Ask Sheri McGregor: Adult child doesn’t want anything to do with us but now he’s sick

adult child doesn't want anything to do with usAsk Sheri McGregor

Q: Our adult child doesn’t want anything to do with us, his parents. He is in his 50s, and we have not tried to contact him. Recently, though, we learned that he is very sick. He has stage 4 cancer and is struggling physically, emotionally, and financially. Should we try to reach out to him?

A: The details in the email above have been edited slightly to make them more general in nature (to preserve privacy). Otherwise, it’s as received a few days ago. And it’s like many questions from parents who have been estranged from a son or daughter, often for many years, and then hear of an illness or other tragedy and wonder: Should we reach out?

When it comes to estrangement between parents and adult children, even the strongest inclinations of what is or feels right can involve complexities that make answers tough. That’s why it’s wise to reflect.  Let’s explore this together.

Tragic news when an adult child doesn’t want anything to do with us: The “right” thing to do

For some, immediately making contact to convey how much they still care is the go-to option. However, every situation is unique. Ultimately, only you can know what is “right” for you—and even if you’d have immediately made contact in the past, over time, your feelings can change .

If you’re strongly inclined to reach out, do think about your adult child’s perspective. In Done With The Crying, I discuss how sending gifts might cause a son or daughter extra (and irritating) effort. For example, if they’re not typically home days, then sending something that requires signature isn’t thoughtful. Similarly, if a son or daughter is unwell or otherwise troubled or under stress, consider the effects of your contact.

I’m not suggesting that you can read minds but consider what comes up when you read the questions I’ve listed below. You may want to capture your thoughts by writing them out, so get pen and paper but don’t forget about your “gut.” Our bodies are innately intelligent yet many of us have spent much of our lives tuning out our own insightful physical sensations. So, before reading on, take a few breaths slowly in through the nose and let them out your mouth. Then close your eyes and imagine a channel of soft, radiant energy running up the center of your body that connects your belly, your heart, and your mind. There in your center, you feel every ripple of awareness, inside and out.

Here are the questions.

  • How will hearing from me affect my estranged adult child’s mood?
  • How will they immediately react?
  • Will my reaching out be an added stress?
  • Or will my continued love be comforting?

You may already have enough information now to decide what’s “right” for you? And yes, I’m putting the word, “right,” in quotes. That’s because for some, thoughts of reaching out at a time of tragedy derive from beliefs about unconditional love and the ideal that a parent is “always there” for a child. You may want to reflect on that idea, and determine what’s motivating you.

Reaching out: What doors are you possibly opening?

One father, Alfonso, has been estranged from his daughter for 12 years. When he found out she had hit rock bottom and was couch surfing after her divorce, he decided to get in touch. “It was a chance to mend fences,” he explains.

The night before he planned to drive 65 miles to the town where he knew she was staying with a cousin, he dragged out a box of old photographs that her mother (now deceased) had tucked away. As he looked through the images, forgotten memories leapt from the crevices of his mind. Horrible snippets of his daughter’s meanness, the heartaches and trouble she’d caused, and the way she’d ceaselessly taunted and belittled her mother. Their daughter’s marriage may have dropped the final curtain on their relationship, but the drama had been going on for years. She had put them through hell—and Alfonso had no evidence that she’d “grown out of” her old ways (which is what he and wife had told themselves would happen all through her tumultuous teens, twenties, and early thirties).

Alfonso was certain that his daughter’s past substance abuse, erratic behavior, and argumentative nature had caused her mother’s failing health. Later, he’d seen his wife through years of distress as she’d continued to try to mend the relationship and was rebuffed or ignored every time. His late wife had suffered several major illnesses. His daughter knew about these hospitalizations and surgeries yet had reached out only once—to accuse her mother of faking illness to get attention. Alfonso grieved his wife’s eventual death without his daughter’s presence or support. Until he looked through the old photos, he’d forgotten that at the funeral, he had watched the door, both hoping for and dreading her potential appearance. She hadn’t shown up.

Now nearing age 70, Alfonso knew he and his wife had done their best. He had he had only recently gained a semblance of peace. In the last year, he’d made a few friends and had rekindled his love of tinkering and had begun selling the antique lamps he repurposed into planters and bird feeders. During the busy season, he also still worked part time from the company he had retired from. Alfonso was somewhat contented, had things to look forward to, and enjoyed his life. When he reflected upon the turmoil, both before and after the estrangement, his chest tightened, and his stomach balled into a knot.

“I forgive my daughter,” he says. “But I’m just not willing to sacrifice myself for her anymore.” Alfonso once believed, “I’d never turn away one of my own.” Now, he knows he might have to.

For aging parents of adult children who are mentally ill or otherwise troubled, the price of contact may be more than they’re prepared to or even able to pay. Consider a few more questions.

By reaching out to an ailing or troubled estranged adult child:

  • What message would you be sending?
  • Does making contact imply to your son or daughter that you’re ready, willing, and able to help?
  • What “doors” would you be opening?
  • Energetically, emotionally, and financially, do you have the resources to spare?

What’s right for you?

The edited email was from parents who said their “adult child doesn’t want anything to do with us.” Yet, his illness makes them wonder if now’s the time to reach out. As stated, it’s a question that I frequently hear. Ultimately, the answer is not cut and dried and is not mine to make, but hopefully, I’ve provided some food for thought to assist.

If you’re reading and have some experience to share, consider whether your thoughts may help another parent grappling with this sort of decision. You can leave your comment to the article.

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81 thoughts on “Ask Sheri McGregor: Adult child doesn’t want anything to do with us but now he’s sick

  1. Rosamaria

    I am relatively new (2-1/2years) to this heartbreaking nightmare that I am in. Thank you all for sharing. Reading these comments helps me not feel all alone. Aside from all the pain, crying, depression, not understanding how and why, I find that I just don’t know what to say when family/friends that do not know ask about my estranged daughters? I keep it short and say they are “fine” and try to change subject. Some that do know a little, do not even ask anymore. Either way its sad and takes any steps I have made forward to go back 10 steps. I feel so out of place in social situations that revolve around children/grandchildren. I go into my own bubble and want to leave. I’m great with wearing the happy mask but it’s so exhausting that I don’t want to bother going anywhere anymore. I I know I shouldn’t feel this way but I’m embarrassed, feel like I will be looked at and talked to differently and be met with even more judgement.

