Estranged parents: Get out of the comfort zone

estranged parents comfort zoneEstranged parents: Get out of the comfort zone

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Venus, the perky young woman in brightly colored spandex, paused her pen on the intake form and looked up with a grin. “How tall did you say you were?”

“Five ten and a half,” I replied.

Ooh, girl!” she said with a squeal. “I hear Victoria’s Secret is looking for models.”

How many times had she used that line, I wondered, as she jotted my data on her form.

“Let me tell you about the program.” All business now, she launched into her sales pitch for the fitness program that included a meal plan, classes, and full use of the gym every day.

I squirmed in my seat. This was getting real.

As she went on about High Intensity Training classes she referred to as “HIT,” my mind wandered back to the advertisement I’d first seen online:

estranged parents comfort zone

In front of my computer, my index finger had hovered over the “join” button. I’d never liked gyms, but I did recently turn 60, and I was holding some extra pounds from a recent long-distance move, heaped-on stress, and Covid-19 (isn’t that last one everyone’s excuse right now?). It was time to get out of my comfort zone. Besides, how hard could this be?

I imagined a supportive group of older women, smiling and laughing, cheering each other on. Maybe we’d become friends—something I could use in my new town, which was just emerging from pandemic restrictions.

My nerves racing with a mix of fear and excitement, I had clicked on “join,” filled in my info, and was prompted to choose an orientation time. When I did, my phone almost immediately jangled. A text had arrived from my new personal trainer: See you tomorrow, Sheri. I can’t wait to help you crush your goals!

Now, as I met with Venus at a small desk near the entry door to the gym, I wondered: Am I really ready for this?

Cozy up

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the safety zone of home took on more importance. To varying degrees, many of us had no choice but to embrace isolation. Estranged parents’ comfort zone usually already means shrinking back from social situations to avoid awkward questions and uncomfortable explanations. The pandemic made isolation the norm.

Some estranged parents said knowing that made being alone a little easier. Others felt the sting of estrangement more acutely. If a global pandemic can’t make someone see how fleeting life can be, what can? It became a turning point. Regardless, now that the whole world is starting to step beyond the safe comfort of home, estranged parents can join in the collective momentum, push past boundaries, and derive benefits. That’s what I was thinking anyway, when I clicked on “join” for the fitness challenge.

Estranged parents, get out of your comfort zone

Estranged parents suffer deleterious effects to psyches, health, and self-worth. You might have caught yourself asking questions such as these:

  • Who am I if I’m no longer a dad?
  • What gives me purpose if I’m no longer a grandmother?
  • If my own flesh and blood doesn’t want me, who will?

Don’t get down on yourself about the thoughts. Estranged parents are thrust into a transition beyond their control. That’s similar to the pandemic’s effects. Only this time, we need to recognize the benefit of getting out of our comfort zone rather than leaning into it. Why? Because pushing our boundaries is good for us. Stepping beyond our boundaries builds mental muscles the same as I expected the gym to build my physical ones.

Pushing past boundaries: Good for estranged parents

Everyone is forced from their comfort zone from time to time. A looming deadline, a required appointment, or some other pressing need causes anxiety that spurs us to get things done. And when we do step out, we build confidence for the next time we must take action.

We can purposefully build self-confidence by choosing activities that cause a little productive anxiety. Researchers call this “optimal anxiety,” which means enough stress that we’re not overchallenged or paralyzed in fear but we venture just beyond the comfort zone that keeps us stagnant. Optimal anxiety drives us to act. Then, we can feel good about pushing our boundaries, even a little, and trying something new or challenging.

Estranged parents’ self-esteem takes a hit. Fight back. Getting out of your comfort zone, in planned, manageable ways, helps you regain your self-worth.

Another benefit is that igniting optimal anxiety helps you better manage anxiety in general. Estranged parents face a lot of uncertainty about the future.  Will we ever get past this? Will my child have regrets? Can I really move forward?

One thing about the future is certain: Time is precious. We might as well get joy and fulfillment out of life while we can. As scary as it is, moving beyond our comfort zone is required.

Pushing yourself, even a little, can help you feel more alive. To mope around and think sad thoughts, get stuck in anger, or worry about the future only digs you more deeply into ruts of despair. Remember when you were younger, and everything was new? Pushing past your comfort zone sparks those old feelings of life being fresh and new. That may mean you feel more like your old self (or even better).

Fine wine may sit in a barrel and get better with age, but people must shake themselves up and take action to get the same result. Stretching the mind and engaging the body maintains or even enhances cognitive abilities as people age. Pushing past the comfort zone helps.

We gain new territory when we try new things. Our boundaries widen when we push beyond them. Bottom line? Getting out of the comfort zone improves us.

