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S2 EP184 – Managing Family Grief

Episode Summary

Are your adult children disconnected from you? Are you lovingly managing the grief of their disconnection? Are you taking your children’s behavior personally and ending up feeling rejected by them? Many parents want to think that they have more control over their children than they do. Rather than feeling a victim of your children’s disconnection from you, discover how to begin finding the heart connections you may want in your life. 


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding podcast. Today, I’m speaking about a topic that a person on Facebook asked me to talk about. She said, (quote)“Please consider a podcast about the heartbreak of not having our longing met with our adult children. So many of my friends share this heartache that we are not as involved in our adult children’s lives as we want to be. We send text messages and they do not respond. They do not tell us about important events in their lives. At holidays and annual vacations we are all loving and have fun and it feels wonderful. But there is a lack of intimacy and regular contact when we return to our lives in distant towns. How do mothers handle this longing for regular intimate contact with our children? How do we keep our hearts open and loving when we feel left out and forgotten? This heartache threads through our lives daily. Thank you.”(end of quote)

With adult children moving away, this is a challenge for many people. But even if the adult children live close, this can be a challenge.

I have the same challenge with my children. My two sons are always happy to hear from me when I call and we have good conversations, but they rarely call me or check up on me. For those of us who consciously tried to be loving parents, this is a heartbreak. And I work with many clients where an adult child has completely disconnected from them, and pull grandchildren away from them, and they have no idea why. This is the situation I face with my daughter, and I also have no idea why. Fortunately, one of my grandsons reconnected with me, and I’m grateful for that.   

Even more heartbreaking is an adolescent or adult child committing suicide. When I grew up, I never knew of an adolescent or young adult committing suicide, but today, it is far too common. Life was not nearly as stressful or challenging when I grew up.

Equally painful is a child, adolescent, or young adult dying of cancer or getting killed in a car accident or in a mass shooting. I don’t remember any of these tragedies occurring when I was growing up. I feel so heartbroken for so many parents who live longer than their children.

Let’s get back to the original question the woman on Facebook asked: “How do we keep our hearts open and loving when we feel left out and forgotten?”

What I would ask her is, “Are you leaving yourself out and forgetting yourself?” Keeping your heart open is a choice we each have in any given moment. We each need to lovingly manage the heartbreak and we need to create our strong inner family by practicing Inner Bonding and creating an ongoing connection between our inner child, our loving adult, and our higher guidance. We need to bring much compassion to the heartbreak of disconnection or loss. This is how we manage the heartbreak of not having our children in our lives.

In addition, we need to fully accept our helplessness over our adult children’s choices. They will do what they will do, and there is nothing we can do about it other than do everything we can to create our very best lives. This might mean connecting with others who are available for connection.

Elizabeth Lesser, in her excellent book, Broken Open, wrote “Families are defined not by blood, but by love.”

How much time have you spent trying to make your current family with adult children, siblings, parents, or other relatives into a loving family? Or have you given up and just accepted that you will never feel the joy of being part of a loving family?

You might consider expanding your definition of family.

We have all heard that “Home is where the heart is,” which means the same thing as Elizabeth Lesser’s quote. We feel at home when we are heart-connected with the people in our life. Some people are very fortunate to feel heart-connected with their children and other family members, but others need to create their sense of family with people other than family members.

Other than with two of my children and two of my grandchildren­­­, I have no blood family members with whom I’m connected. Before I had children, there were no blood family members with whom I was heart-connected. It wasn’t until Dr. Erika Chopich, the co-creator of Inner Bonding, and I became friends that I understood what it was like to have a heart connection with another adult. Now I feel so grateful that, like the ‘Golden Girls’, we have each other with whom to share love.

We all have the capacity to create families defined by love rather than by blood. There is no law that we have to spend time with blood family members with whom we can’t connect. I decided a long time ago that it was fine for me to spend time only with people whose hearts are open to love.

I assume, because you are listening to this podcast, that you want heart connections in your life. Life is very lonely without the sharing of love. How does one find this?

