Parents of estranged adults: Declaring Independence 2016

estranged son

Estranged son or daughter: Declaring Independence 2016

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

After my son became estranged, one of his close high school friends died in a car accident. At one point, she’d been a daily fixture in our home, like a part of our family. Her death hit me hard.

My family and I attended a memorial fundraiser, and as we sat at a table among the crowd, I fought back tears. Family and friends of this young woman who had touched so many lives gathered to show support and grieve.

That day, I had intended to approach her family and offer condolences, but I was too torn up. My despair over my son’s estrangement mixed with sadness over the death of this beautiful young person whose life had been cut short.  On that day, I found myself thinking that the pain of estrangement, with its intentional hurt and uncertainty for the future, was worse than that of death.

In some ways, it’s true. This young adult daughter didn’t choose to leave the people who loved her. Her family didn’t feel the sting of rejection. And with a death, there’s an outpouring of empathy. Others understand the grief. The parents aren’t usually speculated about and judged the way parents of estranged adult children often are. With death, sadness is expected. People allow and encourage grief. With estrangement, the loss is just as significant and painful, yet it can feel as if we have no right to mourn.

Wishes for my estranged son: Wishes for all my children

While I know the horrible ambiguity of loss through estrangement, taking charge of my feelings has helped me leave the pain behind–and move forward for my own good.

While my estranged son is living his life without me and the rest of his family, at least he has life—-the gift I have him through birth. I nurtured him into adulthood. I provided kindness, support, and love. While it’s true that our relationship is not as I once expected (in fact there is no relationship), the last I knew,  he was happy.

Like most parents, my most ardent wish for all five of my children has always been their happiness. I know the shocking blow of an adult child’s rejection. I know the difficulty in accepting an estranged child’s unthinkable choice. I know the pain in letting go. But in the end, my estranged son made his own choices about the life I freely gave him. And I could make a choice to do what was best for me.

Declaring Independence

On this Independence Day holiday, 2016, declare your own independence—from old dreams, and expectations that, at least for the moment, are not in your power to achieve. Just as those who founded America faced unknowns in pursuit of happiness, take heart. Bolster your courage. Have faith that there is a new and wonderful life for you ahead.

Love and hope can remain, but be determined for your own well-being as you escape the tyranny of sadness and pain. You can declare your independence. Look to the horizon of your future with an optimistic dream. Make plans for your own happiness. Take the helm in your beautiful life ahead.

For more specific ways to take charge of your feelings, declare independence, and move forward in your own life, get my books in the Done With The Crying series.



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33 thoughts on “Parents of estranged adults: Declaring Independence 2016

  1. Susan C.

    my son, age 45, has been mad at my husband and I for 25 years , The first 75 weeks of therapy I cried and said I am the worst Mother in the world because he hates me…,,,In 2013, he showed up, he lives in another city, angry but came to our new house, saw him a few more times, didn’t dare breathe….he sent flowers a few times… was never nice….then angrily told me I wouldn’t ever see him again and don’t dare try to contact him, so I didn’t. My new therapist told me, when I recalled to her a vivid dream of me walking and his little boy hand warm in mine, as it always was….I woke up, it had felt so real…..she told me, Susan, that little boy who loved you so very much is gone, now he is your grown up son, that is over. after reading more and more of Sheri’s writing, more therapy, I kind of, didn’t think about him much at all, I accepted it , on Mothers Day of 2022, after sleeping through Mothers Day weekend, at 1 a.m. I saw an email , Dear Mom, I hope you had a nice Mothers Day, Love, your son, and the name I always called him…maybe we can catch up some time. After a few days, I responded carefully, not angrily, then another email came, with a long history of his work history, he had gotten married at the Courthouse in another state where he lives, to his many years live in partner, then another email, could he call me Sunday, I said ok, and he called and said ‘ surprise, I am here, can I come over” big shock, he came over. I hardly recognized him. I had never seen him so mature, nice or kind of kind. He stayed 2 hours, visited, laughed , had coffee, brought me flowers, then inquired about our lives, he said I looked beautiful, had 3 more short emails, my therapist says he may have needed to fulfill the need for missing parents and their love, it might now seem , fulfilled to him and we might not hear from him again soon, or see him soon, as in the next few years even. Or ever. I still don’t count on it at all, it was like meeting a new friend who you slightly once knew, it’s been so long

