Tag Archives: grown children who are estranged

Estranged from adult children: Take care of yourself

Emotional Well-Being Series
Estranged from adult children: Taking care of yourself

adult child is estrangedIn a recent post, we explored the question: Why? and how it can be helpful to parents who are estranged from adult children

It’s important to note that in order to deal with the loss, the why questions must be coupled with another set of questions, the crux of which is: How? How will I move forward? How can I keep up my strength? How can I get over this?

Answering all of these how questions involves taking care of yourself. It’s s natural to ask why after any traumatic emotional experience. When you are hurting because you are estranged from adult children, figuring out how you can get through the emotional roller coaster, move forward, and enjoy life is absolutely necessary.

After my adult child’s rejection, eating healthfully, resting, and recreation took a backseat. And sometimes, I comforted myself with unhealthy choices – – which was not helpful. I added extra weight, and exercised less. That meant having to re-start good habits, backtrack and lose the weight, etc. It was like digging deeper, so climbing out was even more difficult.

When estranged from adult children, take control, take care of yourself

When we become estranged from adult children, taking care of ourselves is necessary to deal with the stress, sadness, loss, and eventually heal. Getting into a self-care routine really helped me to feel better overall. I was better able to take control of my attitude, and my feelings about my life.

When we take good care of ourselves, we’re more likely to try new activities. We’re more likely to get up off the couch and get out into fresh air, participate in hobbies that bring us joy, and associate with friends. All of these things help us feel connected, and studies have shown that connections aid health as well as promote longevity and happiness.

Even when we’re estranged from adult children, we need to live our lives. Doing so empowers us — whether that means feeling strong enough to reach out more to an estranged child despite the possibility of disappointment, or fostering an attitude of acceptance for the time being.

Estranged from adult children: Assess your self-care

When short and quick, assessments can be useful tools to determine how well we’re taking care of ourselves. An assessment increases self-awareness and helps identify areas where we can be kinder to ourselves. If you take an assessment today, utilize the results to make changes where you see weaknesses in your self-care. Then take the assessment again. You will have a concrete picture of how you’re progressing.

Sometimes, when traumatic, emotionally unsettling events occur – – becoming estranged from adult children falls into this category! – – we can feel so out of sorts that we don’t know where to begin in caring for ourselves. Simply by its listings, a good assessment tool can help you think of ways to help yourself

Try this tool that I created for my life coaching clients, to assess how well you’re taking care of yourself. You’ll find it by clicking here.

Consider also sharing your results, or how you feel about how well (or not) you’ve taken care of yourself once you became estranged from your adult children by commenting on this article.

Adult child’s rejection: Asking why?

Help for parents of estranged adult children
An adult child’s rejection: Asking why?

adult child's rejectionAn adult child’s rejection is momentous. So it’s natural to ask: Why? Unfortunately, parents may not have a clear answer. The child may offer nonsensical reasons, or cut parents off in a sudden, bewildering manner.

Speculating on why? has helped me, but can frustrate those around me. Yesterday, an idea struck about how my encouraging my son’s interests might have played into the eventual estrangement.

When I voiced my thoughts, a friend stopped me. “Will you ever stop beating yourself up over this?” she asked.

She meant well, but didn’t understand that I was not beating myself up. She also doesn’t fully understand the depth of hurt and confusion that go with an adult child’s rejection. And she wants me to stop – – stop wondering why, stop hurting myself with the questions, and stop talking about it. She hates that I have been hurt.

Beating yourself up after an adult child’s rejection

I no longer talk about my estranged son every day, but now, nearly three years after the break, I still think of him daily–partially because of running this site. I’m no longer beating myself up with blame, but I still don’t understand. I’ve examined my son’s childhood, and have compared how he was raised to how my other four children were treated, which was about the same. So why did he leave? And why does the rest of the family remain so close? For the most part, I’ve made peace with the uncertainty. But from-time-to-time, the questioning returns. Asking is normal.

