Estranged parents: What about envy?

estranged parentsAsk Sheri McGregor: What about envy?

Frequently, I receive emails that boil down to distress over an uncomfortable emotion: Envy.

If you’re envious of others for their good relationships with adult children, take a deep breath and forgive yourself. You may have been taught that envy is bad, but it’s a human emotion with valid roots. No sense negatively judging yourself and feeling even worse. Rather, first recognize that feelings of envy come from a sense of injustice and deep pain. You never expected all your hard work, love, and devotion would result in estrangement. Therefore, envying another parent’s healthy relationship is a natural response.

Still, envy creates discord and distance in relationships you seek to nurture. So, while viewing yourself harshly for envy won’t help, neither will giving rein to the feeling. Beyond recognition and a bit of empathy toward yourself, indulging in envy promotes a sense of victimhood and keeps you steeped in pain. If you’re familiar with my work, you know that’s not what I advise for estranged parents. I recommend you deal honestly with what is, work toward your own well-being, and treasure your life despite the situation. There is no downside. You’ll be in a much stronger, healthier position if you do end up reconciling. As I show in both of my books, reconciliation isn’t usually easy or even what you expect.

Estranged parents and envy: Boiling it down

Let’s get into a couple of specific situations and feelings common to estranged parents. See if you can relate. I’ll include some practical strategies to deal with or move beyond envy. Use my thoughts as jumping off points for your own solutions.

  • “My sister (friend, cousin . . . fill in the blank) isn’t nearly as good a parent as me, yet I’m left with crumbs. How can this be?”

We believed that if we raised our kids with love, kindness, and a measure of discipline, they would become kind adults who loved us back. That same message is taught to parents even today: Raise your kids this way and get this result. Unfortunately, no matter how good of parents we are, our children grow up and make their own choices.

When another parent gets a better result—even if they weren’t, in your view, as good a parent as you—you have the right to feel envious. Just don’t offer the emotion a long-term stay. It’ll take up valuable space and energy that’s better offered to healthier emotions. As I say in Done With The Crying, to some extent, parenting is a crap shoot. Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned. Variables enter the picture, such as substance abuse, mental illness, a third-party adversary. . ., and our best efforts are squashed. Meanwhile, Sister So-So or Cousin Crummy-Parent has loving children.

Envy in parenting is like envy in anything. We can do our best and still not get the prize. That’s why there are so many “always a bridesmaid” stories. The Hallmark happy endings are what we all wish for, but don’t necessarily reflect reality. Even perfect families have problems, and perhaps keep them behind the scenes.

  • “I can’t even go to the park anymore. Seeing the grandparents with their grandchildren makes me so angry and sad. It’s just not fair.”

Give yourself permission to take a break from situations that bring on the pain—just not forever. You’ll need to eventually re-enter the world. Do it in small doses. Interact a bit. Offer an older person a kind word about the grandchild they love. You may be surprised how good kindness feels.

Make sure you don’t idealize others’ relationships. One father, Gabe, whose story is included in Beyond Done, looks at the sweet, young family next door, and recognizes these parents see the moon and stars in their children. They expect all to go well. “They’re living the dream,” Gabe says. And he would never try to spoil their delight by warning them about the possibility of stress ahead. However, he can relate to their naivete, which helps him to cope. Most of us can look back on some lovely, innocent times in our parenting, too. In some ways, grandparenting is the same. No sense assigning some la-la dream to others’ lives.

For every grandparent you see with a chubby-cheeked tot, there are others who are bone-tired and struggling to raise grandchildren full-time because the parents are incarcerated or otherwise absent. Some grandparents are in co-dependent relationships with their adult children. They feel obligated to say “yes” whenever asked to babysit, drive a child, or otherwise help—and their adult children know it. These same grandparents may not tell you the truth about how tired they are, either.

  • “Everyone else is talking all about their plans with family. . . .”

In Done With The Crying, you’ll meet Meg, who is successful in real estate and attends business meetings. She confesses to hiding in the bathroom stall because of colleagues going on about their family plans. She sheds a few tears as a release, uses firming serum to tighten the bags under her eyes, and then puts on a smile and gets on with what she is good at—business, public speaking, networking. Participating despite her sorrow builds her self-esteem and helps her cope.

She’s a successful woman who is also a good mother. It’s not her fault she is estranged. While you may be feeling like you had to have done something to cause the rift, all the good you did as a parent likely outweighs the bad. The exercises in my books can help you see that this is true.

  • “My only child is estranged. I’m envious of parents with bigger families. If only I had other kids, my life would be so much easier.”

To estranged parents stuck on this belief, there may be no convincing them otherwise. However, those of us with more than one child recognize that it’s an idealistic thought. First, the remaining siblings aren’t some infallible, mythical creatures spreading continuous warmth, support, and joy. They’re humans, with all the flaws and foibles common to our species. Sometimes they’re mentally ill, have addiction problems, trouble supporting themselves, or in other ways lean on or try their parents.

Also, parents who are smarting from estrangement can be so negatively affected that they:

  • walk on eggshells for fear another child will estrange
  • become guarded to protect themselves from the hurt they suspect may be coming from another child
  • remain overly involved with remaining children, clinging rather than letting go

Parents must learn to recognize and manage those feelings, and a host of others, for their own and their children’s sake. Thankfully, with awareness and work, most estranged parents do.

Estrangement by one child directly affects the siblings, too. They may suffer guilt about the normal elements of growing up, such as moving out and taking charge of their own lives. They may be burdened by worries about the future and the possibility of further discord and hurt they fear the estranged one will cause. They may feel the sudden weight of added responsibility toward aging parents and harbor anger or feel unprepared. Then there is the subject of reconciling, and the distrust and resentment siblings may experience if/when parents forgive the wayward one and expect them to get along.

These and other scenarios are shared at length in Beyond Done, providing insight for parents as they work to heal from the one child’s disconnection and move their family forward. These families’ struggles, as well as analysis, solutions, and my own family’s management show that “easier” isn’t a word those who have additional children often use for the situation.

