If You are Estranged from Your Adult Child, It Doesn’t Mean You are a Horrible Parent

If You are Estranged from Your Adult Child, It Doesn’t Mean You are a Horrible Parent

You were always doing the best you could do

Image for postPhoto by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

I have written a lot about being estranged from my youngest daughter. She just turned 27 and she has not been in my life for 8 years. Unless you have walked this path, there is no way you can know the heartache, the grief, and cruelest of all, the shame, of having your child cut you out of their life.

One of the most difficult things that comes with this path we did not seek is the lack of compassion, understanding and comfort coming from others. While some people may attempt to comfort you by saying, ?It?s just a phase, they?ll come back,? these words bear little in the way of reassurance. Sometimes, I find it is best just to not tell people about it.

The worst part of having your child walk away from you is the crushing shame that you feel. I have spent so much time engulfed in the shame of having my child reject me. I have wept until there were no more tears, been physically ill with the weight of it and thrashed myself for being such a failure. I came to the conclusion that it has to be all my fault. I have failed my child and this is what I deserve. I was caught in a spiral of guilt, shame and self-recrimination that was taking me further into the abyss.

Fortunately, one day, I came to the end of my ability to sustain this kind of agony. I was tired. I was ready to let go. My daughter had decided to cut off all contact, so I had no way of apologizing, no way of trying to make amends. I had no choice but to do my own work to get to a place of healing and acceptance. I took two steps forward and three steps back. But I forged ahead, determined to be free from this heavy cloak of despair that I had been wearing.

Slowly, I healed. Slowly, I let go. Slowly, I made progress toward acceptance.

Even as I have made so much progress to heal myself, I still had to face the fact that I had failed my daughter, even without trying to. I was not a perfect mother. I have begun to realize there is no such thing, even though I held myself to that standard. Every day, I was doing the best I could do. Every day, I was trying to love my children to the best of my ability. Every day, I tried to give them what they needed. Did I miss the mark sometimes? Oh, so often. Did I hurt them, without even trying? Yes. Did I let them down? You bet. But I was always doing the best I could do. And I was always willing to own my mistakes.

I read an article written by a therapist that said if your child has cut you off, it is your responsibility to admit your role in that and offer a sincere apology. I can go along with that. It would be wonderful if my child and I could have a discussion about what she is feeling, what has happened to make her choose to shut me out of her life. I am willing to take responsibility for my part in that. Unfortunately, my daughter will have no contact with me. If there is no communication, reaching out can be virtually impossible. Even if you want to make amends, you can?t.

You are left with no choice but to see yourself with loving compassion, change what needs changing and heal yourself. You cannot wait around for your child to come back to you. You cannot wait for them to forgive you ? that may never happen. You cannot continue to beat yourself up. I know that it is possible for adult children to walk away from a relationship with their parents for many reasons that have nothing to do with whether you were a good parent or not. Good parents make big mistakes sometimes. Being human, it is not an option to never make a mistake.

Whatever happened, you were always trying to do your best. Your fears, wounds and beliefs, your childhood, your relationships all affected you and your child. There is no escaping that. But if you were a sincere parent, one who always wanted only the best for your child, you have to accept that even if you made some big mistakes, you are still worthy of love.

At some point, our adult children have to deal with their own fears and wounds and come to a place that we must all come to, and that is taking responsibility for our own healing. And, adult children can also suffer mental illness, or be invested in being a victim, or tell themselves stories that may or may not be true. Adult children can be narcissists, too. That is not a diagnosis reserved for parents.

If they can find a way to set themselves free, at least enough to reach out and start the work of reconciliation, then maybe we can find our way back to relationship. We can?t offer our efforts at reparation until they are ready.

So, until the day that my daughter is ready to sit with me and help me understand what happened so I can try to make it right, I will continue to send her love everyday. I will continue to wish for her to be free from her pain. I will continue to tend to my own spiritual and personal growth, so there will be one less wounded human being adding to the collective pain of our world. And I will keep reminding myself that I am not a horrible parent or a horrible person. It is all I can do.

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