Holidays: How to manage them

adult child who is estrangedThe holidays are here, and for parents with an adult child who is estranged, the festivities may trigger some emotional low points. Being aware of this has helped me develop a realistic view of my happiness, and enjoy the celebrations. If you manage expectations, the holidays can be good ones.

Great Expectations, a Realistic View

Over the holidays, we may feel pressured to radiate joy we don’t necessarily feel. If you have ever confided a deep emotional pain and been told to “get over it,” then you know how hurtful the response can be. Just getting over something is easier said than done, particularly for abandoned parents during the holidays when much focus is on traditions and family ties. Make sure you’re not the one issuing brusque dictates, telling yourself you should be over this by now. I know from experience that unrealistic expectations set the stage for feelings of failure. Instead, take an honest view, and be kind to yourself. For me, during the holiday season, when my adult child who is estranged won’t be with the rest of us, that includes simplifying.

Your Feelings

Feeling a sense of loss is natural. Remain thankful for shared good times, cherish those fond memories, but be honest about your feelings now. For the time being, some shared traditions are over. Others may be more subdued. You may feel sorrow, regret, or even anger. Recognize your feelings for what they are: natural responses. Accept them then move forward as best you can.

Even after many years, parents may still miss their adult child who is estranged, and feel sadness during special days.  In writing my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, I heard the stories of more than 9,000 parents. Many of them spoke of feelings coming up from time to time. Events and circumstances can trigger old emotions.  Even when when we’ve worked through pain associated with an adult child who is estranged, the holidays can dredge up old wounds and sadness.

Enjoying the Celebrations

The first holiday season after my adult son’s estrangement, the break was so recent that I didn’t have the emotional energy to clearly think through or devise coping strategies for myself or the rest of the family. We celebrated anyway. We needed to begin building new memories associated with special days, which helped. You may find that beginning a new tradition is helpful.

holidays adult child estrangedThis year, for the first time, my family played horseshoes on Thanksgiving. The idea may sound silly, but participating in new activities can ease letting go of ones enjoyed before a family member became estranged. Inviting new people to holiday celebrations might also help keep parents (and the whole family) focused on the present rather than remembering hurt and loss.

While it’s natural to acknowledge and talk about loss with loved ones who share the experience or care about your feelings, avoid dwelling on the hurt. Honoring this year’s celebrations keeps you mindful of the present experience and helps positively shape future holidays.

Meanwhile, if you feel a need, consider a short ritual that acknowledges your feelings in a positive way. For instance, making a toast to the well-being and happiness of your adult child who is estranged could be meaningful. This could be in private, or with other family members who share your loss. Perhaps saying a heartfelt prayer, or lighting a candle in symbolic honor of your estranged adult son or daughter helps acknowledge the pain without dwelling. Even putting out a well-chosen decorative object can provide a point of reflection or honor, without being obtrusive.  rejected by adult childAn object that reminds me of happy times is often on display at my house: a little wooden bird that was given to me many years ago by my adult child who is estranged.

Permission to Grieve Over an Adult Child who is Estranged

Don’t strive for the unattainable. You’re human, and your feelings are normal. Check in with yourself each day. If you’re particularly sad, then a little extra self-care can help. Pretending you don’t feel bad drains energy. Consider exploring your feelings more fully. Journaling has been well-documented as an emotional aid. Five or ten minutes of writing your thoughts out or speaking into a voice recorder can provide a release, and may give you more specific insight into your feelings. For instance, you may realize what concerns you most about the annual Christmas Eve get-together is the possibility of questions about the estrangement from relatives who don’t know the current situation. Knowing this, you can prepare some ready answers or even an exit plan that takes you out of the conversation.

Shift your perspective from what you can’t control to what you can. Rather than wallow, do one small thing. Even a small accomplishment can help you feel better. Consider making a list of tasks you can turn to for energizing when you’re feeling low. Neglecting normal routines can complicate your life. If the mail piles up, a late charge can be a painful consequence. Tasks that take care of you or your surroundings, such as watering your houseplants, sweeping the porch, or going through the mail are doable in short sessions, and keep your life running smoothly even when you’re hurting.

