There are days when I feel stuck in my grief, when healing seems to be beyond what I can accomplish. On those days I look to inspiration from others who have walked or are walking the path before me. The last few days have been filled with sadness for me (birthday of my estranging daughter) and so I turned to reading this message by Nina Wornham for inspiration.
MOVING OUT OF THE GRIEF CYCLE OF ESTRANGEMENT.
By Nina Wornham 2015.
The big problem with grief and estrangement is that no one has died. There’s been no funeral, no cards, no sympathy and no one’s acknowledging that for anyone who loses a family member to estrangement, the grief is equally as painful as any other loss.
There are no mourners so no one shares the grief or carries the burden with you. There are no flowers, no lingering reminders, no beautiful memories, no wreath to lay and no memorial to visit.
Unlike the passing of a loved one where a celebration of their lives can bring comfort to saying our goodbyes, we’re left to dwell in the silent persecution of a shame riddled existence where the only question is ‘why’?
In cases of serious family dysfunction, it’s easy to understand the reasons why members have chosen to walk away for their own sanity. This is still a tough choice for them because they often end up more alone in the world than anyone. But the epidemic of adult children choosing to break their ties with loving, devoted parents who have only ever tried to do their best, is leaving a devastating trail of broken hearts and lost dreams of the family bonds they hoped they’d always be a part of.
With even psychologists baffled at the complexity of reasons for this trend now happening on such a wide scale, it’s impossible to pin point any single explanation. Meanwhile the coping strategies on how the parents can survive and go on with their lives after estrangement, is now the biggest challenge.
Firstly it’s important to recognise that being a parent is like no other relationship. When a child cuts you out of their life, unlike a romantic relationship, there is no new replacement to fill this void. It’s a unique, truly special, eternal ever after bond.
Therefore when estrangement occurs, the pain goes very deep especially if there is no reasonable explanation for the event. For a loving parent, even if they’ve made mistakes, it’s a catastrophic loss. Because no one has died, although we grieve, we grieve alone and often in very painful and isolated silence.
In my own opinion and from the research I’ve carried out thus far, estrangement is the deliverance of anger and control exacted on a parent or the wider family. It appears revenge based.
It doesn’t matter whether the adult child is justified or not, anger and control are usually at the core of the estrangement. Sometimes, estrangement can be caused by other factors such as indirect control via a third party, a bitter divorced parent who wants to hurt the other parent or a controlling inlaw.
In all of my research, at the core of nearly all estrangement is anger often being directed by a third party. In other words, an external influence has encouraged the child to disconnect from the parent.
What can you do if you are the estranged party?
Very often, not very much. If communication is abusive or non existent, and you’ve tried all the usual avenues to make amends but they have not been welcomed, you have to let things go and start to pick up the threads of your own life again.
You were somebody before you became a parent and you need to find new ways to reconnect with being this person again. Your life must go on. Difficult as this may be, with effort and practice, you will be able to rebuild your life and create new dreams along the way.
Like many, you could stay where you are, clinging to the hope that things will change if you just write one more email, send one more birthday card, give more money, believe that it’s Christmas so things are bound to change because it’s the festive season and it’s all about families.
But haven’t you already tried this many times before? Think back to what you gained. Are you any further down the road to progress?
For your own sake, you must start to move your life forwards out of the rut of estrangement for one single, very important reason. This reason is that even if things did change and your adult child came back and all was forgiven, what’s to stop the estrangement from happening again? Can you go back to all that pain and hurt? Would you survive mentally and emotionally? Wouldn't it be better if you could now build a life where you were not solely dependent on the health of this relationship?
By now you should have learned that as much as you love your child, you cannot depend on them alone for your emotional well being or happiness. This has to come from within you and by surrounding yourself with people who value and welcome you.
Estrangement, believe it or not, provides you with a huge opportunity to reconnect with yourself, learn new things, become self sufficient, meet new people and build a new life. In many ways, it gives us a new kind of freedom that can only be positive and liberating.
Your bond with your child is unbreakable. You still love them and on some level they still love you. Nothing breaks our bond of love. It only gets bent out of shape. But nothing can change the bond of being connected through our genes. We can run but we can’t hide, our family stays our family.
We must however see that our adult child cutting us off and abandoning us for whatever reason, misplaced anger, hurt, control, is a form of mental cruelty and emotional abuse. We can’t stay in this cycle waiting for them to carry on hurting us. We certainly can’t have them back if they are intent on making us pay for any ill perceived wrongs they think we may be guilty of. We must remove ourselves from this punishment of enforced silence and pick up our lives again.
Our choice is simple. We can either stay trapped in the negative world of painful estrangement or we can see it as a chance to still love our children, forgive them their grievances, claim our wings and rebuild our lives.
It’s all about perspective and choice.
You now have this choice. You are not broken. You are not forgotten. You are not on the scrapheap of being a failed parent. You still have a life to live.
I myself have made a successful comeback and reinvented my life. I’ve joined groups, learned new things and made new friends. My life has regained some of the joy that I thought would be lost forever. It takes time and effort but once I began the journey, it became much easier and then it became a new way of life.
You can do the same. Start freeing yourself from any guilt, make a plan for the next week or month, then begin writing down some goals for what you’d like to start bringing into your life from now on.
One small tip to help you on your way. Stop talking about the pain of your estrangement. Start talking about how it’s helping you reshape your future.
If your adult children return, wonderful! If they don’t, at least you can send them photos of the whale of a time you’re having in their absence.
Nina Wornham. Life Coach, Writer, Author.
I hope that you shared the feeling of hopefulness that I took from this article.
Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 03 - 08
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