Adult child’s rejection: Emotional and social fallout

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Things aren’t always as they seem. Neither are people. In the throes of disbelief, shocked by an adult child’s rejection, a parent may feel all alone among their peers. How can any mother feel like herself when her whole world seems to have fallen apart? How can a father feel secure when everything he’s ever worked for is trashed?

When we’re emotiadult child's rejectiononally exhausted—and even physically fatigued from the loss of sleep that can go with an adult child’s rejection—we can start to doubt ourselves. And how much more so when the son or daughter we love puts the blame on us, maybe even saying that we’re crazy? Or telling others we are.

Alone among our peers

When we’re feeling so low over something as devastating and embarrassing as an adult child’s rejection, we tend to isolate ourselves. Confused, perhaps even doubting ourselves, we may not have the energy to try and explain what’s going on in our lives. But we also know people might notice that we’re not our usual selves. Afraid of questions, we might start to avoid social situations. We might also fear judgment. How can we share something so awful?

Esther—one of the dozens of mothers whose stories I relate in my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, felt like this:  If I still wondered what I did wrong, how could I expect other people not to wonder?

When we’re feeling uncertain and uneasy, socializing can be difficult (after an adult child’s rejection, that may be putting it mildly).

When your own son or daughter doesn’t believe you’re a good parent, tells you you’re crazy, or accuses you with memories that don’t match your own, even telling friends you trust and feel close to can feel scary.

Isolating the abused is a tactic out of a very old playbook. So is pinning the fault on the victim. That’s what abusers do. They excuse their own behavior by blaming another.

Abuse?

Whether or not you consider your adult child’s rejection a form of abuse, it’s important to recognize that at a time when you’re emotionally wrought, feeling as if your whole world and everything you’ve ever worked for has disintegrated, you’re at risk. Isolation, self-doubt, and self-blame, are common among parents of estranged adult children. But you need to know—you’re not alone.

Talking about your adult child’s estrangement takes a plan.

When we’re feeling out of sorts, in shock, and embarrassed, it’s difficult to believe we’re not the only ones enduring such devastation. But the truth is, we don’t always hear about adult children who come from caring families rejecting them. Just as you may feel like the freak show among your peers, others might also be keeping quiet about their personal pain.

In the book, I share my own story of shedding the shame of my son’s estrangement. In doing so, I regained a sense of freedom, and reclaimed a strong identity. Being open about the situation also paved the way for me to help other parents of estranged of adult children.

If you tell others about your adult child’s rejection, you may very well be judged. Faces tighten. Arms fold. Emotional walls go up. The expected reaction often does happen. But as is explained in Done With The Crying, you can also steer the response, just as you might with some other sort of tragedy you choose to share.

Whether you borrow from other parents’ “ready responses” in the book, or use them as jumping off points for your own, it’s always easier to socialize when you feel prepared.

You might be also be surprised how many people can relate. As one mother discusses, until she opened up, she didn’t know that some parents who were a little standoffish also had estranged children.Turns out, those parents who were hard to get to know were suffering their own private despair—just as she once was. “I ended up helping them get something horrible off their chests,” she says, “which made me feel better too.”

Even though socializing may be difficult, the general advice after trauma is to mix among people, keep commitments, and get on with life. You may very well need to protect yourself, get your bearings, and regain some self-esteem. My experience, and that of other mothers shared in the book, can help you take small steps forward, steer others’ reactions to your own benefit. Remember, there’s no need to make big scary leaps. Even the tiniest of steps help you build confidence, and move you forward—in new directions, or simply back to your old self and life.

Available through popular booksellers. Ask your local bookstore to order this book for help for mothers of estranged adult childrenparents of estranged adult children for you. Or order online. Kindle lovers, your version will be available soon.

