I recently received the following feedback about the estrangement article on my website (which is not specifically about parents and children, but rather any estrangement).
It’s so similar to the theme of other comments on that article, and to those posted here in When Adult Children Won’t Talk to Their Parents and Estrangement Takes Two, that I thought I should address it.
A reader wrote:
“I have the same question as I have with all other articles I read: why is it that the parents have to acknowledge and profess blame for everything? Why do they have to accept as true whatever the child says or believes, and has to learn the error of their ways? Yet, the child does not have to undergo any introspection into the reality of their beliefs?
“Maybe that’s why they are the way they are – narcissistic spoiled brats who think they are always right and refuse to accept that maybe their view of their parent is not reality. Why isn’t the parent’s view of the situation reality? Isn’t it possible that there is some truth to both parties’ views, and that to have a true healthy relationship they both need to acknowledge that and say ‘I’m sorry’ and forgive? Maybe the child needs to accept that whatever faults a parent might have, there is such a thing as FORGIVENESS?”
Causes and Cures
Whose view of reality is the correct one (and I’m not convinced there is such a thing as a correct view, let alone “reality,” when any two people get together) is irrelevant when you’ve been rejected.
If someone – anyone – cuts you out of their lives, you lose the luxury of demanding fairness. Your only choice, if it matters to you who’s right, is to walk away if you feel abused.
But of course, most parents would rather lose a limb than a child (I use the term “child” only to distinguish between the adult who’s the parent and the adult they raised).
The use of phrases like “narcissistic spoiled brats” above may sound angry, but I think it reveals the pain and hurt of having been rejected.
The lack of curiosity expressed about the adult-child’s point view,
The failure to express even simple regret that the adult-child has experienced pain within the relationship,
The insistence that the child forgive without necessarily receiving a proper apology …
These invalidating behaviors from a parent could only be the response of someone in terrible pain themselves — someone with nothing left to give.
Rather than the rational reactions they’re touted to be, they’re bricks in a wall of defense against the anguish of rejection by adult children.
Defensiveness creates a terrible stalemate in which no forgiveness is possible, on either side.
Healing both self and relationship begins with self-compassion.
Rejected parents can start to heal (and potentially to shift the relationship) by “owning” their pain — not the pain they’re purported to have caused the child, but rather the parents’ own pain about the estrangement.
Please read the above sentence again to make sure you understand it, because it might not be what you expected.
Owning your pain means allowing yourself to fully feel and acknowledge exactly what’s true for you — rejection, abandonment, despair, etc.
Concentrating on what your adult child is doing wrong distracts from this process.
If you’re an estranged parent and you sit with your pain, you’ll almost certainly uncover self-critical thoughts/feelings that were there long before your child rejected you.
Maybe even before they were born.
That’s where the gold is. Don’t judge your feelings, or yourself for having them. You’ve got to “feel it to heal it.”
Read the excerpt from my Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children for much more on how to safely and effectively take control of your emotional life and reconnect with your estranged child, if that’s possible.
Best wishes to all who are experiencing this awful situation.