Estrangement by adult children: Weathering the storm

estrangement by adult children


Estrangement by adult children: Weathering the Storm
By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

“Hollowed out.” That’s how one father of estranged adult children recently described how he feels. “Weak.”

I understand this. It’s how a lot of parents feel when they have given their all for a child, even to their own detriment, yet come up empty.

Estrangement by adult children: The Breaking Point

Here where I live in Northern California, we recently endured an historic storm. What’s called a “bomb cyclone” merged with a level five “atmospheric river” (new-to-me terms). The combination brought strong hot and cold winds, and boatloads of rain, over a very short period of time. We were all stuck inside, hoping for the best.  Satellite TV faded in and out, broadcasting alarming predictions of flash floods full of dangerous debris that could sweep down from nearby burn scars left by recent wildfires.

As the sun set and the steelwool sky grew darker, a loud crack split through the pounding of rain, followed swiftly by a muffled thud. I went to the window and wasn’t surprised to see big branches from one of our heritage oaks lying on the ground. Uprooted trees and fallen limbs had been reported all around the area. I went to bed that evening hoping the stately oak outside my bedroom wouldn’t surprise me with a broken limb crashing through the roof during the night.

The next day, the air was still. Shafts of sunlight strained around cotton clouds, sparking rainbow prisms in droplets clinging to the crimson leaves of the maple tree out front. I put on boots and tromped around the back of the house and down the hill to examine the damage to the oak. An offshoot of the tree’s massive trunk had broken in two and lay on the ground, exposing its empty middle. Hollowed out.

Just last week, we had sought an arborist’s advice. That sunny day, as we walked the property, looking up into the canopy of several ancient oaks, he had confirmed our suspicions. The majestic trees that had so bewitched me upon first seeing this place in the winter of 2020 had been neglected. Heavy deadwood hung precariously in a few of the oaks that stood at the base of the hill. The trees nearer the house had been trimmed more recently, but even those showed signs of neglect. Many, the arborist said, needed airing out for lightening, and some limbs cut back for shape and strength. A couple of the biggest trees appeared to have root damage or were hollowed out.

Estrangement by adult children: The constant drip

estrangement by adult childrenOne reason for root damage and hollow trunks is apparently the result of slow-to-heal wounds that are left open when a tree limb is cut or cracks off on its own. In rainy months, the constant drip-drip-drip, over time, can form a channel inside the trunk. Water trickles down and weakens the tree at its core. I frowned upon hearing this. The hole I had marveled over when fledgling birds peeked out a few months earlier was really a weak spot the arborist said should be covered with plastic during the rainy season.

Too late now, I thought on that morning after the storm. I squatted next to one of the fallen halves with its gaping center. The end of an earthworm peeked from disintegrating wood, like soil, inside. Shelf fungus had also taken up residence inside the tree. Boring insects probably also get in through the holes, and further weaken vulnerable trees.

We’re not so different.

When betrayed by a loved one, even the mightiest of us are not so different than those towering oaks. Rejection by a child who has been so big a part of us and our lives, the cutting off, is like losing a limb. We suffer a wound, and for many of us, the wound gapes, allowing for even more hurt to get inside, to penetrate our very core. The reality is that we don’t want to close ourselves off and grow hardened to our own child. So, many of us will hang open, waiting, hoping they’ll return to their senses and join us again. That is what will heal the wound, we think.

Meanwhile, there’s a constant drip. Shame. Judgment. A steady rain of worries, what-ifs, and whys.

In the fragile shadow of an adult child’s abandonment and/or abuse, our identity gets blurred. Estrangement changes everything. Who are we if we’re no longer a parent? How can this be fixed? What have we been doing all these years? What can we do now?

No wonder that father rejected by an adult child said he felt hollowed out.

Estrangement by adult children: Take care.

Just as an arborist can provide education about a tree’s needs, trim out dead bits, and protect wounds during stormy seasons, rejected parents must learn to care for themselves. We must get support to protect ourselves, clear out faulty thinking that weakens us, hollows out our confidence, and makes us vulnerable.

Whether you have been estranged for many years and know the drip-drip-drip of estrangement pain or are new to the situation, I’m glad you have found your way to this website. A literal forest of parents—thousands each month—come to this site, read the articles, and leave comments to help others. I hope you will join the conversation. Some parents arrive at this site so emotionally gutted that they believe they have nothing to offer. But even expressing their deep and cutting pain can validate another parent’s feelings.

My books are another way to learn about estrangement and ways to heal. Give them a try. I hear from parents every day who tell me Done With The Crying (2016) has changed their lives. My latest book, Beyond Done With The Crying: More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children just hit the shelves a few days ago–and I’m hearing that it “goes deeper” and is “helpful in a whole new way.” Also, I spoke to many more fathers this time, and included them in more examples. Parents appreciate the practical information and help with the complex problems that can plague them due to estrangement by adult children. The research, reflection questions and exercises in both the books prompt new perspectives, promote growth, and enhance well-being.

I hope that my work can be a little like an arborist, helping you to trim away the deadwood of faulty thinking and let in sunlight to illuminate the slow drip that’s part of estrangement by adult children and help you heal.

Estrangement by adult children: New beginnings

As I looked at that broken, hollowed out tree and remembered the words that father of estranged adult children used to describe himself, I hoped he could see that, even in brokenness, all is not lost. Our wounds can make the way for new life, just as those birds found the perfect nesting spot. The lowly earthworm and the shelf fungus found a fertile core for new beginnings. We can too.

