Tag Archives: rejected parents

A New way of life after an adult child’s estrangement

Coddiwomple to a New Way of Life After an Adult Child’s Estrangement

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

life after an adult child's estrangement

Rejected parents are often uncertain about the future. They know what’s happening now, but they can’t believe their adult child’s estrangement will last. They want to move forward, but they’re afraid to make a change. For some, stepping toward their own satisfying life feels like giving up on the son or daughter they hope will return to them, relationship restored. Others keep a room ready, a stash of left-behind things, or try to reach out regularly … and then wait for the reply that doesn’t come or isn’t what they expected.

If this is at all like you, I have a suggestion: a coddiwomple.

Lightening up

Did you know that the first seven days of August are set aside as National Simplify Your Life Week? It fits for me because lately, I’ve been working purposely at simplifying. I’m heading toward change that I know is on the horizon but can’t yet clearly describe.

I’m like a lot of people at midlife who know that changes are (or may be) coming and want to move toward a new way of life that supports the next life phase—but don’t yet have a crystal-clear picture of what or where that will be.

It’s a sort of coddiwomple, traveling purposefully toward an unknown destination. Granted, most people use the word as part of actual, physical travel during which adventures take place along the way (I love that too!), but a coddiwomple fits for this determined work of lightening up for a lifestyle that isn’t yet defined.

Preparing now

The idea of downsizing in mid-life or after retirement is nothing new. People move to smaller homes, better climates, or where they can easily get to shops and healthcare. They look for places where they can access greenspaces to walk in nature and conveniently socialize with friends. But for many, the decisions aren’t easy and the process not quick.

life after an adult child's estrangement

That’s how it is for my husband and me. Do we want to move to another city? Be closer to specific family members? Live in more open space or closer to town? Join a neighborhood that fosters social connections? Or, is privacy and seclusion more important? These are just a few of the questions we’re asking ourselves. In the process, our goal is getting clearer. Financial entanglements and other ties mean we can’t make a move quite yet. And the need to put off final decisions gives us time to consider things from every angle.

We don’t know yet for sure where we’re going or when, but we do know we need to prepare. Better to be ready when the time is right than be forced into snap decisions. That’s why comparing this transitional period toward an as-yet-vague goal to a coddiwomple makes sense.

We’re going to travel a little during this time and check out areas we’ve been curious about. Other people make bigger changes toward an unclear goal. One couple sold their ranch and rented a downtown condo. When their year-long lease ends, they’ll try another city. Eventually, they plan to settle. Maybe near their daughter on the opposite coast. Or maybe in a spot they fall in love with as they coddiwomple across the states.

A single mother nearing age 65 is trying alternative and spiritual practices including meditation, attending sound healing sessions, and visiting churches. She describes this as a six-month sabbatical from making decisions about the rest of her life. It’s a gift to herself. She hopes to gain a sense of peace before taking big steps toward the next phase of life.

Goals and the required mindsets

  • Deliberative: The point at which one gathers information about a potential goal and what will be required to achieve it. The deliberative mindset allows for sound judgment about the goal’s possible viability prior to the action it will take.
  • Implemental: The doing of a goal. In the implemental mindset, focus shifts to how to get tasks completed and actively working toward achievement.

The two mindsets can work together. Right now, my husband and I are taking a deliberative approach about what will be the final goal, but we’re getting started anyway. We’re implementing as we work toward uncertain change by finishing projects like our bedroom floor. We’re redoing a bathroom, cutting some trees, and fixing a fence. We’re also culling material things. For my husband, that means selling equipment and tools. He doesn’t talk about it, but he’s letting go of an outcome that never materialized. One where our sons might take over his business.

Things seem to hold feelings; unrealized dreams, and old ways of life. In stacks of children’s books, I come across slips of paper styled like tickets, hints of long-ago games my children played. They each wrote their names in those books too, their individual handwriting as unique as the people they always were and later became.

It’s an emotional pursuit that digs at ideals and makes us sad. Yet ultimately, letting go of these things shakes us free of old dreams. It prepares us mentally for an eventual goodbye to the place we’ve called home for more than three decades.

Coddiwomple for life after an adult child’s estrangement

Regardless of what an estranging adult will or won’t do, working toward a stronger you will help. Get started, purposefully, on your own well-being. If you do reconcile, you’ll be happy and better prepared when the time comes. If you don’t, you will be happy and fulfilled, living your life to the fullest anyway.

For some parents, figuring out a life for themselves aside from what they thought it would be like is tough. If you’re feeling lost or troubled, imagine yourself on a journey, a coddiwomple, and get going with passion toward your own happiness without worrying so much about the destination. One way is to see how far you’ve slipped away from caring for your oldest friend (yourself!). You can do that with my Self Care Assessment. Another is to get a copy of Done With The Crying in which I’ll show you that you’re not alone in estrangement and gently guide you beyond the doldrums of loss and into a fulfilling life you design and implement.

Related Reading:

Estrangement: When letting go hurts

Dealing With Uncertainty: Help for parents estranged from adult children

Spring Cleaning When Adult Children Want No Contact

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Parents blamed by adult children. Are parents’ ‘mistakes’ worthy of hate?

A father recently wrote to me about an article he’d seen at AARP. Here’s a link to it: Avoid Mistakes That Could Make Your Kids Hate You.” 

Are parents’ mistakes, worthy of hate

parents blamed by adult children

Parents’ mistakes? Let’s turn that around.