If you envy those with many children, did I change your mind? Probably not, but perhaps you can better empathize with the vast complexities faced by bigger families. It’s less about comparing than it is about seeing the reality of your own life and coming to terms with it for your own well-being. Some estranged parents who are left with zero children have told me they’ve come to see their lives as simpler. They even say they enjoy the freedom of going solo.

  • “Everyone else has great families and they’re having so much fun.”

Well, that’s what it looks like on social media. Just as the Internet makes it possible to filter photographs, so skin looks smoother, hair looks glossier, and wrinkles are erased, social media lets people filter their lives. By selectively choosing what gets posted, the view is frequently all good all the time. When that skewed view gets compared to our own lives, it’s easy to see how we might feel like everyone has it better. A few recent studies point to social media’s influence on envy, and I’ve linked to a few sites that discuss those (below). Bottom line, if you’re feeling down about your family, don’t get on social media and absorb the skewed view. Also, consider what you might not be seeing. You probably know people whose Facebook pages paint a glowing picture that’s nothing like the nasty discord that’s really going on. I do.

Even in person, people may paint a rosy picture of their lives. You’re not as odd and isolated as you may think. If anyone does tell you their social woes, let it sink in. When we’re focused on how bad our own situations are, we may tend to discount others’ dilemmas and pain. Don’t be the person who hears about someone’s trials and thinks, “How can she complain? At least she has a family.” Maybe it’s true that your situation is a worse one, but as the rock band R.E.M.’s song says, “Everybody hurts.”

Envy: Final thoughts

In both of my books, full chapters and various sections deal with anger, envy, and a host of other emotions estranged parents feel. How parents cope is detailed through shared stories, to help readers come to terms with and manage their own strong, uncomfortable, but natural emotions. Envy is just one of those.

Have you been envious of others’ “perfect” families and relationships? I hope you’ll leave a comment and share how you’ve dealt with or overcome the feeling. That way, we can be envious of you.

Related links

The Movie: ENVY (comedy)

Your focus: Not “estrangement pain”

Emotional triggers: Set yourself free

Emotional triggers: How to handle them


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69 thoughts on “Estranged parents: What about envy?

  1. Stu

    Envy, yes. My Nephews father was a drunk, druggy, and general all purpose maniac. My Sis split up from him when my Nephew was a few years old, can’t remember exactly. In many ways, his dad is an impressive guy. Extremly smart. In spit of guzzling down booze and drugs every day, he was able to scam his way into many prestigious jobs. Accountant, Engineer, etc. All with forged qualifications. They amazing this is he was able to wing it until he could do it. He came unstuck every time because he engaged in things lime embezzling money, blackmail. After he split from my sister, he traveled the world, scamming his way around. Done jail time in a few different countries. He’s in his 50s now, and totally crazy. He’s really lost his marbles. Yet my Nephew still stays in touch, and still tries to have some sort of relationship with him.

    And I know many parents who were really shit parents with kids who still value them, and remain close in spite of their many and glaring faults.

    Then there is me. Dumped in the bin for god knows what reason, in the middle of a cancer battle, and never spoken to again. And having the cops called on me for trying to deliver an xmas present to him. I’ve never done a violent or dangerous thing to him in my life, and I was pushing 60yo, recovering from cancer, skin and bone, with a feeding tube in my stomach, and I was treated like I was some sort of violent maniac.

    But even all the good parents with happy relationships with their adult children….like all the women I’ve dated since. I find myself not wanting anything to do with their family life. I almost can’t stand seeing their happy relationships with their children. I don’t date at all anymore. I just have booty call friends with benefits and never involve myself any more then that. I don’t even want to hear mention of their kids. It’s not strange that I find this place sort of comforting being full of other parents who have been thrown out like yesterdays newspaper. In a way, I feel like a leper, at home in the leper colony. The only place I can belong.

    1. Tamara


      I hear you when you talk about crappy parents who still get to have a relationship with their kids. I will never understand it.

    2. Stu

      Tamara, yes it amazes me, but I the same time I encourage it. After I split up with my Son’s mother, I took him visit her every weekend, weather she as at her parents place, or locked up in the loony bin. Years later, when they had her fairly stable and in managed housing, and my Son was older and more able to look after himself, I took him to her place and let him stay overnight fairly often. I made sure he had the best possible relationship with his mother that he could. Mind you I never got one cent of child support from her.

      With my nephew, I advised him to know his father and have whatever relationship was possible with him…..safely. I told him he probably shouldn’t let him into his life to the point where he is coming over visiting etc……he’s mad……I mean he has literally gone insane. He has a youtube channel and he’s the biggest nut job conspiracy theorist in the world…..a total fruit cake. My Nephews mum booted him out at 15yo, to live on the streets. Has never given me or anybody else in the family a decent reason why. She has had nothing to do with him since. He ended up living with my mother, and me and bro paying her for his upkeep. He was well behaved over the years……and achieved much. He’s as smart as his dad. Doesn’t look like he’s inherited his other qualities at all…..thank god. I’ve become a sort of father figure to him. He’s 25yo now. One redeeming quality about his father is that he seemed to always care for and want the best for his Son. He was pushed totally out of his life though by my Sister. So as crazy as he is……I advise my Nephew to stay in touch with him. To me, blood is blood….and it’s a bond that should never be broken easily. Hating a parent is like hating yourself. You came from them…….their dna is in every cell in your body. His father had an appalling upbringing, and I think that is responsible for a lot of the way he turned out.

  2. Jules

    I can so relate to this, estrangement is hard in itself let alone the grief of having to lose grandchildren with your adult child.

    That is my position & it’s very difficult to deal with. Sadly I don’t think there’s any real hope at the moment of reconciliation with my daughter, her personality is very black & white & she’s made this decision. And there’s her partner who doesn’t want us in their lives either.

    Sadly my mother & father also decided that they were only going to support my daughter so I’ve not seen them for 4 years either. It’s created a big split in the family. So much damage.

    At times I think I’m best off out of it but I missed my grandchildren & my daughter. I usually find it difficult to deal with seeing grandchildren – although over time it’s getting easier.

    I used to go on a lot of support groups but I find them a bit triggering so only go on forums like this one now.