Not in the U.S?  — you can still get the book. Ask your local bookstore, or order at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com/uk

 

16 thoughts on “Adult child’s rejection: Emotional and social fallout

  1. AvatarLinda

    When talking about family, I only share things about me son. But, occasionally someone will say, “don’t you have a daughter”? I feel ashamed that I have a daughter that has no contact with me. It hurts to talk about her but when I explain that I don’t have contact, normally the person is either going through the same experience or knows someone. It just amazes me that this has become the ‘normal’. I think it’s just easier to blame someone else for their mistakes or bad choices. Who better to blame than the ones that love them the most and will always love them. It really is abuse and their abusive words are forever branded on our heart.

    Reply
  2. AvatarDebra H.

    My son has been estranged from me since he was 11. He is now 28. At this point, I have lost hope I will ever see him again. I am grateful a woman I volunteer with told me about this website.

    Reply
  3. RiseRise

    Thank you for this article……….
    After 2 years of the estrangement from my daughter, it is still difficult when I encounter someone who causually asks how she is doing, not knowing that she has not spoken to me or seen me for so long.
    I have learned to casually say she is fine and we are all fine, especially if it’s someone I may not see again for a long time. I have also learned to lie to relatives who call to just ask if we are all ok, etc. especially with Covid, they are just asking about our health. It’s easier with most people to just say we are all ok and let it go rather than go into the whole story and then be bombarded with questions etc. and have to relive it all again. I just know there are only a couple of close friends that I can really talk to who will listen, especially one who also is estranged from her own daughter.
    I find it really amazing and enpowering to see myself handling it like that……….I never thought I could!!!!
    There is freedom in letting it be………..
    AS Jan Kabat-Zin says …”It’s not a matter of letting go; we would if we could. Instead of “Let it go,” we should probably say, “Let it be.”
    Since, I just recently joined the site, I just cannot believe how many of us are in this situation…….all have some differences but so many similarities…….there is so much empathy and understanding here…….
    I hope and pray that we can all continue in strength and find happiness in a life beating to a new drum!!!
    All the best to all!!!!

    Reply
  4. AvatarChristine G.

    I am completely estranged from my daughter. For three years now. But this is also the 3rd time she had “stopped speaking with me”. This time was very different as she put her dissatisfaction with my parenting skills in writing via email. She is not a parent so I did find her email ironic. But at that moment, after I read her hurtful email, I knew I was done with HER games. I’ve always walked on eggshells during her upbringing as to not embarrass her, or so she said. I was the mom who would go broke, max out my credit card to make sure she and her husband got every expensive item on their Christmas list, just so I could have her love me, temporarily of course..I started noticing a trend with her after the 2nd instance. But I wanted to test my theory. She was a beautiful child that I adored. But the adult she has become, I can do without. I send her peace and love in my prayers every night and then I’m done with it. My heart has been broken, and will never be the same. Mourning a live child that chooses to abandon you is a painful, daily occurrence but I have too much to do in my life. I do think about her but I don’t look for her or expect her. On a final note, I have often wondered if she would casually show up at my house, like nothing ever happened, as she is known for that and never having to apologize for any wrong doing, and just get out of her vehicle, walk up to me and I say…You must be lost, I have no idea who you are. And then she drives away, again…..round 4?

    Reply
    1. AvatarShawn

      Oh my goodness! I feel like I wrote that myself. It is the same words I have spoken to people and to my daughter. I will not walk on eggshells any longer. And I fully know the rounds of silence. I don’t know what round I am on though. She also wrote me an email. Keep your head up and work on you and I was told don’t worry about her. Easier said then dine!

  5. AvatarBeverly

    I completely understand. My grandsons don’t know I exist. They call my former husband’s second wife grandma or something.

    Reply
  6. AvatarNadia

    My heart goes out to you all. Both my children (Girl)aged 27 and 19 (boy) have been so disrespectful and abusive towards me even though I sacrificed everything for them and am left with no partner, no job and depleted of all funds and my health because of them. I’m now on my own for the first time and I feel hated and isolated. My son has been influenced by his girlfriend and is being controlled by her. I feel so hated I feel suicidal.

    Reply
    1. AvatarVirginia S.

