In her book, McGregor suggests writing down things the estranged parent can do to help themselves that are specific to their situation. So here’s my list.
Ways I Can Help Myself:
Don’t drink. In my case, it can actually be life-threatening because alcohol is a dangerous combination with some of the medications I take. Alcohol can also loosen inhibitions which can cause a loss of rational thinking. A dangerous thing when you’re feeling suicidal.
Seek counseling from professionals. Fortunately I was already seeing a counselor at my university to help deal with some issues about returning to Grad school. After I spent a week in the hospital on Suicide Watch, I also started seeing another counselor in my community because I knew as soon as I graduate in June, I’ll lose access to the school psychologist.
Stay in closer contact with people who previously were on the edges of my life. I was so close to my kids, I didn’t feel the need for many other relationships. Now I see this was a huge mistake. It left me almost completely alone to deal with things. I need to make an effort to rekindle friendships.
Set up an emergency contact person. Due to my tendency to slip into severe depression and suicidal thoughts when the pain gets to be too much for me, one of my counselors recommended I have someone set up who I can call, day or night, who can come over and keep an eye on me. Not to counsel or to help, but to be there and help me make the decision if I need to go the hospital or not. Last time I had to drive myself to the hospital which was super scary now that I look back on it because I was very tempted to drive off a bridge or crash my car the entire drive.
Get exercise and fresh air. I joined a local gym and work out several times a week now. I try to take regular walks, and when the weather’s nice, I go to a local beach and bask in the sunshine. I live in rainy Western Washington, so sunshine is essential to combat Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD) which I don’t need to add to my current list of overwhelming emotions and sadness.
Today’s message resonated deeply with me. This is where I’m at right now. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that keeping myself and my heart completely open to my estranged children runs the risk that I may end up back in the hospital on Suicide Watch again.
I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day.
Here’s an excerpt of what Dr. Coleman said in his message today:
What’s often required is a perspective that’s a little more resolute, a little less sympathetic to your child’s position, and a lot more detached from what they’re thinking and feeling. … It’s a way of saying, “Know what? I worked hard to be a good parent to you, I’m still willing to do that if you want to play ball, otherwise, I’m going to shut down that chamber of my heart that has your name dedicated to it and concentrate on things I have to be grateful for. Change your mind and I’ll hear what you have to say.”
I can’t say I’ve fully achieved this disconnect, but I’m starting to work on it. As much as it breaks my heart to do so.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading about adult children who estrange themselves from their parents and it seems that new spouses/partners seem to have a lot to do with it. It’s also common for it to begin after an adult child begins counseling.
I can attest to the fact that two of my childrens’ significant others have played a large part in not only encouraging this estrangement, but actually doing a great deal to instigate it from the beginning. And both of the children with the difficult SO’s also began seeing counselors at about the same time. I’ll go into that more at a later time.
Also, when families are super close (as mine was), sometimes when the adult children have the need to do some of the normal separation from their parents that comes with growing up, they don’t know how to do it, so they just cut their parents off completely.
I just think it’s interesting that there are patterns to these sorts of family situations that don’t really have much to do with the actual state of the relationship between parent and adult child.
On another note but still related to things I’m reading, I’ve just started into a book called Done with the Crying: Hope and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Childrenby Sheri McGregor. So far, it looks like it’s going to be a helpful read. At the end of each section, the author has some questions for thought and recommends writing out the answers to give you a chance to connect to parts of yourself that you can tap into by doing something physical rather than just thinking about answers to the questions.
I’ve read the first chapter, but came to the questions at the end and wasn’t sure what to do with them. Then it dawned on me they could be good to share as posts on this blog. You can join me as I work my way through the book.