Cut off by adult children: What do your prescribe for yourself?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

cut off by adult childrenParents who are cut off by adult children often tell me their hearts break daily, that they can’t get away from the pain, and that they will never heal.

When you’re cut off by adult children, it’s as if your world stops. Life as you’ve known it becomes a memory—only you can start to wonder if any of those happy times were even real. The shock is normal, and in my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children (which is for fathers too–see note), I speak plainly about the early daze of estrangement, and explain some science behind what you feel.

Cut off by adult children? Evaluating your medicine cabinet

One thing that helped me was to regard my thoughts and actions as an assortment of remedies in bottles on a shelf. Imagine your thoughts as powerful herbs. Are they soothing healing tonics? Or more like poison? Imagine the things you do and talk about as strong medication. Are they helping you to heal? Or causing side effects?

When a doctor prescribes medication, adjustments are sometimes required. Trying different remedies, evaluating their effects, and making alterations, are often all part of finding a cure. When we’re cut off by adult children, it helps to think of our actions in a similar way.

Ask yourself if the things you’re thinking and doing are helping your broken heart to heal. Here are some examples of more specific questions that can help you determine how well you’re “medicines” are working:

  • Is looking at my estranged daughter’s social media pictures and posts helping me or hurting me?
  • Is sitting up in the dark after everyone else has gone to bed helping me heal?
  • Are my attempts to contact my estranged son bringing progress?
  • Is thinking over my situation problem-solving, or more like dwelling?

Is the “dose” too high? Or perhaps too low?

  • Can I limit how many times I look at social media?
  • Can I make a decision not to allow myself to dwell?
  • Would it be helpful to fill more of my time with productive hobbies?
  • Can I do more activities that fulfill me as an individual aside from my role as a parent or grandparent?

Reflect for a few moments on your reaction to some activities and thoughts. Is there a connection to how you feel? Do things you do, think, and talk about affect your mood? If you had an allergy symptom, your doctor might expose you to substances until the source of your adverse reaction was clear. When we’re cut off by adult children, we know the source of the pain. Could what you’re doing, saying, or thinking be making it worse?

What are you prescribing?

Your go-to thoughts and actions can become habitual. Without intending to, you could be prescribing daily doses that hinder your healing.

In the book, I talk about healthy reconciliation and what it requires. One of those things is a solid foundation of self-respect. When we’re cut off by adult children, we can easily fall into modes of self-blame and self-doubt that make healthy reconciliation unlikely. Whether toward reconciling from a place of strength, or simply to rebuild your own wellness and self-esteem, ask yourself:

  • Are the things I do, say, and think helping my broken heart to heal?
  • Am I “prescribing” useful remedies, or are my thoughts and actions more like ingesting poison?

Cut off by adult children? Be your own doctor

My book explores the painful phenomenon of being cut off by adult children in a logical manner that starts with the devastating shock of estrangement. Pages of examples and insight help you move through the most common questions, deal with sticky situations, and overcome obstacles toward healing. But you can get started now.

If you could step outside yourself, and imagine being a loving caregiver, what would you tell yourself? What would you do for yourself? What would you recommend or prescribe?

You are courageous and kind. You are mothers and fathers—among the smartest most resourceful people on the planet. Use that strength now.


Of course, I’m not talking about actual substances or medications of any kinds. I’m using those sorts of terms as metaphors, The prescriptive remedies or medications mentioned refer only to thoughts and actions.

With that in mind, put yourself in your own loving care.

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9 thoughts on “Cut off by adult children: What do your prescribe for yourself?

  1. Maureen D.

    Today I am facing the stark reality of this very real & very cruel reality of being cutoff by my one & only son & his family. While I am meditating & trying to grapple with the pain of these many years of struggle I am aware that I have hope & I am “trying” to be fearless in the face of adversity. It is rather lonely having a son that is distant & doesn’t want or need his Mother. Somehow I always thought we would be close; especially, when he became a Father himself. He & his fiance are happy & that is wonderful. I am pleased & thrilled he has found happiness. What is not so pleasing is he doesn’t share that happiness with me. And that point about pictures being posted on FB really resonates with me. While they show the world their lives & happiness together with her family. I watch as an outsider! How they spend time together & enjoy the baby & her other son, from a previous relationship. I like what was said about social media. I realize how hurtful that is & I won’t torture myself & look @ that now. Great analogy of medicine cabinet!

    1. rparents Post author

      Hello Maureen,

      There are so many moms and dads that will relate to that feeling of looking on as an outsider. In my book, there’s a woman who describes the urge to look at the social media like an addiction. There is always the letdown too. Maybe it helps to think of it like that, and break the habit.

      HUGS to you, Maureen.

      Sheri McGregor

  2. Maureen D.

    Great analogy with medicine! Too bad there isn’t a pill that makes everything work out just the way the recesses of our dreams/mind/memory were way back when. Where everyone got along & the longing for utopia was no longer necessary because our lives were full & not complicated. A chord was struck by the mention of social media with pictures of those we love & that we are estranged from. I imagine my husband & I planted in those pictures to avoid the pain of rejection & immature acts that who knows why, what or what brought this treatment on. After reading some of the responses, I’ve decided to NOT open those pages, I troll, cause they’re not sent to me anyway. And that is a further insult to what my role ought to be to begin with. Closing the chapter on what I used to behave like & what I’m trying to become are 2 different realms. I’ve grown intolerant of the drugs I’ve been given for the last 20+ years. Time for new medication, naturally! Today is empowering & saying goodbye has given me some much needed relief! I won’t sit & wait or wonder & won’t worry. Gotta LOVE my Son from a further distance than 6 feet, its better than 6 ft under. I am living & its up to me to let GO!

  3. Suzanne B.

    My biological child has shunned me for the last 7 years. She refuses to call me Mom, Morher, etc., or share any holiday, birthday or occasion with me.
    She is type, who has always walked away from friends and boyfriends when she was “done” with them, so not surprised she cut me off, too.
    I prayed and prayed for god to protect her, but I realize the person I once knew is dead. The person that exists now is othing more than a stranger on the street. Sadly, I’d I needed help, I would not even earn a glance.
    I’ve read some of these Psychologist’s websites who state these Adults gave the right to dessert or leave parents. IMO, that is unfair. Unless each of the “professionals” can or are willing to go back and delve into each of these individual’s lives, and specifically identify the root cause of detachment of the adult from the parent, this blanket pass that “yes you”re right and falls ok with the world” is o e sided.


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