Fathers of estranged adult children: You’re not alone

fathers of estranged adult childrenby Sheri McGregor

As Father’s Day rolls around again, many of you fathers of estranged adult children are holding hurt inside. For fathers of estranged adult children, Father’s Day can be a time of embarrassment and pain—yet those feelings aren’t necessarily discussed, or acknowledged. Many fathers keep themselves busy and don’t share their pain. Some ask, “What’s the use of talking about something you can’t fix?” Others, as I’ve learned in my research, want to stay strong for their partner.

Among the men in my book to help parents who have been hurt by a son or daughter’s estrangement is a man who saw the estrangement coming. He tried to protect his wife from the pain he knew her daughter would inflict. Another hid his pain behind his anger. These men are not so different from many of you. They’re similar to my husband, who found it difficult to hear me express my pain over our son’s estrangement—-because it was something he was powerless to fix.

Fathers of estranged adult children, when you share, I’m listening. If you haven’t filled in the survey yet, I hope you will. In my book, I’ve included A Note To Fathers that you can read also here

Meanwhile, don’t suffer in the run-up to Father’s Day, feeling as if you’re all alone. Many more women talk regularly in the support forum here at the site than men, but there are a few who have occasionally joined discussions. Recently, one father welcomed another to the group. Below, is a small excerpt of what that father said:

“The pain that you are feeling right now is so intense, so deep, so gut wrenching …I know..just writing to you at the moment I feel the hurt rearing its ugly head. But when you are so down, just lift your head and try to feel that we are all here for you, that you are not alone in this misery, that the bad moment will pass, that you deserve to LIVE your life from today onwards with your head held up high because you were the best father you could have been, not the ‘perfect daddy’ that your daughter expected.”

Whether or not you join the discussion, do as the welcoming father said, and “lift your head.” Thousands of parents read through the pages of this website every month. You are far from alone.

When Father’s Day arrives, remember, it’s your day. If you need to stay in on Father’s Day, and avoid the reminders or the happy family crowds, then honor that need. Today’s streaming TV options can prevent the flow of family-centric commercials that remind you of loss and make you feel like the odd man out. If you have loyal sons and daughters, allow them to honor you as you wish—don’t agree to an outing if that’s not what you want to do. Take-out brings your favorite restaurant into your own home.

For more about Father’s Day for estranged adult children, read my article: What About Father’s Day for Fathers of Estranged Adult Children? That article also includes tips for the people who love fathers of estranged adult children on Father’s Day–so if you love a man, a father who is estranged from an adult children, perhaps you can help that father feel at ease.


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10 thoughts on “Fathers of estranged adult children: You’re not alone

  1. Michael

    Thanks for this focused work on the fathers. I will do the survey and eventually contribute but I have a lot to learn first. I am grateful I found you.

  2. Randy

    Hello to whom it may concern.
    My name is Randy Cottrell,
    My 3 children won’t speak to me or have anything to do with me. It breaks my heart that I have no family other then my wife. I have 4 grandchildren between the 3, have only got to meet 1 and I no longer get to see them. My kids are not kid’s anymore they are adults. It has been 14 years now. My heart has been broken and I will leave this world with not knowing why. After countless letters I give up.
    It was their mother who caused most of this when we got a divorce, in my research I learned what parental alienation syndrome is and she did everything that involves PAS.
    My son of 27 this last year came down to my home when I was at my home in the Philippines’ and robbed me of everything in my home, stole everything , my cars , my things I have collected for 40 years, took my late wife jewelry, stole my trust..he got hooked on drugs hitchhiked 600 miles, and convinced the police he had permission to stay in my home, when a neighbor contacted me after 4 months it was too late he cleaned me out..I love him and I can’t believe all of them have so much hate for me and I will never know why…They won’t speak to me…I give up. I am dead inside at this point.
    I have prayed over and over with no answer.
    I was not the best husband to their mother, but I tried to be the best father I could be. I was not perfect.
    I have changed for the better in the last 15 years and they won’t give me the chance for them to see that. My heart will never be complete. I love them and miss them.
    I did not get to walk the down the aisles when they married, I have missed out on so much. Missing the birth and experience of them having babies. And now they a punishing me so I can’t see my grandkids.
    Thank you for letting me vent.
    Randy C.

