Parents of estranged adult children ask: Why?

Your Adult Child is Estranged, Parents ask, “Why?”

adult child is estrangedWhen something as momentous as an adult child leaving the family occurs, it’s completely natural to ask, “Why?

Asking the question over and over again is normal after an adult child is estranged. After all, for most of us, asking why? has always been a way to find answers, connect with other people, and explore the world. Asking why? is a fundamental part of the human experience.

But the question can be tiring for the people who stand by us as we go through the emotional trauma. Our adult child is estranged, and we can’t understand why this happened, why our adult child left, and why he or she won’t let us in to try and solve the puzzle.

Our loved ones may not have any answers, and they may want us to accept that there simply is no way to explain the estrangement. They might worry we’re blaming ourselves. And in time, they may grow tired of hearing about our pain. In our continual quest for answers as to why our adult child is estranged, we may even tire ourselves out.

But embracing the question, Why?, can be part of the healing process that goes along with human nature and our need to find meaning. Ignoring the need for an answer may be more stressful than examining the responses that come up as you attempt to find reasons.

For a much more complete discussion about how asking why? can help, see  the article,
Help for parents of estranged adult children – An Adult Child’s Rejection: Asking Why?, which is filed under the “What Parents Can Do” navigation category.

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5 thoughts on “Parents of estranged adult children ask: Why?

  1. BR

    Why? That’s the question isn’t it? I too have rolled the past over and over in my head, rethinking about why our son has decided to cut us off and for the life of me, I don’t understand. At this point, I am wondering if he knows he is not on solid ground for ghosting us and he cannot figure out a way to reconcile and save his own ego. Is the reason he won’t contact us is because he cannot swallow his own pride? If that is the case then he is stealing time away from us to be with him, his wife and our grandchildren.

    Back story…our oldest son is 32 years old and had two children with his first wife, who he admittedly never loved. Started a relationship with his second wife while still married to his first. Divorced first wife, married second wife (who already had three children with two different dads), divorced second wife and then moved in with us with our two grandchildren. We loved having them live with us! We spent so much time with the kids since he was working and trying to start a business and get his life back on track. He was doing a lot and we were happy to help. Then COVID. The kids’ mom took the kids to an indoor party, before vaccinations were available, with 26 people who didn’t believe in masking. They spent several hours at the party, then were dropped off at our house right afterwards. My husband has medical issues so we had been really careful about COVID and here they possibly were exposed and exposing us. We immediately told our son that he needed to take them back to their mom to get tested. He took them away and that was the last time we saw our grandkids – 10 months ago. He came back a few days later and told us that he was moving in with his second wife – they had started seeing each other again, which we knew about and she even spent a few nights at our house with him. Not a problem. When he told us he was moving in with her, he also told us that the kids’ mom threatened him. He said she told him they were not allowed to see us or she would revert to the old parenting plan where he barely got to see the kids. Her reasoning was that we said bad things about her to the kids. Admittedly, we said some things about how inconsiderate it was of her to put them in danger by taking them to the party and other places. We said we understood that he would need to move out and that there would need to be some distance from the kids. Along came holidays and we couldn’t talk to the kids, but we did talk to him. Then I sent him a text on Easter, wishing him and the kids a happy Easter. No response. The next day was our grandson’s birthday. Since I got no response from him for Easter, I thought I should not text or call. Also, my husband said I shouldn’t either, since he didn’t respond the day before. He said to give him some room and that we didn’t want to get him in trouble with the kids’ mom by contacting the kids. Basically, that was 6 months ago. During this time, my husband has developed dementia. We are in the early stages and haven’t figured out which kind yet. Some days I feel so overwhelmed by this estrangement from our son and grandkids that I spend the day crying. I feel alone in dealing with my husbands dementia. He is mostly having trouble with word finding and some memory, but for the most part, he is very much aware of the estrangement. My fear is that the time will come when my husband won’t know the kids, or our son, or me and the time right now is being lost when he does know all of us. I think that our son knows he is in the wrong for not talking to us and he knows that my husband is angry about it, so our son is afraid to make contact. The longer he waits, the angrier my husband gets. I asked my husband what he thought about just me going to talk to our son. He said that it is up to our son to come to us since he is the one who started this. He also said that it wouldn’t do any good until our son is ready to talk to us. If it were me, I would go, but I won’t do it without my husband agreeing to it. I feel like I am in between a rock and a hard place.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear BR, what a rough spot to be in, feeling like you are wrong not to tell your son how you feel and wrong if you were to do so without your husband’s agreement. I think you’re husband is right about your son coming to his senses and calling/seeing you … However, if I were in your situation, I might very well convey the crux of your posting here (that the time will be too late, and the opportunity gone).

      Having said all that, even if you did convey this reality, your son may not make any effort. It’s possible it won’t matter to him.

      I always consider what I can best live with myself about later. I say”best” live with because sometimes not any response or action is the clearest of choices.

  2. mary k.

    The hardest part about being abandoned by my children is the stigma attached to it. Not only be people I don’t know, but by my family as well. They all believe that I must have done something to cause this. I did nothing but work night and day to make their lives better.

    1. Lynn

      I know what you mean, Mary. With every decision my husband and I made, our children were our first priority. It’s frustrating because we set aside our wants and needs for them (which we did gladly – we love and care about them, and they were our responsibility) and they now seem to despise us. Looking back, we made mistakes, but none that were so egregious to warrant a complete separation from us. I guess we’re lucky, most family members were present during our children’s upbringing and know that we were caring parents. It’s the friends and co-workers that look at us sideways. I’m almost tempted to move across the county and tell new acquaintances that we have no children. It’s so sad.


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