    I really thought I’d be helping to look after my parents at my time of life but sadly they’ve thrown that away.

  3. A mom

    ” Bottom line, if you’re feeling down about your family, don’t get on social media and absorb the skewed view..” Exactly. This feeling of others’ having the perfect lives – smiling faces with multiple grandchildren and everyone together for the yearly Thanksgiving photo, drove me off of Facebook a year ago. I could not take it!

    1. Gina C.

      I agree , it exacerbatetes the
      Pain of broken heart and shattered dreams , after a 30 year investment of putting myself last , and being discarded my husband then children , I admit I made mistakes but the sacrifice was easily taken and totally forgotten. What a colossal waste, regret snd disappointment the adult kids capacity for cruelty snd disrespect, they did learn well from the master ,

  4. Loveart

    Oh Sheri I laughed when I read about your Halloween skeleton dressed in a Santa hat for Christmas. It felt great to laugh. Estrangement is so sad.
    Your skeleton story reminded me of a few years ago when it was Valentines & my Christmas tree was still up. So I dressed it in valentines & valentines decorations from the $ store. I did this for every holiday, including Remembrance Day when it wore a single poppy.
    Everyone’s posts here have been so helpful as I’ve struggled with envy this past summer.
    I do feel I have to lighten up and enjoy all the wonderful things in my life, including creating my art which gives me great joy.

    Thanks again Sheri for all you have done to help all of us.

  5. Loveart

    It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada & a perfect time to thank you Sheri for your post about envy. Your words have had a calming, positive effect on me. After 4 years of estrangement I have had to work hard but I’ve built a new life. But I’ve been surprised lately that I still feel envious of family & friends who still have their intact families. Your post explains that this feeling of envy can happen and ways to deal with it. So I will make a concentrated effort to manage my feelings in this regard & not be dragged into a dark funk.
    Thank you again Sheri for this helpful post.

    1. JanPhyllis

      I have been in the process of rebuilding everything in my life……..except husband, grandson and once estranged son!!!

      Yes I had a lot of envy until I decided one day to see I do have a lot in my life for happiness instead of crying daily! Your above article is spot on!!!!!

      I now am proud of myself for the progress I’ve made and will continue to make every day!! Believe me it is a struggle!!
      I will change the holidays the only way I can…..happy decorations……and…Christmas will be a celebration of the birth of our Lord!!
      Please everyone suffering take Sheri’s advice!!! Your life will be one to envy!!!!
      Happiness to all!!!

    2. Helene

      My daughter has so much anger towards me and feel I’m “toxic.” Everything in these articles have been the emotions I have gone through the past years. At this point, I have finally realized there is zero I can do to change how she has decided to perceive me and behave towards me. I had a long talk with her a few weeks back. I hit a wall and just said, “what do you want from me?!! I don’t know what else to do.” She was silent for a few moments, then said, “be normal.”
      I am so exhausted that I have thrown my hands up and I’ve given up. I honestly cannot work with this concrete wall in front of me. So now I’m away for 10 days and enjoying every moment with my husband and family!! I’m not letting her behavior hurt me, because that’s what she wants to do. I have my own life and you bet I’m living it and enjoying my time after I worked hard all my life. It’s time for ME. Just doing me and I’m not getting sucked into the game. These articles are so fantastic. Your guidance is spot on. Reliving the pain every day, is poisonous. Living the life we have and separating from the negative is the way to go. The other thing I always remind myself of is that fact that I’m not the only person who has been hit with tragedy. Pull up the boots and keep walking!

  6. Julia

    I am envious of the fact that my abusive ex husband gets to be a grandfather to his two grandchildren. I took my two girls and left the marriage and the father didn’t have anything to do with them. Now years later as adults they have a relationship with him. I’ve been told I was an abusive, manipulating mother and therefore they are protecting their families from me. It’s utter crap.

    1. KimZ

      I so understand this! I have felt the same . Recently my eldest grandson told me “Crapaw” gave him a Nintendo System for his birthday Oct 5th. My ex was physically and verbally abusive to our child as well as, absent due to a workaholic mentality. Yet he’s invited to birthday parties, holidays and they travel hours to see him in another state. Me? I’m 45 minutes away I get no visits ,no invites and my gifts pale in comparison to his. But my hope and my consolation is this! I don’t buy love! I emulate it! My gift of a science project a little money and a paint by number set was from the heart. In the end, I can’t truly envy him. He’s cruel and mean and empty inside. One day I hope my grandchildren will see how much I truly loved them apart from money and gifts that I couldn’t give them.

    2. Hedy G.

      I’m in the exact same situation as you are. He was never a real father to my three girls and my girls know, but they have chosen to follow the money. He uses his wealth to disparage me at every juncture. He always has and continues to do so even though we have been divorced for over 25 years. He is still angry at me for wanting a divorce and now he gets to enjoy being a grandfather and I’m sure a great grandfather one day. I have been pushed out of their lives sadly for ever. The only reason I have ever been given was my choice of a second husband who they never liked. We are now do for six years and they still want to blame him. That tells me there is no real reason for this estrangement. It’s sad for all of us.

    3. Cheryl M.

      All of the grandparents stories hit home with me. I have only one grandson from ED and I believe her and her newly married husband were quick to have a child to use him against me by saying I will “never do to him what I did to her” as I have been called toxic, even though I raised them myself after leaving their abusive father. And yet he gets to be a grandpa, despite leaving the majority of running the kids to every hockey game and never missing any school related events, of which he was absent from every one.
      My grandson is 3 now and doesn’t know I exist. After reading Sheri’s books, I was able to find MY life. When I am tired from working all week, I can relax, when I see grandparents at Walmart with grandchildren, I will now think if how exhausted these people must be after a week of unpaid daycaring.
      I would LOVE to get to know my grandson but I often wonder how that would go and have to remind myself that it would come with the eggshells I walked on when ED wasn’t estranged.
      Maybe someday her bitterness toward me will go away, maybe not, but I cleaned off my side of the street with her a
      2 1/2 years ago, it’s on her to make sure her son knows he has a loving grandma that wasn’t allowed in his life.

