace, I sure understand your saying that you don’t have the energy to “start over” again and try to take a whole new run at life, with a new attitude and new activities. A support group for us abandoned parents would be great and would maybe help us with the ghosts that keep coming back, and the unanswerable questions we can’t seem to stop asking ourselves. I have 2 and sometimes 3 estranged sons (one sort of comes and goes), and it’s been this way since 2018. I will tell you this: I would be a surefire mess without my Catholic church. It’s not like people there help me with this issue (most don’t know of it), but going to Mass and receiving God’s grace to keep going is some days all I can hang on to. Of course I also pray that one day my children will come to their senses and see how cruelly wrong they have been. And step into the Light. In this life there is much suffering, and God knows it. I encourage you to hang on, and hang on to Him and his sweet Blessed Mother. Something good can come of that.

      Reply
      1. rparents Post author

        Dear Ann and Grace,
        The peer support community here at the site was started in 2014. It was closed to new members for 2.5 years because of imposters and agitators. It has since been cleaned out, more stringent privacy and security put into place, and is expanding. As a long-time certified life coach, I am thrilled to be able to offer more teaching, classes, meetings, and fun with the reopening. Check it out: https://www.rejectedparents.net/join-peer-support-group-for-parents-of-estranged-adult-children/

        Reply
  2. Patti S.

    Thank you everyone who shared your story and explained ways that you are dealing with it. This helps me so much with my own situation of estrangement by a grown child that I raised. It helps to know that I’m not alone and I’m not a bad person. It also helps to remember that I had a life before raising a child and I have a life to live now that they are no longer in my life.
    Patti

    Reply
  3. Nicole

    One of my two sons become estranged step by step after mariage. It was a time from me trying to find out the reason, becoming angry with him, geting ill, being sad, reading a lot to understand. Then one day I red about BPD
    ( borderline personality disorder), and I started to see all my son action being examples of BPD symtoms; then I understood his strugle and his need to years of therapy that left him still conflicted. He is happily married with a psychologist who have her own problem with a sibling, and they have two beautifull children. Despite my sadness I realy want him to be happy knowing what he is going through, regarding this BPD that is dificult to recognize even by psychologists.

    Reply
  4. Beth F.

    We have a few circumstances in common. My only child went no contact last June without explanation. I’ve read that the majority of adult children who have estranged a parent (s) did explain why multiple times; we just didn’t want to hear. Whatever. After my employer of 17 years fired me last September, I realized I could no longer tolerate living 15 minutes away from my only blood relative, my daughter, so I moved 600 miles away last month to accept a new job. I asked my handful of Facebook friends how to answer if a new colleague asked about my family. The answer I liked best is to say I’ve got one child, that she’s 26 and doing her own thing, then pivot to another subject. Everybody teleworks, so no questions. I’m still alone in every way, but at least I don’t have to worry about running into my former child.
    In the first 30 days, “her” dog (I’ve done everything for him since buying him when she was 17 and picked him out) died suddenly. I emailed her that the boy had died, and any response would be interpreted as a request for details. Surprise, no answer. I guess she quit caring about him, too.
    I’m going to look up if it’s possible to become legally unrelated to a parent. If yes, I’ll send a link to my former husband, who has not been estranged. I won’t pay for it, but would comply.

    Reply
    1. Patti S.

      Hi Beth-Wow. I am blown away that your daughter didn’t even respond to learning that her beloved dog had died suddenly. It was nice of you to let her know. It is powerful how you referred to her as your former daughter. You sound like you have really come up with practical ways to handle dealing with this unbelievably painful situation including how you respond to the question at work about your family and also wondering if you can become legally unrelated to your child.

      Reply
    2. Sophia

      I’m so sorry as BPD is treatable but like walking on eggshells.

      My ED suffers from depression & severe social anxiety. She literally has told me she hates being around people!

      In adulthood, it’s gotten worse. Her reaction to her anxiety has been to treat others (& me) with disdain & silence. At her wedding, she didn’t even speak to family friends!

      I’m tired of waiting for things to change. I tell myself every morning that I will let go. Perhaps some day she’ll get professional treatment.

      Reply
  5. Susie W.

    The day after accidentally discovering my adult son became engaged 7 months I found myself in the ER with blood clot. It is my 2nd one in, oh, 7 months (just made the connection). But as I laid there awaiting the test results, I decided to make a list of the things that make me a great Mom. I haven’t seen him for 11 years, not for the lack of trying. For 10 of those years I constantly reminded myself that I didn’t even know who he was now. My fear was I wouldn’t recognize him if I walked by him in the store. Suffering from major depressive disorder and obsessed with what I was missing in him, I actually missed 10 years of me.

