This post first appeared on www.sixtyandme.com.
Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
It is a thought that has a lot in common with Alcoholics Anonymous and Buddha. They all believe that there is healing power in acceptance and refusing to be drawn into other people’s drama.
Today, I want to talk about how estranged mothers can also find acceptance and healing.
Remember the Serenity Prayer? It says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
When we say that prayer, we seek serenity, which is defined as the state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled. Isn’t that what we all want?
If that serenity could be achieved by crying, arguing or carrying on, hurting mamas would be pretty serene.
But that’s not how serenity is attained. It’s attained by accepting what you cannot change and learning to know the difference. It’s attained by living with an outcome that you don’t care for, while retaining your own inner peace and joy.
Acceptance for Estranged Mothers Starts with You
The point is that we have to accept some problems, some situations, and learn to live with them. It’s an acknowledgment that the road ahead will not be rosy, but if you accept it, you can learn to move on in your life.
This inability to accept and move on can be a stumbling block for struggling or estranged mamas. We want to resist and fight and turn over every stone and possibility to try to change the way things are.
A Buddhist would advise us to stop resisting and find acceptance. Life always changes. A part of the beauty of life is that it’s unpredictable. Nothing here in this realm is permanent.
Change Can Be Positive
Can we learn to look at change through a positive mindset? If everything in life was always the same, we would stagnate and stop growing.
In our society, we watch way too many TV shows where the problems or dilemmas are wrapped up in a tidy 30 or 60 minutes.
In our real lives, not every problem is solvable. We may not have control over every facet of our lives. What we can control is how we react to these obstacles and whether we accept them or struggle against them.
When we struggle against them, we beat our heads against a wall. It doesn’t change the situation, and it leaves us with a headache.
I often think about how people with chronic illness cope. There are some that fight and fight and try every new medicine and untested procedure under the sun. For others, acceptance that there is an illness, it’s chronic and there’s nothing that can be done about it can be the beginning of freedom.
Accepting an illness doesn’t change the fact that you or a loved one may be ill, but it frees you from that extra layer of suffering. It allows you to accept the situation and roll with it. Now comes the creativity – how can you enjoy life under this new set of circumstances?
Is It Time to Stop Fighting?
If you are living with that extra layer of suffering, like a child who becomes estranged from the family, who does it help to continually fight against it?
Your suffering will not cause your child to change. Chances are, they are so caught up in their own drama that they do not even notice your distress, much less care about it.
So, you have a choice: futility or freedom.
You can invest your energy and your tears in a situation that appears futile (reconciliation with your adult child), or you can reach for freedom by letting go of the painful ties that keep you miserable.
You Are Not Giving Up
Does that mean you are giving up on your child? Absolutely not. Rather, it means understanding that this is something that can’t be changed by your suffering. Stopping the continuous battle can save you energy and grief and allow you to focus on things that you can change.
The thing that you CAN change is whether you will choose to live the rest of your life in misery, or choose joy and freedom.
It takes some creativity. It takes acknowledging that the birds are circling your head, but refusing to let them build a nest.
The next time you find yourself drowning in the grief of having an estranged child, consider whether or not this situation is something you can change. If you can’t, consider simply accepting it and moving on.
Paddling upstream, fighting wave after wave against a rough current, is difficult and not the way the river is supposed to flow. It exhausts you. Follow the current, glide with the river and accept your situation.
You are not giving up hope. But you are giving up control over the outcome.
You might find that choosing freedom over futility will not only make life easier, but also much more enjoyable. You deserve to put pain behind you and reach for contentment and joy.
Are you the parent of an estranged adult child? I invite you to join our community on Facebook. You will be warmly welcomed by this fellowship. Go to: Parents of Estranged Adult Children