Some experts believe that asking “why?” is counterproductive to recovery after emotional distress. In my experience, asking leads to partial answers that help me move forward. Even bits of clarity help my mind to rest, if not forever, at least for a little while.

Research reported in the Journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science in 2013, found that clarity about the cause of a traumatic event helped study participants feel more certain. Certainty helps defuse negative emotions. After an adult child’s rejection, examining events and memories that occurred throughout the years may offer a big picture view, as well as provide some distance – – both of which the study found helpful.

Some examples of how answers can help:

Concluding that an adult daughter’s rejection stemmed from drug use helps a mother realize: My daughter’s drug use is out of my control. The realization allows her to begin to release the pain of the gaping wound from her adult child’s rejection. Though still disappointed and hurting, she can rest with that reason, and move on with other relationships and in her life. This wasn’t her fault.

Even parents who conclude their actions contributed to their adult child’s rejection can find a settling point in the answer. Parents may identify how family strife or tragic events hampered communication at a vulnerable time in their child’s development. Okay, so I was preoccupied with this other horrible hurting, and my child felt alone at the time. Empathy gleaned by stepping into the child’s shoes can promote acceptance and peace after an adult child’s rejection. All parents make mistakes. Looking for, and finding potential answers may eventually lead to conversation that opens an adult child’s heart – – if not now, perhaps in the future. For the moment, a parent has at least some answer on which to lean.

A mother who recognizes a starting point that eventually led to her adult child’s rejection has the beginnings of an answer. That girlfriend didn’t want to share my son. Or: That boyfriend’s family swept my daughter off her feet and turned her against me. Other questions may follow, but a small piece to the puzzle can allow a mom to feel settled – – for a day, for a week, for a month….

Perhaps most helpful is accepting that there’s no real answer. This doesn’t make sense becomes a placeholder, a pausing point that provides peace (or can later be returned to and picked up again).

An adult child’s rejection: Why? The universal question

Unique scenarios involving an adult child’s rejection are endless, but parents asking, “Why?” is universal. Why did my child leave? Why did he get involved with drugs? Why was my adult child so vulnerable to that individual’s influence? Why didn’t I see this coming? Why did this happen?

Seeking answers is a natural part of the human experience. For me, trying to stop the questions added a secondary burden to an already traumatic experience. For a time, asking why? was the only question that made sense.

adult child's rejectionOver time, my questioning has led to several conclusions. Some involve my estranged adult child’s personality and decisions. Some involve the influence of other people, and how they may have added to problems. Others take in my own parenting style, and how my actions might have contributed.  Alone, none of these provides the entire answer. But they have been clues at least, small, sunny beaches of understanding where I could rest and collect my strength. Eventually, those partial answers connected with other ideas and began to gather, like fallen leaves caught in a stream, collecting to form a sort of raft. I’m afloat and moving forward.

Dealing with others’ feelings after an adult child’s rejection

I understand why my friend is weary of me talking about my estranged adult son. She doesn’t want to see me hurting. She believes that by reexamining, I’m beating myself up. But seeking and finding answers helps. Just as my outlook changed when I first held my tiny babies, my outlook is affected by this unexpected disappointment and hurt. I’m no longer blaming myself, but may always, at least at times, try to better understand.

For me, discussing the situation with others, studying society and history, as well writing out my thoughts, helped my understanding of the situation grow clearer. But I’ve learned to moderate my words, and to choose carefully with whom I share. A forum has recently been added at this site, for parents to share their thoughts, join discussions, post new topics, and help ourselves and other parents of estranged adult children in the process. The forum discussions will be moderated lightly to avoid any issues of spam, etc. Users must also register, to promote a safe, helpful environment – – although user names will be cloaked, and email addresses will not appear in the discussion forum. You are invited to register for the Help for parents of estranged adult children discussion forum here.

Also consider leaving a comment to this post.

