Parents of estranged children often wonder about the future—for themselves and for their estranged children. One question so many ask is a variation on one of these:
- Will my estranged adult daughter ever see how much she has hurt me?
- Will my son who doesn’t talk to me anymore ever realize what he has done?
- Will my angry adult son ever come to his senses?
- Will my grown daughter who cut me off ever let me back into her life?
- Will my son ever forgive me for whatever it is he thinks I’ve done?
While those are logical questions, for your own well-being, the next question should be something like this: Are these questions helping me cope?
I understand the thoughts, the ceaseless wondering tempered by hope and sharpened by pain. When my estranged adult son drew up “sides,” and placed me firmly behind a boundary I hadn’t known existed, he left me in shock. Most parents are.
As the estrangement wore on, the question—Will he ever . . . ?—brought more pain. I worried for my son. If he ever did realize, then I imagined his horrible regret—for the time he had lost, the distress he had caused, the horrible knowledge that he had so hurt his family. . . .
I worried for my son.
Can you relate? I hear from so many parents who share similar feelings. First there’s the hurt and shock. The slicing final moments replay in our heads. The awful words come back to us with force, disturb our peace, and intrude on our dreams. Disbelief reigns.
As time goes on, perhaps with unsuccessful efforts to fix whatever went wrong, a drab, uncertain future stretches out. We worry for ourselves, for our estranged adult child, and for the family.
It’s all so very sad.
Parents of estranged adults: Turn the page. Begin a new chapter.
To turn a new page, to move forward in a life that is different—but can still be good!—start by changing your questions. Good questions often become the canvas on which my clients paint new beginnings. So I have to ask: Whether or not your children will ever return, ever realize, ever see and regret what they have done . . . does that change your life today? In the life that’s before you now, what does the answer change?
Take a moment to separate your own well-being. Let loose the idea that you can control your adult child’s decisions. And realize that the possible consequences that come from those decisions, will be your child’s to own.
For your own life, can you let go of wondering? Or perhaps even choose an answer like one of these:
- My estranged daughter will one day have regrets.
- My angry adult son will one day realize he has made a mistake.
- My estranged adult child who won’t talk to me will someday be sorry and return to my life.
Pick one, or craft your own answer. Then ask yourself:
Does the answer change my life now?
You can only control yourself.
Most of the fathers and mothers of estranged adult children who come to this site have begun to see that they can’t change what’s happening. Most of them have tried. Parents who have been emotionally abused by an adult child (abandoned, rejected, cut off), usually want to reconcile. It’s their first goal. But they later come to the realization that they can’t force their grown son or daughter to oblige. They can’t force the person their child has become, to morph back into the wonderful son or daughter they used to know.
So, what can you do now? To better your day, your outlook, and your future?
Imagine your child will never return. How will you spend your days?
Imagine that in five years, your child will return to you with an apology and full of regret. In what state of being will that child find you?
Just as each of our lives is a canvas with some space still blank, I will leave this article without a conclusion. Write your own. Make it a satisfying one. Paint your own sky, earth, and meandering path. Paint yourself—dancing, smiling, and finding joy.
In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, the question: why? is covered with a chapter all its own–and helps bewildered parents lay their questioning to rest.
Take care of yourself today. In doing so, no matter whether our estranged adult children will ever realize . . . . You can be you. And be well.
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