Forgive for your own good

by Sheri McGregor

It’s often said that we should forgive for our own good. To forgive sets us free. That’s different than the forgiveness that comes when someone who has wronged us is remorseful and wants to make things right. To forgive doesn’t always require that we forget.

Forgiven or not, a person’s bad behavior often has consequences. Forgiveness can be a solitary act. To forgive doesn’t require that we forget everything and place ourselves, precariously, in a position to be hurt again. Read more about that, with a fuller look at forgiveness, in this article:

Why Forgive?

Today’s look at forgiveness is short—and oh-so-sweet!


Hugs to all the parents of estranged adult children. Your forgiveness is a gift to yourself.

~ Sheri McGregor

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28 thoughts on “Forgive for your own good

  1. Shoshana

    Our 35+ daughter became estranged from us after experiencing property damage and verbal and physical abuse from her boyfriend. There are no kids, no marriage yet she returned to him soon after after he was arrested for trying to kill her. I fear for her safety when he drinks too much or what have you. We paid for everything in her life, college degrees, a car, clothes, her rent, even though she always has a good job. She cannot manage money. The boyfriend is a narcissist, much less educated than she is and probably cheats on their relationship. She chose no contact with both of us and her brother. I have asked to see her and she states she is not ready. I have cardiac disease and may not make it to when she is ready. She doesn’t seem to care about us at all? What happened to the close knit family unit of 4 we used to be? How can these kids be so cruel? What does she tell people? Does she say we are dead? Are these estranged kids all narcissists? We have not seen her for 2-1/2 years even though we live less than 2 hours away. I am coping better than I was at first. I have put her in a box on the top shelf of my closet for now. The holidays and birthdays are awful! Also awful is when new people I meet ask me about my children. I want to say I have only one but that doesn’t feel right! Thank God I am an artist and for my ability to make art. I would like to share my art with all of you but I am not sure pictures are allowed?

  2. Charlyne A.

    I feel so much empathy with all of you. We were extremely close to our son until he got engaged. His now wife and her family are beyond insular and we always felt we would be pushed out. What breaks us is we have not seen our granddaughters for 9 months, we love them so much. We, my husband and I, have started to talk with a counsellor to help us move forward. How do you do that????

    1. KathleenMac

      Hi Charlyne, my situation is exactly as yours. Our son even says “I had a brilliant childhood” but sadly, since meeting and marrying his wife and her family, we have been completely shut out. The situation is heightened as they don’t live in the same country as us. In sofar as councilling, I thought of this too but in the end, I was wary of the usual “blame it on
      the mother” attitude. I think we have finally come to terms with the loss (it is really like a bereavement). Friends have helped and our daughter. I have concluded that if we want to try to regain any relationship, we would have to go to family counselling together with our son. I wish you well, try to talk about this with a good friend. We’re now 7 years into this, have a granddaughter we don’t see as daughter in law won’t allow it, but I don’t cry anymore and my mental health is a lot better. Sending a hug xx

    2. Peggy F.

      Good question ? Went to therapy it does help but it is still like constant grief. We never get over it if they won’t talk.
      I think both parties need to go to their on therapist to figure how to live day by day.
      God bless
      Haven’t seen 4 grandchildren or daughter in 10 years. Pray for us

  3. Jake

    Always thought I showed my sons unconditional love, support, & tried to be a good parent. Finally getting past the hurt, anger, numbness, the whys & the emptiness. I will give them their space & remain eternally optimistic for a reconciliation. Trying to stay busy, work on myself (mental & physical health), make my marriage even stronger, be around friends & family that want me in their lives, taking care of my elderly mother’s needs, & getting involved in community based organizations like Big Brothers-Big Sisters. I am to the acceptance stage – I guess. Still not sleeping well – any suggestions there? I am putting it in God’s hands. I love & miss them & their families so much & pray their children never do this evil deed to them.

  4. Strong

    I simply would like to share what I have learned over the past several years of estrangement from an adult child. Please add your own lessons learned. Hugs and respect to all of you!

