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Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Estrangement: A Mother’s Journey

By Marie Morin April 21, 2024 Family

As women over 60, we stand on the precipice of a remarkable phase in life, where the relationships we’ve cultivated with our adult children deepen with each passing year. Motherhood, a journey that began with cradling newborns and comforting midnight cries, has evolved into a rich tapestry adorned with shared laughter, tears, triumphs, and milestones.

The once sleepless nights are now cherished memories, marked by the enduring imprint of our love and dedication. As Mother’s Day approaches, it prompts reflection on the intricate evolution of these bonds – the moments of growth, the bonds strengthened through adversity, and the profound joy stemming from the unbreakable ties of family. It’s a time tinged with nostalgic reflection as we marvel at the journey we’ve embarked on together and eagerly anticipate the chapters yet to unfold.

Being in my 60s, having dealt with the sting of estrangement, and missing my mom, I enter springtime with nostalgia and curiosity. What will this Mother’s Day bring? I wish I could return to the days when I would load all the kids in the car and visit my mom.

I remember the tension of needing to be in two places simultaneously, visiting my mother-in-law and mom. Those days were hectic. So much has changed, with Mother’s Day now holding such sadness for adults of all ages.

I recently received an email from a clothing company, asking if I wanted to opt out of sales emails referring to Mother’s Day. It saddens me that so many adults are dealing with a loss of some kind, and that Mother’s Day would be triggering negative emotions. While the topic is focused on Mothers, I want to acknowledge the loss sustained by adult children as well.

Nurturing Adult Relationships: A Balancing Act

As our children transition into adulthood, the dynamic of our relationship undergoes a profound transformation, marked by a delicate interplay of love, respect, and understanding. No longer solely providers of care and guidance, we assume new roles as confidants, mentors, and friends, offering support as they navigate the complexities of adulthood.

This evolution demands a delicate balance – between providing unwavering support and granting them the freedom to forge their own paths. It’s a dance between imparting wisdom gleaned over the years and respecting their autonomy to make choices and learn from their experiences.

Communication is central to nurturing these adult relationships – the foundation of trust and understanding. Open, honest conversations serve as the lifeblood of our connection with our adult children, enabling us to share our thoughts, fears, and dreams in a nurturing environment.

Listening becomes art as we lend empathetic ears without judgment, honoring their perspectives and validating their feelings. In return, we offer guidance when sought, drawing from our own experiences to provide insight. However, we also recognize the importance of allowing them the space to find their answers, make mistakes, and chart their course.

Respecting their autonomy is crucial, affirming their ability to make decisions and take ownership of their lives. It’s a gesture of trust that communicates our belief in their capabilities and confidence in their ability to navigate life’s twists and turns.

Nurturing healthy adult relationships strengthens the bonds that bind us and lays the groundwork for a lifetime of mutual respect, understanding, and love. It’s a journey marked by growth, evolution, and an unwavering commitment to supporting one another through life’s highs and lows.

Acknowledging the Emotional Toll of Estrangement

However, amid Mother’s Day’s celebration and the joys of nurturing adult relationships, a shadow exists – a profound emotional toll that estrangement can inflict. For some mothers, Mother’s Day is a stark reminder of fractured relationships, dreams deferred, and connections severed. The absence of a child’s embrace or the silence of an unanswered call can cast a long shadow over what should be a day of celebration.

Whether temporary or enduring, estrangement can pierce a mother’s heart, leaving behind scars that may never fully heal. It’s a pain born of longing, unanswered questions, and the relentless ache for reconciliation. The absence of a beloved child can leave a void that no amount of time or distance can fill.

Embracing Healing and Hope: Tips for Reconnecting

In light of the emotional complexities surrounding estrangement, it’s essential to acknowledge and honor the pain while embracing healing and hope. Here are some tips for navigating the journey of reconciliation:

Self-Reflection

Reflect on your emotions and experiences surrounding the estrangement. Acknowledge your feelings without judgment and allow yourself space to grieve.

Open Communication

When fitting, initiate open, honest communication with your estranged child. Approach the conversation empathetically, seeking to understand their perspective while expressing your feelings. Open communication depends on the presence of a “no contact” that halts their desire and your communication attempt. If this is what happened to you, I am deeply sorry.

