Rejected parents of adult children: Lean into your power (like a bear!)
by Sheri McGregor, M.A.
When the massive 2021 fires devastated the forests to the east of us, bears moved into my lazy, semi-rural neighborhood. I was both terrified and tempted by the idea of seeing one up close. You can read about how that prospect led me to think about what we rejected parents of adult children can learn from bears in this previous article. The bears eventually left our neighborhood, but I’ve been hearing that they may be back again. That’s because, as springtime finally arrives, much more slowly than is typical for this area, the bears are confused.
Rejected parents of adult children: an icy landscape
The big beasts are emerging from their hibernation dens to find the ground blanketed in snow rather than the fresh spring grass they’re accustomed to chomping down. It’s predicted that the bears are likely to roam around, looking for grass in areas they wouldn’t typically forage. So, humans should be on alert.
Reports say the newly awakened bears have at first seemed a little dazed and confused. That’s a lot like many rejected parents of adult children, who woke up one day to find the landscape of their entire lives changed. It’s like we went to bed one night and woke up the next morning in a strange, cold land where values have changed, and we no longer recognize the family (or, these days, maybe even the entire culture) we have always held so dear.
Again, we can learn from the mighty bear. Instead of cowering in fear at the unexpectedly icy greeting, the bears shake off their confusion. Then they lean into their power and head on out to find what they need.
Rejected parents of adult children: Time to wake up
Especially today, when adult children cutting off parents has become so common, there’s no need to cower in shame or fear. Whether you have heard about it or not, it’s almost certain there is someone in your social sphere who is a rejected parent. Adult children may dismiss us with icy silence, but parents whose adult children have no time or affection for them can mourn the loss, get needed support, and move toward their future. You can always cherish the memories of your once cozy den, and taking charge of your own life doesn’t mean you have to close the door to the idea of reconciling. But I hope you will open your heart and mind to the possibility of greener pastures ahead … for you.
I hear daily from parents who thank me for my books, my newsletter, and this site. They tell me they are finally awaking to the reality of lost time. They’re tired of chasing, pining, and hoping for estranged adult children to bring the sunshine into their lives. These parents have learned the hard way that, while they hid away in a frozen life, time ticked on by—and now there’s not a moment to waste.
The “silver tsunami” of senior citizens is here. Time for the most active among us to wake the world up to us and our wisdom rather than bend, bow, and hide away in shame. If you’re still worried about germs or can’t get out due to physical issues, find ways to get involved and socialize from a distance. You’ll feel better when not so focused on your loss. Even via Internet or over the telephone, you can make a big difference, and have fun.
For example, one mother, in her 80s who can no longer drive participates in Zoom meetings to raise money for a political cause that she holds dear. Another makes artsy quilts that, when sold, provide much needed funds to a battered women’s shelter. A 76-year-old rejected mother and grandmother volunteers with her local Rotary club, helping to effect positive change. A father in his early 80s organized a pickle ball league for active seniors. (I hear from one mom who plays that, during the first hour of pickle ball, they get sweaty and, during the second, they laugh—both excellent forms of exercise!) Another rejected father rescues injured or needy fawns each season and has become known as the “fawn guy.” Last year, when red fox squirrels fell from their nest and their mother never returned, we called the “squirrel lady,” who is retired and says she works more hours each spring than she previously did all year—and she loves saving those furry little lives. These people have found meaning, which (as I talked about in Beyond Done) infuses everything with more energy.
In my county, there’s a telephone calling service that offers senior citizen peer support by way of trained volunteers. They’re always advertising for retirees and others who want to help. Gardening centers and clubs offer in-person and online meetings, classes, and discussion forums. There are dance clubs, Zumba hours, meditation gatherings, and tai chi. What service might need your help or support? What interests do you hold that may have online or in-person classes or groups?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Ten Amazing organizations that need your help
- Inspiration – Eight companies started by people over age 50
- 10 People who had great success after age 60
And here are some ideas for virtual fun that might get you thinking. One mom volunteered on her city’s playbill board. And near where I live, a native plant demonstration garden depends on their volunteer docents and support staff:
Make the most of every opportunity to connect with kindness and make a friend—even if it’s just a few mutually pleasant moments shared on a grocer aisle. Shop when the stores aren’t busy. Stop to help someone shorter than you are to get a jar off the top shelf, ask a fellow customer if they know where some item you need is shelved (because people feel good when they can help), and use any time stuck in a long line to chat and laugh. I recently found myself in a growing line of grocery shoppers as we were moved from one broken register to the next. The cashier looked distraught. Thankfully, none of us shoppers griped. We all just laughed and enjoyed the shuffle. One man even joked that, at this rate, we’d all soon be exchanging holiday cards. These seemingly small connections make a real difference in how happy people feel. They give us something to think about, savor, talk or laugh about later.
This spring, even if you have found yourself in the icy landscape of estrangement from adult children, take your prominent place as a neighbor, a friend, an elder, or a warm and fuzzy bear.
How are you making the most of your daily life? You can make this a meaningful moment by leaving a comment. Your words will inspire other rejected parents of adult children. We’re all in this thing called life together.