Tag Archives: estrangement

Mothering Sunday for UK Moms

I know it’s tough when moms are estranged on Mother’s Day. Make sure you honor yourSELF for the day. You were there, you did the work, and you deserve to make the day good for YOU. Use the search box here to find past articles and search for Mother’s Day that offer help for estranged moms.

In honor of spring’s arrival (here in the U.S., at least), I wanted to share this card with you. Do the puzzle if you feel like it (you can choose the difficulty level), and then maybe go out and count a few butterflies in your garden or a local park. Here where I live, a mass migration of the beauties in the last few weeks was a bit like colorful confetti blowing on the wind.

Happy Mother’s Day to my UK friends. Click on the butterfly below to go to the card & puzzle.

 

estranged mothers

This photograph was taken on a mindful photography outing, in Anza Borrego Desert State Park (for which I wrote a hiking book, btw).

Hugs,

Sheri McGregor

 

College scandal

college scandalThe college scandal.

News of parents who committed fraud to make sure their children got into the best college leaves most of us angry or scratching our heads. I sometimes hear from parents of estranged adult children who wonder if they might have done too much for their kids. They worry maybe they somehow created the selfish adult the child grew into. But my guess is most (if not all) weren’t talking about the level of “too much” that’s been in the news. Nothing like these parents whose enabling rose to the point of committing fraud or paying bribes. And what kinds of lessons are those parents teaching?

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth to have a thankless child.” – Shakespeare

Are these parents buying their children’s love? Infantilizing their adult children? Blocking their sons or daughters from the benefit of valuable life lessons? Yes.

Yet, if they wouldn’t have been discovered, their lives would be going on as if nothing bad ever happened. They’d be chumming it up in family shots on red carpets, smiling in their designer clothes and bragging about their brilliant kids.

If nothing else, the college scandal proves something important: things aren’t always as they seem.

Parents of estranged adults, if you have been shrinking back in shame, don’t. Very often, things that seem too good to be true really are. There may always be people who wonder what you did to cause estrangement, but you can’t let them define who you are or reinvent the truth about your parenting. Besides, their thoughts probably only reflect their own fears. If it could happen to you, that means it could happen to them (and that’s a scary thought).

If you’re suffering from a self-esteem smackdown, fight back. Right now, consider all the good you did. Your intentions as a parent, any sacrifices you made, and all the joy, pride and love you put into the child who has now estranged.

Whether or not your hope is still in reconciling or you’re at the point where you’re done expending energy into what’s become a losing battle, seize the day for yourself now. It’s your life. What will you do with it?

Related reading:

What don’t you know?

The College admissions scandal and estate planning

Adult children won’t talk to you. What does it mean to cope?

Sheri McGregor radio interview for parents of estranged adults

In February, I appeared on Beyond 50 Radio for a talk with host Daniel Davis. As it turns out, he is also the parent of an estranged adult. We touched on many facets of estrangement. I hope you’ll find the radio show helpful. Please give it a thumbs-up.

If you’re the parent of an estranged adult, listen up. You’re not alone in this heartbreaking situation. And you can be happy again. Click the Beyond50 banner below to go to youtube and listen.

radio interview with Sheri McGregor

Making friends after estrangement

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

estrangementDuring January and February here in inland Southern California, morning frost can be a mainstay. That doesn’t stop an array of hardy perennials from carpeting the ground like the sprouts that cover a Chia Pet’s back. Some are soft, like a feathery carpet to the feet. Others, like the single-stalked stinging nettle with its serrated leaves, have a bite.

When the deep green, mint-like stinging nettle plants first emerge, they’re difficult to discern among the plant variety that grows here. But walk barefoot and you’ll know it’s present. That’s what happened to my puppy, Gingersnap, whose little feet got stung by the nettle. The next day she was wary—and who could blame her?

Gingersnap had to learn that some plants sting. Others don’t.

estrangement

Beyond the sting

For parents of estranged adults, making friends can feel as scary. I know the feeling of talking about the estrangement and being met with judgment. Once or twice is all it takes to make us wary of telling more. Just as Gingersnap hesitated before stepping into any new growth, we might be fearful of stepping into new friendships.

If you’re like so many parents of estranged adult children who are lonely but fearful when it comes to making friends, read on for a few tips. Not all people bite, and a tiny foray into small talk can not only get you started but have big benefits for you and your life.

Making friends after estrangement: Start small

The benefits of casual interaction are bigger than you think. Chat with the supermarket clerk, share a thought with the postal carrier, or make small talk with someone pumping gas alongside you. Those who enjoy many social interactions, even with weak social ties, are happier and have an increased sense of belonging than those who don’t.

