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

  1. CoCo

    My son, who is my only child, and I were so close. I never could have imagined that this could ever have happened. He began to drift away about a year after he got married in 2009. I soon began to realize that his wife didn’t want me even in the far periphery of their lives. They had a baby girl, my precious little granddaughter, and when my daughter-in-law realized how dearly my granddaughter loved me (and vice versa), my son and his wife totally “ghosted” me. I haven’t been allowed any contact with any of them since 2014. The pain and stress and horror of it all put an enormous amount of stress on my marriage, and in 2015 my husband of 40 years told me he was leaving me. He disappeared for greener and younger pastures, and I never saw him again. I was beyond devastated. Long story short… I’m in my 70’s and have no family. I’ve tried reaching out to my son, but he doesn’t respond. Birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc. nothing at all. Silence. Nothing. August of 2020 I fell, broke 3 ribs and punctured a lung. Texted him from the hospital trauma unit. No response. Last week I tore my retina, had emergency surgery. I texted my son. No response. Total silence. I know maybe I shouldn’t have, but a few days ago, I blew up at him via text after text. It made him so angry that he actually responded. Finally, he texted that if I sent him “one more solitary text like that” that he would block me forever. I responded by telling him to go ahead and block me… that he had in essence already done that. (blocked me.) The next day I felt remorse for blowing up at him, but now I’m actually glad I finally let it out. It was long overdue, and I tolerated far too much emotional abuse from him and had been way too nice for far too long. The rest is in God’s hands. This is a God-sized problem. God forgive me, but when my son ignored me about my detached retina and emergency surgery, that was the absolute tipping point.

    1. BR

      Hello CoCo…my goodness, what you’ve been through! My heart aches for you! I am sorry you’ve had to go through all of this. Our estrangement from our son and grandchildren has not gone on as long as yours has, but I know the feelings about blowing up at our son. In fact, I wrote an email to him and let it all out, but I never sent it. It felt good to let it out though. I hope for joy and peace in your life.

    2. Christine C.

      My friend
      It was hard to read your words and indeed there are no words to describe my sadness at hearing how you’ve been treated by the very one that has you to thank for bringing him into this world. Sometimes life literally makes no sense, it’s as simple as that. I do believe that he will have reason to seriously regret what he has now lost in life and he will have huge karma incurred for depriving you and his daughter of the relationship that you both deserved. Perhaps she will treat him the way that he has taught her how to treat parents. Look after yourself dear and give none of them any further thought. Be glad that any karma between you is being cleared on your side and live the rest of your life for yourself.
      I wish you peace and blessings.

  2. Patti C

    Our son has not totally cut us out of his life but he seldom calls or communicates via Text or Email. Except maybe he has decided to do that since I’ve not heard from him since Oct 2020 after I told him, “I was DONE with his nasty, hateful comments.”

    As he has aged, he’s gotten meaner and is now 51. He was a difficult child growing up. A handsome and popular kid but he was always causing some type of drama. Head Strong and untruthful we ended up sending him out-of-state to a private school because we lost total control and were concerned he might end up in trouble with the law.

    We eventually got him through college and he has been self-supporting since then, married with kids. He did ask us for some financial help after losing a job and we were happy to help, telling him, he didn’t need to repay the loan…since we knew he wouldn’t anyway and did not want that become an issue that might interfere our relationship.

    We’ve had a lot of good family times skiing and getting together but he has always made family get togethers difficult. He’s very self center and demanding. After a family ski trip three years ago, his sister has had it with her brother and no longer wants much to do with him. She loves him because he’s her brother but wants to limit her interaction with him.

    In addition to the loan, we have sent he and his family large Christmas checks for the last three years. to helpout. We remember he and his kids and his wife birthdays and send cash gifts for those and other cards or gifts for other holidays throughout the year. Why? Trying to stay in touch. We use to drive 8 hours for weekend visits but were made to feel like we were intruding as they always had other things to do. We stopped doing that.

    My husband loaded up a large stainless steel range and oven that was still good and we replaced it because he wanted the range. Husband then drove 8+ hours to deliver it. No Thank You! No acknowledgement.

    We were there to help with the kids and give support when he had a serious illness.

    We get no Thank You! No acknowledgement for any holiday or birthday cash gifts other than seeing the checks were cashed on our bankstatement. No Christmas Card, flowers or even acknowledgement its a holiday we once all celebrated together. No! Mother Day flowers, card or a call. Same for Father’s Day. Occasionally, there might be a Text but usually that’s because I’ve initiated contact.

