April is Stress Awareness Month – Part 5

The 8 Stages of Estrangement
Looking at Both Sides of the Coin

From the Parent’s Perspective

Stage 4 | Shame & Blame

Shame typically begins during the rejection phase after a parent has worked through Acceptance Part 1. The reality of the estrangement starts to set in. The questioning begins. A parent may think they lack parenting skills. What on earth did a parent do for a child to shut a parent out completely? Or, what did a parent not do? This stage is when a parent internalizes the pain and questions the validity of the source. Frequently, a parent does not know the reason(s) for the estrangement. A parent begins to feel shame. The shame of a child’s rejection and the shame of what behavior a parent may have or may not have done or said or not said. The mere thought of a child rejecting a parent is vile; therefore, a parent experiences shame. A deep to-the-core type of shame.

I rack my brain day and night trying to figure out where I went wrong. I thought I was encouraging and supportive. I had heart-to-heart conversations with my child when he was young. As he aged, he started to distant himself from me. I thought it was a normal part of growing up. The shame and blame messages played again and again every day and every night. Many nights I cried myself to sleep. When will this nightmare end?

A parent’s perspective

Shame and blame often coincide. A parent blames themself. A parent blames the child. A parent blames the spouse (or former spouse). Or, in the case of parent alienation, blames the court system. In the end, the question remains, was the estrangement caused by another human being? Or was the estrangement caused by an action? A miscommunication? A series of misfortunate incidents? Lack of communication? Or no communication at all? There is blame, shame, and anger all around. 

Abstract painting by K. Davies [KevinDaviesART]

From a Child’s Perspective

Stage 4 | Acceptance Part 1

The child comes to terms with the fact they can no longer reach out to the parent under any circumstances. This is when the child begins to accept that they are not speaking to a parent. They have distanced them from the parent and continue not responding to attempts at contact. They have made a choice, and nothing will set them off course. They see this conflict or relationship avoidance as black and white. There is no in-between thinking for the child.

I chose to dissolve this relationship because it wasn’t working. My whole life was turned upside down and I don’t need my mother causing any more drama. It was all about her. She would instigate fights with my father, and I got caught in the middle – all the time. I’m done. No more drama. My father and I have gotten much closer since we are on the same team.
We won. My mother lost.

A child’s perspective

At this point, the child is telling themselves they no longer have the parent they have estranged from. They have cut them out of their life. The pain they feel is pushed deep inside and locked in a vault. This stage is when the child feels proud of themselves – that they actually have separated from the parent. The parent who is the perceived enemy is no longer valued, recognized, or seen as a threat. As far as the child is concerned, the parent no longer exists. The child has accepted this course of action and is determined to live their life without their parent in it.

Author’s Note: Estrangement caused me to feel unloved, and I knew I needed to love myself before I could love others again. From my experience in participating in support groups with other estranged parents, there is a choice to make. You can choose to blame, distrust, and be bitter. Or, you can choose to love and heal yourself, from this incredibly harrowing experience, by opening up to others. It’s up to you. A special thank you to Kathryn Kollowa, EdD, MSN, RN for her feedback and added insights incorporated in this most recent update.

If you gained insight into estrangement, please like and comment.
(This is my “call to action” I’m supposed to include in every post and often forget.)

Thanks so much for your support!

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