Tag Archives: estrangement

Understanding estrangement: Countdown takeaways

understanding estrangement
Understanding estrangement and yourself:
Countdown Takeaways

By Sheri McGregor

My intention for the Countdown to the New Year series has been to engage you for your own wellbeing. From all the comments, it seems a success! Thank you for participating. I have loved reading l your insights! Here, on the last day, let’s first do a short review, then move on to my overall takeaway—and yours.

December 24—Recognizing and understanding estrangement’s influence on you and your outlook helps you Turn! Turn! Turn! to this new season of life. You can “accept” estrangement without agreeing with it. In acceptance, you can shift gears, turn a corner, and move forward for your own health and happiness.

December 25—Mastering peace in the chaos of estrangement, is a valuable skill worth pursuing for our own well-being. Peace is achievable.

December 26—Coping mindfully can include pastime activities, allowing the struggling mind to rest. For early momentum, understanding estrangement means finding a “good enough” answer to why estrangement happens. But understanding estrangement is a process. Just as the last puzzle pieces coming together provide a sense of completion, identifying cultural influences or family patterns brings closure. My latest book, BEYOND Done, has sections to help.

December 27—Having something to look forward to fuels purpose and meaning. Even the tiniest things that bring us joy, and engage the mind and heart, improve our lives. You were encouraged to find something to look forward to and share.

December 28—You rose to my challenge by choosing a word or phrase to set a positive tone or theme for the New Year. By focusing on a word or phrase, even out loud, helps you shift away from estrangement pain and toward your future. Make it bright.

December 29Parents are people too, and just as socks pulled from a multi-pack never fit back quite the same, you might not either. Even in reconciling, parents must—for their own well-being—consider their needs too. Walking on eggshells doesn’t work. As one mother said, eventually the shells become like broken bits of glass. Remember the acronym—WOE—a fitting description.

December 30—Knowledge is only power when we utilize what we learn. The year in review exercise tasked you to consider each month or season and derive lessons for your own life and future.

December 31—We’ve arrived, and I’m late. It’s 11 a.m. as I write this post, and some of you have already asked why you can’t access today’s article. I’m sorry! The truth is, I was so engaged in activities yesterday—visiting sites in a nearby historic district in this huge “gold country” part of California where I’ve moved—that I lost all track of time. Arriving home after dark I felt easy and refreshed … but also tired. So, instead of heading to the computer to dream up a new post before midnight, I went off to bed.

Takeaways

I planned to do the Countdown to the New Year series a month ahead. I got started on its purpose  … but didn’t get too hung up on what to write or how to say the message. For each one, I sat down with an open mind and a giving heart—and poured it out, quickly! That explains why one of the articles and two of the newsletters in the last week contained typos (sorry! – and thank you, sincerely, to the readers who pointed them out). I didn’t know what I’d say each day, and probably could have done better, but you know what? I was engaged, present in the moment, and enjoying my job.

As announced at the outset, the Countdown was intended for “fun” and for us to “enjoy” the last, sometimes long and boring, week of the year. I did have fun, and judging from the comments and email feedback, many of you did too. However, a few readers protested the very idea of fun or enjoyment. I feel for them. I remember suffering emotional pain so thick it felt like life would never be fun again. There was a sense that no one understood, and I get that.

The reality is that estrangement is devastating. It’s not easy for a parent who has spent a lifetime devoted to the well-being of children to move forward for themselves. But wasting our lives waiting, pining, and dwelling on the pain helps no one—not ourselves and not our children.

I recognize that there are phases of estrangement. The early daze can be so fogged over with sadness and shock that any path out is obscured. But as time goes on, parents must recognize they have a choice. Get the support and encouragement needed to climb out and move forward, or remain stuck in an ever-deepening rut we only dig deeper with negative thinking and dwelling on distress. That’s what my first book, Done With The Crying, with its gentle, caring tone, is all about helping you to do.

What is your choice? For today, tomorrow, next year?

For now, let’s close out the Countdown series with two things. The first is a video showing pure, unadulterated joy. When is the last time you found something so fun that you were immersed in the moment and so engaged that you didn’t care whether you looked like a fool? I wish for more moments like these for you … and for me.

The second video is pure beauty, fitting for the close of a year.

My takeaway for the Countdown had less to do with the messages than the act of creating them, and it’s a mix of these videos. While engaged and joyful, I know that I probably won’t achieve perfection—and it’s okay. There might be a typo, or my immediate word choice, though never intended to, might even offend someone. The reality is that some people will always see me as a jack*ss. Others will find joy in my enthusiasm, recognize the sum of my work for parents of estranged adult children as smart and even beautiful, and see that my overall message comes from a place of understanding. And that the message is sensible and fits.

For parents of estranged adult children, going forward, I hope you will strive for and find moments of pure joy. Just because someone calls you a jack*ass doesn’t make it true. And even if, for a few moments, in your unadulterated enthusiasm you look like one . . . it’s okay.

Here are the videos:

Happy New Year to everyone!

