Beyond the shadow of estrangement

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

The Shadow of Estrangement.

When the sun is high in a brilliant blue sky, our shadows are short. As the sun moves, our shadows lengthen, shorten, and change position—sometimes on the right, other times on our left.

But this isn’t a lesson on shadows! It’s just how I choose to view the shadow ofestrangement.

Estrangement’s “day”

The presence of estrangement can change over the course of time. With acceptance comes the admission that you cannot control another adult’s decision. You can move forward, and whether you believe it or not at this moment, you can be happy;  so that you no longer think of your estranged adult children and are no longer plagued by the shadow of estrangement, even for very long periods of time. Still, with the arrival of a life storm or two, a birthday, a holiday or a brush with death, the presence can shift, grow, or reappear.

shadow of estrangementThis is true even for people who’ve reached the high noon of acceptance over what they know they cannot change, who have moved forward in joy and are cherishing what’s good and creating new meaning and purpose in their lives. Even for many years.

People write to me all the time with a situation or date that has caused them grief. Times when the shadow of estrangement looms. Statements like these are common:

  • I’m back to square one.
  • I’ll never get past this loss.
  • What if I haven’t tried enough?

The Shadow of estrangement: Make a choice

But we do have a choice. We can see the setback as oppressive and horrible and something we just can’t shake. Or, we can make the choice to see the shift as temporary. We can tell ourselves it’s a minor setback, that we will feel better, that we are still strong and will move beyond this day. We can envision ourselves leaping forward again to square four or six or ten or one hundred—and then we can do what’s necessary to make that leap.

Estrangement: Is there a gift in the pain?

shadow of estrangementWe can even choose to find the value in revisiting the pain. Maybe it provides an opportunity to remind ourselves we did all we could. Perhaps in re-examining the facts, we re-identify the words and events and decisions that a parent’s forgiving memory has softened. In the shadow of estrangement, we can bolster ourselves with reality and mourn the loss as we might for a loved one who is long deceased, with good memories and a tinge of sadness, longing, or regret.

Or, if we feel the need, we can reach out again (always with an emotional insurance plan).

One woman recently wrote that she had been doing so well, but then her estranged daughter made contact, and it wasn’t for reasons that made any good sense. There is was again: the shadow of estrangement. This estranged mother wrote to me, saying, “I’ve pulled out your book again. It helped me before, and it will help me again.” Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children was her first line of defense.

shadow of estrangementOthers look at a favorite article here at, or do a search for ones that fit  their experience. You can use the collapsible categories to the right to look through all past article titles, and then click through. Or, there’s a search button to the right to help you find specific subjects.

Maybe for you it’s a good friend who will be sad to hear what’s happened, but there to make you laugh. Perhaps it’s getting close to God, to your spouse, to nature, or a loyal pet—and then reconnecting with the activities you enjoy. Maybe it’s a combination of these things.

The sun will set, the stars and moon will shine, and the next day brings a new beginning. We can choose to see the shadow of estrangement as a reminder that we are okay, that we can reclaim our space and happiness despite it.

“The landscape of loss is fertile ground for growth.” Sheri McGregor

In time, we may even find gifts hidden in the shadow of estrangement, as so many parents tell me they have. Gifts of strength and clarity and growth. Gifts in seeing how other puzzles within our lives fit. Or even the gift of peace. Have you found any such gifts? Feel free to comment here on this article so that other parents can benefit from your experience.

Related reading

Estranged Adult Children: Why Do They Make Contact Now?

Estrangement: Dealing With Uncertainty

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4 thoughts on “Beyond the shadow of estrangement

  1. Mary

    This was Father’s Day weekend. I thought I would try to be a “caring Mom” to my estranged son – having not seen or talked to him for almost 4+ years. But, after texting him, I found my son has blocked me from texting/phoning. (This is the first year since my Father has died so I am totally alone this year.) Up to this point I was allowed to text my grandsons (14 & 17) but apparently I’m no longer allowed to text or speak to any of them. I think what led to this was a email he and I exchanged – – each and every time we exchanged emails, he tells lies about what I have said or done…….. if I let him get by with it, he stays in touch with me. But 4 years ago, I started calling him on his lies and standing up for myself and WHAM!!! He blew his cool and said I have been crossing his “boundaries” (their favorite word) and I was no longer welcome in their house…….. and it went from there. More lies – I would call him on it, restate the truth and WHAM …….. he would get furious …….. and I would lose more privileges with my grandsons. And so it has gone for 4 years until now for whatever reasons – I have no contact and he has now convinced my daughter to disavow me as well.
    As long as they can abuse me, all is well. But if I stand up for myself – WHAM, BAM, I’M OUT OF THE FAMILY.
    So I moved across the country to get away from them before I committed suicide from them harassing me.
    So Sad – Better alone.

    1. rparents Post author

      Mary, I’m so sorry. Hugs to you, I know that there are many parents who grow weary of being robots set to please mode. It’s tough for that mode to remain safe in any way but especially when the rules change.

      Take kind care of yourself. Ok? Work hard to make a niche for yourself in your new location.

      Hugs again,

      Sheri McGregor

  2. Elizabeth L.

    Well, Sheri, an interesting and telling development. After I sent a birthday card and realised that it, any email or text, or phone call I might make was being screened by her boyfriend, I decided to find someone to check on whether she was in a coercive relationship.

    The Salvation Army can trace people, so I asked them to check if she was safe. The reply they sent me was that she was, but wanted no further contact with me. It was countersigned by her boyfriend.
    I think the fact that he was involved in the reply says everything, but if she’s not interested, then I’m definitely free now. Sadly, she took half my pension money with her, and I remember a friend, some years ago telling me to wait before signing my house into her name jointly with mine because ‘ she might meet a man who’ll persuade her to take it from you’. How right my friend was. She must have seen what I was blind to.

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Elizabeth,

      May we all have such wise friends, and hopefully, listen. Your tale is a cautionary one and will perhaps benefit others here.

      Meanwhile, give yourself a little time to grieve and treat yourself with kind care as you step, a bit at a time, into that freedom. I hope you will be able to seek out and discover and find where to fit and what to enjoy. (My new book has more people who find new ways to let go and live … Sorry to sound salesy, but I can’t fit a whole book into a comment.) HUGS TO YOU.
      Sheri McGregor

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