Heartbroken parents: Are you to blame for your adult children’s problems (or estrangement)?
By Sheri McGregor, M.A.
To a heartbroken parent driving to a neighboring town in the U.S., the message of this billboard hit like a punch in the gut. The “effective counseling” it advertises comes across as one-sided and pandering. This can’t be healthy (can it?).
Thousands of heartbroken parents tell me their adult children blame them for their every problem. Yet even I was shocked at this billboard. It’s a bald-faced presentation of something I also hear often: That, when it comes to family estrangement (and more specifically, parent-and-adult-child estrangement) our culture, and even some therapists, are part of the problem.
“We live in crazy times,” said the mother who saw this offensive billboard a few weeks ago. She hasn’t spoken to her son in four years, nor seen the sweet grandchild with whom she’d previously bonded. She isn’t the only heartbroken parent to conclude, “Society is supporting these adult children to reject us parents.”
It’s the parents’ fault: A pervasive attitude
When people have issues, they are frequently advised to find the root. Uncovering the beginnings of unhealthy emotional habits, ways of thinking, and managing our lives can be a positive start. However, too often, the root leads rather simplistically to parents. A few examples:
- Shame-based? Your parents must have used guilt to rule you.
- Don’t trust your own judgment? As a child, you must have been told your decisions were dumb or your feelings were wrong.
- Can’t stick up for yourself? You got the message you weren’t important anyway.
There can be truth in these, but when an adult stops there, looks for proving evidence and embellishes, or is advised to cut off relationships rather than try to dig deeper, understand or empathize, they no longer grow. In blaming parents, they can excuse themselves—and they’ll find many to echo the blame. Just as peddlers of hope can keep parents who did their best stuck apologizing and forever trying to reconnect, there are mentors of blame. They preach to a choir of adults who refuse responsibility for their own bad decisions with their resulting consequences and hold their parents accountable instead.
Parent-blaming can be subtle or direct
Often, a grabber headline misleads, like for the article I wrote about here: Are a parent’s mistakes worthy of “hate”? In our text-rich world of social media one-liners that are sometimes the sum of one’s news consumption and then are repeated like gospel, these titles negatively stereotype parents and sway opinion. The negative portrayals of the older generation are prevalent—and hurt (read my article: Negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adult children: It hurts).
Other parent-blaming is more subtle and intellectualized. In some cases, the ideas may even apply. But even the smartest sounding blame can harm loving, heartbroken parents—and their troubled adult children who don’t learn to empathize or take responsibility for their own mistakes.
One New York Times article used a grabber headline to talk about what’s known as “attachment theory.” While attachment theory makes some sense, it is just as its name implies: a theory. Furthermore, it was conceived more than half a century ago. Our world and how we live in it has evolved (or, in some ways, devolved!). Lifestyle norms have changed. Also, the childhood behaviors attributed to caregiver styles in attachment theory may or may not translate to adult relational behavior as the article, “Yes, It’s Your Parent’s Fault,” seems to convey. So, why such a certain title? Negative stereotyping grabs eyeballs. Unfortunately, it also furthers generational division and fosters blame. At the very least, it’s irresponsible. It’s also too easy, same as blaming other people for one’s own mistakes.
The piece mentions interviews/questionnaires aimed at determining one’s dominant attachment style but points out that results may vary from one questionnaire to the next. The mismatch is explained away as resulting from the skill and training of the interviewer or a person’s level of self-awareness (or lack thereof!). My translation? If you want to blame your parents for your adult relationship problems, you can. These questionnaires may help.
The more light is shed on a problem, the more society becomes aware. That’s why I call attention to the way parents are frequently portrayed as overbearing, needy, nosy, or unbending. This portrayal is an unjust presentation that fosters ageism and promotes division. This disservice to older people can manifest in unhealthy ways when parents seek help after an estrangement occurs. This is discussed at length in my award-winning book, Beyond Done With The Crying: More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children (2021). Beyond Done is a follow-up to my first book (also award winning) for heartbroken parents, Done With The Crying. I hope you’ll read both, and use the examples and exercises to work toward your own well-being.
Sometimes, our past experiences do influence how we interact with other people, including our adult children. As a parent with a long-term estrangement and in communicating with thousands of other moms and dads, my work centers on parents’ personal growth, emotional strength, and enlightenment. My work is specific to estrangement and how you may be affected in the various aspects of your family, work, and general life. Don’t stay stuck.
You spent a lifetime caring for children who are now adults. You can be true to yourself, remain open to the possibility of a healthy relationship if that’s desired, yet disengage from negative interactions or chasing behavior that steals your sense of dignity and makes you feel weak. You can hold out hope yet get on with your own life and enjoy the people who value you.
Society, theorists, and even ill-conceived billboards offering “effective counseling” may blame you, but you know the truth. You were there. Likewise, you’re here now. Take charge and make the most of your precious life. Start this minute.
Develop your natural resilience. Step into a freer, happier future.
Hugs to all the heartbroken parents,
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Question has anyone had to deal with an adult child who is almost 20 years old and is racking up medical bills all over town; is her father and I responsible for those bills? We must keep her on the health insurance until she is 26 or gets her own policy which I don’t foresee happening. unfortunately, she just isn’t ready to grow up.
Dear Sad Sad Mom,
Keeping your daughter on your health insurance plan is strictly optional. It’s your decision to make. Age 26 is the cut-off age for those parents who wish to provide insurance coverage for their adult children. As long as she is on your plan, then you are responsible for the bills.
Sad Sad mom,
Unbelievably, I do find myself in the same situation you describe. Out 21 yo daughter had several serious health & medical episodes this year which are creating nightmarish billing problems for our family healthcare policy. She was seen in 2 different hospital E.R.s for work-related injuries so there ARE/WERE workman’s comp claims open on them with her former employer – but because she is of legal age, she was the employee and refuses to contact the WC office to coordinate payments, I can’t seem to get the billing offices to separate the charges off our family policy. She did finally get a new job in July and now has her own personal healthcare coverage. I can’t see US as parents paying for all these charges related to accidents/injuries she received on the job but it’s also bizarre and embarrassing to have to explain to hospital representatives that my adult daughter won’t cooperate or take responsibility for making calls, doing paperwork etc. I know some of the bills are close to going to collections, so I’m at the point where I guess we’ll just have to pay the charges to make things go away and protect our own credit?
Reply To Bud’s Comment of July 23, 2022 at 5:06 pm:
Bud, using your words, “I really…REALLY…like the words you’ve used,” I Appreciate your reply to my comment…
I am so very happy that you are in this Beloved On-line Healing Community…My Heart is with you in all that you have been through…I am glad that you did have some semblance of justice in the court system…which is not always the case…I am also so very happy that your “Lovely Bride” stood by you, and is still standing with you…
The betrayal, on-going vindictiveness & lies, is beyond understanding…I am so very sorry for your pain…
I say, transform this betrayal & pain, by using it to remind one of who and what these people are, to have the strength, courage, and insight to not let them into one’s lives ever again…
Bud, I Celebrate Your Life and On-Going Joy, Peace, & Love…
Thank You for sharing your words & experience…It gives me Hope to possibly share a Beautiful Life with a future Life Partner…In these challenging times, and in dealing with this estrangement, trusting others, much less even meeting someone is daunting… I will remember your words as I go forth… (In the Meanwhile, and Present Moment, I have a Precious & Beautiful Life…with my Inner-Circle of Animal Angel Beings…All Is Well…).
In Gratitude & Friendship, Bud, May You and Your “Lovely Bride,” as well as Beautiful Sheri, and Each Beloved One In This Healing On-Line Community Be Blessed In Body, Mind, & Spirit!!!
I agree with you Carrie-Ann, “To have the courage and insight to never let them back into our lives again.” I struggle with this but after re-reading “Beyond Done with the Crying,” I realized we were used for monetary gifts, vacations and cars. They never wanted to spend time with us, just use us. No matter how much we gave, it was never enough. Now we give gifts to people we know of, struggling and need it. We don’t want anything from them, just knowing that they appreciated it is the gift and they are good people. It is more satisfying.
