Overcoming adversity: Are you a stone collector?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

I get a lot of stones thrown at me. As the author of Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, I’ve been the subject of meanness and jibes. I’ve also learned to collect those stones and get creative at using them for good. Even if you don’t think so, in overcoming adversity, I bet you’re a stone collector too.

The stone pits of life can be hurtful words, mishaps, misfortunes, a bad day or a bad diagnosis. Whatever gets thrown at you, it can help to remember the fable, Stone Soup, where hungry strangers began a soup pot with all they had (stones). The townspeople then helped them by bringing what they could from their cupboards or gardens. In the end, people shared and helped each other, and everyone enjoyed the meal. The story’s moral is about the good that comes from sharing, even if it begins with a stone.

Let’s look at a few examples of those who took the stones life threw at them and shared what they learned in overcoming adversity to help other people.

Writing to heal

Mari McCarthy took scary symptoms and a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis as an opportunity to learn about herself, discover how to manage her symptoms, and ultimately to make stone soup she could share with others. Her book Journaling Power: How To Create the Happy, Healthy, Life You Want to Live  is an inspirational work about how she used writing to heal—and how you can, too. The book contains insights about the concept of expressive writing, the science behind how it helps, and Mari’s own healing journey. I listened on audio, which was a peaceful meditation of sorts.

In McCarthy’s newest book, Heal Yourself with Journaling Power, she expands the practice. You’ll find poignant personal stories from those who have benefited, as well as the experiences of professionals who know the power of journaling and recommend it.

McCarthy’s books are written in a caring and light tone, which a line from her biography demonstrates: “Journaling for the health of It to heal the issues in their tissues and to grow and transform their life.”

The books are available in paperback, e-book, and audible.

Coming to terms … and thriving

In his book, When There Is No Cure: How to Thrive While Living with the Pain and Suffering of Chronic Illness, Craig K. Svensson, PharmD, PhD, covers material not often thought about by those who haven’t suffered something incurable. Troubles such as figuring out what’s wrong when symptoms don’t point to an easy answer, handling the hurtful things (even well-meaning) people say, and choosing from among treatments the medical professionals aren’t certain will work . . . and could even be harmful.

This book fits a broad audience of those living with chronic illness of any sort, even that which isn’t clearly defined. Pain that’s not explainable, for example, or a variety of troubling symptoms that aren’t always taken seriously. When There Is No Cure is filled with practical and specific advice such as what to say when your busy clinician isn’t listening, and how to go about making critical medical decisions. Svensson also addresses the more emotional elements of illness, such as regret about things you did or didn’t do in your life, which may have contributed to ill health.

The shared experiences from the author, a chronic sufferer himself, and those of the people he included in the book are moving, but it’s Svensson’s voice of kind authority that infuses the reader with confidence. If you’re suffering yourself, or helping a loved one who is searching for answers about living with chronic illness or a diagnosis for which there is no cure, When There Is No Cure: How to Thrive While Living with the Pain and Suffering of Chronic Illness can help.

Making soup (or castles!): overcoming adversity

Most of us like to root for the underdog, and today, stories of those who overcame huge adversities are at our fingertips. In overcoming adversity, these people inspire others, change the world, and make a difference. I’ve linked to a series of short profiles in a slideshow below. Scroll through when you’re feeling low. There’s even an inspiring dog in the mix. Ultimately, we all have something to overcome—and knowing we’re not alone aids our determination and fuels our healing spirit.

14 stories of overcoming the odds: Unforgettable stories

In moving forward after adversity, people learn from their experiences and then use them to build up strength. A 2008 study of older persons found that the most resilient were participants who could speak of things they’d been through in the past-tense, and then use those memories to see themselves as overcoming adversity, getting past those stressors, and going on to thrive. In examining their past woes, these people learned from the specific ways they moved forward despite adversity and were confident they could use similar techniques in the future—so there was nothing ahead they couldn’t survive. What a confidence builder!

