Effects of estrangement from adult children: Still carrying the weight?

effects of estrangement from adult childrenEffects of estrangement from adult children:
Are you still carrying the weight?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

As a mother of five, I learned to do almost everything with a toddler on my hip. That’s probably why, all these years later, if I’m tired or extra stressed, my hip might ache. The repeated use and past abuse took its toll.

That connection formed for me one day while pulling weeds. Kneeling in the grass near the flower bed, I disturbed a wolf spider, and watched as she scurried away carrying her egg sac.  Later, research revealed that, unlike many arachnids, wolf spiders take care of their young. I’ll stop short of humanizing them but as mothers, they’re a bit like us.

In the spider photo, you’ll notice the offspring clustered on their mother’s back. She carts the tiny babies around until they can fend for themselves—and I’m sure she must have residual effects. Do spiders feel pain? Apparently, there’s a controversy over that question (see links at below), but even without physical pain, the mothering experience must have changed her. Parenting has effects—good and bad—and you can probably relate. Estrangement also causes change. This begs the question: What effects of estrangement do you carry?

In Beyond Done (2021), the physical results of estrangement stress are discussed at length. You’re wise to note the physical toll and work at taking kind care of your body. You belong to you! Here, let’s consider the subtler effects of estrangement. The bits of hurt you hold onto and carry. The thoughts that keep you awake at night, and that affect how you interact, how you see the world, and even how you see yourself.

Estrangement from your own adult child is like a sucker punch to the gut that bruises the core of everything we believed in. We thought if we loved, supported, and nurtured our kids, they’d grow into kind, effective adults who would love us back. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to go? So, if something so basic goes so wrong, then we must have failed. And as if beating ourselves up isn’t bad enough, the devastating sentiment gets echoed repeatedly and almost everywhere. Neighbors, family, friends, pastors, therapists, and society at large clamor with the message that the responsibility for the fracture lies with us—and that we can fix it.

For many of us, maybe even millions or billions of us, neither is true.

So, why all the gas lighting? Because, as discussed in my books, to think for an instant that this can happen to good parents threatens entrenched beliefs and precious values. Not to mention the expected return on investments of time, love, and energy that can cause estranged parents to look at all their efforts like a wasted life. What was it all for? Why did I even bother? I did my best, and now, I’m blamed.

With the whole world gas lighting us, waning self-confidence is no surprise. And the first way to get that back is to tell the truth—to yourself. You’ve been a good parent? Own that. Claim it. Stamp it on your chest and refuse to let someone who is uninformed, misinformed, invested in you being wrong, or who is just plain delusional take that truth away.

That doesn’t mean you have to go around talking about estrangement all the time. In  Done With The Crying, I recount my first foray into public disclosure and include help to talk about estrangement in a disarming way that conveys an understanding of the other person’s discomfort. If you’re not ready for such openness, no worries. Use the “ready answers” in the book. We each come to levels of acceptance and strength in our own time and on our own terms. And, if you’re open to the idea, your estrangement can be a doorway to growth.

effects of estrangement from adult children

Image by Gabi from Pixabay


As an example of self-growth, let’s think of people you may admire or respect. When they persist in discussion, opinions, or unwanted advice about your kids, it’s like threads of a spider’s web. Sticky history anchored in cultural patterns, familial roles, and beliefs about how to act. Things like respect for elders, or behavioral patterns with a sibling you’ve revered (or have been subservient to). Estrangement from one’s children can create an atmosphere that demands for you to change. One way is to set and enforce a boundary (maybe for the first time ever).

Our adult children’s generation may have invented boundaries as one comedian says, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use them too. That might mean keeping out an unwelcome spider (external boundary), shutting down our own unhelpful thinking (internal boundary), or politely setting and enforcing limits with someone else (external boundary). I talk a bit more about boundaries in Beyond Done (2021) and plan to share more in the future (subscribe to the newsletter so you won’t miss out).

If drawing lines in the sand and putting certain people off is difficult, then consider your newly minted noncompliance with others’ agendas a helpful learning curve. One you can use in other areas of your life. In that way, estrangement holds a gift. Counterintuitive maybe, but the effects of estrangement aren’t all bad. In fact, learning to have your own back, protect or assert yourself can be freeing—and builds confidence.

What residual effects of estrangement from adult children do you carry? Who’s got your back?