    1. Carol

      Randy C. my heart breaks for you and know the pain all to well. I know I am not a father but a mother of 3 adult children. I am up in the middle of the night because of the heartache and pain that both my husband and I are going through. Looking for guidance and help for not only myself but my husband as well. Our oldest daughter 7 years ago took off to live with her boyfriend just a few days after turning 18. We went through two years of pure torture and trying to find the new norm in our lives with her two brothers that were still at home and in high school. We as well had to hear from others of her marriage as well as when she became pregnant. The pregnancy made my husband and I very eager to try and reconcile this relationship as we did not want to miss out on the birth of our first grandchild. She did reenter our lives about the third month of her pregnancy. We soon figured out that her and her husband were running out of options of where they could live. We moved them in with us and for the most part things did go well for quite some time. We had very strict guide lines for them to follow and they did. We were fortunate that we did get to be a part and a big part of our first grandchild being born. Things were going well after grand baby was born and they actually were able to get things together enough to move out of our home right before baby was born. Things went well for a while and quite honestly neither my daughter or son-in-law were ready to be parents but who ever really is. Eventually my daughter realized the path with her husband was not the one she wanted. She did leave him and eventually divorce him and then the real struggles began. My grand child started having many issues right before turning 2 years old. After many doctors and research my grand child was diagnosed as autistic. After going through all the screening, tests and I don’t know how many doctors and specialists we realized our daughter is and has been autistic for some time. She is a very high functioning one and now looking back she had all the tale tale signs but not something that was really spoke of often except for extreme cases during her adolescence. We honestly did not realize all the things that were going on with our daughter and after much heartache and trials realized she is also schizophrenic. We did not realize that schizophenia rares its ugly head till around 17 -19. The biggest problem with all of this is she was an adult and we could not force her to get the help she needed but try and guide her and encourage her to get help. She did eventually but that was a nightmare as well because she would quite taking her meds because she felt better and didn’t need them and it was just a vicious circle with this and still is. Eventually a new man came into her life and we really liked him but were very apprehensive at first. We went through h*ll and back with the father of our grand baby and spent thousands in attorney fees to fight for our grandson and his needs. The father could never keep a job and very rarely paid support. He had to be ordered by a judge to attend his own son’s therapies and appointments and that still didn’t make him come to them or be involved. He ended up landing a decent factory job and was very proud to share in court his wages and how well he was doing. The next time we went before the judge (the judge eventually put their case kind of like a rotation where we went every 3 months to see how things were going) he put in place basically a garnishment on my grandson’s father so his support would start being paid. Three days after the court hearing my grandson’s father signed away his rights. At first you think well that craziness is over and we can focus on the grandson and my daughter and getting on with life. Of course we were so angry because with all the money we both spent in attorney’s could have been spent on therapy and other necessities for my grandson. Life went on and my daughter did eventually meet a man that we liked and eventually they did marry. For the most part things did go well and you would have never known he was not my grandson’s dad. Then my daughter went back into the I’m feeling better, doing better and I don’t need my meds better. And the vicious cycle returned and for about 2 years everyone walked on egg shells and were ever so careful with her because we knew if we did or said anything that she did not like that she would take our grandson from us. Well that is exactly what happened this past October and it tore us completely apart. Our sons and my husband and I started from scratch again trying to rebuild the new family norm and every day is and has been a struggle with out our little grandson in our lives. We had never went more than 24 hours of seeing this little guy for 5 years or since his birth. It is like grieving over a death but they are still alive. It has literally shattered our family apart in so many different ways. Our oldest son just graduated from college and commissioned as an officer in the military in May. Our youngest son landed a very good factory job and also attends a local college part time. Our sons are doing very well for themselves and have been so very proud of them as to what they have accomplished as a young adult. BUT our world got shattered once again a week ago today. Our youngest son recently, almost 3 months ago, met a young woman who has a child that is 2 1/2. We have no issues at all with our children dating someone with a child. We did tell our son and this young woman to take it really slow. Our son just turned 22 and this young woman just turned 21. Our son has lived through pretty much everything with his sister and her son and quite honestly has kind of been the father figure to our grandson. Our son is very much a person who wants to please everyone and take care of everyone. He wears his heart on his sleeve. We always say he has an ole soul because most young men his age do not behave and act the way he is does and reminds us of an older elderly man with his actions and thoughts. However, he is very naive and gullible and one of our worst fears for him was a young