Losing Time with Estranged Adult Children

Do you prefer listening to reading? Listen to the Reconnection Club Podcast’s audio treatment of this topic. It’s Episode 151: Losing Time While Estranged.

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One of the hardest things about an unwanted estrangement is the feeling of being in limbo. As a parent and maybe a grandparent, you’re aware of the passage of time, and milestones missed. Birthdays. Weddings. Holidays. All without your adult child(ren). It hurts to think about it.

But there are at least two good reasons not to despair…

1. You might not be missing out. Many rejected parents assume there’s a happy family life on the other side of the wall of estrangement. But is that true?

What if the people whose presence you long for were here right now? What would your relationships look like today? Would there be ease? Kindness? Inner and outer peace? Would you feel good about yourself every time you were together?

The reality of most relationships is more complicated than that.

You’re not necessarily missing out on happy times, because these may not be happy times in your family. And maybe estrangement isn’t the cause of the unhappiness, but a symptom.  Something else may need healing before happier times can prevail.

Reconciliation itself won’t smooth over whatever wrinkles existed before. Instead of feeling disconnected through estrangement, you can feel disconnected at close range once they’re back in contact.

In short, The opposite of estrangement is not always a happy family. 

2. We can avoid losing time by centering ourselves in the present. Because every minute spent in worry about what’s not happening today is a minute genuinely lost.

If you find yourself frequently worrying about time lost due to estrangement, there is a way to minimize the actual loss of time while acknowledging the truth of the situation.  

Since your adult child(ren)’s estrangement has your attention — and how could it not? — make sure your focus well placed. That is, in the present moment…

Did you skim the words above, seeking any nuggets that might be helpful?

Try reading this sentence not just skimming the words, but reading each one at a time. As you do this, your mind is present and you are living your life in this moment. When you slow down and place your attention on each and every one of these words, following the meaning behind them, you will know exactly what it feels like to spend time instead of losing it.

Not losing time from our lives usually entails slowing down.

To spend time instead of wasting it during estrangement,  one thing you can do is to consciously and intentionally grieve actual losses — e.g., goodwill, trust, companionship, emotional connection — rather than the imagined “happy family” or the nebulous “good parent” label.  Grieving real losses is never a waste of time. It’s productive, and part of healing.

What We Can Change

While none of us can control what  happens in the future, we do have the power to choose whether to be where we are. We can experience ourselves not just waiting for something good to happen, and not just tolerating the passage of time. But actively, intentionally not losing time from our lives

We can’t know what a currently estranged relationship would be like today in the absence of estrangement. And it’s impossible to wave a magic wand and find out.

But it is possible to get a handle on the real source of lost of time during estrangement: inattention to the present moment, the here and now.

Worrying about losing time and missing imagined experiences is a sure way to lose what’s really here for us. It might be grief, yes. It might be anger or a well of other, softer feelings. It might even be a little bit of contentment or peace. Something is always here to be found when our minds return from elsewhere.

When we embrace the present moment, including any unwanted aspects of reality, that doesn’t mean we reject future possibilities. We can grieve and still hope for a better tomorrow. We can acknowledge current losses without imagining more in the future. And in keeping our attention where we are in space, we can stop losing time.

In difficult times, it takes courage and commitment to drop down out of spinning thoughts, and into a mundane or woe-filled present. But when the tides turn, having practiced presence daily, we’re equipped to fully embrace and enjoy better days.

For many people, mindfulness requires a foundation of safety first. If mindfulness practices like breathing and body work make you feel anxious, you’re not the only one. Consider starting with counseling or therapy, and keep moving gently toward  increasing mindfulness.

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