Each inspirational chapter in Banished explores the dilemmas and challenges facing alienated parents and grandparents. Woven throughout are intensely personal accounts of the author's own healing along with practical advice for those who suffer from family estrangement. She shares her process of healing, discussing everything from acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, self-love, and the importance of letting go and honoring your own life. She reveals how she found joy and happiness again, despite the vacuum created by the absence of her adult child and grandchildren.
Providing both straightforward assistance and much-needed empathy for those facing family alienation and estrangement, this book helps you move forward, while offering tools for healing and creating more love and peace in your life.
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About the Author
Nancy Lee Klune holds a master's degree in music with continuing graduate studies in counseling psychology. She has worked as a teacher, music therapist, and activities director in the field of addiction. A former professional dancer/choreographer, she is also a classical pianist, composer, and the author of several children's books. She currently coaches people dealing with alienation and estrangement. Visit her online at www.grandparentsdeniedaccess.com.
Read an Excerpt
Starting Where You Are
If you've recently been estranged or alienated from members of your family, please be gentle with yourself. You may be in shock and experiencing enormous stress, pain, and trauma. Treat yourself with loving compassion, even if it seems like the last thing you feel able to do. Just start where you are and be aware that you need time to assimilate and process what has happened.
The reasons for your estrangement may be unclear to you. Perhaps you have been scapegoated by your adult child's partner or spouse, or accused of misdeeds by a gatekeeper. Maybe your child's judgment has been clouded by anger, confusion, or addiction. Whatever the reasons, it's possible that you feel like you've been sentenced to a life in exile.
Fear may be assaulting you day and night. You fear this is the end of a dream, that you'll miss out on knowing your grandchildren. You experience overwhelming anxiety, compounded by guilt and shame. You may feel like you can't go on, that life is no longer worth living. Although you did everything within your power to understand the problem your alienator has with you, deep down, you fear that you are somehow to blame for this awful abandonment.
It's okay to feel your sorrow. It's okay to feel lost. It's important to experience all your feelings — shock, fear, grief, rage, hurt, guilt, and shame — because these emotions are predictable responses to the stress of being incomprehensibly shaken loose from your family tree. Allow yourself to ride these waves of heartbreak because if you don't, they will engulf you.
Little by little, you will turn away from the pain. Of course, this takes time. Read books, blogs, and articles on the subjects of estrangement and alienation. Find a therapist or life coach; a trusted priest, minister, or rabbi; or a support group for alienated parents and grandparents. Then slowly start doing the work necessary to begin again. If you have religious or spiritual beliefs, this would be a good time to delve into and practice the tenets of your faith; if you meditate, continue to do so. If you're not in the habit of meditating or praying, you might consider exploring these practices.
But for now, take baby steps. For example, today, set aside a few minutes to sit quietly, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and calm your mind. Tomorrow, go outside and take a walk. If you've been isolating yourself at home, even going for a stroll around the block is progress. Saint Francis of Assisi said, "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." Each day, introduce something new, like doing morning stretches or planting spring flowers under the healing warmth of the sun.
By learning to choose thoughts and activities that comfort and support, you will get through this. You will come to understand that you have little or no control over the circumstances of this estrangement. This knowledge and insight will ultimately propel you toward greater acceptance, strength, and wisdom as you find your way back home to yourself.
What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.
— Antoine de Saint-ExuperyCHAPTER 2
Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of their carvings.
— Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
There are days when you feel like you're drowning in grief. You cry until you can't breathe. You feel helpless and betrayed. You keep asking yourself how this happened, what you did wrong, and what you can do to facilitate reconciliation. You may have regrets, and your heart may be heavy. You may have fallen into the "if only" pit, in which you obsess about what you said or didn't say, or what you did or didn't do. But going over and over past events only exacerbates your grief and sadness.
Parents and grandparents who are estranged from their adult child and alienated from their grandchildren experience an ambiguous grief. Ambiguous because a loss of this kind leaves you feeling disenfranchised, searching for reasons, and seeking answers. Your grief is a natural reaction to being torn from those you love, but due to the lack of closure, the grieving process can seem endless. Being aware of this will help you better understand the ongoing nature of the distress, fear, and sadness you feel and can ultimately help mitigate your grief.