    1. Diane H.

      Time will help, Rosamaria, just give your heart time. Remember that people love to talk about themselves, much more than they love to listen. You can be that engaged, interested person. I work with a woman who says she feels cared for when we work together because when we talk about things other than work, I make it all about her. Of course, she would never guess why, but that’s how I get through the day. I then treat myself with a bit of self care, like swimming , getting a facial, or buy a book – an indulgence! So I suppose I have learnt to self care after years of not, and all in all, that’s a positive step forward. Things don’t have to perfect to work or bring calm and even joy. It just comes from yourself for yourself. A worthwhile investment, I think. Best wishes from New Zealand.

    2. Aubrey

      Yes I’m finding it hard to take the next steps to stop my messages for almost 1 year and 6 months estrangement from my daughter. After reading everyone’s messages just looking to get some help on what to do. I’ve been a single mom for 15 years with just me and my daughter. But in between I have had two failed marriages, the last one being abusive. All the relationships I have been in have been somewhat mentally abusive to me. My daughter was a witness to this. Additionally about 5 years ago after a wedding my daughter was acting strange with my father around. I asked her what’s going on. She told me that my father was molesting her. I was terrified. And scared for her. More details involved but the same night I called the police and filed a report. Fast forward 1.5 years he was convicted of 28 felonies all against my daughter and spending life in prison . The pain I have felt and the guilt I have felt for not knowing ate me up. I sheltered her for several years and continued to make bad relationship choices. Had two more beautiful sons. My sister lives next store keep in mind. My daughter would visit her almost everyday.One day my daughter flipped on me and I had never argued with her like that before. It’s like she let it all out. I begged and pleaded for her not to leave as she was my baby girl my life my love my reason for being for 16 and a half years. She left me cut me out moved accross the street with my sister who doesn’t talk to me anymore. Now I’m blamed for being manipulative and exactly like my rapist father. I’ve been in a depression for this whole time. Writing letters and hearing that they are burned and laughed at. sending gifts and money and writing poems. Nothing and no response. So many details. I stay up at night thinking about my daughter missing her crying the pain the heartbreak. God I miss her! But I have tried and tried to put my arms out there. I have apologized over and over. But why do I keep trying when I get no response from her. She will come to me if she wants a relationship with me. I just ordered the books on Amazon that were recommended and I think they will help me get through this. I’ve been very persistent about reaching out to her. Makes me sad but I think she just wants to live life and make her own choices. So I’ll stay out of it until she wants me in. at least I’ll try too. The books will help. I feel better getting this off my mind at 1am California time.

  2. Lydia

    Hi Carrie-Ann, appreciate your post. Found it hard to hear, but also rings true for me. My empathy hasn’t been too empathic as it hurls me repeatedly off the cliff , I must be feline as I’ve survived each impact; sometimes feeling unable to recover.

    Your statement in regards to having THEM present if we were dying, “…I can say I would not want my Peace disturbed by energies I do not Trust…”, brought clarity to many questions I’ve asked myself; thank you for that.

    Today, I’m learning to guard my peace of mind above most everything else. Not letting “titles” dictate a person’s place in my life is a must. Toxicity has been slowly killing me and must be let go, this includes family. They will be Loved from afar. Found & still find this excruciatingly painful to do. However, as time progresses I’m starting to feel so light & free ya’ll ‍♂️

    I thank this group for being willing to share such monumental pain in hopes of helping our sisters & brothers…I am such one.

  3. Diane

    The article about an estranged child being sick, and what to do as the estranged parent, really struck home to me. And the piece about Alfonso and his very sad story about the estranged daughter, was even more powerful for me. The questions that you pose in that piece, Sheri, are actually very valuable as food for thought. In my situation I have actually made the decision to not act or react to any news I might receive about my estranged son as I have realised that it would indeed be “opening doors” that might be hard for me to live with, generating new rounds of stress, fear, abuse, hurt. I have accepted that the current peace and calm in our house is to be cherished, that blowing that wide open to react to something new about my son will destroy all of the progress we have made to get on with our lives. As noted in the Alfonso piece, there has been enough stress, sacrifice and suffering and it would be very dangerous to provoke more. Those closest to me in my family have counseled me that my son “does not want to be found”, so I leave well alone. My husband has many health issues that demand our full attention, and I have just graduated from a set of my own, so we are focusing on being thankful for the peace and quiet, and the chances we have to live a good life without threat of violence, without fear and suspicion, and with now-distant memories of betrayal by one who should have been so close and supportive.
    Thank you Sheri for your monthly messages and for the wise common-sense counsel you offer. I am constantly amazed to find that I am far from alone in this, that there are so many others in a similar position.

    1. Maureen P.

      A well said perspective Diane.
      I certainly am in agreement with your thoughts on this issue.
      My troubled history with my son stemmed from unresolvable harsh times with my daughter-I law.
      My husband and I now have established peace in our lives. We value ourselves and those friends who have been so supportive .
      Wishing you and your husband all the very best

      Sydney Australia

  4. Marie W.

    I am praying for all on this site. I would reach out just so you have the reassurance that at least you tried, no matter how or if your child responds. My daughter suddenly cut herself off from all contact with me 5 years ago when she was 31 after she started a new relationship. She never gave me a reason, there was no big argument or anything. I tried calling and texting at first but no response. She never told me to leave her alone or anything like that, just radio silence. I sent cards and gifts on birthdays and holidays also with no response. She moved 400 miles away to be with her new boyfriend without telling me. Then her birthday card came back to me with, “Return to sender” written in her handwriting and she did the same months later with her Christmas gift. That was it for me. I have never purposely done anything to hurt her but her throwing my gifts back in my face was well thought out and she knew it would hurt me. I will always love and pray for her but all contact from me stopped when she purposely hurt me. I have to take care of me. I pray that one day she reaches out but she will have to initiate it.

