Monday, December 3, 2012

Longing for hope in the season of hope

Longing... looking... searching... hoping... wishing.... I couldn't quite decide which word to use for titling this post. Because they all fit. That's what we do in an estranged relationship. Long for hope. Look for hope. Search for hope. Wish for hope. Especially during the holidays, one of the most difficult times of year.

Vicki wrote me last August and shared her heart-breaking story about being separated from her grown son and his anger and resentment toward her. She asked for prayers. Last week, she wrote me again, and I asked if I could share her letter. She said yes...   

"Dear Sheryl, Thank you for posting my prayer on your prayer list for August. I have received one phone call from my son, and our conversation did not go well. My son feels that I should support him financially for all the missing years, and this broke my heart even further. He is 26 years of age and living with his father and stepmother. I have no money to give to my son, and he is fully aware of my situation.

"As I mentioned in my previous email, my ex-husband has brainwashed my son for 23 years with anger and resentment toward me and my other son. I wanted with all my heart and soul for the marriage to work so my sons could have a family. I endured so much abuse in the marriage that I had no other possible option but to leave.

"The holidays are coming up, and I cannot celebrate them due to all the pain and heartache of seeing my son after all these years who has grown into a bitter, angry young man who has no respect for me in any way. Sheryl, please enclose a prayer from my behalf to all the parents facing similar circumstances as myself.

"Thank you for your understanding and, most of all, for your website in helping many parents cope with their heartbreaking stories.

"God bless you and your family! I hope maybe one day soon my son will know the truth about me and have a beautiful, loyal, relationship like you and your wonderful son. I pray one day soon my son will see the light and understand my side of the story.

"I pray for all parents going through similar circumstances, especially with the holidays approaching.  Sincerely, Vicki"

Dear Vicki and all hurting parents, may God bless you and strengthen you and surround you with ministering angels in the coming days and new year, too. You are not alone in your pain, though I know that doesn't ease your hurt. In His time, God can and will turn your heartache into something good. Please try to find something to smile about every day, if even for a few moments. You are special. You are loved. You are meant for good and wonderful works in this life. Keep walking in Him, dear friend and friends. 

With love and many prayers in this Christmas season of hope, sheryl

Friday, November 30, 2012

The very, very worst kind of separation

Earlier this week, I received an email from Arleen, a mother who's hurting deeply. I cannot even begin to imagine her heartache. I asked if I could share her letter, and said yes....

"Please pray for me, I'm deeply depressed due to death of my youngest child, Ashley," Arleen wrote. "Ashley was 21 years old and in her second year in college. A wonderful, beautiful child, inside and out. She died of a sudden heart attack on June 24, 2012. The last time saw her beautiful eyes was the evening before, June 23rd (she did not pass at home). After that, I never saw her again."

"My heart is so broken. I have two other children and a wonderful husband and an extremely smart, wonderful, delightful three-year-old grandson. I know I have a lot to be grateful for, but I miss my Ashley so very much. I know most of you are hurting because of relationship problems with your children or because they are missing. Not knowing where they are or if they're okay, I can imagine how hurtful that is, but just be thankful that they are still alive. Because once they die, it's forever. Pray that they come back to you because I know my Ashley will never come back. A mother's pain of losing one of their children has to be one of the greatest pains, a pain that I would not want to wish on anyone in the world."

Words of comfort seem so inadequate when someone's lost a loved one. If I could, I'd hug you tight and just be there, I emailed Arleen. She and I have never met in person, but that doesn't matter. Like you, she's found this blog because she's in deep pain and needs to reach out and share her hurt with others who understand in any kind of way. 

Yes, Arleen, we will hold your hand and pray for you and your family. May God bless you and strengthen you and surround you with ministering angels. You are very loved!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Here come the holidays. Again.

I just reread my post from last December. Sadly, nothing has changed on my own front. The family member I mentioned still shuts me out and refuses to at least try and heal our broken relationship. And I can't do a thing to change the situation (I've tried!)

Except pray.

In the meantime, I just received an email from Dr. Joshua Coleman, an expert on estrangement. Right now, he's offering a free webinar called "Surviving the Holidays: Advice for Estranged Parents."

"Holidays can be especially difficult times for estranged parents," he wrote in his email. "So as a gift to my readers, I'm giving away my seminar HIGH RISK DAYS where I talk about how to handle the holidays."
Here's the link to the webinar. And if you'd like a free study guide, go here

Blessed holidays to you all. I feel like anything I say will so sound trite and meaningless. Because the pain can be so overwhelming. I understand. But please do try to focus on the good in your life. As much as you can, don't dwell on the pain. 
Instead, "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)
With love and prayers, sheryl


Monday, November 5, 2012

A prayer chain for the holiday season

Recently, Ginny, a mother who's contacted me through this blog and is estranged from her two teen sons, made a loving and caring suggestion, which I thought I'd share here.