That’s good news for people who may be feeling extra cautious or whose self-confidence has taken a hit. Making small talk is an art in and of itself, and one that can be learned. Not all small talk leads to deeper friendships, and that’s not the point, but it’s good practice and can raise confidence.

Define what friendship means to you

If you’re seeking friendships, first define what you really want. Your lifestyle, schedule, and social style will dictate the best types of friendships for you, as well as help you find them. Ask yourself:

  • How much time do I have to devote to friends? Some hope for constant companions. Other people are happier with more time alone and prefer seeing friends at planned intervals.
  • What are my boundaries? Do you want friends who feel free to call on you at all hours or stop in for unexpected visits?
  • What does friendship mean to me? A writer friend once told me she has her tennis friends, her art friends, her book club friends. . . . While she may occasionally see friends outside their respective groups, her friendships are largely based on mutual interests. Her description contrasts with another friend who considers these group-related friends “associates.”

 Consider what you want in a friend as well as what sort of friend you will be. Maybe you’re like my writer friend whose schedule is always full. Or perhaps you would enjoy fewer groups and a close friend or two who will respect your boundaries and need for solitude.

Friendship facts

Friends are good for us. Those with strong social relationships are more satisfied and live longer. Cultivating a few close ties is worth the effort, so even if you’ve been hurt in the past, it’s wise to try.

Making good friends takes time. A recent study found that it takes around 50 hours for someone to go from an acquaintance to a casual friend and another 90 or more to grow even closer.

Friendship takes interest. Despite the discovery about how many hours forming good relationships can take, more than time is required to create friendships. To grow close, you need to show an interest in the other person and feel the same interest coming your way.

Making friends after estrangement: Know yourself

Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Some people are energized by a crowd and love interacting all day every day. Others feel drained by even moderate amounts of group time. Some feel enlivened in the short run but can later start to feel weary. When looking for ways to make friends, choose situations that are a fit for you.

Finding groups of like interest can foster friendships. Already having something in common with a stranger is like getting a head start. Join a meetup.com group or volunteer for a cause you believe in. If you feel good in a crowd, consider situations where you will be at your best. Maybe you volunteer somewhere with lots of social interaction and people to talk with. More of an introvert? Consider quieter situations such as working one-on-one with people who need help learning to read. Or walk pets at your local animal shelter. Then engage in small talk with other volunteers. Brief, positive interactions can set the groundwork for deeper connections.

Are you the type who will feel more at ease if you have a bit more control of your social situation? Consider starting a group yourself. Meetup.com offers both public and private settings, so you can be extra cautious about who can see your profile online. If you’re the one heading up a group, you also get to choose the purpose as well as how often and where (a public place) the group will meet.

Where I live, there’s an online community group (Nextdoor) that helps neighbors connect. I’ve seen people start hiking and book clubs, a sewing group, and even a morning dog walk. Imagine how you might fit. Maybe the security of your four-legged pal in tow is right for you, or you have a closet full of sewing supplies you could share with new friends.

Be a friend

The best way to make a friend is to be one. The old saw is as relevant today as ever. Bring treats or something from your garden to share with the team down at work. Offer to help when a moment presents itself. Just holding a door, offering to refill a coffee cup, or asking if anyone needs something from the corner store since you’re going anyway, reveal that you are kind, friendly, and interested in other people’s feelings. Maybe you’re not a witty conversationalist or need time to feel your way toward trust. Your good will, demonstrated through acts of kindness, sends a positive message and makes you a friend.

To deepen friendships, you’ll eventually need to talk about yourself. As you become more comfortable, sharing bits about your life makes others feel at ease sharing bits about their own. Disclosing information about ourselves, as it turns out, makes us more likeable. We also feel closer to those with whom we share  Of course, there are limits to sharing. A friend isn’t a place to dump all our emotional trash.

Social anxiety after estrangement

Emerging from the shadow of an abusive relationship, which is true of some parents of estranged adult children, can cause social anxiety. Some parents are out of touch with their own value. They wonder where they fit and whether anyone would like them. After years of eggshell walking, careful not to state an opinion that will start a tirade, it can be difficult to converse at all. In our increasingly “social” world, it can feel as if everyone else is outgoing and has a million friends. A quieter person might wonder if they seem strange, but there must be a reason we have two ears and one mouth. A friend with a quiet nature can be a welcome change in a noisy, look-at-me world.

