Struggling with estrangement from adult children? A liberating moment

I’m so very grateful when my book, Done With The Crying, is mentioned positively by other parents who know what it’s like to be struggling with estrangement from adult children. In the September/October issue of The Saturday Evening Post, a writer shared the progression of her feelings until she came to a liberating moment. That’s when she mentioned me and the book. (Thank you to Karen Westerberg Reyes.)

Struggling with estrangement from adult children?

With the intention of recovering from the heartache and a bit of work, you too can have a liberating moment that gets you free.

You can read the full article  as it appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

Coping with Estranged Adult Children

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20 thoughts on “Struggling with estrangement from adult children? A liberating moment

  1. Mickijay

    I think the situation of a single, older woman is unique & without the support of a companion & other children, is very specific. Having grandchildren far away is also specific. I’m interested in how others, like me, cope.

    Reply
    1. Jan

      Mickijay: I am and older, single woman. The granddaughter, who I raised from the age of two, has recently decided I am no longer needed or wanted in her life It is the single most painful thing that I think has ever happened to me. I put everything I had into raising her, even worked two jobs to give her the best that I could possibly provide. I don’t have a single clue as to how I am going to get through this, except for God’s help. I just want the pain and devastation to stop.

    2. regina

      Oh my, it is so unbelievably unreal that so many are dealing with situations of estrangement. How can this be? I remember reading books to my baby at bedtime, so many school projects I helped with, rides to basketball games, the special birthday parties, concerts and the concert tickets I bought for us that were refused. Why? As the years go by without a word. The silence never feels normal but is becoming reality. I don’t understand how this really happened. How can it be? Not to your own mother. I also am interested in how to cope. The nightmares hurt. Separation without closure is so unfair.

  2. Nancy P.

    Dear Jan,

    I too am an estranged grandmother. My heart breaks for you. I know this grandparent grief and loss I don’t have the same circumstances as you in having raised your grandchild and then having them walk away. But I have an estranged daughter in law whom I loved with all my heart for ten years. When my only child died, she lived on in the house with my new bot from now grandson. We were best of friends and I loved both she and my precious grandson. It was a very sad time when my son died and it bonded the three of us together. After two years she abruptly asked for $40,000 from the probated estate and the GAL, appointed by the court to protect my grandson (as the sole heir to my sons estate) told her “no”. She took my grandson that instant and has never spoken to me for four heartbreaking years. We filed in court for grandparent visitation and lost. So….I To have daily excruciating pain. I wake up crying and go to bed crying. Unless you have had to lose a child and/or a grandchild like we have, the rest of the world can not begin to fathom the depths and breadth of our pain we live with now. I send you a hug and a prayer to stay as strong as you can and that your grandchild will be touched by the light and grace of God ans return to you. Hugs xoxox Nancy

    Reply
  3. Anita R.

    Perhaps I am in the anger stage of grief, but each heartbreaking story makes me see how selfish and hateful our offspring can be. We all made so many sacrifices, and did our best, yet we get back sadistic, continual rejection. I can forgive, but at the same time, I realize it’s THEIR problem, not mine!!

    Reply
  4. Anna

    All of the above stories are so tragic for devoted grandmothers. I so identify. I have two grandchildren I have not seen for 8+ years and it is heartbreaking to say the least. They were also intentionally taken away from me to “punish” me for revealing the truth about my son in law’s illegal behavior (toward me), of which my daughter covered up to protect him & not me. This shocking betrayal by my only daughter has caused so much despair & grief in my life, that I now look at her (realistically) as having the same “sociopathic genes” as her father (since she learned early on from him how to belittle me in his cold hearted, misogynist, calculating ways).

    I, too, consulted with a lawyer about my grandparent’s rights, but he simply said to “wait” until the oldest, my granddaughter (the one I spent the most time with) is “18” (five more years!). By then, he said, she will be out from underneath her parental control. I plan to do this, but I have no illusions that both parents (most likely) have turned her (and her younger brother who was only 3 at the time), against me, too, with cruel lies as to why I was no longer in their lives. However, I have kept their (undelivered) birthday cards, including their past letters/drawings to me, in a box that I will (hopefully) give them one day, to let them know I never forgot them.

