Estranged from adult children: Take care of yourself

Emotional Well-Being Series
Estranged from adult children: Taking care of yourself

adult child is estrangedIn a recent post, we explored the question: Why? and how it can be helpful to parents who are estranged from adult children

It’s important to note that in order to deal with the loss, the why questions must be coupled with another set of questions, the crux of which is: How? How will I move forward? How can I keep up my strength? How can I get over this?

Answering all of these how questions involves taking care of yourself. It’s s natural to ask why after any traumatic emotional experience. When you are hurting because you are estranged from adult children, figuring out how you can get through the emotional roller coaster, move forward, and enjoy life is absolutely necessary.

After my adult child’s rejection, eating healthfully, resting, and recreation took a backseat. And sometimes, I comforted myself with unhealthy choices – – which was not helpful. I added extra weight, and exercised less. That meant having to re-start good habits, backtrack and lose the weight, etc. It was like digging deeper, so climbing out was even more difficult.

When estranged from adult children, take control, take care of yourself

When we become estranged from adult children, taking care of ourselves is necessary to deal with the stress, sadness, loss, and eventually heal. Getting into a self-care routine really helped me to feel better overall. I was better able to take control of my attitude, and my feelings about my life.

When we take good care of ourselves, we’re more likely to try new activities. We’re more likely to get up off the couch and get out into fresh air, participate in hobbies that bring us joy, and associate with friends. All of these things help us feel connected, and studies have shown that connections aid health as well as promote longevity and happiness.

Even when we’re estranged from adult children, we need to live our lives. Doing so empowers us — whether that means feeling strong enough to reach out more to an estranged child despite the possibility of disappointment, or fostering an attitude of acceptance for the time being.

Estranged from adult children: Assess your self-care

When short and quick, assessments can be useful tools to determine how well we’re taking care of ourselves. An assessment increases self-awareness and helps identify areas where we can be kinder to ourselves. If you take an assessment today, utilize the results to make changes where you see weaknesses in your self-care. Then take the assessment again. You will have a concrete picture of how you’re progressing.

Sometimes, when traumatic, emotionally unsettling events occur – – becoming estranged from adult children falls into this category! – – we can feel so out of sorts that we don’t know where to begin in caring for ourselves. Simply by its listings, a good assessment tool can help you think of ways to help yourself

Try this tool that I created for my life coaching clients, to assess how well you’re taking care of yourself. You’ll find it by clicking here.

Consider also sharing your results, or how you feel about how well (or not) you’ve taken care of yourself once you became estranged from your adult children by commenting on this article.

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32 thoughts on “Estranged from adult children: Take care of yourself

  1. Michelle R.

    Hi everyone I’m so sorry for all of you and also myself. This is an absolutely awful and cruel thing to do to us loving parents. My husband and myself are experiencing our 2nd estrangement in 3 years our son came back to us for awhile but sadly things are never the same. It has affected us differently and our marriage.I want our son in our lives but I can’t let myself go through this again I have to protect myself. I’m suffering from depression for the second time and on antidepressants, I feel my health is deteriorating and I’m only 58. I have tried so hard to put myself first and be pragmatic about this situation but at the end of the day it’s just so sad, unfair and heartbreaking

  2. candleinthewind

    Hello Geraldine
    You are coping. Sending nice messages of support to others who don’t know how to cope either is good work well done. I’ve just read one below I wrote some while back. I need to take my own advice (!), but we do understand each other on this site and that’s massively important.

    1. Mabel

      I feel exactly that…we understand each other in this group…only here with you I could read you and feel that we shared thoughts…anger…sometimes guilt for having to protect ourselves from our narcissistic adult children…pain when seeing other mothers who are loved by their children… having to smile friendly when a friend tells you about their children and family outings… and at the same time wanting to cover their ears and run away… having to listen to what we don’t even want to hear… fear of tiring people by always talking to them about our pain… fear of birthdays… mother’s days etc… it’s like that… here we understand each other… thank you Sheri for creating this group. From Argentina a hug to all wonderful beings

  3. Sarah n.

    11 years of estrangement i am done with crying!
    My occupation working in the medical field is very humbling, a recent situation i experienced was being in theatre when a very young guy who had been perfectly healthy developed sepsis following a flu virus had to have bilateral amputation of limbs , amputation of finger tips and was on the brink of death. He came round from surgery and smiled his life completley changed , his dreams of being a proffesional footballer taken from him ? He is worthy of my prayers not my ED 11 years of crying for her is gone she doesnt deserve my energy anymore . Blunt but true.