Reply to Faith’s Comment July 24, 2022 at 1:14 pm
Yes, Faith, sad but true…To realize that all the hard-earned gifts of generosity and love that we shared with these entitled, never-enough, never-happy, ungrateful, dishonest, cold, calculating beings were just expected and taken, with no decent reciprocation whatsoever…
The only consolation is that the unkindness, dishonesty, manipulation, although still painful, is no longer in one’s life…I continually pray for the guidance, strength, wisdom, and courage to maintain strong boundaries, and to regulate my mind when thoughts, memories, wishes, dreams come and go…Realizing the danger in the effects of allowing oneself to be overcome by them…
I am learning to make friends with pain and fear…meeting it, allowing it to come and go, and thanking it for reminding me to stay safe…To continue to heal, to be healthy, to thrive, to enjoy what Precious time one may have on this earth…
Each one of us, at any given moment has the choice to be Kind…Faith, your comment reflects this Kindness…First to oneself…by not allowing and enabling these beings to use and abuse one…In the long run, it is Kindness to them also…to not support the unnecessary, unacceptable, and cruel behavior…
Recognizing red flags, maintaining strong boundaries, sharing with safe people, and taking care of our health, mental, physical, & Spiritual needs, will prevent and protect one from further harm…
As in your Beautiful name, “Faith,” We can all “Keep the Faith” that all is evolving as needed, even though we may not understand it…
Faith, In Gratitude for your reply to my comment…
Thank you for this perspective. This makes sense. The day after Mother’s Day my 27-year-old daughter who lived with us (along with her fiancé!) in safety and comfort through the pandemic told us she was moving out within the week and cancelling her fall wedding (not the engagement) because we “used our money to control her”. We had no arguments around the wedding planning and were paying for whatever she wanted. She was cold, angry and accusatory towards us and tossed around new therapy phrases including her need to “set appropriate boundaries”, “our hostile family communication style”, “dysfunctional family interactions”, and most weirdly, her “trauma brain”. She grew up in a loving, stable, close-knit average (boring) family. We were devoted parents cherishing her and giving her a life of support and privilege. Until she told us all this 11 long weeks ago there was no drama or event that would indicate she was unhappy with us in any way. She was having some second thoughts about the wedding a few weeks before and I had suggested they both see a therapist. It seems the therapist helped her reinvent her personal challenges through a pathological lens. There must be a generational shift of support for these kind of estrangement decisions out there because she is in the age group that seems to be cancelling their families.
Laura, I can really relate to your situation. Our daughter also started therapy, saying she had anxiety over conversations with people. She stressed that she might have said something to offend them and would worry about it for days. She’s actually a very good communicator and well liked by everyone she meets. I thought it was strange for her to feel this way, but we supported her desire to see a therapist. Ultimately, she got similar advice your daughter did. Set boundaries and take time away from us while she works through her therapy. Okay, we didn’t like it, but we agreed to give her the space she said she needed. Little did we know, that would include almost cancelling my pre-ordered Mother’s Day gift (it was her sister who told her she might regret doing that) and ultimately not acknowledging Father’s Day at all. Not even a text to her dad. So, it seems that setting boundaries means purposely being cruel. What kind of therapist recommends halting all conversation with a person you have a close relationship with? Isn’t’ communication the key to a successful relationship! How can any issues be resolved if you don’t talk to each other? These therapists today seem to have a common goal of simply validating whatever victimhood or irrational ideas their patients have. Ultimately, our children will regret the estrangement, they will pay the price, and many won’t have the opportunity to reconcile until it’s too late. But not to worry, their therapists will continue to validate the destruction of their family relationships, thereby fostering the need for therapy for life! Great business plan! Ironically, our estrangement happened after we spent $25,.000 on her wedding.
You absolutely nailed it. Voodo therapy with all the buzz words. It’s heartbreaking. We too were a loving well respected nuclear family and out of nowhere came what you described after therapy sessions for my daughters anxiety and depression. I believe there are some unethical therapists out there who have their own mental health issues.
I had to walk away because of abuse from my parents *and* my ex poisoned my children against me and worked to cut us off. So I’ve been on both sides of the fence. When my parents died recently I learned they’d silently went along with it so long as they got to see the kids. (And when THEY were cut off, the damage was done too hard to undo it.) The only person standing up for me in the end was me, but I’m the villain and villains usually stand alone.
Sometimes you really are at fault. Sometimes everyone is. Sometimes you’re not… Being blamed for everything not only gives you very little room to heal and figure out what you might have done wrong, it encourages literally everyone around you to never give you a chance.
I came across this because I’m looking into this growing trend of blaming the parents. I want to join the group and I hope you reopen it soon.
As I read all these posts I am reminded that it has been over five years since I last saw my daughter. My own flesh, my blood and once, my life. My only child. She came back on my birthday to give me ten minutes of her precious time, [she is a PSYCHO-ANALYST ] and must be busy, busy busy. I asked her if she would emotionally support me when my husband dies and she called me toxic and hung up on me. Seems to be the catch-phrase of the decade. So that was that. She even ‘mocked me’ in my grief. My husband of 21 years is dying in long term care, I am his caregiver. She keeps telling me ‘we were never friends’. YET..I came across a lovely letter that she wrote me the night before she was to be married. I sent it to her but she never acknowledged it. My heart knows EXACTLY where these moms and dads are coming from. God be With them!
My daughter is estranged and made up with me,only to cut me off when I was to get to see my grandkids. She was verbally abusive and mean. And she married a man who has family money. His Mom did not accept my daughter and did some mean things to her, but they buy her new cars and more, so I guess they are forgiven?
I’m so sorry for what you are going through with youth own fresh and blood daughter. I’m going through through same thing with mine after a divorce. She treats me horrible and uses me only to watch kids or dogs. Never spends any time with me. Two hours all summer and I live in same city. I’m heart broken but am over it and want healing and to push her back.
Oh Sharon how devastating this is. I can 9nly send love from a stranger to one.
I am here for you as I’m sure many in this group who have been similarly hurt by our children are as well. Naturally, no one can take the place of the wounds created by our children’s estrangement but it does help to know that You are Not alone!
I am currently going through the pain of my daughter’s callousness and son’s estrangement. Although our daughter speaks to us, we lost the daughter we knew about a year ago when she met her now wife. She only calls when she needs something. My son is also estranged but he’s always suffered from depression and has been unable to thrive due to this. After 33 years of moving heaven and earth for him, we finally decided we did him no good as he was showing no effort to gain his independence and gave him a final ultimatum to either get a job or move out. He called us traitors and said if we went through with this he’d never speak to us. Low and behold that’s what happened 2 months ago. Honestly, his estrangement has been less hurtful than our daughters given his mental health issues.
Our daughter and her wife were of the impression that it was our fault that our son wasn’t moving on in life because we were enabling him. Imagine our shock when we learned that when he left our home, he reached out to them and they took him in. When we found out, I asked our daughter why she didn’t let us know. She said, I just didn’t feel like it. Her words cut through me sharper than the pain I felt the morning after our son left. A few minutes into the conversation in so many words they said they didn’t want us to know so we wouldn’t bud in. A day later they were asking for money and saying they had done more for him in one day than his therapist and that he was more severe in his cognition than ever diagnosed, so we needed to step in financially to get him diagnosed as intellectually disabled. This has hurt me more than our son’s estrangement, as our daughter is gifted and we always had a good relationship. She lived with us till she went off to college and is well aware of everything we did for both of them. We supported her through college and her postgraduate studies and gave them both a private education. Our mistake was to give them everything they needed not only financially but emotionally. Always being their cheerleaders and for our son being on top of his educational needs since he was 3-yrs old. Providing private schooling for his learning challenges and most recently paying for a costly residential treatment program (recommended by her wife, a therapist herself) which turned out to be a misplacement which she acknowledged later on. After that our son was in therapy with a doctor focusing on adults with learning disorders.
When our daughter does text us, or speaks to us there’s only a biting coldness and sharpness to her tone and voice. There’s a glimmer of the daughter I once knew on a few occasions when we’ve spoken and her wife by chance is not around.
Although I sometimes, think it is harder to get through this pain by hearing the pain of others and sharing my experience, as I write this I’m finding that Sheri is right. As difficult as the exercises and reading her book are, it all helps and in time will help us come out strong. So let’s keep the faith, reach out and find empathy in others traveling in our shoes.
