Parents abandoned by adult children: Shape your “new normal”

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

The new normal: Make it a good one

Parents abandoned parents abandoned by adult childrenby adult children often tell me they’ve come to a point of acceptance—which is good. Accepting what we have no control over can allow us to find a sense of peace and move forward. But sometimes, along with a statement of acceptance, parents abandoned by adult children make another statement that’s not so good.

“It’s the new normal,” they say.

Trouble is, their “new normal,” becomes less about peace and moving forward than stepping along in a dismal groove of loss, heartache, and even bitterness.

Acceptance: What does that mean for parents abandoned by adult children

Accepting something new almost always requires letting go of something old. For parents abandoned by adult children, that can mean letting go of a dream, a vision for the future that shaped how you lived your entire life. You sacrificed and gave with the expectation that you’d live to a ripe old age with your children and grandchildren around you. You’d have your tribe, your people, your family.

But parents abandoned by adult children are thrown for a loop. Where’s the grown daughter or son you imagined sharing life with on equal terms? The child you expected would grow into an adult friend—only better because of your history and family ties?

parents abandoned by adult childrenThose feelings are understandable. It’s okay to mourn what you expected, sacrificed for, and worked so hard to achieve. But if your “new normal” clings to the loss, you may be shuffling along in a path that limits you.

The real power of acceptance comes in letting go—not necessarily of hope. Hope can sit on your shoulder like a cooing dove. It’s light and feathery. It can take flight, lifting your heart and soul with it. But if you’re clinging to the pain, holding onto hurt, and lamenting the loss, hope gets grounded. Don’ let sadness, anger, bitterness, and woe weight your heart and limit your life.

What’s your new normal?

In my book, there’s a useful tool to get a clear view of just how much the estrangement has changed you. Identifying your new normal, specifically and across all areas of your life, provides a clear view of where you stand now.

You may be stuck in a rut of rumination that drags you down and darkens your valuable relationships. Instead of a weekly date where you and your husband have fun, you spend all your time talking about the son who stopped talking to you and broke your hearts. Maybe you’re on the edge, always waiting for a call from the daughter who rejected you.  You may be isolating yourself, fearful of judgment, or embarrassed that your own adult child cut you off. Maybe you cling to the hurt because letting go of the pain of this reality doesn’t feel like it’s proper for a parent (what about unconditional love?). Or maybe you’re envious of others’ joy.

For parents abandoned by adult children, all of these feelings are natural and normal parents abandoned by adult childrenresponses—but they’re not healthy when they persist to your detriment. At some point, you need to accept what’s happened, and find a new normal that feels good and helps you move forward in your life.

As a caring parent that people called an earth mother and a super mom, I know the pain of having that identity ripped out from beneath your feet. It’s as if a trap door opens and you fall right through. But for caring parents who did their best, a new normal that keeps you digging in, wrapped in a cold blanket of rejection and loss, isn’t new or normal at all. That’s why you need to fight for your future.

Give yourself a challenge

2016 has come to a close. Think about the year ahead. Wouldn’t it be nice to shift your focus, set the hurt aside and change your vision to one that suits you? You can still hope to reconcile, and if you feel the need or desire to, you can still make sure your son or daughter knows that. But you can also flutter your wings, turn your hope to your present happiness, and let it lift you in a new and helpful direction.

Help yourself.

Whether you have other adult children, lots of friends and relatives, or are all alone, the only way to happiness is to help yourself. In an article last year, I asked: Cut off by adult children: What do you prescribe for yourself?

The last calendar year has closed. Turn the page to a brand new year. Ask yourself what you prescribe for your own well-being. How can you shift your focus? What can you do to move in a new direction for your own fulfillment? Take out a sheet of paper and answer those questions for your own well-being.

Chapter Three of my book has some detailed help for setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals. If you’ve slipped into accepting a new low as normal, don’ let another year slide by without making changes that help you. Set your sighs higher for your own good in the coming year, and use the specific outlined techniques to stay motivated and realize transformation.

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64 thoughts on “Parents abandoned by adult children: Shape your “new normal”

  1. TheSheepReport

    I really needed this today. I have been wandering around in a PTSD-type of fog after hearing from my one non-estranged child. She informed me of the reason that one of her sisters has not spoken to me in well over a year. It has to do with with an incident where we had a bug infestation in our house, and I opted NOT to call an exterminator for fear of harming the pets. My daughter concluded that I care more about the pets than I do about her, and therefore, has given me the cold shoulder for 18 months.

    This is so bizarre that I don’t even know where to begin. After having read some of the material on this site, I am not going to even try to defend my decision. All the good deeds I did count for nothing, and the only thing I am to be remembered for is one incident?

    I can’t even allow myself to keep thinking about this. I need to focus on the future and what I can do to make things better for myself. Excellent article and very timely.

    1. wanda

      I totally understand how you feel. My daughter has accused me something horrible, after having one of her NEW AGE meditation sessions, with help from a fake online “life coach”. I have not defended myself and have not spoken in over a month even though we live in the same town. I have been seeing a counselor. But I keep thinking of her accusation and part of me wants to defend myself but I know it wont do any good. She will not talk to me. I’m going to send another email, and if she again doesn’t answer, I might have my son call and ask her to talk to me at least. But then I think, if she doesnt retract her accusation, what’s the point? I cannot be around her if she truly believes I am capable of what her dream showed. I hate this new age crap. She told me I also needed to get in touch with my childhood memories and “Fix” myself. She had a normal childhood and has been hoodwinked by an online guru.

      I understand how you think this is so bizarre too. Never in a million years did I think that this could come between us. I agree with that too about all of our good deeds and our excellent parenting. Sheri’s book has also helped me understand that there’s a lot of us good parents out there that are dealing with this issue.

