Tag Archives: parents of estranged adult children

The void: Feel it or fill it?

moving on after an adult child's estrangementBy Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Often, parents who are moving on after an adult child’s estrangement tell me that once over the crushing hurt, they keep busy, and get along. But they also confide that sometimes they feel an uncomfortable void, and they wonder how to fill it.

Estrangement thrusts change upon us. The feeling these parents describe is similar to the feelings that are common in difficult times of transition and change: discomfort, restlessness, uncertainty.

I know that feeling. It’s as if your arms are left hanging open for an unreceived hug. What used to be the gentle lapping of water on the shores of a family with its natural ebb and flow is suddenly the wave that goes out and never returns. The son or daughter you love is suddenly a stranger, and your whole life—past, present, and future—has changed. It’s a landscape you don’t recognize. You can’t seem to get your footing or find your way.

Wanting to fill the void is normal. However, it may be wise to experience a void rather than rushing to fill it. Perhaps feeling the strange emptiness can even be beneficial. It’s helpful to reflect upon the many facets of the loss, and examine how you might handle the practical roles and situations your estranged child once fulfilled. In Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, I’ve provided a tool to help with this—as well as recognize what you’ve already accomplished. But when it comes to filling the emptiness with something else, not just anything old thing will do. Pause, reflect on your thoughts and feelings, and then act purposefully.

Why is the void so uncomfortable?

The obvious answer is feelings of anguish over the loss itself—of a dear son, or a daughter who lit up your life. But there could be underlying fears and anxiety, too. Is it the loss of an identity (as a mother, a father, a stepparent) that makes this extra frightening? We talked about that idea in: Who am I if I’m not a mother?

We love our grandchildren, and of course want to spend time with them. But in light of estrangement from adult children, it may help to look at the loss in another way. Maybe being so busy with grandchildren allowed you to ignore an old dream that you’ve always wanted to pursue, but are also a bit fearful of trying.

Or maybe the picture of retirement from a long career you valued, at least in part, for the security it provided your family, has suddenly changed. The time you imagined you’d spend teaching your grandchildren to hunt, to golf, or to take traveling has evaporated. What will you do with your hard-earned time off now?

Maybe without your son or daughter, you feel as if your life has been chopped off at the roots. Floating along feels like drifting toward uncertainty. Who knows what the future holds?

There’s no need to get stuck on this, or spend ages trying to figure out why experiencing this sense of a void is so difficult. But write out the thoughts that come to mind. If something resonates, explore it further—if you feel the need to. And then move on.

Moving on after an adult child’s estrangement:
New ways to think of empty space and time

Asking “why” you feel a certain way can help, but better questions stem from your intuition, build on the framework of your past, and make sense from your core self. Thinking of the quiet times, when the scary open sea of uncertainty, and the sprawling space and time make you feel sad, lost, and/or all alone, consider the reflection questions below. Feel free to alter them for your own benefit.

  • How can you think of the void you feel in the quiet moments in a more helpful way? If the extra time had appeared for any reason other than your adult child’s estrangement, how would you view it?
  • What could this feeling and situation be compared to? Can you describe this in terms of nature? In nature, forest fires that burn down trees let in sunlight. Dense dark woods can become meadows, filled with wildflowers. What can you gain from thinking of the void you feel in a similar way?
  • What do you envision filling in this void in your life? What would feel right to you (that you have control over)?
  • Is there a parallel in your past experiences that you could compare this to? What is there to learn that you can bring to this? For example, if you previously turned to comfort food and gained unhealthy weight, you know this could again be a danger for you. Steer clear.

Positive imagery: Steering you to something good

Giving a twist to what we view as feeling out of sorts or lost can make all the difference. A shift in perspective can shift everything.

Rather than not knowing where to turn, what to do, or how to fill the lonely gaping space, try a new thought. In moving on after an adult child’s estrangement, be open to possibilities and ripe for opportunities.

One woman recently sent me a message saying that she dearly missed her grandchildren. Since her adult child’s estrangement, she had earned an advanced degree and was now teaching at a college. Full of pride and enthusiasm, she acknowledged that she never had time to pursue those personal achievements when she was babysitting grandchildren. Her energy had been spent providing support for her adult child to build his career. Her support let him pursue his dreams—but left her with little time to follow her own. She now felt fulfilled, yet she still missed her grandchildren.

As this woman’s thoughts demonstrate, filling the void doesn’t necessarily mean you stop feeling the void. Just as other heartbreaks remain sad but don’t forever debilitate us, so it goes with a son or daughter’s estrangement (and the loss of relationships with grandchildren). Maybe we don’t fully “get over it,” but we get on with our lives. And our lives can be happy. I’m a testament to that fact, and so are many other parents who are moving on after an adult child’s estrangement.

Open to possibilities, and ripe for opportunities

Are you feeling lost and alone, with time suddenly gaping? Can you accept those feelings, explore them, and then think of them in a helpful way? Can you be open to a bright future that may be different than expected, but can still be good?

Mother’s Day: triggering pain for mothers of estranged adults

Mother's day estranged adult childrenMother’s Day, and special days: Triggering pain for mothers of estranged adult children

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Here it comes again—Mother’s Day in the United States and in Canada. Mothers of estranged adult children in the U.K. have already seen Mother’s Day come and go. Soon, mothers in Canada and in the States will be on the other side of the holiday too—until next year, when it rolls around all over again.