Small Change, Big Difference

This year, I shortened my usually elaborate Thanksgiving menu then asked for help. As a result, we got to try some new entrees and desserts. Despite missing your adult child who is estranged, accepting the separation for the moment, and taking a proactive approach helps reduce overall stress so you can better enjoy the present season.

Related Postings: Six ways to get through Mother’s Day when your adult child is estranged

‘Twas the Night Before Mother’s Day

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64 thoughts on “Holidays: How to manage them

  1. Pete

    The best advice I received was to move on with my life. Yes, I suffer, particularly during the holidays and birthdays, but I try to remember the good times we had. When my son turned 4, just he and I spent his birthday together and enjoyed the zoo. When he was 14, we went on a special campout together – just the two of us. These are great memories that no-one can take away. Now, I am building a new life, with new goals, in a new city. Through it all, God has been good to me, and I am very grateful. Yes, tears well up in my eyes, particularly during this time of year, but I recognize the goodness in our past relationship and enjoy those sweet memories.

    1. swallowtail

      I have three daughters the older two are estranged. The youngest has me chose one holiday she is playing along with a shunning. I do not no how much longer I can play this game. I hate to give my youngest up. The estranged daughter has two children she will FaceTime about once a month does not say a word to me puts the two children on FaceTime. The oldest has a son. She lived me three years while pregnant and when he was born. She went along with middle sister and this shunning began 5 years ago. Her son is twelve. I find out when he plays basketball and go sometimes to his games. She is not kind to me. I left my husband when they were young. He was an emotional abuser and told them often to not respect me. Thanksgiving I believe they be at my youngest it is tearing me up.

    2. Amanda

      This is good. But for husband and myself, we are left alone due to daughter being across the country and son is the only child with children. So this year we are without five of our small 8 in number family. We are left alone. We have had to leave the church we attended due to him being in ministry there and they won’t let us see our grandchildren. We have been shunned, basically. The pain is overwhelming, as is the isolation. There has to be “light’ but we still have to find it.

    3. TS

      I have recently retired and have two adult daughters. My youngest daughter and I have always be extremely close. However she has become fixated on the fact that I should do something to better myself now that I am retired like go to a fitness boot camp. The tone she takes towards me is horrible and there is no love in what she is telling me to better myself. Prior to my retirement I was noticing that she was distancing herself from me and seemed annoyed by me. Reading what you suggest about remembering the good times just makes me cry uncontrollably knowing how close we once were to now having her tell me she didn’t want to see me on her birthday because she has nothing to say to me. Has me so depressed. This is my first Christmas without see her or shopping for her knowing that I will not see or hear from her. But reading that you have come to recognize the goodness in your past relationship and moving on with your life gives me little hope for me getting thru future holidays and birthdays. I am an only child and having raised my two girls on my own after my husband left us made it important to me that we were all we had and needed to cherish each other. However, I was the only one who must have felt this way. I hope we parents find a way to live thru the hurt.

  2. vanessa

    On December 17th in the afternoon, I opened my Facebook page to see photos/video of a newborn baby (my younger twin son’s 3rd child) Turned out that he was born before noon at a local hospital..I didnt know until I saw my Facebook page in the late afternoon. No phone call from the new dad (my twin son) or the baby’s mother. My mom, the new great grandma, wasnt notified either. His twin brother did this, in May, when their 2nd child was born. Then I was banished to the ‘doghouse’ when I didnt rush right up to their home, to see their new baby. So, i will be seeing LOTS of new baby photos/videos, as I have with the other grandchildren, but seldom or never see them in person. I have had to ‘let go’ of this, as I have had to do with the others, forgive them (for my sake) and move on with MY life.

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Vanessa,

      Thank you for sharing how you’ve handled the pain by letting go of this, forgiving for your sake, and moving on. I’m sure your strength will help other parents of estranged adults by example.