Related Reading

Estranged by adult children: Parents, use weepy days for your own good

The shadow of estrangement

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65 thoughts on “Estrangement by adult children: Weathering the storm

  1. Marcy

    Another holiday, no son. I have made an interesting life for myself. I get out with friends, go to events, and take college enrichment classes. Every time I see a man about my son’s age (30), I about break down and cry. I’ve been to counseling and have been on antidepressants for the past 6 years, after this mess started, when he met the girl who became his wife. I have sent gifts, cards, etc. but no more. I don’t even get an acknowledgement. I’m glad for others that can see their children but I’m going to stay off social media until way after Christmas since all the lovely family photos of others are too hard to bear. Also I get tired of the questions about why I didn’t see my child. They assume I must be some type of terrible person to have caused such an estrangement. Thanks so much for the articles and replies. At least I know I’m not alone. My heart goes out to all of you.

    Reply
    1. Mindy

      It’s been a year since the mother of the son my daughter was engaged to called me and said “ you are going to lose your daughter and I’m going to make it happen” . I sat shocked in an out of body experience. She was my best friend, my little bear. She was 27 and still called me 5x a day and ended each call with “I love you mama bear, to the moon and back”. I knew the family was off I just couldn’t put my finger on it. She married him in February 2021. I saw her once on Mother’s Day. Since then nothing. Last week I called her from a blocked number. She picked up heard my voice and hung up. 8 min later she called me and said “ mom I love you, you were a great mom but I can’t ever talk to you again. If you call me again I’m getting a restraining order. She also hasn’t seen or talk to my 30 year old son and his wife, nor did she go to their wedding in Oct 2021. My son has stood by me along with my 2nd husband who practically raised her, my step son and my 2 daughter in laws. Everybody has been amazing but I’m so broken! I’m 1/3 through “done with crying” which brought me here! I appreciate any and all comments ❤️ Mindy

    2. M

      I get it Marcy. People always ask “How’s the kids?, What are they up too?” Etc etc. It’s so painful to see and hear others chattering about their upcoming gatherings with their children. I wonder over and over what I could have done differently, better to not have this rejection. I am one of this parents with the “open wound”. I can never let it close…. This is my child, my darling. It goes against every parental instinct in my soul. The aching, the pain…. I will never comprehend how she could not care enough not to want me, her mom in her life. But, alas, she just doesn’t . So I go on….. as you do. There are new joys, new life experiences… I try to take care of myself…. But still the drip, drip, drip is always present….
      Best wishes and prayers for you Marcy as you are not alone in this.

    3. Nanny

      You are not a terrible person and you know it deep in your heart. None of us are. We are just flawed human beings like everybody else, no better no worse. For myself, I have to stop chasing the rainbow that is always just out of reach. 20 years of, “I love you I hate you” has done me in. It’s made me sick emotionally and physically. I will never again initiate contact. If my daughter does, it will be on my terms not hers. She has eight children, my grandchildren who I love dearly. Maybe I will see them one day in heaven if God wills, but I am done chasing the rainbow. I have to allow my dear friends and my church family to be family for me now . Please dear friends, stop chasing your children who have put you aside. Give them to God and move on. There really is no other choice. God bless you all.

  2. Kim

    I so appreciate this site that I just stumbled upon. My situation is a bit different and I haven’t read all the comments but my ex who is West Point colonel when we were in England had me shipped off . He kept the kids and has been badmouthing me and brainwash them and they’re both in their 30s now. And sometimes I feel like because I love them so much I shouldn’t even try to get in touch. My son does stay in touch but my daughter doesn’t. They’ve been through so much as I have of course but if I’m a grandmother I sure wouldn’t even know . But I sure trust God or I wouldn’t even be here and by the way he took all the money and canceled all the credit cards before we even got to England. So i was pretty much between a rock and a hard place

    Reply
  3. Jane Ann

    This is so hard, for all of us here. Here we are once again trying to navigate another Christmas “without” our daughter or son… or worse yet, our grandchildren.

    For so long I have thought the “blame” lay with me, and have endured too many dark nights of the “Why?!” Too many nights of feeling worthless, feeling “never enough,” feeling shame and immense sorrow, and anger. Not that any blame even needs to be assigned; it really doesn’t matter anymore. But I finally know now that it is not me, it is something on my daughter’s end that has changed, that is having her prevent my husband and I from seeing her and our grandchildren for the last two years now. It’s never been this long a time, and with her now going through a divorce, it seems more sad that we grandparents cannot be there with our love and support for all of them.

    And with the pandemic, and our extended family and friends’s elated stories of having returned to seeing their adult children and grandchildren who live far away, I want to tell her, “This is killing me.” But I cannot, and I will not, tell that to my Self, to my body. I will not allow her to destroy me. The grief is unbearable at times, and her not allowing us to visit seems beyond cruel. But I am strong and have learned resilience from this experience; I will survive as these ancient oaks have. Thank you. Sheri, for this beautiful piece, “Weathering the Storm,” and the analogy of the steadfast trees. Your words truly speak to me and give me strength.

    We are immensely grateful to have our other three children and our little furbaby in our lives.

    As I write this an incredible sunrise is speaking to me of Hope and Endurance, and of the knowing that my love and my care are steadfast. For all of you out there, place your hand on your heart and know that you’re doing your very best, know that your love is the greatest power there is.
    Merry Christmas to you all.

    Reply
    1. kathy

      Thank you.
      I was feeling depressed. This blog has helped me to see beyond my pain.
      I think it is more difficult when grandchildren are involved.
      God bless all of you.

