Mothers Of Estranged Adult Children

all of us copy

My daughters and I in happier times.

I’m NOT going to go into great details of my own estrangement from my adult daughters. What started off as something so simple, escalated into a separation so heartbreaking and gut wrenching, I still, to this day can not talk about it. To all you mothers out there who are currently also separated from your adult children, scratching your heads in bewilderment and disbelief, the first thing I want to say to you is this: unless you were putting out cigarettes in your kids’ faces or locking them in closets for days, odds are at 95% that you have done nothing wrong!

Let me repeat that, because we mothers, who sacrificed and gave everything to our children and yet for some reason have been rejected, YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG! You did your best. I know it and deep down you know it. But sometimes things happen. Our kids grow up and get married to some strange-looking dude and/or dudettes, fall in with the wrong adult crowd, or maybe something happened in their childhood that you knew nothing about BUT now it’s finally coming out. And guess what? Your adult children are blaming you for everything!

 

stop crying

I came upon this book, Done With The Crying, that I highly recommend, written by a psychologist herself, Sheri McGregor, whose own son (1 of 5 children) rejected her and they became extremely estranged throughout the rest of their lives. If you are suffering from estrangement from your own children, McGregor offers up some excellent advice for both dealing with the pain and eventually healing from it. McGregor speaks from her own estrangement experience from her adult son.  It started with a simple comment she made the day before her son’s wedding. When the son told his future wife the joke his mother said in passing, the future wife and her parents took the comment as an offense. The comment resulted into a nasty dis-invite from her son’s wedding AND escalated from there into total estrangement. The son, not wanting to upset his new wife, took her side and blocked the mother out of his life for decades.

McGregor quickly found out that her estrangement was not an isolated case. She started meeting similar mothers in her practice, most with the same complaints. McGregor found the situation to be so common, she put out a questionnaire and within days, over 9,000 mothers responded with stories and tales of their own estrangement with their adult children. Apparently, this is an epidemic. 93% of the respondents were mothers. Only 7% were fathers. We mothers take the separation from our children more painfully because after all, we used to be connected to our children. Literally!

Eventually, McGregor, as with most mothers, as well as me, come to the conclusion that we are done with the crying. We’ve done all we can. We have to accept our current situation AND we have to move on, take care of ourselves and live out our lives. Our children are. Now, we must too.

You can be happy again. In a calm yet authoritative voice, and with exercises derived from McGregor’s work as a life coach and her own recovery, McGregor helps mothers who did their best to come to terms with their estranged adult child’s choices, and regain their health and happiness. As a loving mother herself, to whom the unthinkable happened, McGregor knows the horrible shock that wrings a parent dry, triggers denial, blame, anger, and shame. With empathy and understanding, as well as tools, the latest research, and insight from more than 9,000 parents of estranged adult children, McGregor helps parents of estranged adults plan ahead, prepare for emotional triggers, and prevail over setbacks and pain.

As always, a book (and prayers) came to my rescue.

I’ll throw in something else to do: trust God.

flower girls.jpg - 1It wasn’t an accident that the next time I would see my two daughters and two granddaughters would be on a center aisle inside a church. DH’s cousin was getting married and my two granddaughters were the flower girls.  After nine months of separation, my granddaughter ran into my arms when she saw me and my youngest daughter came over to me and hugged me and said “I love you mommy very, very much.”

Thus the start of a very slow and sometimes painful path to reconciliation.

It was time, however, for me to cut my losses and construct my own path towards healing, as McGregor suggests.

The first thing I did, on my road to recovery, was see a cardiologist. After much testing, the doctor confirmed that I did indeed have a heart event due to all the stress these many months of estrangement had caused me. The next thing I needed to do was lose the twenty pounds I packed on eating my stressed self to death. Since I was emotionally in no condition to prepare my own meals, I bought a ton of Weight Watcher, Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen meals and just popped them into the microwave. I set up a daily routine to keep my home in order, my personal hygiene intact and my life on track.

