I am sharing this deeply personal experience in honor of World Mental Health Day. My hope is that if you too have experienced the heartbreak of the estrangement of an adult child or grandparent estrangement, you will understand that you are not alone. In fact, sweet reader, you will find that many others are sharing in your grief. We need not be silent. Nor should we be ashamed. Though it is not easy, we can come to a place of acceptance.
I am Honey Good. There was a time when I was a grandmother to 26 Grands. Read on, I am here to share my story.
It isn’t easy to tell my story. As a matter of fact, it has taken me five years to expose the pain a mother goes through when a child rejects her. Yes, I am the mother of an adult child who no longer is in my life. It was her choice.
What prompted me to divulge my pain? I am writing my story because I studied this topic. Over time I have learned there is an epidemic of adult children who no longer speak to their parents. This often sadly brings grandparent estrangement into the epidemic as well. I’m sure, like myself, many of these parents do wonder how their ‘crime’ merits the severity of their punishment.
ESTRANGEMENT FROM AN ADULT CHILD AND GRANDPARENT ESTRANGEMENT
I have had to emotionally battle my way out of grief. Though the pain and sadness will never leave, there have been some experiences and people that have made my life more tolerable. My husband and the rest of my family’s love. The support of my ‘best’ friends and also an extraordinary happening and finally a moment of clarity.
There may be hope for your relationship yet. But, if, dear reader, you have done everything in your power. If you close your eyes each night feeling good about all you have done. About your actions and reactions in your attempts to rekindle the relationship with your adult child. Then you must accept what is and go forward with your life because you cannot change the thinking of others.
One of my adult children has not spoken to me in five years. Unfortunately, she made this a family affair instead of a mother-daughter situation.
Thus, I have lost contact with 9 grandchildren as well as my son-in-law. It was an abrupt cut-off.
There was no argument between my daughter and myself. Up until that time, my relationship with all my grandchildren was warm, kind, and loving. The relationship with my son-in-law as well. All save for one. I have come to the conclusion, by her actions, that she is uncomfortable with my presence so she has excluded me. But, I am assuming.
A HARD JOURNEY TO TRAVEL
Anyway, the purpose of my story is not to discuss my history with my daughter. It is to tell you how I healed as best as possible from her loss and the loss of 9 grandchildren. It has not been an easy journey.
It took five years to come to terms with this troubling issue. To understand the importance of not letting the situation determine my happiness. I would not let it stop me from enjoying a fruitful life with my Ultimate Concierge and the rest of my large family. Of course, I will never be able to stop grieving and aching over these losses but I have learned to cope, most of the time.
HOW I HEALED
This is the story of how I handled myself, these past five years, as a mother and grandmother. Also of two positive happenings that helped bring the issue full circle.
I have asked myself a thousand times, “Why did I take the high road when this started? Why haven’t I roared out for five years? Because until recently, I have always thought taking the high road was a better choice. And, I still do with one caveat: Know the player before you do.
Though I took the high road, and have for 5 years, my attempts at reconciliation failed. At the onset, I sent sentimental gifts. One was a paperweight with her zodiac sign. The card read: “I have loved you since the first time I held you in my arms.” That gift, I believe, was sent back with a short but not unkind note. Again, I sent a loving gift and when I received no response, I stopped.
Many hours have been spent over the years thinking about my relationship with my daughter. I know my strengths and weaknesses as a mom. My weaknesses should, in normal circumstances, not prompt this type of estrangement. This I know. I tell you this in case you are a parent like myself. You know you were not perfect, but what mom is?
Obviously, estranged adult children do find total justification in their actions. I have read that unfortunately most never come back.
A psychiatrist friend told me that he had many daughters lying on his couch in his office. They would tell him how much they hated their moms but they never stopped loving them. And, in my situation, I feel in my heart, my daughter loves me. Yet I believe she feels her decision to stop communicating or seeing me is healthy for her. I came to this healthy but sad conclusion the day I walked alone in a labyrinth far above the Pacific Ocean.
This has not stopped me from spending hours crying and talking late into the night. Lying in bed with the lights off, with my Ultimate Concierge asking for his council. There have been many hours alone grieving over my loss. Some nights I have told my Ultimate Concierge I was choking with grief and could not go on without my whole family.
My Ultimate Concierge has been my rock as well as other members of our family. As have my best friends. Unfortunately, I know the crying will never stop. My role as a mother and a grandmother in my daughter’s family gave me an uplifting sense of meaning and purpose. That is no more. I am sure some of you feel the same.
My emotions run wild. Sometimes, I feel sad, sometimes hurt. I am often bewildered, sometimes furious, and sometimes exhausted from the punishment.