    1) You can stop chasing answers as to what happened. There are a few things which likely happened and you are in control of none of them.
    A) Your adult child’s insecure partner or spouse is emotionally abusive and keep the victim (your adult child) isolated from their support systems. By removing support their victim is less likely to leave them. All you can really do is wait for your adult child to gain the wisdom, strength and opportunity to leave.
    B) Your ex or your child’s other parent has done a real parental alienation number on you. Look up parental alienation in a divorce and learn all you can. It will all make sense.
    C) Somewhere in the mess is a narcissistic (NPD) person. Of course, you will be accused of this, but that is unlikely. It could be your child. Remember you provided only half of their DNA and NPD has a strong genetic component to it. Children of good parents often turn out to be horrible people. Children of horrible parents can turn out to be the most incredibly wonderful people.
    D) Your adult child met with a therapist who lacks the knowledge or experience to provide healthy guidance in this situation. Your child claims to be unhappy and who is easiest to blame?

    Of course, your situation may not fit perfectly in one of these scenarios but hopefully these thoughts will help you realize how little control you have and encourage you to live without unwarranted blame or regrets.

    2) I decided it was time to update my will. The very experienced estate attorney who assisted me shared that in the last couple of decades she had seen a dramatic increase in parents doing exactly as I was. And, she fully supported my decision without guilt or questions. Signed and done.

    3) The letter of amends suggested by a “professional” in the field is not helpful. Look into it further and you will find parents who were left with their self-respect in ruins, vulnerable, re-victimized and lying to themselves and their adult children. If you like bending over backwards so far that you fall on your face, then go for it. I did not even consider such a letter. Any letter of amends should come from my child.

    4) I routinely write a note and put it in a box for each of my grandchildren whom I am denied. I have someone who will give the boxes to them if I should pass before reuniting with them. They will know that they were loved and missed out despite whatever they were told.

    I had been beaten up enough by the entire situation, my adult child and their spouse. I decided enough was enough of the disrespect and abuse from a toxic adult child. Millennials always speak of healthy boundaries so I decided to join the movement and draw my own. I let go, moved on and walk with my head held high. I sincerely hope you can, too. I am a phenomenal parent. Just ask my other children and their spouses.

    Here are some quotes or mantras which may help. Perhaps people can add others which they find helpful: Never believe the thoughts you tell yourself when you are sad and alone. When you don’t allow people to disrespect you, they start calling you difficult. There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump a puddle for you. Don’t believe everything you think. How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves. Never take the blame for how someone mistreated you. We love women who realize they aren’t asking for too much. People who are okay with being alone are very powerful people. It’s okay to be sad after making the right decision. Some people are mad at you because they made the mistake of underestimating you – they threw you under the bus and you thrived. If your path demands you to walk through hell, walk as if you own the place!

    1. Cha Cha

      Thank you for this. My husband and I also have decided enough is enough. You can’t choose your family, and we have been used and abused the last time by our son and daughter-in-law. I love your idea of writing notes to your grandchildren.

    2. Greta

      Hi Strong,
      Something you said about regularly writing to your grandkids so that when you’re gone, someone will pass them on to the kids so that they’ll know you loved them, really answered a conundrum that I’ve been struggling with.

      Our daughter cut us off about two years ago. I’ve accepted that act of hers and am doing well with not blaming myself or my husband (we were great parents by any measure) or feeling sad/grieved on a daily basis. But I’ve been struggling with what to do about keeping in touch with our two grandkids. Especially as I have no idea if she’s passing on the letters, cards and gifts that I’ve been sending, or if she’s dumping the letters and cards and either keeping the money gifts or giving them to the kids and taking credit herself for the gift giving.

      So my question has been, is there any point in continuing this, how can I or should I even bother trying to stay in touch? I like your idea of keeping the ones you write to them and saving them up for passing on when you’ve passed on. I think I’ll follow your example because it’s really hard to write to kids that you don’t know anymore and it’s hard to write in ways that I see is still me walking on eggs so as not to offend their mother and I’m sick of doing that to keep her happy. So from here on in, a letter every year that maybe summarizes how their grandfather and I are doing and changing as time goes by and most importantly, how we wished we could have known them. I’ll continue with the birthday cards every year but beyond that, I’m done. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom, you helped this estranged parent today and I’m grateful.

    3. Kate

      Strong, you said “There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump a puddle for you.” THAT’S SO VERY TRUE! Thank you for that. We will either wither away & die or decide it’s time to live & I choose to live. Some time ago, I finally faced the truth about who my ED really is & I stopped hoping for anything to change with her. I’m a VERY slow learner, but finally after 20+ years of her dumping me & lying about me, I let go. At times it still makes me sad but when I finally faced the truth, it helped me to move on with my life. In spite of everything that’s happened in the past, there can be better days ahead.