What’s your takeaway from the Countdown? I’m bucking around, kicking up my hooves in anticipation.

 

Parents in estrangement: Your year in review

in estrangement
In estrangement: Your year in review

by Sheri McGregor

When we’re down about someone or something, our minds will search for and drag out evidence to confirm our feelings. It’s that way in estrangement, and without recognizing what’s happening, we may find ourselves feeding an even deeper funk. On the eve of the New Year, the media often looks back on the year’s bad news and pulls us further under. Let’s turn that around. No. I’m not suggesting you look back at the year to find the good and be grateful (although that’s helpful!). Here, I suggest looking at what you learned. You’ll be aware of your growth, even in estrangement—and better prepared for the New Year.

What did I learn?

Start with this question and apply it to each month or season. Write down what happened, in short form, and tell what you learned. Here’s an example:

Last year, Bobbie’s estranged son began calling her before Christmas, down on his luck. The first time he called, Bobbie told her husband what was going on in their son’s life. “David raised his brows and shrugged,” Bobbie says. “He told me, ‘Well, it is the season giving.’ Then he went out to the garage.”

Bobbie understood her husband’s feelings, but she was also a little miffed that he could shrug it off. Even in estrangement, Bobbie says, “I got caught up in what kind of parent turns her back on her own child. Plus, it was Christmas, and there’s the spirit of forgiveness and hope.” So, when her son texted her a week before Christmas, and then called again, she didn’t tell his father. Instead, she wrote a check and popped it into the mail.

“He called early Christmas Eve all happy and saying he loved us,” says Bobbie. “He said he’d call back in a few days and we’d get together.” Bobbie didn’t have to tell her husband about the money. “He gave me a knowing look when I hung up the phone, and I darted away from him. I also had a sinking feeling in my stomach.”

Their son didn’t call in January. He also stopped answering texts.

Bobbie says she learned:

  • Her son hadn’t changed.
  • She’d knowingly let him isolate her from her husband’s good sense.
  • Keeping a secret wasn’t good for her marriage.

“Maybe our son will change one day,” says Bobbie. “But I can’t force him. I can only change myself.” Bobbie’s Year in Review revealed other learning points and truths, but this one had the most oomph. She realized that, in estrangement, her role as a mom had become twisted and strange. She knew she needed to focus more on herself and prioritize her role as her husband’s partner in life. The insight gave Bobbie at least one focus for the year ahead.  One she could use to set goals for and achieve with solid steps and plans.

What I learned.

My own Year in Review revealed a helpful truth about my calendar—and it’s a repeat. When I’m under stress, I sometimes pile on more responsibilities. There’s a positive side to this in that I get a lot done (which helps me derive self-worth…but that’s for another day!). The downside is the pressure I feel. I’ve learned to schedule in time off and give myself real breaks, but am recognizing that, at least at times, I ask too much of myself. When I really examined this fact, I identified one specific habit that I know helps: keeping my calendar current. I tend to take mental notes and fill in later, but the visual aid of seeing filled-in time slots help me be more realistic—and avoid the sticky situation of wanting to say “no” after having said “yes.” Saying “no” is a skill in and of itself.  Begging off after you’ve already agreed is even more difficult.

You might think this isn’t estrangement-related, but if you’re like me, you’ll fill your calendar when under stress–and estrangement is stressful. You might also have the self-worth component, which means you’ll do extra when you’re self-esteem is low. This past year has held a lot of distress and trauma for me, so it’s natural I’d lean on my go-to and get things done! However, taking note expands my awareness, which helps me put concrete changes into place for my well-being.

What did you learn?

Start by writing down a little about what happened in each month/season of the year. How you acted, what you got right . . . or wrong. Then, don’t get bogged in the mire. Instead, recognize what you learned.

In Beyond Done, I introduced one mother whose husband was gravely ill. She had expected to lean on their son and was shocked by his lack of concern. She says, “I needed him then.” After she and her husband survived that crisis, she reflects, “I can’t think of a time I will ever need him going forward.”

This mom learned that they couldn’t count on their son. This realization spurred action to consider what gaps existed in their plans for retirement and as they aged. They then expanded their plans independent of him. Your realizations can similarly guide you.

Maybe things aren’t as hoped for or expected, but we can adapt. Flexibility is one of five elements of resilience described in Beyond Done. Your Year in Review helps you home in on where bending is beneficial.

Don’t get hung up thinking you had to have learned huge or distressing truths either. Simple learned truths, backed by actions, can make huge differences in our lives. Maybe you learned that you are at your best when you spend more time with friends. Perhaps you’ve identified a particular person who has become a true friend, that you are a lifelong learner and happiest trying new activities, or that you need more time to yourself.

Use the Year in Review exercise to identify strengths, weaknesses, and growth points in general and in estrangement. When we’re cognizant of what we’ve learned, our awareness grows. When we’re aware, we can set goals and prepare to achieve what’s best for us.

I hope you’ll try this exercise. It’s one I have often done with my coaching clients to help them step into the New Year stronger. If you find this helpful, leave a comment as to what you learned and what steps you’ll take to grow.