  • First, you need to fully give yourself permission to bring the connections you want with others into your life.
  • Then, you need to pray for that person or people to come into your life.
  • Stay connected with your feelings with each person you meet. When Erika and I met almost 40 years ago, we both had the experience of feeling that we knew each other, even though we had never met. The experience of KNOWING each other was instant.
  • Once you are aware of a heart-connection, whether with a romantic partner or a friend, you need to have the courage to follow through in creating time together. Don’t leave it up to the other person. It takes time to really get to know someone and create the arena for love, caring and connection to flow.
  • Just because you have a heart connection with a friend or partner, doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges. Every meaningful relationship has its challenges – that’s how we learn and evolve. So rather than running away, accept the challenges and learn the lessons they can teach you. Let love rather than fear become your guide.

The yearning for heart connection is very deep in all of us. I completely understand the longing for heart connection with her adult children that the woman on Facebook asked me about.

For me, heart connections are what life is all about, and I deeply cherish the heart connections I have. Having grown up as an only child with no connection with my parents, I feel very blessed now to have many heart connections in my life. I’ve worked hard on these relationships, dealing with my wounded self along the way, who kept tempting me to keep my heart closed to stay ‘safe.’ I’m so glad I have the tools to continue to listen to love instead of fear!

That’s not to say that there isn’t grief. Of course there is grief when the people we love are not available to connect with us, or we lose someone we love.

Most people in our current society have not been taught how to manage grief in loving ways. Often, people manage their grief in ways that create even more pain.

Cynthia asked:  

“My husband has been distant and impatient with me since we had a miscarriage two and a half weeks ago. I am wanting the opposite of distance right now; I am wanting more closeness. I have communicated this to him, but it’s not what he needs to process things and grieve. He said he needs to pull away and shut down and distract himself at times. How do I take care to not blame him, when I am feeling affected by the emotional distance during a difficult time?”

Cynthia’s husband has shut down because he has no idea how to lovingly manage his grief, and he also doesn’t know how to support Cynthia in managing hers. He is likely afraid that if he is open and connected with her, his own grief will get triggered and he doesn’t want to go there, which is very sad for Cynthia. At the very time she needs to feel close and connected with him, he has pulled away and shut down.

I understand how very hard this is for Cynthia. Not only does she have her own grief over this loss, but she also has the loneliness of her husband’s distance.

Since her husband doesn’t know how to deal with the situation any other way, blaming him would only make things worse. Cynthia needs to leave him alone and reach out to her family and women friends for comfort. They will understand and be able to be there for her. Once she is through some of her own grief, her husband might feel safe enough to reconnect with her. It’s important for her to not only have much compassion for herself, but for him as well, as he clearly is struggling to get through this difficult time in his own way and may not know what to do with his feelings.
Loss is very hard, and grief can be crushingly painful.

Unless a person has learned to connect with a spiritual source of love and comfort and bring much compassion to his or her own feelings, the best they can do is withdraw, shut down and distract themselves.

I hope Cynthia is connecting with her spiritual source of love and comfort. It’s not possible to fully allow grief to move through and be released without a spiritual connection. The fear of grief goes away when we know that we are not alone – that we are always being held in love. This is what allows us to fully feel the grief, and to cry and allow it to release.

Tears are the most natural way of releasing grief. They are a God-given gift. But too many men have been taught that it’s weak to cry, which is very sad. If Cynthia’s husband feels that it’s not manly to cry, then he is doing all he can do to shove down his tears, and this self-abandonment is causing his disconnection. His distance is his inner child letting him know that he is abandoning himself rather than allowing himself to fully grieve this loss.

If Cynthia knows of any men – family or husbands of her friends – who are available to their feelings, this man or men might be very helpful to her husband. Sometimes a man will open and allow himself to grieve when another man whom he respects gives him permission to do so. It would be worth a try.

I hope the woman on Facebook who asked me to do this podcast is allowing herself to cry and grieve with self-compassion and with the comfort of loving others.

I think that it’s built into us that we want to be part of a heart-connected family. My client, Kathy, told me in a session, “I am always craving to be part of a healthy family. The need feels insatiable. I know that I need to grieve the fact that I didn’t have that growing up, and I don’t have that now, and I do grieve. But I can’t seem to grieve enough to heal this. How do I heal it? Can I heal it?”