My heart feels for every one who has been thrown away like we have. To tell it all would be like opening a giant can of worms. Here’s the gist of my story.. I was raised by Deaf parents who were raised in an institution themselves so my upbringing was chaotic, abusive, and traumatic to say the least. Fast forward to my having 2 girls of my own and little did I know I was suffering from ptsd. I did the best I could at the time but I was not perfect but we gave our girls a life that we never had. My husband came from a poor, dysfunctional, broken home himself. Nevertheless when our oldest became 18 she decided she didn’t need us anymore and slandered us to everyone she knew. We thought our youngest was our golden child until she too became 19 and decided to contact her sister and since then has trashed us too. It has been a devastating decade to say the least and things do not seem to be getting better in the least. We know it’s a spiritual battle.. we raised them in a Christian home but were not strong in our walk at the time.. we allowed too many things into their lives that ultimately influenced their mindset. The culture today is definitely a cancel, throw away, and discard one for sure. Our oldest is practicing witchcraft at almost 30 years old, forgoing having children, cares about no one but herself. Our youngest has been living with her atheist boyfriend for 4 years now and has no plans to do anything pleasing to the Lord anytime soon. They wallow in sin and could care less about their soul, future, or their parents who are sitting here praying for them each and every day. My parents have caused me ptsd but I still keep in contact with them and choose to forgive the past but apparently forgiveness is not an option in this generation. It’s either perfection to their standards or else you’re not worth an ounce of their love, energy, attention, or time. Like I said.. it’s all a giant can of worms. Welcome to 2022 where the love of many has waxed cold. Thank you Sheri for the opportunity to know that we are not alone.. currently reading your first book and trying to move on the best we can. God bless.
My story is similar with an abusive father and a submissive mom who to this day will not stand up to his verbal abuse. I too suffer from ptsd from an especially traumatic incident between me and dad that I have never forgotten but have forgiven, however it changed my life forever.
I raised 2 kids as a single mom. I’m not perfect but I gave so much of myself to both kids. Despite the way I was raised I would never have been able to estrange my parents and keep their grandchildren from them the way my daughter is doing to me with a grandson that doesn’t know I exist, he’ll be 3 soon. I was told that “I will not do to him what I did to her”. I don’t know what exactly she means because in actuality, in her late teens she was abusive to me, entitled, and I couldn’t do anything to her satisfaction. I walked on eggshells in my own home.
It’s been 2 years since I have seen her and nearly 2 years since I have heard from her when she told me to leave her alone because I had the audacity to text her to ask how her Thanksgiving was. Sheri’s books have saved my life however I still have a nagging pit in my heart. I keep praying, for her and myself and hope that someday I will be able to see my grandson that I have been isolated from.
I agree that our society and so called professionals are contributing to this epidemic of estrangement. It is evident by the consistent language you see being used. This includes the word “toxic” and cutting the toxic people from your life. In the 10 years since my daughter’s total estrangement, I have talked with multiple “professionals”. I have found you need to keep looking until you can find a good one to help. There are many bad, but also good counselors out there. Keep looking. I am resolved to the situation, which does not make it hurt any less. I have a wonderful group of friends and family. We must take care of ourselves first, before we can be there for others.
I 100% agree with you! The University counselor that my husband and I were paying for most likely encouraged our only son to estrange us.
I agree with all of you and Lila, looks like we are on the same boat. That is another issue, we pay for college classes for our kids and happens that we have no rights to avoid the permanent and disgusting brainwashing our children suffer in the hands of such called teachers and counselors. Not even in my origin country (I’m from a socialist/communist country in the Caribbean) parents have so less control on the life of their children, and still we are accused of being controlling, abusers and toxic. I hope the essence of this country does not get lost in the hands of those “helping” to educate them.
Hi, finally got strength to share the estrange of my daughter more than 5 years now. It is really hard to believe. She was very close to me and we used to share most of things. She get to know this man in her 20’s and left house one year after she got graduated and found job. Later, she moved to other country 3 years back. She got married and never bothered to inform us. She cut off all sort of communication with us saying that we both parents torture her by checking where she was or why late to reach home out of parents concern. She blocked us from social media and stopped all communication. I feel bad each day thinking that I would have handled situation in a better way. Being human being, we all do mistakes and learned from it. Why can’t a mother make mistake. My husband also blame me, saying it is all my fault as I didn’t teach kids proper behaviour and stopped from leaving home. After reading your book “Done with crying”, I try my best to move on and serve less fortune community in my current job. Still I feel bad whenever I see my friends with happy family. My other child is boy, who is still studying in University is very understanding. But I fear, I may loose him once he start earning. Hope I get all strength to bear the grief. Thanks,
Oh, Vitha, it sounds like you were and are a really good mom. I agree with everything you say here. And you are right, everyone makes mistakes (including parents!). The point is to learn from them. I think it’s good for kids to see that actually, as that’s normal life. You were a normal mom trying her best, like we all do, and I think one day your daughter is going to realize that. In the meantime, keep up the great work. You are a blessing to many, many people, including me.
Stranger things can happen…….after my 39 year old son telling me 5 years and 10 months ago that he didn’t ever want to see me or talk to me again , as usual I went to bed the day before Mothers Day, planning to sleep through it, read, sleep, read…..Around midnight I went to shower and was reading a book on my iPad.
I checked my email because I hadn’t looked at it all weekend and sure enough, what
I never thought I would see again, an email from my estranged son
Dear Mom, I hope you had a nice Mothers Day. Maybe we can catch up sometime soon Love, and he signed it with not his first name but name he went by growing up. Surprisingly maybe, maybe not , I wasn’t sure if I was thrilled to hear from him or not. I have been through so much but have a great therapist and husband,
I did reply , short reply though. And he lives in another city, has since College
He emailed me back a mature, not angry letter, about a job change he was enjoying and some happy news and some pictures. When I emailed him back after seeing the Mothers Day post, I included a recent photo of myself, he replied, Mom you look fantastic! I don’t know where this will lead but to you and everyone else – I never, in a million years thought this would happen. I have no expectations and feel……not a lot, strangely but of course am glad he is safe.
That’s where it stands now
I do not ever plan, ever again to walk on eggshells, to hand out money while being treated badly, getting the silent treatment, humiliating me, I don’t know what will happen. I do have self respect that I didn’t have through this long ordeal, off and, off and on, always under his “ conditions” and I “ obeyed” convinced he would grow up. Oh my goodness, the emotional torment,
I’m sure many are familiar, too familiar with that.
Not saying how I expect this to turn out, I may never hear from him again…..
I was not prepared to hear from him after that very long , almost 6 years.
He had been so cruel.
Best wishes to everyone
Today is my daughter’s 21th birthday – and the first birthday I have to spend without her (and she without me, of course). She moved out in September last year and cut contact in December 2021. At first I did not know why, I could only guess, since she sent me a 9-pages-long letter full of narcism accusations. And thought she had been influenced by certain online so-called therapists and narcism forums. Through her godmother I learned that my daughter’s father had told her lies before his death in February this year: Although he never really cared for her (I was a single mom from day one), he convinced her that I, her mother, had prevented him from seeing her all these years, even tried to get custody for her. Horrible lies he took with him to his grave. My poor child! However, although I was shocked I am also relieved to know this. I am in counselling and my counsellor is tryling to find a way so that my daughter and I will talk again. At the moment she does not want this, still mourning her dad, that she now believes has been kept away from her – and she cannot get back all the years she has lost. Nevertheless, if there might be a tiny bit of hope to reunite with your child, keeep fighting, I say! I have sent a parcel with a self-designed photobook to my daughter – showing all our birthday parties from age 1 to 20! Never give up! Love, Birgit
My sister’s daughter who at the time was only 15 went to a counselor due to having problems dealing with her father’s sudden death. My sister at the time was seeing a Psychiatrist to be put on meds for this terrible loss of her husband. The counselor whom my niece went to was giving my niece bad advice and even at 15 years old, my niece knew the counselor’s advice wasn’t sound. It had to do with her mother whom the counselor never met and whom my niece never mentioned. My sister told her Psychiatrist what this counselor said to her 15 year old daughter and this Psychiatrist told my sister that some of these counselors try to tear the parent/child relationship apart. He was so right and this was in the 1980s, so this has been going on for a while now. For a Psychiatrist to tell my sister this is really something and I admire the man for his honesty. My sister took her daughter out of counseling after that experience. This is so awful – a counselor who is suppose to be helping is the one who is destroying families.