    It was about a year ago I had the epiphany “be someone worth knowing, get to know who you are”. So I started creating art again, exercising and watching A LOT of self improvement videos on YouTube. So back to last night in the hospital … My bullet point list of things that I did great as a Mom in the past turned into a loving reminder of what makes me a great person today. It was exactly what I needed.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Susie,

      You’ve done one of the things I highly recommend! I’m so happy that at a time of crisis, you turned to something that could help and lift you. Good for you! Oh, and welcome back to yourself!
      🙂

      Happy to know you, and lots of big hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply
    2. Cheryl M.

      This will be the first Easter my husband and I will not see our son for Easter. Easter was the only holiday that we knew we would see him. Estrangement is new to us this year. As Ibsit hear and remember what Easter is all about, I am reminded that that beautiful things can come after great saddness.

      I miss my son, grandson and daughter-in-law very much. We do not know why this happened. So many questions unanswered. My husband and I heartbroken. But today, I will do something good for someone else. I am picking up someone that is also alone ( for otherr reasons) and take her to coffee. We will talk, enjoy our time together, laugh and celebrate this glorious time of Easter together!

      Reply
    3. Sue M.

      Susie,
      I’m sorry of you finding out about your son’s engagement the way you did. Our stories are similar, sadly. I haven’t spoken to my son in 10 years (not sure why) and I heard he had cancer a few years ago. Turns out he didn’t but so upsetting at the time. I thought that I would for sure not see or talk to him before I left this earth.

      My Father passed away a year ago. I was anxious knowing that I would see him at the service but also foolishly hoping I might get a hello, a nod, anything. He was cold as ice with a new girlfriend with him. I stood 6 ft from him at the gravesite and looked him over to see the man who used to be my sweetheart, who was so close to me. It still hurts so much that I am crying typing this.
      BUT…your post helps me to remember that I am a good Mom and I need to take care of myself, love myself. I am going think of something I want to do that I haven’t done yet and Do It!
      Big tight hug to you,
      Sue

      Reply
  6. Jennie

    I am estranged from my only son. I have grandchildren who never visit. Only his wife’s family matters, and i had raised him as a single mom, so I am out in the cold tundra. The boy and man I knew for two decades is vanished. I would have liked to blame my DIL but honestly she never forbade him to pick up a phone. I tried to win him back with expensive gifts and that worked for awhile. I just ordered the book, and part of me yearns to be free of this. I was becoming so morbid I shopped for something nice to wear at my own funeral.
    Part of me really wants to swim for shore. I am looking forward to getting the book and workbook so I have direction setting goals and refocusing. I also remember my life before I ever had him. There was much in my life that brought me joy, genuine interests and talents I want to rediscover. I am so glad to find this website! Mostly the sense of shame and isolation s lifting.

    Reply
  7. Kelly P.

    This article really makes sense and touches on the sorrow parents of estranged adult experience. All three of my kids are estranged. What are the chances of that? I am to the point of moving on after writing letters to amend.

    Reply
    1. Chris N.

      Both my children are estranged. I have a grandson I have never seen. Holidays are the worst! Sheri’s book, at the time, brought many tears throughout the chapters. I was devastated….considering how I could go on. I wrote letters, emails, sent presents. Everything was returned. I was cut off from all social media, they both moved and I did not know where they had moved. I started concentrating on myself and had tremendous help and support from my husband and friends. The worst part was I kept thinking this was a phase, and they would want to have a relationship with me eventually. It has been two years now. I have learned to let them go. I respect myself and will no longer reach out to them, desperate to have a relationship. If they ever do want to have a relationship they will have to want it, reach out to me and with open, loving arms I will welcome them back into my life. This journey has been the hardest in my life. I have learned a lot of life lessons, and it has definitely changed me. I miss my son and daughter everyday, but my life continues to go on, surrounded by family and friends who want to be in my life!!

      Reply
    2. Michelle

      my 3 adult sons are estranged from me, i believe because of divorce and believing lies about me from my ex. My oldest is now living down the road with my ex in my old house with my sons wife and my two darling little granddaughters. I now have been having increased anxiety possibly seeing them in the neighborhood or at the store etc.
      My 4th son has been living part time with me (from divorce agreement) for one more year until he graduates but i can feel him slipping away as well. So i’m making plans to move out of state next year and start my life over. When i do i will tell people i meet that i have never been married and have no children if they ask.
      I’m all about saving myself now and the remainder of my life. I’ve spent far too many years being emotionally and mentally abused by my ex and now by my children. I’m beyond done. Here’s to us and moving on everyone! Better days are ahead!

      Reply

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