    1. Vikki W.

      Like you Marie, I would of thought yes I would reach out. However, I, like Alfonzo, re-read some of my son’s emails to me which changed my mind. He just moved out of our home & into his friends house at 18 with no excuse. I was raising him my only child by myself and he was my world.That was 24 years ago. He is cruel & heartless but his wife tagged along and I am more upset about missing out on my grandchildren lives.
      God forbid he was sick all his family & friends would probably kick me out of the hospital. He told me if I died he wouldn’t feel anything. Destroyed me. Would you even be welcomed if you went to your child?

    2. Bodhi

      Hi Marie,

      I am in a similar situation. My daughter became estranged after she secretly got involved with a very strange sketchy guy. He takes steroids, is narcissistic, and is a body builder who posts disparaging comments on women, in his YouTube channel, very public. They live together and have nothing to do with me for more than a year. There never was a disagreement or fight with me. Just silence. My husband keeps some connection with her, by texting. This has caused a rift in our marriage, but I have to live with it. My husband is so attached to her, he cannot see the truth.
      I have decided to completely stay out of her life, and she is not welcome in my home. I have also changed my will. It’s best to move on, and enjoy people who really care about you. We raised her very well, but I think she always had antisocial problems. It’s tough to accept, I was blindsided. I am now at peace with it.
      I hope you can also move on, and live your best life. My husband is not there yet, but I hope one day he can see the truth.

  5. Carol S.

    My son left when he was 18. He is now 35. I don’t blame him. Long story; I was the scapegoat of my family and have childhood trauma from neglect and abuse. I married someone because I did not want to be alone. He continued the family dynamic of course. However, I changed the rules of the game to survive and started to seek help. My marriage broke down and I was not coping. Husband and family were blaming and hostile to me. Poor kids got the brunt. You know the story. Husband got a new wife. Blamed me for all the problems. He left me with no job and no money and a mortgage, it was awful.
    My son said that when I shouted at him it made him feel like shit. Fair point, and I was a lot to blame for not coping and dysregulated behavior. From his point of view, it does not matter why. I tried really hard to deal with everything but failed. When he was 18 he got away. His father kept in touch with him.
    New wife took my place. I tried to keep in touch for 2 or 3 years. Cheques not cashed and no response at all. Now son has 2 children. I don’t know their names, nor his partner’s name.
    My daughter, was 3 years younger than son and suffered from all the devastation. She drank. I just kept supporting her. She is now 32 and lives with me and is emerging from the past into a happier person now. We are very loving and close. She only drinks on occasion now and has a stable life.
    She does not contact her father or brother. They are ‘friends’ on facebook, so finds out scant information on occasion, but does not use fb much, neither do I.
    A few years ago my son was ill with a brain aneurysm. The wife’s daughter told my daughter. I tried to send a message via fb messenger. It was not read. Ex husband told daughter that my son would be very angry if I was told. I gave up then.
    Nothing will ever heal the pain. My expectations of life, hopes and dreams gone. I am now 68 and alone and lonely. I don’t trust anyone. Everyone I should have expected care from, has not cared. Starting with my mother. I don’t really think it is all my fault, it’s just the way it is. But I do have a quiet life now and can experience peace. I don’t think I will ever hear from my son or grandchildren. It’s not the way I expected my life to be, but, when I can accept the way it is, it hurts less.
    I hope this is not too long, but I never usually talk about this and this seems the opportunity to do that. Thank you

    1. Shirley

      My only child has cut her father and I out of her life. We are elderly and have to accept that we may never see her again. I just want to say that I understand your pain and I wish you peace. Take care.

  6. Theresa D.

    So here is the essence of it for me. I have accepted the estrangement–BUT have I forgiven my estranged daughter for the pain this situation has inflicted? I can honestly say I don’t know. What I do know is that I will always love her with my whole heart. I would reach out. I would always be second guessing myself if I did not.

  7. Kameela

    This is such a difficult question . My first reaction would be to reach out but after reading some comments I’m not sure now. I will now need to consider whether it will cause more stress as I would not want to do that.

  8. B.

    I am “only” 3 years into the official estrangement from our daughter. But, if I am honest, and of course that is all we can and should be, she was pulling away long before the final cut. I have spent the last several years (long before she refused contact) overcome with sadness and worry for her. Confused as to why she wanted only me for everything and then no longer could stand the sight of me. I’ve come to a place where the crying is less- and I understand this: I may not have been the mother she wanted, but I was the mother she needed. She’s doing very well, is a good person and is successful. I played a role in that. I kept her safe and alive during her multiple mental health crises until she could steer the ship herself. And she is. Albeit without me. But that is not mine to own. I see that now. And I’m healing.

    1. Judy W.

      I agree. I was not the mother my two daughters wanted; I was the best mother I was capable of being. I love them dearly; but they are adults now. I have worked hard at moving on because they have not responded or contacted me in three years. I met a wonderful man, re-married, have worked even harder at my career. I have thrust myself into loving my new family and making new memories. I let my daughters know my new address. But they never respond. I am going to make new memories and enjoy the rest of my life. I am 64. They have chosen to shut me out. I have heard it loud and clear. I have to live on. I decided to do that. I AM making wonderful memories with the rest of my life.

      1. Janine A.

        God bless you, Judy W. I’m so happy to hear you are enjoying your new life. I’m 64, too, and have been estranged from my daughter (it hurts just to say it) for 10 years. I trust that God is working everything—even this—for my good. It has forced me to find my true identity. I am a child of God, dearly loved and cared for. I don’t understand this unloving stance but, by God’s grace, accept it. It’s not my choice. And I put the relationship in His Hands. This is my experience. Your words and outlook give me hope.