Thousands of parents blamed by adult children for all their problems write to me. Among those, many have been called upon in drastic situations. A son or daughter makes a mess of things repeatedly and needs money or other help. The parent may help … and then try to tell the adult something to the effect of, “Look, you’ve got to wise up. . . .” In other words, the parents give advice.

As time goes on, the parent may see the adult son or daughter not learning anything from their mistakes, maybe not even trying to learn. Parents can begin to feel used. They may tell the “child” that the Bank of Mom & Dad is closing. Parents have their own bills or may be living on a fixed income or have a nest egg that needs to last their remaining years. It is often at that point that the child cuts them off.

Which makes me think of the abuse that sometimes happens. Parents can be isolated.  A parent may not be physically well, is disabled, or perhaps a widow or widower. The isolation makes them vulnerable to a son or daughter who knows what buttons to push. I have heard from many parents who say that they put up with abuse, financial, verbal, or even physical, because their child is their only family left in the world.

Parents blamed by adult children 

I hear from people almost daily who say, “My grown daughter blames me for everything wrong in her life.” Or, “My adult son says I caused all of his problems.” These children are often in their 30s or 40s or beyond, and remember with detail every “wrong” the parent has ever done. Sometimes the memories are completely different than that of the parent or even siblings and other family members. And many times, the “wrongs” are miniscule.

Twice in the last week, mothers shared that their daughters say all their issues derive from the fact they weren’t breastfed. One of these two moms was a single parent. It was a different world back then. Working mothers were not provided with understanding and a place to pump breast milk (as is the norm now). The other mom was encouraged to bottle feed by her doctor, as were many mothers in the 1960s. Yes. I said 1960s. . . . The daughter doing the blaming is 54. Maybe it’s time she did a little self-reflection rather than blaming the mother who worked two jobs to care for her.

Parents blamed by adult children, recognize the good you did.

It’s wise to recognize our own mistakes as parents, but it’s also wise for adult “children” to consider a parent’s point of view. One of my sons recently traveled to a very cold climate. Before he left, I said, “Do you have a warm enough jacket?” He made a funny face, and then we both laughed like crazy! It was funny, and I added, “I guess you’re old enough to figure that one out.” It’s a mom thing, but is it reason to abandon me. No. How about hate me? No. And he knows that (thank goodness).

The father who wrote to me about the AARP article said that one of the reasons he was successful in his overall life was that he had learned to recognize problems quickly and work to fix them before they were upon him.  When he sees his young adult daughter ignoring problems until she’s forced to deal with them, it causes him stress. His words, “The anxiety kills me.” So, he tries to offer her advice. She resents that advice. But is that reason to hate him or cut him off?

How about a rule?

The article mentions a parent forwarding emails, and not understanding that the son or daughter is already inundated. I know that feeling. A much older relative often sent me a batch of forwards daily. This individual wasn’t computer savvy, didn’t type well, and worried about his privacy on the internet, so I never received a regular note. Was it a reason to hate? No.

No, no, no. It was an opportunity for me to be understanding. And creative.

Perhaps an adult son or daughter can create a “rule” in their email account. That way all the forwarded emails go to a certain box, don’t clog the general folder, and everyone is happy. A considerate son or daughter who recognizes their parents’ motivation to communicate and stay in touch (which is what is behind the forwarded emails) might do well to check the special folder now and again and make a comment in reply. What does it hurt to let parents know they’re appreciated for their good intentions? Beats hating.

Okay to hate?

This is getting long, so let me close with what I see as the main problem with the article this father shared:  It covertly makes the point that it is okay to hate your parents. From the title (“Avoid Mistakes That Could Make Your Kids Hate You”) on, the warning is that if parents make these mistakes, their children will hate them. HATE them. I see far too much of this in our society these days. Kind, caring parents who aren’t all that horrible yet are considered “toxic,” and worthy of hate.

Lift the veil. See the good you did.

To the father who wrote to me, I want to offer my empathy. When one of my five grown children became estranged, I mined every memory with a fine-toothed comb, wondering what I did wrong. Parents are very good at taking on the perspective of their adult child(ren), which has been demonstrated in research related to estrangement. The same research, however, shows that the children who reject parents are not.

In time, I hope all of the caring parents who are nevertheless rejected by adult children will not only see their own mistakes and even magnify them, but also recognize all the good they did.

When you can look past the veil of estrangement that clouds your memories and steers you toward any mistakes, you might even realize that the good you did as a parent far outweighs the bad. There’s an exercise in Done With The Crying that can help.

Hugs to all the hurting parents,
Sheri McGregor

Related reading:

Abusive adult children affect parents’ self-image

Beyond the shadow of estrangement

Freedom for a new era (parents rejected by adult children)

Estranged adult children: Why do they make contact now?

Mother yourself

Sheri McGregor radio interview for parents of estranged adults

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

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

radio interview with Sheri McGregor

How do I love me? Let me count the ways. . . .

cut of by sonsby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

How do I love me? Let me count the ways. . . .

Does that title sound selfish to you? In this month when we celebrate love, I hope you will remember that you’re deserving of your own kindness and care. When we’re cut off by sons or daughters, we need all the love we can get. Below, I’ve listed a few points that link to posts to help.

How do I love me? Let me count SIX ways!

  1. By being compassionate, kind, and patient with myself.
  2. By taking good care of myself.
  3. By remembering my own strength, or the examples of others, during times of adversity.
  4. By participating in life; not letting time pass me by.
  5. By spreading a little happiness to also increase my own.
  6. By remembering that it’s good to give and to celebrating love.

cut off by sonsHappy Valentine’s hugs to all, and especially to the parents cut off by sons or daughters.

 

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?