Worth the work

Try not to get discouraged. Just as Gingersnap had to learn which plants would sting, and which were fun to get closer to, finding companions with whom we can truly connect and trust takes time and patience. This may be especially true after complex issues such as estrangement muck up our lives and self-confidence.

estrangementRemember, friends come in all shapes and sizes. Finding good ones is worth the work.  Friends can help build our confidence and lend a caring ear (or shoulder!) that can buffer stress and even boost our immunity and overall health.

References:
Sandstrom and Dunn (July, 2014). Social Interactions and Well-Being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Holt-Lunstad et al. (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk. PLoS Medicine.

Hall, Jeffrey A (2018). How many hours does it take to make a friend? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Hall, Jeffrey A., and Daniel Cochece Davis (2017). Proposing the communicate bond belong theory: Evolutionary intersections with episodic interpersonal communication. Communication Theory, 27.1: 21-47.

Collins and Miller (1994). Self-Disclosure and Liking. Psychological Bulletin.

Uchino, B.N. (2006). Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29: 377. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-006-9056-5

Related reading:

Beyond the Shadow of Estrangement

 

In my garden . . .

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

son doesn't like meIn my herb garden, thyme and oregano become woody in the face of cold. Sometimes, I think they won’t recover, but when intermittent warm days hint at spring to come, the fragrant leaves begin to sprout. Even when the air again chills to icy frosts, they know the future is bright and they thrive.

Not all growing things have such a strong internal clock. A string of warm fall days can trigger plum tree blooms. Like tiny pink bows, they peek from between the drying leaves, eager to give. Too eager. When winter winds blow, they flutter and fall. Energy expended but no fruit produced. Still, the trees have the good sense to rest. In the silent months, separated from their loving sun, the trees grow strong. So, when the timing is right, they are ready.

son doesn't like me

 

The apple trees, a crabby variety bred for drought, are resilient. Their blooms open in January, cling and remain. By June, they have ripe fruit. Their branches may be drooping, heavy with apples one day and then picked clean by coyotes in the dark of night. Often, the apples start afresh, and the trees bear a second crop, though smaller than the first.

The pomegranate trees are late to lose their son doesn't like meleaves. Then their pale gray branches stubbornly resist the sun’s flirtation. A few fruits that are left hanging grow tough through winter but can sustain a wayward bird with an insistent peck.

The chaste tea tree is numbed by winter. So much so that as, all around, spring springs and greenery greens, the barren sticks seem dead. Every year, I am nearly fooled. I snap off a twig and find it wick. This makes me laugh. There is life inside. It only needs nurturing.

As the years have passed and estrangement endures through its seasons, I have seen myself in all of these. The herbs with their steady inner clocks. The plum trees that are, at times, too eager.  The pomegranate trees that grow tough and stubborn but eventually live up to their varietal name (Wonderful). And the chaste tea tree that numbs and deadens. I am wick inside. If only I will not be fooled.

Using the garden to heal

Whether you like growing things, just spending time in a garden, or even looking at plant catalogs, can you parallel your growth or endurance in estrangement with that of plants and trees? Seeing ourselves reflected in a garden’s growth can be a healing. Can you imagine yourself recovering from the cold of a stressful season by stretching toward the sunlight? As you add water and special food, imagine treating yourself to loving care. Can you see yourself blooming? Even if you feel numb, as if your leaves droop and you thirst for sustenance, can you imagine you are quietly doing the work of resting, like my plum trees do in winter? Are you seeing bulb flowers sprout through the snow? If so, can you imagine yourself pushing up through the muck of a difficult relationship or the icy cold of rejection?

Whether you call it horticultural therapy or just call it fun or relaxing, cultivating plants or spending time in gardens has benefits. Reductions in stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, as well as enhanced self-esteem are all known positives.

If it’s still too snowy to do any outdoor gardening, consider getting started inside. I hear geraniums do well in pots. Or maybe just remembering being outdoors last summer would feel good. Imagine your feet, stepping into a soft carpet of grass, or the sunlight warming your back.

son doesn't like meAs the dead of winter marches toward spring, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment to this article about your own garden and how it helps you. I like reading about people’s gardens, and others do too.

 

 

Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children Takes a Prize

Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult ChildrenIn September, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children  won an award. It took a bronze medal in the self-help/personal growth category of the Living Now Book Awards, which had more than 800 total entries.

That’s actually a medal hanging over the book in the photograph. It came on a grosgrain ribbon. Maybe one day, I’ll put it around my neck and actually wear it. Maybe I’ll have a tee-shirt made with the image, too (even more fun to wear!).

Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children–Only the bronze?

While it would have been great to win a gold or silver medal, the fact that this book for a niche audience among many aimed at more general audiences feels like taking the gold!

I can’t help but think that this award is not only validation that Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Childrenis a helpful and well-done book that fulfills the contest’s motto—Books That Change Lives—but that this win also demonstrates that people are starting to take more notice of the masses of adult children who now estrange themselves from loving families. You may recall that last year, Done With The Crying was a Book of the Year Finalist. This time, it got into the winner’s circle!

Isn’t this proof that the topic of estrangement is becoming much more mainstream? Hopefully, that means more people are coming to realize that there are many kind and supportive parents who are absolutely shocked when their grown children choose to hurt them. The loss is devastating, and the secondary trauma of being judged unfairly makes it that much worse.

Let’s celebrate!

Please join me in celebrating this award. I want to thank all the parents of estranged adults who visit this site and who have read Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children. This victory is yours.

If you’d like to see some of the other contest winners, you can go to Living Now Book Awards page. Done With The Crying is listed on the second linked page of winners.

Celebrate and share your thoughts by “leaving a reply” to this article.

HUGS to all the hurting parents,

Sheri McGregor

A sampling of articles to help hurting parents of estranged adults (you can use the pull-down menus to find more, or use the search box to look for particular subjects)

 

Estranged from adult children? Done With The Crying Audiobook release

estranged from adult childrenEstranged from adult children?
I’m excited to announce that earlier this month, the audiobook version of Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children was released by Tantor Media.

adult children estrangedFor awhile today, Done With The Crying took the number one spot for new releases in its category at Amazon. As I write this it’s at #4. I’m happy the book is helping people, but it’s also sad proof of a common breakdown in today’s families: estrangement.

Have you been waiting to read the book? If you’re estranged from adult children, I do recommend the print version because the tools and exercises provide real help to move beyond the pain, and there’s space provided in the printed book. But you could listen to it for free right now, plus get a bonus.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Please know that although you may feel alone in the estrangement, you are not. I hear from parents every day who are estranged from adult children, suffering similar pain and looking for solutions. Please, take care of yourself. There is a good life ahead, and you’ll want to be strong and well to enjoy it. Buy the book, and take a step forward today.

Estrangement from adult children: Have you had enough?

estrangementby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

For parents of estranged adults who are sad, walking on eggshells to maintain even the most abusive or one-sided contact, or pining away for the son or daughter who lays blame for everything that has ever gone wrong in their life, there comes a time when enough is enough. Have you reached that point? The day when you’re ready to move on and seek out peace and happiness no matter what the “child” does?

Here are a few questions to help.

How long must you suffer?

Routinely, I hear from mothers and fathers who for ten or twenty years have been neglected, blamed, ridiculed, ignored, or contacted only when the son or daughter needs money. Their self-esteem has taken a huge hit because of the estrangement from adult children. Some are stuck in a sort of guilt mode that they don’t understand, even though they know they’ve been caring parents. Twice in recent months, life coaching clients have seen how their upbringing affected their boundaries and created undue guilt. Other parents wish there had been some closure, so they could lay it to rest. But although closure is bandied about in our society like a peaceful oasis, as I discuss in my book, Done With The Crying, closure is a myth.

Many of the parents in these long-term estrangements cope well most of the time, but their emotions are triggered when a death or other life event causes contact and/or renews their pain. When that happens, they can go on for weeks feeling blue, reliving the early shock and bewilderment of estrangement, and even asking “Why?” all over again.

Do you want to continue suffering? Sounds like a stupid question. Nobody wants to suffer, right? If you agree, then make a decision to change. Acknowledge all the hurt your son or daughter has caused, and decide not to allow it to shackle you anymore. If you find yourself resisting this idea, that it’s even possible, then it’s time to consider why.

estrangement from adult childrenSuffering: Has it become a habit?

For some, the idea of any relationship, even one that causes pain, is better than none—which keeps them stuck. If you feel this way, you may be caught in what’s become a habit or taken on a sort of victim mentality. But the truth is, you don’t have to. As I say in my book, only two letters separate the word victim from victor. Choosing to be a victor requires a choice, as the letters “OR” imply. It’s never too late to claim your right to be happy despite another adult’s decisions.

Does an idealistic belief hold you back?

You might be stuck because of the idea that a parent’s love should be unconditional. While no caring parent gives up instantly, after suffering with no change in sight, it’s okay to give yourself permission to take care of yourself. It may come down to thinking of releasing the need for a relationship that’s unhealthy, or even giving in rather than giving up.

