The 8 Stages of Estrangement
Looking at Both Sides of a Coin
From the Parent’s Perspective
Stage 6 | Acceptance Part II
Once the anger has dissipated, a parent can start the next phase of Acceptance Part 2. Parents may consider self-help activities such as journaling, painting, or meditation at this stage. To begin this part of the journey, parents need to reflect. Reflect on their relationship with the estranged child, as well as on their own childhood relationship with their parents. A note of caution for this stage. Reflection can be emotionally draining. So, be aware of what is happening physically. Check breathing, heart rate, and sweating. Pay attention to the body’s physical reactions. Stop or take a break from reflecting when it feels uncomfortable.
In this stage, a parent accepts the estrangement as part of a bigger picture whereby a child may not have estranged willingly. Or thoughtfully. Or knowingly that the estrangement would last for months, years, or decades. During this phase, the parent reflects on the hidden pain and/or trauma the child may have had or perceived they had. The Acceptance Stage also acknowledges that a child may not know how to reconcile. It is the phase where compassion for the estranged child and their pain begins.
Moreover, this step comes to terms with a child making “no contact” and respecting the decision. This stage is a promising one. Once a parent has accepted the estrangement as part of life’s circumstances, a parent can start to let go of the past and realize that there may be no future with an estranged child. A parent should no longer attempt to mail letters, send friend requests, and ask others who may know the child for any information. Parents need to use their judgment. There is a no one size fits all. It might be okay if a parent wishes to send a birthday greeting each year. It is the realization of the reason behind the action. Is the action for the parent? Or, for the child, in an attempt to invade their privacy or expect a response?
This stage is challenging, especially for hopeful and generally optimistic people. Thinking that reconciliation may happen someday conjures up visions of unicorns and torture. The goal of Acceptance Part 2 is peace and respect for oneself and others, including an estranged child. Some parents may call this radical acceptance. Furthermore, it is the process of stepping back from the estrangement and finally moving forward with life and having a purpose.
From the Child’s Perspective
Stage 6 | Fear
Fear is the stage when the child begins to mature and change. They fear the unknown. They fear getting to know themselves. They fear having made bad decisions. They fear their parent has disowned them. Or the parent no longer wishes them to be a part of their life. In this stage, children fear the other parent or anyone who has aided in the estrangement. What will that parent do if the child reaches out and attempts a reconciliation? It is common in this stage to question the motives. The child has felt manipulated in the past and fears feeling manipulated again.
Older adult children drop out of a parental relationship to avoid unwanted input. Some of these adult children estrange from their parents to protect their children. Adult children fear their parents, and they fear becoming like their parents with their own children. Hence, the reason for cutting the parents out of their lives. For mentally weak-minded people, it takes a lot less energy with a smaller circle of friends and relatives.
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.
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