The 8 Stages of Estrangement
Looking at Both Sides of a Coin
From a Parent’s Perspective
Stage 2 | 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. 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 step, a parent acknowledges that the parent-child relationship has changed. Often, family and friends ask why did this happen? Or, what caused this estrangement?
This stage is confusing for all parties because the estranged parent is just starting to come to terms with the reality of the lost relationship. Parents need clarification. They don’t know the answers. And these questions may very well trigger sadness. Anger. Emotions come out of nowhere. Accepting the estrangement, even on a superficial level, exposes it, which leads to feeling very vulnerable. Daily living becomes muddled. Parents feel a sense of imbalance and try to come to face the loss. This can invoke feelings of worthlessness.
It is best to support parents going through this experience at this stage. Sit with them. Hold their hand. Give them a hug. Silence may be golden. At this point, reconnection can become an obsession. A parent attempts to discover the reasons for 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.
From a Child’s Perspective
Stage 2 | Rejection
Children reject a parent. Maybe both parents. This is the stage where a child shuts down. They are rejecting life as they know it. Whether it is from a misperceived conversation, different ideologies, divorce, or a loss of a parent. They want to be alone. They retreat. They start having trouble focusing on work or school. They really want to be somewhere else. They feel trapped because there may be no other place to turn. Children at this stage may look forward to becoming more independent, so they can further reject their current situation.
At this stage, a child may be influenced by the other parent, a peer, their spouse, or another significant person. The third-party encourages the estrangement. The person who is doing the estranging feels guilty. At the same time, they feel rejected. In other words, they feel abandoned by the parent; therefore, they are leaving the parent. Most children do not verbalize these feelings, so it catches the parent off-guard. The child may have been thinking about estrangement for many years. It gradually does become a reality.
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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