    2. Toni

      Hi B,

      I feel your pain, I’m going on 5 years with my estranged daughter. I’ve got two grandchildren, that I’ve not seen either. I do a journal to the two grandchildren, but even when i write to them it’s still hard, but it helps me have some kind of connection with them. With me the pain and hole in the heart will never go away. But with Sheri and all of the other parents and helps me know that I’m not alone. It gives me support and claimness. I guess I’m a bit naive, but I probably will never give up hope.
      And yes, it’s so common nowadays with adult estranged children and parents. The moral and value in family has gone south, sadly.!
      Hugs to all you parents, stay strong and be happy. :)))

    3. Karen K.

      Yes!! Very similar story…I am 12 years into it..I am a Christian so, will always hope , that the Prodigals will come home. But I know God loves our daughter and so do I ,but not at the cost of me. Blessings

      1. Louise

        Yes it’s awful but I am better because I love my daughter from
        A distance. That helps.. I only have so many years left as I age.. I dint want the last years to be miserable.

  9. Kathie L

    My estranged adult son suffered a severe injury recently. I instantly knew I wanted to offer him love, support and encouragement. I forgot about the past. I realize my reaction to this crisis is not for everyone. I have always loved my children unconditionally. I have another estranged adult son. I’m not certain if my response to him would be the same. It’s a different reason for the separation. I reached out to my adult grandson; I fear he has been affected by so many untruths about me since his childhood that I am not surprised at his response.

  10. Diane M.

    Gosh, I never thought about what if my estranged daughter, adult grandkids or son-in-law became seriously ill. I have no idea if anyone would even notify me. Right now, I don’t think anyone would! I’ve had two surgeries that my ED was aware of and never asked how I was. Now, I hear absolutely nothing from them. I’m almost 73, and they don’t seem to care how I am. I do wish them all well, but doubt I would ever hear from ANY of them. This makes me sad. I would send “good wishes” in thoughts to them. So much time has passed. But who knows how I would react if it ever came down to this. Right now, I feel different than how I might in a future date. So, for now, I’ll just go with, “never say never.” Wishing you all the best in your recovery from hurt and disappointment. Be very gentle with yourself. Plan a new, good life just for YOU!

    1. Lydia

      Thank you. I’m working on that new life at 68 yrs between the tears. Hard to move on as kids have been my life since 20 yrs old. Have four estranged kids along with 3 grandkids & and my great grandson. One of the hardest things in my life. As time passes and my perspective shifts I’m no longer certain I would be able to accept them back into life, to my astonishment. They treated me beyond horrible. Still working on forgiveness of them & self. May your own pain diminish with each breath you take

  11. sue

    I have two children, a son, and a daughter who have both been estranged, my son for 10 years and my daughter for five.
    I have spent these years agonizing over what has caused this and what I’ve done wrong, and I have tried many times to figure this out and have made attempts at contacts in the form of letters, text messages, cards, gifts, etc.
    I’ve gotten nothing in return.
    This year I made a decision to release them into the universe, and to honor their wishes to have no contact. It broke my heart to do this, but I found it also to helps to begin my healing journey.
    While looking over every little detail of anything that ever happened between myself and my kids, I started to research the other end of this, why do adult children estrange from their parents? And I found that it is an alarming epidemic.
    On social media, there are many many adult children who are not only cutting off all ties from their parents, but they are encouraging others to do the same. The only reason they need is if their parents do not support them 110% in anything that they want to do. They label those parents as toxic and tell those online “friends“ to get them out of their lives as soon as possible, because they are “toxic.“
    Many of these adult children are stating that these online groups are there only friends, their only contact and they are bonding with them so heavily that they are turning to them for their decision making.
    They are being guided, and helped in making the decision to get their parents out of their lives. I was stunned by what I was seeing.
    When I made a few innocuous, or so, I thought, comments, I was attacked viciously, saying that I have no idea how harmful toxic parents can be. Sometimes the things the adult children were complaining about and calling their parents toxic for were the usual things that we grew up with. A boyfriend, a lifestyle, change, arguments, etc.
    The message that they are pushing is that you don’t need anyone in your life who is not there for you in every single way every single minute every single time. And if they are not, get them out of your lives now.
    The overall message I was saying was that these young adults are eliminating anything, and anyone that they saw that did not fully serve their purpose, although it wasn’t clear what their purpose was. I feel very sad because it seemed to me they were just looking for love and acceptance and of course with social media. There’s plenty of that going around, but it doesn’t seem viable or lasting. I mean I could be wrong and maybe social media has replaced family.

    1. lydia

      Hi, thanks for sharing that. I heard about that but haven’t researched. I would like to. Would u be willing to share some sites regarding this? Thanks.

    2. Lynn W.

      Sue, I agree. I will take this one step further. One side of my family has a pattern of estrangement from parents, mostly the sons. I am one of those people, although thanks to my daughter-in-law I see my son maybe twice per year; they live nearby. I always felt that teenagers pulling away from parents has a biological component, so they can grow up to become independent adults. But I am wondering– given some of the poor excuses I’ve read in social media by the ones doing the estrangement – if, given that kids today grow up later and people live longer — perhaps there is a biological component wherein some adult offspring feel an inexplicable need to be free and independent of their parents. Perhaps in its perplexity, even to the offspring, they grasp for an explanation of their own feelings, and dig up something — anything– to justify their feelings and their estrangement. Social media then serves to amplify all of it. Just some thoughts. Be well, Sue.

  12. emily38

    Good morning from a veteran who hopes she might be one of Sheri’s soldiers. Like Cathy writes above, I too am finished with this battle (we are near the same age). The first skirmishes began for my family more than 25 years ago too.

    We can’t know with certainty what we would do in any future situation. But we have our past and our present that inform us of who we are today, how we might behave and what course of action we might choose (or hope to choose) in a setting yet to happen.

    Here’s what I’ve learned in earning my stripes. Regardless the battle, whatever the individual and unique-to-each parent conflict with estranged or alienated ‘children might be, achieving relative peace is the parent’s responsibility. Only the parent.