My son has made the decision not to see me anymore or have any personal contact with me after starting a therapy with a prestigious psychologist from here where I live in Argentina. This psychologist is a friend of the psychologist who cares for his girlfriend with whom he lives and I advise her not to have contact with her mother. My son’s girlfriend listened to him for a while but it looks like she couldn’t because I see her on social media going to visit her mom. But my son was able to listen to his psychologist and from one day to the next he told me that he is an adult and needs not to see me beyond some birthday or family reunion. That happened 1 year ago and it still happens that way. I have tried everything. The last thing was a voice message of apology for something that happened 10 years ago that was the only thing I could find on my conscience that I could have done wrong. Nothing else happened to feel that rejection for me. In the social events that I was able to see, always with more people, his attitude towards me is one of distance and discomfort. I can’t understand how the influence of these psychologists can be so great! How can they destroy all the love we gave them. I was a very good mother and for the only thing I could have done wrong, I apologized. My son’s cold response was that he recommends therapy for me so that he can deal with his separation. What else can be done?
I am heartbroken and I blame it on Facebook and politics. My daughter and I have always been close. She was born from a first, brief, teenage marriage and later was adopted by her stepdad and we had another child, a boy. Everything has seemed fine to me over the years. We enjoyed each other’s company, saw each other, shared interests.
Then about a year ago, she attacked me about my political leanings because I had posted some things supporting my candidate and my views. She tore into me saying she didn’t understand why I had always hated political posts and suddenly I was making them. I told her I had never felt it necessary to do so before. She said she never wanted to speak to me again. It took a lot of cajoling to get her to interact with e again. I was incredulous that mere Facebook posts could break apart a family. So months passed and recently she tore into me again saying she never wanted to spend time with me and that I had BULLIED her her entire life. There is no foundation for this. She had a loving, supportive home. I think she is so angry that I disagree with her politically that she is telling herself a story that has now become her reality. I know there are two sides but even her stepdad says I was never anything but kind to her. She has recently called me a bully, a bitch and says I have dementia. My family members have laughed at that and said they have seen no sign. I think it is a very hurtful, below the-the-belt comment to insult my age if there is nothing else to accuse me of. I am devastated, but have decided to back off and not groveling this time. She is my daughter and I love her dearly. What is happening? I have heard of several other families with similar situations.
My daughter threw me over after starting to see a therapist 10 years ago. I went into town to meet her for a drink after work, (which was a regular thing for us) but this time she was very quiet. When I asked why, she replied “Why would I want to talk to someone who thinks I am shit?” I was stunned. My husband and I have always adored and, also, been slightly in awe of her, a beautiful, clever young woman. I suggested we go back to her apartment, where she proceded to wipe the floor with me, telling me what a miserable child she had been and what a terrible mother I had been, while I sobbed.
I turned for help to a therapist, who gave me good constructive advice tht actually worked and gradually we patched it up. We became good friends again.
But then, on the throw-away advice of a friend, I think, she gave up her very good job (she has a Master’s degree in International Law) to go free-lance, and moved back in with us. It was supposed to be temporary, but when she was still there after 6 or 7 months, I asked her to contibute to her board and lodging. She resisted and haggled. Eventually I thought we had an agreement, but I was wrong. After 21 months, by which time I had retired and my income was very diminished, there was a big row about her not paying her contribution, as well as other things like general attitude. My husband lost patience and said that, while he liked having her there, he thought it was time she stood on her own two feet (she wsa 31), She was hurt and upset, and took her stuff and left. We contacted her the next day to say we wanted to sort it out, to please come home, but since then she has not seen us, visited us or even allowed me to have her address.
But we were at my new grandson’s naming ceremony together, a year later, and after it I managed to speak to her and ask her why she wouldn’t even talk to me, and she replied: “I don’t want you in my life!” Devastating terrible words. But also rather strange. (Even if you don’t see your mother she’s in your life.)
A month later, a friend of mine was telling me about therapy she was having about her bad relationship with her brother. She said: “My therapist has made me see that I don’t want him in my life!” The same words!
I knew my daughter been seeing a psycho-therapist, and I started to suspect he was influencing her. I started googling “Therapists tell adult children to reject their parents.” I got nothing at first, but 27 million hits !! of sites offering advice on HOW to reject your parents, or WHY you should, or why your parents are to blame. (I was stunned. It’s a movement.) More recently, there has started to be a few, ginger articles appearing from within the psychology profession, asking whether therapists are really doing clients a favour advising them to cut off their families, when families are such an important support network – always followed by a pile-on of abuse.
I have also found and read two very interesting books, Madness on the Couch, about how parental blame was hard-wired into psychiatry from the very start, with mothers being blamed for causing schizophrenia, (schizophrenogenic mothers!) and autism (refrigerator mothers!) Psychiatry has moved on from this since the ’80s, but it’s stuck around in some psychotherapy, the media, the zeitgeist. The second book is called Bad Mothers, and examines how society has put the blame on mothers for just about everything imaginable, including the inability to have children.
Like all the other members of Rejected Parents, I have wept oceans over my daughter. My grief seemed like an octopus wrapped around my head. In 2020 my elder son tackled me, saying he hated how his family was fractured, that he “totally believed” that if there was a rift between a parent and a child it was 100% the parents’ fault, (even when the child was 34,) and asked me to take steps to heal the rift, suggesting mediation. This seemed a good idea because it is not focused on the past, but on getting to a new place in the future. I suggested it to my daughter, she agreed. Yay! Then she wouldn’t agree a start date. 6 months later, I tried to push her on it, and she unfriended me on the message service.
Totally upset again, back googling for help, I came across Rejected Parents. A life saver indeed. Reading your story, Sheri, and those of all the others sharing their strories, I learned of parents who had not made the mistakes I had made, or who couldn’t possily be accused of the things I am accused of and reproach my self for (divorce, remarriage, moving), still suffering this fate. It was balm to my grief to read your words: “You loved your children and you were a good Mom!” Because it’s true. I adored my children and I gave myself body and soul to them. I got your books and started doing the exercises, and it worked and I started to do better. I really moved into a new place, and I was also able to share it with a friend who is in the same boat. (Or swimming after the same boat, to mangle one of your great metaphors!)
Then last December, my daughter said she was ready to start mediation. She didn’t fancy the people I suggested, and found a therapist with a speciality in Mother-Daughter counselling on-line. Once a week we meet on zoom. We’ve done 11 sessions and it’s hell. The method involves talking about your relationship with your mother and your grandmother, though mostly it’s the mother. So I talk about my Mom, who’s not there and is long since passed away, and my daughter talks about me. And the woman she describes to this therapist week afer week is a total monster.
Now we’ve got to Attachment Theory. After a brief description of the 8 types we were asked to say which applied to us and our mothers. Last week I talked about mine, and yesterday my daughter talked about me. This is an hour, while you sit with your microphone on mute liestening to yourself being talked about. What she said was 90% untrue. I was stunned by the things she accused me of. And some of it would be pretty sick. For instance, she had a friend who was bi-polar who took her own life. It was very sad. My daughter was 28 at the time and devastated by it. She said yesterday that she had to do reverse-parenting so much that when she told me this friend had died – a friend that I’d only met once (true) – I had cried so much that she had had to comfort and support me, and therefore had to suppress her own grief. Imagine that! I may have shed some tears as I was hugged my daughter – upset for her as well as her friend – but but certainly not weeping or sobbing. And why would it have been better if I had remained unmoved?
This was her example of “reverse parenting.”
And that was just one of a litany of false accusations – Under “Sabotage of important occasions” — that we never celebrated her birthday, only chucked a card at her grudgingly. (I have photos of all her wonderful birthday parties through all her growing up…)
She says she has no trust in me because I refuse to recognise the traumas that she had to endure all her life. That if I don’t accept the truth of all her accusations then I’m just proving myself to be the parent she says I always was, who refused to ever allow her to talk. The therapist tells us this was “emotional silencing” and “emotional neglect” on my part. And she doesn’t seem to question or doubt a single word.
We don’t seem to be any further forward. I never suspected the terribly low opinion she has, not only of my parenting but of my whole personaility and character. My husband wants me to stop doing it, because I am ill afterwards, with pain around my heart, and crazed by it, unable to get it out of my head. But if I’m the one to stop doing it, I’m going to lay myself open to accusations of not wanting to retrieve the relationship. So I’m still “swimming after the boat.”
I’m afraid the progress I had made after joining RP.net and doing the homework has been swept away. But today’s newsletter and post is coincidentally relevant to my story.
So Thank you, Sheri, for your excellent work in supporting us all, and everone for all your posts – everyone lends a new perspective. And Thank you for directly addressing this problem of anti-parent therapists in today’s post. Therapists have enormous power and, if our child falls into the hands of one who blames parents, our kid will soon be taught how to construct water-tight arguments that they were raised in “unhealthy attachment models”, and that their parents have ruined their lives.
