Estrangement, Shame and Isolation

estrangement
Estrangement, Shame and Isolation

BY JOSHUA COLEMAN

Almost every day I get a call or email from a relieved parent saying, “I thought I was the only one dealing with this problem.”

This is because very few parents want to talk about the fact that they no longer have any contact with their children or grandchildren because they correctly or incorrectly fear that the other person will think or say something to the effect of, “Well, you must have done something pretty bad to cause your own child to turn away from you. I mean, kids don’t just turn away from their parents for no reason at all.”

But, because most parents don’t tell other people about their situation, they are robbed of the social support that is important to healing from any ongoing psychological challenge.

And like most problems, issues that are left in the dark tend to grow stronger there because it reinforces our feeling that the reality is too shameful and painful for us or for anyone else to face. I have had many parents tell me that the simple act of knowing that there are a lot of other parents out there suffering in this way is healing to them because it makes them feel less flawed and alone.

SOCIETAL ISOLATION

But for many parents, their fear of social censure causes them to retreat, not only from activities where they might have to talk about their children or grandchildren but from their lives in general. “What’s the point of living if I don’t have my child or grandchildren in it? How can I go on?” And so they begin a downward spiral of pulling away from the people and activities that could restore a sense of identity and meaning, and it gets harder and harder for them to get back to themselves. It gets harder and harder because they have nothing and no one to reflect back to them their worth and value as a person and parent.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Fight the temptation to isolate
  • Make a list of activities that you have given up since your estrangement began
  • Pick one pleasurable activity a day and do it regardless of your mood
  • Make a list of ways that you can begin to reclaim your life and commit to doing them

 To see more from Dr. Coleman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Dr. Joshua Coleman

parentsDr. Joshua Coleman is an internationally known expert in parenting, couples, families, and relationships. His book, WHEN PARENTS HURT: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along (HarperCollins) was released in 2007. He is a frequent guest on the Today Show, he has also appeared on ABC 20/20, Good Morning America, the BBC, and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, and NBC television. Dr. Coleman’s advice has been featured in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, The London Times, and many other publications. He is a Senior Fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families and has a private practice in San Francisco and Oakland, California.

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