A gift for estranged fathers

estranged fathersA gift for estranged fathers (and estranged mothers, too)

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

As I write this in mid-June, the airwaves are flowing with Father’s Day messaging; ads for “manly” stuff. My guess is that most dads would rather have the gift of time. Well, maybe a few words about how much a child has appreciated all they’ve done. For estranged fathers whose children have cut them off (also for rejected mothers), there is often a pervasive feeling: Time is running out.

Estranged fathers ask: How much time is left?

I hear this question at least once or twice a month, usually from estranged fathers and mothers who recognize the eons of time they say they’ve wasted on hope or strife. They realize they must turn their focus to something they have the power to fix or change: Themselves.

Here, we’ll utilize a few familiar phrases to take charge.

  • Be a leader. If you’re in a relationship, take the lead in making your life great. Sometimes moms tell me their husbands don’t seem to care if their children are estranged. They can shrug it off easier, they say. The dads, however, share that seeing their wives so hurt makes them mad. How could a child who was so well-loved and -cared for be so cold? Estranged fathers, you need to tell your wives how you feel. That you do hurt, that you are sad, but also that you want to be sensible and strong. You still have a life, and you can work to make it great. A little honesty and understanding can go a long way … and help make your time together emotionally close. Then do take the lead in finding things to do and enjoy, despite the estrangement. Whether in a relationship or alone, what would help you to enjoy your life? Beyond Done With The Crying has many examples of ways to move forward both as a couple and alone. Some of what’s included are the prickly situations of one parent remaining touch with an estranged child who rejected the other, divorce situations including parental alienation, protecting your business, and looking out for yourself (and/or your spouse) as you navigate retirement and later life.
  • Know when to quit. In Beyond Done With The Crying, I share the story of a dad who has always been there for his daughter. He paid for her college tuition, even when she asked for “space.” He reached out lovingly on occasion, respected her boundaries, and held out hope that she’d mature, and that they’d be closer again. Eventually, this estranged father came to realize that the only one he could change was himself. He decided to initiate no further contact. He also made some decisions about investing in his own future. He realized that time was fleeting and, regardless of her decisions, he needed to prepare. Whether your situation is similar to this dad’s or completely different, distance, “space,” or full-on estrangement is the common denominator. When is enough enough? Only you know the answer for yourself in your situation–but it may be time to go with the flow.
  • Turn yourself around. If you’ve made the decision to empower yourself and take charge of your life despite an adult child’s estrangement, be patient. Most estranged fathers and mothers find that, at first, one step forward and two steps back isn’t unusual. Setbacks may be caused by emotional triggers like birthdays or holidays, or perhaps adult children reach out and you’re not sure the motives are pure (as described in this article: Adult children who reject parents: Why do they make contact now?). You may need to set some boundaries, and that’s true both when interacting with an estranged adult child and in how you think. You can learn to recognize our own unhealthy thought life and make changes to support your well-being. There’s help to wrestle our thinking into healthier patterns, and techniques to set boundaries in my books. If you do have a setback, the reminder can be painful but also beneficial. While it’s wise to forgive, forgetting may not be. A setback can help you grow stronger for your future.

 Time waits for no one

Many of estranged fathers and mothers have lived by clocks and calendars. Rhythms and cycles are a part of nature, and people naturally embrace them. While it’s true that time waits for no one, making plans provides a sense of mastery. By embracing the cycles of day, night, and the seasons, we can look forward to things we love—and then look back and savor time well spent.

Consider the year ahead (you don’t have to wait until January!). Think of the seasons, special occasions, big holidays, or personal anniversaries or days of remembrance. Reflect upon how you might like to spend those seasons or days. What can you do to commemorate them? Try new ways that honor who you are now and the season of your life you’re in. You can let go of the tried and not always so true, and move into new territory, at any age.

Maybe you want to spend more time with friends, on a fishing boat, or with your feet in the sand. Perhaps you’d like to see a particular site, travel somewhere exotic, lively, or breathtaking. You might visit a relative you’ve missed, witness the autumn brilliance of your hometown once more, or experience snow falling softly on a winter night. Maybe you finally want to get a bird feeder, binoculars, and books to help you identify the feathery variety that comes around. Or, you could join a bird watching group. Is there a particular festival or event you’d like to see? A regional food you’d like to try? This fall, I’d like to visit each of the farms clustered in a nearby area, taste their products (fruit, wine, cider, cheese, beer, baked goods, and more). Can you think of a similar pursuit? Perhaps thinking of the dates ahead brings to mind special people or momentous events in your life. Could you plant a memorial tree in a loved one’s honor, contribute to a place of worship that has special significance for you, or donate or volunteer at a pet rescue where you found a furry friend? What can you plan for?

Without any hesitation or censor, jot down any ideas that come to you. You can dream big, and you don’t have to think realistically—at least to start. Keep a running list over the next several days or weeks, perhaps organized into months or seasons. Later, choose several from your notes, and make plans to accomplish, pay homage to, or simply honor those choices in a personally significant way. For parents who have dedicated so much time and energy to raising children and grandchildren, calendars can suddenly be as empty as arms. Fill those slots with learning, laughter, and meaning.