  4. Sarah n.

    11 years of estrangement i am done with crying!
    My occupation working in the medical field is very humbling, a recent situation i experienced was being in theatre when a very young guy who had been perfectly healthy developed sepsis following a flu virus had to have bilateral amputation of limbs , amputation of finger tips and was on the brink of death. He came round from surgery and smiled his life completley changed , his dreams of being a proffesional footballer taken from him ? He is worthy of my prayers not my ED 11 years if crying for her is gone she doesnt deserve my energy anymore . Blunt but true.

  5. Teri

    Hi friends and fellow travelers. I have just joined this community, and though I’m sad we have arrived at this place in time together, grieving the loss of our children, I am immensely grateful to dip into your collective strength after a lonely 3-year struggle. Joining you all is one step in the right direction in terms of self care. I also write daily. It’s amazing how liberating it is to untangle my knots and reflect through writing. Sometimes my writing is raw; other times it’s hopeful. But that’s the beauty of its release. Writing formalizes whatever I’m feeling and allows me to tuck it away for the time being. In year 2, I decided that life is a wild ride and I’m going to learn a skill I’ve always wanted to learn. I took up ice skating of all things! I also decided that although my family has a gaping hole, we can live with it. And when I say “live with it,” I mean with high quality. After the initial shock of my son’s abandonment, I was able to reframe my family in terms of what was right in front of me, meaning the people who choose me and love me in return. We make new memories in this “new” reality, and when the sadness wells up, I have the new memories to help me float to the top. Sadly or not sadly, my “reframed” family is becoming my new normal. I never thought I’d say that. The hardest part for me has been emerging from the darkness and re-engaging in my community. We shoulder shame and other complex emotions associated with this phenomenon, and it’s embarrassing. It’s easy to retreat into a confined space, away from other people who simply do not have a clue what we’ve been through. I’m learning that this “thing” doesn’t need to define me (like a Scarlet Letter), so I’m getting back out there, slowly but surely. I also should add one more thing…I do allow myself time to think about my son and to process the abandonment. For now, I need these designated moments, in my safe space. So, I treat myself with grace, feel through it, and walk away with one positive goal to work toward. Thanks for reading.

      1. Geraldine M.

        I’m so sorry, u am feeling awful sad too , my 5 children ignore me. Long story , I’m lost depressed and might move to another country. I’m in Ireland now,

  6. Loretta

    Dear Amy,
    It is a horrific painful mystery. I’m so sorry you are going through this! I hope it is helpful for you to know that you are not alone. Our situations may vary, but pain and confusion seems universal.
    Hugs friend.

  7. Judith

    It’s truly a God thing for me to stumble across this column at this time in my life. I just stopped my daughter the other day (she was walking her dog), this after almost two years of not speaking. She and her husband live in the same condo building on the first floor. We always had a good & fun relationship until I took my youngest daughter in after she moved back home from out of state after a divorce. This younger daughter has said to me “i’m done” gets up, packs up and leaves. She has done this to me 4 times in the past. No communication for months. This time it has effected my relation ship with my oldest. I have 3 adult children. They have brought 9 spouses into our family. They were all treated as our own. We had 5 grandsons. We lost 2 to suicide. My husband & I moved my father back home to live with us. He had Parkinson. Then I took care of my husband who developed alsheimers.
    He’s been gone 11 yrs. Took my son in. He came home to help me with his dad. Ended up beating his father twice. I’m 80 yrs young now. I’m an only child, so was my husband. So no other support. I am of a mind now that I do not want a relationship with my son or youngest daughter. I have made it this far by the grace of God and great friends. I thank him everyday for the life he has given me.
    And pray for my children and know that God will take care of the rest.

  8. Pat

    I have been through rejections several times over the years with my daughter who is now in her late fifties. The latest was just recently and crushed me. I am 83 years old. My husband of 63 years passed away 2 years ago and I have made 2 major moves, my husband had Alzheimer’s for at least 10-15 years. Now my daughter accuses me of being ungrateful, narcissist, and self- centered and until I can show more positive things in my life, for
    her emotional well being does not want to be around me. I had just been recovering from an illness when she sente this hateful text. It included more than I shared. Trying to cope.

  9. Amy

    I am at a total loss. Six months ago my 20 year old daughter sent me a text. It simply said. I am sorry but I need some time. We had just had a wonderful time celebrating her birthday together. We talked, laughed and she confided in me. Just as she always had. Since that text I have heard nothing. She blocked me. So I cannot text her. I can leave a message when I call. And I have left many . No response. I miss my daughter so much! It is like I have a part of me that is missing. This has caused a deep depression. If only I knew why the estrangement. I feel like I could move forward.