  2. valerie

    I have gone through mystages and many you have mentioned, Now and I believe because I am a Christian, I have a peace, for one thing they are well, and all work at good jobs and married, I happy for that part off their life. Not understanding their lazy non communication well looking back I think they have been self obsorbed along time, so I carry them in my heart, and I have written some personnal goals for my self. and one is getting my mind off the loss and believe untill their ready No point. I will endeavour to be the best at life for who I am now, leading my day by day strength to my Lord.

    1. Jeannie

      Self-absorbed is a good description of how adult children have become. It hurts and you have to be the one who calls, visits, etc…I have come to the same realization as you and try to focus on a few good friends I have and my faith, which is everything to me. It’s just so sad and hurtful when your own flesh and blood think nothing of treating you this way.

  3. Nancy T.

    I have been suffering over my son for twenty years. His dislike and avoidance of me are heartbreaking mysteries. My heart is completely broken and there are days I can barely function. I feel like a complete failure.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Nancy,
      Twenty years is a very long time. What can you do for yourself now? I bet everyone reading your note will agree that it’s time to think and do for you.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Dawn .

      Hi Nancy , can’t write a lot at moment for crying, I am in the UK and suffering as you , it’s so awful xxx

    3. Cookie

      I have also been rejected for a long time, 25 years in my case. I have periods of severe depression, 3-5 days. Then it lifts for awhile. But I can honestly say that I have cried for my daughter every day for 25 years. Just thinking about her brings tears to my eyes. Much of the time I can distract myself. But when I’m alone I just let it flow.

    4. Car

      I am so very sorry. Just started w/ me. My son met a woman online & she completely aided him to move to her country & he up & left w/ a note after living w/.me 29 years. I am beating myself up

  4. Deborah Ann

    I myself have been suffering for over a year. My daughter from the day she was married literally, has been causing fights and giving demands. Giving every excuse she could to belittle us. She managed in between the fights to take my gifts for her new baby. There was a lot going on throughout the year. too much to write about. It went as far as throwing my other daughter out of the hospital when she was giving birth, as well as the husbands family. That’s where I closed the gap.
    I couldn’t see my other daughter in that pain. I told her that I did not want to be part of this craziness any longer, she went too far with her sister. Today she texts me, that I tried to get in touch with her ex and she never wants to see me or hear from me ever again in her life. Despite I already told her that. She turned on the whole family even her grandparents and nephews who love her dearly. I have no idea what happened because it was one excuse after another.

  5. Annie

    So sorry Deborah Ann,
    How hurtful. Just the idea she’s not just rejected you but others she’s been close to sounds like she’s got some real issues within herself. Don’t understand why we as mothers have to be at the receiving end of their fallout. Maybe a maturity defect who knows? It certainly does not justify treating your patent with such disrespect. Please read Sheri’s book ‘Done with the Crying‘. It will put things into prospective. You
    are certainly not alone in this. Take care of you. Sharing is healing. Blessings, Annie

  6. Nancy T.

    Well, I have taken back my power, so to speak, and have begun following my own agenda with my son. I will send him an email or text him once a month, keeping it light and cheerful, closing with my love for him and that I keep him in my prayers. I can do nothing about what he thinks or how he feels. It is a truth that some problems cannot be solved in this lifetime. Taking a position of strength, independence, and optimism not only inspires respect from others, it also creates self-respect. I have learned much from this experience with my son, including our differences, not only because he is a man and I am a woman, but also our styles in approaching difficulties and misunderstandings. He withdraws, I pursue. I am instead respecting his boundaries as an adult as well as my own limitations and need for space. I have very strong faith in God and I have relinquished my son and this heartache into His hands, knowing that he loves my son even more than I do. Life is still a wonderful, humbling privilege to be savored!

    1. Kristina

      Nancy, I so wish I had your deep faith and frankly, your discipline to take back your power. I have made an already painful situation worse by trying too hard and then speaking out of turn when rejected each and every time. This is my greatest regret.
      I miss my daughter; I love her. However, today I had a very sad thought. I have cried for my daughter for over three years, but today I feel as though I am crying because of her. That difference tells me that I am out of the denial stage and entering my anger stage. This article has helped me to learn how to move forward without anger or bitterness on the first day I became aware of these emotions. I am very thankful for it.
      I love God and have put all my trust in Him hoping for reconciliation. But today, I feel resigned to the fact that I may never see or speak to my daughter again. I will try my hardest to remember your words that she is in good hands and that God loves her even more than I do.

    2. rparents Post author

      Hi Kristina,
      I’m glad my article here was helpful to you–thank you for that feedback. Regarding what you say here, the realization you had today about crying because of your daughter rather than for her…it is a sad day when a parent makes such a realization. But it’s a step forward toward taking care of YOU. I’m glad you called out Nancy’s words here, too. You doing that will call them out for others too, and many will be comforted.

      Sheri McGregor

    3. Anabela P.

      Beautiful. Couldn’t agree more Nancy. I want to do what you did. Give me some examples of what worked for you.
      My son has been astranged for 7 months.It is very difficult. I am a counsellor myself and do understand what I need to do but I feel like no matter what I do is not joyful just going through the motions. I know is part of morning and I will try to find things that I like to practice.

  7. A. Mcnair

    Nancy Please Do not Feel like a Complete Failure You Have did your Best and sometimes your Best is not good enough for some people I pray That your Son will come to realize that you Only Get One Set of Parents and Life is too Short to hold onto Grudges .

  8. DMD

    My semi-estranged daughter gave birth to her first child and the knowledge that I will probably never see him leaves me again broken hearted. She texts occasionally but doesn’t answer questions. I get brief texts that my grandson loves me but no replies to my texts and no phone calls nor does she pick up t h e phone when I call. She doesn’t text her sister other than group texts.

    My borderline ex-husband should be proud, he worked hard to create this hatred.

    I cannot believe all of my sacrifice, love, and commitment was for worse than nothing because hatred is what I and her sister receive.