Related reading

In estrangement, do your questions keep you stuck?

Your focus: Not “estrangement pain”

New Year wordFocus word: Don’t let it be “estrangement”

by Sheri McGregor

Right now, consider how distressed you want to be. Are you on the cusp of another cruddy year spent focusing on estrangement pain? I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. Don’t get stuck thinking you can make someone change. Sure, you can reach out and let someone know you care if you must, you can even apologize if that’s the right thing to do (it sometimes isn’t, in my opinion). But for your own wellness and for the benefit of those who remain close, learn to shift your focus from estrangement pain and bounce back. If you do reconcile, you’ll be stronger for the long haul. There’s no downside.

Setting the tone for the year

In Beyond Done, I included an exercise using language to help you escape reactionary emotional storms and respond to triggers or distress from the executive functioning area of the brain. So you can think more clearly, focus, take charge, and make plans. It’s a way to shift out of estrangement pain and into thinking for your own good. Here, we’ll do something similar.

Deciding upon a word or phrase that you call up and use as to steer, can be your ticket to a calmer, happier year ahead. One year, I decided upon “kindness.” This helped me set an intention and follow through, even the toughest of spots. Thinking “kindness” helped me demonstrate patience or go the extra mile. That meant I spoke a compliment out loud rather than only thinking it, and willfully displayed the word’s meaning as often as I could. The practice might have positively touched a few others but practicing kindness brightened my own days the most, I think. It meant that I felt good about myself and my behavior toward other people.

Words focused on estrangement pain: Lose ’em

With regard to estrangement and how it has affected you, consider what word might represent your behavior and/or emotions over the last 12 months. For me, in the early daze of estrangement, I was “weepy” and “insecure.” Realizing that helped me dry my tears, straighten my shoulders, and walk forward with more strength. I was determined not to remain a weepy, insecure woman, allowing another person’s decisions to ruin my life. As time went on, and I worked at my own wellness, other words fit. Terms like “indignant,” or “at peace,” and “determined.”

Several years ago, an estranged dad called me “brave.” Just when I needed it the most, the word helped me to see myself as he saw me, and I mustered the courage to give a public speech (something I’d quit altogether after the estrangement). Soon, I was thinking of the word whenever I felt scared—and it helped me to press on.

How do you want to see yourself?

Consider what word will help you in the year ahead. A single, calming word such as “peaceful,” that relaxes you if you’re worried or upset might be one to choose as your word of the year. A signal word helps you shift focus for your own well-being. Maybe you use a word like “strong” that helps you develop emotional muscles and flex them (as discussed in Beyond Done).

You could choose a phrase instead. Something to describe or dictate how you will move through life. One mother recently used the term “gliding through.” I think this is genius! Just saying it—gliding through—conjures an image of floating along, effortlessly, feather-light and feet barely touching the ground, even in the tensest situation.

Think and tell

I hope you will ponder this idea, then come up with a word or phrase that might help you in the coming year. No hurry either. You can do it now or do it a month or even six months from now, because your New Year is not bound by the calendar year. We can start fresh anytime.

If it feels helpful, you can also choose a few words or phrases, to fit specific situations. A term like “stinky cheese” might help you stand strong when you feel like you’re all alone (you’ll understand this if you’ve read my latest book!), or words that set an intentional mindset and help you focus, float, dance, or glide through life.

As you consider potential ideas, try them on out loud. How does a particular word or phrase make you feel? Choose something that feels doable but is at least a little of a stretch. Then write the word(s) on notes you tack to your refrigerator door or around the house—but also on your heart and mind so they’re tip of tongue and top of mind when you need them. Oh, and share them here if you’d like. I’d love to know what you come up with—and your words might help another parent. Borrowing allowed!

Related reading

Abusive adult children influence parents’ self-image

Estrangement: Are you an octopus mom (or dad)?

Countdown to the New Year

As the year comes to a close, let’s have fun! The last week of the year can feel so long. Let’s countdown to the New Year. For a bit of inspiration, come back daily between 12/24 and 12/31 as each date “unlocks” to a new blog post. You’ll have to click on the dates BELOW the picture … I hope you’ll enjoy! – HUGS from Sheri McGregor

Sheri McGregor

Countdown to the New Year!

December 24

December 25

December 26

December 27

December 28

December 29

December 30

December 31

When your adult children don’t like you, lean on the bear necessities

When your adult children don't like you

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

I’ve been thinking about bears lately. The massive “Caldor” fire took out much of a nearby town called Grizzly Flats. Acres and acres of forest burned, so the bears (and other wildlife) have been on the move.

Here in the foothills, sightings aren’t typically very common, but more bears are around right now. That means we’re alert when we tread the long path to the mailbox or let the dogs out after dark. We also put our garbage cans out in the morning rather than at night, and we keep pets and their food indoors. People aren’t encouraged to feed wild animals like they were when I was a kid. Back then, we drove through Yellowstone National Park and fed snacks through the car windows to wild bears who stood in the road waiting for treats.

