I and Thou: April is Stress Awareness Month

An open note to estranged parents:

Deviating from the norm of this blog, I share this article to bring light and hope to parents who have been alienated or estranged by a child.

I know the depth of my love for my child and the void in my heart. I feel the intensity of pain that never seems to go away. I ask myself why? Why me? Why my child?

Estrangement is not normal, so the rules of normalcy do not apply. I urge you to read each of the 8 stages slowly and carefully. I pray that you will glean a nugget, a treasure you can hold in your heart to help you move forward. I finally feel I am moving forward…less pain, more acceptance, and more healing.

May the God of love, mercy, and healing be with you and your pain today. May tomorrow be less stressful, less painful, and much brighter. 

8 Stages of Estrangement

There are eight stages of estrangement between a parent and child. In this article, a child refers to any child at any age, including adult children. The estrangement in this article is the estrangement of a son and a mother. A son blocked his mother from social media and stopped all communication with her. She tried endlessly to reconnect to no avail. Ten years later, she still does not know what triggered the estrangement. Parent alienation may have been at play. 

Estrangement and grief go hand-in-hand because, at some level, estrangement is loss, and so is death. The difference is that death is final, and estrangement may not necessarily be absolute. There is hope in estrangement. Death is final. One could probably argue that hope is not healthy, and perhaps hoping less will lead to more efficient healing.

On the other hand, others will continue to hope – a glass-half-full, half-empty type of analogy. Emotions play a critical role in the process of healing from loss. Individuals who are more empathetic and have more of an advocate personality may have a slightly more difficult time processing loss. Those who are less empathetic and more optimistic may have an easier time with loss. 

According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, experiencing these five stages of grief, regardless of order or even vacillating between each one, leads to healing. There is plenty of information on the internet regarding grief. Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief are:

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

E. Kubler-Ross

In estrangement, a similar set of components are necessary for healing and moving forward. This process can take years or even decades to complete in both grief and estrangement. The eight stages of estrangement are:

Denial

Acceptance Part 1

Rejection

Shame and Blame

Anger

Acceptance Part 2

Fear

Healing

R. Walton

Denial

Denial is not believing a situation exists. It is pretending that the estrangement is not real and hoping it will disappear. Surely, a child cannot estrange themself from a parent. What type of child would do that? Denial is a normal response, and it is the path of least resistance. It is typically short-term. Eventually, denial replaces accepting the reality of the situation, whether the parent likes it or not. In death, denial does not want to believe a loved one has passed on from this world onto the next. Denial is a defense mechanism wishing the estrangement is not absolute, and normalcy will return. However, that is often not the case. Once parents understand the estrangement is not going away, Acceptance Part 1 begins.

 Acceptance – Part 1

Once the denial phase is over, a parent begins to accept the concept of estrangement. A parent first seeks to understand the growing number of estranged parent-child relationships by scouring the internet for possible resources on the subject. A parent may not even know how commonplace it is and can quickly become an expert on the topic realizing other parents have encountered a similar situation. In this Acceptance Part 1 stage, a parent acknowledges that the parent-child relationship has changed. At this stage, reconnection becomes an obsession. A parent attempts to discover the reasons that led to the estrangement and remains hopeful for reconciliation. During this stage, a parent realizes that the relationship that once was is no longer. Coming to terms with this acceptance leads to rejection. Furthermore, feeling both accepting of the situation and rejection by it simultaneously is quite common.

Rejection

Rejection is an emptiness and a feeling of loss and causes both physical and emotional stress. Rejection of a parent by a child is a traumatic experience. It is very much related to power and control. A child has exerted power and control over the relationship by walking away from it, which is hurtful. Reactions such as anxiety, panic attacks, and other physical pain or stress occur when rejection occurs. If estrangement occurs during a divorce, a rejection by a child can add fuel to the fire of feeling rejected by the spouse. In some cases, an entire set of relatives and friends disappear in what may seem like an instant. During this stage, a parent feels physically and emotionally depleted. Lost. Loss of a child. Loss of a marriage. Loss of a family. Loss of what was. Loss of what was to be.

Shame and Blame

Shame typically begins during the rejection phase after a parent has worked through the 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 mere thought of a child rejecting a parent is vile; therefore, a parent experiences shame. A deep to the core type of 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. Shame and blame often coincide. A parent blames themself. A parent blames a child. A parent blames a spouse (or former spouse). Or, in the case of parent alienation, blames a 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. 

Anger

Anger is the reaction to an unpleasant situation. It is a normal emotion and frequently occurs in the everydayness of life. The anger resulting from estrangement runs deep – much more profound than the everyday kind. This one is the ugly cousin of shame and blame. This anger is volatile, yet, it can also be quietly simmering beneath the surface, waiting to explode. During the estrangement process, anger is necessary. It is anger with oneself, a child, a spouse or former spouse, family, friends, and even God. Anger that questions the estrangement and the role others may or may not have played to either lead to the estrangement or to support and encourage it. Did a parent do all they could do to prevent this? Did a spouse (or former spouse) encourage counseling? Did family members disown the estranged parent or intervene? Was there a feeling of hopelessness? Or did not do enough? Or did too much? This anger phase involves questioning oneself and others, which is necessary for healing. It is vital to vent by deep breathing, talking to a therapist or friend, exercising, or alleviating the stress that builds from the anger during this anger stage. Even though thoughts of murder, suicide, and kidnapping may occur, one cannot act upon them.

