Some time ago, I wrote an article about how to deal with estranged adult children. It was in the choppy wake of Mother’s Day. Many of us were feeling the heightened sting of loss.
I was surprised by the response that article evoked. I know there are many hurting moms, but I didn’t realize that the number is so huge.
One mom shared, “It is awful and I’m so thankful I can at least talk about it with people who understand. I felt so alone.”
There is, as AF said, “No greater pain.” How do we, as surviving mamas, try to live a life with joy and meaning?
I come to this topic with a deficit. My parents died when I was a teen. As a motherless/fatherless 19-year-old I did not have the opportunity to experience adult estrangement. Indeed, I often longed to have parents whom I could rebel against!
Family Life Is a Crucible
I once heard someone refer to family life as a crucible. When the fire of life gets turned up, our imperfections get heated up!
It also brings out the best in us. We have enjoyed love, gentleness and kindness in raising our children. It is the contrast between the magic years and these tragic years that makes the estrangement a shock.
Challenging the Narrative About Estranged Adult Children
Some readers challenged the narrative that we were decent moms.
SBW commented, “Not everyone has Harriet Nelson for a mother.”
In my life as a practicing attorney, I never ceased shuddering at what people are capable of doing. Humans are capable of unspeakable behavior.
One mom responded, “Agreed! I stay away from my family after years of being treated poorly… I’d had enough. Sometimes you have to sever ties for your own sake and sanity.”
Most of us are grieved to hear from women who never had a special relationship with their parents. We have done our best. Indeed, many of us have spent years in therapy unraveling our own upbringing so that we could do a better job with our kids. (Raising my hand to admit this!)
I hope every wounded person finds peace. If you have been abused by your parents, you have suffered unthinkable harm. Get some counsel so you can move past your pain and make a wonderful life!
We’ve been the loving, cookie-baking moms whose lives have been shaken to the core by their child’s decision to reject them. We need to air our pain, just like you. Find the appropriate place to get help and support.
How Do You Let Go?
It’s not easy to let it go, but healing and moving on should be our focus. While the estrangement is out of our control, the solution seems to lie in exercising our own control in letting go of the pain and moving on.
One mom shared, “Take the anger, and put it into positive energy to improve yourself… Over time it became easier. I still feel sad, but I refuse to harbor anger since it only hurts me more. I acknowledge my sadness but move around and above it to help myself move forward.”
Time is a healer. We need to process the pain but then it might be wise to put the pain behind us.
While our children took away the choice to be in a relationship with them, we still have other choices. The best choice we can make is to move on and live a rich, fulfilling life with new interests and pursuits. Spending the rest of our days wallowing in sorrow serves no one.
What About the Grandchildren?
For some of us, being cut off from a grandchild is our hurt multiplied. When our estranged kids keep grandchildren from us, the pain is more intense.
One mom recounted, “I lived 15 minutes from my son and my two grandchildren. Didn’t see them for several years. Daughter-in-law’s family sees them every day. I wasn’t even allowed to babysit. The pain never stops.”
My own grandson lives 10 hours away with his dad. It took years of court wrangling and thousands of dollars for us to be allowed to see him a few times a year.
So, I see him when I can. I make sure to never miss a birthday or holiday with him, even if I can’t be with him all too often. I take comfort in knowing that when he is an adult, he will have his own choices to make.
As the Parents of Estranged Adult Children, What Shall We Do?
What does it take for you to deal with this? We will each find our way into our own peace.
Seeking personal peace with our situation is something we all must do. Don’t spend your remaining time on earth in bitterness and sadness.
Allowing sadness to control us insults the gift of the remaining life we have.
What do you need to do now for your own physical and emotional health? Therapy has helped me tremendously in defining boundaries and clarifying what was and was not my responsibility.
We can take extra care of our physical health so that our post-mothering years are vibrant. There is more life to live, and we can bless ourselves by being healthy enough to enjoy it.
What About the Adult Child?
Our adult children have their own story to live. The book of their life (and ours) is still being written. We don’t know the end of either one.
So, we do what we can to connect. I told my daughter that I would always be her mom and I would fly over her life on occasion to tell her I still loved her. Sometimes she swats the fly over away. Sometimes she welcomes it.
NH wrote, “Never give up, show your love no matter what!”
For me, that has meant never missing an opportunity to speak words of blessing. I acknowledge birthdays and holidays, sending good wishes to her, although they are never returned or acknowledged.
How are you coming to grips with your situation of being the mother of an estranged adult child? How are you planning to make your future the best it can be, given your life’s circumstances? What advice would you give to the parents of estranged adult children? Please join the conversation below!