    I agree with Anita R. who wrote that our own offspring can be so hateful, selfish, and spiteful! This is so true…with even our children who were well loved and cared for! I have read about this younger generation being so self absorbed and extremely narcissistic, & I believe it is true. I know personally two close friends who have a similar horror stories about their children/grandchildren as we do here, so it appears to be a phenomenon that is spreading. All I can say is I wish you suffering mothers & grandmothers peace and acceptance-one day- because it can come, when “we” are ready to say, as Sheri says, we’re done with the crying. Love to each one of you!

    Reply
  5. Elizabeth

    More than a handful of us,including myself and family have had similar experiences. It is a heartache. It is a good thing to network with others to better understand to cope and move on. I appreciate your concern and experienced over view .

    Reply
  6. Jeanette F.

    My heart goes out to everyone experiencing this. We’re going through it too. Our son met his wife while he was in the Navy. She was rude from the beginning, and he would call us when his sub was in foreign ports, crying, and asking us what we thought of her. We tried to be non-committal because he’d had a previous relationship with a very controlling woman, and was frequently angry. We didn’t want to estrange him!!!
    There were out-right lies, but the wedding went on. She’d fought with the girlfriend of one of his shipmates, and the 2 guys who were to be in the wedding pulled out. Her uncle and cousin filled in. She pitched a fit about coming to meet us at the hotel on Thurs night to meet grandparents and a few friends who had traveled to come to the Sat. wedding. We made it through the wedding. After the reception line, I tried to hug her and said, “Welcome to the family.” She looked at me like I had 2 heads. The night they were to return from their honeymoon, I sent an email saying, “Welcome home.” A few days later we got a letter saying, “I’m married now, and I don’t need you.” He didn’t come to his brother’s wedding, didn’t even send a card or a gift. His brother had been his best man, paid for tux and airfare, and had given him a generous gift. We struggled, we cried, we picked our life apart trying to determine what we’d done. It went on for 5 years. No calls, no emails, no contact with family, friends or relatives. I went into a major depression. Then, out of the blue, after 5 years, we got a letter saying that they were expecting a baby. I’d been in counseling, and had struggled, taken medicines, etc., trying to rebuild my life. And I was ANGRY. I replied saying that I did not believe that he would ever allow us to love his child, so that I did not want to know when the baby was born, the gender, or the name. I no longer wanted contact because it would only be another button to push, and I was just getting back to having a life. I told him I was speaking for myself, and not for anyone else in the family. He immediately emailed his dad that he was “devastated” that his mom had disowned him. HA HA
    His brother, wife & child went to visit, and it went well. It was their first contact since the wedding. The older brother returned home, thrilled that he had been able to be with his brother. “I’ve got my brother back, I’ve got my brother back.” He kept repeating it. I wish it had been true. We eventually went to see them and our grandbaby, when she was a few months old. There were lots of tears on their part. We had one or 2 other visits. We’d fly out on Fri., and sit at the hotel until he got off work. Sometimes it was “too late” to come over. It would always be noon on Sat before we could go over. And none of the visits were comfortable. We’d go out to their “Favorite” — extremely expensive restaurants at Dad’s expense. I was told I could no longer have contact with a former girlfriend of my younger son. I replied that I didn’t chose their friends, and I didn’t believe they should try to chose mine. She said she was going to throw up and left the restaurant table to go stand and talk with a couple of waitresses she knew. And so it went. He told me he was going to become a Baptist minister and spend the rest of his life preaching against the Catholic church (I attend), and I suggested that he study the religion so he didn’t make a fool of himself. She took off upstairs and literally was crying BOO HOO HOO loudly down the stairs. My son came and took the toddler out of my arms to carry up to calm her mother, saying “That’s the only thing that calms her (the mother).” Made me wonder how often it happened that the little 18 month old had to calm someone shouting BOO HOO HOO. The 2nd baby came, and we went to see her. I’d been told that I had defiled him, his wife, his first daughter, and his house. HOW? So I stayed at the hotel and his dad visited. His wife said she really wished it could always be that way. I kept our rental car the second day, didn’t go anywhere, but that meant our son had to come pick up his dad. That meant he had alone time going and coming. He asked our son what I had done to make him so mad that he’d given up all his family and friends. Our son paused a minute, and then said, “I don’t remember. I’ll have to go home and ask my wife.” That was my moment of total freedom. I had never shouted at either of them (after my son was married — we had some dillies while he was growing up), and had not felt that I had ever done anything that would make him unable to contact grandparents, his only brother, he cousins, his friends. (2 who were to be in his wedding were replaced by her relatives). It’s been 18 years. We’ve seen our littlest granddaughter 1) my husband while I stayed in the hotel 2)both of us when she was 6 months at a restaurant 3) when she was 4, eight years ago. Our son chose a park about 30 min. from our hometown for us to meet. We took a grandmother who lives here, an aunt and uncle of his came from Chicago, another from FL, his grandfather and step-grandmother live in our hometown, as did another aunt, cousin and her 4 kids, and another aunt & uncle. It was sort of pleasant. I had taken gifts and they weren’t expensive enough. One poor grandmother on a walker had to make her way through the rough grass of the park about 1/8 mile to get to the restrooms. Last year I was diagnosed with cancer. My husband sent an email. I had 2 phone calls as my son was driving home. He said he’d call every 2 weeks — but those calls were the last we heard. And we learned the hard way not to EVER, EVER call their house. It has reached the point where it is more comfortable to have no contact, and no expectations. I survived the cancer and am in a pretty solid remission. My husband seems to be in good health. But I have said that if he goes first, I’ll call the police if my son and his wife show up to be chief mourners at the funeral. They’ve thrown away that right. The sorry truth is that I’ve learned that you can live without someone you love — and sometimes it’s the best thing to do for your health. In the early days I’d talk to anyone and everyone about this because the pain was so unbearable. I quit counting at 17 people. Almost always the son alienated himself, but occasionally a daughter would dis her parents. A counselor told me that the majority of her clients were parents in this situation. I asked how others were resolving it, and she said these marriages often end in divorce. I don’t wish that on my grandkids, but I worry about what they are going through. BOO HOO HOO? And my son, what is he really remembering and thinking about his childhood. We thought we did pretty well, and our older son once tried to comfort me by saying, “If you were that bad, Mom, I’d hate you too!” We vacation with his family, and often have the grandkids travel with us. Is my son in pain? That’s my biggest fear. I wish somehow we could get information from survivors of these types of unions. It’s almost like the relationship is “cultish”. Has anyone had a kid “escape” and talk about it?