In my neck of the woods these days, we’re striving to dissuade the bears dislocated by the fires, but knowing they’re here is exciting! Neighbors share Ring camera footage where bears step onto porches and amble up streets. They climb tall deer fencing like it’s nothing, and dogs that typically chase wildlife off their property only stare.

The other day while out hiking, I saw a bear in the wild—and it was smiling! You can see from the photo it was really just a tree stump, but I’ve had other sightings. In the shadows of twilight, even a boulder kind of looks like a bear . . .  .

Bears are fascinating and resilient creatures. So, it’s no wonder they symbolize power and courage in Native American spirituality. Ahem . . . bear with me now, as I share more about what these powerful beasts can teach us..

When your adult children don’t like you: Adapt

Bears are good at adapting. They’re omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat—and their diet changes based on what food is readily available. Bears don’t get stuck in emotional or behavioral ruts and they will travel long distances to survive.

Bears adapt to “social” change as well. At Grand Teton National Park, researchers have discovered that black bears alter their habits in areas where black bears and grizzly bears both reside. The black bears do more daytime foraging than ones who don’t live in grizzly territory. It’s a tactic to avoid the bigger, more aggressive grizzlies (smart move!).

When your adult children don’t like you, you can learn to think like a bear and adapt too. You can avoid their aggression by not answering the phone. Don’t acknowledge mean texts, have your email program place correspondence in a separate file automatically, or even set up a block. To protect yourself, adapt—physically and emotionally.

When your adult children don’t like you: Listen to your gut

Did you know that bears sometimes wake up to forage during hibernation periods?  I was surprised to learn that they will stir from winter sleep and venture out into the elements to get what they need for more long, cold days ahead. It’s not so different than Winnie the Pooh with his “rumbly” tummy. He never second guesses his needs. Neither does Paddington Bear, who loves his marmalade.

How can you “listen to your gut,” and support your well-being? Maybe a hibernation period helps. Or maybe you’ve been lying in bed, wallowing in sorrow for long enough?

Healing when your adult children don’t like you: A way to fight back

Bears have been known to fight back even when injured. For this reason, some Native American lore paints bears with the ability to heal their own wounds. They’re resilient.

Like the shy bears who try to avoid human-animal confrontations, parents of estranged adult children don’t go looking for a fight. A lot of us won’t fight back, physically or verbally, with adult children who attack us either. Whether or not we should, as well as how to defend ourselves is a topic for another day. Focusing on our own healing is a peaceful and productive way to fight back against the trauma and stress. In healing ourselves, we exhibit the strength and power of the bear.

As we support ourselves, we set a positive example, too. And we’re better equipped to offer an empathetic and helping hand (or paw!). In doing that, we help ourselves even more. By modeling recovery from such a deep wound as our own children’s rejection, we might even help a son or daughter to heal from trauma they might one day face. In that way, even from afar, we can be a momma or poppa bear to a wayward cub.

In what ways have you healed? How and to whom can you be a representation of power and strength? How can/does your own healing help those around you?

When your adult children don’t like you: Appreciate solitude

Bears spend a lot of time alone. Some bear legends depict characters who face trials and challenges underground, and then enjoy a triumphant return to the light of day. These may be representative of bears’ hibernation periods—from which they emerge  curious, hungry, and alive.

When you have alone time, make it productive. Use your cave time to reflect on ways that move you positively forward. Bears need alone time, and so might you. Cuddly and grumpy bears deserve love … and/or respect. Even self-love and self-respect.

How can you take time for yourself? What thoughts come to mind about this subject? What are some activities that nurture you, yet you’ve been putting off?

Bears sometimes break rules

To survive, bears will move into new areas. They’ll even eat out of trash cans or find pet food left outside to devour. They break the “rules” when they must. Maybe there’s a lesson in that.

When your adult children don’t like you, it’s common to start looking for the “right” thing to do. Parents want to fix the relationship and often follow all sorts of advice to try. * Don’t “guilt” your child. * Take the high road. * Don’t give up. It boils down to an endless stream:  Do this. Don’t do that. Advice is endless, and sometimes senseless for our own healing.

Is it time to channel your inner Yogi Bear? I don’t know if he was “smarter than the average bear” as he professed, but he did like to eat, laugh, and enjoy his life. Maybe like Yogi Bear, parents could stop following a bunch of rules, stop chasing adult children, and start pursuing the picnic basket of a full and well-enjoyed life.

When your adult children don’t like you: Shadow work and your inner bear

You’ve been through a trauma. With sporadic, unhealthy conflict that brings continued strife, you may still be in its claws. Do you smile and pretend everything’s okay? When your friends ask how Susie-Q-daughter is, do you grin and bear it, hiding the truth of your pain? Maybe you have always been the benevolent, long-suffering, quiet, and strong one in your family … so letting out a growl doesn’t come naturally or even seem “right.”