Even if you’re a caring parent who did your best, it’s possible that a belief that it must be your fault is keeping you from moving forward. One mother shared that she grew up in a church with strict ideas about a mother’s role. Although she knew she had done her best, she also worried maybe the estrangement was a reflection of her working outside the home. It helped to see that stay-at-home mothers also have estranged children. Estrangement from adult children isn’t limited to a certain set of circumstances.

What beliefs might you have that affect your ability to move forward despite the estrangement? Pondering the question may be of use.

estrangementAre you reliving the past?

Some parents keep the pain alive by going over it again and again. One mother who has been estranged from her 52-year-old son for nearly thirty years routinely recounts her estrangement story in detail. She regularly relives the pain of the child she raised turning against her, slowly at first, and then with a full force that included insults and public humiliation. This intelligent woman runs a small business, has a devoted husband, and has raised two other successful and loving children whom the estranged son also left behind. She goes about her life with confidence, yet spends much of her quiet time ruminating over the son she lost, questioning how he could do such a thing to his family, and feeling sad.

This mother and a great many others regularly look for their adult children on social media, or even save old, unkind correspondence—and re-read it. Will it take a computer crash to free you from email from an angry estranged adult child that’s holding you back?

Right now, take a few moments to consider whether you are reliving the past and how doing so may hurt your progress.

Are you keeping company that keeps you stuck?

Some parents maintain relationships with people who remind them of their sorrow and keep them in limbo—unable to fix the problem yet unable to get on with their lives. That might be a relative or friend who says it’s the parent’s duty to keep trying no matter what—even when you’ve tried and been repeatedly beaten back by a son or daughter that wants no contact. daughter says no contactOften, these people with their platitudes don’t have a clue what estrangement is really all about. They think it’s a tiff that can blow over, or chalk it up to immaturity. Maybe those things are true in some instances, but after hearing from nearly 20,000 parents who’ve taken my survey, I know that isn’t true in most cases. Don’t let these people hold you back from a fulfilling life.

At times, even the guise of support can keep parents stuck. Here at the site, there’s a forum which, for the most part, is a helpful venue. Some parents who have moved beyond the pain stay active in the community to provide a caring word to newer members in the throes of early estrangement. While this is positive, there’s also a danger. It’s possible to get caught in an endless loop of recharged pain, anger, grief, and indignation as newcomers post about their circumstances and potentially trigger oldcomers’ pain. It’s also true that a support group can become a crutch, the go-to place to vent feelings or ask questions. At some point, it’s wise to step back and use your own good sense. Doing so can build your confidence.

When is enough enough?

One woman who joined the Facebook page some time ago left a wise comment. When out with her husband one day, they’d driven through the town in which her estranged adult child lives. In the past, she would say something to her husband, and the two would talk about the pain. But on that day, she purposely kept quiet. Her husband was surprised but glad. On Facebook, the woman said she’d come to the conclusion that enough was enough.

I can relate to this mother’s thoughts. Many have read my story, along with those of so many other parents in my book. They know that I used the book’s exercises and research to reclaim my self-esteem and confidence, and to move on in my life after estrangement. But my story didn’t stop with the last page of the book. I continue to move forward in a life with trials and distress (as well as happy times), and even the occasional conflict of some sort of contact from the estranged. I know as well as any parent that estrangement can press in like prying tentacles where and when we least expect it to. But I also know that it’s up to me how much that estrangedinfluence takes control. While it’s wise to face the reality and deal with residual effects, it’s not healthy to bemoan the loss and all its affects. Like that woman in the car who made a decision to drive on by, knowing her estranged adult child resided in the city yet choosing to let the pain alone, we can understand when enough is enough.

While attempting to reconcile with an estranged adult child is normal, don’t hinge your happiness on it. Going over what happened and why is natural, but there comes a time when you know you have done all that you can. For some, that includes an apology, or a note saying your door is open when or if they want to try. For others, based on their own situation, it means literally moving away.

Estrangement from adult children: Step forward

You can examine your relationship with a clear head, see how your beliefs might be limiting you, and understand how suffering can become a habit that keeps you stuck. With help and support, you can step forward in a way that strengthens and prepares you for a new way of life. Even while holding out hope, you can give yourself permission to let go, accept that change is inevitable, and embrace it for your own good. You can be done with the crying. Don’t waste another minute of your precious life.

Estrangement from adult children/Related posts:

The Boat

Abusive adult children negatively influence parents’ self-image

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