Escaping the comfort zone: Strategies

Start small. For me, that meant acting without immediate commitment. I pressed the join button, chose an orientation date, and then showed up to meet Venus and learn more about the program. I committed to explore the idea, but that didn’t mean immediately signing on the dotted line.

You may be like me and feel the need to know more before deciding something big or challenging. I tamped down my anxiety by keeping my thoughts in check: This is just an orientation. I’m exploring the program. I haven’t committed yet.  This wouldn’t work for everyone, but for me, just agreeing to the orientation pushed my boundaries. I’d never joined a gym and never wanted to. The thought of entering one now was a cardio exercise in and of itself.

Accountability. After booking the appointment, I told two people who I knew would cheer me on. Confiding plans keeps you accountable. Choose someone who will be supportive and who will follow-up. You’ll want to report the good news!

Overcome opposition with benefits. After 38 years of marriage, including my husband in decisions is second nature. I knew he would be supportive and told him immediately, but in remembering that conversation for this blog post, I realized something else has become second nature: featuring his benefits. As I told him about my fitness challenge, my benefits morphed into things that he might like. I’d want to ride bicycles with him more often, or maybe after the program, we could join the gym and workout together.

If you face opposition, find ways to present your plan so it benefits the other person. Or, if you’re your own opposition, present the benefits to yourself. Write them down even. Then turn to them if you start to feel scared.

Look at my results

You’re probably expecting before and after photos . . . but things didn’t turn out as planned. That day at the orientation, Venus began throwing out specifics about how the HIT training would work.

“You’ll do a bunch of jumping jacks, drop down to the floor for a set of planks, then get up and run around the building three times, and get back inside the gym for more.” She continued about class sizes and the coaches who would “motivate” me. My anxiety began to rise.

“What about the women over 60?” I asked.

“Oh, there will be a few of you, girl,” she said. “You’ll be required to take at least three classes a week and they’re open to everyone. People drop in and out however that works for them.”

I glanced around the gym where a bunch of twenty- and thirty-somethings in clothes as tight as their bodies lifted weights, ran on treadmills, or climbed stairs in place. Their taut skin gleamed with a sheen of sweat. My dreams of a supportive group of women like me evaporated.

“HIT is the only way to lose weight,” Venus said. “The classes are kinda like P90X.”

I’d seen the infomercials full of hard bodies and lots of sweat. Those workouts involved a variety of maneuvers that were INTENSE. “P90X?” I repeated.

Venus shrugged. “Kinda.”

Suddenly, the goals that had begun to take shape with Venus’s first motivating text seemed impossible. This wasn’t what I’d imagined. Remembering the painful joint problem that had left me unable to walk for more than a week two autumns ago, I knew this particular challenge wasn’t for me. That’s because I know myself. Not wanting to look weak or call attention to myself, I’d work so hard to keep up with a bunch of youngsters in Spandex that I’d end up hurting myself. I’d crush my goals all right—in self-defeat.

Venus must have sensed me wavering. “Don’t let your mind hold you back,” she said, probably as she had a thousand times. . . . Even so, I wondered if I should go ahead. She’d spent her time to sell her product.

She winked. “A few classes with our coaches and you’ll crush your goals.”

I imagined the coaches like sinewy P90X drill sergeants in tight shirts, barking orders, pushing me to perform.

Gir-ril,” Venus chirped. “That modeling contract is waiting for you!”

Modeling contract? More like a heating pad and a walker. I laughed. “I’ll need to think about it.”

Immediately, Venus stood. She knew I wasn’t going to fork over the $300. “Well, thanks for coming in,” she said, ushering me toward the door.

“No, thank you,” I replied, glad she didn’t persist. I exited the humid confines of the gym and stepped into the sunlight.

Not a failure

While the program wasn’t quite what the advertisement had presented, it wasn’t all a loss. Just by entertaining the idea of joining a gym and a fitness group, I’d pushed my boundaries. Attending the orientation built my confidence, made me feel alive, and even more eager to get myself back in tip-top shape—on my own terms. That means getting back to my active lifestyle (swimming, hiking in beautiful places, daily walks. . . ).

Knowing what’s right for you, accepting yourself even when someone pushes their own agenda, is another way to press past boundaries. I wonder how many 60+ women clicked “join” and attended an orientation with the same fantasy as me? Especially after all the months of Covid-19 restrictions, how many long for the camaraderie of like-minded, age-similar people to cheer each other on? Some may feel cornered, end up paying the fee, and then not follow through.

I didn’t join the fitness challenge, but this wasn’t a failure. Rather, by admitting my limitations and honoring my intuition, I built my interior strength. I may have gone in with the goal of more physical strength but I gained emotional fortitude in the process.

Your Turn

By pushing past my boundaries, I see myself as strong in a whole new way. Proving to ourselves that we can step beyond our comfort zone helps us hold a new vision for ourselves going forward. How about you? Is it time to break out of your comfort zone, build confidence, and see yourself in new and inspiring ways? I’ll answer for you: YES!