Hang in there. Mother’s Day won’t stop coming just because we’re estranged. And having spoken with thousands of parents who’ve been cut off by adult children, the reality is that the situation may not be ending for you anytime soon either. That’s why it’s so important for you to adapt.

What can you do?

Since starting this site, I’ve written a few articles about getting through Mother’s Day when adult children are estranged. You’ll find in them practical advice and concrete tips. You’ll also find comments from mothers of estranged adult children who share their experiences, and acknowledge the emotional pain.

In this article, we’ll focus on Mother’s Day from an emotional triggers perspective.

Mother’s Day when adult children are estranged: Avoiding extra hurt

estranged from adult childrenMother’s Day, like any time when we’re particularly reminded of an estranged adult child and the relationship we used to share, can trigger an onslaught of feelings. While it’s helpful to acknowledge the pain, it’s also easy to slip into a looping circle of thoughts that bring us down. Everyone else is having fun, and I’m sitting home alone. What did I do to deserve this? This is so embarrassing. Nobody understands.

Each of us has our own personal version of woeful thoughts. And scrolling through Facebook with its stream of happy family shots might fuel the feelings behind them. Protect yourself if you need to.  Just as social media can push emotional buttons, going to a brunch on Mother’s Day when you’ll be surrounded by families also might not be helpful either. Do you have other adult children or family who want to take you out? Remember, this is your day. You get to choose! Take care of yourself.

Coping Mindfully

What else might make you feel sad or lonely? Make a few notes of what will hurt or help–and then be proactive. Mother’s Day when your adult children are estranged is similar to other times that are particularly hurtful because they remind you of loss, stress, or grief. In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, in one story, Julia misses her only son. They were very close, and in the early mornings, he used to call her daily to chat. Julia had come to expect those calls. So after the estrangement, she would stare at the silent phone. Time gaped, and she felt horribly alone and sad.

Before her son walked away from the family, Julia’s mornings revolved around those calls. Their chat sessions had become part of her routine. They connected her to her son, and to the life they shared. But post-estrangement, Julia learned to adapt. Using one of the tools in the first chapter of the book, the first step toward her healing was to alter her routine. Looking at her phone each morning, wishing it would ring, only reminded her of what she’d lost.

Emotional hiccups

Just as mornings were particularly difficult for Julia, Mother’s Day can prick up the feelings of loneliness and rejection that are common with estrangement from adult children. For some it’s a particular song. Others might be bothered by a particular sporting event, or other recreation. Even if you don’t realize why, you might find yourself overeating, grousing at the cat, or having troublesome dreams. The feelings or behavior may be related to emotions triggered by a holiday like Mother’s Day, or another personally significant day.

While I’m past the pain of estrangement, certain places and activities do remind me of my estranged adult child. Eating strawberries makes me think of him—he’d choose them over any sugary dessert. And a nearby street never fails to remind me of him. Memories are attached to those things, so it’s natural the mind connects them to someone who was once so much a part of my life.

Does that mean I’m sad? Not anymore. I’ve come to think of those triggered memories as hiccups. Like some of the other mothers whose stories are shared in my book, I’ve worked through the pain, and moved beyond it. Recognizing those triggers, and then taking action to make new routines can help.

Stepping forward: Be good to yourself

There’s no set schedule to moving beyond emotinonal pain. There are only steps, big or little, that move you forward. Whatever you do, don’t get down on yourself. Acknowledge your feelings so you can deal with them. Remember the utter shock you felt when your son or daughter first cut you off? Don’t think of triggered emotions as setbacks. They’re aftershocks—a normal occurrence that relieves pressure. Pat yourself on the back for accepting where you are right now, and for recognizing that in coping mindfully like Julia, you’re healing. Think: Forward. I’m adapting. I’m moving on.

parents of estranged adult childrenTake Action

Like Julia and other mothers whose stories of estrangement from adult children are shared in Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, you too can heal. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a bad trigger day. You too can be Done With The Crying.
352 pages, May 2, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9973522-0-7
Available through popular booksellers–ask your local bookstore to order it for you (but prepare for delays–it’s so new it might not show up in their systems yet). Or order online.



Dreams: help in moving forward after an adult child’s estrangement?

moving forward after an adult child's rejectionYour vivid dreams: Can they be helpful in moving forward after an adult child’s estrangement?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Parents of estranged adult children often speak of dreams that disturb their sleep and haunt their waking hours. I can relate. Especially in the early months, intense, vivid dreams filled my nights. Even in slumber, my mind couldn’t rest.

Forceful dreams, and even nightmares, are common after emotional trauma. The subconscious wrestles with the pain, and puzzles over the dilemma. What comes next? How can I make sense of this? Is there a solution? And even, do I move on?

After your adult child’s rejection, if your dream life is suddenly rich and/or troubling, it may be helpful to take note of the scenes, the images, and your feelings—and make meaning of them. Doing so may even be helpful in moving forward after an adult child’s rejection.

Do dreams hold meaning?

