Cut off by adult children and lonely

cut off by adult childrenCut off by adult children? You may feel lonely, but you’re not alone

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Many parents cut off by adult children feel all alone. The reasons for estrangement are often uncertain, and are varied. Divorce, parental alienation syndrome, drugs, an influential love interest…. Situations can be complex, and circumstances are unique. Regardless, parents cut off by adult children can feel isolated.

If you’re all alone or lonely this Valentine’s Day—or any day—take heart. Not only are you one of many in similar straits, but it’s even possible to see your alone time in a whole new light.

Valentine’s Day—and any day

Parents cut off by adult children may be emotionally exhausted and feel as if life is passing them by. They’re exhausted by their lack of power to fix the relationship. Estranged adult children ignore efforts to reconcile, or respond with icy words or actions that make it clear: they’re not interested in a healthy relationship.

cut off by adult childrenWhat’s worse, parents cut off by adult children can start to feel as if they don’t fit in anywhere anymore.  While friends share tales of sweet grandchildren presenting valentines with too much pasty glue, rejected parents ache for that connection, and worry they’re being maligned to grandchildren they deeply miss. Yet sharing their circumstances may be met with blank stares or judgmental comments. Arms fold. People look away and sit back in their chairs. Nobody seems to understand. “It’s enough to make you feel like a leper,” one mother explained. “That’s why I avoid people now.”

In reaching out for support and sharing your circumstances, you may have been met with blank stares or hurtful questions (What did you do to cause that?). Arms fold. People look away. Nobody seems to understand. You may feel as if you just don’t fit in anymore.

“It’s enough to make you feel like a leper,” one mother explained. “I avoid people now.”

cut off by adult childrenThese sad, isolating feelings can start to be the “new normal.” Be careful of letting estrangement get the better of you. As described in my recent article, you can positively shape your new normal to move forward in your life. How you look at loneliness can help.

Cause and effect

If you’re hungry, getting something to eat is the natural response. Thirsty? Get a drink. Why then, when you’re lonely, is enjoying the people’s company more complicated?

After my estranged son cut off the family, social situations became more difficult. All around me was the tinkling of glasses, the bubbling of conversations, the rise and fall of laughter…. I felt like an outsider. Similar to Lila, talked about in a previous article, I was disillusioned. It was difficult to trust.

My feelings mirrored those of this mother, quoted here from the pages of Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children:

“Sometimes, I even wonder if my own friends doubt me, like they’re measuring everything I say or do against the estrangement, and wondering if it was really my fault.”

Other parents cut off by adult children spoke of putting up emotional walls and shutting people out. Thousands shared what boils down to a pervasive fear of emotionally investing. They worry they will be hurt again. This sort of self-preservation is natural for hurting parents cut off by adult children. But it can also be unhealthy.  And the truth is, if you’ve been cut off by adult children, you are not alone.

cut off by adult childrenParents cut off by adult children: Join the club

Kind parents who did their best—yet were cut off by adult children—are everywhere. They work at your doctor’s office and sit in the pews of your church. They are your neighbors and are maybe even your friends. But they may not have told you. They’re suffering in silence, feeling all alone, and afraid to share. They may even look at you and think that you couldn’t possibly understand.

There’s a section in the book about sharing, and then steering other people’s responses. Talking about estrangement will help make known the reality of just how many decent, loving parents are cut off by adult children. You may be at a point when you’re more than willing to share, as I often do. Maybe you’ll even work toward informing society as has been done with this quilt by an estranged mother. Educating the public about this social issue that affects so many is a topic for another day. For now, let’s get back to the individual experience of feeling lonely, on Valentine’s Day, or on any day.

Solitude: Put being alone in a new light

Recently, a young father in his early thirties told me he missed having time alone. His children played nearby, their “watch me, Daddy” and “look what I can do” call-outs making us smile. This father said he realizes that one day they won’t be calling him to watch. He wasn’t contemplating estrangement, of course. Unless they’ve been touched by estrangement, parents of tiny tots rarely do. But he knows they’ll be busy in their own lives someday. And he’s planning ahead for that time.