  9. Marie

    We are starting to think that my husband’s son, my stepson was pressured into the estrangement by his wife. The relationship was amicable enough until he got married and had a child shortly after. She is from Spain and her family is still there. She wants to move back to Spain to live near her family. She had been pressuring him. He told us about it. So first they distanced themselves from his mother and brother, but as far as we know, not estranged, just distanced from them. He told us that his wife would complain about us, bad mouth us. So, to keep the peace, he (they) shut us out. With him now alienated from his family, she can work on him and wear him down in order to get him to agree to move to Spain. There would be no family holding him back. But there are no job prospects for him in Spain. Telecommuting probably would not work due to the significant time change. But we will probably never know the real reason for the estrangement. They may have expected more from us in terms of $$$ and child care services and argued about it among themselves.
    We are enjoying retirement, traveling, and will probably move away soon ourselves.

  10. Sheryl

    I have just recently become permanently estranged from my 30 year old son. He is actually my step-son whom I adopted when he was young. From the moment that I married his father, I never thought of him as anything but my son. We started having problems when he was in third grade with lying. Things progressively got worse the older he got. I will admit that I lost it at times and towards the end counted down the days to graduation. (I am not proud to admit) He joined the military, got married, had a child and I thought that things would get better. We talked about the past and we all agreed to put it behind us. Well long story short, he only had us around when he needed something. We have given him more money than I can keep track of and he has stolen more items from us and his younger sisters than I want to admit. Still we tried. His current wife has tried to maintain contact but it had become strained because of his actions towards his sisters. I will admit that I had already started pulling away because of the verbal and emotional manipulation that he was doing to his sisters. Two weeks ago after not hearing from him for a year and a half, he sends me a rant about we are dead to him as he should be to us. The thing is, there is a part of me that is relieved that it has finally come to a head and hopefully our family unit can finally heal and move forward. The girls seem relieved that it is over. But I can’t seem to stop obsessing about it. The what ifs. I am ashamed and not sure how to move forward. (There will be grandsons who will have a warped knowledge of who we are). I know with time there is healing, but what do I do to get to the healing……

  11. Noma

    I am comforted in reading all the comments because I have felt so alone and isolated the past 4 years after my son’s estrangement. My other 3 adult children have moved on of course and will not talk about it with me anymore. They can’t understand how and why I can’t move on. My marriage is in serious trouble as well and my husband has no patience with my sadness. They were all very supportive and dumbfounded the first couple of years as my son has no contact with any of them either. I have tried outwardly to be social, and active but now for some reason I have withdrawn from everyone. This has ruined my life but I know I need to get on with it. I’m scared of being alone.

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Noma,
      I withdrew some too, and share how I came out of it in my book (along with others’ stories). It’s a common response, a normal way to protect yourself. But as you say, you know you need to get on with it and live, enjoy friends, and have fun. I’m glad all the comments here have helped, you, too. All the grief and sadness really can wear family members out. And Annie is right. It affects the family in a multitude of ways. — Hugs!. I know it took courage to post here. More hugs—Sheri McGregor

    2. Dawn W.

      Hi Norma , I understand your sadness. READING your message was like listening to myself. I am in the UK and there are no groups I can find like this to chat on . Having a brave 5 minutes to write this , usually give up for crying so much. My daughter , who is 34 has shut me out of her life and my grandson , I also have 2 other children , both I am close to m they don’t understand my heartache and tell me to move on . My life I feel is ruined as well , the pain some days is unbearable. I have also stopped socialising and cut so many friends out of my life , just feel so alone , no one to talk to , much love to you .

  12. Annie

    So sorry Noma you are feeling such pain. It affects the entire family. I hope you find peace for yourself and are able to move forward. It can be an ongoing effort. Not easy but you can do it. Hugs, Annie

    1. Susan H.

      Reading these comments is helping me. The despair of having estranged children is so very painful. It’s huge. And I know that there is no point in telling them about it. They don’t want to hear about it, I’m sure. Anything that puts a “negative” note in their day is not allowed from their mother (me). We have zero to extremely little communication and if we are in touch, I walk on eggshells being careful not to share anything about how I feel. I’m just so devastated. It appears that they like their lives as they are and don’t want me in them. I have been a caring and very generous mom. We had some difficult ups and downs during their dad’s and my divorce and afterwards. But I was the active parent who made sure they had all they needed and that everything they needed done got done. I did fun interesting things w them, etc. My son is moving to
      Austria in 2 weeks, probably permanently. This feels like a final blow. I don’t take it personally and am happy for his excitement but I know chances of reconciliation just got far more remote. I just feel so destitute. I can’t tell him. He would be annoyed that I was raining on his parade. I tell him I am excited for him and how cool to be opening the up a whole new fascinating life. I did say, Wow, that’s far away and I’ll miss you.
      I am very grateful to read others’ comments here! I can’t tell you how much this means to me.

  13. Susan

    The estrangement from my son has gone on since he was in his early 20’s.
    Though we “helped” him financially. For 5 years we drove to the city he lived in, our car packed with gifts, a Large box of carefully prepared homemade cookies & fudge & I am embarrassed to admit also a bag of dip mixes, napkins, etc for the New Years Eve party we were never invited to. I was granted time with him to take him shopping for clothes. I feel like a fool. My husband was as bewildered as me but could get mad, I just cried. This has gone on so long, 20 years!, it’s truly ridiculous.last summer he called to say I hate you, I hate you, you’re mean, you’re mean, I am not sending him a birthday card this week. I get it.

    1. rparents Post author

      Susan, I’m sorry that you have endured 20 years of sorrow. Just because you were not invited does not take away the BEAUTIFUL, loving effort you put forth. If you were a “fool” (as you said), you were a fool for love. Now, you don’t want to be taken advantage of anymore. But you are definitely not “mean.” And I don’t hate you. My guess is that all the other thousands of parents that happen onto the site and read your post will wish they could give you a hug. Many will thank you (maybe to themselves) for sharing, because they will not feel so alone.