Looking forward

Looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them.– L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables)

If you’re resistant to this idea, consider whether you’ve become bitter, don’t feel worthy of happiness, or have lost all hope. There’s help in my books to identify your sticking points,  strengthen and flex your emotional muscles, and step forward with a more optimistic outlook. Won’t you join me?

Related reading

Be sure to click the links to highlighted words in the article…many link to related reading.

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55 thoughts on “A gift for estranged fathers

  1. Charles

    Thank you for this. The estrangement of my two oldest daughters is fresh, but seems to have been brewing for years. And now I am terrified that my third daughter (age 14) will follow in their steps. We have six children, and the boys are all fine. But my confidence level as a father of girls is below zero. I have no idea how to avoid the next train wreck, and find myself planning for old age with three daughters who literally despise me. They have no such animus against my wife, however. I loved them all, never abused them in any way, did everything I could for them, arranged my whole life around them. Now I’m preparing for everything else to fall apart too. I just want to move somewhere extremely remote and hide until I die. Yes, I’m literally checking out rickety mobile homes and two room cabins a hundred miles from nowhere. It helps to know that others are going through the same thing, though I wish you weren’t and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

    1. Charles

      I always felt sorry for people who didn’t have relationships with their own fathers, or didn’t even know who their father was. I was determined that my own children would never be so deprived. How strange that people who never knew their own fathers wish they had, and people who did know their own fathers wish they hadn’t.

    2. rparents Post author

      You’re welcome, Charles. Please do not contract to a tiny space. You said you were a good father. Period. They don’t get to destroy you. Don’t let them. If you don’t have my latest book, Beyond Done, read it because it has info covering the feeling you describe. Your 14 year old needs your strength and commitment, too.

      Thank you for sharing here. I know your post will touch other parents.
      Hugs to you,
      Sheri Mcgregor

  2. Ashley

    Hugs & Love to Everyone ♥️
    I’ve been estranged from my oldest son for 15yrs. When he was 24yrs old I kicked him out of my house. We had a argument about chores,(of course it wasn’t about that). He was holding in some heavy emotional stuff, that I wasn’t aware of. Long story short when I was going through a divorce from his step dad. I kinda lost myself. And I must own up to the fact that I didn’t make the best decisions when he was 16yrs old. I ended up moving to another state & I let him decide if he wanted to come with me & my younger son. Bad idea I should have insisted he come. So eventually he did after 1yr. I thought things were back to normal. But he said in the big blow up that I abandoned him. I wish I could change everything. But my youngest son says, he would’ve used any excuse to no contact.
    I’m in so much pain, I’m the walking dead My youngest son tells me to forget about him. He keeps in contact. Yet he doesn’t share any information about his brother with me I am thankful I do speak with my baby, But I miss my oldest so so much.

    1. leslie

      I’m so sorry. I feel the same. My only child (not by choice), a daughter, 26, barely speaks to me. My heart has been shattered for years. I have no idea how to live the rest of my life like this. Unbearable. Again, I hope your pain lessens.

  3. Blake

    I’m a dad (for a number of years I wasn’t sure if I was a Dad anymore). It’s not Father’s Day nor is the day after Father’s Day challenging (much) it’s when meeting new people. My three adult children have been silent for 10 years and in my opinion the reason is PAS (as if the reason even matters anymore). These past two years + have been very good and with two years of feeling good behind me I believe confidently that the intense pain of estrangement is also behind me.

    I have been working very hard to re build my own life up for the past two years +. I’ve restored my credit and my new business is working. I have a townhouse in a good part of town and I’m dating. Dating is now a part of rebuilding my life.

    When it’s time to share about estrangement, I can see that I’m being judged based upon the incomprehensible information that my own three children don’t talk to me. It usually changes the direction of the relationship. Most people have never heard of estrangement and think I’m joking at first. Most people can’t wrap their arms around the idea.

    How ironic that this estrangement, the most painful thing in my life that I am successfully healing follows me around and stares me in the face with every new relationship I build. Errrrrrr!

    Here is the thing, I made the idea of feeling whole and healing from this estrangement a major life goal. My goal is to be at total peace regarding the estrangement, and not just getting by, and not just “managing” it, but to heal it and to be at total peace. I like the phrase, “to radically accept and love myself and my life.” It’s a goal as important as any financial goal. In fact isn’t that a marvelous goal! To heal from the most difficult! I have spent massive time on healing this curse. I read, I study, I meet and I interview other estranged parents. I also joined groups for estranged CHILDREN to see how they think (wow is that eye opening). I’ve actively worked at healing. I decided that regardless of what happens to me and regardless of what my ex wife or my three children have done, I will heal this. I thought that I’d share that just his morning after reading some of these posts I realized (as part of my most important goal to be healed from this curse) that I’ll also have to accept that any new people in my life will be as confused as I was when estrangement first happened to me. I guess it’s only fair to let others be as shocked as I was and to be ok with offering a little time for them to process such a thing. Anyway, that’s where I’m at today. I’m grateful to read your posts.

    1. Mary Sue T.

      So glad to read about someone else being estranged from all three of their children. That sounds awful but it went from one child to all three. My children were my life, literally. I have had to crawl out of a very deep dark hole to recreate a life for myself. I’m still a work in progress and probably will be for as long as I’m breathing. It is really about letting go of all the pain, hurt, humiliation and starting over for yourself. Thank you for sharing your story.