    2. Effie

      Yes, Ditto… Ditto, Ditto, I was told by a counselor mine like to reject so do not keep giving them the privilege to do so… I stopped reaching out too. I know the heartache… the blame, the agony, and the whys…

      Also, when others tell me all about their plans with ” all their family ” for Christmas, I stand silently listening, wishing I was not so envious… Human, I am and my emotions are hidden…..
      Now, where did I put that Pepno Bismo!! It coats my stomach just not my heart 🙁

      Effie

    3. Victoria

      I relate to so much of what you have said. I am a single mom with 4 kids and my youngest was from my second husband. I worked so hard to support her mentally and physically while her unemployed father jumped from woman to woman. My daughter ended up marrying a man 13 years older with a bad reputation as a controller, abuser, cheater and manipulator. My other daughter saw him with another girl and told her sister, her sister believed the boyfriend who said that he was with his feminine looking friend. He completely turned her against us. They have a four-year-old granddaughter that I have never met. I have sent cards, texts, have tried to talk to her alone without him, but he won’t allow it. Aside from begging which I won’t do, I have given up. Now, if she wants to talk to me, she can seek me out. I have gone on with my life and given it to God. I can’t believe that this is the child that I raised, I was never that kind of child to my parents.

  4. Patti P.

    My daughter decided she didn’t need me 7 months ago. She had a baby right before the pandemic. I have held my granddaughter twice in 2 years. She is now pregnant with her second, a boy. Her birthday was last Thursday. My husband sent over a gift and a check. She talks to him, briefly, but has blocked my phone number. She thanked dad for the gift but nothing to me. I have no idea what, if anything, I did. All I know is she said she is done with me, that things never change. What things? What am I doing that’s so awful? I doubt I will ever know. Like most of you have said; this pain is unbearable. Thank God for this forum. I’m always so happy to get these newsletters. At least I know I’m not alone.

    Reply
    1. Lisa L

      Patti P. I feel your pain as my son has made up all sorts of things about me. When I would try to defend myself, because I knew what he was saying was untrue, he would change to another thing that bothered him. One of his many reasons for not wanting me around our grandchildren is that 7 years prior, my husband, his dad, was 30 minutes late to assist him with a home project and it was my fault because I had asked my husband to help me with something before he left for the day. I was dumfounded! He called me a liar and when I asked what I lied about, he changed to something else. He blamed me for several things that were clearly not my fault. Then he said that I didn’t make him or his kids a priority! Wow! It had gotten to the point that he pretty much ignored me, but I was allowed to make an appointment to speak to our grandsons or come by his home to visit them with him and my daughter in-law present. During one of these visits, our grandsons asked us why they couldn’t come stay with us or why my husband and I couldn’t watch them. They said they missed us! We told them that we loved them and they were always welcome in our home, that we would love to watch them, but they would have to talk to their parents. My son tried to call his dad and stir things up between my husband and I. He told him all the reasons he didn’t want me around his kids. My husband told him that he tended to only have his own perspective and didn’t see anything from someone else’s point of view. He also said that he and I were one, a team, so if he said that stuff about me, he was also saying it about him. He made sure our son knew that we would not be divided. I love my husband and how much he respects me and our marriage of 33 years! Although it feels like a part of me has been ripped out, I have had to let him go and live my life. Dealing with this for the past 7 years is enough! I will no longer fret over this and worry about whether or not I will ever get to see our grandsons again. We have 2 other sons that love us and enjoy spending time with us. I don’t want to waste that. I decided to work on me and becoming the best version of myself. I have no control of what our son does or thinks. All I can come up with is that he is not happy with some aspect of his life and he is looking for someone to blame. That is always much easier than facing yourself. It is our hope that our grandsons remember how much we love them and that someday they will get back in touch with us.

      In the meantime, life is an adventure waiting to be lived and I choose to LIVE!

  5. Betty P.

    I chose to not be in my daughter’s life, or my granddaughter’s life because I couldn’t let her ignore me any longer. Never a phone call or text. I had to make an appointment to see my granddaughter. I guess I am just to picky, but I wanted to feel needed. I wasn’t invited to my granddaughter’s birth. I feel left out. My husband has a relationship with his daughter. That is good. No birthdays or holidays for me. Maybe I have chosen the wrong path, but it is my choice.

    Reply
    1. Sandy J.

      I have done the same thing. My 2 older daughters are disrespectful and mean. I can’t get a hold of the anymore so I blocked them on my phone. I don’t get to see my grandchildren and the new one coming. They don’t know me at all and I’m thinking they never will. I HAVE to let go and move on. Life is short and I’ve spent past 7 years crying. When they can’t pinpoint the thing we’ve done to cause all this nonsense, don’t speak to me. My mom died on Easter of the year and it’s been the most painful time in my life. Do you think they care? No! I’m hoping to move and start all over and leave all negativity behind. Hugs and kisses to all!!

  6. Rhonda M.

    I see a common thread that runs through many of these emails from grieving parents. This is the thread: “I have brought this person into the world and my expectation is that they make my life fulfilling and live their lives the way I think they should to make me happy.” I believe this is the fundamental reason people have children. Sadly, this thread is impossible to weave into the quilt of life. Humans, no matter who their parents are, are going to follow their own paths, even if it hurts others, including their parents. Gone are the days way back when where children “obeyed” their parents and never questioned their decisions or how they chose to raise them and even if there were fundamental flaws in the parent child relationship, it was ignored and never addressed. I was one of those children. I believe that there are many factors as to why adult children abandon their parents, and no scenario is the same for any of us. I love my son and always will. Sometimes we do not have the choice to keep them in our lives, and we need to let them go. Simple as that (in my view). Blessings to all.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Rhonda M.,
      I don’t see that thread at all. What I see are parents who love a child. They expected to be a part of the child’s life, to enjoy a mutually respectful relationship. Oh, and not to be abused.

