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.

Disclaimer

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

  1. AvatarMichelle 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 .

    Reply
  2. AvatarKelly

    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.
    Kindly,
    Kelly

    Reply
    1. AvatarSharon

      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.

  3. AvatarElaine

    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.

    Reply
    1. AvatarRebecca

      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 .
      Thankyou
      Rebecca

  4. AvatarRebecca

    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

    Reply
  5. AvatarDonna 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

    Reply
    1. AvatarAnna 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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