“I know a lot of older people who waste their solitude feeling sad,” he said. “They’re free, they’re healthy, and they have a lot to offer. But some sit and wait for their family to come around.” He grinned. “And then I know others who learn to play guitar, continue to work, make things, or walk miles and pick up street trash to clean up the neighborhood. They’re happy and talk to people all along the way.” His eyes twinkling, he pointed to his heart as he spoke. “I like being around those people. They have so much knowledge and experience to share.”

I couldn’t help smiling at this young man’s passionate words. He must do a lot of deep thinking while his youngsters play on the monkey bars and swings. He’s enjoying his time with them now, but he’s already valuing the solitude that’s yet to come.

I thought about what he said. Part of me believes he can’t understand these older people’s plight. Still, he makes a good point. If you’re alone, do you value your solitude? Do you use time, and your freedom, wisely?

Parents cut off by adult children: The challenge

I know it’s difficult. It takes effort to reclaim confidence and adjust to a new future. But it is possible, even alone, to change, to grow, and to embrace a new way of life that’s healthy and good.

My book includes tools to help parents cut off by adult children see their feelings and in a new light. You can build on confidence from previous hardships you’ve overcome. You can recognize and give yourself credit for any ways you’ve grown since the estrangement began. It’s okay to admit any positives. There’s no need for guilt.

All alone? Not really.

Feeling lonely may be more miserable in a society that’s so connected. But when it comes to estrangement, you’re really not alone at all. If you’re looking for support and camaraderie from people who understand, “like” my facebook page for estranged parents, or join the conversation in “comments” that follow nearly every post here.  And sign up for my newsletter (the sign up form is at the bottom of the page–scroll down and sign up!)

You’re not alone among the thousands of other parents cut off by adult children. Mothers and fathers who have been estranged for years share their experiences to help others heal. In the safe company of others who understand, parents of estranged adult children may begin to feel more confident again. And in time, feel more social, and willing to risk getting out among friends and making new ones.

Be your own Valentine?cut off by adult children

Love comes in many forms. Let’s broaden Valentine’s Day to include love of neighbor and kindness to self. Take a moment to smile. You might make someone else’s day. And if you do that for another, you’ll be doing it for yourself.

Related articles:

Reinvent Yourself

Spreading Happiness

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22 thoughts on “Cut off by adult children and lonely

  1. Carrie-Ann

    Candleinthewind, after reading your reply to Nikki, I went to Amazon Audible and used this month’s credit to purchase the book “Nothing,” by Janne Teller. Thank You ever-so-much for sharing this. I would also love to share the following book which has empowered me throughout time since 2002 when it was published. (I have the cd and book.) The title is “WHEN THINGS FALL APART…HEART ADVICE FOR DIFFICULT TIMES,” BY PEMA CHODRON. (She has written other empowering books also).
    I do so look forward to listening to the book “Nothing”…So, using a pun, “Thanks for “Nothing…” LOL…
    In Gratitude & Friendship,
    Carrie-Ann

    Reply
    1. candleinthewind

      Thank you Carrie-Ann, I will have a look at your book suggestion. I know that reading helps to concentrate/discipline my mind on something that helps, with less time given to dwelling on the negatives/things I have no control over.

  2. Nikki

    Thank you for your reply Sheri. Yes I have integrity and am string, but that is not easing the terrible lonliness Im going through. I know my children love me, but they have no time for me. You can be the best mother and have uncaring adult kids or the worst mother with kids who worship you. No one knows how things turn out, however good a job you did to bring them up. My sons in laws get the grandaughter. The wife dictates..this lonliness is going to kill me eventually. I’ve tried everything there is. Joining clubs. Walking. Reading. Church. But I still come home alone and live with disappointment and hurt..I don’t want to be strong. I want people to be strong for me.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      It stinks, doesn’t it, Nikki? I’m really sorry for all your loss and loneliness. You can never “replace” or fill the hole for the wants you want (you said “want”). It’s a hard thing to accept and I commend you for all your hard work. Sometimes, we just have to keep on taking steps and moving forward, and eventually, the doing translates to the feeling. I’m sorry…and here is a HUGE, GIGANTUAN, HUMONGOUS HUG!!!