    2. Ptd

      This is my first year of being rejected. The pain is tremendously overwhelming. I miss my 6 grandchildren. No text, no calls. Very sad.

  3. vanessa

    my mom is 93; she will be a great grandma (Lord willing) again, next July. This baby will be my older brother’s first grandchild..I daresay mom will have far more contact with this new great grandbaby than the 6 babies by my 3 grown estranged sons..I do see their children’s photos on Facebook (unless I get unfriended over some offense), but Facebook is a poor substitute for time to spend with them, play and watch them grow up. I feel sorry for mom; someday we won’t have her and my estranged sons or their children won’t know her at all.

    1. Angi

      I have three adult sons. No contact with any of them. I am a widow. Two I made the choice, after emotional and verbal abuse. I wished my oldest son happy birthday through a message. He cut me off from Facebook so I couldn’t see his children. I thought I was alone, until my therapist have me this website. For four years, no calls, on any holidays birthdays even if I’m in the hospital. I put off coming to this website until today. I’m learning for the first time not to let anyone control my life. I am disabled but learning how to deal and hopefully have a good productive life. I felt anger at first, but now forgiveness, even though I don’t understand. I will always love them no matter what. But it doesn’t excuse their treatment towards me.

  4. Dar

    My heart goes out to all estranged parents of adult children. My son begged me for many years to move back to our home state where he was living due to some legal problems he got into. To my discovery, he and his fiancée were to be married a year after my move. I was asked to help financially to pay for a extremely large guest list which I did….with a very small income….so I used my savings. To my surprise, I was excluded from all the pre-wedding and some wedding activities that the brides side was always included in. As a matter of fact, I was purposely left out and at moments told that I was not in led to even go to the rehearsal, however expected to prepare and pay for the rehearsal dinner for a guest list of approximately sixty people. I never had a wedding of my own and this was my sons second wedding. Obviously, there is much more to all of this, but I am giving a short version. Since the wedding, I have seen my son and daughter in law rarely. In the last 6 months I saw my son twice for about ten minutes and it was always for something he wanted from me. He tells people he had a rotten childhood when I worked hard as a single mom and gave him everything and took him on outings every weekend such as fishing, camping, he play basketball, payed softball, etc. I think my son began to USE me for things and expected me to pay for things, going out to eat, lawnmower, accident, etc and when I quit paying…he no longer comes around. I feel so used and hurt. I know now…that I need to get on with my life and try not to hurt so much. (That is not so easy to do). I do wish I never moved for him as I gave up my life and friends of 40+ years in the state I was living in. He and his wife see her family multiple times a week. Yes, I know I should not compare, but this teeter totter is extremely lopsided…..I am not even on it. I asked if I could celebrate Xmas on Xmas eve or Xmas day and was told that they both may not come then…so I am thinking to just not bother at all to avoid any further hurt feelings. I would like to hear comments/thoughts from others regarding this type of situation.

    1. Carolyn S.

      I have just found this site and wish to respond. You are singing my song. I have cried a river this last year and a half. Now I am standing up, stopping the crying, and making plans with my life. I can’t undo the
      harm that has been done to me and I have to forgive and accept my child as he is. In doing this I am freeing myself from the pain of my expectations and unrealized dreams. I have stopped trying to figure out why, and I have stopped whipping myself with the guilt of not being that perfect mother. You can too, I know that I wasn’t the perfect mom but I sure didn’t deserve this treatment and I don’t see things changing. Your story sounds so much like mine I am amazed and wish you well.

    2. rparents Post author

      Dear Carolyn S.,

      Good for you! Yes, there comes a time when the river is full … the tears can start to drown out any joy. Life really is FULL of possibilities and opportunities. You go girl. ENJOY!