    When I broke my leg, I received one phone call at the beginning and he never asked again how I was doing. His father has been diagnosed with a progressive life threatening disease. One phone call after he heard but no follow up to check on his father.

    Emails and Text are seldom replied to. Promises to call are forgotten.

    I’ve blamed myself. Felt Guilty. Been Mad. Been Sad. Felt Heartbroken. I now realize this is my son’s personality. While I love him – I don’t like him. I’m Done! trying. I’m Done sending gifts.

    I’m staying in touch with my grandchildren through Text, special holiday and other gifts and will continue trying to have a relationship with them. But, I’ve finally realized my son is not going to change and prefer to keep my distance as he’s not enjoyable to be around.

    I guess we both have now Estranged Each Other since I’ve had it and so has his father and sister.There’s is nothing as parents that we did that was so bad that we deserve to be ignored and left out of being part of his family.

    I feel alot better making the decision and figuring out it is My Son who has problems.

  3. Rubyruby

    Elaine I like what you have said. My ES also has gone on many years back and forth and just recently said some very nasty things to be and blocked me on his txt. This is when I found this support group. This is where I want…Need… to be. On my terms. If he chooses to reunite with me. Ican’t take that abusive behaviour from him again. I too am a good mother, sure I’ve done things that I could have done different, but I’m not a bad person or mother like he makes me out to be. We will stay strong in this together.

  4. Michelle Y

    I, too appreciate all of your kind comments and painful experiences. I still cannot believe my daughters did not reply to texts or say simply Merry Christmas this season. I try to comfort myself with the fact that their life choices go against all we stand for and that sin blinds them, but it still hurts. I beat myself up that I raised such unkind human beings, but media and this world (Satan) have huge influence in lives that are open to evil and cruelty. I’ve been reading a lot about WW2 and have always wondered how people could be led blindly to be so inhumane and cruel. It takes a conscious decision to be kind and loving. I choose to be kind to those who are open to kindness. I read again my long list of things I did right and loving to my kids. I thank God for a husband who loves me and wonderful friends who support me. God bless all of us with “empty arms” and broken but healing .

  5. Kelly

    I have had so many years to practice and learn this arena of life. I have baulked, cried in disbelief, begged and become someone I don’t know. The searing pain has debilitated me and left me with thoughts of suicide. Why I have not acted on this remains a bafflement. I have had to disassociate from my emotions to assess who I want to be as a human being, what qualities and characteristics will define my core values and make a decision for life. We all face times in our experience when what we want to do may not be what is the right things to do, many times weighed by the consequences of those choices. This is a part of being an adult and a member of the society in which we live .
    I am not a religious person however I think and feel deeply that my presence in this world was by design and killing myself is counter intuitive to the reason I am here. If I hold anything sacred it is to this ideal I am loyal.
    It is not only the loss of one child but two who have chosen to disconnect. This family has suffered much tragedy through the murder suicide of my best friend and beloved sister and her 3 children, my sister-in-law and her family who burned alive in a horrific auto accident witnessed by two young surviving children culminating in one of them hanging himself at 14 y/o, to the alienation of myself and my parents by my siblings, adult nieces and nephews and my own children.
    My mother passed recently and her children and grand children were given the opportunity to say good bye, To give her the gift of passing in peace and they chose not to. It was a selfish act and in and of itself has defined who they are. I had to ask myself who was I? What are my core beliefs and what do I stand for? I had to remove the feelings of anger and fear, expectations and resentments and assess from a perspective of non-attachment. The answers have brought a small measure of relief and will require time for full integration but one of the defining questions was if there were no relational connection would I chose these people to be a part of my world ? No I would not . For me, it is the permission to let go without guilt. To realize the individuality of others and their right to decisions that govern their lives. To create a life I judge to be one worth living. I am sure there will be times of vacillation but just as certain of my decision in my soul. My world has been built around the perceptions of those who I gave great importance to in my life. Is it possible that their perceptions were ill-equipped?
    It is peace I seek and balance I hope for. Perhaps one day the smile on my face will be matched with a measure of joy in my heart.
    In closing, I send to you my brothers and sisters living this hell that would have never been even an inkling of a possibility in our lives, ,that there is hope. It may not realize itself in alignment with your expectations but it will come and it will offer you the opportunity to either embrace or reject it. The choice is always yours.

