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!
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.
It 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.