Some of you already successfully do this. I hope you’ll leave comments and share how you estranged parents get out of your comfort zone and reap the benefits. For those in the planning stage: How will you push past your comfort zone and expand your boundaries? For some of you, that will mean learning to say “no,” and stop people-pleasing. Others will have physical goals for better health. Some may need to take a step for emotional self-care.

What will you try, what are your fears, and how will you overcome them? Later, you can report back with your insights and wins, and that will inspire even more estranged parents. Let’s cheer each other on!

Related Reading:

Abandoned parents: Are you chewing?

Estranged parents: Going batty?

Estrangement: Parents, use weepy days for your own good.

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61 thoughts on “Estranged parents: Get out of the comfort zone

  1. Sue

    Ty, Sheri for your email & the topics you’ve discussed. My story is similar to that of TS. After a year of estrangement, I took my daughter a bouquet of flowers at Easter, as I wanted to look into her eyes. I wasn’t invited in. She was civil & polite while making small talk for a few short moments. Finally, I reached out to take her hand. She didn’t offer hers, so I took her one hand in both of mine for a moment & squeezed it tight. When I looked into her eyes, I saw only coldness & the beginning of an eye roll. I was devastated. I dropped her hand & hurried back to my car, understanding (finally) that I probably would never see her again. I will always be stunned. I’ve figured out the “why” too. I divorced her father 50 yrs ago & this is payback for me at 75 yrs old. Every day, there is sadness but I focus on my other wonderful daughter & grandchildren to keep going. Ty too, Sheri, for your books & emails which strengthen me. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving from here in Canada.

  2. Karen W.

    Thank you for all the ways you help. As the mother of two children, neither of them with any desire to have me in their lives, I have felt shattered into a thousand pieces. So, as a retired workaholic, I threw myself into landscaping my 20 acres of land. Sun up to sun down I cleared brush, cut down damaged trees and planted new ones. I mowed and weed whacked for hours and hours. I grew all my own vegetables. I left no room for the grief that lurked just under the surface ready to explode and consume me. I stuck to my comfort zone with total obsession. Then each year November would arrive along with my birthday and I would suddenly have nothing to do but focus on how time was running out to “fix” things. This year, as I approached my 77th birthday, I saw an ad for jobs at a pet products chain store. As a person who has rescued dogs her whole life, I thought I might do well at that job but figured I would never get it at my age. Shoving aside the negativity, I applied and got the position. Talk about going beyond my comfort zone! It is helping so much. Everyday I have to learn new things and interact with hundreds of people and their pets. I am challenged and have a reason to get out of bed and attend to my appearance. Is my heart still broken? Very much so. Am I still broken? Less so every day!

  3. Betsy

    Try Square Dancing!!

    I have 3 adult children all in different types of estrangement. I’m done fixating about it. It is their problem not mine.

    I too gained way too much weight over the past couple of years–I blame accounting (remote work) in the kitchen and was tired of TV being our main source of entertainment. With remote work and relationships getting lost over the years of COVID, I missed being able to meet new people, getting exercise and couldn’t face another winter like the last two. I thought of how much I always wanted to learn Square Dancing and luckily my dear boyfriend was willing. We’ve completed 9 lessons and enjoying it so much. We’re meeting interesting, fun people and getting reasonable exercise. Don’t hang back if you are not part of a couple, our group encourages singles and couples to join.

    Square Dancing requires mental and physical concentration to hear and act on the caller’s directions. So it clears you mind more effectively than meditation would for me. Many square dancing clubs are not just dance groups but social groups–we’re already invited to two holiday parties through the club. More parties than I’ve ever been invited to after decades of living in this metro area. Many square dancers travel together to nearby state square dancing conventions and spend the weekend dancing, socializing and exploring nearby cities.

    This Thanksgiving I’m so very grateful for this Square Dancing group. Seek out a group in your area.

  4. PS

    It’s tragic this kind of thing happens to families. I had no idea there was a website like this until it happened to us this past year and I was amazed to see how many of US there are! I could write a novel of the heartache our child has inflicted on us since (as well as her own kids now.) This affects more than us most of the time especially if you have had close ties with the grandkids. Everybody loses.
    We are keeping ourselves busy by traveling with friends. We do have some connection with one of our grandkids who is not living at home but with their other parent now. I have thought of a family group counselling with our daughter and us to try to make an attempt to rectify the situation. I was wondering if anybody in the group has tried it? Thanks

    1. candleinthewind

      Hello PS. My estranged daughter suggested counselling at one point, but I decided against it. I didn’t want to provide another opportunity/platform for her to express her thoughts on my mothering skills etc etc. I’d heard enough. I presumed I would have to travel to her and pay for the services. I couldn’t see any benefit in it for me. I still don’t. I’d rather spend the money on a nice new hair-do or clothes or whatever is much more likely to bring me pleasure. That’s my strategy these days.