Carl Jung, one of history’s most famous figures in the field of psychology, believed dreams allowed the mind to reflect on and work out issues from waking life. Because of my experiences with dreams, I tend to agree. For example, when my children were young, if I had to travel away from them, my dreams reflected my worries. I would see my children near the side of a busy road, about to cross—and I couldn’t get to them. Often, my husband also appeared in those dreams, leading them away from danger.

I hated those dreams, but took some comfort in realizing they were my mind’s way of wrestling with my motherly fears, and even solving a problem from my waking life (as Jung believed). While I was away, my children would be with their father, and he would protect them.

Fast forward many years. After my son’s estrangement, I recognized my vivid dreams might help me deal with the stark reality. Perhaps they were my mind’s way of working on the issue. With that attitude, my dreams began to bring me peace. Perhaps yours can too.

Not all dreams are as straightforward as mine were when my children were young. Below, I’ve shared a dream that helped me claim my own strength. Maybe my reflections on the imagery will help you decipher clues from your own dreams that will help you in moving forward after an adult child’s estrangement.

A vivid dream: What could it mean?

I sat as passenger in a freight truck driven by my estranged son. He guided the big semi into a check station off the highway, and we both got out. We went inside a small, wood-paneled office with a desk in the corner. Men in khaki uniforms with badges whisked my son into an adjacent room, and then returned to ask if I had been involved.

Confused, I replied simply, “No.”

One officer held a clipboard with a slip of yellow paper attached. “Look at these code words,” he said, proffering the sheet. “Don’t you think he would have told you about these if he was telling you the truth? So that you could call and be safe if something happened?”

moving forward after an adult child's rejectionBaffled, I shook my head. Scribbles crossed the yellow paper, yet I somehow recognized the pencil scratches as the words my son had used over the CB radio while driving the semi.

Suddenly, a nun stepped forward. “Rest.” She gestured toward a row of plastic chairs along the wall.

I sat down in one of the hard chairs. A few moments later, another uniformed man came in carrying a large, clear trash bag full of deflated white balloons. He nodded to me, and approached the officer at the desk. “More of the same,” he said. The desk officer nodded, and made a note. From their exchange, I understood the balloons were a sort of contraband, a common cargo that gets truckers stopped at the weigh station.

Through a screened portion of the side room door, I could see my son sat sitting there with a smug expression on his face. I leaned forward in my chair, trying to get his attention through the mesh. He knew I was there, but he wouldn’t acknowledge me.

Moments later, the side door opened, and in walked Lorne Greene, the sensible father from the old Bonanza television show. “Hello there, Sheri,” he said with a friendly tip of his cowboy hat.

Relieved to see him, I rose and shook his hand.

“Well,” Lorne Greene said, “let’s get you something to drive.”

I happily followed him outside to a huge car lot. I was dressed in a khaki-colored split skirt that dropped to just above my knees. My comfortable work shoes were sensible lace-ups. And on my head was a nun’s habit—only khaki, like the rest of what I understood in the dream was a uniform.

Lorne Greene, in his Ponderosa vest, handed me a set of keys. He smiled, his strong face calming me. Yet, as I opened the driver’s side door, explosive diarrhea ran down my leg, and puddled on the ground. It was then that I woke up, the vivid images still clear.

Insights from dreams after an adult child’s estrangement

What did it all mean? First, let’s start with the obvious.

My son was driving. No surprise there. His actions, the situation of estrangement, had been “driving” my life. I’d been consumed by the pain, and hurting. I’d been a passenger on a trip I hadn’t expected and didn’t want.

Stopping at the check station also held an easy message. It was time to pause and take stock of what had happened and how it affected me before moving on.

The deflated balloons seemed to indicate my emotions. Those withered balloons represented my disappointment and loss. I was deflated, yet my estranged son looked smug. He had been driving those emotions—-and I’d let him take charge of how I felt.

Now let’s look at the less obvious.

The officer had shown me a bunch of scribbles, and although they weren’t really words, I had recognized them as the “code words” my son had spoken on the CB Radio. The fact that I didn’t know what they meant seemed to go along with my son being detained in the adjacent room—while I was let go and to a car of my own to drive. In the dream, I was let off the hook for his words and actions. In my waking life, I could see that I needed to assign him responsibility, and let myself off the hook.

I laughed at the presence of Lorne Greene in my dream, but he’d handed me the keys.  He must be significant. As a child, my entire family watched Bonanza. Seeing the sensible father from the show seemed to represent a father figure in my dream. I felt cared for and loved. He was trustworthy, and had a solution. He handed me the keys to get into the driver’s seat of my own life.

What about the split skirt, the work shoes, and the fact that I wore a nun’s habit? After deliberation, I decided the split skirt must symbolize my feelings of being torn. One leg stepped forward, while the other was rooted in the past, clinging to a memory of the dependable, even-keeled son I knew and loved. Yet my son had been detained. His smug expression from the dream made it clear: I needed to let go, and move on.

The clothing I saw as a uniform indicated work. Getting on the road to recovering my life and my sense of self would require effort. Yet my dream reassured me. I had the tools: the uniform, the keys, the car, even Lorne Greene’s blessing.

What about the nun’s habit? Dream analysis experts say the subconscious uses rich symbolism for meaningful ideas, and sometimes a play on words. The nun telling me to rest, as well as me wearing the habit, might have something to do with holding my son accountable for his decisions, of letting myself off the hook, and forgiving. Or perhaps it was a play on the word’s sound. None rather than nun—meaning I am nothing any longer in my son’s life. Regardless, these interpretations were helpful to me.