Whatever your resulting fears, concerns, worries, effects of estrangement from adult children, help yourself by looking at them differently. Within and beyond the challenges, possibilities exist. Huge trauma, such as estrangement, creates a stage for equally huge leaps of growth. With an open mind and a curious attitude, doors once hidden can reveal themselves and open.

effects of estrangement from adult children

Image by sajo95 from Pixabay

Effects of estrangement from adult children: Are you ready to take them on?

I dare you to dig deep, muster up the courage, and venture beyond the thresholds of want, wishes, and despair. Beyond the negative effects of estrangement lie vast interior rooms to explore. Folded within the depths of a broken heart and a shattered soul is untapped potential that I know firsthand can be nurtured to bloom into rich new experiences filled with meaning, fulfillment, and joy.

Sound a little gooey-sweet? Impossible? Too good to be true? I hear you.

Estrangement from our own children pushes us into dark corners where bits of ourselves get gnawed away. Our strength, confidence, faith, and more. I understand the loss of identity, the worry, and the utter despair that a child you so loved has changed. But … as I say in Done With The Crying the landscape of life is fertile ground for growth.

You get to make choices. Start with some boundaries inside your head. No more failure-centric thinking. No more I’m to blame. No more listening to authority figures, family members, or society telling kind, decent parents that the responsibility—for the fracture and for the repair—lies with them. Refuse the gas lighting, reconcile to the facts, and step courageously forward for yourself.

The residual effects of such a journey? Strength, confidence, and joy. (And after all that’s transpired, you’ll need those—with or without your child.)

Hugs to all of you from Sheri McGregor

Related reading

Abusive adult children effect how you see yourself

Rejected parents: In trying times, “check in”

Do spiders feel pain?

Do spiders really feel pain?

Wolf spiders behavior. . . .


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54 thoughts on “Effects of estrangement from adult children: Still carrying the weight?

  1. Sally O.

    What a journey it has been. My two son’s 33 and 34 haven’t talked to me in 2 years. I have always been involved in personal growth since I came from 2 alcoholic parents and my mother was a schizophrenic. I wouldn’t sell my soul to the family so I became the scapegoat. Unconsciously I now understand I thought I was wrong all the time and unloveable. I was slowly starting to look at this and one day I didn’t like the way my sons were talking to me. I asked my husband what their problem was and he said they always talk to you like that??!! What?? So the awareness of my codependency was just beginning. I told them they needed to be nice to me (seriously) and they got so angry and put all the blame on me. They haven’t talked to me since. I was so afraid of abandonment, feeling unloveable and wrong all the time I taught them unconsciously to treat me like that. That was the cycle and dance I was comfortable with. I was married to a covert narcissist which I also didn’t realize but that was a perfect match. He was very at skilled never taking responsibility for anytime and never being wrong. That is what I knew and was comfortable with from my original family so felt OK. That was the dance we both knew. I was the giver, he was the taker. Unfortunately, that is what was also taught to my boys by us so now I am sure they are also covert narcissists. After my sons stopped talking to me what would have normally happened was I would call and apologize and just forget it. I wasn’t going to do that this time. One even wrote to me asking for an apology. I wrote back and said there will be no apology this time and if you come back, there will probably be more boundaries. I changed the dance. I was so easily manipulated and gaslighted I wasn’t surprising when the other son wrote a few months after that he was now afraid of me. That was probably true on one level because I changed things but I was not accepting responsibility this time. I had never even yelled at them or barely punished them in the past because I was so afraid of being abandoned. I told him if he was afraid of me that he probably shouldn’t be around me then. I did tell them if they wanted to do therapy I would pay for it and they didn’t. I wrote a few letters trying to explain my new awareness and healing but they weren’t interested. I started going to Codependency Anonymous and that was when I began making incredible growth. I finally got it that I was sold a bill of goods by my family and that I was lovable and not wrong all the time. My life has exploded since then. I used stay very isolated because I was afraid of people. I have lots of women friends now for the first time in my life and they have really shown and taught me what love should look like. I am divorcing my current covert narcissist husband. He is 80 and I am 72 because I want to live the rest of my life happy. Covert narcissist don’t do therapy. I have finally broken the cycle but it is too late for my boys. I do not feel bad at all because I truly did my best and actually gave them too much. It was a whole lot better than my childhood!! I told them their job now is to go out and be better than me. I couldn’t have loved them more but see it too much and a lot of it was really for me which I also didn’t see at the time. Interesting how I brought my greatest fear upon myself-being abandoned. That is just how life seems to work but on the other hand, the great pain from losing my sons propelled me to finally heal myself and be released from my own misguided and evil manifestations of sick alcoholics. Alcoholics are automatically narcissistic. It is part of the disease. I would probably never have been able to rise above their treachery without my sons leaving and forcing me to look at it. I actually feel some gratitude towards them for it. With all the growth I have done I doubt I could even have a relationship with them now. I can only hope they can find the courage to find themselves and I am very prepared now to live my life without them. They belong to the world, not me. It is my turn now!!

