Estranged parents define themselves

estranged parentsEstranged parents, are you really estranged?

One mom mentioned receiving an email from her daughter. Although this was the first contact in a very long time, the mom wondered, “Am I still estranged?”

Her question echoes that of many estranged parents. If you finally get a response from an adult child who has ignored you, are you still “estranged”? Does receiving a phone call, a letter, a birthday card, or some other contact, change everything? What if you get a birthday card and a Christmas card? Do two cards mean you are no longer estranged? What about two phone calls plus a text? Let’s see.

Estranged parents, how ya’ feeling?

At, the word “estranged” is defined like this: displaying or evincing a feeling of alienation; alienated. It’s an adjective that describes a way of feeling.

If you feel estranged, then you are. There are no hard and fast definition rules that rely on technicalities.

Am I an estranged parent, or maybe just a semi-estranged parent?

Some people define limited contact such as an occasional call or email as “semi-estranged.” If that works for you, use it. But if occasional contact is the standard, who’s to decide what’s “occasional”? Again, there are no rules here.

If describing yourself as “only” or “just” semi-estranged makes you feel as if your pain from estrangement should be less hurtful than a parent’s “full” estrangement with absolutely no contact, then don’t qualify your definition of estrangement.

Estranged parents, period.

Some parents with no contact say they prefer complete silence than having some contact with an estranged adult child. I know, I know. . . . Some estranged parents can’t imagine saying that. Well, for parents who have received a couple of calls or texts, only to get excited about the possibility of more communication – – which doesn’t come – –  the high of hope followed by the crashing let down is just too painful. In some families, estranged parents are drained of cash from giving and giving and giving. They recognize a need to replenish their stores for their retirement phase, so cringe at the thought of their estranged adult child making contact and asking for even more.

Each situation is unique, so comparing our situation to another estranged parent’s circumstances, feelings or solutions may not be helpful.   

Estranged parents, you’re on both sides of the estrangement equation

While “estranged” describes feelings, the word “estrange” is a verb, so denotes action. To “estrange” is defined as follows: to remove, to keep at a distance.    

Despite some form of contact, you may still feel as if you’re kept at a distance or removed from your adult child’s life. To define yourself, your feelings, therefore, are also important on this side of the equation.

So, where does your estranged adult child fit into the equation? It’s something many of us wonder. Would my estranged adult son consider us “estranged”? I think he would, but then he did recently send a text. Does that mean he doesn’t feel as if we’re estranged? If he doesn’t feel estranged, then am I really an estranged parent?

Simply put, this site exists to help and support estranged parents. Although in many situations estranged adult children are also hurting, for now we’ll leave out the adult child’s definitions.

Estranged parents, determine your own definition (if it helps)

Parents use a lot of words to describe their feelings about a distant relationship with an adult child. You may feel rejected, abandoned, forsaken, alienated, dismissed, discarded, or kept at a distance.  In some situations, terms like “cash cow,” or “on call” even come up as parents describe themselves as related to the parent and adult child relationship. Again, if you feel distanced, you can call yourself “distanced,” or put another word in its place.

Some parents describe the experience as feeling betrayed. One way to move toward recovery after a betrayal is to no longer allow the betrayer to define you, your feelings or your thoughts about yourself.

Estranged, abandoned, rejected, discarded, neglected parents – welcome.  At this site, many estranged parent scenarios, with some or no contact, will be explored.

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11 thoughts on “Estranged parents define themselves

  1. Jan

    I have 2 estranged adult children. Both are extremely successful in life, so they don’t need anything from their low income mother. I have enough $ to get by so thankfully I don’t need anything from them. I moved from TX to IL to help my oldest daughter & her family with their busy lives. I lasted 2 1/2 yrs. then moved to OH. I got fed up only being ‘The Help’ & not treated like the rest of the family. My other daughter is an assistant professor & lives in OR & they don’t have kids. My daughter in IL punched me as hard as she could in my chest & I ran into my bathroom & tried to shut the door, but I wasn’t able to so she punched me again & I fell into the bathtub. Luckily my shower curtain sorta softened my fall. I’m 68 & didn’t need her to beat me up because she was mad at me. Whenever I voiced my opinion, I got a lecture & that time I got punched twice in my chest. Both my children are NARCISSISTS since there’s so successful. My ex-husband’s family & my own sister greatly indoctrinated my daughters to hate me from the time they were 10 years old. My daughters are in their 40’s so I have been the scapegoat of my family for decades. I’m fed up & texted my daughters not to ever contact me ever again. They know I live alone & don’t have anyone who checks on me. I don’t believe they’ll be sad when I die, but will rejoice that I’m forever gone. I’ve learned that if your adult children don’t want anything to do with you, I don’t believe they’ll ever try to have a real relationship with you. My heart goes out to all these suffering parents who aren’t guilty of anything but loving their children who don’t deserve it!

  2. Evelyn

    I get it when people think: what did that mother do that was so bad her own daughter does not want to see her anymore? I myself used to think that. I did not think my own actions would be ever held against me in such an unforgiving way. We are all only human I always thought, surely my intelligent children would recognize that. I did expect them to be angry at some point, like I myself was at my own parents in my twenties. How could they? I used to think. I couldn’t look my mother straight in the eye for a couple of days sometimes, and then she would say: ‘please tell me what I did, I cannot stand this’. And then I used to let her in on what was bothering me and I felt relieved, and so did she. She then used to say: ‘I wish I had known, I understand, I am sorry.’ And I understood she tried her best. And we both could move on. The mistakes my parents made were so much worse than mine I assumed, and I considered myself as safe.

