If you are a parent/caregiver, grandparent, aunt/uncle, cousin, sibling or other close family member and you're estranged from you child, you are not alone.
Losing a Relationship with Your Child
First, Breathe and Take Care of Yourself
For some parents and families, finding out that their adult child has decided to
estrange themselves can be a complete surprise. You may have no idea why this
occurred and this can bring up a lot of emotions, including anger, confusion,
depression, guilt, and sadness.
In an 2020 article published by the AARP, author Sheri McGregor was quoted from
her book, "Done with the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult
"I never imagined that my own child would reject me. Yet, one of my five children cut ties with me and his entire family. It's emotionally devastating and something no loving parent expects or is prepared for."
Losing a relationship with your child can feel as though your world is turned
upside down. Suddenly everything you thought you knew about yourself,
your family, your relationship with this person - has become nothing short of
chaotic and unsettled. Where do you go from here? What are you supposed to
do now? Why would they make this decision? How come they haven't spoken with you about whatever it is they are going through?
Relate.org, the UK's largest provider of relationship support, offers three immediate things you can do to help you cope with this situation:
1. Give it time
You may be tempted to send an angry letter, ask a family member to follow up with them or find other ways to get in contact. However, it may be best to simply leave your child alone for now. Your child is likely feeling a wide range of difficult and complex emotions that you may or may not be aware of; provoking them to speak to you could only make things worse as they need time to collect their thoughts and figure out what it is they need.
2. Acknowledge your pain
This is hard to do sometimes. You may be feeling frustrated, upset and broken - acknowledge this. Say it out-loud to yourself. It's better for you to let out those feelings in healthy ways than to keep them inside. Write a letter and throw it away if you need to. Speak with a mental health professional. Talk about what you're going through with someone who will listen and understand without placing blame on you or convincing you to do anything you might later regret. Get rest and allow yourself time to grieve. This is very important as it's a natural human response to feel the way you're feeling right now.
3. Talk to Someone
Your mental health is what matters most right now. Make sure that you are giving yourself some compassion during this time and seeking out healthy outlets for your stress. Read books that give you a greater perspective on life. As we mentioned before, seek out a mental health professional if you're able. This situations are often complex and can leave major heart wounds if not managed and dealt with appropriately.
What You Need to Know About Reconciliation
Reconciliation is possible, but not guaranteed. It truly depends on the situation and
how your adult child is feeling. This may feel harsh to hear because you naturally
want to understand why your child is acting and behaving this way - it may feel as
though your child has the "upper hand" in this so-called "game" of estrangement, but
truly it's important to understand that we can only control ourselves and what we do
in this present moment. Once we realize this, navigating reconciliation and
estrangement is likely to become a bit (only slightly) less painful.
Initiating Change When the Time is Right
Author Blythe Daniel wrote in a 2021 article for "Focus on the Family" several
helpful tips to keep in mind when trying to enter back into a relationship with your
estranged adult child:
You'll likely need to be the one to initiate change - but only after enough time has gone by for both parties to cool off. As Blythe states, you'll need to place the effort on building the relationship as opposed to defending yourself or trying to explain your side of the story. Acknowledging your role and how you've made your adult child feel can go a long way. Address the mistakes you've made in the past and remember that you're here to build a relationship with them again, not to prove your point or get your argument across.
Reaching out to your adult child may require subtlety. For more information on this, visit the following resources:
Together Estranged will be providing more content and resources as we're able to.