Finally, the explosive diarrhea, which is not something I often discuss in polite conversation. Keeping in mind the idea of symbolism, perhaps this represented release, the letting go of painful emotions. The embarrassment of soiling oneself in public is also worth mentioning. Admitting an adult child’s estrangement can be humiliating. For me, facing that feeling was crucial to coping. It allowed me to openly share, and allow others into my experience.

Obviously, in my dream there’d be some cleanup required before I could hop behind the wheel, and drive off into the sunset of my own life, free. Likely, I’d have to change out the split skirt (and the feeling of being torn) too. These feelings reflect real life.

Your dreams and their interpretation are personal

It’s important to note that dreams are personal. While some symbolism may be universal, they also derive from your own experiences and beliefs. One person’s interpretation may not make sense for another. However, discussing dreams can sometimes be helpful.

I recently shared this dream and my thoughts about it over lunch with friends. In connection with the nun references, one of my friends brought up guilt. She believed the nun and the nun’s habit could be representative of me feeling guilt over driving off and leaving my son behind.

“What’s the first thing you think of when you think of a nun?” she asked. And then she answered, “Guilt.”

But for me, nuns don’t symbolize guilt. However, her thoughts as she explained them from her own sensibilities and experiences made sense. And it’s certainly true that parents might very well feel some guilt at getting on with their own lives and moving forward after an adult child’s rejection—and your dream might hold an image to symbolize the feeling.

My friend also felt that the powerful image of a semi-truck was important. My son could drive this big machine, but I could not. And the “code words,” she said, represented my son’s secret life, a part of him I didn’t understand and couldn’t be a part of.

These last thoughts feel right on the mark to me, even though I didn’t think of them years ago when I woke up from the dream and analyzed it.

The essential truth

While some of my friend’s thoughts ring true in retrospect, at the time of my dream, I pulled from it what I needed. For me, that dream clarified what I already knew. Like so many of you, I had come to realize that moving on was essential to my own happiness. Yet letting go would require me to admit my feelings of wanting to hang onto the past, as well as the work needed to accept my new reality.

Whether children are estranged or remain emotionally close, there comes a time when parents are no longer in charge. Our children become adults. They make their own decisions and drive their own lives. As parents rejected by an estranged adult child, we have the choice whether or not to remain a passenger on a painful journey. We hold the keys to our own road ahead. Let’s make it a happy journey.

Can you help?
Have you had insightful dreams? Have your dreams helped you in moving forward after an adult child’s rejection? If you’d like share, and possibly help other parents, consider sending your thoughts to me in an email for use in future writings to help parents of estranged adults. Use the contact form, and please put DREAMS in the subject line. .

Help in moving forward after an adult child’s rejection: More articles by Sheri McGregor:

The Boat

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


Holidays for parents rejected by adult children

Sarah's yardHolidays for parents rejected by adult children, 2015 series: The questions people ask

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

The holidays are family-centric, so it’s no surprise that at this time of year, people ask questions. Family members and friends may be looking forward to their own plans, and talking about visits from their adult sons and daughters. When you don’t respond with your own, they suddenly remember your circumstances—and they want to help. So, they’ll ask parents rejected by adult children questions like these:

  • Have you really tried?
  • Have you guys gotten over the issue?
  • Has your child come around?

Such questions often reveal how little the person asking understands.

The first one implies the estrangement is simple. That if you only tried, you could solve the issue. As if you’re stubborn, and unwilling to bend. I know from the thousands of parents of estranged adults that this is far from the truth. The vast majority of parents of estranged adults do try, and very hard. Others are exhausted. The estrangement was a shocking blow, and undeserved after months (or even years) of effort, patience, and support.

The second question implies there was an argument or disagreement. But from my research, that is not often the case. How can you get over something you don’t understand, and your estranged son or daughter won’t explain?

The third one implies a sort of temper tantrum—as if parents rejected by adult children are dealing with two-year-olds rather than sons or daughters in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. These are not children anymore.

Just the other day, a friend looking forward to the holidays with her family asked, “Have you reached out at all?”

I know she meant well. Most of the time, people who ask questions do mean well. Their questions reveal how incomprehensible the predicament of parents rejected by adult children is.

As you know from this website, I talk openly about the problem of parents rejected by adult children. It plagues our society. One day, this heartbreaking issue will be better understood by society at large.

For now though, as parents rejected by adult children enjoy (or perhaps endure) the family-centric holiday season, it helps to remember that friends and families probably mean well. Sure, they may unwittingly trivialize the problem by assuming estrangement occurs because of an argument, immaturity on the part of an adult that’s let off the hook as a “child,” and believing the problem can be solved if we will only try. But to think otherwise implies that it could happen to them. And as kind and supportive parents who did their best, even parents rejected by adult children once likely believed estrangement wasn’t possible for them.

Remembering this helps me to respond objectively, and let the matter go. The other day, I replied honestly to my friend, “No. Not for quite some time.” And then I added. “But it’s okay. It’s just how things are right now.” And then I thanked her for asking.

My friend simply doesn’t fully understand. Perhaps just now, in the warm glow of anticipation for holidays spent with her own adult children and grandchildren, she simply can’t. I do know that at that moment, on a pleasant drive out to do some Christmas shopping, it wasn’t important for me to try and make her.