    4. Hedy G.

      I’m in the exact same situation as you are. He was never a real father to my three girls and my girls know, but they have chosen to follow the money. He uses his wealth to disparage me at every juncture. He always has and continues to do so even though we have been divorced for over 25 years. He is still angry at me for wanting a divorce and now he gets to enjoy being a grandfather and I’m sure a great grandfather one day. I have been pushed out of their lives sadly for ever. The only reason I have ever been given was my choice of a second husband who they never liked. We are now do for six years and they still want to blame him. That tells me there is no real reason for this estrangement. It’s sad for all of us.

  7. Doris

    It’s now been 8 years of estrangement for us. Three grandchildren we do not know. I am familiar with envy, but the reality is that my friends who are Grandparents are being run ragged by their kids using them for so much child care. And then I remember that I am also familiar with the expression “Beware of your wishes….they may come true.” We are definitely OK. No one’s life is perfect. A friend’s son who grew up best friends with our estranged son treats us as surrogate parents (while still maintaining his friendship with our estranged son). He recently sent us a copy of his wife’s ultrasound. I have a feeling we will get to be “grandparents” yet!

    1. Helene

      Doris…great attitude. I have a grandson 25 minutes away. Since my daughter feels “I’m toxic,” I m not allowed to see him. So I just stay away. . I don’t express that I want to see her son because I have learned she uses him to hurt me. Now I have also learned to protect myself.. you’re doing very similar things we do. I feel I have 1 life and it’s a gift, so I’m enjoying it as much as possible. Thank goodness I have a fabulous husband, a great business and a lot of friends. Good for you and stay happy!

  8. Annemarie

    I try to overcome envy of other parents/ families by doing what you suggested. If it’s Facebook, find a sincere, kind comment to leave. If it is in a public setting, the same. Coming out of myself and giving is a form of deliverance for me. I have my ticked off moments, when I chuck something at the Facebook photos and I try to give myself a break for being human and bleeding. God’s love and comfort moving me forward again.

  9. Rae M.

    I appreciated this article so much. It has been two years since our youngest son cut us off. At first he said it was because of political differences another time it was because his dad was a workaholic and then it was because of our Christian faith. I did envy many of my friends’ seemingly close relationships with their kids but my counselor helped me to work through it by accepting the likelihood that they had their own issues to deal with. In the midst of my counseling period two of my close friends had adult children die prematurely. This made me realize that I at least have hope for reconciliation where they are struggling to learn how to forever live their lives without their son and daughter.

    Our son has let us back into his life in a superficial way and we are thankful that our daughter-in-law invites us to visit them every 3 months or so. Walking on eggshells has become our norm. Our oldest son has handled the split very well by maintaining contact with his brother and spending more time with us than he did before. Your article reminded me to watch for signs that our oldest may be carrying more responsibility to keep the family intact than he should have to. I am sure he is grieved that our years of family get togethers no longer look like they used to.

  10. Diane M.

    It’s always good for me to know that others may be feeling just like I am about certain things. When I go out to lunch with my women friends, they talk about their grown kids and grandkids a lot. They have stopped even asking about my daughter, son-in-law and grown grandkids because they know we are estranged. I was hard on myself that I shouldn’t be feeling so bad when I envied them all their contact with their kids and grandkids. This is just the hand I’ve been dealt (for now.) I got this term out of Sheri’s book. I am in touch with my 50 year old son though. And yes, I do walk on eggshells fearing that if I say the wrong thing, he will leave me too. I guess I need to work on this more. Be the real me in all situations, when being with friends and when talking to my son. I am now almost 72 y/o. Time for me to be authentic at all times. I don’t know why my daughter and her family are estranged from me. I think my ex-husband said some awful things to her. My son told me that my ex said that I never wanted kids. Untrue! But she’s 48 y/o and should know how good our relationship was when she was growing up. Not much I can do. But who knows what the future holds? I just want to be happy and even to enjoy the holidays ahead. Life is too short to wallow in sadness and worry (that my son will become estranged). I’m working on this, with a good therapist. Thank you all for sharing. I learn so much from Sheri’s comments and yours.

  11. Julia

    I’ve cried all week over my only child (a daughter) and her rejection. I miss my grandchildren so much it hurts. All I wanted was to talk to my granddaughter last night and wish her a happy birthday. My daughter doesn’t even pick up the phone. I have to text and ask if I can talk to my grandchildren. I see my daughter’s disdain for me affecting my precious grandchildren. I’m hurt and I’m so tired.

    I’m glad I signed up for this newsletter months ago. When I opened my e-mail this morning this was so timely.

    1. Linds

      Hi Julia, I can relate to how difficult it is when reaching out to our estranged adult child and the efforts end up in space somewhere. My son and I were always close. I supported and loved him all his life. He married and they decided not to have children which is fine and my husband
      and I said if that’s what makes you happy that’s fine. We were lucky our beautiful daughter had 3 children and now we also recently were blessed with a great granddaughter and also a great grand son and we have a close relationship with them all . However at age 42 my son changed his last name to his wifes last name and didn’t tell us. He had very good reasons for his decision but I found out by accident and I responded with a criticism, not for the name change because he is a grown man can do what he wants but for not trusting us to support his decision and not telling us. It was a decision I would handle differently because it has been 10 years since I have heard one word from him. He won answer the phone or read my texts or letters or acknowledge any attempts I have made to reconcile and move forward. It shocks me he can do this. I do reach out to his wife and she answers small talk but doesn’t want to be in the middle and I have to respect that. It reads my heart he can be so cruel but I take joy that my daughter and her family are in our lives and she also doesn’t want to be caught in the middle because he might do the same to her and I don’t want that although our family get together with him included are no more. He lives in BCa d we live in Ontario so distance is an issue but I toy with the idea of going there and knocking on the door. I am now 72 and have health issues and don’t want my life to end without resolving this but it takes two.
      I come by focusing on what I do have in my life and even tho I envy my friends and family at times who still have close relationships with their kids I also am sincerely happy for them and know they have other things gs they have to deal with because no family is perfect so I try to be there for them when I can and I know they are they for me too. I have learned that the road to hell is trying to understand why this happened and continues to happen when I thought I knew my son so well and instead i have to let it go for today. I never in a million years thought there would be a total blackout from him for over 10 years but I still have hope . Thanksgiving isn’t as hard as mothers day but all holidays, birthdays etc are challenges that need to be met in a positive way,with God’s help.