In Done With The Crying, there’s an exercise to help readers use this same technique to build resilience. If you’re undergoing any sort of adversity, look to your past and any incidence where you managed, lived to tell, or overcame. Take note of the techniques you used. Did you seek advice? Give in? Talk to friends? Do what you knew was right despite others’ opinions? Ultimately, your own experiences can be the best teacher.

Healing soup

At times, all of us have burdens or stress. How we use those “stones” is a personal choice. Rather than haul in a heavy pack that slumps the shoulders and drags you down, how about collecting them for something good?

Next time someone throws a “stone” at you, add it to the soup pot. That might mean building a castle of sorts, like Raymond Isadore of France did.

As Isadore covered his cottage in mosaic art created from the bits of trashed glass and ceramic shards, he was the butt of his cynical neighbors’ jokes—but he continued to work, turning trash into artful treasure. (Read more about Isadore here.)

You can add to the healing soup. Help someone by sharing your thoughts about something tough you’ve been through and how you’ve healed. Hit the reply/comment link, won’t you? Just as they do in the fable, you can share, and lighten your own and others’ burdens.

Referenced Study:
Hildon, Z. , Smith, G. , Netuveli, G. and Blane, D. (2008), Understanding adversity and resilience at older ages. Sociology of Health & Illness, 30: 726-740. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9566.2008.01087.x

 

26 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thanks for the great stories; and will read them again as another year goes by.
    I catch the self pity fairly quickly now and pull myself out and these stories will help.

    Is there a chat room I can go to when the pain hits hard; usually birthdays, Christmas etc.
    Just to chat with another would make me less lonely as I don’t have any family other than my estranged son.

    1. Renee,
      My name is Beverly. I’m new at this though the estrangement with my younger son started over a year ago. It is now complete in his opinion and so I must follow his choice. There are small grandchildren involved. I also have no family or friends to really turn to except my weekly therapist. I’d be happy to listen and share what I’ve learned and you may do the same. I’m a Christian of quiet faith who will never push that on anyone. But in truth God is solely responsible for my ability to struggle through the devastating losses I’ve experienced. I hope to hear from you. Take care.

      1. Hi Renee,
        My name is Rosalie. I’ve been estranged from my only child and grandchild for three years though most of the years prior were wrought with sadness and tears. I’ve tried everything to get over this abandonment but nothing sticks for very long. My Christian faith and love of God and His son gets me through most days. However, the hurt and sadness is never far away. I’ve read books and sheri’s treasure on Parents abandoned by adult adult children is often my go to read. The only thing I haven’t tried is posting my story. My daughter and husband are pastors of a very progressive, self help type of Christian church. I’ve viewed online my daughters sermons and many are entered around how she was saved by Christ from her previous life with me. I did the best I could and never withheld the love I had and still have for her and my grandson. I basically raised my grandson for four years while they were establishing their breakaway church. Then I was removed from his precious life. Too much hurt, too much sadness. The only thing I haven’t lost is my faith and some days it’s hard to even turn to God but praise Him, He seeks me out in any and everyday. For this I am thankful.

    2. Hello don’t worry your not alone ask you angels to help you through , cry and light a candle. Holding that rock in your chest makes it harder to breath .
      Read ,try and make sense why we are here, go to conventions library meeting Ect
      Spending Christmas or other holidays on your own is not a failure., it’s really stoic and soul building . A great app I scaled calm try it out !!
      Think of me I too across the pond will be on my own in the same circumstances as you ! I will be sending my thoughts and prayers to you to get through the holidays
      My little dog and me will walking and cuddling and keeping warm .
      I’m sending you thoughts of kindness and thankfulness and you in your mind wish love and a good life to your son it will attract good into your life .
      I promise x

  2. I journaled when the row with my son and his wife blew up. I found it helpful to write my feelings down dated and when the book was used up I stopped. Maybe it would be useful to go back to that habit as our estrangement becomes nearly three years and two since the move away without telling any of his family. Especially as when I did contact me he said I was suffering the consequences of my actions. I still have no idea how, a row between two daughter-in-laws became my total fault and worthy of a complete exclusion from their lives including my little granddaughters who will now not even remember us. I can forgive and forgetting takes help from the Holy Spirit. Jesus understood suffering of betrayal, being cursed and brutally killed. My father in heaven can use my sadness and pain and that of our family, to help others in this situation. We have to carry on living. God bless you fellow suffers❤️