We’re powerless against them.
The torture you’re being sold as therapy sounds like it is traumatizing you. I think you’ll need therapy for the therapy… !
I’m not making light. Just disgusted about it and feel for you.
Let me know what you decide to do. Be careful with yourself…your heart, psyche, overall health. They work together. Stress can wreak havoc and these meetings sound full of stress.
Kindly and with a hug,
Jill, your story is truly heartbreaking and I feel like you have described my life with my daughter exactly. The things your daughter has said I have heard these exact words from my daughter. I feel your pain. I’m going through this stuff right now. 26 year old with a 6 year old living with me since her separation almost 4 years ago. Lots of ups and downs. My friends say I sound like someone of domestic abuse. I had no idea that there were therapists counseling like this. I came to this site for hope and now I’m even more discouraged. I thought she just needs time but we will be able to do some therapy and work together on this. I feel like this confirms I will never have a relationship with my daughter and at the moment she is keeping my granddaughter away from me. They are still in my house but she’s managing to not be there when I am and/or they stay locked in their room on that side of the house. I can understand my daughter needing time and space but to not allow me to see my grandchild is just heartbreaking. She’s an innocent child and we have a close relationship. I don’t even know what she is telling her to hate me. I don’t even know how to accept this and try and move on. It’s an unexplainable kind of pain.
I read your story and was very moved by it, but I would like to suggest you stop that therapy. To my mind, it’s a way for your daughter to continue to beat you up and use you as her whipping post. My daughter wants to do the same thing, just not in therapy. My story is very similar to yours in a lot of ways. I’m 5 years into estrangement now. It’s gotten easier but not easy.
Try to stay focused on the fact that this IS a national trend – a zeitgeist – and that everywhere you turn you see messages to our youngers that we’re all toxic, narcissist, selfish, neglectful, boundary-disrespecting abusers. And when we’re not horrible parents, no one really hears us, and even if they claim to understand, it’s our fault anyway, it’s our job to apologize, our task to change ourselves, remediate and exonerate.
It’s never right and it’s never enough.
People aren’t meant to grieve forever.
You do not owe your daughter your happiness, and at this point, you don’t even owe her hers!
I was a great mother, just a victim of a horrible societal trend that I can’t control.
None of this is my choice.
My door is always open; hers is always closed….who’s “toxic”?
We are powerless over them, but not ourselves. That therapy seems to be sapping you of your own power. Find a way to take it back.
With caring and understanding,
Dear Beloved Ones,
Don’t allow the person who broke your heart to be the reason you can’t eat, sleep, or function right. They don’t deserve to keep you paralyzed. This Is Your Precious Life…
GET UP AND START LIVING!!!
I check into this Healing Community Website each and every morning and each and every night…Each of You, and Beautiful Sheri, are continually in my prayers each and every morning and and each and every night…We are not alone…May Each of You Be Blessed In Body, Mind, & Spirit…
In Gratitude & Friendship,
I really…REALLY…like the words you’ve used Carrie-Ann. This brilliantly echos my own sentiments regarding my three offspring (I use the term deliberately…they have not acted like respectful children, therefore do not deserve to be called that). Two adult females, youngest is 25, with a male in between. Estrangement has been complete and on-going with the females for over 8 years…the male has had sporadic e-mail contact every 1 – 3 years. Last contact with him was Fall 2020, and I had long prior decided to stop the “eggshell-walking”, and told him what I thought while avoiding being vulgar.
Essentially, the youngest falsely accused me of sexual assault, completely out-of-the-blue, long distance (is about 700 miles from where I am to where she was at the time), and just after she’d spent what I thought was a very nice Spring Break with my Lovely Bride and I…no indications whatsoever regarding this were picked up by my close circle of Family and Friends, including my Lovely Bride, prior to this accusation being made. The eldest offspring immediately grabbed on to that and promulgated it, and the male, so far as I could tell, decided to “go along to get along”.
Fast-forward to Fall 2020…I told the male that if he really and truly believed I did was I was accused of…then DAMN HIM FOR A COWARD!! I noted that if I really, truly, believed that my departed, and DEARLY BELOVED, Father had done such to my Sister, there would have been a physical confrontation between he and I…one of us would have been physically whipped, but he, apparently, is not MAN enough to attempt to protect his sister. Conversely, if I had any doubts about rumors of such goings-on, I would have sought a face-to-face conversation with him and any potential witnesses to try to get to the truth of the matter…there was no attempt, whatsoever, to do this by the male. I did not get, nor do I ever expect, a response to this, but that is, indeed, how I truly feel.
Since that estrangement, and the brutal court dealings (resulting in the accusations being summarily dismissed by a Circuit Court Judge…) resulting from the false accusations, I have learned to deal with how things ARE, as opposed to how I want them to be…and I am WWWAAAYYY better for it!!
I HEARTILY APPLAUD your advice above…there are way too many vital, and very rewarding, Familial and Friendship relationships for me to nurture and enjoy for me to let the evil machinations of my offspring, and their influential maternal family, dominate my otherwise VERY joyful life…especially that of my Lovely Bride – I WILL NOT let anyone on this earth make her cry like that ever again!!!
Hugs & Love to All♥️
Yes, some Therapist are using the No Contact solution for conflict resolution. Since my estranged relationship with my oldest son I’ve been seeing a therapist. I had explained to her that my relationship with my own mother was toxic. My Mom’s in a religious cult that shuns me. Yet I still contact her to let her know that I Love her regardless of her emotional alienation from me. She will only speak to me briefly, every so often. This hurts so much not to be close to my mom, & I’m discouraged from visiting her unless it’s an emergency.But she’s my Mom & I Love her dearly. My therapist suggested I go no contact with my mom I explained to her that I know the pain of No Contact. I would never do that to human being. I’m not perfect & I know my mom’s brainwashed. She’s my Mom
We definitely live in a “cancel culture”! The underlying themes are: “I am a victim. You hurt me and ruined my life. You are bad. I am deleting you.”
Whatever your problem is, you can find someone to blame, and you can delete them.
This is the complete opposite of taking responsibilty for your life, overcoming difficulties, and valuing effort and achievement!
What a deranged culture we live in. But…we can’t waste our energy blaming the culture. We must move forward with our lives. Upward and onward!
It is cult psychobabble coming from someone who has unresolved childhood issues and is transferring their issues and prognosis’ onto the world, using social media.
I see the same behavior, one after another, in our kids. Mine do and say the same things as yours. I was informed a few years ago, because I was a victim of crime in my childhood (and my adulthood) by this cult and did not know or remember and was never informed of what happened to me by my family or anyone else, until recently.
It is NOT anything we’ve done. Or any reflection of our parenting. It is what all the ‘cool’ people are doing now … joining the cult. There is A lot of influence out there, through social media and the entertainment industry.
Excuse me! The world that I grew up in is gone? The world of
Respect for yourself, your parents, siblings and all others is gone?
I understand my handicap has left me a bit isolated but this!!!
Is this my sons reasoning for kicking me out of his life!!!??
I am never speechless but this has done it!!
If we don’t do something soon…………
I like the word you used – “deranged”. That is so very true.
My daughter saw a therapist after we had a fight (the details of which are gone from my mind because this happened in 2015!) and I just recently found out this very unethical therapist, who has never spoken with me, seen me, or invited me to a joint session with my daughter, suggested to my daughter that I am mentally ill, labeling me as a Borderline Personality. Having been thru therapy for depression during my 2 divorces, no one had ever suggested or treated me as such. Now my daughter has given me a laundry list of all the things I did “wrong” from when she was a teenager and beyond. I feel like the last 30 yrs of my life had been negated and invalidated. She has taken from me the ONLY thing that has mattered to me–her presence in my life as she is my only child. She has also taken away my contact with her 2yr old daughter and a new baby born a couple weeks ago who my daughter will not tell me anything more about her (i already knew it was another girl). Her husband supports her of course.
If I knew who this therapist was/is I could definitely question her “therapy” with my daughter. I am a retired RN and this is malpractice.
Hi Debra, I’m Elba and my daughter’s therapist did exactly the same . My daughter told me about their conversations during “therapy ” time . I think is unfair when a professional that supposedly help for good relationship with a child ,end destroying a whole life forever. All I can say is,I know how you feel.