    1. Christine E.

      I so feel your pain. My estrangement from my daughter started at around that age. For the last 20 years it has been a roller coaster of estrangements lasting at least a year. In this time, I learned to “watch” what I say and walk on eggshells around her, waiting for the time I would inevitably say something to piss her off, and when I would apologize, she would say something like “well, I wasn’t surprised, it’s what you do”. There was never any option of talking things out, trying to reach a mutual understanding, and I always felt like I was dragging this relationship like a burden up a hill. I finally gave up, and am done after this last estrangement. She is almost 40. It feels good to finally take control of my life, hop off that hamster wheel and say ENOUGH! I know that I can never have a relationship with her again. The trust is gone. I can never trust this relationship to not carry hurt and abandonment as it’s side car. I will no longer be duped by the times she is kind, and loving, because I know she probably wants something and the side car is just around the corner. I still am vulnerable to deep moments of despair, but I recognize that feeling, and am able to redirect successfully most of the time. I do allow myself occasions to wallow, but those are usually not very beneficial, so I keep those days to a minimum. There is a silver lining. I have taken this time to really reflect, meditate and know myself. I’ve actually come to like myself and now put myself first. I never really did that before. It feels good and empowering to finally get some control over my despair.

    2. JM

      I understand where you’re coming from, unfortunately! My daughter also did something similar to me when she was 20, we didn’t talk for a yr and I was the one always reaching out. Then she decided she was ready to have me back in her life (I chalked this up to the bf she was with at the time). Fast Forward 2 yrs and we’re here, again after my bf and I helped her and her fiancée move back to the state and we had an awesome Thanksgiving together! Within 2 weeks of moving them, she had planned her baby shower behind my back and had the nerve to invite me to it, she had planned it with her step-monster (while we were planning it), someone whom she didn’t want anything to do with 3 months prior! Then lied to my Mom about why she did, when I called her on it, she said whatever floats your boat and blocked me! I have gone through the why’s and I don’t understand, a lot lately especially as her due date gets closer! My therapist has told me I need to come to terms with the “I don’t know”, and “why’s” because I will more than likely never get that answer (same thing I had to do after I filed for divorce). And I need to decide how to handle it if she ever comes back into my life, because she will use my grandson against me (he does not deserve to be used as a pawn, it’s her MO). I’ve also considered selling my property and moving, so I am not in the same town as them. I have a lot to think through and have very dark days as well, today being one of them. Just know you’re not alone, and this excerpt came up just as I needed it today! Big hugs and thoughts!

    3. Loretta

      Dear Amy,
      It is a horrific painful mystery. I’m so sorry you are going through this! I hope it is helpful for you to know that you are not alone. Our situations may vary, but pain and confusion seems universal.
      Hugs friend.

      1. Gail

        I am going thru the same horrible thing.i was up to there house at christmas.i left I thought we had a wonderful day. Well in her mind she didn’t see it that way. Next day omg she was horrible to me. Blocked me after Christmas never to hear from her again. I basically almost feel suicidal over it. I’m 70 one June 12.i think of her all the time. Pray to bo avail.i believe I will never heard from her again.God I want my daughter back. I have a horrible feeling its over

        1. rparents Post author


          I hope you will get some local support. You don’t deserve this disrespect and cruelty and must seek out things you enjoy and cultivate what will be sunny for yourself. I know it’s tough and you’re definitely in the company (here) of those who understand. You count and must count for yourself.

          Hugs to you.

          Sheri McGregor

        2. Geraldine M.

          I know how u feel , what country are you in, you need support I’ll support you , im hoping my children will come back to me but it doesn’t look like it.
          I feel your pain