      Dear Nadia, I have lived all the emotions you feel, ALL of them. I survived, some days barely, but I made it through. The estrangement with my three sons occurred immediately after my husband died within five months of a cancer diagnosis. My loss was tremendous. When my husband was diagnosed, I left my job that I loved to take care of him. Five months later he passed away. Within a year I sold the house we lived in for 31 years, and during all this my sons felt it was a good time to tell me they didn’t love me. We had been a happy family and caring parents. You know what it is like. Every time I drove by a semi trailer, I thought about ending the misery. I could have dug through the grief of losing my husband, but the intentional loss of my children was almost too much to bear. I was embarrassed to talk with people about it, so I was extremely isolated. Now I know it was supreme selfishness of my sons to unload on me, especially at that time. I have lost respect for them, but I have also grown and gained self respect. I went to counselling, journaled and prayed daily for peace, and got involved with volunteering. I am okay, and you will be as well. Time blurs the memory of the sharp pain, just like childbirth. God bless.

  7. AvatarLynne

    Thank you Sheri for this good message today. As an estranged parent I know so well the times of just not wanting to be around people. With all the rejection I went through so many stages of grief. It has taken time to be a happy person again. I no longer feel shame or a need to hide in any way from my situation. This New me came with time. I first thank my Lord. Only the Lord defines who I am. Second I thank people in my life…a loving husband others in my life who extend much love to me. Thank you to Sheri Mcgregor for all she has done. I know her message for all of us who are estranged. This message is that we are very deserving of a good and happy life and to take good care of ourselves. There are so many of us now. No need to feel shame or go into isolation.

    Reply
    1. AvatarPJ

      My daughter, age 30, distanced herself from me at age 11. Since then, she hasn’t shared anything with me, and stopped wanting to be with me. Sometimes I see God’s hand in this. “See how she ignores you. That’s how I feel when you don’t spend time with me.” I have become a stronger Christian and I believe in moving forward. I have lots of friends and students (I teach at a community college) who love me. I am so grateful for that. I’ll never stop praying though for my daughter to want a relationship with me.

    2. AvatarYvette

      Lynne,

      I am so thankful I found this website as I drew the conclusion that I was the worst mother in the world for not wanting my daughter to have anything to do with me after all the sacrifices I have made to give her the best childhood I ever could. The last year and a half both of my parents have passed away so I am very familiar with grief. I’m working on changing my belief system and reparenting myself.

      The articles written for estranged parents on this website are so valuable. I simply cannot thank Sheri and this website enough for showing me I am not alone in this world.

      Best wishes.

  8. AvatarCarasa

    my 20 year old daughter recently moved in with her boyfriend’s family
    this is the boy who has never come over to meet me or show me any courtesy
    I wonder why HIS family is so great and I’m such a loser
    as a widow it hurts so much because I have no one to turn to
    thankfully I found this group

    Reply
  9. AvatarMeryl W.

    While I do know 2 other abandoned mothers, every family is different.
    I am the only one abandoned by an only child. I am the only one abandoned in favor of my daughter”s in laws. And I am the only one threatened with arrest.
    Without doubt, the worst of this abandonment, is knowing that I have not only been abandoned, I have been REPLACED. My daughter calls somebody ELSE “mom”.

    Reply
    1. AvatarMarlis

      I understand how you feel because i am in the same situation. Not completely estranged but rare visits only as her mother in law is Only “mum and grandmother” who is important
      I have already become a stranger to my Grand kids. My husband was the greatest granddad you could wish for. I am doubting myself even though i have always done my best. That i know for sure. Now i am tired of trying and hoping. Sheri’s comments keep me going and have given me a new outlook.
      We do not deserve this treatment no matter what.
      A mother should always be treated as a mother. We are denied that. It really hurts being devalued.
      I wish you all the best

    2. AvatarLeeann S.

      I was abandoned by my only child too. He lives with gf and her mother, in Tucson. That’s all I know. I don’t know if I have grandchildren. I understand your lonliness. it is hard to trust or care after this kind of heartbreak.

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