The pain a parent feels after raising a child for roughly 18 years only to become estranged is inconceivable. 

“It’s hard for people to share with anybody,” said a Southeast member, “Kathy,” who has an estranged daughter. “The shame you feel. If you can’t share it, then it just festers. A lot of parents feel disposable and that they’ve been disposed of. That they’ve given their whole life to their kids and then all of the sudden there’s that rejection.”

Southeast Christian Church’s Care Ministry is holding a workshop called Estranged Parents and Grandparents of Adult Children at the Blankenbaker Campus Tuesday evenings starting Jan. 12.

Parental estrangement is defined as the loss of a relationship between a child and parent through physical and/or emotional distancing to the point where there is often no communication for a prolonged period. Estrangement is not frequently talked about, but it’s an ever-increasing epidemic.

A recent survey of young adults found that about 17% experienced estrangement from an immediate family member, most commonly from the father. It’s children who usually cut off contact, while only about 5% of parents initiate boundaries.

Kathy, who is still trying to reconcile with her daughter, said estrangement is a “silent epidemic.”

“It’s a lot of people, but you don’t realize it because they don’t want to talk about it. It’s not that they don’t want to talk about it, it’s that people don’t understand, and you feel judged, so you don’t say anything,” Kathy added. “I’ll still have people ask, ‘Well, what happened?’ and they’re thinking, ‘What did you do?’ I have no idea. I really have no idea because there’s not just one thing that you can put your finger on.”

The class will walk through a workbook providing tools to deal with parental estrangement and discuss topics such as: guilt and forgiveness, why do children become estranged, how to make amends and mistakes that parents make.

A couple of additional resources the class will reference are psychologist Joshua Coleman’s “When Parents Hurt” and Southeast Senior Pastor Kyle Idleman’s “Praying for Your Prodigal.”

Estrangement occurs for various reasons: substance abuse, parental alienation because of divorce or in-laws, child abuse, mental illness, the child feels threatened by your relationship with the grandchildren or the child needs a break from co-dependency (being enmeshed with parents and desiring independence).

The group’s objective is not to vent about kids, but to reconcile with them.

“The goal is to possibly reconcile, but those are not necessarily easy things to do when you’ve felt rejected,” Kathy said. “It’s the worst kind of hurt because it’s daily. There’s no finality. It’s a choice every day that’s being made by somebody to not have anything to do with you. There’s so little control. There are a lot of what ifs. There are so many questions you don’t have answers to.”

The good news is research backs up the hope of reconciliation. One study showed that 71% of children who were estranged from their mothers ended up reuniting over time.

If you are interested or would like more information, contact the Care Ministry at (502) 253-8400.