      Sheri McGregor

    2. candleinthewind

      Hello Nikki. That is well put “I don’t want to be strong. I want people to be strong for me”. I couldn’t agree more. Trouble is, they’re not. For me, the hardest part of this estrangement is dealing with what I call the ‘nothing place’. I’ve just read a book called ‘Nothing’ by a Danish writer called Janne Teller, who bravely and boldly confronts this issue. I have likewise found that I can do this, improve that, and still I come back to the nothing place. Alone. Therefore, I conclude, that becoming comfortable in this nothing place is what is required. And respecting myself for the fact that I am loved, by myself, by the universe let’s say, not understood by family and friends who I look to for support, but it seems key that I accept myself in this place, if that makes any sense. I like the bit in the Bible (not that I’m particularly religious) when Jesus asks his disciples (aka friends) to watch and pray and they fall asleep on the job. Ringing the Samaritans who are available 24/7 is nice, and they’ll ring back if you ask them to! It’s very hard to centre one’s life on oneself (once focused on loving others), it’s a total turn around. Some have pets, or husbands, or faith, but the rest – doubt, fear and equally present. It’s an uphill struggle but the views are satisfying sometimes, enjoy any achievement that you manage, and cups of tea and biscuits, rest, whatever, even if momentarily, brings you pleasure. It all seems to slip through one’s fingers like sand, but life is transitory, is one lesson this estrangement keeps teaching me. A moment of enlightenment from reading, for example, is followed by nothing. There are no certainties, but self-respect is key.

  3. Rita

    I also relate to all of you. I had a stroke, and now have cerebral vascular disease. Both my adult children are aware of this, but have no time for me. This is very hurtful. I was also a single mother, as I also divorced a very abusive alcoholic, and never wanted my young children to experience this abuse. Both of my children did turn to alcohol in their teen years. My son went threw cancer at age 17, and then did a four story fall at age 25, and both times I never left his side. Due to this, my daughter, who was younger took the back seat in her teenage years. As much as I have apologized to her for this, I always felt she had resentfulness towards me. We where always a very close family, who cared deeply for each other. My son married his high school sweetheart, and had a daughter. My daughter had a boyfriend that committed suicide when she broke up with him. They both have been threw so much, and are now living very productive life’s, and doing good for themselfs, and I’m so proud of both of them. Then their father committed suicide last year, but he really never participated in their lives. Now I’m in my 60s, with a very disableing illness, and needing them more than ever, and they have both ignored me, knowing this. Is this just to painful for them to take, or are they just being very selfish, when they know I really need them ? I understand adult child estrangement, but this is so painful. It’s one thing being lonely, but it’s really painful to be ill and lonely.I don’t want to be another burden on them, but not sure how much time I have, so everyday really matters to me, but they just seem to not care anymore, and they where never this way, and it’s very hurtful. I have told them I’m over it, and won’t bother them anymore, and that seems fine with them. My heart is broken.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Rita,

      Your note brings home the very real point that I hope people will hear: We all have precious little time and must let go of what we cannot control and treasure every moment. We haven’t a moment to spare for adults who hurt us and don’t care about us.