    1. Dearest Sharon, I too am 3 years 4 m from my estranged son, the hurt is some days almost unbearable, then I think of all the other parents, thousands, going thru the same pain we are suffering. Many on Sheri’s website share ways of coping and I think you are on the right track by going back to journaling. I to on days of hard to cope write my feelings down and time to time go back and read and add. I think I have come a long way since the beginning. Keep on praying and trusting in Jesus.
      Liss

    2. I too have a daughter who has withdrew from the family. Ithas been a journey for me that forcing me to grow. First I must say that it has made me look at behavior. Her with mental illness and a child with a disability whom she abdicated to us to manage. Next looking at behaviors she had as a child that never changed in adulthood. They were there but missed because she was a child that excelled at everything. As a parent you think oh she will overcome this or that. But she never did. Failure and choices were someone elses fault. Decisions in partners who are themselves a whole kettle of fish. Admitting is one thing.. taking action is something else. All it does to these adult children (loosely stated)is they become entrenched in a singular mission of anger and retribution and many times to the detriment of their children and their own mental health. I have learned that I can ruin my health and mental well being or just leave it. And by that I truly mean leave it. I have spent 1 to 2 hours a day reading inspirational books . Journaling not myself but simple inspirational sayings. I listen to music especially classical, coloring . And never forget walking and nature. I have a family member with whom I talk daily. Through this I can separate myself from it and see it as whatever her unspoken issue is it will stay her issue. One never owns what anyone else thinks and feels. It is solely theirs. I refuse to ever in my life take on others issues. It is absolutely the single most freeing feeling I have ever had in my life. I see it as the ancient philosophers that people come in and out of our lives and we have the choice to take you down or make you grow.. If you don’t grow the lesson will be repeated until you learn and grow. I have chosen to grow. Good luck.

  3. This is SUCH a great article full of fascinating insights with links to even more articles with even more insights. I just LOVE the cemetery caretaker’s castle … THANK YOU, Sheri!

      1. Since September, well before that actually, my youngest daughter seems to think she is my judge and jury. She has borderline personality disorder. In September we went to see her (granddaughter and son in law)…. They let us see my granddaughter, But when we were at the house they stayed in their computer rooms and refused to speak. No clue What got this going except we did speak up for the granddaughter twice on a borderline abuse situation. Perhaps she was siding with her husband and they decided to go against us, who in the world knows! I persevered with the granddaughter online, she eight and totally loves us, as we do her. My daughter is semi speaking to me now, I think me having stage four lung cancer probably had a little to do with that. She tried to say in a text that I sent her a guilt trip and I nailed her last weekend.
        First I prayed,, And then I asked how she could possibly extract a tone of voice from a text! And that it was actually better to speak over the phone or the computer so misunderstandings didn’t happen, at least she agreed. But I have no doubt that I’ll be walking on egg shells around her forever.
        My other daughter got married to a man who had a mother that was a control freak, so the first thing he did was make sure I was on the outside, and quite often his mother is too. I stayed close to the grand children who are teenagers now ,it’s at a little more difficult Because they have a little life going on! My daughter never misses a chance to put me down or disparage my diction which, by the way is pretty good, she makes sure I’m never good enough. It’s like death through 1000 slits, and I’m aware of it. I am newly retired so I’m reading a lot of Christian support books, getting stronger in that area, Seeing friends, my husband, and my art. It is enough.
        The cancer treatment can help to keep me alive for about five years. I believe in God, that he’s written my story and given me my path to walk…….I will be glad to go home, but not too soon!
        God is my rock…your writings here from everyone are so helpful, giving new insights~ thank you.