    2. Workingonme

      Bless you Blake. Congratulations on your personal growth and thank you for sharing your story and insight

    3. diane m.

      Blake, thank you for posting this. This is exactly what we all need to read and share. Your words are wise, measured and honest. It’s an honesty and insight that we would all do well to embrace. It’s also clear that you have had time to digest and really think about what you refer to as a curse – and that’s what it is and how it feels. Your idea that healing is a goal, real healing, is one that I appreciate being reminded of. Thank you.

    4. Angela

      You are okay. You sound very reasonable and logical. Must be some ex wife something in that estrangement. Maybe you stepped out, or failed along the way. Funny thing about life. As your children age, they too will be full of errors of their ways. Also estranged, I pray my 1 son has an epiphany, although I doubt he will.

    5. Dar

      Blake thank you for sharing. Sometimes I feel so alone in my situation. People ask you about your children and you just can’t tell just anyone and share because they are gushing about their kids. Truly only someone who has been through this situation can fully understand the pain. I really need to find a group to connect with to help support me regarding this.

    6. Blake

      Update: Ugh Sheri is correct, I should not hunt around on line to get a peak of my three estranged. I just read a paper found online that my daughter wrote and posted that I was abusive and that I AM A DIAGNOSED PSYCHOPATH! Ahhh What? What’s that now? I’m a diagnosed psychopath?? I had no idea. At first I was shocked and then I let out a laugh too, all at the same time. If I am a diagnosed psychopath, shouldn’t I have been involved in this diagnosis? One would think that ot would actually be required to be involved with the process and be a participant with medical evaluations. Oh man – oh wow! Regarding my being abusive, I suppose I can see how my daughter at the age of 13 & 14 (at the time of terrible conflict in my marriage during the final two years) could believe such a thing. I am big enough to understand that she can feel that way, especially adding in my ex manipulating her. I really can see that view. Well- Sheri, I didn’t take your advice and after reading how my daughter views me, it knocked me down a couple pegs – that’s for sure. I was crying again, sad as sad can be and it knocked me off course. It’s like I have read about P.A.S. Over time such manipulated children will have larger and grander negative claims about the parent they estrange. After my three days of crying, journaling and talking to one friend it has past and I’m mostly back to ok. I believe part of my saddened state was due to reading and considering just how far apart my daughter is from me. Her belief system is something I can’t see ever being repaired and frankly, that’s good information in knowing I’m on the correct track of loving my memories of who we all were and let it go.

      FYI – to the person who responded to my post guessing that I “stepped out” on my marriage – wow, really?

      1. rparents Post author

        I’m sorry you saw lies about yourself online from your daughter, Blake. Sometimes, these sorts of things can be big turning points…reality checks that are like sunlight, clarifying the path FOR OURSELVES (or reclaiming, as you basically said). Steps forward…keep at it.

        Big hugs,
        Sheri Mcgregor

      2. Sarah

        Blake, thank you for sharing!

        None of us are perfect, and I don’t believe any of us would be on here if we were of the dark triad personalities… cuz those don’t care at all about what others think, including their children. Because we can feel pain, we know that we are real humans, with empathy. People with empathy are actually the gems of the world. Genuine people, honest, not perfect but apologetic and always improving.

        My youngest adult daughter diagnosed me as having multiple personality disorder after her abusive father told her things like this over and over (which is parental alienation = child abuse)
        I laughed too. Sad, but funny that these, who act more personality disordered than many adult children their age, declare that we are the disordered ones. If I am so disordered, why wont you (my children) have kind mercy on me and at least be kind? You know? They throw out terms to excuse their bullying ways, but they have no examples of evidence of their chosen diagnoses against us! They just stab your heart through with a sword, then run away. No reasons given…and this is part of our punishment in their mind, I guess. In reality, their behavior shows lack of empathy which is a key factor in a personality disorder.

        I do not have MPD or any dark triad personality disorder, but these kids think they are psychiatrists. THEY are the ones acting crazy, in my opinion, by not talking to us about what went wrong. If we were ax murderers, I would understand their distance. But I never even yelled at my kids (cuz I grew up with that and didn’t want that for my kids…even so, I still talked to MY parents, who also were not perfect…I know lots of people in my age range who never cut off their parents who actually hurt them… some had rough upbringings but they still visited and talked to their parents. I agree with abandoning an abuser…but my kids LOVE their abuser (their wealthy dad)

        There is something un-hinged at play with these adult (kids) who act so cruel-ly. They would not like it if someone they loved ghosted them without reason… or worse, paraded other people in front of them whom they loved “better”. It’s all so childish, more like bullying actually. Let’s join hands with the nasty parent and join in with the nasty parent to denigrate the one parent who actually could really be blessing me right now. All the things my girls could have had and done with me like when they were little, they rejected. THEY cut off their own feet in this sense. THEY cut off someone who loves them and only wants to bless them, for real. Narcissists need scapegoats so they can feel better about themselves, and my girls act like their dad, sadly.