  2. Linda S.

    Hey Sheri- I have read both your wonderful books ,and it has helped greatly, with working through the devastation in dealing with my ED. I have been going through estrangement, on and off,for many years now, but now I have decided NO MORE. My daughter has no feelings or empathy for me and my husband ,as she has sided with her grandmother(my mother), who is an evil narcissist,as is my daughter. To have no relationship with both my mother, and daughter is devestating, but each day, I live my best life, thankful for my 2sons and their children, for my husband, who is my biggest support, and for myself in my journey of healing. I always tell my children that I wish I had a mother like me, who loved and supported them always,and had a dream that they would love and respect me as they grew to be wonderful parents themselves. Even though my ED is lost to me, I can only hope that her children (who I no longer see), will reach out to me one day, as we were very close, and I miss them terribly. Sending love and hope to every one on this forum.

  3. Elaine T.

    Thankyou Sandy for your comments regards not leaving anything in your will to your estranged daughter. My husband and I have made wills that leave out our estranged daughter. As the beneficiaries of our wills will be our other daughter, her son and the four children of our estranged daughter.we fear that these will give our estranged daughter what they feel is her entitlement. We cannot do anything about that but at least the estranged daughter will know it was not our intention that she sgould have anything.

  4. Patty

    Everyone in this forum is experiencing or has experienced the soul crushing pain each writer’s post describes. The Serenity Prayer for me provides much comfort when all efforts of 20 years including joint therapy have been to no avail. Now at 74, I’ve lost much time beating myself up because I was not “the perfect mother”. I have been flat out told that I am not what ED wants or needs. To rub salt in the wound, now a mother of four she boasts that she is such a great mother, because I was not. The grandchildren across the country are simply weapons to deepen the hurt. I have come to realize that a lot of this is about having control and inflicting punishment.

    It is important to emphasize what this parental devastation does to siblings. My other daughter has talked extensively about what she has suffered as the lion’s share of attention went to her troubled sister growing up. And as parents, the respectful, caring other children in our lives do not deserve to be burdened, witnessing suffering, and trying to mediate.

    There will always be a void, however, I’m finally learning that no child has the right to torture or destroy you. I am at peace knowing I did my best under incredibly difficult circumstances. Each day is a gift in which we can choose peace and maintain gratitude towards those that do love and respect us.

    1. Kristine R.

      Your words could not ring more true to me…especially about the impact our ED had and still has on our younger daughter. When I look back at the trauma our ED had on all of us over the years from middle school through late 20’s, my heart wonders how our younger daughter has done so well. We have a good relationship with her and her husband yet I feel the “guardedness” she has around us. I pray she will seek counseling at some point and until then, I pray for her everyday. Like you, I am ever grateful for those who do love and support me and life goes on…

  5. Kim

    I would love to see rejectedparents.net add a tab for helpful tips from readers.

    It’s been over 2 years since I have seen my daughter and, like most of you, I have really been struggling. Recently, I have found two things that seem to help.

    First, I have found some relief from the negative thoughts that have bogged me down.
    When a negative thought related to my daughter’s estrangement starts to creep in, I immediately change the thought to something else, refusing to let it in. It doesn’t matter what the new thought is, it can be as simple as focusing on something in the room. Also, I have been working on our home and have lots of really long, tedious projects ahead of me, like painting a room. To help avoid the looping negative thoughts that have plagued me then, I now listen to audio books. It helps me tremendously.