  5. Rocky C.

    I thought I was the only person that was estranged from my children. Never thought it was possible, but here I am. Saddened beyond belief and thought it wrong to try to enjoy anything ever again.
    It is encouraging to see the advice so many are offering. I will check back often to get the much needed help.
    Thank you all.

  6. Jan P.

    Thanks so much for the motivating article. I have found a community of some peers (I just turned 70) for exercise —I’ve been doing Jazzercise for several years (primarily on-line during COVID). It is a terrific stress reliever. I also find a great deal of satisfaction from my hobby—crochet. Your book was a great help in getting back to my life and focusing on those things that bring me joy rather than on the estrangement from my daughter. Even though the estrange is painful, we parents deserve to be happy and to live our best lives. That is what I am working on. Thanks for all you do, Sheri, in providing motivation and support.

    1. rparents Post author

      You’re welcome, Jan! Thank you for your feedback. You’re so very right that we must take care of ourselves and live good lives.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Cynthia C.

      I just finished reading the article on exercise and it was one if the most bluntly honest pieces of writing ever!
      I can completely identify with each and every word as a 65 year old woman.
      Reading this piece has released some much-needed anxiety and caused me to feel much calmer this Saturday before Thanksgiving. Cynthia

  7. BG

    Moving on and taking care of oneself does not mean one has been, or is, in a comfort zone. In fact, that’s pretty insulting.

    1. rparents Post author

      Oh my goodness no! This is not to imply that you have been in the comfort zone. I’m sorry you were insulted, and I am so thankful that others have received the article as intended.

      HUGS to you, BG. I wish you the best.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Carrie-Ann

      Good Morning To All!!
      After reading BG’s comment and Sheri’s reply, I so wanted to share a YouTube song that really fits the conversation, “It’s Okay,” from “America’s Got Talent,” (6-8-21).

      Simon Cowell gives Nightbirde the Golden Buzzer after her beautiful performance of “It’s Okay.” Nightbirde chases her dreams and proves that she is so much more than her cancer! (Which really goes with the idea that even when things are not okay, it’s okay (even if its 2%, like Jane, the person that wrote and sings this Beautiful song).

      Jane’s words, in the video that were also so apropos to the conversation…”You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

      I am also sharing the following Interview (apprx. 21 min.) that you may find interesting…

      Jane further discusses going beyond one’s comfort zone, and what that entails…Also discusses collaboration and sharing ideas with others, as well as today is what we have, many gifts, and how joy and negative experiences coincide, and having the power to choose what to focus on…Reminded me of this website…where sharing helps us and others in our lives…Enjoy!!
      In Gratitude & Love,

  8. Corene F.

    Thank you as always for your timely articles of encouragement. And by the way I was mentally preparing myself for being subtly chided for not going to a gym and doing HIT classes I’m SO glad you were real and honest about yourself. I’ve learned that also during my 63 yrs of life. There comes a time where ya just gotta do what you know is best and right for you… for some that’s those crazy HIT classes… for others like me it’s hiking in the parks and walks in our neighborhood when it’s not too insanely hot here in Texas… and enjoying hobbies and spending time with those we love even if that doesn’t include those who have chosen to leave us. Keep up the good work! You are appreciated

    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you, Corene! You, too, keep doing what you know fits you. Let’s keep it real!

      HUGS to you in Texas from California. It’s hot here too right now.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Cynthia C.

      I agree with you completely.
      I live in Massachusetts and the weather is quite chilly now but I enjoy my almost-daily walks outside with my dog on the nearby rail trails with no gym in sight.

  9. Diane M.

    What I found surprising was how my kids and grandkids have gotten farther out of my mind! I go some days without thinking of them at all. I don’t know if this is good or bad. For Father’s Day I was going to send my son-in-law an email message wishing him a happy day, but I forgot. But when I read the messages here, I realized that I’m moving forward with my own activities and friendships. I live in a senior apartment bldg. and I’ve been getting together with my two closest friends here to play cards and dominos. Or we sit outside and talk and laugh. I’m now able to get together with my other friends, that don’t live here, and do things again with them. So, maybe that’s OK and I am finally moving forward. I don’t have to think of my adult kids or grandkids constantly. They know where to find me. They can call or email me, but they choose not to. We really can’t just sit and pine away for them. Thank you to all of your for sharing. We must keep moving forward with our own lives. We matter! : )

    1. Elizabeth

      I applaud you Diane!! May better days keep coming your way. Just as we do not choose our parents, neither do we choose our children…I often wonder if it was maybe a case of not being very compatible in my case.