    I never thought in a million years I would hear from him again. He is safe, healthy, he is on this planet – that is all I knew, I could not have been more shocked, I did cry and feel hysterical after he left, that only lasted 30 minutes. I am still so surprised but feel more at peace. Not that I expect even to hear from him again. Had he been rude we were going to tell him to leave. But he wasn’t. What an experience. This was a few weeks ago. They never planned to have children and there are not any. I didn’t know. He asked about us. That was a first. He is traveling now, I don’t expect an email, a text or a postcard. It is rather freeing not to hope or expect anything. Now that I have experienced, the natural thing is to crave more but I stop myself. I didn’t get myself mostly healthy to lose it. I wouldn’t have the strength to start. Recovering again.

    The years I wasted. I was in grief. This may be the end of the story…..

    1. Dolly

      Dearest Susan,
      I have never posted a comment on this site but it has literally saved my life in so many ways. My husband who is in his 70’s suffered a stroke a over a year ago, and our son decided to estrange us right after my husband got home from the hospital when I needed him the most. I’ve had time to reflect on how selfish and imperious my son has always been.
      Susan, your story is so similar to mine and I can relate to the crushing pain you must be enduring as all of us here are forced to face, and somehow find ways to cope and survive.
      I took the time out of my exhausting days to write to my son several times over the past year. I only received one response at the beginning. He was so unbelievably cruel and hateful but I didn’t retaliate and was extremely kind as I am a God fearing woman and have the capacity to forgive.
      I doubt if I will ever hear from him again and over the past few months I have come to realize that he is not the man I raised but rather someone that I don’t recognize anymore. He took away our only grandchild as well. My heart aches for my poor husband who has suffered terribly and I know that he is devastated from losing our only son and grandchild. During this horrific pandemic, there are so many challenging events we all must face every day and it’s overwhelming and scary.
      But we all must remember what wonderful, caring and amazingly giving parents we were.
      Thank you Sheri for sharing your stories and your grief. And Susan, hang in there. I’m sure that your guardian angel is watching over you. God bless

      1. rparents Post author

        You’re welcome, Dolly. I hope posting here for the first time is a good feeling. It will help another!

        Hugs to you!
        Sheri McGregor

  2. Diane

    There is only one way I could remain sane
    over what my daughter has done to me.
    I believe that all the money I’ve paid in therapy
    for my daughter is the reason she is away from me.
    The mental health organizations have let our
    Society Down. They blame guns! No I don’t
    believe it is guns for a minute. I grew up in a home
    with every type of gun in my living room. We had five
    children and no one ever shot anyone. We
    pay for therapy and they fill our kids with drugs
    and bad advice.
    God please help us

  3. Diane

    I grew up with an alcoholic father who was possessed
    that I am sure! He did mean and evil things.
    But what my daughter has done is far far
    Worse. My heart is eternally wounded. I did
    more for her and devoted my life to raising
    My children
    My absolute worse time is when I lie down
    to sleep and begin ruminating on everything.
    I cannot turn it off.

    1. Diane

      One reason for her going out of my life
      Is one I understand. She was raped at age twelve
      by a trusted relative who I left her with for a short trip
      with my sister. She didn’t tell me about it until she was fifty. During all those years she did
      great hard to herself.

  4. Michael S.

    All of these stories are filled with sorrow.
    I shall not burden you all with my personal situation.

    We love, we lose, we hope, however, when one of our children will not come back, we have to move on to save ourselves.

    Loneliness is a curse and live with it we must.

    1. Diane

      You are Never alone when you Know that God your Father is with you always. Might sound trite but I wouldn’t be here without that knowledge.