    Secondly, I have a tip for dealing with the holidays. To avoid the weight and sadness of being on our own over the holidays again, my husband and I are going to take an advent calendar approach this year. On November 30th, each of us will place 12 wrapped packages under the tree. (We haven’t even had a tree the past two years.) The packages will be numbered, 1 through 24, and we’ll open and enjoy one package each day. (We’ll note the numbers of packages that need to be opened on a specific day on the calendar.) The goal for each of us is to plan an activity that celebrates us and our time together. The packages themselves can contain anything, and I’ve had a lot of fun researching and planning. Notes in the packages with jokes, poems, or heartfelt sentiments are encouraged. One of my packages will contain mistletoe, chapstick and Hershey’s kisses. One will have details about a wedding ring making class I’ve signed us up for as we can both use new ones. Another will have new scarves, hot cocoa mixes, and details about an astronomy night at a local state park. Matching pajamas will be wrapped for an evening of holiday movies and popcorn. Other activities will include a trip to an art museum, a holiday open house tour, a holiday parade, and an evening of streamed stand-up comedy with appetizers. The possibilities are endless, and I’ve come up with so many great ideas. Now, we’re really excited about December, instead of dreading it.

    Thank you for all that you do, Sheri McGregor!!!!

      1. Gwen

        Sheri, you have given me back my life. Sounds a bit dramatic, but it is true. I recently discovered your book, Done With the Crying, and am working through the book and the making scores of notes. The main thing I have learned is I’m not alone and the need to return from the self-imposed isolation. I will never be able to thank you enough.

    1. Ringo

      Great ideas Kim. Can I add podcasts to the list of re-directing your thoughts? You can subscribe to whatever you’re interested in or in the mood for.

    2. Denise S

      Hello, I’m new to here– Reading some of the tips to move forward especially during Christmas just has me in tears. I think I buried my pain of how much I miss us all being together and it just serviced. But I appreciate the tips and think it’s wonderful and helpful to start new traditions and not stay in the grieving stages. It’ will be four years this Christmas since our daughter walked out of our lives with our grandchildren who are almost grown now. Thank you for sharing your journey it is heartbreaking but helpful. Thank you. Denise S.

  6. Diane M.

    I love the story about the Wolf spider carting around her young ones on her back! I watch a lot of TV programs about animals. All the different species take such good care of their young ones. And sometimes you can see them just getting frustrated that their young ones are “acting up,” or won’t sleep. I laugh at some of those. We did those same things. It was very difficult at times dealing with colicky babies or naughty toddlers. I remember thinking of how it would be when they finally grew up. I thought it would be a loving, wonderful relationship. And all the fun things we could do together. Well, that didn’t happen in my case, at least not with my daughter. She and her family cut off ties, unexpectedly. I do have a relationship with my adult son, but that is a bit complicated due to his mental health disability. So, things did not turn out as my dreams were. It was a very hard, hurtful time dealing with the estrangement from my daughter and her family. But I knew that if I kept rehashing it over and over in my mind, I would always be in prison, of my own making. So, I did escape that prison of my mind, and slowly rebuilt a good life for me. Yes, hard times come and go. Sometimes the holidays make me sad, but I just try to get thru them in a new way. Wishing all of you good healing. You will heal. Just try to get out of that prison of your mind going over and over about the hurt. Be extra good to yourself as you rebuild your life now.

    1. Kim

      Thank you for those wise words Diane. It certainly feels like a prison in your mind. Shifting the negative thoughts and focusing on other things helps.

  7. Suzanne W.

    Thank you, Sheri! Your emails are always timely. I am coming up on the ten year anniversary of the last time I saw my BD. It was on Thanksgiving Day, the day my mother died. I won’t go into the whole story of all the trauma since, but suffice to say my story is not unique. I thought I was doing pretty well, after many years, several therapists and hard chats with myself. Then I few months ago this daughter and I started to have occasional text conversations about family matters. She stays in contact with her stepsisters, even though she has totally distanced herself from my husband and I. These group texts are horrible, everyone talking about one of the stepdaughters who is sick and out of state. Last night I was watching an Agatha Christie movie and an incident occurred where a mother was driving her teenaged daughter home from an abortion and I was catapulted into despair. This was something I experienced with my daughter when she was very ill and I had totally suppressed the entire ordeal, until being reminded last night when watching the movie. It has thrown me. So glad to receive your email today. I do know I am responsible for my own joy, and I do not need to respond to these weird family text games anymore than I see fit. I’m grateful the topic came up about planning our own death. I will definitely reread that chapter as I am 71 and would not want my daughter, who clearly has no empathy for me, in charge of any of my affairs should my husband predecease me. After ten years, it has been a journey of ups and downs but the shadow of estrangement has never fully passed.