  4. There are some good ideas here, especially the journaling. Just writing on the Rejected Parents website has broken through some of my on going denial. I can see everything that has happened just in the last 7 months. My brain wants to minimize, candy coat and then I’m right back in the same place-setting myself up to be victimized again. Its not about being unforgiving, its about acceptance, reality. He is never going to change, I’m sorry for him. I could be such a support and a source of love for him. I just want to be his cheerleader and be proud of him. I want to help him and enjoy his adult life with him, just like my parents and grandparents enjoyed mine. Nothing heavy… a weekly phone call, an occasional dinner. But he has denied me that and it seems to be punitive-for what? unconditional love? You cant make sense of the senseless. Perhaps they feel like failures, powerless-so blame your parents. Then maybe it makes you feel powerful and your excused for what you’ve become. I’ve heard it from others on the forum, “Its not about you, its about them”. This says more about who they have CHOSEN to be. I remember the “Stone Soup” story from childhood and I love the analogy about this being us parents sharing our pain and thus lessening the burden. There is something to that, I feel so much better knowing I’m not the only one!

  5. This will be the second holiday season without my estranged 3 adult children. I am not looking forward to it. I have managed to get through these past years as far as birthdays go by e-mailing good wishes to them – but no gifts. Why reward negative behavior. I have not decided on what I will do for Christmas this year – last year I sent gift cards – but nothing has changed, so I won’t do that again. I HAVE noticed that I get jittery and do dumb things around the dates of birthdays and at holidays – even though I don’t do any extra thinking about things – I guess my mind knows anyway. Mostly away from holidays and birthdays, I am able to maintain a sort of numbness and when I think about it all – I get it out of my mind as fast as I can. I realize how everything came to be and really I am glad that it did – but I still have a sadness that it happened at all. I AM coping better with it this year – and I have made my peace with it – what will be will be.

  6. WOW thanks!!! I read every article and it was so uplifting this cold Halloween morning! I’m going to save them to reread. I searched my library and online for Mari McCarthy’s books but couldn’t find except in ebook form which I don’t have access too or Kindle. Are these books available some other way. Thanks again. I just absolutely dread the holidays approaching. My daughter with whom I have a…..strained relationship…..and lives out of state is considering coming up and bringing the two grandkids I haven’t seen for Thanksgiving. I have mixed feelings as the betrayal and harm done right after my husband died suddenly still smolders. I’m working on it though! Thanks for the help in trying to forge new paths!

    1. Linda, if you click the link in the article, it will take you to them (available in paperback too).

      Hugs to you.

      Sheri

  7. I owned a home in Colorado I lived there for many years, I saw my grown sons, their wives and my grandchildren when I took the time to fly, train or drive to their homes 2 and 3 states away. My sons did not do this for me though, but I rationalized they are working , raising their families and can not afford to come see me, but then two of my sons drove right through Colorado to visit some of their in-laws in neighboring states with out stopping to see me, my middle son and his wife and sons drove within two blocks of my home without topping to see me. That hurt, but I let it go. My sons ask. me to move father west to be closer to them and their children. My daughter in laws never got along with each other so when I visited I spent my time being a conciliator. I would tell them I will not speak against another daughter in law but that just angered each of them. It seemed to me they were trying to be my favorite so I tried to let them know, I loved each of you and would not choose a favorite. When I gave gifts to my daughter in laws, that was a point of contention, two of my sons were instructed by their wives to tell me that my taste is not their taste so please just give them money. I said ” How will I know how much to give?” They did not give me a clearcut answer. I said ” I do not want to offend so I`ll not give anything. That seemed to make them happier so I just had to get over it. Now all these years later these two women play the victim and tell people that I never gave or give them anything, they do not tell that set the situation up. One year my home was gutted by fire, my youngest son ask me to come stay with him and his family while my home was refurbished, while I was visiting I bought some of the food. One day went I got back from job hunting my daughter in law ask to leave because I was “eating them out of house & home”. I was a size 5 and I was very careful what I ate. My daughter in laws have run us off and now we are to blame. 2 years ago we were invited to one of my grand daughter`s wedding, we were instructed by our son that the wedding was to be at a State Park, was a cowboy theme in certain colors and we were expected to dress appropriately. We complied, but when my daughter in laws mother saw me she got angry, saying I had dressed to formally to out do her. She would not let herself be photographed with us. I wore an older outfit that was cotton because of the heat at the park. It appears that I can do nothing right!!! So? Last year we were invited to another sons` daughter`s wedding and it was to be another out door event, it was to be another cowboy theme but we were told by that grand daughter that we were free to wear anything we like. I even had some injections done to my face, we were all excited but the morning of the wedding as I was preparing I started throwing up repeatedly all during the day and all night, and I had to do that on the toilet. Need I say more, we missed the wedding,I was crying, it was awful. The next day my doctor said it was a touch of food poisoning or possibly the flue. If that was`nt bad enough, that sons wife harangued me for trying to ruin the wedding. She ask why I hadn`t I just shown up even if I was throwing up and had diarrhea. My grand daughter was disappointed and I understand that but what could I do, expose the entire wedding guests to whatever I had? That daughter in law never lets me forget it. Is there no compassion in these women? Where are my sons in all this? Do they think I spent the injection money and would miss that wedding on purpose, or do they think I am lying and why would I do that to my self? Really folks I grow weary, so I stay away from my sons and their wives unless I am invited, which never happens. Some of my grandchildren want to see me and I do when I can but their mothers give them a bad time so I tell the grandchildren maybe it would be better for them if they just do not share with their moms that they see me. I understand insecure people have needs and I do accommodate them but how far in far enough, them seem insatiable. I am a woman of prayer and I cast my children over on the Lord for he cares for all of us.