I’ve taken up Mediterranean-styled cooking which is very heart healthy. I took out several cookbooks from the library (eventually I bought the America’s Test Kitchen version, used, on sale, of course) I started inviting our friends over for Sunday dinner and created my own ‘new’ family. When I revealed the discourse I was having with my adult children, two of the parents confided in me their own adult children troubles. One daughter threw her parents out of her home, right before a christening party, when she read her parents political comments on Facebook. The other couple told me they just discovered their adult child had developed an opioid addiction and was in rehab.

No one is immune from adult child estrangement. And its NOT your fault if things go astray.

I filled out a few of the exercise questionnaires McGregor presented in her book. It came down to asking myself what did I want to do with the rest of my life? What was going to make me happy without my children anymore?

The first answer was I wanted to fix up my 16-year-old home and make it more modern. That gave me comfort and joy. Next I wanted to get back into my photography which I had ignored for months. I started watching instructional YouTube videos on how to use my camera again, how to utilize the software I just bought myself and I started to re-immerse myself back into technology. I used to be a fantastic Apple Computer technician. I needed to reconnect with that smart woman again.  I upgraded all my Mac hardware and software. It was time for me to reconnect with the 21st century and get over my failed computer company back in 2001 when the dot-com bubble burst!

I also wanted to get back to traveling. I had a Bucket List of places I wanted to see that I had been ignoring. There were friends and family members DH and I had been promising to visit out west that we simply put aside. We kept saying we didn’t have the money or the time which was just an excuse. I went to our local National Park here in NY and bought myself a senior national park pass for ten bucks. I then announced to DH I wanted another RV and I wanted to use it to visit as many national parks as we could. PLUS I wanted to see our friends and relatives that we promised we would. I paid for everything myself, under my own name and everything is my sole responsibility.

You can not force people to love you. No matter who they may be.

Our time on this earth is limited. Make your best case. Do the best that you can and then know when it is time for you to move on.

This is MY time now. I want to make my own ‘best of it’.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

 

 

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Mothers Of Estranged Adult Children

  1. Oh, Cindi, I really feel for you, I am sure it is so hard to not have a relationship with your grand daughters. The flower girl picture is so cute. ❤ Now that I am a grandma also, it would just break my heart not to see my grand daughter. I am glad you are taking care of yourself and hope things will get better as time goes on. Hang in there.

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    • Thanks Chris. I tell myself (and console myself with the belief that) all things are possible with God. There is nothing that He can’t do. Go hug your children as soon as you can. We just don’t know anything anymore. Thanks again for your comment.

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  2. Sad that it was so painful for you, but you’re right….our adult kids owe us no more than we owe them. To think of it, I guess I am estranged from members of my family of origin for no other reason than life….we all
    scattered across the country/ world after college, and then we had things to keep us from getting together,(kids, jobs,etc) And time moved on. The siblings I am closest with and I make the effort, but understand that we have separate lives to lead, because that’s how our parents raised us. On the other hand, I know dh really worked at keeping a relationship with his mother, who lived across the country. But, it was too exhausting for me to make those day long plane trips with toddlers, in either freezing or broiling weather, especially to hear her lament on how we should move back “home” and were depriving her of her grandchildren by living so far away. Sorry, that made me bristle. My kids are just that, MINE, and nobody else other than DH has any rights to them. I finally stopped going, as it was emotionally draining, but told dh he could go whenever he wanted, and take whichever kids he wanted. He finally tired of it too, but went out of obligation. How awful. My parents would have hated me visiting out of duty. On the contrary, my parents made it quite clear that we were to live our lives after launching as we saw fit. And, they were quite clear that while civility and consideration were the house rules growing up, they could not, nor would not force us to like each other, or them, for that matter. We all had different interests and personalities, so it was only natural that some would be closer with each other than others. As for grandkids….my parents would never had claimed a right on mine or my siblings kids any more than we would ever (had we lived in the same town, which we didn’t) expected them to provide childcare. Independence is a great thing, be it financial or emotional, but it does require you to give up other things. I am glad my parents were willing to pay the price to give it to us , and I hope I will have the courage to do the same for my kids.