      Sheri McGregor

    3. Angi

      I had a very bad childhood and actually throughout my entire life. When my husband passed, I loved him, but refused to accept his abuse for the last ten years. My son’s had me in a lawyer’s office within a week. Under duress, they talked me into signing everything over to them and everything I wanted would be done.they promised to take care of me. They were so loving then. I made my wishes known where I wanted to live etc. Nothing.They made the choices. They were so loving etc then. But changed. They wanted me to pay rent after receiving my money. They are paying for my expenses etc. But nothing else. I have learned only this year, even though I can’t get out, how to keep myself busy, especially when any holidays or birthdays, mother’s day etc, not to expect a call. Still sad, hopeful that sometime in the future it will change. I don’t wish any I’ll feelings or consequences towards them. Too much right now.

  5. Deborah

    The holidays are hard. I still don’t know how to get through them and wish I could just wake up to find that they are over.
    I have three children. They are lovely children that I love very much. I wish I knew what went wrong.
    As they began their adult lives, I was very necessary to them in getting established. At one time or another, each of them encountered a serious struggle that required my emotional and financial support. They were broken and most appreciative. As each one returned to their feet, they dismissed me and told friends/family members that I’d done nothing to help them. Our large, happy family holidays were a thing of the past. It started with my oldest daughter; at the time my other two children couldn’t comprehend her behavior and were appalled by it. However, within a year each of them had followed suit. A mother can’t help but wonder what she did wrong. What was my bad action?
    I no longer see my grandchildren who I adored and who mutually adored me. After a year of estrangement, my youngest daughter called out of the blue one day. So excited, I was. I told her how much I missed her and how glad I was to hear from her. She was friendly, giggly, talkative and then asked if she could borrow a thousand dollars. I immediately wired it to her and told her to consider it a gift. She never called back to confirm that she had even received it. Two years later she calls again. Again, I told her how wonderful it was to hear her voice and that I missed her so very much. She told me an incredible tale of hard times and described her financial need in detail. I said I was very sorry to hear of her woes and offered advice/suggestions on things she might consider. I did not offer to send money. I’ve never heard from her again. Well, not directly, I have heard from people that have listened to her version of how I refused to help her in her time of need.
    After four years of sending generous birthday/Christmas gifts to my children and grandchildren; and never hearing a word of acknowledgement, I quit sending anything. Every year every holiday goes by and I hear not a word from my children.
    Its sad and lonely and heartbreaking. I continue to live a life full of travel, friends and running marathons, but a large hole remains in my life and my heart. I started running only to ease the pain and its turned into a lifestyle change for me. Major race events give me something to look forward to.
    The Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays are very hard. They are also awkward as my friends are not available to help me occupy my time; they are, of course, with their children. I don’t accept offers to join them as that would be even more awkward; I decline with a lie that I already have other plans.
    So much time has gone by that I realize even if one/all of them were to reach out to me that we can never again return to the life we once had. I no longer hold out hope that they will ever reach out to me. I miss my grandchildren and I hope they somehow realize that whatever they are hearing about me is not true. I hope they remember who I really am.
    Thank you for listening. Any advice for making it through the holidays is most appreciated.

    1. Pat

      Dear God, your story sounds like mine. However, I’m so paralyzed with sorrow over two of my adult daughters that I literally can’t get off the sofa to fake my way through Christmas, which is next week. The oldest daughter has been estranged six years and the youngest just a few months. Six grandchildren between them.
      All I do is think, can there be anyone else out there that has not one but two estranged adult children. I’m so relieved to literally trip into this page. Thank you God.

    2. foreverblue

      How common this sounds. So sad too. I so understand your pain, wish I didnt. I feel that I’m living a nightmare.

    3. Meri

      Your story sounds exactly like mine. I’ll pray for you. I don’t have the answers I myself have good and bad days! Right now it’s only my oldest daughter. Which has at this point stopped talking to any of us and her sister my parents in their 80’s. And I have no idea what I did. But I’m trying and I’ll pray for all of you. It’s good to know I’m not alone!