"I know the holidays are coming up and I've already began praying for my household," she wrote. "I've been studying the book of Esther, and before she went before the king to begin the request on behalf of her people (Jews), she called for a three-day fast from her people throughout the king's providence. I've thought of this before, but God has really laid it on my heart to invite other mothers to participate in a fast from November 1 through Christmas. To fast something...maybe a certain time period to spend with God praying and lifting each of us up as mothers preparing for a season we probably all love but yet dread."

Toward that goal, Ginny suggested that everyone pray at 9 p.m. "Then prayers will go around the world about every hour, like a prayer chain," she wrote.

Specifically, "I am asking for strength and peace for each mother as this season draws near," Ginny wrote. "I'm asking for God to soften the hearts of our children as well as their fathers. For God to break down the walls that separate us and begin a healing and restoration process. To rebuild broken bridges that NO ONE can destroy!"

Starting today or any day, please join Ginny, me and other hurting parents who are praying each night in preparation for the holiday season, which is very often a sad and difficult time to get through. Please share this post, too. God bless you!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finding someone who understands

Separation hurts. Especially when the other person treats you like you're dead. And what can you do? Nothing. Except pray. And find someone else who understands your pain and heartache truly.

Earlier this week, Jackie, a hurting mom, emailed and asked that I post a helpful link on Broken Bonds Healing Hearts.

"I think I found the site through you to begin with," she wrote. "In reading your Prayer wall, my heart ached for so many who have posted prayers requests. This is a great way to have others in prayer for each other. But honestly, I have found through this site on DailyStrength, that when I need support right now, it's there."

"People pray for each other openly, and there is an exchange that is unparalleled by anything else that I have found in this horrible nightmare," Jackie wrote. "Everyone feels alone and needs someone to understand. Feedback is really all I have found that has helped me, as well as prayers, yes. But feedback is the one thing that keeps us all going." 

"Please post this link for all and make it visible on your home page so it doesn't get buried in a thread. It is so vital. People are hurting, and I really felt I needed to let you know that partnering with this site could bring relief to so many. It is a Christian site, and the only real one that is monitored continually for content and remains free of so many pitfalls of other (feedback) support sites."

Thank you, Jackie, for taking the time to share and point other hurting parents to this DailyStrength site called Christian Parents of Estranged Adult Children

DailyStrength has a second site, too, called Parents of Estranged Adult Children Everywhere

Monday, August 6, 2012

What to say or not to say

Last June, a hurting father contacted me by email and wondered if he could ask me a question. Sure, I agreed. A few weeks later, he wrote back. 

"I have tried to not say anything negative to my kids about their mother at all," he said in his note. "This has not been true on her end. I have been encouraged by a number of people to be more open with my kids, especially the older ones (17, 14 and 11) about some of the reasons I chose to leave. I am struggling with this balance."

I thought about his dilemma several days before I wrote the father back, most of which I decided to share here as a blog post.

"Basically, I've come to realize that as much as we parents long for our children to understand the reasons behind our divorces, our children do NOT want to know," I told him. "From what I've observed from my own two, I think children of divorce get tired of hearing the back-and-forth between their parents, and they simply want to have their mom and dad back. In answer to your question, you're handling the situation correctly. Your former spouse isn't. And there isn't anything you can do about her. I think if I were you, I'd wait and let the kids ask questions about why you left; don't initiate. If they do, keep answers short and factual. I think the main thing is to speak as positive as you can about their mother (I know, it's hard under the circumstances). They'll respect you even more in the long run for that.

"It's just been in the past year," I added, "that I've really tried in conversations with my grown kids to refer to my former husband (I never liked like the term 'ex' doesn't sound respectful to me) as 'Dad,' not 'your father.' Like 'how's Dad?' and 'What did Dad think about that?' To me, that sounds more familial, not accusatory."

This hurting father wrote me a "thank you" back. I hope my thoughts did help in some way. Maybe in some small way they'll help someone else, too. 


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Articles on estrangement

This past week, the New York Times published a story about estrangement, "In the Facebook Era, Reminders of Loss After Families Fracture." Thanks go to Dr. Joshua Coleman, who's quoted in the piece, for emailing a heads up on the article. Comments posted by readers are also thoughtful and offer more perspectives on the topic.  

A related article, "Advice for the Estranged, Online and Off," asks readers for their input, such as suggested books, forums and websites.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Advice on surviving Mother's Day

Every week or so, I receive emails The Coleman Report, which offers advice on parenting and relationships from Dr. Joshua Coleman in San Francisco. If you go to his website, you can find out more about the web seminars that he offers on on parental estrangement and other parenting issues. 