Many of us did not come from a healthy family. We did not receive the warmth, safety, stability, support, and affection that we needed. We did not feel loved. Many people try to heal this by creating their own loving family, giving to their children what they always wanted from their parents and never received. While this is a wonderful thing to do and can result in much joy while the children are growing up, once they leave home it might be a different story, and the raising of children who then disconnect from you likely won’t heal the longing for a healthy family.

Obviously, we cannot go back and redo our family of origin or have control over our children staying connected with us. But we can create a healthy and connected inner family. I have found that when someone longs for what they did not receive in the past or are not receiving from their current family, some of the longing is because they are not creating a strong inner family.

We all have the opportunity to create the family of our dreams on the inner level. We have the ability to become the loving mother and father to our inner child that we always wished we had.

What does this mean?

“Cathy,” I said to her, “think about that little child within – the part of you that craves to be part of a healthy family. See if you can feel compassion for that part of you, the part of you with the insatiable need. What does that part want that she never got?”

“She wants to feel safe and loved. She wants to know that she is never alone. She wants to be held. She wants to laugh and have fun and be hugged by my current family. She wants my family to care about her feelings.”

“Yes, she wants and deserves all of that. Do you want to give that to her or are you hoping that someone else will come along and give her what she didn’t get growing up and isn’t getting now from your family?”

“Yes, that’s what I’ve been hoping. But so far no one ever does it right!”

“Since you are the one who knows exactly what she wants and since you are the one who is always with her, why don’t you want to be the one to give her what she needs?”

“I can’t.”

“How old is the part of you who is saying that?”


“Is it the responsibility of a 15 year old to take care of the child?”

“No, but there is no one else to do it.”

“So you think someone else can do it better – that others are more capable than your 15 year old? My experience is that most people don’t take very good care of themselves – like your parents didn’t, and like some of the people in your current family don’t. Why would they want to take care of you when they don’t want to take care of themselves? And what makes you think they can when they can’t even take care of themselves?”

“Yeah. Well I guess that’s the problem!”

“Cathy, put your focus into your heart and open to learning about what would be loving to you. Invite love and compassion into your heart for your child who wants so much to feel loved. Imagine your guidance with you, holding you, bringing love into you. You are not 15, and you are not alone. The ability to take loving care of yourself is here, right now. You just need to move into the intent to learn and you will learn how. And when you do, your grief will be far more manageable.”

Often, grief about the past is actually grief about current self-abandonment. It is about how you are treating yourself now – right now. It’s likely about the fact that you are continuing to treat yourself the way your parents treated you. As you practice Inner Bonding and develop your spiritually connected loving adult who CAN love your inner child, your family of origin grief and your grief about your current family will heal.

Those of us who are parents need to learn to not take our children’s rejection of us personally and this is not an easy challenge.

A woman in Inner Bonding Village asked me this question: “How can I learn to be strong in the face of acute rejection from my children?”

The answer to this question is not simple.

First, you need to understand that the fact that you are feeling rejected is not being caused by your children’s behavior. Regardless of what your children are doing, they cannot cause you to feel rejected. Feelings of rejection come from what you are telling yourself about their behavior, rather than from their behavior itself. Feelings of rejection come from taking your children’s behavior personally.

So, what are you telling yourself? Examples of what you might be telling yourself that can cause you to feel rejected are:

“My children are acting this way because they don’t like me.”
“My children are acting this way because I am, or was, a bad parent.”
“My children are acting this way because I am a bad person.”
“I must not be good enough.”
“If my children loved me, they wouldn’t be acting like this.”

While these statements might seem true to you, the fact that your children are acting in some way that feels rejecting to you likely has nothing to do with you. They are acting the way they are acting because of whatever is going on with them.

For you to stop taking your children’s behavior personally means that you need to stop telling yourself things that make you feel rejected. In reality, what is happening is that, by telling yourself the above statements, you are rejecting yourself.

You might want to see your children’s behavior as a reflection – a mirror – for how you are treating your own inner child. What might your children be doing that is reflecting your own inner system?

  • If your children are criticizing you or judging you, look inside to see how you might be criticizing or judging yourself.
  • If your children are ignoring you, look inside to see how you might be ignoring your own feelings and needs. If your children act like you are invisible, look to see how you are making yourself invisible.
  • If your children are resisting you, look inside to see how you might be creating an inner power struggle, with an authoritarian wounded self making demands on you, and a resistant wounded self resisting those demands.
  • If you children are making demands on you, look inside at how you might not be taking care of yourself.