    4. Eileen

      This is my very first post, even tho I have been greatly helped by this forum in the last 2 years.
      I also have 3 children, and my story is so similar to yours. I was a single parent that worked at time 3 jobs to be sure they had everything they needed. My EX actually quit his job in Corporate America, so that he didn’t have to pay child support. My children were 4, 10 and 12. The divorce created a huge rift between myself and oldest daughter….suddenly Dad had no rules…told her she didn’t have to go to school if she didn’t want…offered her a cigarette and a beer in front of me when she was 14. It was a nightmare. By 16, she ran away from home to live with him, after she and I had a physical altercation in front of the 2 younger children. She lunged at me and got me on the floor, she had at least 75 lbs on her over me. My other children felt that I was hurting her!! (I was pinned underneath her.) it was one of my lowest points in life to have my children witness this. As a result, we have always been like Oil and Water….very difficult, head strong child. However I assisted and paid all of the college expense right up to her obtaining a PHD. I had my middle daughter in college at the same time….who also studied abroad….got her Master at Oxford University, and her PHD at the Academy of Art in Paris. I paid for EVERYTHING. Neither one of them ever had a student loan to pay, as I paid all student loans for the next 13 years after their graduation. My youngest, my son….kept borrowing money from me….and then he would disappear, only to reappear when he needed more money. This started when he was 18, and the only time I have every seen him in the last 18 years was when he needed money. And of course his wedding, which I also paid for….and he left her on the night of the honeymoon, never to reconcile, and when I said…she needs to give money back to guests, and I had business associates that attended this grand wedding in a very exclusive catering hall….his last words to me were….that’s all it is Mom…its all about money!! We have never had a conversation since….its about 10 years, as he completed sided with his older sister…and now I only had one daughter in my life The monies that were spent on her were unimaginable. You see, she has a few mental issues….mildly schizophrenic with psychotic episodes. I cannot even begin to tell you how many redeyes I have been on to “rescue” her from the tops of the highest building in European cities, as she thought she could fly. I did this all on my own, my EX never even inquired as to her well being. But the biggest mistake is I never told her NO on anything….I wanted to keep her happy. BIG MISTAKE. She is the only one of my 3 children that has a child. (she met a man in London, that I sponsored to come here to the country (25K) and I have paid for all of their living expenses, medical expenses for 10 years! But she gave me the most precious grandson 5 years ago. I was in heaven. Long long story short, she too has decided to have nothing to do with me….has never told me why tho….and I have not seen my grandson since he was 18 months old….he will be 6 soon. The pain that I have experienced, the disbelief is beyond explaining. I never remarried, my life was devoted to my children, and my career to be able to provide for them. I found them on facebook, and I was able to know what they were all doing, and also had pictures of my precious grandson that I would print out and I have all over my home, They have since found out that I had access to this, and have blocked me from everyone of their accounts!! My middle daughter, with the baby, actually moved, but would not tell me where she was moving. Mind you….I had been paying all of the rent, insurances, etc…because my son in law needed to find his way here in America, and decided to open up a mens clothing store….which I also supported financially.
      So I have been estranged from my oldest daughter, who turns 45 today, and my son who is 37 for 10 years now. My daughter with my grandson, it will be 4 years. To say I am heartbroken, and just broken is an understatement. I was able to learn where my daughter lived 2 years ago, but I stayed quiet. Until 2 weeks ago. I sent a package with the ELF ON THE SHELF, and a wonderful educational toy for my grandson. I am sure she was shocked that I knew where she lived. I asked her if she didn’t want these gifts please send them back, as I know of another child that would love to have this. I never received anything back, so I took this as a good sign. In the meantime I have spent much time on buying other things for my grandchild to send an XMAS box to him. I had an old email of my son in law….and I sent him a note, expressing that I would be sending a package for my grandson, and wanted to be sure that would be ok with my daughter. No reply….I followed up a day later, and he has shut down that email. I was numb. Just numb. Its 4 years…with no explanation for the estrangement, and she is as determined now as she was 4 years ago, to keep me excluded from her life, but more importantly my only grandchild. In one way, I am trying to see this as a blessing for me, as I now know, nothing has changed, and this will probably continue forever. There has to be some peace in that for me to just stop trying, But the pain is immense, and I walk around in a fog watching all my friends having wonderful times with their children and grandchildren, I make up stories, and hide and hibernate in my home in utter disbelief as to how this could have happened…to me….who lived for her children and their happiness. Please forgive this long story….I am hoping it will be cathartic for me…..thank you for listening. And I know there are many of you sharing my pain and loneliness….Thank goodness for this site.