    Reply
  7. Tiralosi

    Divorced, I am the poor parent. I do not offer the big Italian family dinners and holidays, just myself. . To them I am a pathetic human being. They see daily how to degrade and look down on others and now that they are adults, it is my turn. Don’t get me wrong, I pay for fancy dinners, clothes for them, gifts etc. But cannot do trips or fund their trust accounts. After this last blow up, well I now realize that they take pleasure in watching me in pain. They do not offer up themselves to find a solution, instead they do the silent treatment as they know that is what does me in. Do other parents feel their adult children find pleasure in this? Seems like when they find the money, status, and interest in the other family, in laws, other parent etc they take pleasure in watching the pain of the forgotten parent.

    Reply
  8. Bobbi B.

    I am so sorry, for everything that you have gone through. It is not fair. I am living the same kind of torture.
    My son is 28, not married, thank God. I call him the family butt head.

    The last year has gotten a little better. He does respond to texts, not emails. We talk on the phone once in a while. This type of behavior, seems to be a norm with this generation. I have learned to not cry and to just go on with my life. It is tough, I deserve better. I figure by the time he grows up, I will be dead. We are both losing, his loss is greater. He has no guts, if he did, he would not allow anyone to change him. I do not get along with his girlfriend. They make their choice, they have to live with it.