    Reaching our military discharge from active duty is a long and challenging term of service. We gain our separation papers, through therapy, prayer, time, reflection, reading here especially and more time. Always time. We come to understanding the separation is timely, we leave on schedule with papers to prove it. And leave the battlefield behind.

    Yes, the peace can be fragile, as Cathy writes. No longer is the issue about whatever the child did but what the parent will do. For themselves, about themselves, about their own lives, their personhood, their futures and their well-being.

    The work to separate, to see clearly, to give ourselves permission to no longer be an active parent but to be in relationship with another adult who was once our ‘child’ takes what it takes. This is where Sheri’s work and support is the army-manual for devastated parents. Ultimately, we bind our own wounds, stop the bleeding for ourselves. We stop focusing on what those ‘children’ did’ and tend to our own lives. They will have to tend to their own.

    All by way of telling Alfonso there isn’t one right way to address his question except to ask him in return: what do you need to do to be at peace with yourself with this situation? That’s what this journey really is about…….easy to say and so difficult to do.

    Thank you Cathy for prompting my thoughts, and always thanks to Sheri for her belief in the possibilities for all of us.

    1. lydia

      Very thought provoking and helpful. I copied & saved your post. Thank you and MANY heartfelt thanks for your service to our Country

    2. Bodhi

      Thank you Emily, your thoughts are compelling. And thank you to Sheri, you are helping incredibly, to move on and live my life, after all the pain.

  13. Anette H

    Thank you for this letter Sheri. I was starting to feel sad because it’s my birthday and I don’t expect to hear from my youngest daughter who just went radio silent on me about a year ago. Apart from a quick thank you when I sent her money a couple of times. I love her dearly and miss her but am slowly accepting that she is 26 yrs old and an adult and is making her own choices. My eldest daughter was estranged for years and I worked hard for a reconciliation which happened 18 months ago but it’s all down to me to contact and reach out still. She refuses to call me mum but has tattooed Dad on her arm. My youngest will not tell me her new address. Both my daughters are very close to and influenced by their dads who have the power and inclination to manipulate. I try hard to be healthy in my relationships now and have changed. But they see me through they filter if the past. I was always feeling guilty and believed everything’s my fault and you know they say you teach people how to treat you. I took all the blame that was thrown my way, could never stand up for myself. I chose domineering men and my daughters are more comfortable with the familiarity of that instead of a mutually respectful relationship with me and it breaks my heart. However, I will respect their choices and spend some time today with my loving son and his girlfriend and wish my daughters the best and sending them love and blessings.

  14. Shari D.

    I have accepted and surrendered to my lone journey that my estranged kids don’t want me in their lives. I still reach out to let them know I’m here for them. I do it for me! I Don’t expect any replies back. If and when I pass, they can never say I didn’t try. And if my child was dying yes I would reach out for me! You do what is right as a mom. You do it for you! They will have to live with their consequences! I choose to be a host to god then be a hostage to my ego.

    1. Dorothy S.

      Shari, I can relate with what you shared. It has imprinted my own reflections. May I share?

      I used to reach out hoping this time I would be found acceptable and worthy by my oldest only to always fall way short of his expectations. I would never say or do anything that was ok to him. After enough efforts reaching out only to be ghosted and blamed for his behaviors something inside of me realized just say what I need to say for me and reach out if it’s what I needed to do for me free from any expectation that it will make any difference in the situation. But if I reach out or write and it stems out of love and compassion done out of my connection with God then I gave myself what I needed and did not get what I needed from my son.

      If anything should happen to either of us and there is no chance to get closure I can rest knowing I tried when I felt that is what I needed to do and didn’t when I felt that is what was needed within me. I said what I needed to say even if he can’t hear me or receive it. It’s like talking to someone who is in a coma. You do not know they hear or understand but as long as it’s of the highest quality go ahead and say what you need to say. As long as I keep pursuing getting told the same thing over and over when it’s all he can see because he can’t hear me then it’s futile to keep saying the same thing. After enough attempts to try and communicate I realize he can’t receive anything accept perceive it as criticism. I stopped blaming myself and ceased taking onto me what he can not see or own inside of him. This morning I gave myself closure. His personality I can’t change. But I can stop pursuing people who choose not to have a relationship with me for whatever reason if all attempts on my part are met with gaslighting and projection on their’s. I used to place everyone above me pushing myself down. Now I realize the meaning of “Love God first with your whole heart and mind, then love yourself through God, then love your neighbor as yourself.” I loved everyone above myself and tried to love myself through those I placed above me. It was out of order. Now I love myself and have my sense of worth through only One. That love flows into me as source. Then I can love another as myself not out of need but out of wholeness. I hold them in my heart but I learned to detach with love. Focus on my life and stop obsessing about what I am powerless over which is another. I only have power over what I choose to say and do. If it comes out of my connection with God who is love then I can rest with that. I honored my relationship with God, self and causes no harm to myself or the other. Love covers it. Then I feel that love coming from within me even if it can’t be returned by them. I am the source of that love. It’s inside of me. That will never leave me. Love is the strongest and truest reality. The rest is Hilda wounding being expressed. I understand. But I no longer take it on. It’s not about me. I know who I am. I cleaned my side of the street. I am left with the only person who won’t abandon me again; myself.

  15. T

    My 25 yo son has been estranged since 2017. He was diagnosed with cancer in late 2021. I did reach out with no response. I felt as though if I didn’t, God forbid, then he may think I didn’t care. Or love him. My ex was the one to tell me and made it very clear that he had to get our son’s permission since he wasn’t a minor. I don’t know if my reaching out was right or wrong. I just know that my first born received a cancer diagnosis and my gut said nothing but love. I wanted my son to know his mother loved him.

  16. Margi

    My situation is similar but different. My AS and I have been estranged for five years. I divorced his mentally ill father many years ago. The acorn did not fall far from the tree.
    His father had dementia and was in a nursing home. I heard recently that he had died and I gave serious thought to writing a sympathy note and finally decided that I would do the right thing, knowing that he would not respond. It was a very nice note saying that out of the three children his father had (2 from a previous marriage) that he did the right thing by being there for him until the end.
    I also said to remember that he still has a caring mother if he ever chooses to find her again.
    Reaching out in a positive way has made me feel convinced that I did the right thing. I do not respect any response but that is his problem, not mine.