  5. Kate

    I raised 3 daughters on my own after I left their father for abusing them. The middle one stopped talking to me 4 yrs ago. She and her older sister got into a fight over the oldest’s wedding. She felt that they were spending too much and it was too expensive to attend. The oldest offered to pay for her room and I offered to pay half their flights from the Netherlands back to the US. One day she shared her anger and I said I can’t take sides, I love you both and understand both sides…after that she never spoke to me again. Letters, cards, messages, I begged to understand…nothing. Now I hear she is in recovery of some sort. I gave that child all of me. Sometimes I ate very little bc we were so poor. I bought nothing for myself, put myself through college, made it to every single school function..and this one got the most of my time and energy. I do believe she Is high functioning on the spectrum but we were ALWAYS very close. I used to make her care boxes of homemade lotion shaped into hearts, socks, homemade tea and would send these all the time. She has literally broken my heart. The oldest is very very successful in the music industry. I attended every concert, bought whatever I could afford for her instruments, praised her, loved her, cheered her on, listened to all her trials and tribulations of the industry…everything. I gave my life to these kids..This year she called so late on mothers day that I was sleeping..she was too busy with work. She said she cold spare 30 min if she called late or I could have 5 min if she called early. She was home, not in a show or anything. I shared that my feelings were hurt. She has had less and less time to talk to me over the last few yrs…Now…she just stopped talking to me. These kids were never hit, called anything bad, made to feel guilty, literally nothing. I used to make them lunches with messages on their napkins telling them I loved them, lunches made in shapes of smiley faces, we sang, we played games and danced in the kitchen. I read to them, made them costumes, taught them to change tires and cook and fix things and write checks…you name it. I gave them what I never had and their father died shortly after I left him. No other family. So I did it all….my heart ..idk…I just don’t understand. I just needed to vent…thanks for this opportunity.

    1. Krissi

      I feel your pain and bewilderment over giving your all to your children and later sitting in a fog trying to figure out how it’s all gone so wrong. I’ve just recently discovered this support group and I feel it’s helping me be stronger and focus on my needs more bc the pain and sorrow is stealing my life. It’s been three months since I’ve seen our daughter and Id never gone a day or two in the past. It’s like experiencing a death but there’s no closure. Anyway your story caught my attention because I could feel the pain and
      confusion I too have felt. Hang in there, your not alone.

    2. Therese

      Same here. The best advice I ever received was to go through the stages of losing someone. Grief, anger…all of them – let it hurt, but try to get to the understanding that this is on them. 100%. You did nothing wrong. This is their choice and their life. YOU NEED TO FOCUS ON YOUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH and well-being. You can do this. It may not feel like it today, but it comes with baby steps – just get through today. You will be in my heart.

    3. Donna D.

      I totally understand. I have 2 adult children that have deleted my husband and me from their lives. We did everything for them, just like you. No sacrifice too big. The grieving never ends. But I know I was and am a good mother. They can’t take that knowledge away from me. You are a good Mother too. My heart goes out to you I pray God puts others in your life that you can love and they can love you. He has done that for me. You are in my prayers

  6. Terie P.

    I feel the PAIN daily….. it’s been 15 years since my oldest son has had contact with me and now my daughter going on 2 years. I helped her to put the down payment on a home plus gave her $1,000 for a housewarming present. (This is when I had the $). She is a nurse & does pretty good for herself. Always, so proud of her!! She changed overnight and I don’t know what happened…I was a Darn good mom to my kids as they were growing up. No, things were not perfect as there was dysfunctionalism as there was No respect towards me from their father and it trickled down through our children. We even try family therapy and got nowhere. Eventually, the marriage crumbled after 18 years and that’s when things really went South. Now; getting back to my daughter who is now 34. 3 years ago when I was over at her house I had an accident and slipped on some ice and broke my wrist. It was extremely painful and she saw the tears down my face. She knew I had close to a 3-hour drive home. I asked her for a bag of ice and she wrapped it up in a towel. She looked at me said nothing, didn’t offer to bring me to urgent care or an ER, nothing. I could feel the coldness in her eyes, her non- actions. This was a True reality check. She showed no concern. Two days later, she called and made a comment to me “are you going to sue me”? I know her father had something to do with that remark. I was in shock… where did that comment come from?? She is completely transformed into Sweetest little girl that once was into Mean, angry, disrespectful, vindictive person. Since all that we haven’t spoken and I’m at a loss for words. She has taken advantage of me financially and that will never happen again. I didn’t deserve the treatment as I did when my wrist was broken and I don’t deserve any kind of disrespectful treatment. Now, she has changed her # so, I realize now; it is for the best. Will say; With “Blood” family like that, who needs enemies?? Alot of Truth to that.