    I hope, that everyone that has a child like this, finds peace. If you have other children (which I do not) I hope that they bring you happiness and joy. In the long run, I do believe that they will see the error of their ways. I stand firm in my communication with him. I do not back down, and have never allowed him to get away with treating me like a third class citizen.

    Good luck to all of you,

    Reply
  9. teacher16

    I was so excited , after not seeing my son and granddaughter since July, my daughter in law asked me to babysit. I babysat my 13 month old granddaughter for three Mondays. They have 3 dogs and one is a puppy . The puppy is not trained. After 3 Monday’s of cleaning up after the puppy and taking care of the other 2 dogs while trying to watch my granddaughter, I told them I want to babysit at my house. They turned the whole situation against me that I’m being mean. They don’t want my granddaughter around her aunt my, daughter. My son doesn’t get along with his sister. Most of the time she’s working and is not home. They are now forbidding me to see my granddaughter because I won’t conform to what they request. Not only were the dogs an issue, they live 45 minutes away. I was driving to and from their home and babysitting for 8 hours. If they come to my home it will shorten my day and make watching my granddaughter easier. I can give her my undivided attention without watching dogs also. I’m doing them a favor and instead of being thankful they are turning against me. It’s so sad that I’m going through the rejection again. I know they were using me to babysit but there is only so much I can take. If I was in their shoes I would be so thankful that a loving grandparent wanted to give my child the best care ever.

    Reply
  10. J

    I have been suffering the rejection of a daughter that I raised, but did not give birth to. Technically, she was my stepdaughter, but I had her since she was 10. Her father traveled for work and she didn’t see her birth mother so I was the day-to-day parent to her. I already had a son that was 5 years younger than her and they were raised as brother and sister. I was a stay at home mom and always felt so blessed to spend so much time with them and to always be there. We had a great relationship and I was always “mama” to her.

    My husband was very abusive to me, which I always tried to hide from my children. When my son was in his 2nd year in college, I finally divorced. My daughter was already married with children, but she got very angry with me for divorcing her dad. She wanted me to tell her all the intimate details of our marriage, which I refused to do. There are some things between married couples that just should not be shared with children, even adult children. I would never tell her the things her father did to me behind closed doors or when they were not at home.

    The last time I saw or talked to her was 4 years ago. It breaks my heart every day. I wrote her a letter several years ago, but never sent it. I tried for about 2 years by calling, texting, and sending gifts with no response. There are times that I think that I would not have divorced if I knew I was going to lose her, but at the same time it wasn’t fair for me to stay in an abusive relationship when she was married and living in another state. The last time I saw her everything was great. We spent the day together with the kids, I cooked dinner, and we had a nice visit. I don’t know what happened.

    To make matters worse, she has cut all ties with her brother as well. He did nothing to her and misses her. He is getting married in a few weeks and I know he would love to have his sister there.

    I recently put up my Christmas tree (I know it’s early). I cried and cried seeing all the ornaments that she made or she got because of activities she was in such as cheerleading or tennis.

    The pain is better than it was at first, but I still cry every time someone asks me about her or if I have talked to her. I feel so ashamed. I also find myself jealous of my friend’s relationships with their grown children and grandchildren. I get a physical pain in my heart hearing about their families.

    I just found this site today and it feels good to tell my story without judgement. Thanks!

    Reply
  11. J

    Nice to have some therapy. To know I’m not alone. I have a 19 and a 17 year old. They both left two years apart to go and live at a friend’s parent’s house. Their mother was in and out of the picture for a little more than half of their life. As I put rules in place like going to school, coming home, doing chores and/or working, they became more and more defiant until I just stopped hearing from them. Leaving with basically the clothes on their back. Towards the end, my 17 year old resorted to saying the most hurtful things he could think of. They’re taking no responsibility for their obligations as son, grandson, nephew and brother.

    I can accept my flaws as a dad but cannot understand the disloyalty. I’m able to accept their emotional need to blame me for their problems but I’m having the hardest time accepting their decision to abandon the family. I was the only constant in their life and now, it seems, I’m unnecessary and unappreciated.