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      • Well, civility is reasonable to expect in any interaction. But consideration is where I lose you…We inherently considered, and I require my kids to do the same, those who live under the same roof. The angriest I ever saw mother at one particular brother was when, after I had been up until 3 a.am. babysitting for a family (they owned a bar) brother blasted Springsteen at 8 a.m. Not sure which distributed me more, her yelling about his blatant lack of thought,, or the music. But, there was no need to, say, save hot water for a sibling when a sibling was away at college, for all I did wish I had to as I missed her so. By the same token, I have no right to expect adult kids who live across country, or across the street, for that matter, to consider me at all in their plans, ever, any more than I should expect that from some person I exchanged pleasantries with last week at the grocery store. My parents were wise when they said, “Best to leave when they still want you to stay.” At the time, I thought it pertained only to dinner parties!
        As for grandkids…..sorry. My MIL loved our kids, but she had no right whatsoever to make demands that she get to see them, and that, LITERALLY, caused me to bristle. It was like telling me how to parent…which she did. I shan’t bore you with the silly details of the final straw, but it caused an almost visceral reaction in me. I wanted to keep my kids away from her if she wasn’t going to respect my ultimate authority when it camme to deciding what was best for my kids. The more she demanded, the further I distanced us, the further I distanced, the more she demanded, on and on until even DH had to tell her “they’re our kids, not yours.” Not sure if she ever believed I was the boss of my kids , but after that she started to act like it, so I softened my stance. Parents have, as they should, the fundamental right to decide what’s best for their kids. Nobody trumps (other things equal) parents, not even grandparents, even loving, doting well meaning ones.

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      • Meg B you have an interesting point. I don’t demand to see my grandchildren at any special time or place. That’s up to the parents. I just ask to see them and be with them at their convenience. Never mine. They make up the rules. Not me.
        It’s when they deliberately withhold the grandkids away from me, specifically to make me feel pain and suffer, I find deplorable. The grankids know what’s going on. Make no mistake about that. Who knows how that will affect them later on? There’s no need for nastiness, hatred or revenge. Children aren’t pawns. They’re human beings with feelings and they have rights, just the way adults do.
        People sometimes never think of the children or see life from their angle.
        Thank you for your comment.

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      • True. They aren’t pawns, and my little ones loved their “Fwandma” and she them, which is why I told DH he was free to go any time, with any or all of the kids, but I was staying put, and as far as “Mother thinks we should do x.y,z” well, I didn’t give a rat’s @$$ what Mother thought, so keep it to himself. Parents, mothers especially, even if they are your own daughters, don’t tend to take kindly to being told by others what’s in their children’s best interests. Because I am the parent, that’s why is sacrosanct reasoning, in my book, (and the courts too, if I am not mistaken), no matter how much I hated hearing it as a kid. And, I now know why questioning that fundamental authority with my parents never worked, either for us kids, our teachers or music/dance teachers/coaches. That effectively ended ALL discourse in our house. (“When you have your own home, you may, make your own rules, and if you want that day to come, then get up there and so your homework, case closed.”) If MIL’s seemingly new recognition of my absolute parental authority was only for show so I would resume visits, thus making it easier for DH to go more often, so be it. It worked. Sometimes, you have to eat crow. As for me, I hope I learned from her mistakes, (or, what I perceive were her mistakes) my own parents gracious behavior, and your story that you so generously shared, so that I can have a fulfilling, adult relationship with my kids when they become adults. I sense that it will be easier to do with some of our kids than others, though. Best wishes. And, as my kids like to say, “You do you.” This too shall pass.

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      • Thanks Meg. Here in New York grandparents have decent rights. If they have been denied seeing their grandchildren for 90 days, they can petition the court for visitation.
        We must think of the children, too. We’d be surprised at how brilliant some of them can be at some very early ages.
        Thanks again for your comment. I appreciate them so much. Stay well!

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  3. Estrangement also goes the other way. My ex-husband wants nothing to do with our two adult sons (no logical reason) and maintains only an awkward relationship with our daughter.

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  4. How painful for you! I hope things improve.

    It has been my experience that people are who they are and seldom change. For years I thought that eventually my BIL would come to his senses and end his estrangement from his children but he never has even though he has grandchildren that he has never seen. It is sad but he is who he is — a selfish, hateful old man. Sad.