  7. Pam

    I can relate to each and every painful story. With the help of Sheri’s books and the ability to have this support group, it’s not easy to move forward but I’m learning to.
    I as well was a single mom and did everything I possibly could to make sure my daughter always had what she needed always felt safe loved and protected. Her marriage changed our relationship in so many different ways. I never thought I would be in a position like this, where my one and only child would throw me away and never look back.
    The first estrangement was just her and her husband, now after being a part of my grand children’s lives my LittleBit is six and my LittleMan is four, she decided almost 2 years ago now that not only was I not a good mother…but now I’m not a good Nona.
    After trying to once again fly to Florida to see if there was any way that we could reconcile… Let’s just say I haven’t spoken to my daughter since December 18, 2021.
    Before, I would still send gifts to the house for the kids for every holiday, birthday or just because. I stopped doing that as well. Now what I do for my own therapy and peace of mind, I make a video for their birthday and I lite candles on cupcakes and I sing to them. I then put money in an envelope and I write down how much I missed them and I am saving them. Someday whether I get to give it to them or not there will be precious memories in words that they will get even if adults they will know their Nona never gave up on them, never quit wanting to see them, and NEVER stopped loving or missing them. I’m respectfully doing what I’ve been told to do and have had no contact since. Trust me, it doesn’t mean that I agree with her decision, it just means that I can’t control it or fix it.
    Life is very short, hate is a strong word and I like you felt at one time I wish I would have never brought her into this world.
    Now, I can honestly say as painful as things have been and heartbreaking at the same time, I embrace the many memories of giving birth and raising her. She has a very strong foundation to move forward in her life as a very strong confident woman!
    I also know that she is a very good mother… And if not for her, I would never have known what it feels like to be a mom or Nona… I loved being her mom, I loved being their Nona and that is what I hold onto so the bitter, resentment, anger, frustration and devastation doesn’t consume me anymore.
    I am learning slowly but surely to love her from a distance even though she has completely broken me. Molly and my grand children are the first things I think of every morning when I wake up… And the last people I think of before I fall asleep.
    It’s taking some time to get here trust me and my hope for you MJ is that you can get to that place in your life as well it just takes time.
    Stick with the books that will help you work through your feelings, and this support group I promise you, you will be able to work through your feelings and start healing as much as you can.
    Wishing all the parents out there a safe Fourth of July.
    We are all in this together.
    I thank my lucky stars that somehow I found Sheri, her books and support.

  8. Paula

    I have a 38 year old daughter who estranged me at age 14. Her father was the alienation master and engaged her in a denegration campaign to accuse me of being an abusive, alcoholic, promiscuous neglectful mother. He sued me for custody. I fought back and hired an attorney. Ultimately his lies were revealed and he lost on all counts. My daughter came home destroyed, bulimic, hypervigilant & angry. Therapy did not help much. She finished college, married and worked. She has deep rooted resentmements and is not a nice person. She changes jobs a lot, doesn’t want children and drinks like a pig. She’s gained a lot of weight. Her husband takes vacations without her. She recently visited and abused me for a week. I kept my mouth shut. When I put her on the plane I was relieved.,she may be in my life but she is gone. The sweet little girl died many years ago. What is left is a core of a human being who I no longer know.

    1. Jovi

      I’m so sorry. It is terrible to lose a child. I’m wearing those same shoes . My son is turning 38 in a few months. We were the best of friends. Untill ……. May of last year. It’s been very difficult with him anyway. Couple drunk drivings, multiple driving without a license. And a few other stupid mistakes. THEN METH came along….. wow!!! I’ve read about it. I’ve studied it as I was the last one to know. He turned into a mean insulting MONSTER. His personality turned him into a hateful nasty human being. All he did was scream……. For months …….. At me. For suggesting he get help or check himself in to a detox. Part of me is very lost and sad.. he hurt me beyond hurt. There is nothing left at all . He scares me. My last words as I walked away from him was “ I love you”. I hope he gets well someday. I love the little boy I raised. I hate the man he has become. I won’t ever heal. Ever. But I Carry on and pretend that everything is ok. I don’t regret one thing raising my son. I’ve always set a good example .I cannot do no more……. I’m to old and to tired now. I need alittle peace with what time I have left.