As parents rejected by adult children, you understand. Take a little comfort in the reality that you are not alone. While some of our family or friends don’t (or can’t) understand, the abandoned parentsthousands of people who shared their stories with me as I researched my book, and more who frequent this site each month do.

To those who comment here, and send me email, thank you for reaching out. Your kind words and sharing are wonderful gifts . . . for the holidays, and all through the year.

Related Articles:

2015 Series post 1: Be kind to yourself this holiday season

2015 Series post 2: Spirit

Do your questions keep you stuck?

Holidays: How to manage them


Holidays when adult children reject parents

holidays parents of estranged adult childrenHolidays when adult children reject parents: 2015 Series (post 2) Spirit

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

I know how sad and lonely it may feel for the holidays when adult children reject parents. This is the second in my short-post series for holidays, 2015. We’re all busy, and short posts may help.

Out Christmas shopping today, the traffic, the long lines, and a list of necessary to-dos weighed heavily. Maybe you can relate. Especially during the holidays, when adult children reject parents, the ordinary busy-ness may feel oppressive. But if you’re open to a little “magic,” insights to help you are all around. Here’s just such a moment:

Waiting in a long holiday shopping line the other day, I noticed the older woman in front of me. She cheerfully hauled her huge bags of sugar, chocolate chips, and Christmas ham up onto the counter for the cashier. She had a Christmas tree watch with a plaid band, shiny red shoes, red fingernail polish, a Santa purse….

Suddenly filled with joy, I complimented her spirit—-and she was thrilled.

“Oh, look!” she exclaimed, holding up her wrist for me to see her watch with the Christmas tree on its face. Then she pointed to the flaming candle motif on her bright red sweater. “I like to have fun with the holidays,” she said, her eyes twinkling.

“Are you sure you aren’t Mrs. Claus?” I teased, her cheery spirit catching.

She tilted her head. “Yes, I think I just may be.”

A moment later, with a hearty, “Merry Christmas!” she was gone. On to the rest of her holiday tasks, I suppose. Taking her lovely spirit with her to brighten others’ days.

Seeing her was a good reminder for me: the season is all about OTHERS.

As I hauled my own items up onto the counter, I couldn’t help wondering what sort of pain that woman has been through in her life. We all have troubles. Yet, with a cheerful spirit, and bright red shoes, she brings a bit of joy.

May we each find a way to be a Mr. or Mrs. Claus to some stranger who needs their spirits lifted. And may we also be open to seeing joy when it presents itself. Those people appreciate a little recognition.

Related posts:

Parents of estranged adult children: Reinvent Yourself

2015 Series post 1: Be kind to yourself this holiday season



Holidays When Adult Children Reject Parents

angry adult sonThe Holidays When Adult Children Reject Parents: 2015 Series
Be Kind to Yourself This Holiday Season

by Sheri McGregor

Holidays when adult children reject parents can be a time of sadness. Parents of estranged adult children can feel pressured to be cheery when they’re not feeling up to the task.

Are you expecting too much of yourself because of the holidays? When adult children reject parents, this time of year can be challenging. If you are feeling especially low, be kind to and patient with yourself. Perhaps change things up this year. Can you give yourself permission to:

  • do less?
  • change routines?
  • have a “small” Christmas?
  • buy gift cards instead of shopping for unique gifts?
  • let someone else host the party?
  • skip the big Christmas newsletter this time?
  • or whatever else feels right … ?

It’s okay, really.

If you are afraid of disappointing others, remember, there is disappointment in life—-and you are only a human. You cannot protect everyone. And it’s not up to you to make everyone else’s holiday bright at our own expense.

Related articles:

Holidays: How to manage them

Twas the night before Mothers’ Day

New Year Now

2015 series Post 2: Spirit

‘Twas the night before Mother’s Day, for mothers of estranged adult children

Mother's Day for mothers of estranged adult children
‘Twas the Night Before Mother’s Day
(for mothers of estranged adult children)
by Sheri McGregor

The night before Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May,
TV and radio remind of the day.
Rose bouquets, gift cards, and visits galore—
We’re shown family perfection, happy kids at the door.

But that’s not the reality estranged mothers see.
Since our rejection, we may not even know who to be.
In church should we stand up as all mothers do?
Or sit there, embarrassed? We might cry: Boo hoo.

Should we buy our own presents? Pretend we’re not sad?
Stay home with the curtains drawn? (It won’t be so bad.)
We could throw a big party; greet the day with a cheer.
Or turn off our cell phones; avoid calls we may fear.

Will that child we birthed so long ago phone?
Or will the adult we don’t know send a message we’ll bemoan?
We know from experience it’s just words on a screen.
Amid all the silence, it may seem just plain mean.

On this day and always treat yourself well. Let sadness go.
Enjoy others who love you, and do let you know.
Make a card for your own mom, and give her a hug.
Thank a motherly figure—at her heartstrings tug.

The day honors mothers for the gift they once gave.
For the diapers and sleep loss, for the life’s way they paved.
Honor your own self, on this day and all.
Do whatever feels best, and then heed the call—

Good woman, you’re worthy! Get up and have fun.
There’s life to be lived. You’re nowhere near done.
Get out and smile. Find people, find purpose, and joy will abound.
It’s beyond the next corner. Do look around.

