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

  1. susan

    hi Sheri —
    i cant get this website to “work”
    as it should — ie when i go to “latest posts” your members latest posts are not appearing but rather the same material
    about your book
    over & over again — ive almost quit coming to this site because i get so frustrated trying to access the latest posts by members —

    are you aware of this? i would be very grateful if you would check this out & i am planning ton order your book!

    thank you


    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Susan,
      If you’re clicking on “latest posts,” you are getting articles that I write for the website. If you’re looking for posts of “members,” then you’re looking for one of two things. Either you mean the support forum, which you can access by clicking on “community.” OR, you’re seeking recent “comments,” by people who visit the website and respond to my “posts,” (which are articles, and yes, some do mention the book). If you’re looking for those “comments,” then you will find them in the right hand column, scroll down and you’ll see “recent comments.”

      Thank you.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Marcy

      I feel what you say and write about
      helps. Although the pain will always be
      there, there is no eraser for this pain.

    3. rparents Post author

      Hi Marcy,
      I feel for you, and understand what you are saying about the pain. You’re right. There’s no “eraser.” Maybe it helps to think of the pain in new ways. Not to discount the estrangement and how awful the devastating loss is (I know the pain very well), but how about “growing pains”? Maybe it sounds trite. Maybe we need to think of the healing of the pain as getting stronger because of it? Like scars that are always with us, evidence of the pain that has helped us grow, made us stronger, etc. Here’s Lila’s story:

      Perhaps you will be able to come to similar conclusions in time. Meanwhile, I’ll be thinking of you fondly as I do all the hurting parents who write and comment. I hope you will do something good for yourself today that makes you happy in the moment where joy can be relished.

      Sheri McGregor

  2. Juanita

    Thank you, Sheri, for writing your book, Done with the Crying. It is excellent. For the first time, I feel I have regained some sanity since this all began. I do not feel alone anymore. So many mothers and fathers are going through an unexplained, painful adult child estrangement. Your book is such a gift. Thank you.

    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you, Juanita. I’m so glad you’ve found it useful! Keep moving forward … one step at a time.
      Sheri McGregor

  3. rosegarden

    Sometimes I think you must have a direct connection into my thought processes and emotions as I am always amazed how often your posts coincide with my thoughts and feelings. Just in the past few weeks I’ve been examining how often I think about my ED and how it affects my everyday life — Are the things I do or say helping in my healing? I’ve been trying to get the tape of my daughters life and interactions since her rejection to stop playing over and over again in my head. I have been working very hard to make a conscience effort to stop myself when I feel myself going there and if I’m alone I will actually tell myself that I’ve already wasted too much time (4 years) dwelling on something that I cannot change. When I recognize that I’m going down that path, I now make myself stop, redirect my thoughts to happier thoughts about people who do care about me, or the beauty of the flowers in my garden, the kindness of friends, or my son who does share his life with me. I’ve changed some habits that I recognize were not good for me emotionally. Before, I would check out face book before going to bed to find photo or a snippet of information about her life. Now I set aside time to read an uplifting book so I have positive thoughts in my head when it hits the pillow. I’ve wiped out all expectations from her; if I don’t expect a Mother’s Day card, I’m not disappointed when I don’t receive one. I don’t ask for photos of life events, because they never quite get around to sending one. I’ve found the less I do know about her life, the easier it is for me. Of course, I want to know that she is alive and well, but beyond that, the less I know, the less I have to think about. As far as the things I say – I have finally become comfortable when people ask about my ED, I used to cover up and mention something I learned from others about what she was doing, now I feel more comfortable just saying “I don’t really hear from her often” and leave it at that. Besides, because we no longer live in the neighborhood that our children were raised in and she doesn’t visit, neighbors and new friends don’t know her and she has drifted away from family and old friends so there aren’t many people that ask anymore.
    I like your metaphor of thoughts and actions being medications. Are they helping me heal, or prolonging my journey? I liken it to my issue of having gained weight and the resulting rise in my cholesterol levels in these years of estrangement. I could take meds to adjust my cholesterol, but I can also do the hard work of eating healthy, (no emotional binges) losing weight, exercising more which will lead me to a healthier body (and mind) which I have chosen to do. Same with my emotional health. I need to put in the hard work of replacing my bad pattern of dwelling on my ED, or always jumping to offer an “olive branch” if I think there is a chance she’ll take me up on it, with intentional focus on making my life and those who want me in my life better. Thank you for your posts. They are always encouraging.

  4. fresh air

    There is no cure for a broken heart, and I will never be able to accept the loss.

    Finally, enough years and tears have passed that I no longer allow myself to dwell on it.

    1. happy

      yes I am .new year and hope to find something positive and not so depressing, ways to cope. I know it is good now to dwell on something you cant do anything about.