      Thank you, Susan.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Cookie

      I have also given big gifts to my son, his wife, and the grandchildren. Again and again they acted like the gifts are weird, and they told me later that this or that gift was inappropriate. But I kept doing it. My son’s wife would often throw out the gifts. The grandchildren told me later they never saw it again, or used it. I now read in Done With the Crying that I have been trying too hard to be a good Mom. I suppose that is true. It is a helpful insight. I WAS a good Mom for all those childhood years. Now I must step back with the gifts. It’s too much for them and too expensive for me.

  14. Carrie

    After 6 months of debilitating sadness, I happen onto this page, just ordered the book. I am an only child, was so blessed to have beautiful twin daughters, now 23, and a son, now 20. I too thought my family would always be close, expanding with the years, overturning my childhood loneliness & disappointments. The unthinkable has occurred. One of my twin daughters moved in with her 30 year old boyfriend who never made any effort to assimilate into our family or get to know us. He convinced her to quit her job, move in with him in the middle of nowhere where she has no car & is isolated from her family & friends. Her twin sister went out to visit her & was raped by this monster of a boyfriend, & was ordered to have incest with her twin for his sick sex shop fantasy. Unreal. This horror has been a living nightmare. She just finished intensive dialectical behavioral therapy at an out patient facility to heal & cope with this unimaginable betrayal by her twin. This has obviously ruined the sacred bond between the twins & our family is destroyed. She will not leave this monster, will not talk to me, hates me, says how mean I am, yet I have devoted my whole life to my children! I am the one who should be mad, right? But I am frozen in depression, the sadness is debilitating. I feel as though I failed for this to have transpired.

  15. Annie

    Bless your heart Carrie. I am so sorry you’ve had to be caught up in such a crisis. You are courageous to
    speak the truth in what’s happened. Chances are your daughter hates herself; not you. You are her scapegoat it seems. You have not failed. All we can do as parents is to guide our children as best we can.
    Now as an adult; she has made her choices and will have to suffer great consequences in the long term.
    You hold your head up high ad don’t take this on your shoulders. I’m sure you were a great Mom. This
    toxic boyfriend has manipulated into something that I’m sure goes against her grain. Take care of you.
    The rest will fall into place. Hugs, Annie

  16. Trina

    My situation is a bit different. Just over a week ago during a disagreement, my 31 year old daughter told me that she felt I was always guilting her as far back as when she was a child. I was shocked and immediately apologized and let her know that I was sorry that I hurt her that I didn’t know I was doing that.

    In fact I thought we had been close and had no major issues. We recently both graduated from an emotional intelligence training so I moved 350 miles to be closer to her after losing a job and thought things were better than ever. I asked her what I did to guilt her and she has declined to tell me. Saying there is no need to go over the past and she will “use her voice” with me going forward. I am hurt that this has not been revealed to me in the 2 years since our training. I am shocked that our views of her childhood are so different. I was a struggling, stressed out, divorced mom with a physically and emotionally abusive ex-husband (her dad). I thought I tried extra hard to take good care of her heart since her dad was such a bad choice. Not knowing what I did is killing me.

    I think it is unfair and totally outside of the heart of our training to refuse to ever reveal what I did so that I can process this too. However, I realize that telling her that keeping the details of my offenses from me is hurting me will only be perceived as guilting. It’s a catch 22. I am hurting and fighting depression right now and have questions.

    1. How do I let go of trying the figure out the offense in my head every night so I can sleep? 2. How do I let go of the confusion about our opposite views of her childhood? 3. How do I peacefully release my identity as a loving, supportive mom, deal with the shame of this new normal as a “villain” and move forward?

  17. Annie

    Trina, it’s a tall order but here it goes. I can only speak in terms of my journey in my crisis. You can’t respond to what you don’t know and it sounds to me like she can’t explain it. So few stories I’ve read here come with an explanation. Not until you accept the differences in opinions between you and your daughter; will you be able to have peace and I hope you are able to get to that place. It takes time. If we only had answers but none of us do. I’m sure you did the best you could in your circumstance. Doesn’t sound like she’s able to have empathy or compassion for what you’ve been through. I think sometimes when we as mothers have been through so much adversity in our lives; we tend to protect our children from having to experience what we have to the point we may have ended up raising children who are selfish? I don’t know; just a thought. Take care of you and I hope within time she realizes the hurt she’s caused and begins a dialogue toward a healthier relationship with you. I pray every day my daughter will communicate after 3 shocking years but I can’t control her behavior and know I need to take responsibility for my happiness with or without her. It’s really their loss. . Hugs, Annie

  18. Carol

    I just found out that my daughter (estranged for 3yrs, no contact with any family or friends) married her abusive boyfriend last December by a justice of the peace. They will have a “party” and celebrate the marriage with his “druggie” parents at a weekend long rock concert in Tennessee later this year. We only heard this through the “grapevine” as we have had no contact with her since we tried to help her out of this abusive relationship and get her into a drug rehab program. This news would have caused me great anxiety if not for Sheri’s book. I keep it at my bedside. It’s become my text book for letting go and enjoying my life with my husband and the loved ones who remain loyal. It has helped me to realize that her estrangement from us , though meant to destroy us, – is actually a gift. I can’t imagine living with the turmoil and drama of being connected in anyway to these addicts. I’ve even left the online estrangement groups I’ve been involved with because one day I realized I had reached a turning point. Our daughter may believe this estrangment is her choice and at one time it was but it’s not any longer … It’s my choice. Thanks for this book Sheri , I’m forever grateful.

  19. kittylvr

    Was such a good read, new normal. It’s what I’ve been working hard on, not being stuck. I’d been sick and I realized, sometimes illness or other life changes gives one a really good look at what they are doing with their lives or what they are not.
    Thank you Sheri.