      I wish you well.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Kate

      I don’t believe any of us on here expected our children to fulfill our lives & live their lives just to please us. I think we only wanted to receive a little respect from them once in a while but instead we’ve been lied about and then tossed out with the trash & forgotten.

    3. Quaitie

      I struggle with your comment because if the reverse were true, for example, if my grandson who is now an adult treated my daughter (estranged from me over two years ago), like she has treated me, my daughter would find his behavior completely unacceptable. Many of us parents are also grandparents and I don’t believe we expected anything more from are adult children than a mutual respect and of course love. In fact, I’ve heard numerous stories like mine where it’s said, “We were so close and suddenly with no explanation we were cut out of their lives.” And then comes the additional sticking of the knife, false accusations, etc. I don’t believe any of us would claim to be perfect parents. We were “good enough” parents who didn’t abuse our children.
      All of this leads to what I often say, “If I was such a horrible parent, then my daughter better be a perfect mother who raises perfect adult children,” and I already know that isn’t true.

    4. AB

      Totally agree with rparents. A true friend pointed out to me that my husband and I are not asking for the moon. Just for a loving family relationship in which we are in touch on special days such as birthdays and holidays and we can see our grandchildren a couple times a year. This is not too much to ask or even, dare I say it, expect. After all, they expected a lot of us throughout their growing up years and well into young adulthood, and we were always there for them. According to the God who created us all, we are not out of the realm of reality to “expect” honor from our adult children (see the Ten Commandments). And definitely, as Sheri said, we expect “not to be abused.”

  7. Willow

    Today is my son’s 37th birthday. I sent him a text because he’s my son. I don’t expect a response. I haven’t received any correspondence for birthdays, Christmas, mother’s day, etc. The pain has many levels. I miss my grandson so much. He was my little buddy and they took him from me for no honest reasons. Plenty of made up drama, gaslighting, talk of what a horrible mother I was, etc. My daughter-in-law was gunning to get me out of the picture from early on in their tumultuous relationship. I never thought this could be real or go on this long but here we are. Her parents have full access to my grandson and I have been tossed aside by my own son. I don’t know what to say….it seems unreal. I guess just knowing we are all in this and not alone helps. I wish everyone on this site peace and protection.

    Reply
    1. Lorie

      I am right there with you! That my daughter could pull her two grandsons away from me, it’s just mind-boggling. I was so close to my oldest grandson and now he’s gone and he’s been gone for years. I still think of him every day I still pray for him every day and her, I don’t know how to stop caring. Just feel like I’m broken. Maybe I can relate to this like I do in the medical field, it feels like somebody reached inside my chest and snapped a bone that nobody can reach.

    2. Carol W.

      Sounds just about like what happened to us! Some like to cause division in families. Not only cannot our son see us, but he cut off his brother * and they were super close and got along all of their lives and it is killing him too and we forget the siblings and the pain they may have.* Plus the grandchildren, as they rip them away, but also when our son left he has broken our granddaughter’s and grandson’s heart as they remember how loving he was, and now he has not even seen our granddaughter’s children and it cuts to their hearts.

      He comes once a year to see us at Christmas and we are not allowed to discuss anything, We are not to have counsel with them. , We just must be separated without communication to try to fix any problems. If I ask “why” we are not allowed to see our now eleven -year old grandson and if he even knows we exist, he will not answer. What is even worse he cut off his daughter! He was very close to her and the wife was evidently jealous as he was married before to her mom and she cheated on him many times and he even caught her and tried over, but finally gave up. So we try to keep in touch with her and she is now 21 yrs old but we must try to not allow her to just be alone and her mom moved to another state. We have sent gifts, yet and asked ” If he knew we did?” No answer. So we cannot totally understand it all? He is a hard worker like our other son, and they are decent and law -abiding sons, but am sure he wants his marriage to last and he must keep us away or she will leave. She knows that will work on him! We in our generation were not brought up like this and we were always nice to the mother /father- in laws * most of us anyway* and also our parents, even if they were not perfect and could hurt us, we forgave them, as they forgave our wrongs over the years. We did not want them dumped off in their vulnerable years. My daughter- in- law said, ” You did a good job bringing up your son, coodles to you” But then she added ” The girl’s parents are more important than the boy’s parents” I still did not see it all coming!! The signs were there had I paid attention!

  8. Tracy S.

    I can totally relate! The young adults today live by such a different standard than when I was young. I have an estranged daughter, she’s now 30, a teacher and single.
    She mostly reached out to us, her parents, when she needed something. She is very ego centric and judgemental, so different than the ways we raised her in our home. She barley talks to her younger sister anymore and their relationship is very strained. She is a successful, ambitious and pretty young woman but she has a very cold heart.
    We are al learning to accept who she is and who she is not, also lowered our expectations about our relationship with her to about 0. This Christmas we decided to not send her any gifts, we have done that for 5 years with no response.
    We made 2 charitable contributions in her name, one to an animal research center and another to the sailing team in Hawaii where she she sailed on the UH college sailing teams.
    It felt really good to remember her in a way that was doing good in the world for others. She got emails about our donations, and that’s that. It’s a season of giving, and not receiving so… we made the best of the situation with her.
    We bacically now feel sorry for her because we are a loving married couple of 36 years, share a beautiful kind loving relationship with her sister and boyfriend and their puppy and also her grandfather. She is missing out and that is her sad choice.
    Life goes on and we will continue to remember her and love her, just in a different way that feels detached yet positive.
    It takes time to get to where we are with her, we have shed so many tears and tried to make sense of the estrangement, but now we are in a better place of acceptance.