Tomorrow the sun rises. Moon and stars too.
There’s hope and there’s healing. What will you do?
The world is an oyster, but its shell you must crack.
Search for the pearl. Tell the world, “I am back!”

Related Posts:

Mother’s Day when your adult child is estranged

Happy Mother’s Day


How to cope when your adult child cuts you out of their life

coping when adult child is estrangedHow to cope when your adult child cuts you out of their life

by Sheri McGregor

Parents of estranged adult children often email me asking, “How can I cope?” When your adult child cuts you out of his life, the pain can feel unbearable. I know from my own experience, and from the 2000 parents of estranged adults who have contacted me in the last ten months, that it’s normal to feel anger, guilt, sadness, shame, and a host of other emotions we’re not familiar with and don’t know how to handle.

While each situation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all cure, parents of estranged adult children can get through this, find acceptance, and even peace. As a mom who has been through this, I’ll offer some thoughts from my own experience, and from what other parents of estranged adults who have gotten past this and moved on to enjoy their lives have shared. I hope you find something here helpful.

Most fathers and mothers of estranged adults try try to repair things. They reach out by writing letters to estranged adult children. They also call, email and send texts in an attempt to find out what’s wrong and try to make things right. But what do you do beyond that, when no satisfactory reconcilation occurs? That’s the focus here. I’ve outlined some brief points for coping with an adult child’s estrangement, getting on with your life, and finding a way to live happily and successfully.

First, as is true in other areas of life, you cannot control another adults’ behavior. You can, though, make sound decisions about your own. Accept and commit to that, in order to get past the pain.

Then, take a look at these ideas, and adopt what you can. You may find that some are easier than others, or that some don’t fit at all. Or, you may come back to these later and have a new perspective. Do what you can. Discard what doesn’t feel right. Take control. You can get through this.

Ideas for coping when your adult child cuts you out of their life.

  • Allow yourself to grieve – – this is a shocking loss.
  • Don’t try to pretend all is well, but along with (or after) crying, being angry, etc., begin to take action toward making yourself (your feelings) and your life (how you spend your time) better.
  • Think of other hard things you’ve gotten through, and tell yourself you CAN and WILL get through this too.coping when an adult child is estranged
  • Accept that your future is different than you expected … and accept the uncertainty that goes with an adult child’s estrangement. Then allow yourself to believe you can have a good future, even though your path has taken a twist.
  • Get involved in new things, old things that make you happy … activities you can enjoy. See Lila’s story.
  • Catch yourself in the act of feeling bad about what you can’t change, and stop the negative thoughts. Shift your perspective.
  • If you can’t figure out what happened, make a decision to give up asking why. Or settle on an answer for the moment (i.e., he’s following his wife to save his marriage, there’s some other problem you don’t know about, there’s mental illness of some sort, an addiction, etc and so on … whatever fits). Let it go. Some things just can’t be understood.
  • Focus on the good relationships, and the good parts of your life — and multiply them.
  • Don’t worry about the judgment of other people, and forgive them for it. But also protect yourself from people who are hurtful to you.
  • Find activities that fulfill your need to give and receive (love, help, generosity, kindness, etc).

Life can be difficult when expectations are shattered, and people we love and have devoted ourselves to so deeply hurt us. It’s also difficult to move on after a devastating loss, but it is possible to reclaim happiness. Reach out and you will find support among other parents of estranged adult children.

Below, I’ve listed some related articles that parents seeking ways to cope after an adult child’s estrangement have said were helpful. You can also navigate to all of my posts by opening the menus in the site’s righthand sidebar marked “Answers to Common Questions,” and “What Parents Can Do.”

Copyright Notice: All content of any post or page found on any page at this site is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. To share with others, provide a link to the page where the content is found. Reposting of any content is not permitted without express permission. Please see Copyright Notice/Restrictions in the right-hand sidebar for complete copyright notice

Five Ways to Move On After an Adult Child’s Rejection

Dealing with Undertainty

Why do I feel guilt?

Why forgive?

New Year’s Resolution: Shake it free



When adult children reject parents: Giving thanks

when adult children reject parentsGiving thanks when adult children reject parents
by Sheri McGregor

When adult children reject parents, moms and dads may find themselves in a state of shock, in disbelief and full of doubt. When our whole world is turned on its head – – past, present, future – – we can feel hopeless. Were all those happy memories even real? We thought we were good parents, but if our grown daughter could up and walk away, were we really? We look at our life now and feel numb. And without the grown son we have loved in our life, the future we imagined no longer exists.

So what do we do? It may sound corny, but focusing on what we’re grateful for – – and there are things – – helps.

In many studies first starting more than a decade ago, Robert Emmons, Ph.D. and his colleagues have discovered repeatedly that people who make a practice of being grateful reap many rewards. Their health is positively affected in ways including better sleep, lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems and being less bothered by pain. Psychologically, people who practice being grateful feel more optimistic, more alert and alive, more joyful, and experience more positive emotions. People who practice gratitude also have better social connections – – perhaps because they’re more outgoing, more forgiving, and more generous.