  8. I benefitted from honestly assessing my role, understanding that my child can have a different view of things than I do, making a true apology with no excuses, and then letting go. I like the phrase, “I’ve done everything I can, now it’s time to let go.” I also sent my daughter a little bejeweled owl (a special token between us) with a note that said it was the “connector owl” representing connections in all its forms, and that right now, she’s the “de-connector owl.” And it’s up to my daughter when/if she wants to become a re-connector owl, and that when/if she does, she knows connections will be better and different. In other words, I indicated to my daughter I respect her decision. And then I let go, fairly successfully. I will also say that after over two years of estrangement, I realized I had spiraled so far down, that I needed help. I visited my family doctor, received a prescription for bupropion, and feel so much better. Logical, reasonable thinking restored and no constant recriminations and negativity. Take care, everybody, and God bless you.

  9. I agree with your other writers, that there is comfort in writing here and reading here, if in no other way than to vent & share with others and pray for others. I am sure in many ways I miss it as far as being a perfect mother or mother in law but I am one of the loving caring ones. I read the other stories here and I hear how the other moms are concerned too. If we were not we would have told our children and their mates off long ago even if it offended or especially to offend. And I am not judging you if you have, I myself have walked away mumbling under my breath, I thought of some choice words after I got home, but then I remembered scripture about not being offensive and I repented. At least for now, thank God. He would have us to do all things in peace. My peace and your peace is important to the Lord too. So I just try to rest in that peace ” that peace that passes all understanding” according to the Bible and I choose to be there when I am needed. Just like you other moms and dads who love their children and are perplexed about how to love them from afar! Moms and Dads we are loving on each other when we write here. I do not pretend to know what the Lord will do for us but I do know he will do something! Blessings dears.

  10. Stone Soup is a good one. I’ll have to remember that. I always say when life gives me Lemons, I make Lemonade. I make Lemonade a lot. Love to all.

  11. thank you for sharing … at times, I wonder just what this life is all about, what is my purpose and what is the lesson that I seem to not be getting … I keep going, remember to be grateful, find the good and ROAR

  12. Thank you all for sharing. I am 6 months into this and still trying to figure it all out. My son has always been different but I was always his biggest advocate. He has always blamed my husband, his father for everything wrong in his life but this past year he started blaming me too. Every now and then he unleashes verbally on us. We do not see him other than to visit our grandson rarely and when he drops him off he doesn’t acknowledge us. The latest was he sent us a letter telling us why he hates us and wishing us dead. He no longer calls us mom and dad. I have no idea how it got to this! I just pray for guidance. My hart aches. Again thank you all for sharing. It helps knowing I’m not alone.