    2. Cynthia C.

      I also sometimes do not think of my sons … so much time has passed; yes it is evidence of “moving on.”
      We must keep on living. Cynthia

  10. dianem

    What an inspirational group you all are!! I cant begin to describe my situation. It’s a story of divorce, disloyalty, lies and immaturity dressed up as superiority. You all know it. I have to support my mother as we bury my stepfather tomorrow. It’s been a difficult relationship and I will have to act with grace and compassion at a time when I would much rather run away and hide. My children and exhusband are jeering on the sidelines and I really could cry a river and sink to my knees. Actually, I’m going to go for a swim for an hour and later I shall play tennis and in between I shall check on my mother. Where is all the strength, people? Does it even matter? Well yes, it does, because grace and compassion and self care is what makes the world go round. Take care everyone, diane

  11. Alex

    As a 60-year old man, let me heartily recommend HIT style training, which the gym person conflated with HIIT training. HIT is strictly for weight lifting; HIIT is high intensity interval training that can be either weights or cardio based, and in either application involves brief bursts of activity divided by periods of rest or slower movement. In other words, you sprint for 20 seconds and walk/job for 40, or you do a resistance exercise for 30-60 seconds and rest an equivalent length of time.

    Weight training for women is extremely beneficial. No, you will not blow up like the steroid cases in the magazines. Your muscle mass is likely to increase, and that will be faster or slower, depending on genetics. My wife, for example, has to be careful with certain exercises because her body responds to them too well. At the same time, you are likely to lose fat. Muscle being more dense than fat, even someone whose weight goes unchanged will look slimmer.

    Further, HIT is A way; beware anyone who pushes a particular mode of exercise as the only way. I spent part of Father’s Day in the gym, had a nice conversation with one of my sons and learned that my other now self-identifies as an orphan (his mother passed some years back). It was startling in a sense. He and I have had periodic contact, but it was never stilted and we usually hit the usual days. Then came yesterday. I’m not surprised so much as disappointed.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Alex,

      Thank you for this. You obviously know a lot about these two training methods! I think strength training is wonderful and know from experience the benefits. We do have to recognize our limitations and needs … and in some ways that’s the crux of it. You spotted the word “only” and linked it to a red flag. Thank you for that toi. Your post is inspiring to me.

      Sheri McGregor

  12. Margaret B.

    Loved your article glad you didn’t work out lol.I am 74 very active and just found out I need 2 hips replaced. I keep my faith everyday we All will get though this.ThanksMB

    1. rparents Post author


      I heard privately from a lot of people who said that when they began the article, they thought it would end with a lecture about excercising, the gym, etc. They were glad like you!

      I’m sure your surgeries will go well…. Take good care of yourself before so you will be strong for the recovery.

      Sheri McGregor

  13. Laura C.

    My significant other of 28 years had been treated for stage 4 prostate cancer that had metastasized to the bone for two years. My daughter had stopped contact a few years ago without any definitive reason but made a few overtures that gave me hope. My son seemed willing to talk or stop by for a short visit until 2019.
    My sweetheart became weaker and in more pain. He wanted to die at home so March 2021 hospice took over and we had a hospital bed and oxygen in the living room with nurses, aides. a chaplain and social worker visiting. I had major responsibility for bathroom cleanup and food and medicine and being here 24 hours a day without help. I m 77 years old and not that strong

    He died May 2 and I held his hand after calling hospice to verify. A week or so later I called my daughter
    and she said that too bad but you chose him over my brother and me. She also accused me of saying that my ex-husband who is now an Alzheimer patient deserved it. I categorically swear I would never wish that on anyone. Good thing is I now know why all the estrangement and that has freed me from caring.
    My children have left my care and my heart will survive

    1. Beth

      Your daughter is cruel. Even if what she said were true, that wasn’t the time to air her grievances. I wish you well in your grief journey.

  14. teddy

    So appreciate reading everything here. It helps me immensely to realize I am not alone. My youngest son whom I had a very close relationship with until a few years after he married has very little to do with me anymore. His wife and I were close too. I have 2 older children who I am a part of their lives. My youngest son and his family very rarely come to family functions. Now they moved 3 hours away. He has nothing to do with his brother or his sister. We are all baffled as to why. There was drama at times but I just dont understand what happened. We are all cordial and pleasant if we see them . They visit her family who live 5 minutes away and never once bother to come visit or even call. He is not the same person . I have apologized and tried to make amends to no avail. We all miss them very much… thanks for listening.