    2. Caroline D.

      Dear Julia
      I so understand your pain. I have only one child, an adult daughter, and have been estranged by my daughter for 6 years…and I’ve never met my now five year old granddaughter. I’m having counselling and it has helped me to move forward one day at a time. Hang in there! I hope you find some peace of mind in time.

      With sincere empathy

    3. Anna

      Dear Julia,
      I can so relate to your pain over the emotional loss of your only daughter and grandchildren. It has been 12 years since my jealous, sociopathic (& only) daughter shut me out of her life, including my grandchildren, too, since I remarried the love of my life (after being a single mom for over 20 years). My pain was debilitating for years, but now I see her for who my daughter really is: a selfish, cruel person who will pay a karmic price for her cold hearted & inhumane act. As Sheri said: call it what it is: a brutal, cold hearted act! When you allow yourself anger, you are passing through a heartbreaking phase of loss, with justified anger! Now I just shake my head at & am proud I gave my mother the love she so deserved & grandchildren who shared her love in return. Sociopaths feel no guilt or shame, so pity these children we raised with love, but whose DNA/genes we could not control (her father is a full blown psychopath who also triangulates with my son (& he also shut me out of his life!). We have no control over our adult children, so be at peace knowing you did your best raising her. Fill your life with what made you smile before you became a mother. Return to Loving yourself and bring new endeavors into your life to fill that void. Life is still worth living after you move through your loss. Remember, this was not your choice but a one of a cold hearted child who enjoys your pain and suffering! As Kahil Gibran said: Our children come through us, NOT from us. May peace and love enter your soul and heal you, dear fellow sufferer.

  12. Lisa Blanchette

    Hi Sheri,

    Thank you for your insight and articles for parents of estranged children! It has been over 16 years since both of my daughters have decided to exclude me from their lives. Both for different reasons.

    It took a couple of years for me to determine I will live the best life I can. Knowing we are all missing out on so much!

    My daughters are now 31 and 38, with children of their own. It was my initial hope that when they had their own family, they would see how easy it was to make mistakes while raising their babies. Alas, they still have not contacted me. There are 5 grandchildren that I have missed out on enjoying, ages range from 7 months to 15 years old.

    Your article on envy rings true! There are times my friends, coworkers, anyone will talk about their grandchildren, and all emotions come to the surface, envy being the strongest! In reviewing each time this happens, I rationalize why I feel that way, accept it for what it is, and file it away. It has always been my intent to never display these feelings, as I know it is really no one else’s fault.

    It is refreshing to know that envy is normal. Of course, we are always hardest on ourselves, aren’t we?

    For the past 13 years, I have been in a wonderful relationship with my boyfriend whom I enjoy sharing my life with His family is great, and treat me as their daughter, cousin, sister!

    There are many times I will long for my daughters to call, to start the healing process so that we can be a family again. I am also aware it is just a hope on my part, that no one is able to WILL another to do what I want them to do. One of my sayings is, no one can take away my hopes and dreams.

    Even though my girls are not in my life, I still enjoy the holidays. Each season and holiday, I decorate our home. Currently, Halloween is in full swing! We have a traditional family Halloween costume party While I don’t really have my own blood relatives, my boyfriends family enjoy coming over to celebrate.

    Wishing we all heal, and continue on this journey called life!

    Warm regards, Lisa

    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you for your comment. I am always in awe at how some go all out for every holiday and truly enjoy doing it. I have learned that small touches are best for me … otherwise, I might have a skeleton hanging in the garden for a whole year (yes, I’ve done it). LOL. Once, he lasted for two years and wore a Santa hat….

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

  13. alexandra

    I do not think other people’s life is perfect. yet I envy other people who are in contact with their children. the contact I lost. I have an extremely interesting life, am constantly intellectually challanged, culturally busy, and have friends. yet I live with a constant pain, with a wound, a dark spot in my heart that i do not know how to heal. I feel that I lost my child. I do go on with my life, but I lost a main component of my life.

  14. Polly

    Envy fits nicely with the vision of the “idealized child”. From the day my daughter was born, she has been fighting me in one way or another. As she made it to adulthood, and now at 34, it is clear that she still struggles with a crazy combination of job success and mental illness. She has been a serial estrangement master, and although I occasionally envy some of my friend’s relationships with their daughters, I remind myself that I have a pretty great life beyond my daughter, so using meditation, exercise, social interactions and plenty of rest, I have come to a place where I don’t feel a lot of guilt or envy. It just is.

  15. Ellen

    Hello lovely people
    I wanted to add a little note to say never give up. After five years of such heartbreak I didn’t know how I would keep going but my daughter has returned with my grandchildren just knocked at the door and flowers to say so sorry for being such an awful daughter. I was stunned that was five months ago. We don’t really discuss all that happened why she did what she did but I also didn’t want to hash out past stuff. I have to let that go and take each day as she always brings the grandchildren and we can’t really talk then. I feel little bits will come over time and I have to wait. I have advised her that we do need to set Boundaries and respect she has agreed and so far so good. My heart is singing again however I am aware of her behaviour and so trust needs to be built up again. I honestly never thought I would see her again so please lovely people I know what ur going through hang in there miracles do happen..

  16. Bethann L.

    My children are estranged due to my ex. He took my divorce from him as a personal attack and told our children the same. Our daughter was in college, our son was just starting high school. We had a 50/50 agreement. I bought my son a car, and that set off everything. He came home one day and said his dad made him give back the car and he couldn’t live with me any more. I have not spoken to him in 9 years. I do see him, he rides a bike around the neighborhood. My ex is now marrying a friend of mine, which hurts. He will be moving, and I’ve asked him to let the children know I’m always here.