        Maybe our kids just don’t love themselves and don’t feel that they deserve people in their lives who love them.
        Maybe some feel entitled and want to punish when we are not their vending machine because the world applauds narcissism and hurts any who won’t worship them. Narcissism and bullying are not stopped in our world, they are congratulated. But this is not genuine love.

        It is painful to see children that you taught better, or thought you did, to hurt their own selves by treating parents who love them with contempt. No one deserves good things from us if they abuse us. It’s too bad that the innocent children we laughed with and snuggled with have chosen what society says is ‘cool’. A society that celebrates selfishness and cruelty leads to broken relationships.

        We have so much to give. I find peace in giving the nurture, money, time I have to other children who love the attention. In my profession, and also with neighbor kids, etc. I love to give, so I do. It helps the healing. Thank you for sharing your pain, please know that you are not alone, and that we all can gain a form of victory over this, tho the spear in the heart remains. We can still LIVE! I pray that you find peace !!!

    7. Diane M.

      Wow, your story is very inspiring to me. You gave me many words of hope too like, feeling whole, goal of healing and that YOU WILL, letting others be shocked as you were, being at peace. You are such an inspiration to me. I can just feel the strength in your words. You must have worked very hard to get where you now are now and continue to rebuild your life. Good for you! I don’t think it’s a “curse” but just the way our estranged adult kids CHOOSE to be, for whatever reason. If they don’t tell us their reasons for estrangement, then it’s totally on them. I’m sure any of us would have been willing to listen to them if they did approach us, and tell us why, and possibly rebuild our relationship anew. But sometimes, that just does not happen. So we must, like you did, heal and move forward with our lives and happiness. Life is too short . Continued much happiness to you. Write again with your ongoing progress.
      Happy Father’s Day to you and all the dads out there.

  4. nancy

    This is difficult for me to write as I’ve never opened up before about the estrangement from my daughter. I am ashamed and heartbroken on one side and seething with anger on the other. My daughter has been very difficult to handle for many years. She has ADHD and consequently some serious behavioral issues. During her childhood I attempted to get her help many times. My husband at the time (and her father) thought there was nothing wrong, insisted it was me that had the problems, and that she was just a regular rebellious child/teenager. He allowed her to get away with horrendous behaviors and constant verbal abuse mostly aimed at me. He was her playmate and I was her parent. Every time she spoke back to me or was completely disrespectful, my husband listened, said nothing, drank alcohol, smoked pot, and stared at the tv. My daughter never had any friends, was sexually promiscuous, and put herself in risky situations constantly. I was always there for her when things didn’t go well-whether it was meetings at school, meetings with therapists, a shoulder to lean and cry on etc. There were always tears and hysterics. During this period, my husband lost his job, both of his parents died, and my daughter was raped by someone she had been friends with since early childhood. Our lives really fell apart…my husband spent the next few years on and off in a drunk stupor. He was miserable and abusive..and my daughter really lost control. It was on me to hold everyone together. I had to support my other child who was suffering from all the drama and go through a rape trial with my daughter (not once did her father meet with the detectives, lawyers or show up in court). I was all alone. We lost our house and had to move to a rental during this time. Our marriage, which was never great, really fell apart. My husband and I were miserable. We went to marriage counseling but it was too late. I wanted out. He was so angry and lashed out at me verbally. My daughter who was going through her own nightmare was also angry and the two of them blamed all their woes on me. I was the brunt of all their abuse. When my daughter yelled at me and called me the biggest bitch in the universe…her father agreed with her. The next few years for our family were really rough. We had one thing go wrong after another. I know I was not perfect and sometimes lost my cool. But, I loved my kids and plowed through the nightmare as best as I could at the time. About a year ago my daughters behavior was so horrendous that I told her that she could no longer live with me (she was in town for summer vacation as she is away in college). She was livid and went to live with her father. Since then-she has not talked to me. Ive tried many times to call/text. She tells me that she needs time to get over how awful I have been to her-but, she wont tell me exactly what has been so awful. I have been crying for a year straight and have really had it. Sometimes i feel hatred towards her. I have stood by her through thick and thin her whole life. I have been as loving as possible and accepting of her (after the rape she declared that she was gay-hates men…). I told her I would love her no matter what her sexual orientation was. No matter what she has thrown at me-I have always been there. I am working 60-70 hours weeks to put her through college and am completely exhausted on top of everything else. I recently asked her if we could meet when she comes to town this summer. She actually replied and said she would give me the opportunity to meet with her, listen to what she has to say about what I’ve done and allow me to apologize for my mistakes. She doesn’t know if there is a possibility of repairing the damage. I have a list of ‘dos’ and ‘donts’ for our meeting… the whole thing makes me sad and angry at the same time. I don’t know if we have a future together. I cannot trust her. She is so mean to me and has been for so many years. Not sure how I am going to handle this meeting.