    4. AL

      I recently joined this group, and it seems like there are many parents in the same situation as I am right now . I’m a 72 retired father who decided to visit her 47 year old Daughter and her three kids 20, 15,13 . It was her idea for me to visit them and they even pay for a one way ticket from Florida to California . to stay for a few weeks last Dic through the New Year 2023. Everything was wonderful . I like as always was cooking for all of them , I’m a cook and baker for many years and I really enjoy baking and cooking for my family and friends. During my stayed there, I baked and prepared a variety of desserts and meals , not only for the whole family but also for all of my 20 year old grandson’s friends, including baking a cake for two of his friends. As the weeks went by , I started to really enjoying staying there with all of them. My Son in law always so loving and appreciate all that I was doing for them . I not only cook but I also bought and paid for everything I cooked and baked , and also bought a few kitchen essentials that I needed for my baking and special meals.I purchased my returned ticket to Florida to leave by the end of February 2023 . 8 weeks after my arrival. Then my youngest Son who lives in Vegas wanted me to spend a few weeks with him and his family. He has a wife and a ten year old Son. I then told my Daughter I was canceling my trip back and just play it by ear to see when I was returning to Florida.My Daughter and her family happened to already had plans to celebrate my oldest Grandson’s 21st birthday in Vegas, so they drove me to my Son’s house and we had a few days of celebration , they drove back to California and I stayed at my Son’s house. After arriving here, I told my son, that I haven’t heard from his sister in a few days, he then proceeded to tell me, that apparently my Daughter was really mad at me because I was cooking everyday and never told her I planned to stayed as long as I did . I tried to call her and have texted her a few times and I have been here in Vegas now two weeks and haven’t heard from any of them , except for my Son-in-law who text me on Easter wishing me a Happy Day. I had left a greeting card at my Daughter’s before I left. It was a card giving them thank you for their wonderful hospitality and love. My Son went to visit California on Easter weekend to see his wife’s family and briefly stop by to see his sister . That’s when she gave my son the card I have left for her and her family as a thank you gesture . The card was returned to me unopened . I don’t know what I did wrong and can not communicate with my Daughter at all. This is really braking my heart, because as you all are aware of .. our next chapter ain’t that long and this kind of pain is very damaging specially at our age.



    5. Brenda T.

      Two years of estrangement with my adult daughter and I remain confused but only if that’s all that I am thinking about. She is my only child and I have three young grandchildren that I miss. Moving forward by the Grace of God. My friends are my family now and I have a great group of good down to earth friends that Love me. I focus on that love not the energy zapping emotions of my daughter’s actions.

  10. Joyce M.

    I am 76 yrs old and have a son and daughter. After covid she (47) was not coping well
    and had a mental breakdown over being so isolated. She had her own studio (pottery)
    in my home and worked alone during the past 2 yrs. One year ago she met a man
    in a parking lot told her he would make her a princess, was a doctor, etc. She was
    overwhelmed and told him little about herself which she regrets. I found out that this
    person was a liar and not a doctor. She refused to believe this and started writing hundreds
    of letters in journals that were bizarre. I could not understand this behaviour and she never
    confided her thoughts to me. On Good Friday she went out with a guy who lives next
    door in the basement and she later was invited over. He was an enabler and gave her
    alcohol and pot. Later she was screaming outside and he was with her but didn’t till
    me what happened. The neighbours called 911 and she screamed for this doctor
    and fought off 4 medics and they took her to the hospital. It was an absolute nightmare
    for me. Next day hospital sent her home by taxi as she refused to talk with a therapist,etc.
    I still put up with this behaviour until by June 2 more incidents had 911 called. She was
    sent to our local hospital and she is now living in a very nice lodge and has made contact
    with me about 2 mos. ago. She is not happy at home here so I told her not to come back
    to see me unless she came with a friend from the lodge or the new church. She was
    becoming verbally abusive to me and Ilive alone and have to absorb this pain. I think about
    her every day and have gone to visit her with our dog. She said she has found God and
    forgives me for sending her for help but will not forget. I blame our medical system for
    failing her and now the man who runs the lodge is her friend and protector and me.
    I so appreciate this wonderful man and have made a connection with him in case of any
    further upsets. This is how I live every day, asking why this had to happen to such a
    wonderful girl. I try to pray but God is taking his time in helping me find a way around
    this obstacle and what the future will bring. By reading all of the above letters I know
    I am not alone but its hard to look forward. Thanks for letting me put this in writing
    and I hope people will see we are all affected and disheartened in similar ways.


  11. Becky

    Hi everyone. Tonight I am feeling rage
    About my adult daughter. Who is so
    Distant. Even while living in the same town.
    I think the denial is breaking. I am just
    Tired of it. This has been going on for
    Years. I just want to move away. I don’t have family
    Here in Colorado anymore. Looking for
    A traveling companion. Anyway happy
    To see this site.

    1. Julie

      Dear Becky,
      I also live in Colorado. After divorcing I stayed in the same small town so my child could finish school here.
      Her father did some unspeakable things which damaged both me and my child. It is not just his behavior that is “bothersome”. He has profound character flaws, a personality disorder and a total lack of integrity. Years of gaslighting and chronic lying wore me down and I became very reactive. Now my child is focusing on my reactions instead of what provoked them.

      Shockingly to me, my child has recently chosen to live with him and is pulling away from me more and more. My child won’t answer texts or phone calls and only reaches out when they want to.