    Reply
    1. Jane Ann

      Thank you, Tracy, your words really speak to me. I have been trying to reach that place of letting go and acceptance. It is so difficult over all these years to let go, and to not slip back into the pain, sorrow, and difficul emotions that arise.
      Yes, my daughter is missing out on all the relationships of those who nurtured her and loved her from birth on, from my elderly father whose memory is failing, to her large extended family, to her parents, brothers, and sister. But not being allowed to see her, or our grandchildren is the greatest sorrow of all.

  9. Ruth H.

    I am always amazed at how many of us have been estranged by our children. I often go through life believing it’s just me because I don’t know anyone else personally who has gone through this. I know my family, and few friends that know about this, question it a little suspiciously. “What could she have done that was so bad,” they must think. The reality is, as most of you know, it needn’t be much. Sometimes we don’t even know why they no longer want to be in our lives. I want to thank all of you for sharing. November and December are a little tough for me because Christmas music makes me remember the good times. I do not allow myself to linger there. I deserve happiness, too. I deserve a fantastic life. And I go about making my life good in spite of the rejection. I don’t hate my daughter. I love her from afar, wish her the best, and hope she’s having a wonderful, happy life.

    Reply
  10. Mary L.

    My heart aches reading all of your stories. Our son wrote a scathing letter to us 4 years old basically telling us to go to hell for our religious beliefs mainly and his perception of how we should have acted when they moved away from us from MN to FL 7 years ago. We were cut out of the lives of our 2 and only grandkids-we have seen them a handful of times since they moved. I received an email from my daughter in law las month that he wants out of the marriage-he is unhappy, he claims and wants to live alone. (17 years married). He has turned his back on his evangelical faith, his conservative beliefs too. She said he has gotten involved with some chat rooms-obviously left wing. She was forbidden from making contact with me or letting us see the grandkids when they visited here last winter. He has not reached out to us to let us know-and I doubt he will since he hates us. I could go into all of the pain and suffering he has caused us during his growing up years, but I need not bore you all with that. Daughter in law and kids moved out Friday-she said this came out of left field. He is obviously a very angry man who is about to turn 40 in March. I keep on giving the burden to God, and it bounces right back to me-with his state of mind, I worry he may try to take his life if God doesn’t intervene.

    Reply
    1. Missy

      Mary,
      I wish I had an answer. Our daughter has
      been angry most of her life, I am to blame
      for everything, although I wish I knew what the
      were. Our two grandsons delighted my
      husband and myself for years, than little
      by little we were cut out. They are in their
      early twenties now and have nothing to do
      with us. I have said many times I feel
      as though I have been arrested and no
      one is telling me what the charges are.

      I know you and your daughter in law feel
      the same. I was very happy to come
      across Sheri’s first book, thinking I had
      to be just one of few with this problem.
      No! I was shocked! That I was not alone.
      Leaving things up to God is what I have
      done as well, but he only heals and does
      things in his own time. He knows we hurt.
      So, it hurts me for her and our grand boys
      estrangement going on 4 years, however we
      have tried everything possible to resolve
      this to no avail. I do know this to be so , our
      daughter is so very controlling and knowing
      this and admitting she has used this many
      times to cause havoc.
      So, I stopped thinking of all the wrong I
      Could have done and really go back and
      know her perception may be tainted.
      No one will ever please her completely.
      Do not give your son all the power, he
      knows what he is doing , he has a plan
      but leaves everyone else drifting .
      You will get better for certain, bumpy
      road ahead , but know the hurt and pain
      will lessen.

    2. Danielle

      My heart goes out to you. I have been cut off from my grand children as well because of my son’s choice to continue to hate me and blame me for everything. My daughter in law suddenly started treating me badly, cutting me out of photos, ignoring me, speaking unkindly and impatiently to me at times, criticizing my gifts, etc., etc.. I suspect, pretty sure my son’s horredous poisionous slander has really gotten to her and she believes I am a monster. My son started slandering me while he was young…he did not accept my boyfriend later husband and started acting out and never stopped since around age 7. As a teen he as out of control. I cried, prayed, tried everything to help him… years passed and he seemed to do better and yet I always sensed some animosity towards me beneath the surface…. long story short I realized people around my son all started behaving differently around me… hence the slander… When I couldn’t take my daughter in laws behaviors one day I asked her why she never greeted me when I stopped by… this was a mistake because I asked her this in front of numerous guests at my grand-daughter’s birthday party… my son stormed over to me and twisted this to make it seem like I had just attacked her verbally and was a monster for doing so… I was shocked and appalled and I knew what he was doing.. trying to make me look bad in front of everyone… I sadly fell into the trap and replied.. that he disgusted me and left. People, the guests did not know that I had been putting up with slander from my son for years and years so this was the perfect set up for me to look bad…. hence… that fateful day almost 3 years ago now was the last time I saw my grand children and although I had tried one time to call and text to ask for us to talk things out.. my son never replied.. and I finally stopped trying… His behaviour does disgust me.. he is cruel and callous and to slander someone, your own mother is low, very low and disgusting to me. I fight between feeling anger, sadness, disgust and despair…. I have stopped crying finally… I have given up and leave him in God’s Hands. It is so embarassing to tell people well, I do not see my grand children because my son has cut me out of his life… people do not understand, many judge, so we are left with this secret, this burden of heart ache that we never deserved…. That is one of the worst things for me now… not being able to talk about why I do not see my beautiful grand children… staying silent in my suffering. Much strength to all here and God bless! Thanks so much for this platform and all you do for us Sheri! God bless you too!

