Father’s Day for fathers of estranged adult children

What about Father’s day for fathers of estranged adult children?

by Sheri McGregor

fathers of estranged adult childrenI’ve asked dads and the people who care about them how they feel. Most of the fathers told me, “It’s just another day.” They blow off the holiday as if it doesn’t bother them at all. But there may be more to the story.

One father of an estranged adult son told me the holiday itself is no issue. “It’s going back to work on Monday that makes me sad,” he said. “Invariably, co-workers tell stories of what their children did for them. And there I am with nothing to say.”

So, what helps?

For fathers of estranged adult children on Father’s Day:

Recognize that feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration may lurk beneath the surface. The glad tales of other fathers can bring them up.

Before Father’s Day, figure out what you need. Then honor those feelings – – even if that means telling other children or your spouse what you really want for Father’s Day.

Plan ahead for the days after the holiday too. If you’re bothered by other dads’ happy Father’s Day tales, have a ready reply. A variation of the following is one way to excuse yourself: “That’s great. I wish I could talk but I’ve got a deadline right now.” An exit plan can help you feel prepared. Sure, this is avoidance, but sometimes removing yourself is the easiest, most self-supportive plan of action – – and it honors you and your feelings.

If you do want to talk, figure out who you’ll confide in. A supportive spouse, a friend who won’t judge you, a trained professional. . . .  Sometimes pets, with their unconditional love, make the best listeners. You could share your thoughts and feelings with God, talk it out to yourself while driving in the car, or speak into a smart phone’s memo app. Consider writing a letter to your estranged child if it helps (you don’t have to send it).

If your spouse asks you how you feel, realize they mean well – – even if you don’t want to talk. A simple thank you, and an assurance that you’re fine can go a long way.  

If you’re a person who isn’t into most any holiday, be aware of any generalized negative feelings about the day tugging at you. Those feelings could mix with negative thoughts about your situation as a the father of an estranged adult and bring you down.

For the people who love fathers of estranged adult children:

Again, recognize that unsettling feelings may lurk beneath the surface. And be cognizant of the days after the holiday, too. Father’s Day for the fathers of estranged adult children in our lives may be easy to get through happily. Then they come home in a foul mood on Monday (connect the dots).

Honor his feelings, let him share if he wants, but perhaps don’t press. If he wants to talk, he will. If he doesn’t, providing support and demonstrating love in quieter ways may help. One wife put it this way: “For the two years our son has been estranged, I’ve always asked my husband if he’s okay. And he always says he’s fine. Maybe it hurts me more than him, or maybe he just doesn’t want to burden me. So, this year again, I’ll pick up ribs from his favorite barbecue place. Then I’ll watch his favorite Westerns on Netflix with him.” Favorite foods, ample space to do as he wishes, and a few kind words about what a great man he is may be best.

A positive attitude.

Really, in all of the responses I received from fathers of estranged adult children about the day, the consensus is right: Father’s Day comes and goes. You get through it. Life goes on.

Related articles:

Holidays: How to manage them

Mother’s Day when your adult child is estranged

History of Father’s Day (outbound link)

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6 thoughts on “Father’s Day for fathers of estranged adult children

    1. Stephen

      I would like to give an answer of this older post of Terry’s.
      My grandchild is now 2. We were invited to his 1st b-day, as every family member of her husbands side was going to be there and selective one’s of my daughters side was going to be there.
      This time, unlike all the other times, we got the “LOOK” and was treated as a 3rd rate human. We felt like we were sort of like a pony show. There always seems to be a reject room/reject table in bigger gatherings of all types and we were placed there for a reason. We (my wife and her brother, my 2nd child) were very uncomfortable and felt way out of place. Yes, we sucked it up and stood there very confused to how or how not her husbands family treated us. Heck, my suppose to be son-in-law didn’t even say 5 words to us the whole time (now you understand where the estrangement stems from). We decided the 2nd b-day, we would not go, as it is just way to uncomfortable. Grandchild does not recognize us and he is to little to understand, so we feel it is for the best he does not see how his “so called Dad” and how his mom treats us, during the growing up period. Again, he is 2. For us, it is better to keep the distance and allow them to live their own lives. Do we miss b-days, Christmas and such = not anymore, as we are doing the better thing, which is keeping the grandchild from the view of how the parents treat us and it is for the best. When he gets older, then we will cross that road. We do still send him and only him presents from us. You can not be in an adults life if they do not want you there or are going to abuse you and that is just a simple fact. We learned the hard way, “Life must go on”, but it is what it is!

  1. michael

    hello Terry. wirting this comment may also help as i attempt to help you
    my wife left me 5 months ago and my 15 and 19 year old daughters went as well. i have not seen them since – my soon to be ex wife also told me my youngest daughter was talking about self harm … as a result i ended up in hospital having had a full and complete mental breakdown

    so Terry how do you cope ? you simply have no choice – because no one can help you or make tbat terrible terrible feeling go away . i describe it as jumping out if a plane at night with no parachute and not knowing whete the ground is. get help get counselling everyone is different but somehow some where you will hit rock bottom and then you can stand up . one day at a time – one hour at a time . there’s nothing i love more than my daughters and yet they have done everything now to ensure no contact . so where ever you are mate i’m thinking of you and be strong. you simply have no choice or it will eat you alive. stay strong my friend and i wish you all the luck in the world. best wishes michael

  2. Victor

    Really glad I found the website. This is one of the first articles I read. When your book came out, I was glad to see the note to fathers, becase I felt left out. I did get it, and it helped a lot. Your book helped my wife as well, and it gave me some insight into her. That helped both of us. Thanks Sheri McGregor. I’m over it, and my wife is done with the crying. Help and Healing for mothers of estranged adult children is worth every penny.

  3. Michael

    it is nearly two years now that my son has not contacted me. for the first year I reached out many times and finally gave up. I found this wonderful website about that time and it helped me a lot reading many, many accounts of parents. I am an annomaly here because I am a father, and also because my son did not estrange himself from his mother. I have posted previously about the my situation hoping that others would see in it something that triggered a response; I kind of hoped there would be some psychological strain that repeated itself that would comfort me that I was not alone. Unfortunately, I never saw it but I have gained tremendously in a self-determined way and actually have come through it very much resolved and reasonably content (although much more needs to be obtained). I measure my contentedness by how many nights I have dreams or wakeful nights consumed with thoughts about my estranged son. By that count, the rate has decreased from five out of seven to less than one out of seven nights, quite an improvement. My resolve is based on several principles: firstly, I was a great father by every conceivable measure; my son’s rejection of me is inappropriate by any conceivable measure; his mother is largely responsible for creating a negative portrayal of me; I truly believe he does not deserve a father for his behaviour toward me; I question strongly whether I am his biological father.

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Michael,
      I’m glad the website helped you, and you’ve found it useful to share your thoughts. No doubt, your voice is helpful to others. Glad to hear you are doing better.

      Sheri McGregor

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