    They have two younger siblings from me and it’s a very murky thought that this may happen again in ten years.

    My ego/anger/disappointment is a roadblock when it comes to extending myself to them. They’ve made a long list of decisions that have contradicted the character I raised them to have and have become young men I honestly don’t want to know. They’ve victimized me and whoever has what they want. Heartbroken is the perfect word to describe what estrangement has done to me and their siblings. I don’t know that I’m grieving but I do know that I’m perplexed and hurt.

    I’m assured that I did an excellent job raising them. I’m also sure I could’ve done better. One thing that also relieves me is knowing that I raised them to be loyal and honest however, I’ve yielded a zero on that return.

    Reply
  12. gary g

    Tiralosi – and all – I feel for you and understand your agony and pain.
    Please look up “PAS” – or parental alienation syndrome – this is what my x-wife has done onto my only daughter –
    and it impacts her mentally and physically on a daily basis. If only our current healthcare system provides for better care, inclusive of CBT and FAMILY STRUTURED THERAPY — our children would not be the victim of their enabling maligning controlling parent — it is truly sad how our children can become ‘brain-washed’ by a parent who likely suffers from a mental disorder themselves……

    Reply
  13. Darlene M.

    The pain my mother feels after estrangement of her son is now 37+ years. There’s never been a reason given. He’s in his second marriage. And has 4 sons that my mother has never met. I believe one has a daughter now so she has a great granddaughter she’s never met. He originally cut ties with the entire family but later reconciled with his twin brother under the condition they would never talk about the past. He also reconciled with my father several years before he passed away. Our childhood was hardly idyllic with an alcoholic father and a young mother who at one point (make that two) left my father and us. But I can’t see how my mother was blamed for all of this. She still aches for this son and now with early dementia asks me each time if I’ve talked to him. I’ve been told I “was collateral damage” with my mother.

    My fear is that my mother will never know why this happened and will pass away with this ache in her heart. They were close when he was younger and honestly anything specific to the parental household would have affected all three of us kids. Should I try to push to find out what the issue is? My brother and SIL both know what the issue is.

    Reply
  14. Brenda

    I just found this blog and website today and did not realize there is others that are going through the same things I am. My daughter has basically disowned me. She has not called me in over 2 years. I had to call her earlier this year to let her know her aunt my sister that she had always been close to had a terminal disease( she had not contacted my sister in a while either) had to leave voice mail and she did return that call and did come and see my sister before my sister died. I was my sisters caretaker and my daughter had very little to say to me on the visit. Since my sister died I have had no response to my trying to keep up with her. Her birthday was not long ago l left a message in it stated to her would love to hear from her and told her that I thought she had disowned me and did not want to hear from me and or have her in her life at all and that has been a couple of weeks ago and she has not responded. I do not know how I am going to get through this and was glad to see others that might me of some help. Thanks for listening and any thoughts suggestions are welcomed.