This week, his report addressed Mother's Day, a hard day for many hurting mothers who are separated from their children:

Holidays such as Mother's Day present special challenges for parents who have been cut off by their grown children. What should I say to my friends or co-workers when they ask about my children or grandchildren? How do I deal with memories of the past when we were still close? How do I forgive myself for whatever ways I blame myself, rightly or wrongly, for the estrangement? How do I cope with my intense feelings of anger, sadness, and loneliness?The following suggestions are written with Mother's Day in mind:
What do I say when people ask about my children or grandchildren?

First of all, you don't owe anyone any kind of response. If you're talking to someone who you're either not close to or who doesn't know your situation, feel free to give a short, vague response and change the subject. Some people find it helpful to decide exactly what they're going to say before going to a party or anywhere else where they're likely to be asked about their children or grandchildren. If it's someone who you're close to and you don't want to talk about it, say, "Thank you for asking. Hasn't changed much and it's hard for me to talk about so I'd rather not. I'm sure you understand." If they push, I would repeat the above statement again.

How do I deal with memories of the past when we were still close?

Positive memories of the past don't always feel positive. In fact, most estranged parents feel as tormented by the good memories as they do by the painful ones. However positive memories can be useful reminders that despite however miserably you're being treated now, and whatever your regrets, you were a good parent and no one can take that away from you.

How do I forgive myself for whatever ways I blame myself, rightly or wrongly, for the estrangement?

This is an ongoing struggle for many parents, especially those who believe that they deserve a lot of the blame for their child's estrangement. If you did make mistakes, and every parent does, and you have made a serious attempt at making amends, then it's time to forgive yourself and move on. Ongoing guilt and regret can be unconscious ways to punish yourself unnecessarily. Those feelings can make it hard to engage in the kinds of activities that make life meaningful such as hobbies, exercise, and time with people who love you and see you more clearly than your child does.

How do I cope with my intense feelings of anger, sadness, and loneliness?

The most important action is to get support and not to isolate. If you haven't yet visited the When Parents Hurt forum at my website, go there now and post something. It's a wonderful group of supportive and caring people and I am constantly touched by people's kindness and empathy. While I don't typically respond, I do read every post. And while people don't always respond to every post, most of the time they do.

It's also important that you work on developing self-compassion. Psychologist Kristin Neff has a great site developed on the topic of self-compassion. You can find it at

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A father shares

Last week, I received an update from a father who's reached out to us for prayers and support. With his permission, I'm sharing his recent frustrations and links to information that he's found helpful. He's hoping this info might help other hurting parents.

Here's his update:

"I have tried a lot of different things in regards to my children.  I have not really seen my children Since Nov 22nd. I have had seven visits in all the rest were blocked by the supervisor  that my wife appointed.  I have been going to their schools and dropping off notes and birthday presents. In all of the visits, the boys would look at the floor and ignore anything I said.

My wife got an ex-parte order so I didn't get to represent myself in court. My lawyer told me there was nothing I could do. That wasn't right; I should have demanded  a trial within seven days. I fired that attorney. I have found that in a civil matter you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. I got a guardian ad litem involved–he has been a God send for me. I was granted visits with my children on a regular basis. The only problem with this is they won't talk to me. I have not done anything to make them behave this way. I had a great relationship with my boys. Now it is nothing, and I am public enemy no1.

I have been looking for answers. I found the answer with the help of the guardian ad litem (Children's Attorney).

I want to give you this link. I think this  may be what is happening for many people who visit the website in varying degrees.  It may help them. It can be done by either parent to the other.  It is called parental alienation syndrome. See Parents who have successfully fought parental alientation syndrome and Family Wars: The Alienation of Children."

Friday, January 13, 2012

When parents hurt

Back when my son shut me out, I couldn't find anyone to the same situation or resources on estrangement. Nowadays, the Internet has lots of forums, blogs and websites, some of which I've mentioned here on this site. The number one expert on the subject seems to be Dr. Joshua Coleman,  co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families and a psychologist with a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. On his website, you can access links to televisions interviews, articles, forums and his book, When Parents Hurt.

A minute ago, I watched his interview on The Today Show (December 2007) with Al Roker and Hoda Kotb. According to Dr. Coleman, parental estrangement from children of any age is a "silent epidemic" because many parents feel shame. If their kids refuse to talk to them, then they must have done something terrible? That's may be the feeling, but it's certainly not true in every case.

The biggest cause of estrangement, Dr. Coleman says, is divorce. "Sometimes kids often feel loyal to one parent or the other," he told Roker and Hoda. Or "one parent tries to poison the children's feelings about the other...."

To help heal the broken bond, Coleman advises parents to:

1. Take responsibility. Apologize sincerely for whatever you may have done wrong.

2. Stay in the game. Don't give up on the relationship!

3. Get support.

For more thoughts and information on estrangement, read "When the Ties That Bind Unravel," by Tara Parker-Pope with the New York Times.

In the meantime, I've gotten an e-mail from a hurting parent on our Prayer List whose two of three estranged children are beginning to thaw! Praise God!