    1. Cheryl

      I have a similar situation with my daughter being hateful towards me, but my daughter actually wrote a 4 page letter, front and back, about how toxic I was. I was not perfect either, no one is, but a lot of my “sins” were false accusations coming from “her” perspective. I apologized anyway, again and again and again. She has never accepted my apologies but rather accused me of gaslighting her. ( I had to Google that word because I wasn’t sure what it meant) once I knew, I made one last effort to make amends with a great deal of humility and shame but never defended my actions as Sheri as written in her first book that it’s counterproductive to defend one’s self because we cannot change the perspective of the estranged.
      It’s been 2 years since I made my final amends and I have not seen her since except 2x to “see” my grandson, not allowed to hold him, and it’s been a year and a her since I’ve seen him, he’ll be 3 soon and doesn’t know I exist. I understand the anger and the sadness and took a couple giant steps backwards last week, then I came back to life on life’s terms. This past weekend I visited my cousin a few hours, on my way to pick up a rescue puppy (I lost my dog 3 years ago and it was time for a new dog). I will be busy with him and acclimating him to my 2 cats. I also plan on visiting a few places I have not been to in awhile and my son and his gf are coming for the 4th. Time is going by, with or with the ED’s, I am choosing to enjoy life! God bless!

    2. diane m.

      Hi Nancy, please remember your truth. You are a mother and a leader in this relationship. Please don’t accept anything less than respect for yourself for a lifetime of care and nurturing. It may not be forthcoming, but is nonetheless true. Stand tall and strong. I wish someone had told me to drop the intense shame that came with grief and disbelief. Take care of yourself. Maybe pay for a relaxing facial instead of putting yourself through what sounds like a potentially traumatic meeting!

    3. Angela W.

      Omg, I’ve been with that “allow me to apologize” crap. And I did, over and over, dont do it. Stop paying for college, take care of yourself. Take a trip. Entitled would be her middle name.

    4. Elizabeth

      I would stop all payments to her college. If she won’t speak to you why on earth would you enable her by still fronting her $$? I feel kids these days have become so self centric that they cant see past their own needs and desires, in part because we as parents have spoiled them their entire life. I’m done meeting their every need and my life has been better for it.

  5. Diane M.

    I am in a depressed state today, that I can’t seem to shake off. They moved us out of our apt. for 2 weeks to a hotel, while they did total remodeling. It was such a hard job packing up all my things. I was so sad when I saw other neighbors kids and grandkids helping them pack up. Some went to stay with their families instead of going to a hotel. I did have a friend that helped me out and I’m so grateful for that. I came back to a huge mess and was unpacking for the past couple of weeks. It’s times like this that I feel so hurt that my daughter, her husband, and my three adult grandchildren never check in on me. I don’t exist to them. I was doing much better before this major renovation. I did email my daughter about it but all she said was, “good luck.” It could have been so much easier if I had 5 extra people helping me. I’ve been estranged from them for several years now. I was doing better. But when there are life changes, such as this move, the hurt came back, big time. Any suggestions as to how you may get out of a depression? I’m trying so hard. I want to enjoy myself again.

    1. Yvonne

      I’m so sorry that you’re feeling so sad and lonely. I too can relate as each holiday that rolls around seems to be an emotional trigger for me since we are Estranged and she is my only child. I am definitely looking to connect emotionally with other Estranged parents because they don’t tend to judge in the sHame tense to be difficult at times. ❤️

    2. rparents Post author

      Dear Diane,

      Setbacks are tough, and that’s especially true when you’re exhausted as I’m sure all the shifting has made you. One step at a time and don’t rush or overwork. Pick a “task” to cheer you each day. Maybe shift in the mind, too. Your place has been renovated. Now you can “remodel” yourself a bit too. Hugs to you, dear Diane.

      Sheri McGregor

    3. Carol B.

      After 5 years of “no contact” I lost all hope and isolated myself on my apartment for 3 months thinking I would never leave it. I felt I was lining in the land of the living dead. I have no family left. I lost 2 children and all the grandkids.To them I am already dead. The problem is I am still physical alive. I decided to look up books on Amazon and read the reviews.i slowly began reading these books and learned that I deserve to have a life of fulfillment. So I started to have lunch out with others and fill my time sharing activities with others my age. It sure keeps the trigger recalls from tearing at my heart And soul.

    4. Kathy

      I went to Christian counseling for an entire year at the expense on my own dime–it was costly but worth it.
      Have been attending Celebrate Recovery since last August. This is a Bible based group which is nation wide. It meets weekly. Currently, am attending their steps study which helps one to dive deeper to identify their ‘hurts, habits, hangups and messes’ in life. The misconception of many is this is for people who are drinkers/drug users. 2 out of 3 people who attend are actually there for their hurts.
      I highly recommend finding a chapter close to where you live and can attend regularly.

  6. Lupin

    Today is both Father’s day and my birthday. I honor my father, the good, the bad, the love and commitment to caring for others he espoused. He was a complicated man due to a very challenging early life, the stuff of true abuse not the minor slights too many of these kids estranging loving parents hide behind. He beat his kids, too readily and too often, and I am neither the worse for it nor I am angry it happened. At 24, I confronted him in a lovely meeting with my mom and him, he listened respectively and we moved on. That is family. I do not support the values these estranging kids have chosen. It is has been three years since my son came to his childhood home to explain his wife wanted him to not communicate with me. It has been a roller coaster ride since, I worked hard to create opportunities for reconciliation, he somewhat agreed, only to retreat. The complaints against his family are ludicrous, imaged out of her anxiety and his willingness to rescue her. I am not gonna play along even if it means no contact with my 1st grandchild. After all, I have learned how powerless we are in this unnecessary, damaging drama. I have no idea if they will chose to recover their humanity or keep heading down the abyss of misery they created. I have come to realize that what I struggle with is less self doubt and depression from rejection but rather complicated grief. With brain science advancing rapidly, I would like to share two sources of quality research and practical information I have found immensely helpful. The grieving process involves time, particularly when a essential bond btw parent and child is broken. Trauma, as we experience in estrangement changes our brains. I think there is comfort in being aware of the process, the more I understand how to re-frame my grief, the less anxiety I feel. Neuro-biologist Andrew Huberman explains The Science & Process of Healing from Grief | Huberman Lab Podcast #74 and one of the nation’s eminent grief research has written a new book and is collecting survey info. https://www.maryfrancesoconnor.com/ Happy Father Day to all you dads, I am so sorry that your kids have not found their way home.

