By Sheri McGregor, M.A.
The New Year excites me. Everything is possible. There’s a fresh clean slate—and what you put on it is up to you!
If you read that with a frown, turn it upside down. Seriously. Studies show that just going through the motions of smiling makes you feel better. That’s because it causes a whole slurry of chemicals in the brain and body to fight stress and depression. Things really are brighter when you smile, so even if doesn’t feel right, or you think you have nothing to look forward to, will you give it a try? (1, 2)
The truth is, you can start over any time, and on the precipice of new calendar year, the time is particularly right. Everybody’s with you, too, so it’s like the whole world is united on a theme. This New Year is also the start of a new decade, so all the more reason to feel excited. Are you smiling yet?
Fresh. New. Start.
Say those words aloud. Two are descriptive of what a beginning is all about. The third one is a verb: Start. That means action.
It’s said that hindsight is 20-20, so start by reflecting on 2019. Then use what you see and feel to make changes to support yourself (emotionally, physically, within your family and community, your spiritual self, your relationships, your finances. . . .). No need to make a list right now. Just get out a piece of paper and answer a few questions. Ask yourself:
- If I had to choose a few words to describe 2019, what would those words be?
Write the words, and then jot down a few notes about the year. It’s best to use months or seasons as headings to jar your memory and organize your notes. For each time period, answer:
- What came out of nowhere, was hurtful, or shocking?
- Is there a particular person or situation that hurt or upset me?
- What were the results of those struggles?
- What made me happy?
- What did I complete, personally or professionally, that made a difference, made me feel proud or accomplished?
- How did those “wins” affect me and my life?
Reflect on the last year. Write down your thoughts. Focus on your feelings, too.
As you reflect, notice how the struggles make you feel now. Do your shoulders tense? Does your neck hurt? Do you feel your chest tightening? Good news! Those things happened last year, but they don’t have to repeat. Shake out your shoulders. Take a long, deep breath, and then blow it out forcefully so your lips vibrate. Make a noise as you do—it feels good!
Now move on to the good things. Really savor the joy you felt over things that made you happy. Relive the satisfaction and fulfillment of your accomplishments. Noticing these things and savoring them is beneficial (endnote).
Don’t compare your wins to someone else’s or minimize your successes. Depending on the challenges you face, even proper dental hygiene can feel oppressive. For someone who has been ill, depressed, or knocked sideways by someone’s hurtful behavior or game-playing, taking a walk to the corner, repotting a houseplant, cooking a meal at home, or taking a pet for its shots can be huge. Give yourself a pat on the back for any progress. As I’ve said repeatedly, even the tiniest step in the right direction is advancing and can build momentum.
Now, let’s look forward. Ask yourself:
- What would I like to do differently or feel better about in the New Year? (Come up with specific items.)
- What have I been worried about that I know I can’t control?
- Is there anything that needs me to let it go?
- How would I like to be?
You may want to respond differently to ongoing situations, learn to put yourself first, or tackle some big projects you’ve been putting off. My advice is to sit with your thoughts, dreams, and goals, reflect upon what’s stopping or holding you back, and then devise ways to move forward. These can be small plans. In fact, those are often best.
If you want to exercise more, start with something doable and build on it over time. If you are always last on your own list, commit to one morning when you’re not available to others—and then turn off your telephone. If a big project is begging for completion, an action a day adds up to 365 actions by the end of the year. My guess is that you won’t last that long. Often, one small action leads to another. When you start to see daylight, you’ll devote more time—because you’ll want to mark it “Done!”
Look again at that last question: How do you want to be? Use it to come up with a few words you’d like to use as themes for 2020. One year, I decided “kind” was my theme word. Among other things, for me, that meant sharing my thoughts. Telling a friend that I like her handwriting or how she has a knack for small talk. Things like that.
During the quiet time between Christmas and the New Year, I’m going to reflect at length about this and come up with some plans. Won’t you join me? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
More New Year reading: New Year Resolution
A note to the parents of estranged adults:
For those who find themselves facing estrangement from adult children, you’ll find an exercise in my book, Done With The Crying, and in the WORKBOOK, that helps you to “Take Stock,” examine your life, and come up with small goals to begin making changes in specific areas you choose for positive impact. In my work as a Life Coach with all sorts of people, a version of that exercise often forms the basis of new beginnings and fresh starts—like those we can do in the New Year. In the books, the exercise focuses specifically on the situation of an adult child’s estrangement. You’ll find more help specific to familial estrangement at my site: Help and Healing for Parents of Estranged Adult Children.
- Seaward BL. Managing Stress: Principles And Strategies For Health And Well-Being. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett; 2009:258.
- R.D. (2000). Neural correlates of conscious emotional experience. In R.D. Lane & L. Nadel (Eds.), Cognitive Neuroscience of Emotion (Series in Affective Science) (pp. 345–370). New York: Oxford University Press.