  9. Doris

    Like a death (without the dying part), estrangement is not something you “get over”, but you do learn to live with it. It is harder than a death in some ways, but after we accepted things as they are, we chose to remember the good times. He can remove himself from our lives, but he can’t remove the great and happy memories. In that way, death and estrangement are the same. You will always have the good memories. You don’t have to focus on the end.

    1. Diane

      I have had a traumatized life ever since a
      Ver young age.
      I would like to say the one action that has
      Brought me peace of mind is this: no matter what comes in or out of our lives, God is love and he is in charge. I have one scripture that I go by and gives me solid peace and it is: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding,. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.

  10. Marlene

    I have been estranged from my daughter for 26 years now. I love her and miss her. I keep thinking it would be easier if I knew why she turned against me…what lies her stepfather told her to cause her to hate me so much. But, one day, I woke up and said enough crying…I need to take
    care of me. Every day still hurts and I wonder…but, I try to move along to the next day, as none of us knows what God’s plans are for us. I wish there were more affordable communities for solo agers, who hopefully, will look after one another. I am getting older and do not look forward to being alone. God bless you all!

    1. Sue E.

      I feel the same. My daughter is 53. I have a grandson married with a 5 year old daughter I don’t even get to see a picture of ?? he’s 28, I have a granddaughter she’s 24 married I wasn’t invited to the wedding last year . Don’t know where they live ? Have tried everything letters, counseling with my daughter , and I’m not allowed to see pictures it’s been 5 years . Not any easier . I suffer from anxiety , am a widow and I’ve been facing cancer . It’s been the worst experience ever . Now my daughter is writing a book ! Wont tell me about it says there will be somethings in there I wont like?? I was 19 when I had her, I have always been there for her and I needed her help 7 years ago she said no and it upset me so I got upset . No forgiveness and only loneliness for me . Bern heartbreaking and hard to keep moving but I do . I feel everyone’s pain.. . One foot forward is all I can do .. so I understand ..

    2. Dani

      God bless you! I too have the same wishes as you. I too have been estranged from my son. He turned on me during his teenage years and got completely out of control, drugs, trouble with the law, violence towards his step father, my ex. When I tried to help him by giving him a choice to choose detox and help or get out. He got out, he went to live with my mother, his grand mother who made everything worse by spoiling him, making him right when he was anything but, making anything he chose to do ok even when it was absurd and harmful to himself. He never came back to live with me…although we kept a strained relationship and he became more functional although still drinks often. He is now a father, married and his wife was very cold to me. I am sure he slandered me as he has done so often before. I tried to fix things between us and he never wanted authentic honest communication. It is easier to blame me. I finally had enough as he and his wife treated me more and more like garbage. I was the one that vanished after a stupid misunderstanding where he tried to make me look bad in front of everyone, twisting everything… I just couldn’t deal with this abuse any longer. Now I am alone, lonely and wonder why my life has turned out this way. I was never perfect, but I did my best and forgave constantly, tried so hard beyond words… but I finally realized I could only do my part. I pray for his, his wife and my estranged grand-children. My heart is broken and sometimes it just comes to crush me all again. The worst part is people do not understand…it is easier to say my son lives far away than to explain this disaster. God bless you and remember that one day, if not here on earth God will restore our joy. Psalm 37 tells us that everything will be exposed. I pray they repent from their cold cruelty.

  11. Carol S.

    So sorry you have been hurt so badly. . I had an accident and lost my leg , eventually my son decided to blackmail me that I couldn’t see 3grandchildren if I didn’t buy him a house. I naturally didn’t do that, he had spent his teenage years threatening me that he’d leave college if I didn’t give him whatever he wanted I gave in to him in very minor ways, but created a bully. He had anger, bully issues since he was a toddler. I’m living everyday in shock that this has happened and can’t dare approach him. It’s a special kind of hell.