Seek Support

Reach out to friends, family members, or a therapist for support and guidance as you navigate the complexities of estrangement. Sharing your feelings with others can provide comfort and perspective.

Set Boundaries

Establish clear boundaries for the relationship moving forward, ensuring that both parties feel respected and heard. Boundaries foster trust and create a sense of safety within the relationship.

Practice Patience

Healing takes time, and reconciliation may not happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and your child as you navigate rebuilding your relationship.

Focus on Self-Care

Prioritize self-care and activities that bring joy and fulfillment. Taking care of yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally is essential as you navigate the challenges of estrangement. My free eBook, Feeling Heartbroken and Alone?, can be a helpful resource.

Hold onto Hope

Despite the challenges, hold onto hope for reconciliation. Remember that relationships can evolve and heal over time, and never underestimate the power of love and forgiveness.

As we navigate the emotional terrain of estrangement, may we find solace in the bonds that endure, and may Mother’s Day serve as a beacon of hope for reconciliation, healing, and renewed connections.

Also watch, Handling The Holidays After Estrangement.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What will you be doing differently for Mother’s Day that considers your well-being? Will all your children be present to celebrate with you?

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Rocket

Sixty and Me has published quite a few articles on the topic of estrangement. I have yet to see an article where the parent admits to any wrong doing on THEIR part for the estrangement. They always claim, “not to know WHY” this happened. I’m sure in a very small percentage of cases they do not know WHY. I am wiling to bet in the majority of cases their child HAS repeatedly told them but the parent DOWNPLAYED their child’s concerns and/or told them they are just “too sensitive”.

In my case, my mother was married 4x by the time she was 28 y/o! She still married and/or had common law husbands after that. Afew were alcoholics. It was always more important for her to have a man than to protect her children. Her 4th husband and biggest pr*ck and beat me regularly. One time my late sister called the police after I was knocked down a flight of stares and was bleeding from my nose and mouth. I could not close my jaw. Of course, we all “hope to have the mommy we wanted and deserved” and often spend too much time trying to find a path forward. We were estranged by my choice several times. With the help of a good therapist, I finally distanced myself from her years ago. I have no anger, or ill will, but I DO have my sanity. I truly believe that many parents have not taken responsibility for their role in an estrangement.

MARIE L MORIN

HI Rocket:
Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry about what happened to you when you were younger. I am thankful that you have worked through and processed the wounds. I hear you about responsibility. Interestingly, I am also hearing a lot of parents taking responsibility and apologizing, and still, their adult children want nothing to do with them. There are all variations in this very complex heartbreaking topic.

Jane

Rocket, don’t you think so much of this is generational? The Silent Generation didn’t apologize. They had no role models for good parenting, only the ones for conforming. Things opened up with my generation. It seems we didn’t spend the time with our children that Generation X (most of whom are working full time) spend with theirs. We used sitters; they rarely use sitters. We went out as a couple; they rarely go out as a couple.

From what I can tell, it looks like the offspring of Gen X will have healthy relationships with their parents. I do wonder how they will feel about all the helicoptering that went on. I don’t see lots of boundaries. And, some co-dependency. I am wondering if others do??

Dana

No, the minority of mothers know why. The minority of mothers truly were terrible The culture has demonized almost all normal parents. I am sorry if you have a horrible mother. I was not perfect, but I was a normal mother who tried my best and sometimes failed. NOTHING I did deserves this.

Dee

The last time I saw my estranged late son was Mother’s Day 2019 he passed a year later. My daughter moved out of the USA and always feels like I owe her an apology for something but she never, ever apologized to anyone for anything. She’s mentally exhausting as I struggle to deal with the loss of my son. My other son answers easily and it send his love-in girl friend has turned him into a pathological liar. I sent her Mother’s Day cards, gifts or sometimes not acknowledgement. My son did call me Mother’s Day night saying he had a busy day. I can hardly say my kids were my world and I did my very best with them. I get joy out of my grandchildren and that’s my focus now. Yes, Mother’s Day is hard but I no longer will allow my kids to dictate my happiness. Karma got them.