  7. Charlotte

    Yes!!!! We accept that we cannot change our son’s skewed version of reality. We know that the reality is that we gave our son a good and solid family life and upbringing. We stood by him and supported him during 15 plus years of opioid addiction. We also suspect he feels validated through a therapist. But…we did our job, he’s a grown man, he can choose his family, as we are also doing. I’m the big picture, his sobriety is the most important thing for us. If you are a parent who has had to deal with addiction of a son or daughter, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers!

    1. chris

      I get it totally. My son started doing drugs and drink at 14 when he experienced a parental kidnapping by his father. Once he escaped he was a mess. I can’t diss on him, as we both have both worked hard to stay family, but he rejected me totally as I trigger him with memories of his past, which he wants to completely forget. The drugs and drink are his only therapy.

  8. Douglas S

    Thank you Sheri for this kind and heartfelt guidance. My only child rejected me 8 years ago and she is now married on the opposite Coast. I don’t think I have a grandchild, but I’m unsure. Most days I am already quite good at following these tips and have a bright and sunny disposition, a loving devotion to my (2nd) wife, who loves me back in ways I feel and hold deeply. But the grieving, like for a death, carries on and often strikes me without warning. I seek out hugs, put myself in beautiful natural environments, take action as a community volunteer in projects I believe in. It helps but the waves of sadness are like a bad friend who keeps coming back to punch me in the nose. Father’s Day is a difficult one for me, so I thank you for your support. Today I’m going to get out on my kayak on the beautiful San Francisco Bay and take great solace from earth’s beauty. Like the silly t-shirt says, “Life is Good”, and it’s up to me to continue making it so.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Douglas,

      Thank you for this wonderful reply. It’ll help other parents! Oh, and by the way, I have a little sign hanging in my home that says that very thing (Life is good).

      Hugs, and enjoy the kayaking!

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Angela

      This is like a death, but unlike death there’s no ending. The sorrow recedes for a time, but then percolates back up.

    3. David F

      Almost seven years now. I’ve done a decent job getting on. A loving relationship with a woman who is everything to me and who understands. But it’s still the deepest hurt in my life and it breaks through occasionally, like today.

    4. chris

      I feel for you Doug and I get the grieving. It never seems to end. Or, it goes away and you forget for half a day about the pain, but then get blindsided standing in the produce isle at the grocery store!

    5. LInda

      Douglas….that is exactly what it’s like for me! The grief..as with all grief..seems to step back and wait to surprise me again with no warning. My husband died suddenly 11 years ago and I went through the expected periods of grieving. Now only rarely does it leap up and floor me. I think what’s different with one’s child is they are still living so there is no opportunity to put grief to rest for long periods of time like there is with the death of a loved one. I hear what you are saying about being responsible for one’s own happiness and I DO try! But I don’t know why I can’t seem to come to terms with this and just let my “child” go. Wishing her well as she goes. I try to be bigger than the brutality of this situation but, I feel like I’m losing.

    1. Toni D

      Please get Sheri’s books to help you take the best care of yourself as you navigate this very difficult reality. They are full of perspective and encouragement and concrete steps to take. My son has been estranged for the better part of 15 years. I have only had the books since January and can honestly say that they are more helpful than anything I have read in that 15 years. You are worth taking care of. Prayers and hugs to you and all parents on Father’s Day.

  9. Nancy L.

    I sit here this morning heartbroken about the 6 of my 8 children who have decided to cut me out of their lives. I am 79 yrs old and my present husband will turn 80 at the end of August this year. We have been married for 36 beautiful years. Their father died this year at the ripe old age of 87. They had very little to do with him, except one of our sons and a daughter who cared for him in his later years until his passing. He and I established a friendship in his later years and talked often. My present husband and I have struggled financially since retiring and going on Social Security. I found out that if my present husband and I got a divorce I could collect SS from my first husband, therefore nearly doubling our income, so we decided to do that. Due to our advanced age after the paperwork was done and I was granted the SS from hubby #1 we could then remarry without losing that added income. Because I made a serious mistake of telling a family member what we were doing it got back to my children and 6 of those children decided they wanted nothing to do with me. That all took place this year. We have done nothing illegal in doing this. We followed the law but that matters not to the 6 children who have cut me out of their lives. My heart aches but I will never let them know and I will not beg for their love. Now we can do things we couldn’t before because we have the income to live a decent life in our final years.