  20. Crazy Dog Lady

    I have really worked to shape my new normal over the last few years, as I gradually stopped hearing from my child (no initiated calls and no returned calls or emails). He moved and did not give me the new address, and after cutting me out, stopped communicating with my entire side of the family. In a way, this was a relief because it allowed me to stop wondering if his estrangement was due to something specific I’d done. But conversely, it has made me angry, as it confirms alienation on the part of his father and stepmother that started at the end of my son’s HS years and continued through college. I wish I had caught onto it sooner and been less traumatized by my own problems (job loss due to merger, move, etc.) during my son’s college years. I would have fought it much more aggressively.

    I found out that one of my siblings had participated in the alienation, a triple betrayal because the rest of my family, which is admittedly dysfunctional, thinks she “just made a mistake” (a mistake that went on for years) and that I’m in the wrong for being upset about it. “Oh well, maybe he’ll call you next year. It’s probably just a phase. You’re being too oversensitive.”

    I can find large pockets of happiness in my life, mostly because I have distanced myself physically and emotionally from my family and been determined not to let the estrangement ruin my life. But I don’t know how to respond to constant questions about why my son and I aren’t close, why he doesn’t come visit, why I don’t appreciate my family, etc. I feel like the only people I can relate to are others who come from dysfunctional families (although they can come with their own baggage that makes friendship difficult sometimes) or people who similarly have estranged children through no fault of their own. Many people mistakenly assume that I must have done something wrong for my child to have abandoned me. They don’t understand the maliciousness of his narcissist father or the cunning of his stepmother or how eager my family was to play into that. It’s all crazy making. I feel like I need to carry around a study that demonstrates that many kids side with the more abusive parent out of helplessness, neediness, survival, Stockholm syndrome, etc.

    I have become increasingly reclusive and a bit mad in my own head because it’s like an entire huge chunk of my adult life never really happened. I can’t bear to open boxes of my son’s baby items or look at photos from his childhood–I literally can’t afford the grief right now, even though I know I need to move through it. I read about people who tell people their child died or that they never had children, and I understand how this makes restarting life elsewhere easier (probably not right, but less difficult). I live in a foreign country, in a somewhat remote area, and the same geography that affords me welcome distance from my family makes it harder to connect with people or have any kind of a real life (no village to go to for activities, only retirees and non-English speaking people around me). I’m planning to move in a few years, but until then, I’m trying to enjoy my lifestyle that at least doesn’t need to factor in other people’s desires. I can have movie night at home on Saturdays, come and go as I please, and focus on my career. I have been “bootstrapping” for a long time, but I don’t have any other options. I’m making progress.

    There are moments when I get very depressed about the situation, and anything else depressing in my life tends to bring on sad feelings about my estrangement from my son. Sometimes a bad dream is all it takes to make me weepy all day long. The holidays aren’t great. It would be nice to be in a romantic relationship with someone who has gone through the same thing. Is there a dating site for this? Sigh…

    1. Virginiaf

      Hi Crazy Dog — I can’t (well, actually, I AM) tell you how helpful your post was for me. I am caught in the crucible of trying to understand how my 28-year-old institutionalized son could reject me so thoroughly and sometimes communicate with his narcissistic, verbally abusive father, who also launched a major alienation of affection campaign during out divorce. I am wondering how you process this.

      I have long since relinquished my vanity as having been the sane one, the protector. I have acknowledged to myself that in my ferocity to get him help and shield him, I may also have taken up a bit of oxygen and made it hard for him to assert himself. No. I did not cause his schizophrenia. And yet, and yet. How do I proceed? I am at the limit of my ability to “rise above” and be the silent background of love — shooting him prayers across the country as I lay in bed at night.

  21. Lilly

    Thanks this is my 1st comment. I’ve been abandoned by my children for 7 years. I am finally done with the abuse. I’m trying to find a new life with the time I have left. I have no family and good friends have died. So I’m starting from scratch to fill the void. I get so much hope from many of your comments.
    This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with.

    1. Pamela D.

      I’m so sorry for your pain, Lilly. It is so difficult to feel normal and move forward. I have days that I’m strong and know that I did my best and cannot make my daughter love me. I’m grateful that my son does want me in his life. Other days I am a puddle of tears and snot! Wondering what I did wrong and doubting everything.

      We will keep putting one foot in front of the other.

  22. Sue

    Oh my gosh, I can relate to each and every heartbreaking account written here. My experience a year ago happened suddenly and with a slew of false accusations, after three years of happiness when my daughter and I reconciled from the first estrangement four-going-on-five years ago. The reconciliation occurred after I had taken seminars from a well renowned specialist on estrangement, and I had tried so hard to do and say all of the right things. I really believed the worst was over. But I learned something… when your adult child’s agenda changes, they will drop you faster than a hot potato -no matter how well you’ve treated them! And you won’t believe the tall tales they’ll come up with to justify it, either. The worst thing is that, as mentioned here, your once sweet child becomes someone you don’t even recognize anymore. It’s more than shocking, and painful is an understatement. I’m trying to move on, but it’s a struggle every day, between crying, sadness and anger at how she could do something that would have been so out of character for her before. And one has to wonder what will happen when they become the parents of ‘the future adult children’? When we were young things like this were unheard of, and I still mourn the death of my Mom (who died two weeks after my daughter’s birth). But now it seems to be considered “fashionable” for our childrens’ generation to behave this way towards their parents, most of whom haven’t abused or done their children wrong, yet have actually done the opposite in indulging and pampering them. Our adult childrens’ fabrications make it sound like they were sorely mistreated and many people unjustly judge us for it, which is another hell in itself for us to endure. It has been said that what comes around goes around, and that karma is a ….. ; if this is the case, then one has to wonder what our estranged children will face in the future with their own adult children. Perhaps they’ve deluded themselves into thinking it will never happen to them. Well they’re in for a rude awakening! And I say this not in a vengeful manner, but with great sorrow for them. I hope, for my daughter’s own sake, she wakes up before it’s too late and she gives her children this bad example to follow… she will be “biting off her nose to spite her own face.” As for all of us abandoned and disowned parents, we did our very best. One thing I have been working on diligently – getting over my false hopes of another “mother and child reunion,” and just moving on. Sometimes, as hard as it is, I have to “salt the brine” and try to get a little colder, merely in order to survive. If my daughter ever does want any contact again, believe me that I won’t be the pushover I once was with her!