In psychology, there’s a practice called “shadow work,” which sometimes means exploring secrets and repressed horrors from the past, or even the darker nature of ourselves. However, shadow work isn’t always scary or traumatic. It can be about rediscovering bits of our nature, or the desires of our heart, which we’ve tamped down to fit social norms, culture, or how we were raised.

For instance, maybe you’ve spent most of your life in service to others. Yet, upon reflection, you realize you’ve always wanted to travel the world, join a theatrical troupe, or spend more time lazing around with a good book. These parts of yourself can be “shadows,” simply because you have denied them or hidden them away in the cave-like recesses of your mind.

You might not have followed these desires because you got the notion, somehow, that honoring your own needs was selfish. Or, you may have been busy raising a family, working, or in other ways serving others. Because of those important pursuits, you didn’t prioritize yourself.

Sometimes, what’s uncovered in shadow work finds beginnings in other people’s approval, which doesn’t necessarily mean assigning blame. Kids sometimes add more importance to something than parents (or teachers or coaches or . . .) intend to convey. So, while you might have been asked to “be still” in church (I was), you might have thought being still everywhere was right, and carried the behavior into other parts of your life. I’m offering these thoughts because shadow work is not about making other people wrong (even though you’ll find the topic presented that way at times). It’s about discovering your inner self.

Foraging ahead

When your adult children don’t like you, it’s beary sad. My books help you to look at the past, see what’s current, and make changes to support yourself and adapt going forward. This journey may have begun because of another person’s behavior, but as I say in Beyond Done, you must make the healing path forward about yourself.

Related Reading

Abandoned parents: Are you “chewing”?

Just for fun, for toy bear and holiday lovers:

Estrangement by adult children: Weathering the storm

estrangement by adult children


Estrangement by adult children: Weathering the Storm
By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

“Hollowed out.” That’s how one father of estranged adult children recently described how he feels. “Weak.”

I understand this. It’s how a lot of parents feel when they have given their all for a child, even to their own detriment, yet come up empty.

Estrangement by adult children: The Breaking Point

Here where I live in Northern California, we recently endured an historic storm. What’s called a “bomb cyclone” merged with a level five “atmospheric river” (new-to-me terms). The combination brought strong hot and cold winds, and boatloads of rain, over a very short period of time. We were all stuck inside, hoping for the best.  Satellite TV faded in and out, broadcasting alarming predictions of flash floods full of dangerous debris that could sweep down from nearby burn scars left by recent wildfires.

As the sun set and the steelwool sky grew darker, a loud crack split through the pounding of rain, followed swiftly by a muffled thud. I went to the window and wasn’t surprised to see big branches from one of our heritage oaks lying on the ground. Uprooted trees and fallen limbs had been reported all around the area. I went to bed that evening hoping the stately oak outside my bedroom wouldn’t surprise me with a broken limb crashing through the roof during the night.

The next day, the air was still. Shafts of sunlight strained around cotton clouds, sparking rainbow prisms in droplets clinging to the crimson leaves of the maple tree out front. I put on boots and tromped around the back of the house and down the hill to examine the damage to the oak. An offshoot of the tree’s massive trunk had broken in two and lay on the ground, exposing its empty middle. Hollowed out.

Just last week, we had sought an arborist’s advice. That sunny day, as we walked the property, looking up into the canopy of several ancient oaks, he had confirmed our suspicions. The majestic trees that had so bewitched me upon first seeing this place in the winter of 2020 had been neglected. Heavy deadwood hung precariously in a few of the oaks that stood at the base of the hill. The trees nearer the house had been trimmed more recently, but even those showed signs of neglect. Many, the arborist said, needed airing out for lightening, and some limbs cut back for shape and strength. A couple of the biggest trees appeared to have root damage or were hollowed out.

Estrangement by adult children: The constant drip

estrangement by adult childrenOne reason for root damage and hollow trunks is apparently the result of slow-to-heal wounds that are left open when a tree limb is cut or cracks off on its own. In rainy months, the constant drip-drip-drip, over time, can form a channel inside the trunk. Water trickles down and weakens the tree at its core. I frowned upon hearing this. The hole I had marveled over when fledgling birds peeked out a few months earlier was really a weak spot the arborist said should be covered with plastic during the rainy season.

Too late now, I thought on that morning after the storm. I squatted next to one of the fallen halves with its gaping center. The end of an earthworm peeked from disintegrating wood, like soil, inside. Shelf fungus had also taken up residence inside the tree. Boring insects probably also get in through the holes, and further weaken vulnerable trees.

We’re not so different.

When betrayed by a loved one, even the mightiest of us are not so different than those towering oaks. Rejection by a child who has been so big a part of us and our lives, the cutting off, is like losing a limb. We suffer a wound, and for many of us, the wound gapes, allowing for even more hurt to get inside, to penetrate our very core. The reality is that we don’t want to close ourselves off and grow hardened to our own child. So, many of us will hang open, waiting, hoping they’ll return to their senses and join us again. That is what will heal the wound, we think.

Meanwhile, there’s a constant drip. Shame. Judgment. A steady rain of worries, what-ifs, and whys.