You are the role model for your children – even for adult children. They learn from how you treat them, how you treat others, and how your treat yourself. How is their behavior a reflection of how you are treating them, others, and yourself?

The part of you that feels rejected by your children is a wounded child part of you – a part that is looking to your children for validation. A loving adult would not take your children’s behavior personally, would not be looking for acceptance and validation from your children, and would be open to learning about the good reasons your children have for behaving as they are.

The next time you feel rejected by your children, do an Inner Bonding process around the feelings of rejection. What are you telling yourself that is causing this feeling? The feeling of rejection is letting you know that you are off the mark in your thinking – that you are out of alignment with the truth of who you are in your essence. Opening to learning with your guidance and asking for the truth can bring you back into alignment.

If your adult children are not connecting with you, you might want to get curious and open to learning with them about it. You might be surprised at some of their answers. 

It’s important as parents to accept that our children are on their own soul’s journey.

In a session with Gerald, one of my clients, he expressed to me that he was feeling very sad about his son, Luc. Luc, 29 years old, was not doing much with his life, and Gerald was berating himself for how he had parented Luc.

“I should have spent more time with him. I should have motivated him more. I should have been a better role model. I should have been more firm with him.” On and on he went, judging himself for how he had been as a parent.

“Gerald,” I said, “Luc is on his own soul’s journey. Even if you had been a perfect parent – and none of us really knows what that means – Luc might still be having the challenges he is having.”

“Really?” he said. “Wow! That makes me feel much better! I never thought of it that way. Tell me more about what you mean by his own soul’s journey.”

“I mean that each of us comes here to learn certain soul lessons. Regardless of how good or bad your parenting was, Luc is on his own journey, making his own choices. You can take responsibility for how you were as a parent, but you cannot take responsibility for the choices he is making for his life.”

“But I keep feeling that if I had been a better parent, he would not be struggling the way he is,” Gerald said.

“Maybe that’s true and maybe not. You have no way of knowing this. I know people from very abusive families who do very well in their lives, and I know people who were from loving families who are struggling. Your self-judgment is your attempt to have control over something you have no control over, which is Luc’s choices. You are trying to avoid your feelings of helplessness regarding Luc. But you are helpless over him. You cannot make him be different.

“Each child is different, and each child will respond differently to our parenting. Most of us as parents do the best we can for our children. Most parents want the very best for their children and feel deep pain when their children go through pain. Yet we cannot prevent them from their own soul’s journey.”

“So what can I do to help him?” Gerald asked me.

“The very best thing you can do is to continue doing your own Inner Bonding work, while praying for him. Even though he is 29, you are still a role model for him. Certainly judging yourself is not good role modeling. Luc needs to see you doing all you can to take loving care of yourself. When he sees you feeling really good about yourself and happy with your life, he might decide to make some changes.

Also, you can open to learning with him to try to understand his choices that are coming from his fears and false beliefs, and you can suggest that he take the free 7-Day Inner Bonding course on our website. You can support him in getting help if he is open to it. Aside from this, there is nothing you can do about his choices if he isn’t open for help. You need to accept your helplessness over him instead of trying to have control over him. Any attempts to control him will likely result in resistance.”

“Yes,” said Gerald, “he seems to be very resistant to anything I say. This is part of my frustration and sadness.”

“That’s why you need to let go of trying to control him,” I said to him. “You need to let go of being invested in the outcome regarding his choices and just keep on your own journey. The more you let go of him, the better chance you have of him making loving choices for himself, especially when he sees you making loving choices for yourself.”

Most parents want to think that they have more control over their children than they do. We want to think that if we “do it right” we can control the outcome we want for our children and for ourselves in connection with our children. It will make it much easier to let go of trying to control your children and just be the very best parent you can, as well a create the very best life you can, when you understand and accept that they are on their own soul’s journey.

I invite you to heal your relationships with my 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love. This course applies to all relationships.

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:

And we have so much to offer you at our website at

And, if you enjoyed this podcast, I would really appreciate it if you tell your friends about it, and if you give it a review wherever you heard it.

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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