Writer C. S. Lewis said that grief feels like fear: a "fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning." Grief has many facets, one of which is fear. For example, you may fear that the situation won't resolve, that you'll miss out on knowing your grandchildren or that the grief you're feeling will consume you.
In the words of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, "To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering." Know that one day, your grief will abate and your cycles of despair, anger, and sadness will grow less debilitating. You will experience a purification, a cleansing. You will undergo an inner spiritual growth spurt. You may never completely heal from the trauma of banishment and estrangement, but if you choose to do the work necessary for your personal transformation, you will grow in wisdom and find meaning in your life.
It is courageous to feel the depths of your grief. By embracing the tough reality of your loss, mourning it, assimilating it, and feeling your sorrow and hurt, you will eventually create a space in your heart for acceptance of what is and a deep sense of peace.
When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
— Martin Luther King Jr.CHAPTER 3
It is good to be lonely, for being alone is not easy. The fact that something is difficult must be one more reason to do it.
In the wake of being alienated and abandoned, the loneliness is so profound that it can feel like you're falling into a black hole. One day, you wake up with no bearings, stumbling into uncharted territory.
At some point during the aftermath of alienation, you will feel the need to grieve. It's healthy to feel your anguish, so let yourself fully experience this passage. This is the beginning of healing and recovery from the trauma.
There were times, especially in the early stages of estrangement, when I felt so lonely, I didn't know how I'd make it through another day. I was haunted by mistakes I'd made in the past when I was a clueless young mother, mindlessly teaching what I had learned as a child from my own parents, who were then young and damaged themselves. I was terrified of a future alone, without the companionship and love of my family. I still have days when I feel overwhelmed with sadness, but I have learned to reach out and talk to someone who understands, like a close friend or therapist. It can be scary to feel lost and alone, but if you're willing, it can be a time of learning more about yourself — who you've been and who you are now. You can decide to make the changes necessary to become the person you want to be. Persian poet Hafiz wrote, "Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut you more deep. Let it ferment and season you as few humans and even divine ingredients can." Loneliness is challenging, but it can be a positive passage if you choose to make good use of it. No one can fill the vacuum created by your grandchildren's absence, but if you work at it, you can fill this emptiness with love — for yourself, for others, and for the ultimate goodness of life.
Loneliness accepted becomes a gift leading one from a life dominated by tears to the discovery of one's true self and finally to the heart of longing and the love of God.
— UnknownCHAPTER 4
We have been conditioned throughout our lives to believe that our happiness is dependent upon how others perceive us and treat us. Since childhood, we have been invested in gaining approval and acting in ways that give us what we want, which is love.
We inherently loved ourselves as small children. We were in love with life and with exploring what our little bodies were capable of, like joyously doing somersaults, turning cartwheels, or riding a bicycle. At first, we were just in the moment, loving what we were doing and enjoying our discoveries. Too soon, however, our focus shifted from our cartwheels and handstands to others' responses to us, and that was when our happiness became dependent on their approbation and love. As a result, the locus of control moved from inside to outside of ourselves, which compromised our instinct for self-love.
Because you have experienced problems with your adult child, you may be faltering in your ability to love yourself. You wonder if there is something wrong with you because your own child has disapproved of you and is withholding love. Nothing is gained by taking this view. Other people's behaviors, even your grown children, come from their own perceptions and may have nothing to do with reality. As difficult as it may be to accept, you don't need their approval (or even their love) to live a happy and fulfilling life.
"When you look deep inside yourself, you will find that love is always there ... for yourself and everyone else," writes Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. Fall in love with yourself again. Rediscover that precious child within you who was overjoyed to run, hop, skip, and jump just for the fun of it. Fall in love with your life, your home, and your family and friends. Love everyday occurrences, like the smell of clean laundry and the gift of running water. Love who you are and who you aren't. Love your body, your mind, and your unique, authentic self. Love your quirks, imperfections, and foibles. Love your talents and the maturity and wisdom you've acquired. Love your beautiful spirit, for in loving yourself, your heart will overflow with love for everyone.
Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are. Your finest work, your best movements, your joy, peace, and healing comes when you love yourself. You give a great gift to the world when you do that.
You give others permission to do the same: to love themselves. Revel in self-love. Roll in it. Bask in it as you would sunshine.
— Melodie BeattieCHAPTER 5
It Will Get Better
When alienation happens, we parents and grandparents are unable to make sense of it, and we feel like we're suspended in a timeless agony.