In the fragile shadow of an adult child’s abandonment and/or abuse, our identity gets blurred. Estrangement changes everything. Who are we if we’re no longer a parent? How can this be fixed? What have we been doing all these years? What can we do now?

No wonder that father rejected by an adult child said he felt hollowed out.

Estrangement by adult children: Take care.

Just as an arborist can provide education about a tree’s needs, trim out dead bits, and protect wounds during stormy seasons, rejected parents must learn to care for themselves. We must get support to protect ourselves, clear out faulty thinking that weakens us, hollows out our confidence, and makes us vulnerable.

Whether you have been estranged for many years and know the drip-drip-drip of estrangement pain or are new to the situation, I’m glad you have found your way to this website. A literal forest of parents—thousands each month—come to this site, read the articles, and leave comments to help others. I hope you will join the conversation. Some parents arrive at this site so emotionally gutted that they believe they have nothing to offer. But even expressing their deep and cutting pain can validate another parent’s feelings.

My books are another way to learn about estrangement and ways to heal. Give them a try. I hear from parents every day who tell me Done With The Crying (2016) has changed their lives. My latest book, Beyond Done With The Crying: More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children just hit the shelves a few days ago–and I’m hearing that it “goes deeper” and is “helpful in a whole new way.” Also, I spoke to many more fathers this time, and included them in more examples. Parents appreciate the practical information and help with the complex problems that can plague them due to estrangement by adult children. The research, reflection questions and exercises in both the books prompt new perspectives, promote growth, and enhance well-being.

I hope that my work can be a little like an arborist, helping you to trim away the deadwood of faulty thinking and let in sunlight to illuminate the slow drip that’s part of estrangement by adult children and help you heal.

Estrangement by adult children: New beginnings

As I looked at that broken, hollowed out tree and remembered the words that father of estranged adult children used to describe himself, I hoped he could see that, even in brokenness, all is not lost. Our wounds can make the way for new life, just as those birds found the perfect nesting spot. The lowly earthworm and the shelf fungus found a fertile core for new beginnings. We can too.

Related Reading

Estranged by adult children: Parents, use weepy days for your own good

The shadow of estrangement

New estrangement research beats a dead horse (October 2021)

new estrangement research

DUH.

Do you remember that word from childhood? Maybe you remember it with an eye roll: Duh-Uh.

The word came to mind when I read of a recent survey study on estrangement.

“New” estrangement research

The survey of 1,035 mothers of estranged adult children asked the women about the cause of the estrangement. Many of the moms talked about people who stirred up trouble between them and their adult children. I called these people “influential adversaries” in my book, Done With The Crying. They include the estranged parent’s ex-spouse, a son- or daughter-in-law, or other family members or friends who create division. Nearly two thirds of rejected moms from the new research also talked about an adult child’s mental illness or an addiction as contributing to estrangement.

My own estrangement research consists of more than 50,000 responses to surveys for parents of estranged adult children. I have also personally interviewed hundreds of abandoned moms, dads, and siblings, and I interact with them daily (as well as am a rejected mother myself).

All of this “new” information reads like yesterday’s news. But what is even older is that when the study authors looked at existing research, they found that the adult children cited different reasons for their choice to estrange.

Did you catch that? The adult children who estranged themselves disagreed with their mothers.

Duh-Uh.

Estrangement: Very real issues

I could go on here about the very real problem of parental alienation syndrome, about how those with personality disorders can be neurotically possessive to the point of isolating another person from their own family, and how these persons will generally blame everyone else for their problems … but I won’t.

Many, maybe even most, of you, the loving parents who are rejected by adult children and read this blog, are familiar with one or more of these issues. You have lived through them and suffered the consequences. The supposed revelations of this “new” estrangement research is old news to you, too.

DUH.

Hugs from Sheri McGregor

For some genuinely new and helpful info, my latest book will be out very soon.

Reference:

Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J. et al, Mothers’ attributions for estrangement from their adult children, Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice (2021). doi.org/10.1037/cfp0000198

Estrangement: Are you a “firework”? Or still standing?

estrangement

Estrangement
Are you a “firework”? Or still standing?

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

I love a good fireworks show but a popular song that goes on about being a firework never resonated with me. It’s a catchy tune but to blaze brightly for only a moment and then fade just as fast isn’t something I’d want to aspire to or be.

What does resonate is the fireworks symbolism related in the poem by Francis Scott Key that became the U.S. national anthem. In The Star Spangled Banner, the rockets glare through the night and then the flag is still there, or still standing.

It’s good to let our light shine (as written about in this article), even during the “dark night” parts of our lives. When morning comes, we can still be standing. That’s a goal worth setting … and achieving.

In honor of Independence Day, here are a few fun facts about fireworks you may not know. I’ve also included some links to past articles about your personal freedom—despite estrangement.