    1. Amy

      StaY strong and carry on; the good word says press onward; enjoy every breath that God allows us and be aware that “they” were/are looking for an excuse that truly has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. This is sadly their loss. Carry on dear one❣️

  10. Thomas M.

    I last saw my 1st born son when he was 3 years old. He is now 45 with 2 children, and apparently still holding a grudge that I divorced his Mother, who married/divorced three more times after me for a total of six known marriages. I was 9 years younger and was her third. Despite court action demanding my visitation rights she kept her word from our divorce; “You’ll never know your son” – doing everything she could to keep us apart for many years. He now lives several States away and according to his sister (from ex-spouses 1st marriage) doesn’t want a relationship with me. I used to believe that one day he’d show up for ‘my side’ of the divorce or to punch me in the nose for abandoning him, but it doesn’t seem possible or likely that that will ever happen after all this time. I have grieved his absence from my life every day for 4 decades.

    I did remarry (we’ll celebrate 39 years in December) and we raised three sons of our own. We have good relationships despite the distance between us. They to, would love to know their older brother, but I just don’t see it ever happening.

    As said above; Time is running out….I’m nearly 70 years old and without any hope for a reunion.

  11. Dee R.

    I have been a Mother and a Father to my daughter and son! I could be Mother Teresa and my son would find fault. What hurts me more is not being able to have a relationship with the grandsons! Not knowing what they have been told. I for the most part have tried to move on, at times it still hurts! I have wrote each grandchild a letter if I pass, to let them know I loved them! Taken care of my affairs, but hope someday they will come knocking at my door. My daughter has been a blessing to me, through all this!

    1. Wendy M.

      Hi Dee-
      I have been where you are and the letter idea is a great one. It allows you to express your feelings and let the grandkids know you have always had them in your thoughts. I have been doing the same on a word document that I add to on birthdays, holidays or whenever I feel like sharing with them. I’ve added pictures of vacations, their cousins and things I’ve made for them. I never give up hope and a pray everyday that my son’s heart will open. The past couple of years he started sending me a simple text on my birthday and mother’s day and I have done the same with him. This past year my dad, his grandfather, passed away at the age of 94. I sent a text to my 3 sons asking if there was anything they wanted from my Mom and Dad’s house. “B” was the only one who responded asking for some things for his 3 children that were made by my Mom and Dad. When it came time to send them I thought I’d ask if I could drop them by when my husband and I were driving across country to our new home in Florida. To my surprise he said that would work. Three weeks ago I was able to see my son and his family in their home. My husband (his step-dad) was not invited. My husband knew how important it was for me to see my grandchildren so he dropped me off and parked nearby until I texted him. I was able to spend 2 plus hours with the grands and we had a wonderful time playing. (J is 9, S is 6 and T is 4). I had asked about future Facetimes and visits and was told that would be fine. I had an opportunity to get to know my DIL a little better. It was a nice visit and I will continue to hope but not have expectations. I am grateful that they know me and I can send packages and keep in touch. I wish the same for you. Never give up but always protect yourself and keep expectations low. I’m glad your daughter is so supportive. Bless all of you. W

    2. Dolores R.

      Hi, I am so sorry for what you are experiencing! Your life sounds like mine! I also have my letters written for my grandkids, letting them know I loved them! I have cards left for each life event I missed, hoping someday they will come to my door! My daughter will have them read a letter I wrote, about what happened to lead up to my son and I separation ! I myself could never please my son, always walking on egg shells! I want them to hear my side, this mom and grandmother was good! You take care!

  12. Gracie2021

    Faith, thank you for your reinforcing exactly what my husband has shared and, in particular, again reinforced after a recent event involving our oldest son, your husband’s words again emanated from MY husband’s mouth. I thought we were making headway in repairing our damaged relationship with our ES. Not to be after his latest unfounded attack. So……. We will concentrate on enjoying the years we have left together. We are celebrating our 50th anniversary next year and we are already planning our celebratory trip. Thank you, Faith and Sheri.

  13. Tovah

    My husband is greatly affected by our estrangement, more than me in fact, and I feel that is because he spent years working a lot of hours so that I could stay home with our two daughters. When he was home on weekends or vacations he wanted a peaceful environment. His job was very stressful.
    I strove to provide that much needed peace during his time at home but my doing so hid a painful truth from him, that our two daughters, progressively as they got older, became manipulative, mocking me, openly laughing at me, and disrespecting me when he wasn’t around.
    If I asked my eldest daughter to clean the blinds, for example, she became angry to be asked to help me and broke the blinds. This would never have been the reaction if he had asked her to do something.
    So they spared him, sensing maybe that his need for peace was an unspoken pact with them and maybe even a condoning of their disrespect toward me.
    He resembled the typecast Disney Dad profile, with frequent fun outings, most of his time off spent with them and a huge Christmas that became more elaborate and expensive each year.
    Once he was back at work they resumed behaving in extremely unbecoming ways. They were out of control. I was forced to be the sole disciplinarian and “bad guy” and although when I asked to be backed up on something he would do it, there were also other occasions that he gave in to them to avoid fighting. They knew keenly how to wear him down.
    As you may guess, they became master manipulators of this situation; it discredited and invalidated me. My relationship with them became a series of battles instead of the closeness of our female trio that I always wanted.
    Eventually I sought more support from him and he began to see their disrespect toward me. It began to include him. There was one instance that our younger daughter stole money out of his wallet when she had $300 birthday money in her room. She stole from him a second time when they were away from home. When he confronted her she threw his money back at him and ran away down a labyrinth of dark roads without her phone or ID. She forced him to panic and search for her in an unfamiliar place.
    I felt that this was happening because he was becoming more understanding of my situation and demanded that they change their behaviors and their attitudes with me.
    In their skewed perspective of things it must have seemed like a betrayal to them, to lose what they had come to view as an ally in a civil war of the parents.
    Still, my husband is shell shocked and suffering more than me to be estranged from them, because he wasn’t the target of their wrath for most of their childhood and for too long didn’t see us as anything but a peaceful, happy family. Which begs the question: Was peace at any price worth it?