    1. Aubrey T.

      Well, your words could be mine! My ex took our divorce as a personal attack on her. She very strategically & aggressively forced her way into our children’s lives alienating me along the way. It’s amazing how many times she could demand to be given preference to special events over me because the “I’m your mother”
      card trumps every time. If they tried to object, hell would reign down until they relented.
      Appreciate your contribution here

  17. Alexandra S

    Thank you Sheri,
    You always seem to hit the hurt dead on. I had been wishing I had another child, as my one son is estranged. He and his wife now act like nothing is wrong, but we don’t talk often and they only bring the grandkids to see us in a public place once a month, even though we live 2 miles away. We are given what amounts to “supervised” visits, though we have never done anything to warrant this, and used to be close. They don’t like our political opinions, as we are conservative, and they don’t care for my Christianity either. Thanks for being there. It helps to know I am not alone.

  18. Jane S.

    I really believe that no one has a perfect family or a perfect life. We all have issues to deal with and challenges to overcome. True friends will usually be truthful about their not so perfect lives and offer support when needed. Anyone who appears to have a perfect family life is not being honest, particularly those who like to advertise it on social media, so I try to avoid these people. Your real friends are the people who tell it how it is.

    1. Barbara

      For sure !!! Their are times I am so sick about hearing stories about the grandkids and how great the kids are and all that stuff . I don’t have grandkids ; estranged mostly from my AS and no significant other but you know what ? I am still a complete human being worthy to be treated with kindness and respect . Sometimes I decline social gatherings because I just don’t wanna sit around not being able to relate to all the “ family discussions “ and it’s totally ok !!!
      This notion “ family is everything “ just doesn’t hold true for many of us so most of the time I make a choice not to put this pressure on myself period . Of course there are times when situations are triggering very sad and hurt feelings …
      Some “ friends “ I had to distance myself from since they would say very hurtful things like oh my God I can’t imagine not having contact to my kids how awful stuff like that
      It’s a day by day way of living for me
      The pain of estrangement is never really completely gone but has eased much over time

  19. Julee S.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write a newsletter to us parents who are hurting. I encourage you to keep up the good advice and support for us who continue to navigate through this situation with our estranged children.
    I try not to envy my friends who have a fantastic relationship with their adult children and grandchildren. One thing that helps me is that I consider that no one’s life is perfect, no matter how hard they try and dress it up to look good for others to see. We are all human, and humans have relationship problems as long as we are living on this earth. I try to take the envy I feel towards other parents who have a good relationship with their grown kids with a grain of salt, and go on with my life.

  20. Anne F.

    Sheri, thank you for your great reminder about envy. I have often envied the “other” grandmother in our estrangement scenario.
    She gets to be with her 3 grandchildren ALL the time. However, I have now come to realize that this grandmother is being treated as a “doormat”. She is ALWAYS available to care for the 3 kids because she moved right down the street from ES and family. There is still even envy in my words. However, I then realize that I would not want 3 children to manage on a regular basis. My raising kids days are long gone. When you actually remember the reality of this scenario, I honestly do sit back and relax. Learn to Love the life you’re living !!!!

  21. Brian

    I often envy “perfect families” around the holidays. Then I stop and remind myself that perfect families aren’t as perfect as we think and if they are, they are only perfect for the time being—they will face their pain at some point. I also remind myself that when I had a perfect family, it was as also constraint that blocked me from my own personal happiness. Thanks for bringing up this topic!

    1. rparents Post author

      You’re welcome, Brian. You’re right, too. Perfection can be tiring to maintain (even if it’s fake!). Also, when things are going well, we must ENJOY those times because, yes, life happens and it’s not always perfect all the time.

      Big hugs!

      Sheri McGregor

  22. LeAnn

    This is a very helpful article. Often I compare myself to others and wonder what I did wrong. I am learning that the loss of my relationship with my only child does not need to rob me of my joy. I have a strong faith and I have chosen to focus my attention on joy in the Lord and try to think of ways I can encourage others. I appreciate how you have identified specific areas of envy. This helps recognize the struggles and rise above them. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

  23. Linda

    My beautiful daughter who I have adored cherished and given the world to …was adopted from China ….we were always very close and never had issues with her in adoption or our differences in race …I’m Caucasian …once she turned 18 And out of high school she began to make friends that were not the best in character . She chose to take a gap year before going to college and of course ultimately never went even though I enrolled her three times and she had scholarships. She just didn’t show up to class and didn’t do any assignments that was withdrawn by the university three times. She began staying out overnight often and wouldn’t let me know where she was and eventually stopped coming home altogether. and today at age 23 …she’s been arrested for battery …2 counts!…& criminal mischief, damage to property…really!!! when she was out with her awful friends and spent a night in jail in the orange jumpsuit and is now out on bail.

    She was once a pageant winning beauty full of God dancing at church loved adults very close to me now I haven’t seen her in a year and a half except to deliver her some papers I got from an attorney at which time she told me if I ever came to her again should file a restraining order I am not kidding when I told you I dropped off homemade chicken soup her favorite and a big bag of care package items now and she must be going through personal Hell and her response was if you ever come here again I will file a restraining order against you my roommates and I will file a restraining order actually stated and she lives with three men One of him is her boyfriend all of whom are less than most.
    The heart break the anger the depths of my gutted or despair cannot be described. My worry and concern over her combine with my deep love for her and my anger at the rejection I have dealt with for literally a year and a half of her not speaking to me including two birthdays to mothers days Christmas Thanksgiving a whole bit I’m a single parent who raised her with so much love and she’s my only child the isolation I have at holidays is unbelievably difficult and I am working hard to clear up for this year and make some plans for myself because last year I was home alone in my house and it was very difficult .
    She and I were once extremely close we were the relationship that people envied and talked about because we did everything together and we’re so very happy and she’s so very beautiful and talented and it kills me to see her flushing her life down the toilet if she’s convicted she’ll be going to jail… and will not be able to get a good job anytime soon because it’s a battery charge. on top of everything else although she hasn’t lived here in literally two years she still uses my address for her legal address so you can imagine the mail and the inquiries I am getting here at my house which makes it impossible to get away from and the post office said they can do nothing because we have the same last name .