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    • Florence. That’s so sad about your BIL. As for me. I will never give up. I’ve retreated for now. But I’ll be back. Often, over time, the original disagreement becomes blurry. 9 times out of 10 people can’t even recall what they were arguing about. Plus, I have the power of prayer. I have put everything in God’s hands. He knows best.
      Thanks for your comment, Florence. Hope all is well with you and yours!

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  5. You can’t force someone to love you. Wow I needed to hear that today more than anything. I have been crying for weeks over something I did not do and can’t control. Crying to the point of making myself sick over a child again cutting me out of his life.
    But I know there is nothing I can do so I will again focus on me. I deserve to be happy. And there is nothing I can do to control others

    J

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    • J, there is something you can do! And that is to make your life the best life there is! Concentrate and make yourself happy and live the best possible life you can. Living well, as they say, is the BEST revenge.
      Stay in touch with me and let me know how you are doing, OK?

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  6. My two older daughters are estranged from their father. I can’t say that it wasn’t his fault, because quite frankly it was. I’m thrilled you reconciled with your youngest daughter. It sounds like the other one has personal issues of her own. She’ll realize it someday, I’m sure.
    ABSOLUTELY, do things for yourself. You don’t owe anyone anything. It’s YOUR time now. ENJOY!!!!!!

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    • Thanks Sharon. What I wouldn’t do right now for a good massage! LOL! That would help. A lot!
      I thank God all the time for my younger daughter. At least Nick and I feel we accomplished something good. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She’s a very good person inside & out.
      My oldest, as you said, has some other issues. I can’t help her. I just have to wait for her to help herself.
      Thanks for your comment.

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  7. Oh my goodness so sorry about all this terrible drama! My adult son lives in LA and I get to see him about once a year. I’d like to see him more often , but he is busy carving out his own life and very demanding career.

    My adult daughter and her family live nearby and I actually provide quite a bit of childcare for she and her husband, for which she is always very appreciative, this week I have my 7 year old grandson and 4 year old granddaughter ok Monday, Wednesday and Friday as she has a business trip and her husband has to go to work. School has not yet started in our part of Florida.

    So far I have a very close bond with the grandkids and I converted daughters old bedroom into a playroom for them. So far things are great as I have all my daughters old dolls, plus a bunch of toys thriftier for them in my home. I have to admit I’d be devastated if this relationship was denied me because of a snit . As well DD depends on DH and her in laws quite a bit and is respectful and appreciative.

    I can’t say the same for DHs little granddaughter from his daughter from his first marriage. She brings a lot of drama and demands and I’ve learned to let DH handle that relationship after an extremely painful event that occurred when she was an infant. Long story short, bio mom was very threatened by her daughter and granddaughter s relationship with me and became aggressive saying many hurtful things. Since stepdaughter defended her mom (she later admitted she was wrong) I distanced myself and try to let DH deal with anything pertaining to them.

    In the end you and DH have to do what’s best for you both. We travel frequently and have many interests and activities outside of family.

    Good luck to both of you! At this time of life, the less stress, the better!

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    • Hi Terri. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are very fortunate that both relationship, with your son and daughter are amicable. Give them an extra special hug.
      Too bad about your stepdaughter. Drama is something we all can do without, so I understand your distance. I totally agree with you about keeping down the stress levels!
      Thanks for your comment.

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  8. Thank you for this post. I needed to hear that it’s not my (and DH’s) fault with our estranged son (his choice). Like you said – he certainly wasn’t abused and was, in reality, doted on for almost 22 years. We sent him off for what we thought was a 2 month adventure, with our blessings, our money, and a truck and trailer load of our family assets. That was 4 years ago and we’ve seen him twice in that time and he hasn’t spoken to us in almost 3 years. Drugs and the wrong people certainly played a huge role, but ultimately it is all his decisions and his responsibility.

    We’ve done our best to go on with our lives, but some days are harder than others. Not understanding the “why” of it all is the hardest. I will have to read that book. I had hoped it would be available as an e-book I could borrow from the library, but it’s not.

    I hope your situation improves and you can see your grandchildren.

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    • One Family, I strongly advise reading the book. Even if you have to get it in a hard cover. The author looks at EVERYTHING from EVERY angle. She will address your exact situation. It’s uncanny. We all think we are all so unique. But we’re not. We are all in this together!
      Thanks for your comment.

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