    3. Barbara G.

      What I have to remind myself over and over again is this
      I have NO control over another person’s behavior including adult children ; zero none ….. it is such an illusion to think we can make it “ right “
      So hard to live that !!!
      It is all really in GODS hands not mine
      Yes I can love him from afar ; not allow myself to get bitter ; cry when I need to and endure and move forward treating myself with the utmost kindness !!
      So very helpful to know we are not alone in this
      We have this supporting tribe !!
      Thank you all

  11. Zee

    Honestly, in my opinion, you should just let him go. As an older client told me, you have to make your adult children earn your love. You do not have to put up with the bullshit. My older son said some nasty things to me, just once. I had helped him in many ways from down payment on a home to his flight school cost, and he blamed me for his problems. Really? That’s when I had to draw the line and told him that if I was that bad of a mother to him, then he does not need a mother like me. Have a good life, was my last sentence to him. This was 6 years ago, guess what, he contacted me via text two year ago. No apologies but I was cordial. Exchanged a few messages then I stopped. Two weeks ago, he sent another text, still no apology, this time I just ignored his text. Until he apologizes, he will not be allowed to be back in my life. I have taken him out of my trust. You have to love yourself and not allow other people to control your happiness. I am with people I love that care for me, and I care for them. I get rid of the energy draining people in my life. My conscience is clear and he has to deal with it. You need to put value on yourself. Yes, I am sad that I don’t have a relationship with him, but I am happier than sad, to put things in perspective. Do not allow them the upper hand. Hope you are able to find happiness, my dear.

    Reply
  12. Russ N.

    This forum is very helpful. I have 2 estranged sons and have been for nearly 9 years now since we lost there Mother to cancer. I still have that hole in my life that I can’t fill from them being absent and keeping 4 grandchildren from me. I have since remarried and have 3 adult daughters 8 grandchildren that I adore, but there is always that nagging emptiness gnawing at you, did I do everything that I could have? Should I try more? What more can I do? I have tried everything. I have done everything I can think of. I don’t know the reason for them leaving and many of my family members and friends tried to find out why and nobody knows why they checked out. Christmas is very hard and the rejection is very painful, if time heals, I must need a lot more because I don’t seem to feel much better after this many years.
    Good luck to all and Merry Christmas.

    Reply
    1. Shawlana

      Hi Russ,
      In my experience, children are very judgmental. They hold on to little things that they don’t like about you and that’s how they form their opinions. They expect parents to be perfect.
      Hoping that you will heal and move on as they have done.
      Enjoy your new family at Christmas time.

    2. Diane M.

      Russ, it’s so good that you wrote. There are many comments from women in this forum. We all need to realize that fathers are also grieving their children and grandchildren. Thank you for sharing. We are all in this boat together. I have a friend whose son died of cancer when he was just in his early twenties. She told me that her loss is easier to accept than mine, for my pain is ongoing. She said she can’t imagine having kids and grandkids that are alive and have no contact with me. She’s right. My grief ebbs and flows. I have two adult kids, a wonderful son-in-law and three grandkids. My grandson turns 24 in Feb. My granddaughter turns 23 next year and my youngest grandson will be a senior in high school. They are old enough now, to contact me. What hurts is the NOT KNOWING what caused this. I’ve stopped trying to figure it out many years ago. It’s hurts and I think it’s cruel of them. But, life goes on. Wishing you and everyone here a happy holiday season. May we continue to move forward and create, and even recreate, wonderful lives for ourselves. We deserve it. Who knows what the future will bring?

  13. Donna K.

    Ours is a partial estrangement from our youngest daughter. Fortunately this happened after being very devoted and intentional grandparents to her 3 oldest children who are in their 20’s. My husband and I have come to terms with it and pray for her and her healing. I now look at her as an acquaintance and am no longer sad about the loss of our mother-daughter relationship which has been one-sided for almost 20 years. I’m relieved to no longer walk on eggshells and be so heartbroken. My blood pressure has returned to what it was in my 20’s. I’m now 70. Search your heart and if you’ve done anything at all to foster the estrangement then apologized. If there is no forgiveness on their part then go forward with a life that is worthwhile. I honestly feel that the majority of these estrangement situations are initiated by the adult child for no reason other than extreme selfishness. Focus on Christ and get to know Him and His great plan for you and you will experience purpose and peace.

    Reply
    1. Barbara G.

      So true there is more to life that the relationships we have or in our case don’t have with our AC !!
      We must find and cherish our self worth for simply exiting
      Don’t let your light be diminished by someone’s lack of caring know that you are deeply loved !!!

  14. Julie

    Thank you for this story. My estrangement from my son started 9 months ago and is still very painful he has 3 kids and we miss them so much but they have taken that away from us to (also is estranged from his siblings ). It is the most hurtful thing I have ever been through. Someone posted on Facebook support group about taking back her power by her deciding that she will decide if her ES wants to reconcile if she is ready to let him back in her life.

    Reply
  15. Tammy

    Yes, great advice from A. N. It reminds me of Sheri’s post “The “Boat” which has helped me tremendously in dealing with the estrangements of our daughters. We had such a strong bond with our beautiful grandchildren so that is still extremely difficult after 6 years, and some days still a shock. But I believe we will be reunited with our grandchildren when they are older. In the meantime we try to focus on the many blessings that have come about as a result of the estrangement. Blessings to all!

    Reply
  16. Trish Z.

    I am so upset. I hate him. My adult son who is a deputy sheriff in XX treats his sister, my husband who raised him and I AWFULLY

    He minimizes help we’ve given him and thinks he’s the law enforcement calendar boy. Very narcissistic. He’s on SWAT and k9.