It seems like the pain will last forever, but it doesn't.
Time passes. Days continue to dawn, and the sun continues to set. At some point, however, we notice a new rhythm to our days; our breath flows more freely, our eyes are clearer, and we smile more readily. Food tastes better; colors are brighter.
As heartbreaking as it is for me still, I have learned that even without the desired reconciliation and healing from estrangement, the pain does abate. Over time, the cycles of crippling despair become shorter and less intense. I believe there is a law of compensation at work that offers reparation for our losses. Psychologist William James said, "Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact." For example, after allowing myself enough time to grieve and to assimilate the reality of being estranged from my son and his wife, I deliberately chose to embrace life again. As a result, I have had experiences I never would have had, such as hiking on distant mountains, making wonderful new friends, living in the woods, and starting to write. These adventures stretched, challenged, and transformed me and enriched my life in miraculous ways.
As we grow older, life becomes extremely precious, and we become acutely aware that our days are numbered. Because we have been through our darkest trials, we are thankful for the dawning of each new day, and we're eager for new experiences. We grow in wisdom and want to be of service to others. We become experts on letting go and loving unconditionally. We are kinder, gentler, and more in touch with the sanctity of our lives. And because we have been through so much, we have compassion for others who are facing unimaginable challenges.
The best is yet to be.
— Robert BrowningCHAPTER 6
Getting Your Mojo Back
What is mojo? It is energy, vitality, zest for life, spirit, zip, zing, or passion. It's what makes us happy, keeps us empowered, and puts a bounce in our step.
Have you lost this wonderful feeling due to grieving or depression? If so, you can get your mojo working again, if you're willing. It's still there, nudging you to get your attention. Your creativity is yearning to be expressed, your voice is waiting to be heard, your laughter is bubbling up, ready to spread happiness.
Think about what hobbies and pursuits you may have neglected that you might revisit. Are you an artist who stopped painting? A gourmet cook who has started microwaving entire meals, a singer who stopped singing, or a gardener whose once flourishing garden is now choked with weeds? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better." So get involved in activities that allow you to rediscover a part of you that you've left untended. It may be time to stretch yourself and move out of your comfort zone.
Eventually, the bad days come around less often. Because I have practiced being proactive by staying healthy and finding a new spirituality, I am getting stronger. I am tapping into my interests and talents, with the intention of expanding, growing, and recapturing a sense of wonder.
Know that your sadness and all the feelings that go along with being cut out of your grandchildren's lives won't magically disappear.
But you can turn your attention away from that pain by focusing on your interests and all that's new and exciting.
Hide not your talents. They for use were made.
What's a sundial in the shade?
— Benjamin FranklinCHAPTER 7
How do you feel when your friends talk about their amazing, wonderful, adorable grandchildren? What do you do when they whip out their smartphones and start scrolling through pictures of them as they rhapsodize about how cute and smart they are?
You've reached a time in your life when many people you know are becoming grandparents, and it's inevitable that they'll bring up the subject of their grandchildren. Although it may be unreasonable to expect your friends to avoid the subject in deference to your estrangement, you might request that they limit how much time they talk about them. You might tell them that although you enjoy hearing about the kids and seeing their pictures, it's difficult for you because it reminds you of what you're missing. A good friend of mine was telling me, in great detail, about a recent visit with her grandchildren. After listening to her for what seemed like hours, I asked her if she'd be willing to limit the stories of her grandchildren to no more than two or three at a time, because with each story, my sadness increased. She kindly agreed, and it was a win-win because she didn't feel that she had to withhold her joy, and I could relax and share in her happiness.
Many people, places, things, and circumstances can activate a painful memory or an emotional response. For example, looking at pictures of your grandchildren on Instagram or Facebook, walking by a park where you played hide-and-go-seek with them, or driving by the public library where you brought them to borrow books can be painful triggers. Knowing that your grandchildren are spending time with their other grandparents, and not you, can be tough. Seeing families together at restaurants, children sitting on their grandparents' laps, laughing and having fun can be enough to send you running from the place. Holidays are also challenging, as are trips to the mall, movies, or any public place where families gather.