Gratitude helps us rejoice in the present, while it blocks negative feelings like resentment and regret. People who practice gratitude recover better from trauma and adversity (when adult children reject parents, we can suffer these things). People who are grateful also have better self-esteem. When we feel better about ourselves, we’re naturally more resilient.

Let’s fully get into the spirit of the Thanksgiving Holiday and take advantage of the benefits of gratitude.

Practicing gratitude: How?

You’ve probably heard of keeping a “gratitude journal,” in which you write (weekly or daily) at least five things you’re grateful for. Not only do you benefit from reflecting on the good in your life, but having a written journal can help you later. On days when you’re feeling down, you can look back and be reminded of the things you’re thankful for.

Keeping a journal doesn’t have to be monotonous or formal. You can use any notebook. You might also try smartphone diaries or apps. They make great journals to-go, and we almost always have them with us.

Attaching the practice of gratitude to daily habits can make the exercise easier to remember to do (and that’s how you’ll benefit). You could have a magnetic pad on your refrigerator. Make a practice of coming up with three things you’re happy about before getting out the cream for your coffee every morning.

Some people keep a “gratitude jar,” and drop small notes on which they’ve written notes of thanks. Others put in a coin each time they reflect upon what they’re grateful for. Once full, they donate the money to a charity or treat themselves.

What are you grateful for?

When adult children reject parents, moms and dads can feel overwhelmed with sadness, anger, and many other negative emotions. It can feel as if a curtain has been drawn over our happy outlook. But with a little conscious effort, we can take control of our frame of mind. We can find and focus on good in our lives, and practice being grateful.

We take for granted some things we really are happy about and thankful for. We can make anything in which we find joy a part of practicing gratitude. Things like:  I’m thankful my dog is always happy to see me. I am on time for work this morning. I made it home safely despite the traffic. I am so thankful to have a friend who cares. I’m thankful I can still help at the church. These reading glasses make sewing possible! It makes me happy to see those children playing up the street, so full of energy and without a care in the world. 

For your own good, cultivate thankfulness and practice gratitude. Even the tiniest steps can move you in the right direction.

Stop now and think of three things you’re grateful for.

You may find that your attitude of gratitude rubs off on others, too. So not only will you practice thanksgiving, but you’ll be spreading good cheer.

If you’re reading this after the holiday, remember that you can start any time. It’s never too late to give thanks. Making a practice of gratitude can help us take control, focus on the good, and reap positive benefits for our health and well-being.

For ideas about gratitude, take a look at what people are sharing at The Gratitude Jar.

Also, consider sharing what you’re grateful for by leaving a comment to this post.Or tell friends at the Help & Healing for Parents of Estranged Adult Children Facebook Page. You could also share in the “practicing gratitude” topic in the community support forum for parents of estranged adult children (you’ll need to register to post). There is also a second practicing gratitude topic area here.

Related articles: Holidays: How to manage them when adult children reject parents

Copyright Notice: All content of any post or page found on any page at this site is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. To share with others, provide a link to the page on this website where the content is found. Reposting of any content is not permitted without express permission. Please see Copyright Notice/Restrictions in the right-hand sidebar for complete copyright notice. You can always contact me with any quesions.


When your adult child is estranged: what to do about life events

when your adult child is estrangedby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

When your adult child is estranged, you can find yourself in complex situations. When it comes to momentous life events and happenings, our choices may feel limited. The awkwardness of the situation makes nothing we can do seem right.

Take Petra*, who recently confided:

“My son’s baby, my only grandchild, has her Christening tomorrow. I wasn’t invited. I’ve never even met the child, but I did send a gift when she was born. My son’s wife sent a formal thank you note, but no pictures. My son hasn’t communicated with me for more than a year. I’ve never met his wife.”

Petra wasn’t sure what to do.

“The mom in me says to send a Christening gift. My faith is important to me, and I’m pleased my son is honoring tradition. But I doubt he’ll reply. And then I’ll be hurting even more. Why set myself up for disappointment?

Petra’s dilemma was similar to Andrea’s*, a mom who emailed me the day before her estranged son’s wedding. For his engagement, she had sent a generous check, and received a formal note of thanks. She later texted to invite him and his fiancée for a visit at her home less than a mile from his.  Her son didn’t reply. Still, Andrea’s moral compass told her she should send him a congratulatory text or email him the day of his marriage.

Feeling cornered

Lauren* remembers watching TV news that showed hurricanes very close to where her daughter had moved far away. Lauren recalls feeling cornered:

“We hadn’t spoken for almost two years, and after all the hurt she had put me through, her silence was actually a reprieve. Then the horrible hurricanes hit her area. I imagined she might have been caught in one and hurt, or even that she’d died. What would people think if her own mother didn’t call to inquire about her?”

When your adult child is estranged: What to about big life events

Lauren was worried about opening old wounds, but also concerned about the message her not calling might send.

“I was finally moving on with my own life.The idea of opening the door to her hateful rants scared me. But I’m also her mother. . . .”

Unable to face potential judgment, or let her daughter think she didn’t care enough to call in the face of this natural disaster, Lauren did phone. But she admits to feeling relieved when the calls wouldn’t t go through.

“I went ahead and texted too, and after a couple of weeks, my daughter sent a return text saying she was fine. I sent a quick reply that I was glad. . . . And then I held my breath, wondering if she’d text back again.”