Fireworks facts

  • The first “fireworks” are thought to have originated in China around 200 BC when bamboo sticks were thrown into the fire. The air in the hollow bamboo popped when it was heated.
  • In 800 AD, the search for eternal life motivated an alchemist to mix sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate. Instead of eternal life, he got an explosion—voila! Gunpowder, which was then packed into bamboo for even bigger explosions.
  • The blasts were used at weddings and other celebrations to ward off evil. Eventually, gunpowder was used for explosively entertaining shows …

You can read more about fireworks history in these articles from other websites:

The Evolution of Fireworks, written by Alexis Stempian for The Smithsonian

Boom! A Brief History of Fireworks written by Benjamin Lorber for The Ladders

For your freedom (even in estrangement)

Here are a few articles from this site about your personal freedom:

Are you a wiley coyote or a clever crow? This article from 2018 helps you adapt, even in estrangement: Freedom for a era (parents rejected by adult children)

Support your emotional freedom with: Are you tyrannized by painful emotions?

Cut off by adult children? You may feel lonely but you’re not alone

Your Independence Day celebrations may look different than in the past. Whether you’re in the U.S. or in some other area, I hope you found something of value in these articles about your personal freedom even in estrangement. Will you share your thoughts by leaving a comment? Interacting with other parents of estranged adult children helps.

Memorial Day, 2021: Let me tell you about some heroes. . . .

parents whose adult children disown themBy Sheri McGregor, M.A.

This weekend, the United States celebrates Memorial Day. The holiday honors those who sacrificed their lives in past wars to preserve our treasured freedoms. Since people all over the world read my books and visit this site, you may not be familiar with Memorial Day. But you can surely relate to the peace of mind and emotional freedom sought by at parents whose adult children disown them. Those are the sort of freedoms this article will discuss.

I’ve received many emails from parents about their changed perspectives, their opened eyes, and the new direction they’ve taken for their lives. At some point, most parents come to accept what they cannot change. Eventually, with continued effort and support, most learn to break free from their emotional bondage to adult children who snub and abuse them.

As I once did, these parents make a purposeful decision to stop focusing on the loss. And then they follow through with a concerted effort to remember all the good they did. Things like sitting up with a feverish child or patiently explaining complex homework they themselves may have had to learn first. They served as a team coach, cooked healthy meals each day, or white-knuckled their way through practice sessions with their teen driver behind the wheel. These unsung heroes are the veterans of estrangement who fought their way back to a fulfilling life. Read on and allow their thoughts to inspire you.

Finding her self-worth

Augustyna is a widow whose son is her only living family. As he grew into a mouthy teen, she tolerated his disrespect because she loved him and hoped he would change. In his 20s, he periodically cut off all contact with Augustyna. In his absence, she didn’t miss his temper tantrums or lies, but she was also lonely. Eventually, she always reached out again, mostly to silence.

Once, when her son had lost his job, he reconnected and stayed with her for a few months. At first, he seemed to want to get along, and she hoped their relationship was on the mend. Then, as he regained his footing, he began badmouthing and rejecting her again.

In a fit of anger one evening, Augustyna’s son slammed her hand in the door of her top-load washing machine. For the next few days, she hid the injury from everyone.  A week later, her son arrived to collect his belongings. Augustyna tried not to grimace as she tucked her painful, bruised and swollen hand into her jacket pocket so her son wouldn’t see that he had hurt her.

A few years later, Augustyna was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When she called to tell her son of the diagnosis, he cursed her and said he hoped she’d die soon. Depressed, Augustyna agreed with his hope, but lingered on in misery. Her son cut off all contact again, and at the urging of her doctors, Augustyna continued her treatments. Now, five years later, her cancer is in remission.

Augustyna recently asked a priest and a rabbi why God didn’t just let her die. They both said He must have a reason for her to live. That’s when she found this website and shared her experience to help other parents. Until now, she hadn’t told a soul about her son’s physical abuse.

When Augustyna reflected on her life, she realized the injury to her hand wasn’t the first time her son had physically hurt her. There were previously a couple of slaps and pushes. He also called her deplorable names that I won’t repeat here. His ongoing verbal abuse had left her feeling demoralized, questioning her ability as a parent, and lacking self-worth. That’s what abuse by someone you love and sacrifice for can do to you.

These days, Augustyna looks back on her life and sees all the good she did. After her husband died, she worked to provide for her son. She supported his interests, was always there to help, and says he wanted for nothing. She also paid for his education. Augustyna knows that she is not to blame for the person he has become. His decision to hurt and abandon her is all on him.

As a cancer survivor, Augustyna has looked death in the face. She will never allow another person to make her doubt her self-worth, or abuse or control her. She’s not sure how many years she has left to enjoy life, but she won’t waste another minute on her abusive son.

Sadness: Just a few days out of the year

Martin and his wife, Joan, also had one child, a son who is now in his 40s. Like so many parents whose children disown them, Martin and Joan were sad for a long time over the rejection. They attempted to reconcile, but other than a few phone calls and texts, never got far. At times, their son would say he wanted a relationship. He even apologized. Soon after though, he always shifted gears. He would call them names, lay blame, and make accusations that had no basis in reality.