    Anyway I’m giving you this huge download when you were asking for a certain type of thing …but thank you for listening because I’m really suffering and I’m reaching out to try to find resources to help me thank you

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Linda,

      This may sound harsh but don’t make the same mistake as you said your daughter is. To use your words, don’t flush your own life and gifts down the toilet.

      Right now, you CAN let your daughter know you are her mom and love her but you CANNOT make her change.

      Take charge of your life and make good of all your gifts. You’ll help others, help yourself, and perhaps even model wisdom and strength to a daughter who may one day change.

      You’re a strong, wise woman. Own it. Be it.

      Sheri McGregor

  24. Carol S.

    I struggle with this a little bit, but I try very hard not to let it overtake me. I am genuinely happy for my other family members/friends who have great relationships with their children, but it does make me sad that what I thought I’d have when my children were grown doesn’t exist. I have two daughters who are now both estranged from me. My oldest one has been in and out of my life and the youngest was desparate to reconnect with her. They have finally reconnected, which makes me very happy for them, but in doing so, they have both completely shut me out. It’s so hard to step back and not contact them, but I feel that’s what I have to do right now as all my attempts to reconnect haven’t worked. This will be my first holiday season without either one and I’m struggling a little bit. I have read the first book and am now working on the second one. It is helpful, but hard, too.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Carol,
      Yes, this whole thing is hard. As I talk about in the second book though, you are flexing emotional muscles. You’re getting stronger.

      Sheri McGregor

  25. Beth B.

    Social media is a trigger for me and not so easy to quit. Keeping the focus on my own life but scrolling and seeing all the warm fuzzies in others lives keeps me in a state of missing something.
    I have unfollowed individuals and only have groups on my feed which has allowed me to create space enough to enjoy my life, my animals, projects, and what daily interactions i have.
    My only child has moved and it has been 7 years since she announced she is ” terminating” the relationship. I have lost hope and am experiencing fond memories of our time as a co hesive family. This feels almost healthy?!

    1. rparents Post author

      Yes, Beth! It’s healthy. And thank you for sharing how you have adapted social media for your own well-being. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

      Sheri McGregor

  26. Jayne

    I was enjoying the evening sun on my deck one evening this year.. 22.. and in the distance I heard talking and laughing outside in someone’s back yard .. For a while I thought it was someone’s radio and I was annoyed that it invaded my silence. Then it dawned on me, the happy voices were the real sounds of a family gathering, and I felt so sad.

  27. Samantha S.

    We are working our way through life since estrangement 8 months ago. I made it my mission that all my friends and colleagues with grandchildren were to still talk to me and tell me their grandchildren stories, and I ask for photos. Basically I want them to treat me exactly the same as before. I think they found it hard to start with, but we are all getting used to it, and I am sharing their joy, and feeling included. I’m a librarian, and often surrounded by little ones. I get my joys from helping them and watching them. Not always easy, I can assure you, but hiding away and others hiding their lives from you was never an option. I work with a homeless couple – and I know my life is ok, actually, when I see their daily struggles. We miss our granddaughter and our daughter, but we chose life over sadness. I hope everyone else can get to a similar position despite estrangement. Love to everyone.

  28. Carrie-Ann

    Having just read Beautiful Sheri’s posting on Envy, and listened to the REM song she shared…Truly Encouraging song and video with the band in the actual concert…
    I thought maybe I would share the Lyrics and a you tube video with the lyrics…As maybe some of you would like to visually see the words, and/or sing along with the music…I find music very Healing…Enjoy!! (I also plan on viewing the movie she suggested, “Envy”, on Amazon Prime…).

    In Gratitude for Beautiful Sheri’s time, energy, insight, and caring… May Beautiful Sheri, and Each One Of You Be Blessed In Body, Mind, & Spirit!!!

    When your day is long
    And the night, the night is yours alone
    When you’re sure you’ve had enough
    Of this life, well hang on
    Don’t let yourself go
    ‘Cause everybody cries
    Everybody hurts sometimes
    Sometimes everything is wrong
    Now it’s time to sing along
    When your day is night alone (hold on, hold on)
    If you feel like letting go (hold on)
    If you think you’ve had too much
    Of this life, well hang on
    ‘Cause everybody hurts
    Take comfort in your friends
    Everybody hurts
    Don’t throw your hand, oh no
    Don’t throw your hand
    If you feel like you’re alone
    No, no, no, you are not alone
    If you’re on your own in this life
    The days and nights are long
    When you think you’ve had too much
    Of this life to hang on
    Well, everybody hurts sometimes
    Everybody cries
    Everybody hurts, sometimes
    And everybody hurts sometimes
    So hold on, hold on
    Hold on, hold on, hold on
    Hold on, hold on, hold on
    Everybody hurts
    REM – Everybody Hurts — lyrics – (5:14min.)

    1. Kate

      I just now listened to it. What a beautiful and heart touching song!!! It made me cry but I just love it. The words are so very true for everyone. Thank you Carrie-Ann for posting the lyrics and thank you Sheri for suggesting it to all of us.

    2. Chris

      Thank you for posting the lyrics Carrie-Ann … because of your post I went and listened to the song …. the lyrics were so beautiful. The song is truly beautiful and healing.

  29. Jacqui

    Gosh yes, I have found myself drifting into the wallow pit of envy. It mostly happens at church, where there are alot of grandparents and their grandchildren also attend. There is one Phillapeno couple who sit in our row quite often. They have 2 grand daughters who often come and sit with them. The grand children obviously adore their grandparents and I find my thoughts drifting off to what would it be like to have my first and only grandson love to be with me like that. Our grandson will be turning 2 this month and my son is not speaking to us until we apologise for his upbringing. It’s a long and complex situation coming up to 3 years now. We have had some good contact, but because his partner rules over his every word, has charge of all their social media, we cannot even attempt to make contact without drama. The last time I posted a piece about our 30 wedding anniversary and said my greatest blessing was our 5 children, I got a very quick response, telling me I was not allowed to say he was a blessing She is bi polar and szcophrenic, so it’s a challenge at the best of times.
    I find the only way I can deal with any envy I feel towards other grandparents who enjoy their grandchildren in their lives, is to pray to God to not dwell in that dark place. Sometimes I cry and feel so sad my grandson doesn’t know me. I try to just remember it’s nothing we did and ask God to help me stay strong.