I posted about this cult yesterday, but I also want to say that my brainwashed daughter basically said the only way we could have a relationship is if we go to therapy together. I declined. I told her that the only therapy needed would be for her to have told me what was happening to her in her childhood, I had no knowledge of, and had I known, I would have put a legal stop to it immediately! We did NOT have a “toxic relationship” until she conceded into the cult five years ago. She needs to go to therapy with her abusers, not me. Be careful because this cult wants to get everyone in the room with their ‘therapist’ and use these tactics or “ultimatums” to hopefully suck in new members. Cult members are required to recruit and use their ‘therapists’ to do it. No way, absolutely not!
Hi Debra, without getting too much into my story, as I have shared on the site, my oldest of three boys, who has a soon to be 4 year olds son, with many stressors ongoing in his life, job loss divorce etc…began saying the same thing about me, also a nurse, that I had BPD…Queen subtype! My spouse and I offered him lodging for 1 year, but with visits to see him and my grandson, I was tortured! Could do nothing right, accusations of abuse on me by my dad..he would roll over in his grave, as he had a good relationship with my son. He tried to take everyone away from me, my spouse my other sons. A breaking point came when I audiotaped one of his aggressive encounters, witnessed by my husband and went to the ER, they called in MH crisis team to him and he was brought in for a evaluation, I chose to be assessed and was discharged as responding appropriately to stressors. Since that time, now 1 year plus, he has removed himself and my grandson from our lives and his whole extended family…the manipulative behaviour continued on down the line. We now are going to court for grandparent access. It is a nightmare, as it must be for you, especially as it is your only child….I am told by my counsellor, that rock bottom may need to come before he has insight..he has gone to enlightenment..I truly hope I stay in dark! Go on with your life, don’t let her hold you ransom….likely mental health component. Speaking for my son, he wasn’t truthful, as when I went to his counsellor as asked by my son, he had told me the psychologist had told him to cut ties with me and that I was BPD…when I addressed that with his psychologist, with my first encounter…being a nurse said what professional would do that..diagnose someone without meeting them…it clarified that as an untruth. We all know the gruesome pain, you have to move forward, put your head up high, and know that while not perfect, we were good parents. live for today, hope for tomorrow, and like the 3 C,s someone cited here, u didn’t cause it, can’t control it, and can’t cure it…I tell my son my door is always open and there is nothing we can’t overcome, even the public utube videos and Facebook videos, chastising us for abuse and neglect. Thanks to Sherri and her hard work, in keeping so many parents alive!!! Literally
I agree that some therapists are quick to judge based on their clients information. I have offered to meet my daughter in therapy but she has refused. She maintains that she is still seeing a therapist but I question as her accusations and information are off. I divorced her dad when she was 12. I tried to get her into therapy then but she refused. It did not help that my oldest in college was a Daddy’s girl and very complicit in undermining me during the divorce. He is a sexual addict and alcoholic, and covert narcissist. I know I was codependent and a people pleaser, very trauma bonded. I grew up with similar dynamic and did two years of therapy to work through my anger over all of it. It has been hell ever since I walked out. I had a very successful career, master in counseling probably to figure the why in my life. I have been accused of things I know are not true. She has blamed me for cutting, anorexia, and every other problem I did not know about. I found out that she was sexually acting out and addressed it. Every time, I tried to help her there has been more backlash. She is in college, was diagnosed with ADD before the pandemic. On anxiety meds, and it has gone down hill from there. I saw her last year for her birthday, took her to a favorite restaurant of hers, and she says I was not happy with her because she was boring and all she wanted to do is go home and sleep. To me this suggests depression. I have seen her rage over money. I believe she is mentally ill. My parents set up money and I decided that I would no longer pay college expenses and it would come out of her trust account. I was threatened with no longer being a part of her life or future. It has been a year with no physical contact on her part. I am just where my ex sends them when they need money. I already did this with older daughter. Yesterday, I booked a trip to Israel and Jordan with two friends. We met on a trip a year ago. We chat daily. She lost her mom in her childhood. Last night, I realized it is the same week as my daughters graduation. I would not be invited and perhaps this is better but I have spent the day grieving another milestone that I have been erase from. Feeling I have no purpose without my children. I guess, I needed to see this post today. Thank you! I know that I provided for both my children and gave them a good life but this is so hard to comprehend. My friends encourage moving on. It is hard wondering Why?
Wow … Almost the same story as my only child, a daughter 24 years old. Her therapist years ago after the divorce was all directed at my faults. After 3 sessions and a charge for a service to my daughter that pushed her away more! It’s been 12 yrs since then. We tried a few times to reconcile, but as my beautiful but niave daughter ” she hates the sound of my voice . What am I supposed to do with that? We tried Thanksgiving 2 yrs ago, and that was when she came clean about stealing 10K from me! Our relationship has been a struggle at every turn. We’ve been apart way more than together 🙁
I had to make a difficult choice once again … do I try at a hopeless bonding or do what was necessary to get my life savings back. She now pays me xxxx amt me monthly til 2025. According to her and her current therapist, I ruined her life a long time ago. We have no contact , she moved far away, blocked me and severed me from her life. I don’t know where or how’s she doing. It rips my heart out every single day, some worse than others .. holidays, birthdays- heck, I don’t even get a text on mothers day or my birthday. Everyone says she’ll come around- but she has no intention of doing so.
Pls. Keep us strong! – a heartbroken Mom
My daughter had a similar dialog with me that her “so called” therapist had labeled me toxic. Since I do have a Master’s in Counseling, I pointed out that it is” highly Unethical” to diagnose someone based on the client’s statements. That this is an ethics violation. I did spend a year in therapy after my divorce. A good therapist is one who works on you and your role in your relationships. I know I am a People pleaser, Co dependent, and sought approval from my family. Very little time was spent on my ex or to place blame on him. I think these kid’s are being allowed to believe they are victimized by cruel abusive parents. Most mention a text or email.rather than ia conversation as they lack interpersonal skills My daughter refuses to take any responsibility for problems in the relationship. For a relationship to work, it must be mutual and reciprocal based on trust. They deflect their behaviors by placing blame on their parents. I finally told her to find another scapegoat. I have to protect my boundaries and will not be a part of her craziness or lies.
On January 7, 2007, my 79 year old father was run down in a crosswalk by a texting driver that run the red light. Fifty-four agonizing hours later we made the decision he wanted us to make should this situation arise: We turned off the machines and held his hands as he died
Both of my sons disagreed with this. Both vanished after his funeral. My wife of 26 years blamed me for our loss and divorced me. So it’s not Father’s Day anymore. Hasn’t been for 14 years. Eventually the pain – then the anger – subsided. I moved far away. Eventually I remarried, but NO more children.
It is as though I have lived two separate lives. And the only way it’s been possible for me was I had to throw away every picture, letter, report card and anything else from my previous life. All contacts erased, all rolodex addresses shredded, all phone numbers changed and blocked. Once it became apparent they were never going to talk to me again, I had to make sure they never could again for my sake, for my protection. I have no social media presence either for the same reason.
I don’t want to know about possible wives or grandchildren there might of been. I’ve already missed them growing up. I used to love children, now I avoid them. My eventual death will be unknown to them. For all I know, they could be dead too. And all of this happened because some idiot couldn’t put his phone down while driving.
Still think it’s okay to text and drive?
So sorry for your losses, Charles.
My husband feels a lot like you do about our estranged daughters. In fact today he said it feels like the deaths of still-living people, which is something we have never had to even imagine before the estrangement. We heard through an extended family member that our eldest would call us today for Father’s Day but there has been no call so far and he said that he would ignore it if it did come. She is someone who does things only for appearance sake, so that she could say she called. But one call on Father’s day and never at any other time isn’t genuine and this fact stings hard. This kind of disingenuous effort feels worse than silence.
I believe that there are times we have to begin a new life as you have and I’m so happy for you that you had the motivation and desire to do that. That was brave.
And allowing your wonderful father to pass away as he wanted to was also brave, and a loving act of kindness. No one else had the right to say a word about it. That’s the meaning and purpose of Living Wills and they must be honored.
Today I told my husband to focus all his thoughts on the cherished memories of his dear deceased father and not on our cold and callous children. Still, there is the sorrow in every loving father’s heart that can’t be erased and for that we can only pray for healing.