  8. Lita

    Hello Sheri,

    I recently purchased your book “Done With Crying” and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. It is helping me to sort my feelings, my anger, and my frustration. I recently lost my Mom and still grieving her passing in May of this year, as she was the one I turned to and who supported me with kindness, understanding, and love. To boot, my younger son has become estranged for which I cannot understand as like many other parents, I did my darnest for both my 2 boys. It has been a heart wrenching 2 years and recently my search to help me deal with this situation led me to your book. I would have never thought to share the same boat as many other parents as up until now, I felt like I was the only one living estrangement. Your book has served me well, and continues to do so. Thank you for sharing your own personal experience as well as those of other parents living the same ordeal.

    1. rparents Post author

      I’m very sorry to hear of your mother’s death. Sorry to hear you needed the book, too, but so glad you are finding it of help.

      Be well, my friend.
      Big HUGS,
      Sheri McGregor

  9. Andrea

    Ever grateful for this group Sheri and all the guidance Thank you all. I approach this Christmas determined to practice self care this season. I KNOW the grief will surface but this time, it is an expected visitor, I plan to give each wave a little moment time to process then to usher it out to focus on enjoying a season I really love. I am looking back on how my feelings are evolving over time, that shock, the initial gut wrenching raw pain has definitely subsided, it’s now a dull sadness, disappointment in my kids and nostalgia for the old times. I find myself even wondering if I still hold hope for reconnecting. Having tried and been firmly rejected I have had no choice but to accept their decision. I also wonder if I can ever regain trust and rebuild, now I know just how discompassionate and cruel they can be I feel like they’re strangers.Maybe I will feel differently but right now I wonder if I grieve a relationship and people that existed only in my mind and I was disillusioned? Certainly they do not value or love what I thought we had. This event happened immediately after the traumatic death of my mum, their beloved grandmother. I as next of kin had to make awful decisions about her end of life they did not agree with but also felt I didn’t treat them well in how I and my siblings held firm for my mother’s care. I may have not acted as they needed and see that, but how can anyone blame someone for not being perfect under such distress? So I lost my mum and two of 3 daughters in one fell swoop. Any way, to those of you new to this horrific experience I feel for you but trust that as with a physical bereavement the grief and its nature does change and it can be manageable given time. I read recently about ” glimmers” and actively searching for those moments, look it up! For me it’s been incredibly helpful and gives hope for a future without those girls, and more importantly happiness with the daughter who is still loving and wants me. She deserves a happier and functional mother.

  10. Cynthia

    I have been feeling apprehensive as the leaves change color here in New England and the holidays loom like a dark shadow.
    Thank you all for writing your thoughts and feelings because reading them today on this overcast Sunday has helped me feel less alone.

  11. D C.

    It is so good to resonate with what others have posted here. I too have a daughter who controls when I am able to see my only grandson. When visiting with her and my grandson, I find myself actively grieving the things I would love to do with him- (camping, babysitting overnight) to get to know him better. But I realized this may never happen in my lifetime and am working to accept this to understand this reality in how I live and communicate with her. But I now understand I haven’t had this with her in a very long time, my oldest daughter says this is how she has always been-(cold in her emotions) its that I “refused” to see this in her. She has had a traumatic event as well in her young adulthood (sexual assault) that at times I feel she has never fully dealt with and refuses to discuss at all with me. It is a time of seasonal sadness for me during the holidays..

  12. Doris

    This Christmas, it will be 9 years for us. I still have trouble with Christmas, especially since my whole side of the family turned their backs on us in support of our Son and his Wife. We have spent 8 years having Christmas alone. Recently one of my brothers and his wife figured out where the lies were coming from and supported us. Guess who is also now estranged from his kids? The 4 of us are having Christmas together, but I feel for my brother. The early years are the worst. Hopefully his kids will come to their senses.