    We have not had money paid back to us, he at times doesn’t recognize our birthdays. I was in an accident a few years ago and was staying at his home due to the fact I could not travel back down to XX. We in 2 months were relocated and I had 3 years of Drs appointments with a neurologist.
    The lawyer told my son to document what he saw being he was the person I was staying with after the accident.

    When it came time to sue guess who didn’t show for me????
    No records, he didn’t even know what year the accident happened when I spoke to him about the court date. Needless to say I took the first low offer the insurance company made to save myself the shame and heartache of publicly me being devalued by my own son.

    I was sick…. Especially after sinking around 5k into his recently bought home.

    What a sucker I am

    I have not had a holiday with him on the actual day in 10 years. He either has work or his wifes’ family always comes first.

    When my husband and I approached him about the holidays he blamed it all on his mother in law who apparently gets her way or causes problems.

    One time when we did come down, he and his wife left to go to her family’s holiday party and left us at their home. We drove down over 4 hours . Had we known that we wouldn’t have come.

    In my first marriage I left a domestic violence Husband. This was his son. He was little and I moved heaven and hell to get him out away from him. He was in 2nd grade when I was finally able to get him out completely. I never gave up on him. But I want to now. I can’t stand anymore pain and disappointment. My daughter whom I also rescued away from my ex who (to me not surprise) ended up in prison. She also has the same feelings of pain and disappointment with her brother.

    He keeps hanging out a carrot that he’ll either change or do something and he doesn’t always follow thru.

    After the incident where I was bullied and left I went on Zoloft my anxiety thatI had overcome earlier in my life came back full force.

    Has anyone ever experienced anything like this?
    I don’t know what to do.
    I’ve prayed and I see no change.
    We’ve spoken to him and he appears to get it or listen than goes back as usual

    Last spring 2021 when I came down to babysit our grandchild
    he came home from work at 8amish and started drinking straight whiskey with crushed ice. I made a BIG mistake to ask him why we can’t be having any holiday for our family. That his wife earlier mentioned with intent she preferred her own family over us. I find this so disappointing to actually hear because we’ve treated her like a daughter thru there own high school and college years.

    Apparently that was an evil thing I did because he charged angrily and told me to “get out” and if I did t he’d have me escorted out.

    Can a deputy sheriff really use this against his own family members? I told him I needed help to get my things and I will leave. That wasn’t good enough. He threatened me again “I’d be escorted out”

    He apologized the next day. But to be honest I’m at this point Wishing he were not my kid. I asked him recently what have I done to have him treat me like this? I even apologized for anything or everything he thought I did.

    He cannot or will not explain what it is. When I ask him he doesn’t answer and just says he’s sorry

    So SICK of this crazy behavior affecting my daughter and myself.

    Reply
    1. Effie

      I am so sorry for your pain…. I hope to get back and write some more when time allows… We understand here…. Effie

    2. Tracy

      Sounds a lot like my situation.My son treats me,his dad,his sister and even his 9 yr old nephew like garbage.My son is married with 3 kids with the youngest being 11 months old and I have seen him since he was a newborn.He makes promises we can seen the kids on weekends then won’t take our calls.We’ve missed birthdays,thanksgiving and I’m sure Christmas.His wife’s family is the only grandparents and family that matter.My son has talked so much trash on the only grandchild I get to see,his nephew.I really do not like my son for what he has done to me and our family and yes I also take antidepressants and anxiety meds.His sister has been hurt by this and the things is we did absolutely nothing to him or his wife.I’m sad knowing I won’t see them for Christmas and likely never know my youngest grandson.I’m so sad and broken.

    3. Diana

      LET HIM GO !
      He does not care. Yes I understand parental love for our children but he does not give a fuck about YOU! We are not obligated to a life of emotional pain for ANYONE! Love YOU, you are worth it!

    4. Nicole

      I am not an expert but he may have a BPD?( Borderline Personality Disorder) I am in a similar situation, not so cruel apparently. After his marriage he started suddenly put some distance between us, and when I started to ask him what was wrong it was silence. But after I told him how he behave toward us lately, he become very aggressive, minimizing everything we did for him, and throwing so much mud on us.
      I immersed myself in online research, trying to understand and by chance I read about BPD that for my son, explain his attitude and thought me that I can’t blame him because of this. I am in a position that I do not know what to do.

    5. Su

      He was drinking whiskey at 8 am??? Poor guy has Hugh problems that he may not be dealing with. I would take a hands off approach as I have with my own son.
      It is really sad that he and his wife couldn’t at least try by inviting you to the wife’s family party. Who knows, it might have turned into a good experience for all?

  17. Effie

    D.S. I have been living this 6 years… I think I finally comprehend she does not want me in her life… it is the truth, so the best thing for me is to stop trying unless someone tells me different. I have heard they like to reject us? If that is true why give her more chances…This year another mothers day not heard from her she decides to throw a father day party…. never ever before and making sure I knew about it. My therapists said it sounds like a personality disorder and I wonder if it will show itself eventually in her marriage…Would I want that? Sadly I think so, I would like some vindication because I still have little clue why she hates me so…Yes, I have issues too… Anger, grief and regrets and on and on…. grief is the hardest..

    Reply
    1. Michele R.

      Dear Effie…Thank you for sharing this. It very much reminds me of my story of estrangement from my son. It’s been over 3 years for me and I just now am really starting to accept that this is really happening and could be permanent. I decided 6 months ago to stop trying to contact him as he refused to respond and my instincts told me that as twisted as it sounds, he fully enjoys rejecting me. So i have stopped handing him the hammer to hit me over the head with, so to speak. Thanks again and may the Universe bless you

    2. Penelope M.

      i hear your pain and thank you for sharing your grief.
      No answers , cause i have an estranged son who adopted a baby i haven’t met. take care of your health and know you have been heard. P

  18. Cheryl D.

    Thank you Sheri for this forum. I have given up trying to explain to anyone how much this hurts. I have your book and it has helped me so much. I’m truly done with crying. It’s just that Christmas is so painful. If I may say so, I feel like I’m being abused by my girls. I will read your posts about that.
    Thank you again, xx

    Reply
    1. Margie M.