  5. Suzanne Y.

    I have been forgiving for 19 years. I have a son that keeps offending and mistreating me. My mom just died, and he decided to send me a quick text and tell me that I am dead to him, too. Nothing provoked him; nothing happened for him to decide to hurt me this way. I am always on the receiving end of hurtful words and rejection. I have spent years asking him what I have done wrong (he never has an answer). I have apologized, without having any idea why, just in order for our family to go forward. Well, it’s time the pain stops! I need to mourn the death of my mom, and it hurts me too much to deal with my estranged son at the same time. I feel like I need to really let him go for now.

    1. Christina

      Oh Suzanne. I am so sorry about the loss of your mom. When my mother died, I wanted to howl like an animal. Having your son say such a cruel thing at such a time is incomprehensible — and unacceptable — and my heart twisted in my chest for you when I read this. That is just evil. You must get away from people who actively reach out to hurt you. You have the right to grieve in peace, and to kind space. It is time to be the caring mother you are — to yourself. Your mother would want you to treat yourself gently. Sending you hugs and peaceful vibes.

  6. Lynn

    I am not totally estranged from my son but basically have no relationship with him. I have some contact with my grandkids . He and I were always close. He was the baby. He and his older brother and sister all got married and had kids within a few years. My son’s new wife and I were close too. They lived with me for a year after they were married. I feel there were some family misunderstandings and misconception in a few situations. My son and his wife started coming around less and less. It also seemed that my son pulled away from his brother and sister. They don’t include us in anything . I feel that I am at fault and should have tried harder to figure out the problem and work things out. Now they have moved because of his job 3 hours away. It breaks my heart. Reading other parents experiences is so helpful.

    1. Greta

      I’m not sure what the ‘successful’ reconciliation count might look like for all the cases of parent/adult child estrangement, but speaking from personal experience and what I have read here, I’m thinking that you need to give up on the past and move on. I don’t think any of us will ever understand what motivates those ‘children’ of ours to take the steps they’re taking.

      While our ranks might contain a few control freak parents (or variations of parental disconnect from children’s natural needs), a lot of us are average to great parents……..who still wound up in this sad club.

      I’ll tell you my experience, that it became easier to forgive, forget and walk away from the emotions when I finally recognized that the truth is that now, I don’t want to re-know our daughter. I don’t want to be her friend, I don’t want to go back to walking on eggshells, I don’t want to check every statement I make to be sure it’s innocuous and won’t lead to some new issue. Not only do I not trust her to ‘never do this again’, I recognized that if she was a stranger I met in some social setting, I wouldn’t be ‘getting her number’ so call her again sometime.

      Maybe it’s time you asked yourself those kinds of questions so that you can find the new path to your own life and happiness that doesn’t depend on whether or not your son is talking to you. My heart goes out to you because I know what you’re going through and how you don’t deserve to feel like this bad for the rest of your days. Take care Lynn.

  7. Tammy

    Hello, I am new here. I am in the early stages of struggling to try to make some sense about how my son could turn his back on his entire family. We have no idea what happened except the closer it got to his wedding the more he withdrew. There are no words to describe how parents feel when they tried to do all of the right things, loved their child and find themselves abandoned. I blame most of our problem on his now wife. She was put in no effort to get to know us and insisted that he spend all holidays and Sundays with her family. We invited them and she felt “pressure”. Originally, he wanted her to know us. Eventually, I guess he gave up and listened to her and even believed what she was saying about us.

    I am sorry that we are all here.

    1. Heather

      Tammy, your situation sounds so much like mine. My son is to get married in January 2022. His fiancé has stated that she will not invite us to the wedding, and that we will never see grandchildren. We’ve tried to offer to get started on rehearsal dinner proceedings, and anything else that she will allow us to work with with the wedding, and she said she doesn’t want any help. Our situation has been this way since they started dating. We took her on a family vacation with us all seemed well, but before and after that she refused to let him come home for holidays or birthday dinner celebration etc.

