Tag Archives: Sheri McGregor

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?

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

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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