    1. rparents Post author

      Hello, Sue. I have never heard that “salt the brine,” phrase. But now that you mention it, the phrasing made me think of salt. It’s used as a preservative. By salting the brine, maybe you’re not getting colder, as you say, but getting stronger, better able to withstand the test of time and stress. It does come down to self-preservation at times, and you have gone the route of being soft and loving and trusting (like the vast majority of loving, caring parents).

      Please take care of yourself, and mind the moment. All of the thoughts about your daughter’s children, karma … it’s all true but it is not your “cross to bear” (since we’re using phrases! 🙂 ).

      I hope you will do something fun today, that gives you satisfaction and joy.

      Sheri McGregor

  23. Susan K.

    I am so grateful for all of your responses. I didn’t know there are people around that hurt as much as I do . I raised a wonderful son. Caring, loving, and a really good person.
    He married a person that has very little contact with her family. She herself is an excellent mother. Their baby is now a year old. My son and his wife are loving parents.
    Since their marriage 9 years ago, my son has less and less and less communication with me. He is my only child. As he was growing up I tried my best to be a loving and supportive parent. He was my joy.
    The pain is so excoriating, I can hardly stand it. His attitude is so hurtful. I count in his life for nothing. I truly feel my heart breaking.
    I have asked what I have done to hurt him. How have I made him hate me. He will say nothing. Most of me wishes that I never had him. Others do not understand. It is like carrying an elephant in your chest.
    Thank each and ever one of you for your writing. It makes me feel just enough better to continue to breathe

    1. Cookie

      My daughter has been estranged from us for 25 years. Now my younger son has a wife who had very little extended family contact. Her father’s brothers argued and hated each other all their lives and are now totally separated. So this is her image of family. I live in constant fear that my son will follow his sister’s footsteps and totally reject us. His wife may be leading him away from us. My son sounds like your son, he doesn’t want to work on our relationship and will not talk about our disagreements at all. He’d rather just pretend it didn’t happen. This way I have no way to tell my side of the story. He and his wife just continue to think badly of me. Every visit I wonder if this will be the last time I see them, they have three children, my only three grandchildren. Not only do I grieve my daughter, I now live in fear that I may lose my son and his family. I agree that it is good to write these things. Finally able to tell someone how I feel.

  24. Ann E.

    Sad that so many have had these experiences. My son has chosen to alienate himself from me and his sister. What I think is that silence is power and by not acknowledging our efforts to communicate with him, he feels that he has more control over his life. My story is much like the others in that there was little provocation and our heads are still spinning at his logic. In short, I asked him to pet-sit while I went on vacation for a week, paying for his flight to my home and some cash. He chose to invite his girlfriend against my wishes since I wanted him to focus on caring for them. He ended up being gone most of the time and barely caring for them as he was out seeing friends and showing off the girlfriend. When I returned from Europe, he wasn’t at my home, there was not even a note. He apparently simply left. I texted him since he wouldn’t answer his phone and was furious that he simply left with no explanation and he didn’t do what he had agreed to do. He has not spoken, phoned, or texted since. He never actually even argued back or tried to defend his actions. To add to this, he has serious health issues (I gave him my kidney 10 years ago and it has since failed), so I have that extra issue to worry about. It’s been 9 months now and I hear he has moved to another state far across the country. I do still worry about his health but realize there is now absolutely nothing I can do about it. I’ve e-mailed him and told him that though I am still very disappointed in his behavior, I love him very much and would of course like to have some sort of relationship with him. I don’t expect a reply, possibly ever, as he has turned things around to him being the victim.
    I have to say that I have first hand knowledge of being the one to cut off a parent and I’m not proud of it. I did not speak to my parents for 3 years until I felt strong enough to contact them, and in retrospect, they never really did anything to deserve it. I think that some people just simply don’t have the emotional maturity nor the tools to cope effectively when they feel that control is somehow being taken from them. Negotiating and being reasonable and effective aren’t in their toolbox and emotions and the feeling you need to protect yourself takes over. Maybe not for everyone, but estrangement without big blowouts are far too common in my family. My brother is/was also estranged from me and our parents and his son. Hard to understand for most people that some folks just can’t relate to others reasonably. So, thankfully I have a very good relationship with my daughter and grand-kids but we all grieve the loss of my son in our lives. After anger and disappointment I now feel that his life is his to lead and I’ve left the door open. That is all I can do. I suspect there is karma and believe me, I get it. It’s not much solace to anyone, but I think the key is emotional maturity. I think that time might strengthen some of these adult children to where they feel strong enough to make contact. I hope so for all of us. Thanks for the forum to vent and share.

  25. Roberta

    My son (youngest of three) huffed out of my door January 27,2014, on my birthday. Did not have a clue. The Saturday before Mother’s Day 2017 he is coming to see me. Thought we had a healthy time together, but again silence. I decided to give him a friendly call two weeks ago. I listened to his spewing anger about what a rotten mother I was, am and every thing in between. Then he hung up. I am going on 79 and this child is 55!!! I sat down and wrote a “goodbye ” letter and put it in with my will. I can’ do it any more.

    1. Mia

      Im just reading on this site… as holidays come around again…in my broken disappointing family…me and my husb gave it all and sit here alone on holidays.. feel so cheated..