Dee

Not hardly say…I meant I can “honestly’ say.

Linda Hartong

There are also those of us who have lost a child to death. Our daughter passed away 9 years ago. Mother’s Day is sad for me. It is also a hard day for her children and husband. We rarely realize how large our circle of loved ones is. “Hallmark holidays” are difficult for many of us.

Debbie

I too have lost a daughter. For me, taking time during these holidays to honor and remember her has really helped. My heart goes out to you.

MARIE L MORIN

Hi Linda, I am sorry for the loss of your daughter. Thank you for pointing out what I wish I had included in the article. My apologies.

Audrey

I lost my oldest son he was 48yr. He passed in his sleep. January 28th, 2024. I have moved back home to help with my mom. She has days when you have to tell her who you are. I miss talking to her while she cook.

Dee

Sorry for your loss.🙏🏽

Amy

My ES (estranged son) is most likely permanently out of my life. Even if he were to want a relationship with me, again, I no longer feel the same about him, as I used to. He cut me out of his life with warning or a single explanation – and to me, that is a betrayal, because I loved him, so much. In the process of doing so, he also cut off my relationship with my little grandson.

I cannot love someone I cannot trust . . . and when my ES willingly left my life (for whatever reason), he broke the complete trust I had in him. In doing so, whatever relationship we had is over. I’ll never feel the same about him (not that he cares) . . . I can only love the memory of the son I used to have in my life.

Polly

I am completely in the same boat. I feel your pain and agree. This is becoming a “thing.” They weaponize our grandkids against us. I feel like this will have repercussions long-term that they can’t even understand. I am very sorry. Please do something wonderful for yourself over this holiday. I know I will. Wishing you joy and peace of mind. 🩷🌷

Kathy Dorsey

I can relate to betrayal and disrespect from my Son and his wife. I don’t see my teenaged Grandchildren and want to be a part of their lives. Three times I have reached out to him only to be rejected. Doesn’t seem to want to repair any of the issues. I know some day he will be sorry he didn’t make any effort to discuss the problem. As far as I am concerned it has been a misunderstanding. Jabs me with snide remarks and continually holds the past over me.

Marie Morin

Hello Amy, Thank you for sharing. I hear you and understand. I appreciate that you have come to love the memory of the son you used to have. I believe, for many, this is a prescriptive goal to reach. Sometimes it is the only thing we can do.

Sandie

I echo your sentiments. There can be no relationship when there is no trust. We all mess up, and yes! Even our children mess up too! Whether it be with poor relationship choices of their own or indulging in drugs or other antisocial behaviors, we ALL mess up. The difference is in being able to admit to it and to forge a solution and a path forward. When the adult child doesn’t offer anything but negativity, it’s time to decide whether or not we, the parent/s, wish to have that negative influence back in OUR lives. It’s NO good for someone to complain about their parents, for example, when there has been no clear effort to resolve things. Whenever I hear that, I know that the complainant/adult child usually shares more than their fair share of the blame and that they themselves are afraid to extend an olive branch for fear of being (deservedly?) rejected. This is why it’s so important to work on a solution if possible, and to accept when it’s best to let the relationship end permanently, for everyone’s sake. Move on and enjoy life because it is soon over.

Debbie

I’m so sorry. I understand you are hurting. Maybe in time you will feel differently. Trust is earned and I know from my own experience that with time and effort you can build back trust.
I wish you all the best on your journey.

Joni

I basically go thru the same thing with my daughter. One minute I feel like our relationship is getting better but then she stops inviting me to do anything with her or her kids! It’s like continuous hurt because I crave a relationship with her children.

Pauline

I will most probably be alone – my daughter of 58 years lives in another province in South Africa. I lost my son 23 years ago when he was killed in a horrible accident. But hey, I’m alive and a healthy 77 year old. I have my own garden cottage in a Retirement Village. So the dear Lord Jesus is good to me.

Marie Morin

Hi Pauline, thank you for writing. I am sorry for the loss of your son. I love that you will be celebrating being a healthy 77-year-old. Enjoy your day!!

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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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