When their son was to be wed, they received a formal invite from the bride-to-be’s parents. At that point, Martin and Joan had been disconnected from their son for six years, the last three with absolutely no contact. After much deliberation over whether to attend the wedding, they texted their son to make sure he knew they had been invited. He replied with a casual, “Oh yeah. You’re welcome to come.” They decided to go, which they regret.

The event was awkward at best. They were placed at a table with the bride’s distant relatives and were ignored by their son and his new in-laws. During the ceremony and for much of the reception, Joan fought back tears. Martin’s asthma flared up and he ducked out several times to use his inhaler. Distressed, they left before the gifts were opened and even scrambled to get an earlier flight home.

After the wedding, Martin and Joan stopped reaching out. “We gave in like your Done With The Crying book says,” Martin explains. He and Joan felt they had no other choice but to go with the flow.

These parents have worked hard to build their lives in new directions that support their well-being and keep them engaged in life. For the most part, they are happy. “We were parents for a season,” Martin says. “I still have pictures that show what a beautiful a time that was.”

Martin wrote to me around Mother’s Day because Joan was feeling sad. He was looking for something to cheer her up. He and his wife are like many parents whose adult children disown them and find that special days revive their sadness. Some write in utter anguish, saying they are “back to square one.”  Others say they will “never get over the estrangement.” They wallow in a dark alley of thinking that dooms them to continued despair.

I understand these thoughts.  When my son disowned me and the rest of the family, I became all too familiar with the “dark place” many parents describe. I know how bleak life can look for rejected parents. One hopeless thought can lead to the next so that life doesn’t look worth living. The rut of such despair is a trap that I’ve written about extensively to help parents break free. One way is to put things in perspective. Rather than get caught up in the mire of defeatist thoughts, we can think the way Martin does.

Having done the work of building a good life despite his son’s decisions, Martin puts it this way: “In reality, the sad days are only a few out of the year. A birthday, a holiday, and then we’re back to our regular life.”

Martin is right. There are 365 days in every year. How many will you allow to be all about the sadness of estrangement?

Your turn

What can you take from these stories? What can you empathize with, relate to, and learn? You may have another helpful perspective. As these veterans of estrangement have done, I hope you will share your stories of courage in the fight for your peace and emotional freedom. Feel free to leave a comment. By sharing your experiences, you help other parents whose adult children disown them—and you help yourself.

Related reading

Five ways to move on after an adult child’s rejection

Cut off by adult children: What do you prescribe for yourself?

Freedom for a new era

The void: Fill it or feel it?

Kneaded: Resilience illustrated for parents of estranged adult children

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

adult child won't talk to me

Photo by Life Of Pix from Pexels

During the first year, I took up making bread from scratch.  I bought glossy, coffee table recipe books with beautiful photos of freeform artisan breads, out-of-print books with healthy recipes requiring obscure ingredients, and fat paperbacks chock full of variety that became well-worn. I bought a pizza stone, a pizza peel, loaf pans in an array of sizes, serrated knifes and a countertop slicing guide. I experimented with flatbreads, made dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls and bagels. I made bread every day. It kept me occupied. And in looking back, I can see that it was also about my family, about breaking bread together and all that means.

I tried a bread machine with a kneading function, but it wasn’t the same. There was something therapeutic in the hands-on approach. As I kneaded, working up a sweat and toning my arms in the process, the dough became stretchy and strong.  I could feel the gluten strands doing their magic in the way the dough held together, smooth and soft, tough yet pliant. I could see that too, in the little “windows” that revealed themselves in stretched-thin dough that didn’t break.

I learned about the need for moisture in the oven and what a difference a few degrees of heat can make. I learned how yeast functions, too.  Even with the scientific knowledge, leaving a small, smooth ball in an oiled bowl, and returning later to find a puffy pillow, doubled or tripled in size was nothing short of a miracle to me. And each time I punched it down, it would rise again, resilient.

The toughest lesson was the need to wait. While the air swirled with the scent of fresh baked yeast bread, patience was essential. Hot loaves crush rather than properly slice.

My favorite recipe was one that made my family happy. It added bits of cold butter and powdered milk to the dough. The bread required longer kneading, and a third rising period that brought it spilling over the bowl. All that beating and punching down, yet it rose ever higher—the finished loaf as light and fluffy as a cloud, yet also strong.

As I would knead that dough, I sometimes imagined it a bit like me. My son’s estrangement had me emotionally rolled, twisted, and flattened. Punched down and left on a shelf. And like the gluten in that dough, I imagined the strands of my soul growing stronger, more flexible, and holding together. I could take an emotional kneading, a punching down, and be resilient like that bread dough rising yet another time. As the years have passed, I have found this to be true.

In my daily life, I am tough like that dough. Pliant and flexible and holding together.  On some days, I’m even as light and airy as the finished product.

You can be resilient too

Thousands of parents have read Done With The Crying and found it informative and empowering. I think you will, too. It’s chock full of ingredients to help.

Related Reading

Adult child won’t talk to me: Is it time to go with the flow?

Adult child won’t talk to me: When the world is scary, bend and twist