  26. wonderwoman2017

    First post. I am glad i found you guys. I dont have anyone that has had to deal with their child checking out of their lives. I thought i was uniquely different from the rest of the world. Being alone in my own head with my thoughts is comparable to being lost in a bad part of town late at night with your gas tank on empty. Pretty scary!
    My deal has been dragging along like a big anchor on my ankle. Some days it has hurt to breathe. Some days i would wake up and be really angry that my best efforts of a pill cocktail had failed again!
    My hair so tangled that a friend used to come by to brush out the knots. I basically closed the curtains, turned off the world and stayed horizonal for about a year. Dragging my robotic body out into the world for food and such would take all I had in me.
    I even told myself some things that are so spiritually ugly that i wont share. I am writing in past tense because that was then and now its somewhat better with me. Not my son and I. I have made steps towards healing from losing mom status, from having the one thing I loved with my very soul, loved in an unconditional animalistic maternal feeling that blew my mind! Being his mom felt infinite. Never thought my boy would or could check out. Cold uncaring words..stories of my evilness baffle comfort and my focus is to accept what has happened and to focus on a couple of people in my life who do love me and want me..who make me laugh..and who at times have to remind me that i am a smart..worthy…not at fault..i have to let them love me when i cant love myself.

    1. Lynne

      Hi Wonderwoman, reading your post this morning and want to tell you I fully know your pain. When the years of estrangement began for me I also just shut down. I shut down emotionally and physically. I was diagnosed with adrenal failure and know the emotional pain was so intense my body said it had had enough. I spent many years on steroids and antidepressant meds. But I am well now and no longer take any kind of medicine. I want to tell you that when I look back, on this segment of my life, I did learn sooo much. I wish it had not taken the valleys of life to be able to get me to be a much better Human being. I did learn how unkind and extremely brutal life is. But now I truly did find the beauty of life. I see life so much differently now. It took many stages to reach this place…that is why Sheri’s book is so helpful. Trust me it will take time but have fortitude and know you are never alone. There are so many of us now. Take good care of yourself Wonderwoman. Lynne

  27. JOAN C.

    Hi there…everyone here is so brave….
    I am considering a letter to my daughter…will I regret it…I too want to take back my life and set boundaries….she steps in and throws a text my way when she has been distant with me…then there are no responses …she controls the situation….she lives 4 minutes from me…looking back through the years…I feel like the word disdain fits her feelings for me…….she doesn’t hesitate to ask for money and ask for me to pay for something…I have always been good to my children ( or so I thought ).Giving her a gift of $20,000. after my mother past away….getting married thereafter and still wanting me to pay for a Country Club wedding…I said no. My daughter resents me……I am having a hard time…with this and I am starting to resent the way she treats me…Joan

  28. Lynne

    Hi Joan, want to tell you I fully understand the feeling of not being appreciated. My own mother would tell me that I was so good to my daughter…but she could see that she was not good to me. Thinking back I always did feel resentment from my daughter. Then came the estrangement from her. After many years of trying I did write her a letter. I told her I was sorry for anything I did or said that hurt her. I asked her to forgive me. She did not. But I am free now. No more for me to do or say. My life has gone on and I have come to peace with all this. It does take time….it took 10 years for me. Prayers for you Joan…I fully understand your pain. Lynne

  29. Siree M.

    First time.
    I never realized so many, many estrangements out there. My journey is one of the same, but yet different. Pain is pain no matter what our life changing experiences are. I too need to figure out how to move forward. Recently I’ve been forced to sell my home and now, not only estranged from my daughter but homeless. I have ok days and I have melt down days. I stopped all communication with her about four months ago. She of course had to get the last word in by sending me a bitter email by which I did not respond because I felt that’s what she wanted, to hear a reaction of some kind. I’ve come to terms with this confusing issue only because I don’t feel I have any other choice. I too never ever imagined beyond my wildest dreams that estrangement would happen. It’s so gut wrenching painful to see the beautiful fun loving free spirited child you gave birth to and raised turn against you.
    I have no one to turn to and damnnnn it can be so lonely. I do know that my daughter and husband and my son and future wife will always be fine.
    I have become in selfish mode now whereas before I was more selfless. Life is about me now but it’s soooo very challenging.
    Now, how do I start my next chapter in life.
    Credit was severely damaged during second marriage, forced to sell my home, no friends and no family. And yes, I’ve had a therapist walk me through most of this and been to clergys. I even went back to school and took three classes for a semester which was a very difficult struggle. I’ve lost all skills and mostly ppl skills. I do my best to push forward but I don’t seem to get anywhere. I understand that I need to know where do I want go with my life?, what do I want in life. And that’s my problem, after my whole life has been about my children and a unhealthy second marriage, I know what I don’t want in life but not sure what I do want at my ripe old age.

    Well, thank you all for your stories. I was very surprised to see so many estrangements out there. I’m so sorry for your pain and I hope that each and everyone of you find some ease to move forward with or without the lost loved one.
    My wish for all of us would be to have many local support groups that we could attend when needed.

    Siree M.

  30. Bestrong2day

    Sheri, your gentle words of wisdom never cease to amaze me. I too, have only been estranged by both my daughters for less than 6 months. Seems like forever. When I was divorcing my children’s Dad, I was seeing a therapist. There were 2 things she asked me that put me in a different perspective. My divorce was not easy and the way out was also a series of cognitions and a lot of work to arrive at those cognitions. You see my husband had another child while still married to me. He had been cheating ever since we first met. My therapist asked me if I missed the marriage we had, or I missed the marriage I wished I had? Then she told me the way out of my misery, was the way through. I needed to work through it and earn my way out. Don’t get me wrong because our children are different, aren’t they? We are supposed to love them unconditionally. Maybe not. I had unconditional love for them, I sacrificed my needs for them. I gave them way too much money and things. I was there every time they snapped their fingers. I hung on their last words and was in constant perpetuation (walking on egg shells) until I (thought) I was lucky enough to hear from them again. These were all of the things I did for my husband too and the “dream” was all I was hanging on to. Not the reality. Part of my journey has been recognizing my children are not perfect. In fact down right embarrassing. But I would tell myself, I raised them why wouldn’t they be perfect? Then I realized I wanted a relationship with them I wished I had, not the one I had. Some of our children are going to make their choices in life without any regard to what their parents say or feel. 1 of my daughters was so abusive to me that now thinking back on it, I kept reaching the more abusive she became because it must have been a mistake because daughters don’t talk to their Mom’s like that??? Reality, oh yes they do. Don’t sacrifice your integrity or dignity to hold on to the perfect dream you so desperately need from your children as they just may be unwilling or too limited to provide it.