  15. Danielle

    I find myself very sad at times and I know my heart is broken from not being able to see my grand-children. However, I feel kind of delivered and free in a manner which may sound astonishing to some of you… let me explain why.. my son has always been extremely difficult and very mean to me, often very cruel.. he has been punishing me since he was around 7 for marrying his step dad which he hated. When I got divorced my son started getting closer to my ex.. I am sure it was to punish me further… anyhow he has done so many cruel things and said many more cruel things so honestly to be away from him truly is a deliverance. I got so tired, exhausted really from trying to fix a relationship that he never wanted fixed… i forgave and forgave and forgave to the point of being a dam doormat so disrespected and abused… so long story short.. I am free from all that now…. I greatly miss my beautiful grand children but my son was brilliant at turning people against me .. he probably would have eventually poisoned the minds of my grand kids too… so hmmm.. the greatest challenge for me is when i see my friends having a wonderful relationship with their kids and grand kids… this leaves me feeling very much like a deficient person although cognitively I know better.. emotionally it hits me hard at times. Anyhow it has been two years that i have no contact and it has been very sad at times but also very very peaceful! God bless all of you and just know that you are not garbage just because your own children may treat you as such…You are all worthy lovable human beings flawed and imperfect just like anyone doing their best in this cold world. Thanks Sheri for all you do for us! God bless!

    1. Nicola S

      Danielle I completely understand about grandchildren. The last thing I would want is for my little granddaughter to be turned against my husband and i. It just seems the better and kinder option to retreat from her life where she will have happy memories of all the fun times we had before everything fell apart. I am also not prepared to ‘bargain’ for scraps of time with her. I have my dignity and am not about to sink to a new low and one which just a short while ago would never have been thought possible. Take care!x

    2. Joan

      Hi Danielle,
      Your situation sounds a lot like Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). You may want to check out Dr. Jennifer Harman, Ph.D. and Karen Woodall, to name a few. This is an emerging field of study, and it has taken off like wildfire in the last year or so. PAS is a different type of estrangement, and many alienated children grow up to be estranged as adults. There is hope for reconciliation with PAS, since a completely different psychology is at work in this situation (I know, I am the targeted parent in a PAS situation). Although there are no guarantees with anything, I thought I would pass this on to you. Keep up the good work!

  16. Colleen

    Hi, I am not sure what is worse not ever hearing from my daughter or hearing sporadically. After not hearing from her for a year, she came back into my life for 4 months. Than again not seeing her for another year than texting in March saying hello she loves me but is getting her life together. Texted some for 2 months. Than again nothing Doesn’t answer my text or calls. My emotions go all over the place. We were so close at one time. Nothing from my grandsons for 2 years now. I know I am not the only one dealing with this and some of you have it worse than me, but I still don’t understand the why of the experience. Thank you for this group. It makes it somewhat easier to bear.

    1. TS

      I have not heard from my almost 40 year old daughter in over two years and then she came to my home to pick up my other daughter who was visiting and take her to her home for a couple of days so I thought I would be the one to make the first move. I walked over to her and gave her a hug but it was not a mutual hug. She did not say anything to me I felt her keeping her distance and thought I was hit by a MACK truck. I had several friends over at the time and they all said they could feel the tension between us. All I know is this was what I needed to do to find out if she still accepted me as her mother but she made it clear she did not want that hug or me. When they left she did not come close to me just turned and walked to her car along with my other daughter and granddaughter. This move on my part is what I needed to realize I can stop grieving over the loss and just accept it and move on with my life now and never think about this again. You will come to this position of acceptance and the feeling of your loss at the hands of your daughter and you will live again. I promise. The hard part is the time it takes to get you there. The time is different for each of us. It does get better when you learn to move on without them as they have done to us. I wish for you a speedy healing and a bright light for you to follow. Take care.

  17. Hopeishere

    Yes, thank you for this reminder. I’m struggling with the self isolation because I am most definitely feeling like a failure as a parent. I’m realizing that I’m not just estranged from one child but two these days and it’s hitting kind of hard. I needed this today but I’m wondering if I actually have the strength to do it. I’ll commit to making a list of things I could do for now and count it as forward motion I guess. Maybe next week I can actually pick one and do it!!

    1. rparents Post author


      A list IS forward movement. Choose something easy like repot a houseplant or to push in fertilizer sticks to feed all your houseplants. Sweep the porch, wave to neighbors…. Whatever it takes to start breaking out.

      Big hugs to you!

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Paulette

      I just want to let you know that you are not alone. Several years ago for some unexplainable reason my daughter cut me out of my life, as well as her two grown daughters. We all had been so close all our life and I considered my daughter my best friend. It has been a very grief stricken time for me. It’s like someone drying but you have no closure.
      About three years ago I got tired of the crying and started looking for ways to connect to something else. Doors started opening I had never considered before. I still have moments when I mourn the loss of my daughter, grand-daughters, and great grandchildren but then I turn to the new things in my life that gives me purpose and enjoyment. Sometimes I feel when one thing is taken from us God opens doors that had previously been closed. Hugs to you.