It is so sad how many parents are in this situation where their children want no contact. y children lived at home until they were 26 years old, then went and bought their own homes. We never took any money from them, just told them to save. They both had great careers. I cooked, cleaned their rooms, & washed their clothes until the day they left. My daughter got married at 36, and we paid for her wedding gown, and wedding in Newport, R.I. She was an accountant, and her husband was a salesman for Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. My husband and myself are just middle class individuals. She told my husband it was his responsibility to pay for her wedding. A year later, she had a child, and we were asked to be the fulltime babysitters, so she could go back to work. We drove from Rhode Island to Massachusetts daily, to do this. She had an argument with her brother while we we there one day, and my son decided we should leave because he didn’t want us to be involved between them. Well, she stopped speaking to all three of us, it was 2010, then started to speak to him again in 2018. She gave every person a different story why she stopped talking. The biggest one, was that we were toxic. No matter how many times my husband & I tried to call, write, or go to the house, both her & her husband wouldn’t open their door, or answer or return calls. She use to be extremely close to my husband. So I would hear him say, I will be heartbroken forever, until she comes back in my life. My husband was a very healthy man, never sick, walked 3 miles a day, ate healthy, & worked out. He woke up one Saturday and said he felt so sick to his stomach, I called the rescue, & my husband coded in the rescue. They revived him. He coded the 2nd time in the emergency room. He was revived again, but remained unconscious. After 11 days he was diagnosed as brain death. He went to his death in 2018, with her still never talking to him either. At his service I went up to her with her husband by her side, and just said Txxxx, out of mouth came DON’T, her husband put his arm around her waist, and sweep her away. I was so broken when the decision had to be made over whether to take my husband off machines, I asked my 45 year old son to make the decision, because he is a research scientist. My husband’s death, was caused from a pulmonary embolism. He did, with the advice of his best friend by his side, a nurse practitioner & firefighter. After one year of my husband’s death, and one year after connecting back up with his sister, he stopped talking to me, his former friends, and his close cousin. These were the people that were by his side, to help him through the death of his father. My heart is so broken, but I am also bitter that my daughter let her father go to his death, still never speaking to him. So sad, Terri
OMG Terri, I cried reading your story. Such heartless, selfish humans don’t deserve your tears or even a second thought, but I feel your pain.
Know that you did your best and God will decide their fate – God will never let such cruel coldhearted humans go without punishment. Yours, mine and all these other adult children that have torn our hearts to pieces.
Your husband is in a better and happier place. I don’t have the words to console you but sending you a hug and hoping you can go on and build your life.
For myself this is particularly frustrating. My children’s step-mom is a therapist and has abused me for 12 years now. I have lost contact with a daughter and 4 grandchildren I helped care for on a regular basis. 20 minutes away and I’ve been threatened if I attempt contact. My entire marriage and parenting history have been rewritten by someone I haven’t even had a conversation with face-to-face (one text session requesting she leave some space for their father to be a parent went badly as she couldn’t stay on topic – the texts ended when I stated that I could understand why her husband, my ex, chose not to discuss it with her and begged me to). There’s no getting heard when a “professional” is what call an “influential adversary.”
Yes, the influential adversary can be anyone … I talk about these people who steal (or, they sometimes say rescue) people we love and who are susceptible in Done With The Crying. Sorry you’ve encountered one with these credentials…
For hundreds of years families have stayed together. They had reunion’s, holiday dinners, weddings, birthdays parties ,showers, funeral get-togethers. They kept the family connected and united. It’s history!
I have not seen or heard from my 2 children and 9 grandchildren for 5 years. My only contact has been my daughter in law. She is caught in the middle. She has strong ties with her side which I am glad. I can only move forward. I know God never intended for us to be like this. These books have showed me the importance of seeking a good life for myself and not looking back to old triggers that cause destructive pain.
Thank you for writing, Carol. I wish it were different but you seem to have come to terms. I’m grateful for your words and glad you found my books of use. Once we see something, we can create new ways forward.
Hugs to you!
I am a single mom and I haven’t spoken to my daughter since Christmas when she said some cruel things to me and left me to drive 1000 miles home by myself. Why? I am not sure but she insists it was all the “ yelling” in our home as she was growing up. I simply don’t remember our household that way. But, a line in the passage above struck me: are a parent’s mistakes worthy of hate? Few people know of my estrangement from my daughter but I’ve been saying to them almost the same thing: few people should ever be judged solely by their worst mistake.
Like others, I’ve reached out with no response. Except I received an email on my birthday. In the subject line it said Happy Birthday. That was it. No message. No sign off. Just a subject line wish. I suppose I should be happy that she “reached out” but I’m not. It seemed more like an “F -you” than a genuine wish. I know I don’t deserve any of this but, nevertheless, I am heartbroken—so much so that there is a real pain in my chest. I’m glad others here have managed to, in some small, way enjoy life. I cannot. I am a turtle who has withdrawn into a shell. People no longer interest me. Family no longer interests me. TV no longer interests me. Books no longer interest me. I cannot bear to hear others talk about their kids. I just mostly go to work and sleep.
But, despite my unhappiness I want my child to be happy. I don’t know that she is. Because I don’t know anything about her life. Not even where she is living. But, I want her to have a grand life and to be happy.
I can relate to your story sadly. After years of this kind of treatment I just gave up and said to myself my life has no meaning. It came after another blow up and her not talking to me once again ( can’t count the times) I’m older now and I just couldn’t find a reason anymore to even hope to be a part of their lives. I no longer wished to live. It’s so hard trying to convince someone your worth caring for. To just be nice and inclusive. I feel like I walk on egg shells around her. Then I found out I had lymphoma. I flew home to attend my granddaughter grad. No time for me other than the graduation itself . (Never included unless it’s for show) Finally one day before I left S. awarded me time. Listened to her about her life for hours and when the convo turned to me was chided for not being stronger and more positive about my diagnosis as it was put to me “Mother everyone dies!” We aren’t close and never have been. No I don’t want to be I’ve accepted that we will never be close. She’s done her best to keep me on the outside except for when she needed money of course. I tried to tell her that any reason for being positive about having cancer is to live for something and to feel valued and wanted and loved. S. was harsh and cruel. She didn’t like I told her how her words affected me and stood up to her. I felt like I was gas lighting myself. Here I am afraid and worried and allowed to feel how I feel it’s all so new just being diagnosed a month and then with her ke trying to make myself sound like it wasn’t ok to feel those things thst I needed to prove to her just how strong and positive I am. Like I was not there you know. How can you go about your life and act like nothing is wrong when you have decisions to make and appointments to attend? I’m trying my best. S. came across as being very uncaring and cold and yet I’m the toxic one according to her. The other day on medium( an online writing forum) I responded to a writer who constantly blasts her mother for every thing much like this article. All I said to her was I can tell your very angry and hope you get some healing and peace. I didn’t even give my opinion about how she always seems to attack her mom for everything. I let her have her own voice. But S. wouldn’t tolerate mine in thst I said everyone has a different perspective and relationships are never easy. She wrote back very aggressively and took it offensively attacking me and saying how I must not know anything blah blah blah… I mean I guess I hit the mail on the head about her anger. Anyway I didn’t answer her back. I felt like everything she was saying she was projecting. I guess I have to live with acceptance of my daughter not being in my life like I want just as she has accepted me not to be in hers like she wants. I don’t understand it to my dying day.
Well I’m hope what to I am will say can help you in some small way.
1. There actually is a Medical Condition known as Broken Heart Syndrome. In the recent horrible shooting of school children in Uvalde Tx one of the victims was a teacher. Two days later that teachers husband was so overcome that he too died of a massive cardiac arrest. Evidently when humans become that stressed with grief the heart becomes flooded with Cortisols and other stress hormones which can lead to death.
2. I can just share that this kind of grief takes longer than most because other forms of grief stem from a finality if some kind but this particular pain that we suffer is the gift that keeps on giving because somewhere these humans that we washed and pottied and hugged and fed and loved…somewhere they are going on with their lives while we become frozen in time.
You say this started around last Xmas..and I will tell you now that is still very raw and fresh. For myself it was my daughter in law who simply decided one day to divorce me from my son and their two boys. My son reluctantly has complied completely with her. That was four years ago and for me the first six months were a depressive nightmare. I had never felt so totally powerless and angry and sad all at once.
But after two years I was able to wake up and not feel my heart was in my mouth. Making myself go out and do things helped and I no longer feared the judgements of others. If pushed I put the responsibility where it lies and just say my daughter in law just didn’t like me and had made me some hurtful decisions regarding any further relationship with her husband, my son, and my two grandkids
Yes, Su, there really is such a thing as a broken heart. I wrote about that in Done With The Crying and also in this article: https://www.rejectedparents.net/parents-estranged-adult-children-broken-heart/ which links to other information.
