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How Journaling at 60 Can Help You Heal from the Grief of Estrangement with Your Adult Child

By Marie Morin July 22, 2022 Family

Estrangement from an adult child is an emotional and/or physical distance that is emotionally troublesome for all involved. The complicated nature of the process and elements of estrangement are as varied as the individual stories. Estrangement can be a grueling condition with no one-size-fits-all solution.

Parents experience feelings described as having been “stabbed in the heart,” “crushed,” and “torn apart.” Grieving is a natural response to loss.

Since loss brings so many strong emotions, with the hardest being depression, it can be extremely challenging. This article discusses how journaling can help you heal from the grief of estrangement from an adult child.

Stages of Grief

Grief is the natural response to loss, whether from death or estrangement. The stages of grief gifted to us by Elizabeth Kugler Ross and co-authored by David Kessler are meant to guide one through the varied individual responses to grief.

Everyone’s experience is unique, with no best or typical way to get to an endpoint. One’s experience will change over time, and the mentioned stages can come in waves. The pain of grief is heart-wrenching, and although one may pine for an end to these emotions, there is no endpoint or shortcut.

The stages of grief include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, guilt, and acceptance. Parents may have intense anger over the loss of their adult child with guilt following.

Anger, depression, and guilt can be difficult to process. Parents experiencing these normal reactions, unfortunately, can become stuck. They can be so overcome with strong emotions that it becomes too hard to move forward.

Journaling Your Way to Process and Heal

Grieving over your child’s decision to estrange can cause anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. Common questions of grieving parents include: When will my child want to talk to me again? How will this ever get better? What can I do so my child will want to speak to me again?

Focusing on estrangement with the goal of improving can be extremely frustrating. The sad fact is that in most cases, it is up to the adult child to be ready. In the meantime, parents will benefit by allowing themselves to heal from the loss of the relationship status at this time.

Journaling is an excellent way to process hurts. It allows you to move through the stages, and eventually come to acceptance. Journaling when grieving is an active form of self-care so that you move through the stages and heal. Journaling allows you to slow down and write your thoughts and feelings in raw format.

Writing freely without judging yourself is important. Daily journaling can take as little as 10 minutes. You can use a regular notebook or a designated special journal with a special pen. Don’t be concerned with spelling and grammar. You can either journal at a specific time or whenever the urge strikes. The idea is to allow yourself to feel, express honestly, and return to another activity.

You may also use your journal to track your wellness. Assess your emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioral, spiritual, and social state. You will want to note what are you experiencing emotionally. Are you angry, anxious, hurt, frustrated, shocked, agitated, or guilty?

How is your physical health? Are you exercising, eating, well, getting good sleep? Are you having trouble concentrating and are more forgetful than usual? Keep track of your social involvement. Social connection is a vital piece of your wellness.

Be mindful of each of these areas. If you are having difficulty, it is advisable to find a professional to help you.

When journaling be sure to set reasonable expectations for yourself. If you aren’t fond of writing, keep it simple. You can draw stick figures and use colored pencils to express your feelings. Allow yourself to let emotions come to the surface, in whatever way you can, flow without judgement.

Another benefit of journaling is preparation for reconciling. Journaling will assist you in being mindful of your emotions so that you learn to manage your reactions.

When you are hurt by an adult child, on the off chance you can communicate with them, you want to be composed. Journaling will allow you to express yourself, stay in tune with what you feel, and help you respond instead of react.

Journaling and Emotional Visits

Make time for an emotional visit to allow yourself to feel acceptance of what is happening in the moment. It’s uncomfortable to have estrangement in your life. The onslaught of big feelings requires time to sort out your emotions.

There is no right or wrong way. Consider making a favorite cup of tea, grab a journal if you like, and let yourself feel through your writing. Be compassionate, and if you need to cry or groan, let it be.

Spend as much time as you need; rest when you feel a release. When you are ready, do something you like to do. Then go back to your journaling emotional visit on another day.

This exercise allows you to ventilate. Processing the gravity and loss of estrangement is a necessary step you cannot afford to skip.

This exercise will also help you decrease the power of feelings such as guilt and shame. Strong unprocessed feelings keep us stuck. Getting out of the stuck state requires time to process. Essentially, you are helping yourself to grieve and move forward.

Keys to Journaling Your Grief Over Your Adult Child

  1. Be patient with yourself and your emotions.
  2. Be compassionate. Treat yourself as you would a good friend.
  3. Allow yourself to feel all emotions. If you are angry, write about why you are angry. If you are feeling depressed, write about how sad you are and why.
  4. When you feel some type of release, do something that brings you pleasure like call a dear friend, hang out with your pet, watch a funny movie, or go for a walk.
  5. Look forward to acceptance and expect that you will get through the worst of grieving.
  6. Focus on caring for yourself by doing basic self-care with eating, sleeping well, staying hydrated, socializing, and exercising.

Many parents hoping for reconciliation benefit by learning communication skills, caveats, and exercises to better cope with inner turmoil. It is a tough journey that need not be done without support.

Journaling Your Emotions Is a Supportive Self-Care Process

Some estranged parents do have minimal contact with their adult child. If your adult child is abusive, learn to practice setting boundaries. Boundaries are essential with adult children that treat you disrespectfully are essential.

Healthy boundaries are clearly stated, can be adhered to, and are easy to remember. With adult children, boundaries are a parent’s method of creating a fence around what is permitted and what is not. Your relationship is not fair, but while your estranged adult can decide when and how to speak to you and see you, you still get to decide what works for you.

Journaling and emotionally processing will help to move you forward.

What have you tried to heal from the grief of your adult child cutting you off? What do you think about journaling to help express emotions? What is your estrangement story?

Let's Have a Conversation!

The Author

Marie Morin is a therapist and wellness coach at Morin Holistic Therapy. She helps women develop a daily self-care routine, so they overcome perfectionism and limiting beliefs and be their most confident selves. Marie is a grateful blogger and YouTuber. Find out more at morinholistictherapy.com and contact her at morinholistictherapy@gmail.com.

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Carol Peacock

I am still waiting for the acceptance stage. I don’t know if I can get to it because I keep holding out hope that things will work out. My husband and I realized that we had made mistakes too, so we went on an “apology tour” with our kids, trying to get a reconciliation, but things only got worse. I have been in the grief stage for about 10 yrs. My husband and I finally moved far away from our kids to try to “move on”. Problem is, I’m still grieving. I know it takes time to heal, but this is ridiculous! I spent my 50’s crying. I want to spend my 60’s on something else. Heck, people get over the death of a loved one in 1 to 2 years! I mean people who have been married for over 40 yrs. can re-marry after a spouse dies, and I spend 10 yrs grieving about some spoiled, immature kids (their all married, the oldest is 40). Journaling has helped. I started doing that about 6 months ago. Counseling also, kind of helped. Mostly that helped me to realize that I am mentally ill. Something that I thought I had escaped being until now.

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