ACCEPTING IS A POSITIVE PART OF HEALING
Three years ago my Ultimate Concierge and I spent a week at a spa, The Golden Door. One day we hiked, just the two of us with a guide to the top of a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There was a labyrinth. A complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way. The sages say that if you complete the path you will find your answer to a question.
Neither of us wanted to walk in the Labyrinth. I ultimately did but not before I said to the guide, “I have nothing on my mind.” I meant it.
Curiously, the moment I set foot into the labyrinth, my thoughts drifted to the unhappy situation that I have with my daughter. When I walked out I felt a new beginning emerge.
A MAZE OF FEELINGS
Walking through the maze I thought about my actions as a mom and my behavior over the past five years. I have come to the conclusion that my presence in my daughter’s life makes her unhappy and uncomfortable. That she did what she had to do to be happy. Though I often wonder how happy she is because she is a loving and caring young woman.
After I completed my walk, the guide walked up to me and held out a black bag. She said, “Put your hand into this bag and choose your treasure. It is filled with rocks, each with a different saying.” I put my hand into the black bag and took out one of the rocks. I could not believe the word that stared me in the face… ACCEPT.
The word on my rock gives me peace. It sits on my perfume tray as a reminder that I must accept what is not in my power to change. I have done what I think I can to reconcile with her and now it is time to try and accept.
And, for you, my sweet, reader who may be experiencing my circumstances, you too must try and accept what is not in your power to change. Whether it is with the estrangement of an adult child, grandparent estrangement, or another important situation.
I also question my actions. Maybe I should not have taken the high road in this situation. Perhaps I could have stopped the bleeding. Was I right to keep my silence? I will never know.
About three weeks ago in the early morning, I was sitting at my desk. I was staring at family photos and keepsakes when a light bulb went off.
Out loud I said to myself, “OMG, I have suffered what amounts to death. Losing an adult child who no longer wants me in her life is a death.”
The loss of some of my grandchildren…well, there are no words. I have been in mourning these past five years! This day was another turning point of transformation. It had never dawned on me that I had been in mourning yet it was so obvious.
You have to mourn the loss of loved ones in your life. This is necessary to evolve into another stage of reconstructing your life.
It took five years for me to go through the process of:
and finally to ACCEPTANCE
I tell myself, “Fortunately, I have many other grandchildren and adult children with who I share a strong and loving bond. They fill my cup. I am smiling.”
I WILL ALWAYS WONDER…
At times, I wonder how my daughter justifies her severe actions. Does she feel sad with a sense of remorse? Only she knows.
I remember a very dear friend’s husband, a doctor of psychiatry. Still, I hold onto what he said.
“I have had many women on my couch tell me negative feelings about their moms, but not one of them does not love their mother. It is a fact.”
MY MOM AND ME
I look back on my childhood. My mom was not perfect. We had our mother-daughter differences.
Nevertheless, she was my mom. The woman who taught me right from wrong. Who wiped my tears. Who explained the importance of kindness and love and feeling gratitude.
All her good outweighed our differences. And, no matter how I felt when we had our mother-daughter disagreements, I never forgot one of Ten Commandments: Honor thy father and mother.
I read that in the last decade adult children began disappearing from their parents’ lives. They decided their parents were not making them happy for one reason or another. They take their children, too, causing grandparent estrangement. I come from a generation that parents deserve a place of honor in the family.
A MOTHER IS A MOTHER
Honestly, I can’t understand what goes on in an adult child’s mind to completely end a relationship with a parent(s). Or to cut their children out of their grandparents’ lives. Except in situations of cruelty, non-stop criticism, alcoholism, fear, or lack of love. I will never give up hope that there will come a day when my daughter and I will reconcile. My daughter holds the cards in her hand. Only she knows.
Until then I will live each day to its fullest while never tucking away my true feelings. If I am sad, I will cry. If I feel rage, I will roar to my Ultimate Concierge because you can’t bury meaningful relationships. Even ones that are off the track.
Always I will offer my daughter her right of passage to come home to me. I am her mother. That cord that can never be severed.
If you have had struggles that mirror mine, I offer these resources:
A series on the Stages of Estrangement
This helpful article
This book by psychologist, Josua Coleman: When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along
“A unique book helping parents whose relationship with their older or adult child has not turned out as they expected deal with their pain, shame, and sense of loss, and take steps toward healing.”
And this book: Done with the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children
By Sheri McGregor, M.A.
Sheri McGregor, M.A., helps parents break free from emotional pain—and move forward in their own lives.
I would love to hear from you. Are you a mother with an estranged adult child and/or grandchildren? Have you found a way to move forward? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below.
Please share this story so others will know they are not alone.
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