Find additional help with these articles:

Emotional well-being series: Be Kind to yourself

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


Looking forward

estranged adult sonOn New Year’s Eve, near a roaring campfire in the desert, I leaned back in my anti-gravity chair and looked up at the night sky. As cold winter air settled into the valley, the hoots and hollers of partiers at scattered campsites faded, and then stopped.

My husband and I pulled our caps down against the cold, and sat back to enjoy the thick silence that now filled the open space. Above me, the night sky spread, a starry blanket, and sudden tears rolled into my ears. The calendar page may be turning, but when it came to my estranged adult son, the New Year with all its blank-slate opportunity, wouldn’t change things.

Feeling insignificant beneath the vast canopy of stars, I imagined the possibility that loved ones lost in death looked down from above. At least with them I can remember good times and speak openly about missing them. No one would accuse me of causing their passing. With my estranged adult son, the situation holds a similar grief, yet I’m often stuck in a pit of silence.

Understanding parents of estranged adult children

My closest friends are sympathetic. They know I am a good mom, but they can’t relate (and I wouldn’t wish this on them). Others judge – – a response I understand. After our son split off from the family, I remembered a few stories people had told me over the years – – about disappointing relationships with their adult children.

One father had related that he never hears from his adult son unless he needs money. A mother confided that on the rare occasions she has seen her estranged adult son during the last 20-odd years, he picked fights and denigrated her beliefs. The meetings with her son, who is now into his forties, always end on a sour note – – and then another long period of silence and unreturned phone calls ensues. And another man confided that he doesn’t even know the whereabouts of his adult son. They haven’t spoken in over a decade.

These parents’ pain was deep, but at the time they shared their hurt, I couldn’t relate. Back then, my family was intact. I had no inkling that one of my five grown children would choose estrangement. I wasn’t insensitive to those parents’ feelings, but will admit to a sliver of accusation in my thoughts. Like most people, at that time I believed good parents just didn’t have grown children who are estranged.

Family rifts and a hopeful future

Despite the hope of a brand new year, many rejected parents have no chance to mend a rift. Some of us have tried, but have been repeatedly hurt. Some parents hear a litany of complaints that make no sense. Others of us can’t figure out what caused the indifference from our adult children. Even so, we may blame ourselves. Some rejected parents have identified and admitted potential mistakes, and then tried to fix things, but their efforts have been met with silence or anger. Some parents have occasional, distant contact with grown children who are estranged (an occasional text, say), but it’s not a real or satisfying relationship. Yet our grown children who are estranged don’t want more.

Accepting an adult child’s estrangement

For me, as I reclined beneath the stars, I decided not to set any record-setting New Year’s resolutions with regard to my adult son who is estranged. For now, my resolutions revolve more around no longer allowing the situation he has chosen to define me, or to sour my day-to-day life. Regardless of his choices (which are beyond my control anyway), I remain a good mother who is fortunate to enjoy close relationships with my other grown children and my grandchildren. Does that mean I’m giving up? No. My decision is more giving in than giving up. Giving in to what is. Giving in, and accepting the reality of the estrangement, at least for now. Acceptance brings some peace.

I start 2014 with renewed energy toward regaining more of the happy me who enjoyed life prior to the estrangement.  There will likely be bad days. Just as I cried beneath the desert sky on New Year’s Eve, I will allow myself to pause and reexamine things when the dark feelings hit. But I resolve not to wallow for long. Despite my grief that matches many, many other parents whose grown children are estranged, there is a good and rewarding life to live.

Supporting parents of estranged adult children

Increasingly, I realize that part of my life must continue to include calling attention to the isolation felt by many good parents whose grown children are estranged. According to some experts, parents of estranged adult children are an increasing number. We need and deserve support rather than the automatic judgment we often receive – – and which isolates us.

On New Year’s Eve, as the clock struck midnight, the haunting yips and yowls of coyotes echoed across the desert night.  As their calls faded, I enjoyed the moment, fully present, and looking forward to 2014.