Being an abandoned mom is more widespread than most people think. When asked about estranged children (parents, or family members), we are put in the awkward position of what to say. Saying too much, not saying enough, or lying can bring up all sorts of questions or guilt, added to how you already feel about this emotional situation.
It’s helpful to figure out what you will say ahead of this question being posed to you. When you’ve rehearsed what you could say, you’re ready when the question comes out of the blue. Your brain will help you by reminding you of your rehearsed answer. We do have options to choose how to answer this question.
Share incidents that may have caused the division and details of how long it’s been since you’ve been in touch. In doing so be sure you’re ready for intense questions that come back to you from curious people!
Some people related that when sharing details, those who ask, don’t know what to say, and end up giving them the cold shoulder. They may have drawn false conclusions that something must be wrong with you if your kids don’t talk to you now. You must have done something bad.
You could experience this reaction so be ready for the pain it could bring. First, the rejection from the child, then the rejection from those you thought would comfort you.
I have a friend who does this. She shares the whole story, stating that each time she does, she feels better, even if others don’t know what to say back to her. For her, it helps her continue to realize the reality of the estrangement. She has made sharing more about her own mental health, than about the other’s reaction.
This does get the person off your radar. They move on to other topics. But do we feel right that we just lied? Maybe. The heart is already hurting and getting the heat off the question feels better.
I don’t advocate this one. Mostly because lying about anything isn’t the path I would want. There are choices you have in answering people, and the choices you make are your personal decision.
“They live in Minnesota, just bought a home, and have a new puppy.” These details need to be honest things you have learned from their friends, other family members or from Facebook. Follow up this bird’s eye view with deflection.
Deflect the conversation by switching it to them or something else. “How’s your son Mark doing?” “What great veggies did you get from your garden this year?” People love talking about themselves and talking about their kids who are succeeding. You have answered their question to the best of your ability and now moved on to something in their world.
Deflecting is a skill for many personal conversations we encounter in life. Whenever someone crosses over into something personal to you, turn it around quickly to something about them.
In the syndicated column called Ask Carolyn, she offered this to say to a mom who wanted to know what to do when someone asks about her estranged daughter: “Sadly, my daughter has estranged herself from the family.” Then follow up with, “I’m not ready to share more than that.”
Carolyn goes on to say that negative reactions from people help you weed out those who are not sincere friends to you.
There is no perfect parent. In reflection, I made so many mistakes! I remember a therapist saying to me, the statute of limitations is past for that. You can’t keep bringing your parenting mistakes into the present.
I needed to get to a place of forgiving myself for painful perceived mistakes I made in the parenting job. I try to live this quote, “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”
If you can, invite new friends and experiences into your life. Keep life exciting in small or big ways. Living under guilt or shame of a child’s estrangement can seep the joy out of the present.
Think about this tip in 50+ Life online magazine. “Nonstop suffering will not bring reconciliation with your adult child, and it certainly impairs the quality of your life. Allow love, fun, and joy into your life – to soothe and strengthen you.”
Below are a few resources that you may want to check out. Be sure that support groups truly support rather than do harm by amplifying agony, fear, or pain. As in any situation, carefully choose your support.
How do you respond to questions about your estranged adult child? Are you healing over estrangement? Do you have suggestions that would help others heal? What are some of the things you do to feel joy even though you have pain?