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.


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 or


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

  1. Maureen D.

    Emotional & social fallout is another great heading to these challenges. When I was in my youth, I swore I would have the best relationships with my children…as patterns go & time along with circumstances can alter the best of intentions. And now after raising a son & now he is in the process of raising his son’s, it seems generations manage somehow to learn from the mistakes of the prior gap. Nothing is perfect & when we have children they remind us of our imperfections. A two & a half years ago, which was the same time I learned my son would become a Father & I a Grand Mother, correlated a health issue for me. The timing dovetailed in the most inconvenient moment. I physically felt off & once it was determined what it was the meds that were prescribed only created other issues. While I tried my best to be supportive during the pregnancy the pending health reality had to be dealt with. While going through that I didn’t want to be social, naturally & now this heavy topic isolates me more than just trying to heal my body. I’m trying to heal my spirit & soul as well. I’m not exactly equipped yet to be honest in general about everything. I’m honest with me, my husband & a few close friends, but not a public matter. Way too personal & I haven’t had enough experience getting the words right, yet. I’m learning! I want more than anything to heal & be comfortable with everything in my life. This is my first day of writing in this blog & it is helping in ways I never imagined. Thank you for creating the potential to grow & heal from this very cold & lonely place of MOTHERHOOD!

    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you for sharing more about yourself and your feelings. Your writing will help other parents who need to know others “get it.”

      Sheri McGregor

  2. Gk

    I’ve recently been estranged from my 29 year old son. It’s been a gradual thing since he entered into a relationship with a women who immediately didn’t like me. That was 4 years ago. It began with less frequent visits. Then periodically his girlfriend, with whom he lives, would call me when her and my son argued just so I could hear the arguments, knowing that I would feel helpless to do anything being over 100 miles away. I could rarely hear what was being said, but could hear distress in my son’s voice. He has never handled conflict well and will typically do anything he could to avoid it. It seemed like things would improve and then more fighting. And his girlfriend continued calling me so I could hear, and then would become upset that I was involved. Her motivation never made sense to me. The situation has been bad enough that we have asked law enforcement to do welfare checks because no one is close enough when these situations arise and in a few instances she has told me and other family members that my son has made suicidal statements. When I’ve spoken to my son he denies ever being suicidal, but no one wants to disregard reports like that. He admits to having significant depression and anxiety. Law enforcement has never found him to be a danger to himself. He has not been willing to seek treatment for depression. Now four years and 2 children later, I got a text from my son (on the day of my deceased daughter’s..his sister’s…birthday—she passed December 30, 2015) telling me he wants no further contact with me , that I’m blocked On his phone and out of their lives for good. He went on to say he had torn up every picture he had of me. None of it makes Sense to me at all other than his girlfriend is emotionally unwell and making life miserable and my son isn’t doing well emotionally either. But according to them, I’m the one who has put a wedge in their relationship. It’s a lot more complicated than I can explain. I’m confused and scared for my son. I don’t even know his address anymore because they recently moved.

    1. rparents Post author


      I’m so sorry. I understand the feeling of fear for someone who you have loved. It makes no sense when you’ve been a decent and caring mom.

      Am I understanding correctly that your son’s girlfriend called you but set the phone down, as if it were an accidental dial? So, she wanted you to hear and worry… What a great girl (not!).

      I hope you will work at your own physical and emotional well being. If your son does come to his senses, you will need strength and inner peace to deal with reconciliation (it’s not often a simple matter).

      Please take kind care of yourself.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Mandy

      . I know the pain of not knowing your child’s address. I have phone numbers but they won’t pick up. My ED recently moved, no forwarding address. I’ve paid online detectives to find my ES and payed a private detective only to get the wrong information. It is a nightmare that visits me way to often. I try so hard to go on and be happy for friends families. Not always easy. My ES has mental problems and also a brain injury which worries me all the time. . Sorry for your pain.

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