    2. princesswarrior

      I am new too. I relate to your pain. I have introduced myself to the group, but I have not attempted to write anything further until now. In all honesty, it is difficult for me to express what I am feeling because I am numbed out. I feel like the walking wounded. I grew up in a violent alcoholic & dysfunctional family. Love was not expressed in our home. No hugs, kisses or words of love. I expressed love to my daughter in the best way I knew how. Even though I vowed it would be different when I had children, I parented my child in the similar ways that I was taught & grew up with. Thank, my Divine, I was not violent. In retrospect, if I had known better, I would have done better. My daughter married into an alcoholic family. She has cut me out of her life five (5) times. Each time, I am the one who reaches out to reconnect with her until the next time that she cuts me out of her life again. Her spouse is happy as a lark that my daughter & I are estranged because he only enjoys celebrating holidays with his family of origin. This last time she cut me out of her life, I sent my daughter an amends letter for the harm I did to her as a child. In therapy, I have surrendered our relationship to her higher power. Today I know it takes two people to want a relationship with each other & to put the time & energy to make it work. After my five failed attempts in reconciliation, I realize that I don’t have the power to change her into wanting a relationship with me. She has to want a relationship with me. Acceptance has been painful for me, but I need to get on with my life by enjoying the gifts of my spouse & son Yes. I agree with you that it is very sad that we, the parents, have to deal with the pain of estrangement from our son(s) and/or daughter(s).

  8. Phyllis H.

    My friend just recommended this site to me. I was feeling very isolated and as if I was the only parent experiencing this. I am sorry that there are others, yet comforted in knowing that I am not the only parent experiencing these things.

    1. Elizabeth

      Phyllis, Welcome to this club none of us wanted to join. But you are welcome here. Thanks to Sheri !! I found a lot of solace in her book too and it is one that is marked and I am keeping. I think our situation is VERY VERY common today…I often run into folks out in public who also are in similar situation. I told one daughter who had 2 bad husbands and in-law families, and referring to others in our kin, that we quite simply were “magnets for those with mental illness”. It does seem true. My daughter said it was because we are empaths. Perhaps so. Seems how we are is how people are supposed to be…we are SUPPOSED to love and care for those, especially our blood kin, but also others…friends, even strangers. I hope you will find comfort here and elsewhere in your location. I find that you can run into someone you never met, and somehow you will feel a connection as you begin talking. (Of course, right now so many are beyond panic stricken to even speak to others for fear of catching covid). Hopefully things will calm down again soon and we can resume talking to those who we do not know and finding others who may need this site too. Be good to yourself. If you can, change some patterns of your life, in any area…we changed religion about the time things got very bad for us…even though that was NOT the reason for the change, our intense study was; but any rate, one benefit has been that most holidays we keep now are entirely different and most rarely intersect with what we used to keep. An unexpected benefit in this way. We were needed by one daughter on the opposite side of the country. We moved to help her and now we likely will be here for the rest of our days as travel is not open to us now (due to our own health issues). So it helps mentally to no longer be driving past the rejecting ones home, etc. I love them. I am a mother. I always will. But we have to come to accept however life plays out. My situation is not as hard as some others…I don’t mean to say it is. But just do however you can to make your life better. We are each only given a few days on earth…and it is ok to find ways to be happy!! (Most of the time at least).

  9. Elizabeth

    I agree Sheri…well put!! We forgive for our own well-being. I was thinking that it is a difficult thing to, in a way, cease being a parent to these kind of kids, and release them from any expectation at all. To go on more or less, as if they do not exist. Or exist only in very limited ways. While it was important to us when ours were growing up to be as equal as possible and not have favorites, I have been also released from that. And we have not totally figured out yet, as to inheritance, which will not be much anyway, as to how to do. But for now, whenever I want to send money to the other 2 children who do show their love for us, I do so without any hesitation at all. At the least, THESE 2 are getting some of their inheritance early…while the other is not. And as always, trying to not let the NOT-GIVEN spoil the GIVEN…that also includes those who are friends, and not kin. When they act more as kin…in a way, those friends are kin!! Nothing says our only relationships need to be with blood kin. All things which take time and we have not gotten here instantly.

    1. rparents Post author


      I like what you say here about no longer having to worry about who gets what and fairness. This illustrates some of the freedom of giving in and letting someone who doesn’t want you have their way. It’s a shift that helps in everyday life.

      HUGS to you, and many well wishes and blessings for you on your journey with the kin of your choice.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Cha Cha

      Very true, Elizabeth. I certainly have a friend or two who is more like family than blood family. I could be wrong, but I think it’s not uncommon. While I’m saddened to know that I will no longer have a relationship with my son’s children, and they will always be told we rejected them, we had to close the door on their abusive mother. I will never allow anyone to speak to me again as she spoke to me. And the honest truth is, the freedom I feel knowing that I don’t have to ever deal with her again outweighs the sadness I feel about the grandkids.


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