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: Be My Valentine

Valentine’s Day – Share the love!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 
– 1 Thessalonians 4:9

Does this scripture remind you of Valentine’s Day?

What exactly are its origins?

Have you heard about the god of Lupercus?

Well, apparently, that is how it all started. According to americancatholic.org,

The roots of St. Valentine’s Day lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on Feb. 15.  For 800 years, the Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus.  On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.1

The Catholic Roots of Valentine’s Day

Sexual companionship for an entire year may sound appealing, especially during a pandemic; yet, what happens after the year is up?

Long-lasting relationships are built on love. Love is sharing simple things in life, such as walking in the park, cooking a meal, giggling while watching a comedy, or discussing life’s spiritual mysteriousness. And, when you find love, it is like winning a lottery – every day.

During the 18th Century in England, Valentine’s Day evolved into a card and flower-giving holiday celebrating love and romance.  Maybe this holiday is an opportunity to proclaim God’s love for humankind? 

Let’s think about spreading God’s love, not by participating in the billion-dollar holiday it has become but by simply loving others. Welcome God’s love and share it with others.  This special once-a-year day reminds us to show our appreciation for one another. For partners.  For family members. For church members. For Friends.  So, embrace love. Let Valentine’s Day become an opportunity to express your love, respect, and friendship to someone in your life.

  • Human connection – speaking your love language to your Valentine helps keep the spark alive.

Action:  Send Valentine Day wishes of love and laughter to all the special people in your life.

1Guest Author, The Catholic Roots of St. Valentine’s Day.  Retrieved on November 2, 2016. .https://www.franciscan media.org/ the-catholic-roots-of-st-valentines-day/

I and Thou: Random Words for February

What words come to your mind when you think about February?

February


Dazzling Diamond
Deep Desire
Fabulously Faithful

Forgive Freely
Healing Heart
Huggable Human

Lasting Love
Lingering Laughter
Loyal listener
Sensual Soul
Silent Security
Soothing Snuggle
Sweet Smile
Tantalizing Thrills
Tasteful Treats
Therapeutic Tranquility
Timely Tenderness
Thriving Teamwork

I and Thou: Traditions

Photo Credit: Sarah Loft fineartamerica.com

Zechariah 8:18-23

18 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.” 20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.” 23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

Thought: Zechariah, one of the Old Testament prophets, writes about sad and challenging fasts and how joyful and pleasant feasts replace the sad fasts. He tells people a message of God’s love for His people, reminiscent of holidays when families gather around a table to share a meal.

What holidays do you and your family celebrate?

Families make plans and celebrate all types of holidays such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Labor Day, Holi, or Christmas. Some families come together each year for a family reunion while others celebrate a holiday unique to them. Some host Hawaiian Luaus, Memorial Day picnics, and others watch fireworks and picnic on the 4th of July.

Tradition, according to Wikipedia is, “a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.” * Traditions are true because they are believed to be true. In the case of Passover, angels of death passed over the Israelites, who had brushed the lamb’s blood, over their doorframes. (Exodus 12:7). God saved the Israelites, and the tradition of celebrating Passover acknowledges the event and commemorates it.

Traditions can last thousands of years or last only a few. However long a tradition continues, it creates memories. Holiday gatherings take place year after year and our children expect a house full of relatives. Right? Yet, we often forget how separation and divorce changes tradition. In some cases, it ends. Families no longer gather as years pass.

Maybe this post will change the minds of couples who are no longer couples – to forget about themselves for a day and to think about tradition, not for their sakes, but for the sake of their children. Go ahead and invite your former spouse to your holiday meal – I dare you!

Thankfully, the truth of God’s love is eternal and not measured by years of tradition or mistakes. It is simply the truth. The truth, as the prophet Zechariah wrote, in the last days, people from all nations will want to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. Let’s keep traditions alive so we all can have the opportunity to touch Jesus’ hem. Shall we?

Divine gifts – sharing religious traditions with family opens us up to experience grace and truth.

Action: What makes your family tradition special?

* Tradition. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from the Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tradition

I and Thou: A Simple Gesture

Fall into The Bible – Part 4

I and Thou:  A Simple Gesture

Art Credit: Tara Patterson- Beauty4AshesArt

In Part 4, the last of the “Fall into the Bible” series, we will see how two Old Testament and one New Testament stories helps us understand how faith can thwart a military attack, surrendering power affirms God’s sovereignty and worship requires surrendering of self.

Read the three phrases below.

Fall on him – 2 Sam. 17:12

Fall from his hand – Ez. 30:22

Fall down before him – Rev. 4:10

Sudden Attack

The characters in the 2 Samuel story for this blog post are King David, his son, Soloman, and an army of men who want to kill David. To better understand this 2 Samuel 17:12 verse, let’s read the entire sentence.

12 Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive.

Here, we see an army of men that will fall on David as dew settles on the ground. So, how does dew relate to this? Interesting minds want to know!

Going back to general science 101, we learn that temperature and air play critical roles in the dew process. The higher the temperature, the more water vapor the air holds. In the evening, depending on the atmospheric pressure and humidity, the air can no longer retain the water vapor, and hence water forms. It forms on the ground from the ground up, so it blankets the earth.

Saved by Faith

In Fall on him, it is an attack. Sudden. From all points. Like dew. Quite ominous when you think about it. In this scripture, it is not Spirit, like we saw in the previous blog post, Fall into the Bible – Part 1. It is an army of men planning to attack King David. At the end of this story, King David and his army are safe. Why are they safe? God keeps David safe because of the faith he has. King David lives till the age of seventy, passing the throne on to his son, Solomon.