woman coming along and taking advantage of him and his sweet nature and that fear became larger when he landed a very good job with all the benefits. He has the money to go on his own but he doesn’t like or want to live alone and loves being with people. We told him he could live with us until the time came he wanted to either go out on his own or he found a significant other to share his life with. We told him play now, get all those toys and enjoy the freedom because once you do start working towards building your own family it isn’t about you and you can’t be so carefree. A couple of weeks prior to today we had heard through the grape vine that our son was making it known that he was going to move in with this young woman and her son. We know his older brother we believe was the first one he went to about it and he told him no, no and no. Our oldest son is very blunt and to the point and sometimes almost boarder line rude with some things. We had made it very well known to all that they need to take things slow and there is no need to rush at their young ages into anything. First and foremost they have to think about this young woman’s child in all of this. And just a little history on this young woman, her and her mother shared with us this young womans story on her relationship and how she became a mother. It is a pretty close story to what our daughter did when she was 18. The sad part for these parents was that they didn’t get to meet their grandchild till he was over a year old. Our youngest son packed a bag and went to live with this young woman one week ago. After all my husband and I and our boys have been through with our daughter we have been firm and doing the tough love. We do not think he is making very good and responsible decisions. Once again we have ran into this where our adult child is trying to tell us what and how they are going to do in our home. Our son came to me alone and a lot of it was his delivery and his delivery really surprised me. He was very wishy washy about it but basically was going to tell us when he would or would not be here and was going to give living with this young woman and her son a trial run before moving in fully. The problem with that is he does have responsibilities here. He has a dog he wanted and has had for not quite two years. He has spent a lot of money and his time on this dog. My husband and I were not to keen on him getting this dog in the first place and really didn’t want a dog but we got on board because our son wanted it so badly and we looked at it as learning more responsibility to learn and also because he is so much help with just about anything and does not have to be asked and just does. I have been ill for the past three years and as time as gone on I have gotten worse to where I pretty much do not leave home except for a doctor’s appointment and the rare time I have a really good day. I have some auto-immune diseases and they have caused other health problems as well. My youngest son has been amazing in helping me and he just does things for us. I have praised him and done many things for him to show my gratitude for all he does and also to tell him many times it is not his place to do certain things or for him to worry about certain things. My husband and I have even made reference in front of him how we need to pick up the slack here and there because it is not our son’s responsibility to do this or that. But one thing we have made clear from the start was that his dog was his dog and I did not have a problem of his dog being here with me and helping when he would be at work or classes. But when he left last week not only did he break our heart but he also left his dog and that really upsets and floors us more than him leaving. He knows that I am not able to care for his dog full time. It is not physically possible for me to do. I ended up finding a very nice family that lives very close to us to take his dog this past weekend. That was another kind of abrupt thing of someone taking off and changing the norm. Our oldest son is living his life and really not interested in all the drama here at our home and I don’t blame him one bit as he is just really starting his life with degree, military and a great new job, condo and life. We honestly believe that our youngest son is trying to replace the void his nephew left with our daughter so abruptly taking her son from our family. I just don’t know where we go from here. Our daughter and grandson are not apart of our life and we worry something horrible about our grandson and if his needs are being met and worry that he feels we all abandoned him. Then our oldest son is living his life and doing well but not much contact with us at all. He knows that his mother is not well and that his brother is not in any contact with us either. Then of course our youngest son being gone. I have a birthday coming up in a week and we have always as a family at least got together and had a nice meal for each other’s birthdays but this year I do believe will just be another day for everyone and not that I want pity but it breaks my heart that there will be no meal with the boys or anyone for that matter. I feel like I have nothing to look forward to and I know my husband feels or has to feel the same. I’m sure he kind of feels stuck here with me. And with my health problems it makes it makes it hard to go and do things and get involved in things as all therapists and books suggest about keeping yourself busy. We have been trying and honestly taking it hour by hour. I just truly hope that my children realize that yes we did have the family of our foundation ripped apart by many different things over the last 7 years but you can’t run from your problems and not get some sort of resolve to your hurt and pain. One day their parents will not be here for them, then what? I don’t want this cycle to keep going on to the next generation. I apologize for the long post but I know it does help to write things as well as to talk about things. I wish you the best Randy on your quest to form a relationship with your children and grandchildren and for you to know you are not alone.