16 comments / Add your comment below
Since the initial break 5 years ago my health has suffered greatly. I have gained a fair amount of weight, I have no stamina, I have angina on exertion but arteries are clear, etc. The grief is sometimes so overwhelming I feel I just want to die…if it weren’t for my younger daughter. The day before yesterday I was having a particularly rough time and cried in front of my youngest, who absolutely loves me unconditionally, and she started crying…the anger that came from her surprised me. She wished her sister was dead. She wondered how many more Christmases would be ruined. She hates her sister for the sadness it has brought, for the traditions we once enjoyed as a family destroyed, and I realized I HAVE to change. I have to find a way to let it go, completely…to let my heart free…so I can love the light that is in my life. Right now I am stuck physically (I just had knee surgery and can bear no weight on that knee OR drive), so I am planning. Planning to exercise more, donate my estranged daughter’s stuff she left behind, take new family photos of just the three of us and coming up with a new and exciting Christmas tradition for next year. I believe 2020 will be the year I remember and honor the person I was, and am but just forgot!
Planning is a good, proactive move!
I’m so glad you are reminding yourself of who you ARE!
Hugs to you.
I completely understand your loss. My daughter estranged herself after the death of her brother, my son. My other children have been devastated by the losses. It is such a helpless feeling to not be able to comfort my other children and grandchildren! But I decided, yes DECIDED to make my purpose about my children left behind (as much as emotionally possible!).
I am 72 and realize that my time left on this earth is limited, so I will write this new chapter in my life. (The old one was filled with fantasy, love, unknown and loss.) My NEW book will be written with purpose, and it will be whatever I make it! (I tell myself!) Wishing you hugs, love and strength!
Praying that everyone who finds this post can find peace in the coming year.
Hi Sheri, I have emailed you before about the possibility of have small, local support groups, lecture or workshops..have you given this much thought? I would like to start a support group in my area using your workbook as a guide…are you interested in participating?
Please send me another email. I’m sorry that I didn’t get back to you but we can talk about this.
I hesitate to leave a comment since I left a comment on another post and it was about my struggling to deal with the emotional state that estrangement has left me in, and the post subsequently has only received a minimal response. However, I note with interest that there are more than 97 comments on the subject of getting through the Christmas season (the man floating his way to work). This suggests to me that coming up with bright ideas for the future (and funnily enough I am rather excited, in a lonesome kind of way, about 2020), is something of a hurdle, a complexity, something that is confounding. Estrangement is, however, a pain that keeps on giving. I have personally passed another Christmas with no communication from my two estranged children. I think I will take one person’s advice (or decision) to start and end conversation about my children with saying just that, ‘my estranged children’. This Christmas, neither of my sisters have made mention of my children either, and that hurts, knowing that one of them has visited my son recently without wanting to tell me. The other sister doesn’t want to get involved. It all hurts. However, 2020 has too many ‘coincidences’ for me not to take note off. My son is 40 in 2020. A good friend who has supported me over the many years of this estrangement is dying of terminal cancer, and is not there any more to turn to. I need therefore to grow up. One of the reasons I find it difficult to read Sheri’s book is because it’s an acknowledgement that I have to ‘work hard’, as another contributor put it, to go on a different road than my sisters, friends or any other person I know is on, other than the people in this forum/rejectedparents.com. It has been useful to read about estrangement from the other side, and it’s obvious that the situation is at a stalemate. Positions have hardened. But that’s not what I want. I do not want to harden my heart, but at the same time I’m done in. “My wife’s a mess” – I loved that phrase from one husband. I’ve taken a month off work after losing it. So, I have to look at what I want to achieve in 2020, and not keep harping on about what I’ve lost in the decade and decades now past. That’s some fing challenge, but I’m up for it.
Oh, do get the book, “Done With the Crying.” It’s excellent! I read the whole book and now keep referring back to it when I feel down. It gives some wonderful ways to focus on oneself and get a life back. And to create a new one, with new, positive attitudes. In 2020, I’m getting the workbook that goes along with the book. This book has been my lifesaver. Happy New Year! May 2020 be a much better one for you and all of us estranged parents.
My heart goes out to you, I feel completely lost and completely alone, nobody asks or talks to me about my daughter anymore. I feel that this is something I have to deal with on my own, but I am struggling, I lock myself away because I dont like the person that I have now become. Everytime someone mentions her name I break down and cry so to avoid this I shut myself away. My daughter is 23 years old and I miss her so much but I have to accept she is where she wants to be right now but it is hard
I wrote down all the questions and suggestions above in my journal. I’m starting out by writing my highlights of 2019. I will then write what I hope to see and achieve in 2020 and in the new decade ahead. I really need to make some good, healthy changes in my life. I am still way too affected by my estranged daughter and her family. Two of my grandkids are now in their 20’s and one is a freshman in high school. They could be contacting me, on their own. I feel my daughter somehow controls them for they stopped emailing me. My daughter only emails me, no phone calls except at Christmas. Then the whole family talks to me on speaker phone. I get so depressed after these yearly phone calls. I’m afraid the older grandkids will soon get engaged and married and I won’t even be invited to their weddings! But who knows what the future holds. Time to stop obsessing over them and trying to figure things out. I may never know what has happened that we have gotten to this point. I wish all of you a Happy New Year and may you live in peace and good health!
