While I was still deciding on what to write for today’s prompt, I came across this tweet.
I wonder why we never have to worry about these things on Mother's day. https://t.co/SeTikwMmLX— Mmek (@Simmbie) June 15, 2019
I imagined how triggering it could be for someone estranged from their parent to come across it. Because let’s face it, on occasions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the Festive season and get-togethers, it is hard to avoid the wall-to-wall celebrations and triggers from people who are always eager to remind you how they have it going while you don’t.
I hold this topic dear to my heart because while I have not been a “cut-off kid” perhaps due to my orphan advantage, I have experienced a form of estrangement in my adult life. It is beyond painful and largely because this ambiguous loss has no certainty as to whether the parent or adult child will ever return, so there is no finality or closure to the situation.
Parental estrangement is when a parent and an adult child distance themselves because of longstanding negativity in the relationship. Social interactions may be cut off hence reducing interdependence. This silent epidemic on the rise is often talked about in hush tones with an element of stigma depending on who is addressing it.
The adult child who notices the glitches between the parent and themselves as they transition to adulthood almost always stands alone. For someone to go on Social Media to vent, to seek support, comfort or an understanding, they have hit rock bottom. It’s not fair to pass judgement or attack.
“OMG, You can’t say that about your parent, it’s taboo.”
And this is just social media. In real life, society misunderstands and attaches shame to it. You can only have closed door conversations with yourself about the strife, whether you are the estranger or the estranged.
You may recall how it all played out in the months leading to Meghan Markle’s wedding where her father used the limelight to open a can of worms to the spin masters of the British Press. He failed to attend her wedding and there have been no reports of the two rekindling their relationship.
When that tipping point happens, and you can’t stay, it can feel as though there is no choice. The only way to proceed is to follow your inner voice guiding you away from the relationship and trust it will all make sense.
You will often question your decision and feel isolated from other family members. You will grieve in ways that are reserved for all that lose their parents/family. You will do it under the cover of darkness, or in the privacy of your own home. The grief is invisible. Which makes it all the harder.
This is because your choices are not ones that are likely to be understood in the broader social environment. How do you explain in a few sentences that make it comfortable for another person to understand why? And let’s face it, who else do you know that is making these decisions? If not none, then not many.
A parent and child’s relationship erodes over time, not overnight. Due to the generational differences, what some people would consider abusive today passed for good old-fashioned parenting not long ago.
“My dad used to hit us badly but look at me, I turned out okay.”
Reasons that lead to estrangement include abuse of any form, parental neglect, not feeling loved, supported or accepted, divorce, substance abuse, money issues, mental illness, betray of trust and a mismatch in values eg religious beliefs, gender identity or choice of spouse.
It is believed that many parents say they are in the dark about what went wrong while some do not want to accept that they could be the cause of the strained relationship.
Does the parent struggle with the powerlessness, the unexpectedness of it, the inability to resolve it, the deep grief and loss, the anger at other members of the family who may have contributed? The one who mentions the cause attributes it to external factors eg work or stress, while the child is likely to attribute it to internal factors eg parent is too controlling or abusive.
The line between the estranger and estranged is blurred. Both sides experience great pain and heartache. Each believes the other doesn’t really care or get it. Each side is unaware of the depth and nature of the pain in the other. Each side may feel as though they were left even if they were the ones who left.
Nigerian parents will raise you in such a way that you begin to distance yourself from them mentally & emotionally at an early age.— Zi (@Ziziian) May 25, 2019
Then, well into their 50s & downwards, they'll start trying to restructure the family dynamic with some forced sense of intimacy & togetherness.
Can any relationship survive the psychological impact of parental estrangement and effect reconciliation?
To a certain degree. Not many estranged relationships have worked towards reconciliation. Sometimes the crucial step away from a legacy of abuse is the healthier decision for both parties. Reconciliation happens if there’s a willingness from parent and adult child to give the relationship another chance. This can be done either with the help of a neutral mediator, a family therapist or just the two parties.
The first step towards healing from parental estrangement is understanding the cause of the problem and ways it has not been dealt with.
It has a set of guidelines
i) An open, compassionate and non-judgmental approach is necessary.
ii) The decision to reconcile should be because it is something you want to do and not out of obligation.
iii) Acknowledge the intense and painful feelings and the connection between the present pain and the reservoir of pain from the past.
iv) Without expressions of deep regret, it is nearly impossible for two people to come back together. So genuinely apologize for the times when you fell short.
v) The expectation that each party can come to understand and appreciate the perspective and experience of the other even when the gap cannot be bridged.
vi) Continue the conversation
Hug a parent or a child today, don’t be an Internet troll.