    5. Teresa

      This is my story too. My family says that it is my fault, that I spoiled my children, all three of them. From what I have read, this is probably true; they are narcissistic and now feed off each other. I don’t stand a chance.
      The first year after estrangement has been hard, I hope it gets easier soon. I like the idea of playing horseshoes on Thanksgiving! Good psychology there.

    6. Carole H.

      My story is the same. Gave my sons everything they wanted and needed growing up and we were very close until they got married. One son is still in my life but the other is not but only around the Holidays do I get invited over for dinner. Never hear from them any other time nor do I hear from their two sons now that they are grown. I am a widow now and my one son could care less about ever calling or asking if I am ok or do I need anything. I am always the one to call and take them all out to dinner, and they do accept, and then never to hear from them for months and months and never unless I do the calling. I did read the book DONE WITH THE CRYING and it helped somewhat. I am the one to shower him and his family with gifts and money and then as soon as the holidays are over he is gone out of my life again. I just wised up and declined Thanksgiving Dinner with them. Tired of being used as a doormat.

    7. Lee

      I share your pain. I am still struggling to However I’ve come to terms and realize that I could look at the past to be happy for those memories but I still grieve and wonder what I did wrong as a mother that they feel this way I raised my five children by myself with no child support and we made it I was able to send Two of my children to college. They complain that they grew up poor and that they didn’t feel loved because I wasn’t around much which is true because I was working all the time they don’t get it my Entire motivation for working was for them To provide a nice life for them. I didn’t date it go out until they were out of the house and niw to be shunned Unless like you I’m giving they want nothing to do with me. Your story is so familiar to me I’m a real estate agent struggling now as I’m older two of my children recently came to me and wanted me to help them find a home and I gave my commission to them towards their down payment after they closed on their homes they return to shunning me so the point is I’m going to do exactly what you did I will tell them that I’m there for them if they ever want a mother or someone to talk to but as far as financial support it’s just not available anymore and if that’s all they’re looking for I’m sorry to hear that. I believe the silver lining will be when their children are older and if they receive the same treatment they will then get it. I don’t believe there’s a simple answer to not feel the hurt that you’re feeling or that I’m feeling I think it’s the same every year I just try to get through each holiday and stay busy and wish the best for them I’m happy that they’re happy and secure in their lives just sorry that we’re not sharing each other lives anymore

  6. Nancy

    Deborah, I am so sorry to read what you are going through. My first thought is this: you need to find friends (new ones? those without children?) and plan something like a trip or a unique event for each holiday. i.e. start a new holiday tradition with new friends or acquaintances.

    How to find those like the above? Ask around. Look around. They are out there. And they could benefit from this new tradition just like you. 🙂

    1. Melinda

      Have you ever considered the children out there that need foster parents. Someone that would love to have someone to love them. Because they have been neglected too you would have so much to offer.

  7. Nancy

    And a second thought, which I myself am working on when it comes to having estranged grandchildren: to figure out a way to bring other children in my life. One is to see how I can volunteer at local schools. Not as a substitute teacher, but find after-school activities I can contribute to as a way to get to know kids. And I’m going to involve the principal in my plan and see what ideas he has.

  8. Rose

    I feel every day a sorrow that my 27 year old daughter is not in contact with me. The closer Christmas gets I feel a knife in my heart that is being turned around and around in my chest. I feel absolutely depressed about Christmas. Christmas is not Christmas without her. I miss the opportunity to go Christmas shopping with her. To buy her Christmas presents. To hug her, to see her face, to laugh, to enjoy doing lady stuff. I wish Christmas would go away forever. My younger adult Child does not care about Christmas. A daughter is different in regards to Christmas. Birthdays are hell. I cannot take her out for dinner. Buy her a present. I am in pain everyday.

