Heartbroken parents: Are you to blame?

heartbroken parents

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.

Do something

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,

Sheri McGregor

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40 thoughts on “Heartbroken parents: Are you to blame?

  1. Birgit

    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

  2. Sunnyside2019

    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.

    1. Mabel

      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?

  3. India

    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.

  4. Jill

    Hi Sheri,
    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.


    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Jill,

      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,
      Sheri McGregor

    2. Casey

      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.

  5. Carrie-Ann

    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…

    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,

  6. Ashley

    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

  7. Naomi

    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!

    1. Teresa

      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.

    2. JanPhyllis

      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…………

  8. Debra G.

    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.

    1. Elba F.

      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.

    2. Teresa

      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!

    3. Beverly

      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

    4. Missy

      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?

  9. Charles

    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?

    1. Tovah

      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.

  10. Terri I.

    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

    1. Shazia

      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.

  11. Cami

    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.”

    1. rparents Post author

      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…

      Sheri McGregor

  12. Carol B.

    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.

    1. rparents Post author

      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!
      Sheri McGregor

  13. Tired of Crying

    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.

    1. Majea

      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.

    2. Su

      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.
      Even suicidal

      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

    3. rparents Post author

      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.

      Sheri McGregor

  14. Kathy

    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

    1. Carol B.

      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..

  15. Lorraine K.

    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.

  16. Teresa

    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.

  17. Elizabeth L.

    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.

    1. Jules

      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.

    2. Grace R.

      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.

  18. Aldona M.

    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.

  19. Mom's heart

    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

    1. rparents Post author

      You’re so welcome. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your thoughts and know that others will relate.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Jules

      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

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