    3. Frances S.

      Thank you for your incite and transparency. To be real, not many people want to deal with this issue. I receive a bevy of well meant suggestions: take up a hobby, decorate your deck for summer, make new friends. Perhaps I am too sensitive, but when advised in this way, I feel a current of judgment. I don’t need to “get a life” to avoid the paid of isolation. I can do two things at once. I am strong enough to carry the sadness of loss, while at the same time live a rich emotional life.

      What is helpful for me, is to reflect on my progress: To become more philosophical about human flaws – including my own. After a 15 year rift between my offspring and I, we are now slowly moving toward each other. When I’m feeling down, I remember where we started, and how far we have come. Through struggle, I have built a better tool box. A sense of humor is my strongest tool.

    4. Nicola S

      I have just bought ‘Done with the crying’ so intend to make a start with that and hopefully can start moving forward instead of holding out on a glimmer of hope that things will change with my daughter when I know they wont.

  18. Lemonrose

    Dear Sheri and everyone
    Thank you so very much for a wonderfully uplifting blog on Father’s Day – here in the UK I was feeling a little weepy, as my son is experiencing his 3 rd. Father’s Day – possibly making traditions with my grandson who I don’t know.
    Then I went onto read about going out of my comfort zone, wow, it was just the correct thing for me to read this morning. I’m just 60 too this year and that in itself has had quite an effect on me – don’t know why, possibly I didn’t think 60 would ever happen to me on my own.
    Anyhow, I admire everything you said about your gym experience and how well you trusted your own instinct. I’m aiming to start going out of my comfort zone in small manageable ways – similar to you, walking in beautiful areas which I haven’t been to before and so traveling on my own is sometimes scary for me. I’ve decided to ask my local friends to my place for an afternoon tea in the garden – doing some of baking myself and put on traditional delights. Soon, I have a full day of training to become a tour guide at where I volunteer – I need to focus , learn and remember dates, anecdotes etc , this is something I used to do years ago but my confidence is not as high anymore. I’m certain you are right and that we parents can live life and have a smile with happiness along the way, especially during summertime!

    1. rparents Post author

      Lemonrose, I loved reading this! I am so excited about your garden tea parties (wish I could come) and your tour guide training! I always thought being a tour guide would be great fun. You will do great!

      Hugs to you! Thank you for sharing!

      Sheri McGregor

  19. Ingeborg

    Thank you for your article. I have been swimming for the first time after covid this week,and it was lovely. Next time is tomorrow.

    The unfolding saga relating to Prince Harry and his wife has comforted me greatly, sad as it is. more and more unpleasant and rude,claiming that I did not love her like the others,had not been a proper mother to her after she was 19. It was all nonsence, I could not understand it until I realised her husband had put this wedge between us to get control over her. In the end she has blocked me from all platforms. I got nothing for mother’s day,that was a first, but she sent flowers for my birthday. Isuspect that will be the last as I suspect that was her insurance to get a usual transfer of money. She got three crime paperbacks I thought she would enjoy for hers. Iam stepping back from trying to please her,since she does notwant to be a proper daughter. This has shown me what harm a controlling spouse can accomplice. I feel really sorry for the British Royal family,too.

    1. rparents Post author

      I feel for them too, Ingeborg, and for you and all hurting parents. I think the word you used for your estranged daughter’s behavior is a good one: nonsense.

      Hugs! I’m swimming every day right now too. Lovely and good for us.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Ruth

      You have hit the nail on the head, I too find my son-in-laws (2 of them) control my daughters for their own self-interests, thus helping to estrange myself from them. I live in a nightmare situation sometimes, watching their devious mysoginist moves to alienate and am helpless to stop it, my daughters too often convinced or trapped in fright to see or acknowledge what is going on. I am the scapegoat in my family, it hurts, it makes me angry, I am forced to let go. King Henry V111’s Court was a hell hole of similar behaviours, coercive control is alive and well and I feel deeply sad to lose my two beautiful girls.

    3. Helen M.

      Dear Ingebord, I have heard and read over the years that there is often a third party stirring the pot in the background. For me, my youngest daughter steps in periodically to stir it with my oldest daughter. Then the SIL helps too. Both daughters are basically estranged. It will resolve, then they are off again, at times up to 3 years. I have strained relationships with my grand daughters because they have been in and out of my life several times.during the out times, I do not get to see them. It keeps me on pins and needles, walking on eggshells when my daughters come around, but still find one or both create some kind of drama, then leave me holding the proverbial bag to wonder again, what happened this time. I think it would be best if they did not come around at all. I just wish I could finally stop hurting over it all. It has been this way for over 25 years!

      The thing I realized is the shunning and pushing me away is the exact way their dad did me before we were divorced, so they learned well. But I cannot fix it. I read in one of Sheri’s articles that we get to choose too, whether to put up with the disrespect and hurtful behaviors of our children. It is not just their choice. Never thought of that before! Best always to this wonderful group. We will survive!