    Reply
  15. J

    I can relate to all of the above comments and I agree with the sociopath and narcissist comments. You are so right. My son and his wife have no use for my husband and I unless they need the kids picked up and fed after school or a babysitter. His wife does not like me, but as long as she has to put up with me she’s going to use me all she can. And she did, for the last 11 years, since my first granddaughter was born. I would drive 2 hours round trip, 3 days a week to babysit the 2 children , clean her house, and do laundry. (free – I would never charge} I know, how stupid of me- right? That’s just the way I am, or was until just recently, They live a little closer now and I pick them up from school. I take them out to eat after school 3 days a week spending at least $75.00 per week because there is never any food at the house and if I don’t they will get cereal for dinner. Mom can be home by 6:30 pm but doesn’t show up until 8 pm because she is eating dinner with her folks and my grandson. I have to text asking if anyone is coming home and they still don’t come home; No call asking if I mind and no apology when she does get home. It’s just expected, after all, they are doing me a favor by letting me babysit their 3 children. My son doesn’t have much to do with my husband and I, only by text and if he needs something. When we do see him it’s very brief and cold. When I became ill his wife only phoned me once, probably to see if it was time for she and her Mom to chill the champagne. She is the most spiteful, phony, nasty person I have ever known. She is out and out hurtful and enjoys it. Things I have given the children I never see again. If she were my daughter I would be ashamed. My son and his wife are 2 spoiled brats and I have learned 2 spoiled brats should never get married, They both come before their own children and then fight for #1 position between the two of them. The children were rude to me and I told my son, all I got was a scolding and never an apology. Then I was punished for it all last summer, only saw them 4 times. Their other grandma had them. Now I can see them again because school started and they need a runner for school, sports, dinner, homework etc. The other grandma won’t do that. I get the leftovers of what the other grandparents don’t want to do. My grandson is only nice to me and my husband if his mom and grandma aren’t around. Didn’t they teach him well? People have remarked he is so different from his sisters when they were little, he’s not friendly and he is rude at 3 years old. I had the girls 3 days a week when they were little. but his other grandma has him for the 3 days a week. That to me says it all. l know the day is coming they take them away completely and we will be devastated, They are the only reason we put up with my son. If it weren’t for the children he would have been out of our lives a long time ago and good riddance, I haven’t liked myself for a long time because of the abuse, Thanks for letting me get this off my chest, This is the first time I have expressed it all at once and it feels really good.

    Reply
  16. SadgracieSadgracie

    Mickijay, I am very new here. Just put my welcome post up. I will be 64 in about 6 weeks. I have been divorced from my enstranged son’s father for 30+ years. I have only the one son,, and no family support. Firneds don’t seem to get it. If I hear, “Youll just have to accept it, and move on one more time, frin firiends who have adult children that adore them, and a husband that would kill for her, I’m gonna scream. I’m sorry I don’t know you very well yet, but Im in this pit with you. I too believe that it is different kind of pain.

    Reply
    1. BadToTheBone

      I must say I do have 2 other children that are not estranged, but independent.
      It still hurts having an estranged adult child, even though his father and I have been divorced for 25 years, and he has been deceased for 9 years. My son’s girlfriend texts me, but does not talk to me unless I see her on the street. I am not ready to accept it, and I have heard the same thing. I am still in disbelief.

  17. mummy

    I have accepted the strangeness and the blame and have even apologized, even though I didn’t know what for! I have broad shoulders. In that apology which was saying sorry for everything we’ve lost (intimating not only them but the rest of the family as well) I said I was sorry for being me and not enough for them….or not being the person they apparently need…. I really am. However, I am who I am, flaws and all. I also have a ton of love. That I know, so I don’t really doubt myself in the sense.

    Last week, I had a strange dream. I dreamed I was talking with a friend (who lost her son in a car crash earlier this year) and in that dream, I was distraught.. I was trying to convince myself that my son wasn’t dead… but he was definitely gone. So in my heart I know he’s alive and well (I hope) but in my subconscious I struggle with my own feelings of loss. He’s alive but not here. That’s the reality. I love him (I’ve told him no matter what he says or does I love him) I don’t like his behavior many times, nor his wife’s, who seems hell bent on dividing and conquering. But loving him and disliking his behavior sort of puts it all into place for me. It lets me let go. I still can’t get around that they’ve done this to his sister with who he was so close all his life (till he married at 29)….now? no contact and they don’t want their child near hers as they don’t approved of how she raises her kids nor of her EX partner…..so judgemental. At the end of the day, as I’ve learned to let it go, I see it more clearly. Hopefully you can as well. Ekhert Tolle writes an amazing book called A New Earth….in it he talks about EGO. Once we can recognize that ego in ourselves and in others, and let our ego’s go, the ‘fight’ in us stops. We become more at peace and become more accepting. Once day it would be nice to get back together with my son and his kids. I’ve left the door wide open. He need only walk through. He’s not ready yet. Nor is his wife who holds much of the control. When he learns to stand on his own, I believe he will come back to us. A changed person, but this is his path. Mine too.

    Reply

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