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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5 thoughts on “Beyond the shadow of estrangement

  1. Blades

    I think i can relate to this, havent talked to my son or seen my grandson in well almost 3 years. I thought I was kinda ok with it, thought his choice nothing I can do. Im stubborn and guess what hes just like me. Except ive gotten older and softer. Im going through a storm right now its cancer. I contacted him no reply. Thats when it hit me this is very real!!! No matter how much i bury the hurt in anger, the pain is stronger. Thought i was past the hurt and i thought i had accepted it. One day i want to just shake him the next i pray for him to call me. Its a mess

    1. Augusta


      I so understand the hating one minute and getting teary eyed the next, and when I say hating, I mean super sonic MAD! I am so sorry to hear you are with cancer at this time, and I will pray for you. I’m stubborn too. Hold your Peace in your body to heal, please. We all need to care for ourselves first, before tackling more ES/ED stuff!
      Sending Blessings xo Augusta

    2. Boogirl

      I am so very grateful for this site. God bless us all! I am the mother of a son that has been estranged for about five years and he is now making attempts at contact by telling me what to do! I found this site about three years ago when he and I were having a really bad time. I took the advice from many on how best to deal with him and it helped me tremendously. This past year his wife has been in treatment for breast cancer. He started calling pretty regular…maybe weekly….just to vent about this. He was mad at the world that she got cancer and he couldn’t take much more and so on and so on. He is mad at the world. I listened and just let him vent. I was cautioned that in health situations, estranged kids can come back into the fold only to retreat when it stabilizes.
      Long story short, he called this past Sunday and I was having an allergic reaction and was on a high dose of Benadryl. I was in a bad spot and not feeling at all well. He told me this was all brought by my stress and depression and that I needed to get on meds and do this and that…….the list was long on what he thought I needed to do.. I felt like a child being told off by their parent! His advice was unsolicited and unwelcome. I do best when I have limited contact with him. He was the love of my life and now he intimidates me. I don’t trust him at all that he won’t hurt me like he has in the past.
      Should I send an email with my thoughts on this or just ignore his calls and hope that it all dies down again? Lord, this is all just hard! I’m 65 years old and my health is not good. I have a great husband and we’re doing fine just taking care of each other. I don’t want any relationship with my son that causes me more pain. This is a very convoluted story and probably doesn’t make much sense to the reader. Any thoughts from anyone would be welcome.
      Blessings to all!

  2. Animaluver

    Like Blades I too had cancer and went through it alone. I hadn’t had any contact with either of my daughters in 15 years so not knowing where they lived or how to get a hold of either so I know how you feel. However, after it was all over I realized I didn’t need the extra aggravation and stress with having them around while going through chemo, it took everything I had to get through it without all that extra anxiety. God bless you! You need all of your strength without any added emotional pain. I’m praying for you.

  3. kellyrachel

    I welcome this site and am so thankful for all of you who take the time to share your stories/thoughts. I’ve only been estranged for a year from my middle son. Seems to be a common thread. Loving relationship until he met a woman who began to create stories and lied about things I had said & done. My husband died 10 years ago at 51 so I face this alone. What I struggle with about this site is all the stories of years & years of estrangement. It scares me. I can’t accept yet that that is even a possibility. I still pray every day that this is the day that I can fix it or that he will call. Are there any hopeful stories out there?


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