  13. Claire H.

    I’m always grateful for your articles and each one is immensely helpful. A few weeks ago I marked the 25th anniversary of “losing” both of my wonderful sons to estrangement in a tragic divorce. I bought myself 25 beautiful roses and wrote a letter to me from both of them. This time, after trying every approach imaginable over the past 25 years, the letter was filled with hate and spite and disdain and rejection from them. It was a horrible letter. Like the story you published in your second book about the boat and the fish chum being thrown in the water. This letter “written by my two sons” has been very healing. My wish is that I stop missing them. Then my pain stops. It has been a relief! This is also my wish for all the estranged parents out there.

  14. Dorothea D.

    I have received your emails faithfully after joining the group. However this is the first time I have ever truly read through one. Why? I can’t really say. I have accepted this two year separation from my daughter and her two children. I refuse to dwell on it. I do let myself wonder if she will ever return; I have reached out several times to see if we could talk. Her response is, she’s not ready. My thoughts are I’m 73 years old maybe by the time she’s ready it may be too late.

    One thing you touched on that I realized there were numerous signs and hurtful comments long before the “Big Blowup”.

    Today I really read through your email and found it informative and comforting.
    So Thank you Sheri. And I will look forward to your next post

  15. Diane L.

    I find myself fluctuating back and forth Between acceptance and hope. It has been 4 1/2 years since the estrangement began and I am not allowed to have any interaction between me and my grandchildren. Trying to understand the why is fueling my anxiety about all of this. I believe that keeping that a secret offers my daughter the upper hand she desires. I gave up so much to help this child and she has simply said she is done with the drama. As I simply try to do what is best for me she is working hard to all alienate my other children from me as well. Life as I used to know it is gone and I need to move forward now!

    1. rparents Post author

      Oh, Diane. It’s a mystery … and not all of them are worthy of being unraveled … or even possible to unravel. Yep…time to get on with LIVING.
      Hugs, Sheri McGregor

  16. Kathy

    I honestly don’t know how you do it Sheri, can you read my mind? You certainly are beside me in spirit.

    It’s like a huge wave I sit upon. I think I can continue to manage this 7 year estrangement with my daughter, I summon my strength and convince myself I can stand tall, I know I did nothing to deserve this or …… did I? Oops there’s that self-doubt again. I try to shake it off, I will go on I say to myself, be it with her or without. And then, here we are at the end of October, another season going by, and it’s as if I ride this wave of turmoil once again only to know I will crash in the end as the wave of complicated freedom I’ve been believing I was on comes crashing down around me, once again.

    I am knitting this shawl and am at the point where I have conquered the most challenging part, it’s coming together so nicely, and I lose my focus and start thinking of my daughter and wonder when I finish this shawl, if it is as beautiful as I hope, if she would accept it as a gift, of love. Because I do still love her and miss her. I took up knitting complicated patterns that I have to focus on in order to have unburdened moments thinking about this estrangement, but the thoughts still creep in, mostly when I’m not expecting them to. And then I receive Sheri’s latest and greatest newsletter email and realize I have fallen prey to my unrelenting delusion once again.

    My realization and awareness of my fall from the latest wave I’ve been riding is compounded when I read other mother’s lament in the posts that follow. I wipe my eyes and read again and am dumbfounded that each story I read could have been written by me about my own journey. The thoughts, the pain, the hurt, the loss are all just like mine.

    How does one break this cycle and accept that we have been rejected. Just accept it and move on I say to myself. Not so easy to do. I hear from her now on birthdays and special holidays. An email will arrive with a one liner sending wishes on each occasion, I respond, hoping that the olive branch has been extended, but nothing more is offered, no response, no conversation lingers. I want so much to break this cycle because there is never any healing, only more internal questioning and sadness comes of it. And anger. It takes me weeks to recover. And now I wish special holidays and birthdays just didn’t exist, if I could only avoid this part of my life that weighs so heavy on me. Will I ever have all the answers? Will I ever get over this? Will I ever find the path in my journey that will provide me with joy and peace. Good grief, now here comes Christmas!

    1. Diane H.

      Hi Kathy, one of my children sent me a txt on Christmas day 2 years ago. I chose not to respond as I decided that I am worth more than an easy one line txt. At the very least, I am worth a phone call! I live the same pain you describe every day, but I don’t want to keep falling down those rabbit holes of looking for explanations and some kind of closure. I try to look after me, plan ahead and create my own path. Simple things make me feel better and in control of me – like remi ding myself to smile at strangers and engage in the world when I have previously kept my head down and stayed silent.