Author John G. Miller says, "Whatever the 'trigger event,' we always choose our own response. We choose to react angrily. We choose to stuff our emotions and keep quiet. We choose to worry." Being able to recognize and manage triggers is important, and having various coping mechanisms in place is vital for your own emotional survival. For instance, if you are in a situation where there are intact families, take a deep breath and, rather than falling into the abyss of feeling deprived of your grandchildren, switch your thoughts to the present moment. Scan your body and feel where the hurt is and gently breathe into it. For instance, I often feel a heaviness in my solar plexus when I'm sad, and I when I breathe into it, I am able to calm myself.
If your best efforts couldn't bring about a change in the abandonment and estrangement you are enduring, remember that things can always change for the better. For now, choose to create a meaningful life in spite of your circumstances. When necessary, compartmentalize, put your sorrows aside and enjoy the activities around you. I'm reminded of a little boy in my neighborhood who often waits for me in the early evenings when I walk my dog. We have a little visit, during which he tells me about whatever sports he's playing and about his day in general. He's someone else's grandson, true, but my relationship with him helps, in a small way, to fill up the vacuum left by my own grandchildren's absence.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Banished"
Copyright © 2018 Nancy Lee Klune.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Starting Where You Are, 1,
2. Grief, 3,
3. Loneliness, 5,
4. Loving Yourself, 7,
5. It Will Get Better, 9,
6. Getting Your Mojo Back, 11,
7. Emotional Triggers, 13,
8. Optimism, 16,
9. Who Are You Now?, 18,
10. In-Laws, 20,
11. Don't Take It Personally, 22,
12. Powerlessness, 24,
13. Stranger in a Strange Land, 26,
14. Missing Your Adult Child, 28,
15. Letting Go, 31,
16. Depression, 34,
17. Shame, 37,
18. What Does Your Soul Need?, 39,
19. Older and Wiser, 41,
20. Birthdays, 43,
21. Humor, 45,
22. Compassion, 47,
23. Acceptance, 49,
24. Appreciation, 51,
25. Self-Talk, 53,
26. HALT, 55,
27. Dark Night of the Soul, 57,
28. Getting Help, 59,
29. Managing Anger, 61,
30. Ups and Downs, 63,
31. Self-Soothing, 65,
32. Mindful Moments, 67,
33. Surrendering, 69,
34. Stuck in the Victim Role, 71,
35. Being Happy Anyway, 74,
36. The Present, 76,
37. Turnaround Thoughts, 78,
38. Keeping It Simple, 80,
39. Music, 82,
40. Healthy Self-Respect, 84,
41. Mother's Day, 86,
42. Nourishing Your Mind, 88,
43. The Importance of Play, 90,
44. Managing Moods, 92,
45. Thanksgiving, 94,
46. Morning and Evening Rituals, 96,
47. Giving Back, 98,
48. Perceptions, 100,
49. Everything Changes, 102,
50. Backsliding, 104,
51. Forgiving Yourself, 106,
52. Walking, 108,
53. The Problem with Comparisons, 110,
54. Codependency, 113,
55. Detachment, 115,
56. Making Amends, 117,
57. Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda, 119,
58. Tough Love, 121,
59. The Worry Habit, 123,
60. Detoxing, 125,
61. Healthy Relationships, 128,
62. Believing You're Good Enough, 130,
63. Higher Ground, 132,
64. Planning Ahead, 134,
65. Choices, 136,
66. Christmas, 138,
67. Integrity, 140,
68. Taking Care of Yourself, 142,
69. Solitude, 144,
70. Changing Your Story, 146,
71. The Beauty around You, 150,
72. Self-Validation, 151,
73. Comfort in Small Miracles, 153,
74. When to Walk Away, 155,
75. Finding Solace, 157,
76. Building Character and Strength, 159,
77. Collateral Damage, 161,
78. Transcending Pain, 163,
79. Creating a Vision for Your Life, 166,
80. Your Home, Your Sanctuary, 168,
81. Slaying the Dragons within You, 170,
82. As Time Goes By, 172,
83. And Still You Rise, 174,
84. Blessing Others, 176,
85. Gratitude, 178,
86. No Stone Left Unturned, 180,
87. Being the Hero of Your Story, 182,
88. Keeping It Real, 184,
89. Forgiveness, 186,
90. Practice, Practice, Practice, 188,
91. Honoring Yourself, 191,
92. Keeping Hope Alive, 193,
93. Carrying On, 195,
94. Loving Them Anyway, 198,
About the Author, 203,