5 Stages of Estrangement

When you hear the phrase “stages of estrangement,” your mind probably goes to your adult child. “What will s/he do at each stage?,” you might ask. Or, “What am I in for?”

As a therapist specializing in parent-adult child estrangement, I’ve watched parents go through predictable passages when an adult child becomes estranged. I recently wrote five articles on my new theory.

The 5 stages outline not the stages that every estrangement goes through — nobody knows whether such stages even exist — but rather stages that YOU are likely to experience emotionally when your adult child rejects you.

For your convenience, this page links to all five posts in the series I wrote for PsychologyToday.com. Please read them in order if you can; they make the most sense in the context of a process.

Just remember that, like the well-known stages of grief, these don’t necessarily represent a linear or even a continuous process.

Different people experience these stages differently. They may stay in the same stage for years. They may entirely skip a stage. They may circle back to a stage they’ve already experienced, repeatedly.

Here are the stages in order:

Stage 1: Shock

Stage 2: Despair

Stage 3: Acceptance

Stage 4: Transformation

Stage 5: Maintenance

What do you think of these stages? Do any of them feel familiar?

By the way, you can listen to these stages boiled down by the author into one podcast episode: 5 Stages of Estrangement

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