  17. Cathy

    Because I had contemplated the very situation this writer struggles with, I read Sheri’s comments and other reader responses. I am an “old timer” at this estrangement game. I’m in my late 70’s and my sons have been estranged from me for 35 years since my divorce from their father. Then, not surprising, history repeated itself with my adult grandchildren. I gave my all those years to the cost of both physical and mental health. Now, however, I am finally done. I concur with others comments and I say no more precious energy on these children who are toxic to our lives. Please know how much strength I have drawn from this group, for being brave enough to share your pain so I know I am not alone in mine. When I have moments when I fear I may “slip down the rabbit hole” again, I go to Sheri’s soldiers and rise up proud of what I have overcome. God bless you all.

    1. pam

      I read your reply a million times. thank you for sharing. you made this ol’ rejected mom feel a bit lighter tonite. i too go to Sheri’s soldiers and tonite – it was you. God bless.

  18. Anne M.

    In a heartbeat. Yes. I’d reach out. I’d go. I’d get on a plane or ship. I wish I could get to where Mano of you are, but I cannot. 2022 was my all-time worst.year.ever. I cried every day. I’m learning to live with the estrangement of my 2 oldest. Number 3 is coming around some – she wants me when she wants me (helping with her dog.) I am being used and I’m beyond caring about that. I am not pitiful. I am loved, appreciated and admired by many. I do a lot to make life nice for other people. I have a deep faith which sustains me. My husband (their father) is rock hard solid and a gem! I am blest. But I’ll never not miss my kids. A word to those who have a deep faith: the evil one divides and is so happy to cause division in families. My youngest son is very close to me and my husband – his dad. He has a deep faith too. It sustains us, but our faith also makes us a target. I am consoled by St. Monica. Maybe she can hrr we love you too.

    1. Dorothy S

      Our faith sustains and knowledge guides along with wisdom. The bond between mothers and children never goes away. I know St, Monica prayed for her wayward son for twenty five years and look at what happened to him one day.

      What I learned is we can’t fix another person. As minors they were ours to guide and care for. As adults they belong to God and need to deal with their issues just like we did. Generational stuff flows. I passed on stuff but I also rode above it all to break the familiar cycle. Now k can pass on the solution. But only if they want it. No one wanted it for me. I had to choose it for myself.

      I realize we can be held hostage to the past by immature wounded adult children. There is a great quote, “When the devil reminds you of your past remind it of its future.” Some of the words spiritual warfare arises in the family especially when one decides to break the cycle and become healthier. The focus needs to be on us. For me I am done crying and hurting. I will always love my estranged child but not above mystic or equal to God.

    2. Barbara H.

      I agree with you, Anne! I would get on the next plane to my ED.
      My worst year was 2021, and I probably cried every day as well, missing our daughter so much. My husband and I have been working through some hurt feelings and misunderstandings with our son and DIL, and are making a lot of progress. We see both of them often but there’s been distance between the four of us that needs resolving. None of us knew what was wrong with our ED during the month of March 2021and why she was having delusions and hallucinations and engaging in dangerous behavior. All of this created so much tension!
      You are absolutely correct that the enemy DIVIDES. I pray daily that God BANISH the enemy from my ED and that she will be RESTORED to our family.

  19. Annemarie

    Tough question. I honestly don’t know what I would do. If it was a serious enough illness,I would probably reach out. The worst my ES could do is reject me again. If he died, I would have to live with guilt for not trying. I have to take care of myself too and part of that care is doing right by my conscience. I view him as a spoiled, selfish toddler only thinking of himself. I’m the strong,mature mom who has to rise to the occasion. Praying for this family. God guide you and give you peace whatever you decide…

  20. LB

    Wow! My daughter decided to be estranged from us since September 2017. We had tried to reach out to her after that with cards/gifts – no response. Since she never sent anything back we thought there was some hope of discussion/conversation…why is she ignoring us…In April 2020 we received a Cease and Desist letter. We never phoned her nor showed up at her apartment…We don’t know what prompted such a drastic measure…So we have not tried to make any contact…Is there no path for reconciliation? We can only guess that she has adopted an alternate lifestyle and just doesn’t want to tell us – just cut us off completely….She’s not a youngster. She’s in her 30’s. Only God knows…WIll we die never seeing nor hearing from her again? Will she ever reconsider her behavior?

    1. Marcia C.

      Hi and someone needs to see my words, maybe can help, not sure .. My Son got into major trouble when my Mom died and he at the age of 18 got and spent over $250 thousand dollars/ran out of it within 3-4 months and kept on … writing bad checks. Used “my name” and or referenced it because of my status in the community. I tried to help him get all of it settled and NO …..
      Someone had introduced him into “another life style” and to this day can not find who did that but it started when he was about 11 or 12 years old .. moving right along .. he ran out of money but his quest/greed he found an easy way to get what he wanted and he moved forward after trying to tap all of my friends telling them he was really concerned about me and my health/mental health they believed him. Why? because he was my Son and I did not share any of his abilities to CON people.
      I did not talk to him and or try to get in touch with him until I found him on FB I had a sense within me to contact him/I did. His words were not good/abusive. Several emails later I wrote him and said you really should own up to all the stuff you have done and the people you have hurt/lies you have told before GOD tells you. That was in the end of August … I had a very bad felling through September/October/November about him. The authorities/Law where he lived were alerted about *something was not right and they broke down the front door and found him dead, he had been there for a week or so ………….. He died from HIV/Aides (sp) at the age of 41. As far as I am concerned he “commited suicide”. “Karma” ?? or GOD told him .. ??????
      No one can help someone that knows it all .. greed/wanted what he wanted/what ever it took to do it, get it.
      I could not have ever stopped him ………….