  13. Thankful for a forum to read so many stories, good to know we are not alone.
    Many of you are going through so much more than I have…
    My journey started 13 years ago and wasn’t gradual but sudden, when our divorced daughter who was living with us for several years to get a teaching degree left on Christmas Eve, with her three children. We thought she was leaving for the evening.. she never came back. She had planned this without telling us, secured a job and moved in with a friend. She wouldn’t answer phone calls except to say, Don’t Call.
    A month later we took the gifts from under the tree, her things, her children’s clothes and toys, other belongings and left them at the house she was living.
    The kids at the time were 7, 9 and 11. We called, she said she would call us back.
    After Christmas break I resumed volunteering at the kid’s school and she had started teaching there. One by one the kid’s teachers told me they didn’t need my help anymore.
    Our daughter got married within a few months, we found out later. Over the years our only contact was going to games, baseball, basketball, track and football. The kids who had been such a big part of our lives and hearts were not allowed to look at us. We watched from the stands for a glimpse to wave but they never looked..one day she called and said Grandparents don’t go to kid’s sports..but we continued.
    Fast forward to 13 years later, our daughter divorced that man after 9 years, married again for a year, divorced a 3rd time..
    Recently she decided she wants to re-establish a relationship with us. She wants us to go to counseling with her. I love her, that will never change. But I don’t trust her with my heart. I lost my grandkids and they had no choice in the matter. They are all in intense counseling because of the 2 men she married.
    I’m hesitant of a relationship with her after missing her and the kids for so long.
    If that sounds odd, well, I had to deal with it years ago, for years.
    I walked rain or shine, I journaled, prayed, not knowing that the day she left, Christmas Day, would become weeks, then months, then years..
    I kept hoping it would change. I have forgiven her, and I’m Done with the Crying.
    My relationship with God grew. I realized I’d put my daughter and grandkids above Him. It was a journey. One of the best things I learned was you can love someone, without trusting them. That gives me so much peace! Also that humans will always fail humans, at least in small ways.
    God is the only One who we can trust 100%.
    Another thing I’ve learned is this estrangement thing is nothing new. I have spoken to people much older who had similar experiences, they just never told anyone! My own mom, at nearly 90, who knew all these years of my daughter’s estrangement and us losing our gkds, recently told me my brother’s wives did not let her see her gkds even when they lived in the same town. She went through that pain alone..no books, no blog, no support..I had no idea!..because at holidays everyone acted like things were ok..
    Hang in there everyone, do your thing, live your life, read these articles. I’m older, wiser, stronger..
    not bitter, survived what I least expected to happen…
    Our beautiful grown gkds have started calling and visiting..

  14. I have a question, I’m interested in how other rejected mothers would respond to a situation. I’ve been erased by two of my daughters. One has a borderline personality disorder, she’s the thorn in my side. Five years ago, she played a major role in my marriage to a man I deeply loved ending in divorce. We were married for 24 years. He was her stepfather and she had always disliked him. Out of pure meanness, she went to him and told him I was involved with another man. She did this to hurt him with no concern for how this would play out in the future. She saw the opportunity to hurt him and seized it – not caring about the consequences of her actions. She then cut me out of her life and made sure her two children did the same. Over the years I’ve tried unsuccessfully to mend our relationship, I love her unconditionally, or I did. Now my younger daughter, who is still under the other ones influence is trying to at least have a cordial relationship with me. My problem is the youngest lives a long distance from us and she visits when she can. I’m not comfortable being around the one that has basically ruined my life. But to see my younger daughter I have to be in the presence of the other one and I’m very uncomfortable. Should I excuse myself from their invitations for dinner. If I meet with them, how do I respond to the one that hates me so badly. Over the years, I have called many times with no answer from this daughter. I’ve repeatedly sent text messages telling her how much I love her and miss her. Once I told her, I’d crawl through cut glass to see her. Now, I’m tired of trying and I’ve come to terms with no longer having a relationship with her or her children. How do I act in her presence if I want to see my younger daughter? Any suggestions are welcome. Elizabeth

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