Regarding waking up after two years and feeling better, I’m so glad for you. I hope parents will attain some peace even sooner though, which is what my work is all about.
HUGS to you, and thank you for your comment. So sorry about your heartbreaking experience . . . and that you have seen light and are moving forward.
Thank you, Su, for your response. I know I’ve cocooned myself in my own misery but I feel lonely nonetheless. Friends (of which I don’t have many) simply do not understand and are tired of my grief. Of my quietness. They have distanced themselves. They don’t reach out, even by a simple text. My sister also has distanced herself. She sent me a long text a few months ago about my “negativity.” We used to talk every day but haven’t spoken in months.
I would have swore an oath that I was a good mom. The fact that my daughter so vociferously doesn’t think so has literally caused me to doubt and double and triple think every decision I make. If I was so wrong about my skills as a mom, what else am I wrong about? It takes me an hour to hit the purchase button on even the smallest thing while I have an inner debate in my head about whether I should buy it. Or whether my dog needs to go to the vet. I know it is stupid but…there I am.
I also fear judgment. I know people think I did something to make my daughter break away. That they really doubt my confusion about the situation and doubt that the only reason I’ve ever been given is “yelling.” So, I don’t share my situation with many. Those that don’t know wonder, I’m sure, why I’m walking around like the walking dead. Those that do know? Like I said, they’ve backed away. Like my grief is contagious.
Anyway, to all who patiently read this post, thanks for listening.
Sheri I’ve been reading your book and it helps. I also have the workbook and other book I wrote my heart is still broken in a million pieces. I have a daughter who is 42 hasn’t spoken to me in 10 yrs and I haven’t seen my grandchildren either then two of my 3 sons doesn’t talk to me anymore since his father and my ex died on April 22nd. What happened was my son 36 who is in China teaching texted me two weeks after his father died and asked me if my other two sons had called to tell me about their fathers and my ex’s death. I was in shock when I found out and I texted both of my other two sons and asked them why they didn’t tell me and that if it wasn’t for my son in China I would of never known. Well one of my sons got mad at me and stopped talking to me because I didn’t ask him how he was doing since the death of his father and said I yelled at him. Fact is I didn’t yell at him I was just asking why I had to wait 2 weeks to find out my ex died and I wasn’t told right away. And if it wasn’t for my son in China and getting his text I wouldn’t of known. So now two of my sons are not talking to me. But if I wasn’t told he died how can I send my condolences until two weeks later. My sons wife of course cursed my out and said some mean things being very disrespectful. So now I have 3 out of my four kids not talking to me!!!! No matter what I say or do it’s never right. My sons in laws can do no wrong and they are always together example going on trips together visiting each other, spending holidays together which I was told because my daughter doesn’t talk to me i can’t spend holidays with them cause otherwise she won’t spend the holidays with them if I’m there. I’m hurting so bad and I lost . I don’t know and guess will never know what on earth I did to my daughter and now my sons don’t talk to me because all I asked was why they didn’t tell me about my exs death and had to wait two weeks for my son in China to tell me. What is going on with these adult kids
Today? What and how do they think
I am beginning to think that our kids have had so many material things that they base their success and happiness on such. Thus,they have become narcissistic. They no longer need us. We are are like history..gone! The past doesn’t have meaning.Our culture is changing. Unborn are aborted, kids are being pulled away from parents because of sex education, our adult kids are being brained washed that we parents are toxic. All are efforts to divide up and separate family members. Division causes separation which causes distance which causes less feelings of loss. I believe some day, the elderly will be facing early death so the younger ones will have freedom from guilt and have closure..
I have not seen my daughter in 4 years and my 2 granddaughters are growing up not knowing me too. I feel your pain. I too wonder if i will ever see her again or will i die not feeling my daughter hug me ever again. She has also rejected her brother. I recently made contact 3 months ago by text and remarkably she did answer and wanted to try to rebuild a relationship but she never messages me and i feel all contact now is only if i instigate it then she replies but she is not trying and i wonder if i am just being a fool chasing her. I dont.know their address i feel like a stranger now.
Seems there is a “New Movement”, they refer to themselves as “RO” meaning Our Own and is a “friends and family” network for everyone who joins. It is a cult that has been around for decades but grew virally through social media. They are based on satanic beliefs and practices and ONLY interact with other members who replace their traditional families. They encourage members to perform all of the bible commandments backward, I e. Thou shalt DIS honor thy parents (unless they are in the cult).
It may not be the cause of estrangement for everyone, but I know it is with my two kids. I am shocked, I wouldn’t even let my kids watch movies that referenced satan in our home! They won’t speak to me now, it’s been about five years. When I try, they verbally attack me and try to convince me I’m crazy (gaslighting) taught to do by the cult when confronted.
My son and daughter are adults almost 30 and 40 years old, have good jobs and are home owners. I have two grandkids that I’ve never known. My kids and I were VERY close, but they are completely brainwashed now and act like two people I’ve never known. This was going on behind my back for most of their lives by their father’s and other family members, my kids were forced to lie to me. When I divorced 9 years ago, the truth slowly came out. It is completely unreal to me that I was totally deceived for so many years, by so many people.
Absolutely. It was a local Relate therapist who told my daughter to estrange herself ( when in fact she was, and still is, being gaslighted by a controlling boyfriend).
Therapy here in the UK isn’t well regulated, and this fashion of blaming parents will eventually come home to roost in wider society.
We had this from a social worker (involved due to her children at the time having to live with us) in the UK too. Devastating to say the least. These “professionals” are often working through their own trauma & give advice based on their own stuff. That’s what I thought was happening.
And you are right that one day it will catch up.
It has been almost 5 years for me. We felt like the decision did more damage to not just us as a family but the long term impact on our grandchildrens psychological health is also very worrying.
Unbelievable that the social workers completely believed whatever our daughter told her, without even speaking to our other children – one of whom was a child at the time. It was so wrong. And lazy work.
I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been betrayed by people who could have helped the situation too.
Elizabeth, thank you for posting this. I am also in the UK and am actually a Relate trained relationship therapist myself. I am saddened to hear that there seem to be some unethical therapists like your daughter’s who influence vulnerable young clients in this way. I agree that our profession isn’t as well regulated as in other countries but I don’t think estrangement is as prevalent here as it is in the US. I actually haven’t come across it very much in my practice. If people talk to me about their difficulties with their parents or families I always encourage them to address their issues with the people concerned but certainly not to cut them off. It’s definitely not the solution.
I am the mother of an estranged daughter who cut me out of her life 18 months ago. I was shocked and devastated and can relate to the feelings of all the mothers here.
I did my best for my much loved only child (son) estranged for 18 years and decided after seemingly filling the world’s oceans with my tears that my lesson, after forgiving both he and myself, that I would try to fill my life with what I enjoy. I continue to send a short text for Birthday/ Christmas (never acknowledged) and try to find some joy in every day !
Living in hope.
A heart broken mother.
Here I am, late at night wondering why my heart aches (chest really hurts). My throat has a lump and I feel like crying. I was doing so well!
Father’s Day is a special day. I lost my husband several years ago and my Dad in 2018. I’m not suffering for them. I know there in a much happier place than I am at the moment.
I’m estranged from my daughter and after 6 years I’m living again from my husbands death and her. So why am I hurting?
I think that my daughter’s estrangement has a lot to do with it!
By estranging herself from me would hurt my husband deeply and also desolve our family heritage. I have not seen my daughter or grandsons in five years. I try to make things better in the situation by thinking my daughter just doesn’t want to hurt again from maybe my death. I’ve gotten to the point were I don’t even know who she is anymore. I send monetary Christmas and birthday gifts to my grandsons. This year, I almost made the mistake of sending my estranged daughter roses on her birthday. In fact my favourite color my husband gave me the day of her birth. I did not! I know she would still think she had my unwaving love.
I knew I needed to leave her alone for my on health. I may not ever see her again and I’m going to live! If someone you love dearly, gave birth to, love them with every fiber of your being, and they estrange you? I just lift her up to God and pray for her. There is NOTHING I can do to change her, but the Lord can for her sake.
This is not an easy time for me, and like I said, I haven’t any idea why I’m hurting the Father’s Day. Then, I got this letter and it gave me a chance to talk about it.
Thank you, Sheri
You’re so welcome. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your thoughts and know that others will relate.
In plain terms your daughter sounds selfish, it’s hard to understand how someone could turn their back on parents that love them isn’t it