    1. Mia

      Hi everyone… please share how you find some level of joy during the holidays when adult children could care less…never dreamed life would turn out like this. Thank God for my wonderful husband.. i find i avoid church events with loving people cause all they talk about is their lovely children.. i just cant seem to accept that my family is like it is…

  31. Lynne

    I think about the holidays this way. Each of these days are just another 24 hour day. A day goes by very fast. I do the activities that I enjoy. I try not to get stuck in all the world promotes on TV or all the Hallmark movie happily ever after stories. I also think about the good memories of holidays past and am thankful for them. My memories of the good times are something that no estranged grown child can take from me. Know you are not alone. There are so Very many of us now.

  32. Cheryl

    Holidays seem to magnify the rejection you feel, from your grown children. You have no ideal why they choose not to include you in their get togethers, or what you have done. There is no rhyme or reason, there is no reasoning to be understood. You are just not included, you feel, and understandable so, that you are not wanted. When do you finally quit and say I give up. When can you quit on your grown kids?
    I think I am going to pray, that I might start today.

    1. rparents Post author

      At some point, you decide to save to yourself… because you were a decent, loving parent. You still are. Time to love and care for you. Hugs!! Sheri McGregor

  33. Miritadc

    I have decided to save myself in light of the fact that I don’t feel my eldest son loves me and is very selfish and can hold grudges forever. I have been seeing a holistic psychologist that has helped me a great deal plus your help Sheri with your great book and this site to see I am not alone and I pray I can help someone in this group with my experience/pain. The estrangement in February 2020 will be total 7 years with 12 years in between that wife reconciled and I got to know my grandchildren but here we are again another separation but this time I feel differently and am not sure I want relationship with what he has to offer, crumbs. I happened to see him on US1 in a vehicle I did not know but I recognized him. He seemed busy looking at cell but I beeped at him smiled and waved and he smiled back. I was shocked to see him and I started to cry and get emotional but I was able to put myself back in my lane of saving myself. I was proud I handled it quite well and did not allow him to debilitate me and I was strong enough to cope with this encounter and not fall apart. After I noticed he got off highway and disappeared. I would have hoped that he would have followed me to CVS to perhaps say hello for holidays to his mom but that did not happen. I truly believe that if he is not willing to meet me half way to establish a relationship of some kind I must save myself from this suffering and I am using every tool I have to cope and I believe I am doing ok considering the fact I have lost my first born. Please consider your well being and health and if they have no love or forgiveness in their heart for you, you are wasting your life and health. It’s a sad reality but I am determined not to let him destroy or debilitate me further as he has caused enough suffering and enough is enough. I hope I have be able to console at least one of you in our group.

  34. Sandy B.

    Trying so hard to be strong and try to figure out how to move forward. My only son married 3 yrs ago at the age of 47 to a lady with 3children with So much Baggage, since that time it has been horrible. We were so close and now he barely speaks. We tried so hard at first. Nothing I did was ever right, either too much or not enough. I have seen a therapist who tells me it sounds like my Son is a rescuer. He was are whole world. She has physically and emotionally abused him and he goes back. I told him I was done with her after she abused me verbally. He came Christmas Day and blames me for everything. How do I move on?

  35. Joyce


    I’m new on the site and I’m very thankful for what I have read thus far. I’m a mother of an only son who is now 48 years old…my son was a very loving, devoted and caring he has a love hate relationship with me, I’m being blamed for his relationships failing is prime issue or excuse for his estrangement… he says I’ve sabbatoged all his son served two military branches and traveled much of 12 years of his life away from me and most of the women he has had relationships with I never met, the others he decided to play house with , I stayed away from because these women had 3-4 children with baggage, I didn’t interfere, but I did not approve.,, especially having to watch his only daughter being dragged through these relationships. We were treated like the outsiders and the women and their children were like his family..we had to take seconds, this is where my son and I clashed, he is intermittent with his estrangement, he’ll leave us for months at a time, refuse to answer his phone or emails, the love, hate relationship has begun to take its toll on me and his daughter. Just recently we visited him and this new women has been trying to move in his home with her daughter, he believes she walks on water, but he is seeing other women…..I don’t care about the women my concern is his loyalty and devotion to his 28 year old daughter he has never spent time with..I was a single parent who gave my son a good and decent home life…no shacking up ..I live a single respectable lifestyle..I’m 70 years old and I have had his daughter I practically raised and supported, as I did him. He got angry when we visited him, because his girlfriend told lies on us, everything he promised he would do for us ,he took away…I ‘m recporating from a serious surgery and needed his financial help for the first time in my life and he left us without help. I believe someone said their is a certain amount of emotional immaturity with these adults with narcissistic attributes…My son will not again respond to emails or phone calls, he threw us away once again…my granddaughter has suffered, she is an alcoholic, and suffers from major depression…we move on because we must for our own well being and dignity, we can’t allow this continuously abuse us and other people involved,I’m still with my granddaughter are still struggling in our pain, but we need to be less selfless and more selfish in order to become strong..take control of self,because we can’t control adults in their rights or wrongs….. we own our grown children nothing !!


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