      I feel the same. I just don’t have the energy to explain my situation to anyone. My heart has been broken over and over and over. I finally gave up three years ago and told my son I am sick of the abuse and to please never contact me again. I have not heard from him since. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done but I had to do it to save myself. The pain never goes away but it does get better. Yes, the holidays are the worst. Try to find people that need you via volunteering, becoming a “big” sister” to a child in need, volunteer at a school, etc. just try to keep busy. I wish you the best,

  19. Cheryl

    Christmas is a horrible time for me. Both my daughters have cut me off.
    My older daughter got married almost two years ago. I was not allowed in the wedding photos or the reception. My ex husbands family are like the Mafia, I’ve been shunned and cut off.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth

      I hope, with time, your daughters will wake up and see how things really are/were…most people do not divorce without reason. Having to watch my daughter tread the waters, tho’ her kids are still young yet. But the EXs surely do pull out all the stops in trying to control and program and make sure the kids are on their side. Meanwhile I hope you can find other ways to spend time with less pain involved…nothing ever replaces what is lost, but I hope you find others who welcome your company!! Hugs to you, Elizabeth

    2. Richard H.

      My heart goes out to you, I haven’t seen nor heard from my eldest daughter since 2010 – I’ve dealt with the pain by taking one day at a time, just get through each day with hope for tomorrow. Some days it’s terrible anger, others it’s misery and sadness or deep longing, others there’s a blessed numbness. I have grandchildren and a great grandchild, maybe two. My other two children are in my life and I focus on being grateful for that.
      Also glad I found this group. A problem shared is a problem halved.

    3. Effie

      Cheryl,

      I went through the wedding issue… I attended my daughters because my sons told me i needed to be there. She was stone cold and enjoyed posting all the family on facebook without me… her goal has been to destroy me one event after another, also asking all my friends to be her friends on facebook ? I don’t have facebook nor will i look at others, then all those people make sure I know ” we saw your daughter got married” and I know they are pumping me for more…. I never say anything… I go home and get sick, the pain is unbearable at times, and I come here and I know I am not alone especially with my faith in God as well…Hope this all makes sense? So sorry for your pain…

  20. emily38

    Your metaphors and word-pictures are invaluable gifts, Sheri, never more so than in this season. The pictures you’ve painted are ones we estranged parents must study from different angles. Paintings can look very different depending on the light they are in. Early morning light (the beginnings of E) can overwhelm and hide the painting’s reality with its flooding brightness. Late afternoon ( years of living into E) can reveal a depth in the work one could never see before. It’s all there in your story.

    Thank you for this post as the holiday season begins. It’s messages and gifts are ones to reread regardless the time of any year. Your parent oak will survive, too, with careful tending and a dedicated addressing of its wounds. Healing from E is about the parent too, not the limbs that have fallen.

    emily38

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Emily38,

      You are so right. I LOVE what you said here. As time passes and the light changes, we most definitely see things from different angles and with more depth.

      Sometimes, the light gets brighter as time passes, too. Like a penetrating ray at day’s end or through a gap in the curtain. Things can look different with a narrow spotlight of new knowledge or something we’re finally allowed to see.

      Thank you for this comment. It means a lot to me and stirred my mind this morning!

      HUGS to you!

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Barbara G.

      You know what came to me is this
      Suffering makes you bitter or better ; meaning yes suffering due to estrangement from AC is real and it hurts like hell , but we don’t have to stay in this pool of suffering indefinitely;
      We can climb out of this suffering again and again and bask in our worthiness simply for being human !!!!
      We don’t have to be victims of our AC indifference and cruelty forever it is up to each one of us to put a stop to it
      This stop means different things to every person
      There is a saying doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is a sign of insanity ; so I try one day at a time to deal with this differently to find joy despite these difficult circumstances! I do this imperfectly and that is ok !!!!!
      It sure helps to know there are so many others dealing with this
      Peace to all of you

    1. D.S.

      I have 2 daughters. They both left at the same time and took the 5 grandchildren with them. You live in devastation, and then very slowly you work your way thru the rubble. Thanks to Sheri and this site. You begin to figure things out. The hardest and very simple thing to realize is that they don’t want us in their lives. We were so very close and I feel like those grandchildren were mine I had them so much.
      But as Sheri says in her book. When there is a third
      Party (a narcissist spouse) in the picture, it is tragic.
      I pray all estranged parents can learn to live with this sadness, and find your peace.
      It is a very scary roller coaster ride. But as time goes on, the big dips are not so steep.
      Merry Christmas to all and God Bless.

    2. A. N.

      Sandy B.

      It’s all how you look at it – you can consider yourself estranged, rejected, unloved – or safe from further abuse. I choose the latter. They can’t accuse me of anything or do anything to me know as I’m safely away from them, happy with my husband and our furbabies!
      I don’t want to see my son again, he isn’t really part of my family anymore.
      Moving on with my life!

    3. Dee R.

      I also have two grandchildren who I am not allowed to see, who knows what they have been told! I am in the process of writing my family’s history! I also feel like I have to tell my side of my story,, how I was not allowed contact with them! I have asked my sister if anything happens to me will she get a hold of grandsons and let them know grandma loved them, I am up in yrs ! I just hope I am around to look them up and tell them myself! I feel your pain! Please take care!!

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