    1. Sharon

      Thank you for sharing what you are going through. I am experiencing terrible pain and confusion. My world has been turned upside down. A few months ago, out of the clear blue, my daughter sent me a text message telling me she didn’t want to see or talk to me or her Dad. We have four wonderful grandchildren and we have not been able to spend anytime with them. My heart is totally broken. I understand how you must feel. Thank you for sharing.

    2. Grace

      Thank you for this message. I have felt the same way but now I feel peaceful about letting go of this estranged daughter. She blames me for everything in her life. I have apologized profusely but she wants nothing to do with me. I’m done feeling bad for myself. I’m done with the pain and hurt. I want to move on and enjoy my life and whatever is left of it. She would rather communicate with her stepfather than me. I’m done taking the blame. I did the best that I could with this very difficult child who is 28 years. It’s my turn to breathe.

    3. Toni P.

      Thank you so much for this profound insight. Asking myself, if there were no relational interest, would I choose this person to be in my life?, resonates strongly with me. I am asking myself that question right now. My daughter’s lifestyle choices are completely opposite my own. I feel strongly that I would never “chose” to associate with somebody that purposefully engages in the same behaviors she engages in. This is probably why she wants nothing to do with me.

  6. Elaine

    I am listening to your book on Audible, second time around now. My estrangement from my son has been in the process for 8 years, but it was final just last month, it was quite a blow and I am devastated. The worst is that he has six beautiful children that I have been very close to. He lives very close to me but is threatening a move across the country. My daughter in law has said some really terrible things to me that I just cant get over, and she wants me to apologize. After crying every day and being totally devastated, yesterday I had to give myself a talking to. I started writing down, very quickly, my life events, I had to remind myself everything that I have accomplished and lived through, all that I have done, all the people, jobs, pets, etc. that I have had in my life, that I am a strong, competent, caring, resilient person and I’m not going to let my 30 yr old daughter in law make me feel incompetant and despicable (she called me that). She is the one with the problem, I am still the same caring, loving, strong person that I have always been and always will be. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves. I need that fire in me to fight the overwhelming sadness. Pull myself up by my bootstraps, put on my big girl pants and keep on being me. Its their loss, and if they want me, I’ll be here but on my terms not theirs. I feel better today, I hope this helps someone else.

    1. Rebecca

      I feel like you did today .
      I just don’t understand it and the hurt and pain is unbearable sometimes .
      I am going to write down my achievements and try and move on and heal .

    2. Nancy D.

      Hi Elaine,
      Thank you for your words.
      The act of reminding yourself and claiming the strong, competent, caring, resilient woman you are is encouraging.
      I appreciate your actions.

  7. Rebecca

    Your story sounds similar to mine except I have disabled daughter who we care for at home .
    He also left her his amazing lovely sister .
    He took our baby grandson who we are not allowed to see .
    I read the book and it’s comforting to know that other families are going through the same .
    It’s our second Christmas now which makes it worse like everybody with COVID as we’ve been shielding our daughter for 8 months .
    Love Rebecca

  8. Donna C.

    I came across an article about you, your story and your journey as well as book today. I felt blessed. Oh how I could have desperately used this all while I spent the first year after my son cut relations crying all day. I had no idea that so many others have gone through the same pain. It shocks me, saddens me but also helps to feel like I am not alone! Thank you for all you have done and shared. I plan on getting your book as well as the workbook. I last saw my son when I was hospitalized after my heart had stopped and his brother called him as my middle son did cpr 3 years ago, it had been 2 years. I was out of it much of the time and never spoke to him but did send him a message saying thank you for coming, nothing since. He also took my only grandchild with him when he left and it only made it worse. Thinking I was unworthy and unfit to be around her broke my heart. I am in a much better place today and have accepted what it is and the fact that it’s his choice. I appreciate my two other son’s much more than ever before and while I live with one the other stays in close contact. They along with my family were all left. Reading through this has helped and I look forward to reading your book. It’s always good to move forward and I still have healing yet to do. Thank you again. I feel much lighter having read of all this, there something to be grateful for everyday and this is just one of today’s. God Bless and I will be reading. Sincerely yours, Donna

    1. Anna B

      My daughter has good memories of childood. I see with a few changes her parenting style similar to mine. I thought our relationship was great. At 35 her complain to me. You were great with children not adults. No further explanation . Relationship on a roller coaster last eight years. Heartbteakingly ended. Leaving me baffled.

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