      Hugs to you, dear Rita. I hope you can find some joy and am sending you kind vibrations across the airwaves.
      Sheri McGregor

    2. Malcolm H.

      I have been there for thirty year’s for my daughter and she has moved 300 miles away and cut me off completely she is now a Bsc hons boyfriend web designer big Big money she found me an embarrassment for my working class accent I have given her 30 yrs of my life and now alone and ill at 68 idtraf b, day and Xmas just want to sleep and never wake up! Why so much pain. No answer, just pray that all of us suffering can carry on and the pain may ease. Rita my thoughts are with you God bless malcolm
      ,

  4. Emme

    On my birthday, my oldest son decided he didn’t want to see me anymore. I’m a retired teacher, never had a lot of money but I had enough. He’s a very successful and wealthy lawyer out in California, and I think but he might be ashamed of me. I was a single parent, with depressive issues, but I did the best I could with what I had at the time. At least he’s willing to communicate through snail mail. Right now I’m also feeling as if my immediate family – brothers, parents, agree with him and I’m some kind of horrible person. I don’t wanna go anywhere or see anyone. I’ve been taking sleeping pills and just sleeping the days away. I don’t know how I can get through this.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Emme,

      I sincerely hope that you will seek help locally with a qualified person who can offer support and possibly treatment. Life can get better. Take steps for yourself dear Emme. Your own health and wellness must be your top priority. Call a help line, see your doctor or therapist, or call for immediate help if needed (9-1-1, a helpline, etc. … you can find those some suggested numbers on the “crisis” page, which you can find in the navigation menu. Your local county mental health/help lines can direct you, or phone NAMI closest to you (nami.org). Give yourself kind care, dear Emme.

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri

  5. Noreen

    I have 3 children and my middle child has ,for the 2nd time, married a girl who needed rescued. She lmarried early and had 2 children through with a bad first marriage. She worked hard to have her children live with them and succeeded. They had a beautiful little girl and later decided to get married. I always thought my daughter in law liked me. She comes from a tough family and they never talked good about her mother. My daughter in law even said she didn’t want her mother to come to wedding because she couldn’t be near her mom without changing who she was. She didin’t talk to her mom for 4 years. All of a sudden she loves her mom and now I’ve become a horrible person. My husband and I have given them so much it’s in the past to help them. Now my son has taken a different personality and has turned into the victim life. He had a great childhood and was really close to my husband. Now he is tearing me apart for petty little things because his wife says so. I don’t get to see the children very often because she has shunned me. She accuses me of things SI never did and he can’t let that go. Every time we talk he brings the same petty things up and it is so frustrating. What should we do to settle this? I am over emotional and hurt with him because it truly is mean. His wife was raised witha big drama mother and now she is imploding this onto my son who was a soft hearted person. His comments show he no longer has a heart. What should we do.

    Reply
  6. Heartbroken Single Mom

    I am a single mother in my 60s. My only daughter abruptly shut me out of her life months before her wedding which was 2 weeks ago. Literally, I was hosting the two of them at my home all through the pandemic sending them home with lots of love and food. On Mother’s Day, I was the “awesome Mom” abc the next week I was persona non grata. I was excluded from wedding plans and never introduced to his side of the family. At the wedding, which I did my best to be gracious under these circumstances, my daughter and SIL never talked to me. They ignored my friends and family who have loved my daughter since she was a baby. I’m not saying I was a perfect mother but anyone will say I am an attentive, loving and devoted parent. I’m worried that she may have a personality disorder, which a psychologist suggested. She’s 28 and she gets her smarts from her mom so I guess I should just let it go. She’s my only and we had been so close. But now I see that for the last 10 years I was walking on eggshells trying to make up for being a single parent. I’m frustrated, angry, worried, anxious and beyond sad.

    Heartbroken Single Mom of Estranged Daughter

    Reply
    1. Cynthia B.

      I too, am in my 60s and a retired teacher and single parent of a 26 year old daughter. I can relate to your story and would love to chat and share feelings if you want to. It is depressing and don’t know what happened in our relationship either.

    2. Judy D.

      Dear heartbroken, I feel your pain. Truly feel and the pain only a child can cause. Just a few minutes ago I was thinking why,and what have I done. Ya know, I know I have done nothing wrong. I was a great single mom. My three children said I was the best mom and all their friends wish I was their mom too. Have they lied to me all these years? I gave them my all. I refuse to allow my adult children to control how I feel. I’m taking back myself because I’m important too. I’ll be 70 in December so look out world, here I come.

