When Should Parents Give Up On an Estranged Adult Child?

ambiguous lossThe question of whether and when to give up on a relationship with an estranged adult child is a painful one. It’s also difficult to answer.

As much as it hurts to be estranged from your child, continually hoping for reconnection invites another kind of suffering. There can be a fine line between hope and anguish.

When the initial shock of estrangement has worn itself into a kind of chronic unease in your soul, your reserves may become depleted. You feel tapped out. You have no more resources, nothing left to give.

At that point,letting go starts to look attractive. It’s the only alternative that might save you from the misery.

Here are a few truths to ponder before you make that decision …

Will You Or Won’t You?

You don’t have to make a forever decision. If you feel like giving up right now, it’s okay to give up right now.

That doesn’t mean you can never change your mind. You don’t have to sign a paper saying you revoke your right ever to try again. Just do what’s right for you today.

That might mean that you stop trying for a while. That you let go of thoughts of reconciliation for the time being, and just focus on healing.

When your child was born, the fact of their birth was irreversible. Between birth and death, very little else in life, is.

You’ll sleep better if you know you did what you could. When it comes to divorce, most people want to know they tried their best to make the marriage work before exercising that option.

To be able to let go of your child, you’ll probably need that same sort of peace. You’ll want to know you did what you could before giving up on the relationship.

That’s why the Reconnection Club exists: to provide you with education and tools to do everything possible before, or even after, all hope seems lost.

How Full Is Your Bucket?

A depleted parent has little to offer. You’re not required to keep trying to reconcile if you’re scraping the bottom of your emotional bucket.

Remember all those metaphors for self-care? Fill the well. Put on your own oxygen mask first. There’s a reason they’re cliches: they point to timeless wisdom.

Reaching out the wrong way can do more harm than staying still. When you’re worn out, you will do things that aren’t helpful. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break and focus on your own well-being.

Get centered in yourself, feel better, then try again using a sound strategy for relationship repair.

You’re allowed to give up. Just as your child was allowed to walk away from you because he’s a free and independent being, you are allowed not to try incessantly to get him back. You have your freedoms, too. You can make choices that are right for you, regardless of other people’s opinions (especially other people who have no idea what you’re going through).

Giving up doesn’t make you a bad parent or a bad person. In many cases, it’s the only rational thing to do.

The Paradox of Letting Go

The paradox of letting go is real. Anecdotally, this happens too often not to get a mention here. You might recall the day you knew you were finally over your ex. That same day, he or she called for the first time since the breakup.

Or remember those two job interviews you had, and you only got a call from the one you absolutely didn’t want?

It’s often true that the less attached we are to an outcome, the more easily it comes to us.

You can’t make yourself let go of the outcome of this estrangement. The heart is unruly that way. But while you’re still attached, it may soothe you to know that letting go of something doesn’t necessarily mean losing it.

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