Well, happy New Year to everyone! Hope it is also a successful and healthy one.
I was watching a new year show on TV last night when I thought ‘ I can’t let a new year come in without at least wishing her a happy one.
So I texted a goodwill to her and…my daughter replied! Just with a cursory ‘ happy New Year’ and nothing else, but it’s a result, so I didn’t push it further. Small steps? I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.
My daughter told me once that she doesn’t like people. She likes only animals like her dogs. She has six. She left and moved to another state. So I thought well “2 can play at that game. ” I have a cat. So I shower all my affection on her. Also I have a few stray cats that hang around because I feed them. Then I have my hummingbirds. They always put on a show for me. So If my daughter can put me out of her life, it works both ways. I’m perfectly happy with my Furry friends. I don’t even miss her.
I’ve decided to a much needed break from my 3 adult children. One son is completely estranged for 25 years and I kept hoping things would be different and did my best to stay in touch. A younger son has worked on improving his relationship with me and just when I think things are going fine, he lashes out at me for things that took place 40 years ago. For a long time, I kept taking it in the chin and returning to the relationship. My relationship with my daughter has gone progressively downhill in the last seven years, since her divorce. She won’t communicate what her issues are with me, and ignores my feelings of dismissal by her, and wanting to talk to clear the air.
This past holiday season was the last straw for me. Every time I try to be kind and caring towards them I get the cold shoulder, or worse, lashing out verbally. FINALLY, after many many years of turning the other cheek. I’ve decided ENOUGH punishment. I’ve finally decided to detach from them. I can’t bare the thought of forever, so I’ve told myself for 6 months. During that time I’m focusing on me. I’ve blocked their phone numbers, and emails, and won’t respond to texts (which I don’t like). I’m done being a punching bag and/or a doormat. It hurts to much.
A New Year, a new attitude for me to put myself first for a change. I’m a single soon to be 71 year old woman. I work full time and my plan is rest and relax when I can from all the holiday induced stress. And, to plan some enjoyable activities and leave them behind. Evidently, they have some soul searching to do about their relationships with me. We lived in an abusive relationship with their father for 10 years that effected all of us. However, they only see themselves as victims. I was a victim too. I’ve done many years of therapy to overcome those nightmare years. I’m now a confident, self supporting woman. EXCEPT when it comes to my children. I long for decent relationships with them. For the first time, I’m accepting that they may never change. It’s very sad, and I am grieving. But, this to shall pass. I deserve peace and contentment in my senior years and am letting go of my 3 children. I’ve given myself 6 months of no contact with them for a time to heal my emotions over their hurtful words and actions towards me. I don’t want apologies and more of the same from any of them. I can love myself and I know God loves me.
Finding this website and the book, Done With The Crying, is comforting me by knowing I am not alone and I that I deserve a good life, even if my adult children are estranged. I’m going to keep moving forward, without them. God willing.
As the father of an estranged adult daughter (27) that came literally out of nowhere has been a devastating experience that is now entering its 16th month. Our relationship had been filled with openness, honesty, supportive and caring though all the adventures of growing up since her birth at 2:57AM…I simply state that time because it was at 9:58PM 11/26/2018 that our last txt was delivered explaining that she would not be joining our Thanksgiving meal. My ex-wife and I had a mediated divorce and remain on good terms and there is also a younger daughter (1:01PM) that would define our family unit. The confusion, hurt, bewilderment and feeling of being abandoned was and in many cases still is painful during the year. This can be the typical holidaze season, birthdays, Father’s Day, daughters day and other milestones that bring loving memories and smiles that are now a little different. For parents, Mothers and Fathers who have and are going through this to know there is a community for support is very helpful. This is for those with no history of abuse, alienation, ignorance, meanness and overall lack of fundamental parenting and the building of what one hopes is a caring and fun-loving daughter who has been provided the foundation of becoming a well rounded and ‘nice’ soul. I can see this on social media and the fact her life is carrying on, which makes me happy, but simply without any interaction between us. Having received varying advice, with the predominate line being to ‘wait it out’ I have done my best to abide by this but as the days turn to weeks to months to years it is challenging to maintain a facade of outward normalcy while inside there is an empty spot with no signs of being filled. I rambled, but wanted to at least post and offer a glimpse into my story and the helpfulness of knowing that I am not alone