  7. Rosanne A.

    First let me thank you for this.
    I am a complicated situation of ill health and two adult children who are addicts who have been crippled by their enabling father. I raised my granddaughter for many years who chose to go back to her mothers. Her mother gave her alcohol and whatever else. My grand and I still texted often as my relationship w daughter was not good . Things escalated and I realized daughter was continuing in grands decline and I tried to intervene. It caused major problems for grand so she blocked me and no longer speaks to me. I believe my daughter is influencing my grand to think the worst of me. She was the reason I fought to get better.
    I am pretty much home bound. I have no one in my life any more . Not for a long time. My grand made my week.
    I have tried but daughter won’t let me see her and grand will no longer talk to me nor wants to see me.
    I recently tried to speak w a counselor but I seriously don’t think she gets this about loosing both kids and now my grand. She seems inexperienced and I could use someone who understood my grief.
    I tied to click on your FB group but it says not available any longer. Is that true?
    I could use all thee red help I could get as my mood is pretty down today. That seems to correlate directly to my physical symptoms.
    Please post any means to connect to others.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Caroline

    I was in an extremely abusive relationship for 27 years. I lived in denial and taught all of my five children to dance on the eggshells as I had learned to do so well! One day 11 years ago it was one time too many and I fled. The past eleven years have been an excruciating journey of learning who this man I was married to actually is. I could no longer deny the facts! Yes, I’ve walked away from spousal support and child support that was rightfully mine. I knew he’d make sure I didn’t get it anyway, like he’s done with everything else! So after giving my best years to supporting my husband and staying at home and raising five children, I am now trying to figure out how to go into old age with very little. My health has been seriously affected.
    The hardest thing is that this man has stolen my children from me. How he treated me during our years together primed them for the continued lying and manipulation he’s continued since I left him.They were used to seeing/hearing mom being blamed for everything. Now, mom was at fault for the marriage falling apart too! He successfully turned all but one of my children against me.All four sons got married since I separated, and each of their’ wives have been caught in the confusion. Only one out of four daughters in law speaks to me at any length. One son has totally cut me off and won’t allow me to contact his two children or send gifts to them. Another son will not respond to texts, emails or phone messages, but he and his wife (she won’t speak to me either) will accept birthday and Christmas presents that I send in the mail clear across the country! I just have to be content with no responses at all, not even a thank you! Thankfully another son and his wife allow me to see their four children. I am so grateful for that.
    It is very very painful to hear most other women my age speak about their happy times with their grandchildren. I feel very alone and don’t know where I fit. My purpose for living is clearly something I question at this time!

    Reply
    1. Nicki

      I’m feeling exactly the same. What is the point of me now after bringing my children up alone and giving my all. Being the best mum I possibly could which they admit, but now as adults they are too busy with their own lives to give me a thought. They spend Christmas and other holidays with their partners families as it’s more fun. I brought them up to be kind and caring, thoughtful and have empathy. As adults they have none of these traits and are all totally selfish. All those years of sacrifice for what. I’m embarrassed that this could happen to me. If you haven’t got a caring family. You have nothing. I don’t know how I keep going.

    2. rparents Post author

      Dear Nicki,

      You have your INTEGRITY.

      It’s something very valuable. And that is true even when those you did so much for and loved with all your beautiful heart don’t appreciate you.

      Hold your head high in your integrity.

      Hugs to you. You’re stronger than you know. That’s why you came to this site where you are heard and you count. It’s a good first step.

      Sheri McGregor

    3. Ronell

      HI Caroline

      My situation is very similar to yours. My heart goes out to you – big hug and many blessings to you!

  9. Simone

    I was in an extremely abusive relationship my adult son was in the middle I let him down because my partner had me in such a dark place I struggled to even get through the day I eventually fled to my parents my son followed I went into a mode that want me just being with friends I then had an argument with my parents amd was asked to leave my son is still there he has never forgiven me for not leaving the relationship and for leaving him at my parents I was homeless for a year I now have a place and go to my parents my son will not entertain me it’s breaking my heart

    Reply

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