    2. rparents Post author

      Dear Kathy,

      Do you know how many WONDERFUL people would love that shawl? Who would appreciate the work and care and beauty of soul that went through your hands and into each hook and loop and movement to make it? I would. I would appreciate it. And there are many, many people out there who would. Please give it to YOURSELF as a gift of wrapping yourself in your own love. You deserve your kind care. Or, as an alternative, give it to someone worthy. Do not gift it to someone who will not value you or your lovely, heartfelt artistry.

      By the way, I saw a woman in some social media post the other day who had knitted (or maybe it was crocheted) a cat. It was so realistic! I am in awe of her and you.

      Sheri McGregor

    3. Peony

      Hi Kathy,

      What you said about receiving texts on birthdays or special occasions taking you weeks to recover from hit home with me. It’s the reason why I had to block my ED from communicating with me. It seemed just as I got stronger and began to feel better, one of those days would arrive and I began dreading them on the calendar. She wasn’t interested in anything other than making sure I was still on the hook….just in case she needs me when she wears out her new chosen family. Instead of being able to focus exclusively on my own self care, my husband, and the things that I can find enjoyable about holidays (even though my husband and I are completely on our own), it became again all about the estrangement. It’s hell, and I understand it. We all do. I have lost my only grandson who will turn two in a few months, but I had to let go of hope in order to move on. If motherhood didn’t “change” her I don’t think anything will, and frankly I couldn’t waste anymore of my health and energy waiting for that change.

      I wish you and all of us here peace of mind. I hope you will be kind and gentle and loving to yourself because you deserve it. Your shawl sounds beautiful and I hope you wrap yourself in it to bring you comfort.

    4. Jan K

      Kathy, in my experience your daughter will more likely seek more contact if you don’t respond to her email. Not suggesting it will be the olive branch you would like but she won’t be able to resist finding out why you didn’t respond. Our estranged adult children like to know they have the power to keep hurting us…not contacting them at all and you might hear from her.

  17. Kristine

    SO glad to receive your email this morning as the “holiday” season is upon us which often throws the depth of pain of our 35 year old daughter’s estrangement into hyper gear. She walked away nearly seven years ago and we learned earlier this year we have a grand-daughter. Tried to reach out to in-laws but although they are Christian, they obviously believe her lies and refused to even acknowledge our request for photos. What plagues me most days is “what can she possibly believe, and say about us, that could justify estrangement? Your books have been most helpful and I think I’ll re-read them!

    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you for your note, Kristine. Yes, re-read as needed. And you know what? I bet those in-laws are really exhausted with all the eggshell walking they must be doing. Cuz you know they are.

      I know this is painful, Kristine. This is not intended to minimize your pain.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Cherie Stevenson

      Kristine, I too have tried to reach out to my son’s in-laws. One is a church deacon of all things. He could care less about living his faith. Perhaps they too worry about being thrown away. Thank you, Cherie

  18. BonnieM

    Thank you for these thoughts, Sherri. I have struggled with carrying all the blame for the estrangement of my adult children. I am aware of my failures and mistakes in parenting, have owned them, asked their forgiveness, and made amends as best I could. I have jumped through every hoop they set up over the past ten years. And yet still two have gone NC, and two have set up restrictive boundaries to keep me in my lane. It has only been recently with the help of a therapist that I have laid down my efforts to mend the break and begun to focus on caring for myself. The sorrow of loss remains, but I now feel hope for my own future. The ball is now in their court. They know my door is open if they ever wish to reconnect, and I will receive them with open arms. But my energy is now focused on caring for myself and for others who want my company. Thank you for being part of my journey, Sheri.

  19. Preeta H.

    I particularly liked your article today.I am a divorced lady who had a rough ride a decade back and I never expected that there will be rougher rides.Yes,I have been estranged by my adult daughter and my experience,and the work I did on myself for the divorce have helped me a lot.Especially the part of loving myself which refuses to let anyone ill treating me.So,I adjusted very quickly on the practical level and even emotionally,I feel serene,giving myself really happy moments and occasionally feeling sorry for myself.Some say I am a strong woman,perhaps even pejoratively,but I say I am so proud to be that proud woman.I see the future with optimism,not in the sense of getting back to where we were stuff,but exactly as you say in your article…which I will translate a bit like…some murky waters have that special potential to grow lotuses!!So Im ready for the adventure!!Good luck to you all.