    1. Pamela

      I do feel your pain. I’ve also not seen my son in five years, haven’t heard his voice in four years, and haven’t had written word from him in two years. He is my only child. He is 37 now and lives far away. He won’t return my calls or emails and don’t know what I’ve done. It hurts. I’ve stopped crying every day but the pain is ever present. I’m sorry you are going through this.

  20. Maureen C.

    Just wanted to thank you for sharing yourself and for everything you do to help all estranged parents you help me to find the strength to carry on without the guilty feelings we all share (thanks to everyone who shares their thoughts it really does help). It is nearly 4 years since I saw my son who was verbally abusive if we did not give him money on demand. Sadly his dad and I will never understand why he treated us the way he did but we know we did everything we could to help him so all we can do now is live our lives without him and hope and pray he is happy (we do not even know where he lives). So thank you Sheri for helping us all and always being there with support on the most difficult dates in the year (I keep your book on my bedside cabinet as a reminder I am not alone with the pain of losing a child in this way).
    Best wishes to you and your readers

    1. Elaine T.

      This is a reply to Francis F. I too am doing two things at once. Carring on with my life, engaging in hobbies, conecting with friends but still carry my sadness over my daughters estrangement with me everywhere I go. Do,nt seem to be able to get away from it. Maybe things will i prove and I guess doing this is better than staying at home mopeing, reliving situations you can do nothing to alter. Keep at it Francis Somewhere along the line we will break through this.


  21. Sonia

    Thank you for this great article, Sheri, and for making me laugh (again!). Reading this was a really good lesson for me as I didn’t quite realize the importance of getting out of my comfort zone. I think I know how. I just started a new job (from home) but with this company we have team Q and A sessions and the first one is coming up next week. I was feeling nervous about it but now I am looking at it differently. I’m going to try and embrace it as a way to get out of my comfort zone.

  22. Alice J.

    I “accidentally” invited other women on a Facebook group to join me for a group hike. It was really fun, and we have now done it three times. I have visited parks that I had never seen before, and it’s fun meeting other women. I have also been working on a little weight loss. These two things together are helping me feel good about myself again and to realize that I can move on and be happy.

  23. Julie B.

    Since being estranged from two children I’m now talking to both of them but my husband and I have just suggested our 21 and 19 year Olds find somewhere else to live so here we go again. Both do nothing to help around the house and our 19 year old son has been using drugs in our home. So I now know how to deal with estrangement. Keep busy and do new things. Don’t sit around reflecting but look ahead. Ask God to carry you through the next period until your strong again.

    1. Mary M.

      Thank you Julie for bringing up the spiritual aspect to recover. Just trying to thrice everyday for the sake of it isn’t enough for me. Offering up my suffering, my sadness for my faults, sins and those of my children is some all I can do. Letting the Blessed Virgin Mary use my pain. She was at the foot of the cross helpless in alleviate Our Lord’s pain but trustful. This is the only thing I can do somedays. I just pray I haven’t cause the estrangement and my children leaving the faith.

  24. Melanie S.

    I will be 69 in a few months just before I hit the 7 year mark of estrangement. This past week I went to the gym 5 days and attended 9 Zumba classes and on my “rest” day I helped my husband trim trees before the temperature hit 117 degrees. So, my Fitbit shows 6 days of physical activity. The isolation of COVID was tough, I won’t lie. But as things open up we are back to planning some travel. We can’t fix what they refuse to address; the ball stays in their court and we are moving on.

  25. Erin


    Loved your post about trying something new. My husband and I try to travel to a new place we haven’t been to before a couple times a year, even if it’s a few hours drive away. It gets us out of our comfort zone and gives us something to look forward to.

  26. Soulshine&Daisies

    What a great article to read this morning! How encouraging! I loved the humor you added in regards to your orientation appointment, Sheri. And you did not share too much of yourself! The thought of holding a new vision for ourselves going forward is extremely motivational. I’m in! Let’s all go for it!

  27. Gracie2021

    Good morning, Sheri ! Thank you for your motivational post that I’m reading first thing this morning. It’s a little hot where we are to “get out” and do much physical exertion right now, but your point is well taken. The community water aerobics is wonderful this time of year. Sheri, thanks for the reminder that us abandoned parents still have a life to live !

    1. rparents Post author

      You’re welcome, Gracie! I think you may be the first parent to read this article. You’re the first to comment … and I’ve been wondering if I shared too much of myself!

      Sheri McGregor (off to go swimming now)

    2. Kate

      Gracie2021, you’re so very right! We do have a life to live & please everyone, let us not waste anymore of it than we already have. Life is SO VERY short.
      And once again, thank you Sheri for all that you do for us & for this good article reminding us to try something different once in a while.


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