      1. rparents Post author


        Your posting is helpful to another parent. Your final words (“I could not have stopped him.”) are true of some. They cannot be stopped from hurting themselves, blowing through money, substances, pepple….

        Hugs to you dear Marcia.

        Sheri McGregor

      2. Su

        No you could not have stopped him. When I think of All the famous suicides I hear about. People who seemed full of life and personality like Anthony Bordain, I always immediately think of that person’s mother and how terribly they must be suffering. To help ease her pain, Bourdain’s mother got a tattoo with his name. I am so

    2. Kate

      I think this demonstrates why well meaning but misguided therapist recommendations to reach out with cards etc. when you are the one hurt and rejected can backfire. They need to reach out to you. Reach out when not in need of something.
      Otherwise you are just taking advantage of an opening they would not otherwise have offered , and might not still be offering.

  21. Anna

    I’ve already made my decision that I Would Not visit my two adult children (in their early fifties now) should they become sick. They have been astranged from me since I remarried 15 years ago, at which time they wanted me to take care of their psychopathic father because he was a handful! As a result, they kicked me out of their lives including any contact with my beautiful grandkids! My sorrow was debilitating & when I underwent an almost fatal spine injury (during surgery!) with a long painful recovery, they never called or sent me a get well card. That was a wake up call to me! They have also triangulated with a hateful aunt (my evil sister) who sided with their father & all have enjoyed my loss. Now I focus on my loving life with a husband from heaven & allow my children to be as cruel as their father & aunt! I’ve learned that children come through us Not from us & that we cannot control their actions or thoughts once they are adults. I have alot to write about the evils of patriarchy & selfish children that were once the world to me. I am grateful for this website that gives rejected parents a chance to share to share our losses with each other.

    1. ilene

      The remarks from Anna were enlightening and truthful. I have been estranged from my AD for 3 yrs. She does communicate with her father, who initially tried to get us to reconcile, however,when that failed he simply stopped. My husband and I do have a loving relationship and he has expressed it hurts him that he could not get her to sit and talk things out to reconcile. During this time I have had 2 surgeries. They were “simple” out patient procedures but I was put under anesthesia, being in the medical profession I have learned anytime you have surgery it is of concern. At no time did she contact me or even tell her father to give me her best wishes for a speedy recovery. My husband was extremely caring and supportive. I have learned there is nothing I can do about the situation so I do not believe I would reach out to her, if ( as stated GOD forbid) she becomes ill. I was the one when she was growing up who was always there with a warm hug, took care of anything and everything she wanted or needed and cared for her when she was ill. If she asked for my help I would give it, but ONLY if she approached me directly not through her father. All my best thoughts and wishes to all of you. This is a wonderful forum to come together for support. May GOD continue to hold all of you in the palm of HIS/HER hand.

      1. Su

        Thank you for sharing and especially for mentioning God/Goddess. Not enough of us are raised to see that the dieties have male and female attributes.

    2. effie

      Anna, Triangulation has been a big part of my family issues. Favoritism for sure ( not me or my youngest daughter) Who can give the most parties, trips, excursions, and corporate ladder status,..they are the winners. Myself a somewhat hillbilly mom now, after they have all left their stay-at-home mom’s nest and gone to college, and much too busy to call, text, or check-in. Hey mom how are you? Need anything? ( sorry that was my dream speaking out loud) self-pity? Maybe? Broken hearted YEP! I try to walk away emotionally again , for months, and the moment I gain strength they come in for a swift moment, BUT I must remember the rules. Don’t speak, don’t have any opinion, and don’t expect them for another year. (They live over 1/2 hour away, and they are very busy.
      I fight emotions daily. It sounds like most of us do. Good days, bad days, and desperate days..

    3. Elaine T.

      By not visiting our estranged child if they are seriously ill are we not bringing ourselves down to their level. We are better than that.
      Maybe we can msged the child and ask if we can visit or if there is anything we can do to help them in their sickness. If they do not reply we have done all we can and can live with ourselves ifnthevworst happens. Elaine

    4. Jennifer

      I too am very thankful for this site Anna! Thank you so much for sharing your story helped me as I sit here crying just wishing none of us ever had to go through any of this. But here we are. I am thankful for each and every one of you. {{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}

  22. Josette T.

    I have gained so much from these articles. I am estranged from 2 of my children. If I left their father right now I would be accepted with open arms. I will not give in to their demands. I have cried and been depressed for too long. The hardest part is not being able to see my 3 grandchildren, whom I was very close to. It’s been a year without one and it has been on and off with the other 2 for about 2 years. If either one of these adults were to become ill, I would not reach out. I have some major issues with my health and neither one checks on me. So I have given myself permission to move on and be around those that want me for who I am.

    1. Barbara H.

      Our daughter has been estranged from from her dad (my husband) for 2-1/2 years. She has some contact with our DIL and has had no contact with me and her brother (our son) since March. Like you, if I left my husband our ED would accept me fully back into her life and renew communication. Basically, she will communicate with anyone in the family who will estrange themselves from my husband. But no one agrees to do this. So she chooses to be estranged not only from me, her brother and her dad, but also all of her aunts, uncles, cousins and aging grandparents – on both sides of the family and is pretty much estranged from everyone. Like you, I won’t give in to her demands. I am sad for myself, but more sad for my husband and son, who are so broken up over this estrangement.
      I’m so sorry, Josette, about your inability to see your grandchildren. I can only imagine how painful that would be. And your health issues as well! I’m glad that you have supporting, accepting people in your life!

  23. m. e.

    If we think about the choice as “all or nothing” (i.e., go visit/give money etc. or do not contact at all), we follow our estranged children’s irrational “black/white” thinking which leads them to conclude “I hate my parent, they are awful, never want anything to do with them” etc (extreme hate, instead of not liking something about us but not rejecting us completely).
    Had my ED been in great distress, I would not allow her hurtful behavior towards me to dictate what I choose to do. I will make a decision for me for once; I know that years after that crisis, I would question whether or not avoiding reaching out during her crisis had been wise. In the spirit of taking care of me, I much prefer to send a message to my ED that expresses my having her in my mind and heart while she is in crisis. I would add that I regret that our relationship is such that I have decided to not reach out beyond this, so as to not add stress to her life and mine. I would express my sorrow (assuming I felt that way) and wishes for peace.
    After 10 years of estrangement, I no longer allow my painful scenario with my daughter to define who I am; I am determined to continue being the caring, accepting, loving human being that I have always been, whether my ED believes I am or not.