  20. Pamela H.

    my only child – daughter age 33 – mother of two boys – my grandbabies – has been indifferent towards me for quite some time now. i have done nothing but give up my life for this child since i found out i was pregnant with her…..

    my question is — now that i am 69 yrs old — how do I assure myself that she will have NO SAY about my older life? I DO NOT want her making any decisions about my care, my health, my LIFE, if i were unable to say so at the moment……her dad and i are divorced but remain friendly — he cannot figure out this estrangement either and continues to look at me to figure this out. our daughter at least acknowledges him so he is so confused , along with the rest of us.

    I have visions of her standing on my grave and smiling……..

    1. rparents Post author


      You need to take charge of this, and get started now to put documents and directives in place. You get to be in charge of your death. I work with individuals around this subject because I am an end-of-life educator and coach. Am planning a group in the near future, too. BUT, you can take charge of your life now as it pertains to your death. There is also some information in my books. HUGS to you Pamela. Big hugs.
      Sheri McGregor

    2. Sandy

      I have written to Sheri once when her first book was published. I continue to struggle with the estrangement of my 52 year old daughter who is married for the third time and has a 17 year old daughter. She first tossed me out of her life at age 16 for 3 years. Then again at age 21 for 4 years; then again, and again and again. This has been going on for 36 years. I adopted her as an infant. She has never once told me why or what happened to explain her long estrangements. We are now going on 4 years of her latest estrangement. I have been in therapy off and on for the past 36 years. My 17 year old granddaughter wants nothing to do with me either nor does the rest of the family. The emotional pain has been horrific. I am divorced, but I do keep quite active and do have a lot of friends, Christmas is my worst holiday.

      I too, like one of your recent readers who just asked you about “how do you think the estranged child will act or feel when we, the parent dies”? That is something we can never answer. I just turned 80 and I’m not in the best of health, so it was important that I make a decision. I recently put a Trust in place which does not include my daughter at all and she will have no authority what so ever. I am leaving my granddaughter a token gift of cash because I feel she was indoctrinated, but I’m not leaving anything to my daughter.

      It has taken me 36 years of pain and struggle to come to this decision. I have suffered so much pain, hurt, embarrassment, many signs of hope, just to be hurt all over again. I do pray for my daughter to find whatever it is she is looking for.

  21. Lori S.

    Just finally to a point of deep research on estrangement of my adult daughter. I read a few things here and there over the past 4 yrs. I became so paralyzed with sadness, confusion and anger this morning I couldn’t function. I allowed this senseless experience to take root one too many times. I feel validated by your articles when I found them just a moment ago. Your story could be my story almost exactly. I was surprised to see the title reflecting my very thoughts. I can’t get and answer in the fleeting and far between moments that she reaches out. I want to understand and heal and she wants to move on without discussion. I still do not know what has happened between us since she met her now husband at the age of 19 to now she is 23. There has been little to no visits, conversations and quite a bit of continued hurt by her and her in-law family. I can go a little bit and pretend things are fine and then emotions take hold and shut me down almost completely. Thank you for finally being the source after God of course to help me possibly become while again. Or at least control my crying and emotional break downs.

    1. Vicky H

      My situation is similar. Her in-laws are at her house constantly, while we rarely get to see the grandkids.
      Her husband is a jerk for manipulating this. But she shows no care for us.

  22. Anne P.

    After 3 years of estrangement from my adult son (his decision, not mine), I realized I was emotionally and physically carrying the grief of his decision. The heaviest I’d ever been was when I was 9 months pregnant with him. I realized that I had reached that exact weight while grieving. Since then, I began to visualize having the grief walk beside me, rather than carrying it. I have since lost 15 pounds and feel lighter in my soul.

    1. Carol

      Your comment about letting your grief walk beside you rather than carrying it, really resonates with me. Thank you Anne.

  23. Peony

    “Estrangement as a doorway to growth”, I LOVE this! Getting to the place where I can own as fact that I have been a good parent has been so helpful when doubts come into play. Narrating the facts, and the truth of the matter is my shield! Thank you for another great article, Sheri!

  24. emily38

    Wonderful words of encouragement and wisdom, Sheri. They are gifts for the journey.

    I feel this is a posting on par with your ‘boat’ story, a column important and vital for every estranged parent to read and assimilate. Then to live into.

    Thank you, as ever,




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