Surrender of Power

In the second phrase, from the book of Ezekiel, the Lord is speaking through his Hebrew prophet, Ezekiel. There,  

The sword will fall from his hand” refers to Pharoah’s imminent loss of power. It is clearly God exerting influence and control over Egypt. It is a surrender. Let’s read the entire verse, 

22 Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt. I will break both his arms, the good arm as well as the broken one, and make the sword fall from his hand

Hmmm. God will break Pharaoh’s arms? Metaphorically, of course! The visions of Ezekiel were prophetic and centered around judgment on Israel, Judgment of nations (Egypt as one of them), and future blessings for Israel. Then, Ezekiel warns of destruction. And in this scripture, we see the warning of the destruction of Egypt. Ezekiel taught the importance of people needing to affirm God’s sovereignty.

Surrender of Self

In our third phrase in the tenth verse of Chapter 4 in Revelation, there is a surrender.

Fall down before him

Surrender of self. It is also respect. Respect for God. Respect for themselves and others. Respect for the earth and the totality of creation leads to worship!

10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

A Simple Gesture

What actually creates a stir in one’s soul? Is it Spirit? Is it logic? Is it faith? All good questions. For me, it is angels! The Godcidents, like the woman at the Rest Area the other day, overheard we didn’t have utensils for our lunch. She handed me four individually wrapped plastic utensils. Brilliant! Personal! It was a God Thing to me! All in the simple gesture of a kind person.

Over these past four blogs, we have broadened our perception of the word “fall.” Whether it be the Bright Light Path, the Deep Dark Path, or the Path Filled with Grace, we have seen it used for spiritual and physical purposes. If we choose to allow the Spirit of God to enter our life, we gain spirit wisdom at the global, personal, and relationship levels. We have freedom of choice. Thanks be to God!

I and Thou: Thanksgiving Day Prayer

God of heaven and earth, hear our prayer…

Thank you for all the abundant blessings you bestow upon us…

Ability to gaze in the eyes of a newborn.

Majestic feeling of a dolphin jumping within arms reach.

Gracefulness of a crane walking nearby.

Muscles that kayak under tunnels of deep luscious green vines.

Active minds that enjoy playing games with family and friends.

Hands that built caves in Mesa Verde thousands of years ago.

Bountiful food prepared for family dinners.

Creativity expressed through birthday-themed celebrations.

Gentle breezes felt on a boat ride.

Feeling truly loved.

Instead of falling into the hype of the holiday season, what would it look like if you took a step back and pondered what really is essential to you? Is it to mend a relationship? To spend more time with your children? Your parents? Or is it to reach out to someone less fortunate who could really use a helping hand?

Let’s focus on more simple ways of celebrating the holidays in this season of Thanksgiving. Shall we?

I and Thou: Summertime Part 3

It’s Summertime – Part 3

Time for family
Time for friends
Time for fun
Time for flowers
Time for fiddling
Time for fellowship



Photo Credit: Steve Grundy’s Lily Pond Perfection

Family.

The other day, a group of cousins spent a few hours with each other. Many of them had not seen each other in years – if not decades.  What makes a family special? It is the relaxed nature of strangers coming together and sharing a special bond that is really unexplainable. It feels like an old shoe – you know – the comfortable pair that stays in the closet even when worn and tattered. Make time for family. Go the extra mile(s). It is worth it!

Family comes in all shapes and sizes – warts and all. 

Friends.

Often, friends feel like family, or dare say, better than family. Family is not chosen – friends are. Friends can be from childhood, or they can be someone who we met few weeks ago. Having friends surround you with love is necessary for life. Friends support and encourage. Friends are there when you need to talk or just sit still. Sure, friends come and go.

Hang on to the ones who are uplifting.

Let go of ones who aren’t.

Friends chosen wisely provide encouragement when needed.

Fun.

Summertime is the perfect time to have fun. What is fun? Fun is something you do that brings you joy and delight. Sometimes it is going beyond a comfort zone and trying something new. Visiting an amusement park, playing a game, sharing dinner with a sibling, floating in a pool. Fun creates laughter. Having fun is essential. It is vital for health and happiness.  

Fun is the cornerstone of life – make time to have more fun!

Flowers.

Summertime is a time for flowers so vibrant and lush. Leaves variegated and velvety soft. Or leaves that are prickly and stiff. Roses and hibiscus that bloom week after week.

Or, how about the Schefflera? Schefflera, grow outside in Florida – who knew?

Flowers are like friends. They are uplifting and can brighten an otherwise dismal day. 

Flowers are fresh, colorful and enhance wellbeing.

Fiddling.

Fiddling is something you do that you usually don’t have time to do. It can be riding a bike. Writing a short story. It can be puttering around the house, organizing, cleaning, or fixing. Fiddling also reminds me of a friend of mine who is really a professional fiddler (you know the music kind!) and violinist. He makes it all look so easy. And fun? Fun is having a preschool teacher dance the Irish jig played by a professional fiddler in front of an audience of senior citizens. Yes! That IS fun!


Fiddling passes the time whether it is the musical version or not.

Fellowship.

Growing up in a Christian home, fellowship was a common word that referred to the coffee hour after church service. For me, fellowship has taken on a much deeper spiritual meaning. Fellowship is a gathering of friends and sharing an experience. Whether it be a homemade fish and rice dinner, a dinner at a restaurant of salmon and mashed sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of ginger or touring an unfamiliar town.

Fellowship is sharing deep thoughts.

It is getting to know someone just a bit better.

What better time to have fellowship than summertime?

Fellowship is taking the time to learn a little more about a person than you did before.