    1. Carol

      I’m sorry for your and your husband’s pain. Something similar happened between my husband and our ED 3 months ago when for the first time in her life he told her she was wrong in the mean hurtful things she was saying to me and about me. She sent him a text a month ago saying she doesn’t want a relationship with me so it doesn’t make sense to have one with him, her dad, her #1 ally all her life. We never responded and trying to move on with our other 3 children. Take care

  14. emily38

    Thank you, Faith, for telling your story, and Happy Father’s Day to your husband (and you).

    Everything you’ve written reflects work, adjustment, reality-checking, self-awareness, self-respect and self-love. Self-love as expressed in self-acceptance and self- awareness. All are ‘good medicine’ for the deadly wounds of estrangement.

    Your story tells others it IS possible to rearrange attitudes, perceptions and viewpoints about who each parent is, and can be, after estrangement’s devastating pain. Healing takes the time it takes for every parent, but your commitment tells that it CAN happen.

    Thank you for a response that meets my own experience, one we don’t hear about often enough.


    1. Linda

      but how much time? I’ve been working at this for 11 yrs now. Working at trying to come to terms with it and let go. It is so deeply painful to me. I was really blindsided by this “child” of mine after her dad died suddenly and she simply threw our family away for greener pastures I guess. I just keep it simple, civil and adult to adult. But it’s the lingering pain. I just wish it would stop. Thank you for your perspective.

  15. Faith

    My husband has a pretty laid back attitude about out son’s estrangement. Although I know initially it was devastating and hurtful but after time goes by he said, you know what? We did our job, we raised him and he’s doing well in life. What he chooses to do as an adult is his choice. If that means he doesn’t want us in his or his family’s life then so be it. Right off the bat my husband said this is about he and his wife controlling us. He said no one is going to tell me how to live my life after so much life experience , travel and education. Especially from young twenty something year olds with little experience in the adult world. So if he wants to punish us by the silent/ no contact go ahead, they are the ones losing more than we are. We have already raised a family and been through all the milestones. We appreciate the quiet, no drama, etc. We no longer engage in the power/punishment games. To all the Dads, Moms, go do something wonderful on Sunday, talk a walk in a park, take yourself out to lunch. Just remember when you see the extended families having lunch together it’s probably just that one time a year.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Faith,

      This is such a great comment! Thank you for replying here. Happy Father’s Day to you and your husband both.

      Hugs from Sheri McGregor

    2. Workingonme

      Your comment was very helpful to me. My son singled out that he no longer wants his father in life last May, although he and DIL had issues with both of us. I gently challenged a few of the issues they had with me and must have made progress as occasionally I get texts, or an invite to meet with my son or a smile at a funeral, etc. I know you’re husband is basically right but in our case my husband does have room to grow as a person. I do too and am working on things. I just wish he would try to extend an olive branch or try to be civil if they are together in one place again. However I’m prepared that may never happen. Our daughters accept their dad as he is but have started to try to enlighten him when possible. This started for us in January of 2021 and I must say we are in a much better place than a year ago.

    3. Elena

      Great comment, Faith!
      It took me 10 years to come to the same conclusion. It’s their loss, we did our job, and did it very well: they are independent adults now doing whatever they please to do.

    4. chris

      I hear you! I don’t believe it’s all about power and punishment, but you know, that’s how it feels. Especially if you had a kid who was very rebellious and into drugs, etc. So, I agree, move on, let ’em be and go on with your life. I don’t believe in disinheriting or disowning children, as happened to me by my abusive parents (I became successful and a Christian). BUT, I see good kids with no parents, no one to support them at all and no family. Why shouldn’t I provide something for them instead of a child that can’t or won’t resolve conflict (and I am left to imagine what it is) and claims to hate me? I gave my child everything for three decades. Done. I’ll make my choices based upon love, not hate or displaced guilt. He may never see me again but I’ll not harden my heart against love or the young. That’s where it flourishes.

    5. Linda Yeager

      this was inspiring to read. I so wish I could get to a place that you both are. I can’t seem to let go of the hurt and sense of betrayal.

    6. Coral

      I agree,we raised them,they are not criminals nor living on the street, we did give them as much as we could ( maybe more than they deserved) and now that they are adults (45,34 and 33 years old) they can make their own decisions and mistakes. Thank you for sharing your story. Be happy Be safe.


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