When no more texts or calls arrived, a familiar agony dragged at Lauren. After so much hurt and pain, she hadn’t really been ready for her daughter to make further contact. But she’d also gotten her hopes up. Lauren quickly reminded herself of the real reason she’d reached out: “To make sure my daughter was safe.” Then she busied herself and moved past the pain. “I do enjoy my life,” she says.

A moral dilemma?

Petra, Andrea, and Lauren each faced a dilemma: What is the right thing to do? Andrea even referred to her feelings as her “moral” compass.

Whether honoring ungrateful, cold, or even vicious adult children is truly a moral dilemma is open for debate. But as these women demonstrate, even parents whose children have hurt them may feel torn.

Lauren solved her dilemma by asking herself two questions:

“If something happened to my daughter, can I live with people thinking I didn’t care enough to call?

“Can I live with my daughter thinking I didn’t care?”

Lauren’s answer to both questions was, “No.”  She says:

“Although her silence has been welcome over her meanness, there’s still a tiny piece of me that hopes for reconciliation someday. I think calling her when those hurricanes hit let my daughter know this.”

Questions for clarity

I firmly believe we each have the answers we need to make the best choices in our own lives and circumstances. Often, using questions can help us get to those answers. Questioning ourselves can help us determine what’s most important to us, and gain the clarity to move confidently forward.

If you find yourself in a situation similar to the ones these mothers found themselves in, questions such as the following ones may be helpful:

  * If I call, text, or send a gift, and my child doesn’t respond, will his failure to reply hurt me?

 * If I don’t call, text, or send a gift, will I worry that I should have?

This may be a conundrum. If you text or call you may be hurt. If you don’t text or call, you may feel guilty. Which is worse?

When faced with such a conundrum, parents benefit from fully considering the situation and examining their feelings. If guilt comes up, consider reading more on the subject. My article on the guilt parents of estranged children can feel might help: Innocent guilt: Normal after conflict

To more fully explore your feelings, consider thoughts similar to these:

* I will not be able to live with myself if I don’t do the “right” thing.

* What really is the “right” thing to do? And is my view based on fear, or what I truly believe is “right.”

Lauren had worried what other people might think. While allowing others’ possible opinions about us isn’t always healthy, being honest about the concerns that come into our decision-making enlightens us.

Andrea worried that her son hadn’t told his fiancée’s family the truth about their estrangement. Andrea’s concern over what that family might think of her had figured into her earlier decision to send money when her estranged son got engaged. But her gift hadn’t changed anything. By letting her fears dictate her actions, she realized she was letting her son control her. In her family, unhealthy male dominance had often been an issue, and she didn’t want to validate her controlling estranged adult son’s behavior. Andrea decided that her earlier gift was the end of her moral obligation with regard to his wedding.

In essence, she was taking an important stance for moving forward in her life:

* I will no longer allow him to control me. Nor will I enable his hurting me. I will not make contact.

Thinking things through may help parents of estranged adult children better explore their feelings. Below are some other potential ways of thinking in these sorts of situations.

* I would like to open the door to my daughter’s possible return to me. I will reach out to congratulate her about her new baby.

* Even though texting my son on his wedding day feels like the right thing for me to do, in light of the animosity he has expressed toward me, this may not be a good time reach out. This is his special day. If I decide to make contact, it will be on another day. 

* I will text (call, send a card) because this is the only decision I can feel good about later – – regardless of my child’s response.

when your adult child is estrangedStrength and dignity

Petra sent her tiny granddaughter a beautiful Bible in honor of her Christening.

“Inside was a family tree. I filled that in with our side of the family, and wrote a personal note. My son didn’t reply, and I can’t control what he does with the Bible. But I can hope.”

Petra knew she might feel some disappointment, so she prepared ahead for the possibility. She made lots plans with people she cares about, got her favorite healthy take-out foods, and occupied her mind. For the first time in several years, Petra had her tax documents ready for the accountant early. She felt good about that, and the accomplishment made her feel productive and good about herself.

Andrea decided not to reach out on her son’s wedding day. Her earlier engagement gift had been acknowledged. Yet despite the close proximity of their homes, and her express invitation for him to bring his fiancée and visit, he never replied. She says:

“That’s all the information I truly need. He has not been a good son to me for a long, long time.”

Andrea has reached a point of acceptance from which she can draw strength.

“I will be fine, because I will not pursue anyone who doesn’t want me in his or her life. Of course, I wish things were different, but so do a lot of people, about a lot of things.”

Lauren, Petra and Andrea each faced unique dilemmas. When your adult child is estranged, experiencing dilemmas similar to these is common. These mothers made decisions and honored their feelings in different ways. While they recognize the future may hold trials, they are seizing the present, and moving forward in their lives.

For more sensible information presented with sensitivity, get the book, Done With The Crying. You can move forward too.

Copyright Notice: All content of any post or page found on any page at this site is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. To share with others, provide a link to the page on this website where the content is found. Reposting of any content is not permitted without express permission. Please see Copyright Notice/Restrictions in the right-hand sidebar for complete copyright notice. You can always contact me with any quesions.

Related reading:

Holidays, how to manage them

Mother’s day when your adult child is estranged

Father’s Day for father’s of estranged adult children

*To protect privacy, names and some details have been changed.