      I love my child very much and I am devastated. I am at a loss. I stayed in that awful marriage thinking it was the best thing for my child. It destroyed my emotional and physical health and now I’m being punished further as all his “sins” seem to be forgiven and I am ripped to shreds, being crucified for my reactions to his insanity.

      I’m beyond heartbroken. I too would like to find someone to travel with. There’s way more to the story and the pain is becoming unbearable.

    2. Geraldine M.

      I don’t know what to say, I wNt want to move away to another country too, mines been going on 12 years, It’s a nightmare. I hope things get better foe you

  12. Nora

    What should I do when I feel like I just can’t do this anymore? The pain is cutting too deep. I am not new to this. It started 11 yrs ago after my husband died suddenly. My daughter rejected me and moved to another state saying she was going to be with the people who made her happy now. So brutal and undeserved. I recognize this isn’t all about me and she has her own burdens to carry and her own shortcomings. I own my own. But the sense of betrayal….not just of me but of her siblings as well…is so powerful. Two grandchildren I don’t see. I send gifts on the appropriate occasions. She threw her family of origin under the bus for reasons I don’t understand. Her level of cruelty is hard to understand. I see all the happy family photos on social media particularly the ones with all the inlaws…celebrating in Hawaii for example. It is so painful. I have a long time therapist so am not without professional support. But there are times in which I feel like I just can’t do this anymore.

    1. Carol

      Hello Nora
      First of all I’m so sorry you’re hurting. I can honestly say I know how you feel. Reading your story sounds like my own. I (and my family) were not the ‘chosen’ one. My daughter’s cruelty in her estrangement is so overwhelming and I too have lost my grandsons, one whom I’ve cared for since he was a baby.
      Thank you for sharing your story and pain, it makes me feel as though I am not alone in this, I didn’t realise it was a ‘thing’. Sending you virtual hugs, I’ve no doubt that you have been a wonderful mother.

    2. Jan P.

      Hi. I totally understand about the social media thing. It hurts my heart every time I see a friend post pictures of children & grandchildren. My grandchildren live far away in another state. I never get to see them. No phone calls, pictures, etc. Their mother, who I was especially close to, has chosen to ghost me. My eldest daughter moved across country to live with her sister and didn’t even tell me she was moving. I haven’t seen them in over a year. I am glad they’re close, but it stings that they, for some reason I don’t know, have chosen to exclude me from everything. Just recently they drove from their state to mine, spent a few days with their dad (we’ve been divorced for many years), and didn’t spend any time with me. I didn’t even know they were here. And here comes that social media thing again – I saw pictures of my children and grandchildren spending time with their dad (and that’s OK) – but also with granddad’s newest girlfriend. She was worthy enough to spend time with my grandchildren, hold them in her lap, play with them, hug them, etc. But, like you, I am so DONE. I can’t continue to invite the pain and rejection into my life. I miss them all so desperately. But, I’ve accepted that there’s nothing I can to about this situation. I can’t fix what I don’t know is broken.

    3. Geraldine M.

      I’m so sorry , I have very similar its my 5 kids and i don’t see my grandchildren, I now have depression, its uncalled for, I can’t cope anymore
      Regards Geraldine

  13. Bonita L.

    Hi I’m new to the group it’s been almost 14 years and I’m still hurt and upset His Birthday is next week and here comes the tears, I lost a son at four years old and have 2 more boys one he’s okay and the estranged one I feel as if I lost 2 The truth is he is still alive and it hurts me so at times,

    1. candleinthewind

      Hello Bonita. What a lovely name. The birthdays do hurt, what I do is send/give a present to myself (as if to him/her to celebrate the love you have/still have/wish you didn’t?) anyway, celebrate being alive, being nice, be nice to yourself, buy or do something that you like, that brings you joy, that you would like to bring to him but bring it back to yourself. Keep being kind and loving but to yourself, that way the hurt doesn’t turn to bitterness, or lessens the sting, something like that. We brought them into the world to choose to live as they choose, with or without their mother. It hurts, but we can do nice things for ourselves to lessen the pain and give ourselves a nice treat!

      1. Anna S.

        To send a present to yourself is a wonderful idea. I think I will buy myself flowers for my daughter’s next birthday. Just as a reminder of all the joy she brought to me before she closed the door. I don’t want what happened to taint my image of her to the point where all the good years no longer count. I still want to be grateful for what she used to bring to our lives: her sweet notes, her laughter, her singing. and all that love and warmth. And I want to honor what I brought to her life as well. In all the self-blame and overanalyzing it’s so easy to forget what we did right. And the flowers would remind me of that too. So thank you for the idea.


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