    Until my own daughter started to avoid to look me in the eye and instead of really talking (or shouting, or whatever) choose to have no contact at all. This was a about six months ago and I think it is too soon to conclude I will never see her again, but her polite hostility scared me and makes me want to prepare for the worst. This does not seem as creating a healthy space while healing. It is like she is following a script, and needs us to be the typical bad guy.

    I hope my gut feeling is wrong.

    I know people of my age that have never stopped blaming their parents, which seems to narrow their minds and deprives them of feelings of empathy for themselves and others around them. I do not wish this for her. But to stop the blaming of others, you have to acknowledge your pain and take responsibility. That is tough. I know.

  3. Karen M.

    It’s been three months since my son and his wife announced they are estranged from me and my husband. I’ve read both of Sheri’s books – thank you Sheri! But the most painful loss is my precious 2 year old granddaughter who they have used to punish me. She and I were very close – this is my daily pain. I can imagine a life without my son as I’m struggling to forgive him for taking my granddaughter from me. But not having access to my granddaughter is sometimes too much to bear.

  4. Lora C.

    My youngest son has moved back in. He’s 33 and has some serious anger issues and severe anxiety. He is taking no medication except pot. He hates me and berates me on a daily basis. Telling me I’m stupid and have dementia. I’m all he has in this world.and me him. I walk on egg shells, and I’ve become a master at ” biting my tongue”. I just need to know someone else knows what I’m going thru. I have no hopes of it getting better. Prayer is my only solace. Make it one day, one hour at a time

    1. DK

      You need to give this 33 year old son of yours a move-out date. No parent should put up with abusive behavior like that coming from an adult child. I’m sorry to say that this problem probably started a long time ago. It sounds like you may have coddled him as a child, and are continuing to enable him into adulthood. Prayer will not help to stop the abuse. He actually resents you for supporting him, and will only begin to respect himself once you stop doing that. He will also respect you more too, because right now you’re acting like a doormat. Let him go, and stop the enmeshment. He may not come back to you as a functioning adult in a respectful relationship, but you don’t deserve the abuse. Abuse is not love. Let him go for your sake and also for his.

  5. Marge

    We have not seen our youngest daughter in 16 YEARS. We have absolutely no contact with her—no mail, e-mail or phone calls—her orders. Three years after she left the family, I told my husband “we have 2 options—curl up in this house, rot and die or we can continue enjoying our life. We chose the latter. When I think of her now, there is no feeling, no emotion, nothing. We buried her! Thanks for all the uplifting articles!

  6. Highland

    I do not define myself by this estrangement—and I do use that term. My older children have estranged themselves from us. This is their choice, for whatever reasons, their decision. They have absolutely betrayed us–their parents and sister, and that is tough to deal with. Challenges the ability to trust, that’s for sure. But we tried very hard to do the right things in this, to offer ourselves for whatever they needed to heal this family, to make it strong. I used to send emails to my younger son—loving memories, that sort of thing. I received a message that told me he read them, but was depressed and guilty. I should not send those messages. So, I stopped. Sent money when it was asked for; always presented a smile, never tried to talk seriously. It didn’t matter. We are estranged. No contact. Out of this very long and painful experience, we learned. We grew. We have become stronger, kinder, more loving. We are less judgmental of others. I suppose a bit sadder and wiser. But one thing I think we have done well–truly against “forces” that would have us do otherwise–is not allow this to define us; not allow it to hold anger or resentment. rather, we have used the hard lessons, the misery, of loss to turn us more fully into ourselves, always looking for ways to be better versions of ourselves I suppose. But it surely is an on-going process. Part of it, for me, is acceptance of the sadness, acknowledgement of the profound, unimaginable loss. It’s there, but it isn’t who I am. I am one of those who used to receive calls and texts, only to feel excited and then have that turn to grief–many times. So, I prefer the silence at this point. I need and deserve the peace, to accept and continue on.

    1. Ann T.

      My 1st contact. We are estranged from our son. Nearly 2 mths. This is the 3rd time over several yrs. No more groveling. Sadly I am hurting, my husband is angry. Your comnent was so helpful. Just want to move on. John is 80 I am 78 with several debilitating illnesses. Hoping this sight will help me, particularly, come to terms with this seperation. Kind regards Ann

  7. Carmen H.

    For about 6 years I have received no communication from my daughter who is 35. During this time at first I sent birthday and Christmas gifts to her. During this time she has had to babies, a boy and a girl. I send gifts and repeatedly send messages, emails, and pictures to her. Now I only send gifts to my grandchildren, some of which were returned/refused and some which I never get any follow up. My husband of 39 years and I divorced at about the beginning of my daughter’s estrangement from me. I have heard through my son that she still is in contact with her father.

    Now I journal what I send my Grandchildren and some of my thoughts about how I would love to see them . I think they will want to connect with me someday and that is my way to have hope for the future.

    1. JanPhyllis

      What has happened to love and respect your parents???
      Never have I read or seen so much open hostility to parents who have given their children everything!!!!

  8. Teresa K.

    Sometimes I think my son uses communication to remind me of his abandonment. I receive a text “Merry Christmas” from my oldest son only after sending my grandchildren Christmas presents. (I did not send him or his wife). My feeling is that the “Merry Christmas “ was his way of acknowledging his separation from gifts give. So, it was no surprise when I received no acknowledgement on my birthday a few months later. I am certain it was his way to remind me “you’re not my mom!” His birthday is in a few days. I’m not playing his game. I have sent a birthday gift. I choose to be who I wish to be….. his mom! Deal with it!


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