Acceptance – Part 2

Once the anger has dissipated, a parent can start the next phase of Acceptance Part 2. This stage is where 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. The acceptance stage acknowledges that a child may not know how to reconcile. It also 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. This stage is tough to journey through, especially for hopeful and generally optimistic people. Thinking that one day, reconciliation may happen 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.  

Fear 

This stage involves non-estranged children. It is the fear of potential estrangement from another child. After estrangement, fear clouds the relationship between a parent and the non-estranged child. This fear negatively influences parenting decisions. A parent will discipline the non-estranged child less. A parent will adjust their communication for fear that something said will trigger the non-estranged child to estrange. Is the fear realistic? For a parent who has lost a valued relationship with one child – the fear is real – it is a perceived danger and potential threat. The risk of losing another relationship often leads to also avoiding intimate conversations. The relationship is fragile, and a parent wants to guard it to ensure it does not break. Living and parenting with the fear of estrangement are not easy. It is a difficult stage to endure and learning to live day by day keeping worry at bay is a good goal to have. As the non-estranged child matures, the fear of estrangement may dissipate based on their behaviors and communication.  

Healing

Healing comes in all sizes and shapes, and moving forward with life and becoming unstuck, is essential. Healing can begin with writing, therapy, exercise, or workshops. Breathing retreats can help. Seminars on Living a Miraculous Life can help. Spiritual vacations can help. Whatever helps heal a parent from estrangement is worth doing, especially if it means being open to a conversation with someone who loves a craft or activity that you do not. No matter how healing takes place, there is nothing more important in this world than for a parent to be their best authentic self.  

 About the Author 

Ruth is a blogger of I and Thou Reflections on WordPress and Facebook. WordPress exhibits her heartfelt reflections on life, love, and relationships. Facebook contains excerpts from her devotional book on human relationships as well as her I and Thou Reflections. She has authored a fiction book on love, travel, marriage, and separation due out at the end of this year. Ruth has also written a 365 devotional on reflections on God, scripture, and human relationships, which will be part of a series tentatively titled, Sacred Traits, hoping to publish in the following year. Ruth is currently working on numerous other writing projects, including a Career Journal. She is a former director of career services at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, AR, and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. Her younger son recently graduated college and lives on the east coast. Ruth’s eldest son lives on the west coast and estranged from her more than ten years ago. Through research, writing, and prayer, she has healed to the point where she can respect his feelings and remains hopeful for a reconciliation.

I and Thou: Out with the Old!

Here is my last blog post for 2021…

Goodbye 2021

Can’t wait til Next Year!

Image credit: 321horoscope.com

Global pandemic
Underestimated variants
Lost souls

Vaccinations
Unlimited supply
Saved souls

Political climate
Unrest
Misguided souls

Shopping malls
Haunted spaces
Vaccination places

Housing market
Lowered inventory
High Appreciation

Child still missing
Estranged too long
Hopeful for new beginnings

I and Thou – Zero Contact

Blog_Pic56Relationships are not simple, far from it. Many parents have experienced children who pull away – sometimes for reasons parents can’t figure out others for apparent reasons. Children who distance themselves from parents believe the parents failed in some significant way – typically unbeknownst to them. The parent is left befuddled and profoundly heartbroken. Like a limb that has been severed; yet still feel is there. Human relationships are fragile. A relationship with the Divine is 100% contact. Faith in God is your rock. For those of you who have zero contact with your children – don’t lose hope. As long as there is breath in life – so is there a chance of reconciliation. Today, tomorrow or the day after. May you find restoration.

 

I and Thou – Love, Sweet Love

Blog_Pic54
Love for a child,
Runs deep in the soul.
Anger shades the leaves so green.
Love for a child,
Runs deep in the soul.
Shame shades the leaves so red.
Love for a child,
Runs deep in the soul.
Blame shades the leaves so brown.
The tree grows and matures through time,
The leaves once green are now so brittle.
Deep in the roots the tree lives on,
The roots fed by love sweet love.

 
Photo Credit:  Abhishek Kumar

I and Thou – New Year’s ABC’s

Happy New Year!

Blog_Pic48

Artwork Credit: David Baruch Wolk
Title: Holy Alphabet

In with the new and out with the old.

In with…

Affirmation and out with rejection.

Blessing and out with condemnation.

Calmness and out with turbulence.

Delight and out with discontent.

Endearment and out with alienation.

Friendship and out with aloofness.

Gratitude and out with thanklessness.

Harmony and out with discord.

Improvement and out with stagnation.

Justice and out with falsehood.

Kindness and out with selfishness.

Love and out with hatred.

Magnificent and out with ordinary.

Navigate and out with ignore.

Optimism and out with hopelessness.

Passion and out with indifference.

Quirky and out with conventional.

Relationship and out with estrangement.

Self-reflection and out with self-absorption

Tranquility and out with upheaval.