  5. Cathy E.

    My daughter and I had a very close and respectful relationship. In her late 20’s she married, moved to her husband’s family’s East Coast home-they are a mix of Iranian and Bronx Irish Catholic and very matriarchal. They connect for three meals a week and vacation with each other twice a year. All holidays and birthdays are spent together. It has been 9 yrs. and three grandchildren since they have visited me. Although I go to visit annually until now. I was thrilled for my daughter as I thought my daughter having another supportive and loving family was such an added plus.
    Until with each annual visit my daughter would be demeaning and verbally abusive to me-even in front of my grandchildren. Her husband laughed as did his family. After 8 yrs. of feeling confused, guilty over whatever and alone-this summer when my daughter shook her fist in my face and told me that I couldn’t leave the room and I’d better listen (I was an educator for 31 yrs. and have PH.D. And, feelings, too)-my mind just turned a page and I have made the decision to become estranged from my daughter…for self preservation. I have a background in counseling and behavioral sciences but I needed a guiding tool to help me maneuver the days and moments. Thank goodness for your words of understanding and common sense. I now, know that I can still love the girl I raised, but I do not have to accept the behavior of the insensitive adult woman.

    1. DMD

      Cathy E. God bless you for your courage and strength in deciding to protect yourself. Let’s not survive this situation let’s pamper ourselves, love ourselves, and grow in new directions.

      I hope that each one of us stops listening to the character assassination from our ECs. Time will likely be unkind to them. If they can reject their loving parents how will their children treat them after being indoctrinated in alienation, hatred, and ridicule of their own family.

      Your generosity and love for your daughter and others are reflected in your writing. We need it and this world needs it. Go outside and smile at everyone you see. You need to know you are a treasure.

      My stomach was in knots reading about your daughter’s public abuse towards you. The fact that others enjoyed the display is sadistic. No one should avail themselves to that malignant behavior. You are absolutely right, there is nothing you can do but protect yourself.

  6. Sharon

    Oh wow, Cathy E , I’m so sorry for your situation. There is no explanation, of course, but what you said about loving the girl you raised but not having to accept the behaviour of the insensitive adult woman soooo resonates with me. My son has become someone I don’t know and I’m all out of excuses for him. God bless you and keep you strong, hold that thought. You’re so right

    1. josephine P.

      i dont know my son any more an only child. turned his back on me and my husband. said he wants nothing more to do with us devastated. cant get over it its been a year. im still crying. i totally understand sharon

  7. coping mom

    Cathy E! tonight, as I read your words about the insensitive adult she’s become, you have moved mountains out of my way! I have two daughters doing this to me and you know what, you gave me that first stepping stone to get up out of this sorry situation. thank you see!

    1. Diane

      I have 2 adult daughters that very little contact with me. After years of them not caring, I am moving on. I bought your book. I also go to counseling that helps. It’s sad that I don’t know the reason for their distance. I accept it, face the reality of it, and keep my distance. Healing takes a long time. You have to go through horrible pain to get to the acceptance part. Just keep going until you get there. Life is too important not to have a good life.

  8. topr8

    I have ordered your book Sheri and am waiting for it to arrive. I never ever thought that my first born child that I was incredibly close to would ever break my heart like he has done. His wife from day 1 set about estranging him from his entire family, and we were last but not until after we had given them $50k for a house deposit. He has bipolar and has given his life to an ugly hearted creature to manage. Just so painful on more than one level.

  9. BorderCollieMom

    Rosegarden~Your story closely resonates with my own. We’re all on this journey together. So glad to have found all of you, and thank you so much, Sheri. xxoo

    1. Toxicmom1

      It is so encouraging to read so many moms have been thru this painful journey. I am recently lost contact with my 21 years old daughter. The emotion is SO painful and I am in constant worry all the time. What did I do wrong? We can only ask her in my heart. All social media is blocked for our whole family. We can only know she is safe and well without further details from her friends that live in the same neighbourhood with us. This is a very new to us. I went to seek psychologist last week because I can not focus on my life. Do I still have a hope to see her before I die? Should I pressure her friends to tell us where is she now? We don’t know what to do.

  10. peachy19

    Dear toxic mom
    I think seeing a therapist is a great move, for me it feels like i am grieving for my son and my granddaughter,it’s the end to my dreams for having a family! The reality is this is a very toxic situation that I have No control over except to go one with my life without them no matter what it takes, I know deep in my heart I did the best I knew how in raising him however this was never something I could have imagined . But with the experiences i read on this site therapy, and the book done with the crying it is tough but this to shall pass

    1. Sue

      Dear ToxicMom,

      I feel exactly like you do. I do not know if I can go on. My son and I were so very close and now he won’t reply to any texts or phone calls or email. It has been since he met a girl that I thought we were very close to. I paid their rent for 6 months when they could not afford to, I bought her a car that she was supposed to make payments on and did not. Now, they want nothing to do with any of our family. It is killing me mentally.

  11. Jupiter

    New home, new state, new business, learning new getting licensed and certified. Baby steps to bigger things. I fight the need for “closure”. When if U look back, it’s a thought down a short road. No swelling. We all have twitches. I keep it simple, where my daughter is, what she’s up to. People are happy enough with that. My PCP asked if I was “in touch” and I said yes. I’m not asking for Ambien, none of her business. ONE LAST WORD: Who knows what other people’s lives REALLY are like? So why should WE need to appear perfect?

  12. Janet

    One estranged son and another I see on Sundays but struggle even talking to. I have suffered and grieved from the death of loved ones but this is a continual martyrdom!


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