  30. Marsha B.

    Hi Sheri , “envy” how it rears its ugly head at times in my life . Each day I make it a goal to stop looking at others lives and try and see all the good I have in my own. My Best Friend Ana is surrounded by her 3 boys, daughter and 4 grandkids ..My brother seems to have a perfect life . I know their lives are not perfect but why I beat myself up at times thinking so really used to bring me pain . Nature is the great healer . Walking just out my back door brings a sense of Peace . Looking to the Heavens I get awed each time by its magic ..It seems to tell me Marsha there is so MUCH MORE ! I am a work in progress !!!

    1. rparents Post author

      Yes, Marsha. I get the same message or similar! We are nature. Thank you for writing this and showing others here through your lovely words.

      Sheri McGregor

  31. Kaye


    Yes, It’s difficult not to feel envious when I see others who seem to have the perfect families. This is my first time to comment, but your books and reading here have been a lifesaver. I have come a long way since 2018. Thank you so much for all you do.


    1. rparents Post author

      Welcome in, Kaye!
      I am so grateful that you shared, and pleased that the books helped. I hope commenting here feels good.

      Hugs to you,
      Sheri McGregor

  32. Kathy

    I think Envy is a very difficult, unproductive emotion, somewhat like Guilt. I believe I feel Envy because I want what I can not have with my Daughter. I see friends enjoying wonderful relationships, which will not happen now after 13 years. We have lost so much of life together, (sad), I try to put Envy into perspective in my life and not allow it to overshadow my happy thoughts or make judgements on myself. I Think about it and let it go, We are all unique in this world and I have a different life now, not empty, not run by obligation or a sense of pleasing her so she will love me. I like to take a walk in the woods with my dog and this helps for me to gain my perspective once again…”It is what it is” and life is too short. Feel the earth under your feet and appreciate our freedoms and positive things in my life.
    Yoga and meditation is also a way to help think through some of these negative emotions, that are destructive. Thank you for all help in this life journey, you saved me!

  33. Tanya F.

    What about if the other parent is your ex who walked out on your kids when they were little? Now they get together on holidays and I’m alone. What about when they blame you for the things that went wrong?

  34. Lorraine G.

    Yes I always envy other parents that seem to be always having there family get together. What I have observed is a large number of these people are not terribly nice,. yet
    seem to have the perfect families. It seems to me in general
    nasty people seem to be the most popular in life.

    1. Maz

      Yes my son is estranged from me and he has a horrible partner. All lovey dovey on the surface. It’s all an act. M xxx

    2. Toni D.

      I, too, have noticed what you notice. So many people who are not nice seem to have lots of family gatherings and spend time together. The holidays are hard for those in this group. But Sheri’s books have been a lifesaver, providing perspective and even words to use to answer people’s questions. My favorite (may not be an exact quote) is, “Yes, I have one son. He and his family choose not to spend time with us.” Such simple words that I never would have arrived at on my own. Hugs to all or us and may we continue to see all the good there is in the world.


    3. Mary Beth

      Hi Lorraine,
      I feel the same. I have a get together today for a birthday party for my husband’s granddaughter. Always a huge anxiety for me, messes with my head, and I dread it every time. It’s always the same large group of people with their perfect families and lives, only, as Sheri stated, a lot of it is smoke and mirrors. My husband’s ex-wife treats me like a leper, and seems to be exceptionally demonstrative in her “grandmother-hood” around me. I always need to have a pep talk with myself to keep my head on straight before I go. My only thought is “can’t wait to leave.” So I will pray about it on my walk this morning, put on my big girl pants, (I am 61 years old. I shouldn’t have to feel like this) and show up. I am sorry you are going through this Lorraine, as well as everyone in pain on this journey.
      God Bless,
      Mary Beth

  35. Maureen

    Hi Sheri, How wonderful to get this message @ the most excellent time. I have been re-reading your book “Done with the Crying.” Somehow I am calmer & feel more empowered these days. The last time I saw my son, grandson(s) was back in June. I drove over to them. The last phone call from my son was in Aug. I have texted many times inviting the 4 of them to come to our home & have dinner…no response. Another text where I was willing to drop off gifts for the boys & again…anyway the theme is a cat & mouse game. My new method of coping is Rejection is Protection. I mean this to the depth of my soul. They cannot be so cold & heartless while I am the only making any contribution to a love relationship. My new thing is when someone says they LOVE me & there are no words to back it up, I simply say I don’t believe you. I’m healing. I’m growing. I want better relations & better treatment. Biology can be limiting. I will LOVE the children in this world that want to be LOVED by me. Thank you for this beautiful way of coping…its really quite a gift that supports such an awkward situation.

    1. rparents Post author

      What a wonderful gift you are giving yourself–to be able to see relationships as they truly are, and to value yourself within them and on your own. Thank you for sharing this here. I wish you MANY blessings as you journey along, dear Maureen!

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Ilene A.

      “I will LOVE the children in this world that want to be LOVED by me.” What a perfect statement this is! Just because I birthed my children, doesn’t guarantee that they will love and respect me.

    3. Linda

      Maureen, your phrase “I will LOVE the children in this world that want to be LOVED by me” struck a chord. I’ve been loving my oldest son and his two sons exclusively since my youngest son stepped away from us in 2019 in a most ugly and abrupt way while we were on vacation together. My youngest has always felt overshadowed by, and jealous of, his older brother, and finally unleashed on the entire family. His self esteem has always suffered under the weight of drug use and mental health issues. His dad (my ex-husband who also has mental health problems) always chose others and hobbies over our family when the kids were growing up. But my youngest stays in touch with his dad who is bitter towards me about the divorce and envious of my close relationship with our oldest son and grandsons (who choose to be loved by me.) My ex and youngest son are incapable of taking responsibility for their own lives, and will continue to blame everyone for the outcome of theirs. I finally realize that they have difficulty loving and being loved – by anyone. Thank you, Maureen and everyone for sharing your stories and insight.


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