  12. Lily

    I told my son’s that I may not like everything you do but I will always love them. I may not ever see my grandchildren but I am and as LL ways to will been their grandmother. Does it hurt? Yes.

    1. Nancy L.

      Yes it hurts so much but I will live my life knowing I gave them life, nurtured them and fought for them when they needed it and I can do no more. If they decide that wasn’t enough or they don’t like something I have done out of necessity to survive then that is on them. I will not be controlled by ungrateful children. I miss them but I am most definitely done with the crying and then some.,

    2. Carol B.

      I had two especially good years with my family before the estrangement. We were close in many ways. I spent time with the grandkids like never before I thank God for them. The love was over flowing.I carry those memories close to my heart. My daughter will always be the loving, caring,and beautiful person I remember her to be and still hoping she is.My son was just as close and we shared good times with the grandkids. My daughter in law is the only one I feel is caught in the middle. I feel sorry she got trapped in the middle. She deserves more. Being what it is I decided God is not taking me yet . I’m still living so I have no choice but to look forward and make a new life. I have gotten out of my shell and have met new people and good people at that. They are starting to fill my life with new activities and purposes. They are there for me when needed. I live in an apartment out in the country. The facility is run by Christian people and that alone is a God blessing! This is my independence day from depression and hopeless thoughts. I am alive !

  13. Wendy

    It’s all good to say move on but
    My estranged daughter is all the
    Family I have. 2 friends passed during
    Covid. I financially supported her for 34 yrs
    Last contact was for 20$ for gas which her
    Man child trust fund hubby refused (I
    Quit my job to babysit) she had another
    Baby 1-1/2 yrs ago I never met. The 4 yr old I
    Helped raise for 2 yrs I miss horribly,
    I’m angry at her for taking all I have left
    (My grandbabies) away from me she
    Kissed up to in-laws cuz they have money.
    I hate her! There I said it! I wish I never
    Gave birth to her. I really mean it. Having a child ruined my life instead of enriching it as a single mom
    I worked hard to give her everything and more
    I think I spoiled her. Her hubby spoiled too
    In-laws can have her. I’m done

    1. Michelle

      I hope and pray that you can learn to move on. Learn is the key word – the hard part! The pain, bitterness and resentment are going to eat you alive and make you sick if you don’t. I feel your anger and your pain!! But you must not allow yourself to continue to be victimised by this person. Take your power back. You were a whole and complete person before your daughter. Do whatever it takes – therapy, meditation, a spiritual practice. Whatever. It. Takes. We must accept what is, however unfair and terrible it may be. Wishing you peace and sending you so much love.

    2. Mj

      I’m in a similar space. But trying to move on, but feeling like I have nothing in common with my peers now. No grandchildren to babysit or take to movies or spoil at Christmas. In fact Christmas doesn’t exist anymore. What are special dates like Christmas and birthdays without the presence of family? I’m no one now, existing but not living.

    3. Shelley

      I’m sorry your daughter has treated you so horribly.
      It’s awful not to have family when there is family still alive. Divorced my husband a year ago after 33 yrs. Of marriage. Never dreamed my two adult children would stop talking to me. It’s been a year & a half . After crying my eyes out I went to a therapist and I feel strong and even happy again. It’s sad to say but I don’t cry over my kids anymore, & really don’t care if I ever talk again. I’m happy again and don’t need their negativity around me. Get help and be happy!

    4. Carol B.

      It isn’t fair . It isn’t morally right. The outsiders can destroy a family to the quick. I have been where you are for 4 long years. I have moved twice to finally find some new surroundings and normal people. I am finally getting my head above the water.I still love my family and miss them daily.The pain and hurt lays just below the surface and always will. It brings memories and tears with it .I have no choice but to live with it. I am finally bringing myself out of deep depression and the negative hopeless thoughts. I have joined the outside world of new people and activities. It over shadows the underworld of pain and loss. I will pray for you to find peace and happiness!


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