    1. Effie

      No we have created a generation of ” brats” entitled to the world… My kids had every sport, nice cars and country home, stay at home mom, college degrees and I thought since we went to church and they worked part time in high school we did a perfect job and sent them off well rounded adults..

      So we thought???? Two years and they have no desire to see us..

      maybe it was the vaccines??? just a little humor before Thanksgiving !
      love to you all parents in pain 🙂

  3. Sully

    Hello, First time sharing among you all… I am completely dumbfounded at how many of us are living these experiences. Always trying to figure out the why seems to be my M.O. I can’t help it, I go over all the things that I put my mother through in my teens and 20’s. But, she was my mom, and she was all I had (parent-wise) since my father passed when I was only 4. I couldn’t live up to her, she was “untouchable”. I can’t remember harboring so much that distancing myself for long periods of time would feel right. I have come to conclude that I can’t be better than all these people who have come to cut-off loved ones like we are experiencing now. I can only hope to think that they must not have learned this life-lesson in this lifetime (or past ones, should you entertain that one)… And that the rest of us would never consider such non-sense as a solution. Again, I hate to be coming across so cold, but I have to dissect this before throwing emotions in. Ahhh! It is so hard to talk about something like this. I didn’t have any children of my own, but in my late 20’s, I met an older woman who had 2 teenagers and they were awesome. In the spirit of anonymity, we will refer to my wife here as Gwen. Gwen did what I thought was an incredible job with her boys. They seemed to have a real balance and a rock or pillar in their mom. There was virtually nothing to do but stand by Gwen and everything seemed to effortlessly fall into place. So, here is the crazy loop: If I had a great childhood, and I witnessed what I thought was an even better childhood that these boys had, then why is one of these 2 boys so messed up? Yes, I am judging him here, but it just makes no sense at all. It’s like this: If this whole thing is for me to look at it and experience it from my perspective, then it is a life lesson that will have some form of end, some form of benefit, but what? All I see is a late 30’s man with 3 children holding back his love and attention and time from his mother, his brother and me. We gave this man more than we gave his older brother. It hurts, it is exhausting and I can’t do anything about it. I rehearse over and over in my mind what I would say to him, and can’t begin to even think that writing him would do a dam thing. It has been going on for 4 years, but thinking back, he had developed some pretty sinister ways of judging and condemning others for quite a few years before that. He would be spiteful and abusive verbally towards his own father in witness of everyone, and it was nauseating to be in his presence at times. On the positive side, if that is what we had to put up with, it’s certainly not missed. Gwen and I don’t even get a phone call on our birthdays, it’s just a text. I have come to conclude that all these ways of electronic communication have rendered some of us socially retarded. I guess we don’t all have our moral compasses in tune with proper common sense. Anyhow, I can only tell myself that the universe is “unfolding as it should”. Thanks for your ears (or should I say eyes?).

    1. Effie

      Sully… we hear you. We probably all hear you. I sent a text saying happy thanksgiving to one of my sons. We have two and they both had other plans today with other family.. I understand that….but how hard is it at the age of 31 to respond with happy thanksgiving back though? It hurts. I feel unvalued, unloved.. actually I am both of those! I would never ignore my parents. I tried to explain a few years ago how I felt in some areas. They told me not to play a victim. The new word for 30 somethings to say 🙁 So I wont tell them how I feel ever again..
      We are on talking terms, but its been fragile over the years as they have been more distant… I understand that as well, as they start their own families and careers…but it sure is hard when they totally ignore mothers day and birthdays. I was a stay at home mom and gave too much to them looking back. I am sad today, just saying..

  4. jakatak

    August 22, 2019 at 8:38 pm
    Don’t know how to start a new thread. I am a 70 year old who is estranged from my second born. I have seen him no more than 5 of 6 times in the last 10 years.
    He has always presented himself with severe anxiety. Decision making was always a problem. He would stick his head in the sand, as an alternative to deal with life decisions. His Mother and I are divorced, and if I am honest, he was a major factor in our separating. She an adult child, who could only please and rescue, and I, the probation officer, providing the discipline. Our first born was the “perfect” child. Zero issues raising him. Our second born was constantly getting into trouble. Partying and raising hell.
    He won’t even acknowledge my existence. He barely is involved with his mother….the woman that has rescued him from all and any consequences to his not paying his bills, rent, or short on college tuition.
    The story goes much deeper, but the long and short of his refusal to get help has led me to believe, that I have to find a way to move on. He has a girlfriend, has moved in with her, and appears to be happy. I wish that I could say the same.

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Jakatak, You’re in the right place for support toward moving on. I’m so sorry!

      To start a thread, click on “community’ and it will take you to the forum area. There, you can scroll down and begin a new topic or click on any of the threads and communicate in them.

      Hugs, Sheri McGregor

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