    1. Maureen W.

      The situation you laid out is an inspiration to me. Thank you for helping me to think of my situation in a way that is not black or white. Bless you, Maureen

  24. Jennifer S.

    I can only comment that more than 10 years have passed since my AC became estranged from my family. Recently I sent a letter to him asking him to consider contacting us so his 18 month-old child could meet the great grandfather who will soon be turning 102 years old. I hoped to hear something in return, but I did not. I weighed all the issues addressed above and know that I don’t want to deal with the drama that would ensue from inlaws if my AC were to reach back out to us.

  25. Jan K

    I would not reach out in these circumstances. If the parents who are the subject of this article had stage 4 cancer would their son reach out to them? If the answer is no, then they should not reach out to him. If he wanted them he would definitely reach out and that would be the reason to go to him.

  26. Marie

    Good morning to all, after reading Sheri’s post, I paused and gave it much thought. My estranged daughter knows me through and through, I read her bedtime stories, took her to kindergarten on her first day, dressed her well, helped her with broken hearts, with marriage and divorce, gave her everything she ever asked for including loving her, I loved her so much, she knows what kind of person I am, God forbid that she ever gets sick, I pray she never does, but if ever, she would have to do the reaching out, she knows I would be there for her. The hurt she caused me is overpowering my reaching out, it will always have to come from her. I have even given my second daughter instructions that if anything happens to me, she is not to contact her in any way, even in death. She has no idea if I’m in good health or not, so why should she be contacted if something happens to me. I have come to accept that I will never hear from her while I’m living or even hear from my grandchildren, I’ve cried for years, now I’m done with the crying. It’s actually the book that has helped me along with prayers. If I sound bitter, I am not, I am just done. Good luck to all. I truly enjoy the newsletters. Best regards to Sheri and to all of you who are hurting…….

  27. Sophia

    I have accepted that my estranged daughter would not reach out if she knew I was ill. I would not reach out to her, because it’s more then likely she would insult of ignore me.

    She has a mental illness but refuses treatment. She’d rather blame me for her issues rather then seek professional help.

    It saddens me that one of us could die while estranged. I do not control that.

    So, I keep her in my prayers. I wish her well.

    We all need to prioritize our own health & happiness,

    This has been into year 3 of estrangement, & I am stronger, wiser, healthier & happier. I’ve found my sense of humor again, I know what is unacceptable behavior & my boundaries.

    PS—I reconnected with a family member after 12 years of estrangement. It is a constant eggshell walk. I keep it light.

    1. Michelle

      Your post really resonates with me, and has been helpful – thank you. I’m not quite there yet, but almost. We can heal.

  28. Nell

    This is such a helpful article! I have often thought about reaching out, again, but I am aware that it could be quite detrimental to my mental health. I have the same kind of daughter as Alfonso, who is now in her mid thirties. I’ve been welcomed back into her life, chewed up and spat out! A daughter who I always thought I was very close to. The pain of the situation is gone and I’m getting on with my life. I’ll always leave the “ door ajar” but I don’t think reaching out is safe anymore! This article confirms it – Thankyou Sheri x

  29. Peony

    I am grateful to see this subject addressed. I had already decided that I would not be reaching out in this instance (God forbid it should happen) and questioned whether or not I was being unreasonable. This post confirms I did in fact carefully consider all of those questions before making my decision. It may be hard to push down the instinct to want to comfort and actively care for my EC in urgent situations, which is why I need to make all important decisions when emotions aren’t running high. I’ve made the best decision for all involved. Thank you, Sheri.

  30. Carrie-Ann

    Good Morning Beloved Ones…

    Reading Beautiful Sheri’s Post concerning reaching out to One’s estranged adult children who are in need…(as if we haven’t already done this time and time again only to be used & discarded.)…As with most things, these decisions are personal and individual…It does help immensely to share these concerns with each other…

    I can also relate as to how I feel and/or would feel if I was ill or at transition’s door…I can say I would not want my Peace disturbed by energies I do not Trust…I feel spiritually connected to the Heart of each of these Loved Ones…but not on the physical plane…Past experience has shown time and time again these beings are not to be Trusted or relied upon…Due to hidden and/or blatant motives & agendas…They simply were not…are not…and will not be there for One in need…Don’t let Your empathy drive You off a cliff…I say this with many past…present…and future tears… Go Within For Wisdom…Guidance…Clarity…& Discernment…

    May Beautiful Sheri…Each Beloved One In This Healing Community… and Each Beloved Estranged Adult Child All Be Blessed In Body…Mind…& Spirit In Divine Gratitude, Carrie-Ann

      1. Ruiner

        I’ve read every comment that has been posted here on this topic. I came away with the conclusion that each situation is truly unique and requires a unique response. I’d just like to weigh in with my thoughts from my personal experience with estrangement. If my son were terminal, I would not reach out to him. His estrangement over seven years has taught me that he has absolutely no value on any relationship with me. If he were to get a terminal diagnosis, I really believe he would continue to not be in contact with me. In his world, I cease to exist. He’s at peace about that. As for me, he ceases to exist as well. I no longer have any feelings for him.,I don’t hate him and I don’t love him. I feel nothing as if he were a stranger that I never met. Metaphorically, he is a stranger. He’s nothing like the son I raised. His outward appearance is familiar, but everything else about him unfamiliar and hurtful. He’s so changed that he just feels like a stranger.

        On the very outside chance that he were to reach out to me if he were seriously ill I would simply act like the Good Samaritan in the Bible. I would compassionately minister to him as if he were a stranger because that is exactly what he is, a stranger.


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