Understanding and out with unfeeling.

Value and out with worthlessness.

Warmth and out with coldness.

X-traordinary and out with the standard.

Yet and out with but.

Zip and out with inactivity.

In with the new and out with the old.

I and Thou – Celebrate Life!

Mother’s Day is bittersweet if you have a good relationship with one child and a non-existent relationship with the other. How on earth can this happen? Well, today we are not going to try to figure this out. No one is to blame, and no one is to be sad.

Today is a day of celebration!
Celebrating love. Blog_Pic43
Celebrating life.

Whether or not you are in good standing with your children, today is a day to celebrate Mothers; regardless of the emotional baggage that may or may not be there. Mother’s are rocks. Mother’s are saints. Mother’s are close to being divine. Whether your mother is alive or not, think of the nine-month gestation period which she carried you. She loved you from the moment she suspected she was pregnant. She delivered, fed, and nurtured YOU! And, that is worth celebrating!

I and Thou – Dare to Stand

God created all people. Over the years, people have scattered and lost sight of God. Many cultures rejected God and began to believe they were self-sufficient. They didn’t need God in their life. Many people today, still believe they don’t need God and worse, they think that people who do believe in God, are somehow weak or less than. It is the people who dare to stand up and say YES I believe in God, the one TrueBlog_Pic41 God, the God who made heaven and earth that is seen and unseen, who hear God’s voice. The Giver of Life. The Almighty God. God brought all goodness to the planet. It is the people and the work of Satan that destroyed so much of the goodness. In the end, God will reign. Forever and ever. The human mind doubts this, and it is tough to believe that there will be a forever and ever. Life will end as we know it; yet, our spirits will live. It will BE forever. Your soul will commune with God eternally. You will live in the light, and your physical aches and pains will disappear. You will have no more pain. No more sorrow. No more heartaches. You will be reunited with those who have passed onto the next life before you…spouses, parents, all of your loved ones and especially estranged children.  Declare God’s divinity now! Stand up! Be accountable! Ask Forgiveness! Go and spread the Good News! God is alive! Every knee shall bow down to God. Be bold and worship!  All are welcome and that means YOU…it is time…rejoice!  God is alive!

I and Thou – Without Just Cause

Adults fed you falsehoods which made you feel unsafe; yet, you don’t understand why. You felt abandoned. Stalked. Unjustly crucified. Accused of something you did not do.
You severed a relationship without just cause.Blog_Pic36

Fear of abuse. Sexual abuse. Physical abuse. Financial abuse. Emotional abuse. Buried deep down within your soul the fear is there. Fear of the unknown. It is latent, and you don’t remember the specific events.
You severed a relationship without just cause.

Trusting is difficult. You readily accuse without facts. You wanted to control the situation; yet, you were helpless. God lit a path you did not take because you wanted to live on your own terms.
You severed a relationship without just cause.

I and Thou – Pain of Estrangement

The Pain of Estrangement

Mother and eldest son estranged
Since the divorce.

Mother sent gifts first Christmas
Father returned them unopened.

Mother doesn’t understand why
Father doesn’t talk to mother either.

Mother feels betrayed, shamed and disrespected
Father feels in control, full of power.

Mother fights the tears away
Father delights in seeing his son.

Mother hasn’t seen son in years
Father sees him regularly.

Mother moved 5 times in 6 years
Father moved none.

Mother, uncle, and grandmother shunned at graduation
Father and other grandparents celebrated with the son.

Mother’s mother passed away
The eldest son was unresponsive.

Mother watched college graduation through live stream
Father flew to witness and celebrate.

Mother has no address for son
Father doesn’t share information.

Mother loves a child unconditionally
Father loves a child unconditionally.

Then, why does the Father
Keep the Mother away?

I and Thou – You are not Worthless

You were and are not Worthless

You were not worthless
because you were molested as a child.

You were not worthless
because you were date raped in college.

You were not worthless
because you married a man, who lost his love for you.

You were not worthless
because your husband sought to financially destroy you.

You were not worthless
because you needed to protect vulnerable children.

You were not worthless
because your husband alienated your child from you.

You were not worthless
because you worked four jobs to pay bills.

You were not worthless
because you brought enormous and abundant value to so many.

You were not worthless
because actions had consequences.

You were not worthless
because you were kind, gentle, and compassionate.

You were not worthless
because you were responsible, a good communicator and role-model advisor.

You were not worthless
because you loved to teach, coach and mentor.

You were not worthless
because actions caused visible, invisible, and physical reactions.

You were not worthless
because your words were meaningful and profoundly insightful.

You were not worthless
because you would never stop talking to someone no matter what the circumstances were.

You were not worthless
because you love with a never-ending love.

You were not worthless
because you could whip up a gourmet meal on a moment’s notice.

You were not worthless
because you achieved the goals, you set for yourself.

You were not worthless
because you had grit and an abominable spirit.

You were not worthless
because you overcame many trials and tribulations

You were not worthless
because you placed other’s needs above your own.

You were not worthless
because you overcame.

You were not worthless
because you forgave those, who needed forgiveness.

You are not worthless
because you are a child of the almighty creator of the universe.