A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend who told me a very sad story. Her married daughter and son-in-law have been communicating passionately all the mistakes they believe my friend and her husband made as parents. They are being accused of terrible things — twisted memories fueled by something selfish. And this is a strong Christian family. Although they did not live in our town when they raised their kids, I watched from a distance, and they were not abusive cruel parents. Their other children demonstrate that and say it. Sure, they made mistakes as do we all. They admit it readily, but this child of theirs can’t or won’t hear it.

This is not the only family suffering. I know many other families with strained relationships among their adult children. Two siblings haven’t spoken to each other in 40 years. Another two siblings I know haven’t communicated in five. But none of these private tragedies can be discussed openly. There are too many people involved and affected, and it would only add gasoline to the smoldering fire. So the parents — and some siblings in the case of my friend — suffer silently.

Empty nesting can be painful, not just for the immediate loss which is anticipated, but for the loss of relationships that no one saw coming.

The reasons are complex, as every situation is always unique. Geographical distance, the need to separate from Mom and Dad emotionally, the importance of bonding in new marriages, and the inevitable need young people feel to do things differently than the previous generation all contribute. For example, the new trend for many 20-somethings is to move away from the Bible churches their parents started and back to mainline denominations with their traditions and liturgy. Some parents could perceive this as a rejection just as much as job choices, parenting styles, and a zillion other decisions young couples make as they try to figure out life for themselves.

Like parents of a prodigal who wait and wait, or parents of a handicapped child who wait and wait (ultimately for heaven), or parents of a child who was sexually assaulted who also wait, my friends are waiting. All are looking for healing and restoration and redemption to come. And we all wish it didn’t take so terribly long. It was so much easier when they were little, and we could put Band-Aids on ouchies.

Be aware. There are those all around you who are suffering private pain. You don’t have to say a word and probably shouldn’t unless you are there, too. And it’s not just empty nesters, but I’m realizing private pain is more common than most would realize.

No solutions. No three points and a poem. Just pray for redemption and healing for those you know who are hurting. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.