  9. Faith

    I have been devalued & discarded by my son & his family. Painful to type. Not what I was expecting after years of nurturing & supporting them. My Life is far from perfect but I somehow remain hopeful. My faith is my foundation. Other family & friend relationships are good. Despite this tragedy, I have so much to be grateful for .

  10. Leslie

    My husband and I have a son who has cut us off because of his wife. She is an older woman, unable to have children because of a medical condition, who has been hurtful and rude to us for years. Frankly, I am glad she cannot have children because that would be additional heartbreak, being cut off from our son and a grandchild or more. We are not perfect people. But my husband and I worked hard to put him through college, make a down payment on his house, and pay for their wedding.
    The saddest part to me, is that my husband is now 81, is medically disabled, and grieves for the years when he and our son would go fishing, or just hang out together. Neither one of us can talk about it so we try to stay busy with church, senior center, and neighborhood friends. We have endlessly run in circles seeking to see what we did “wrong.” Finally, I have declared that neither one of us deserve this, and that our son is the one deeply wrong. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it beats repeating the same question so often.

  11. Michelle

    This pain is unendurable. Makes me wish I had never had kids. I had a pretty bad childhood, mother was finally institutionalized (schizophrenic) in my late 20s and father was not very loving so I was an estranged child to my father for many years. Thought I would be a much better parent then they ever were. Gave my twin boys everything a single mother could. When I got married again, their step father paid for everything for them (father was a deadbeat that rarely had a job). Now, one doesn’t talk to us at all because of a disagreement his girlfriend caused by disrespecting us while she was living in our home and the other one constantly responds to my holiday party invite texts by saying “Dad is having a party (He is more important then you guys), but can you come watch the dog next week, the cable guy is coming and we can’t get off?” I guess the chain was unbreakable after all. Most of the time I can pretend nothing is wrong until someone asks how the kids are doing. Then I just lie and say they are doing great. I will avoid any pain in the future by simply not inviting them to anything anymore.

    1. Monica

      I had a bad childhood too. I lived with a schizophrenic Aunt. The bad childhood is what drove me to give my Son as good a childhood as I could. Then he married and she has isolated him from all his family. When they stopped Christmas and told me the week before Christmas that they were going to Belize I cried for the first six months of 2017. The next year they went to Mexico. So I still celebrate Christmas but do not put out the decorations of his childhood. I made the mistake of being vulnerable with his wife. She knew I loved Christmas so she took it away.
      But I am luckier then most because I can text once in a while though he mostly doesn’t reply.
      So the only way I found to deal with it is to still do my thing at Christmas and forget he ever existed.
      And reading about other folks financials .. we paid off her $30,000 credit card debt, paid for a $50,000 wedding. Bought them a million+ house and still send hefty amounts monthly. Stupid. I figure my Son must have a bad time with her and has to keep her happy He knows old Mom and Dad will always be there. Did I mention we also pay for individual counseling for each of them.
      So like you and so many other parents here , we are all in the same boat trying not to sink!

  12. Sis

    Wow. I never imagined I wouldn’t be in communication with my only son. He has drastically changed since being in a relationship with this woman. After three years of suspect, I had confirmation his wife was using drugs. Buying them from co-workers. After three yeas of visit with them and each time seeing extremely erradic behavior. I finally confront my son while i was in a vehicle with her and she was blacking out behind the wheel and using while driving my grandson in her car and also being pregnant with my second grandchild. Now I am not the one to be trusted!!!!!! My grandsons birthday is tomorrow and its for me to come and spend time this week for the party, however I have to leave before Christmas!! When I express to my son the great sadness and loneliness I feel from his rejection I am told its not his concern. He doesn’t have to be obedient to me anymore. Only show respect. Feels more like abuse. Leaves me alone and very depressed.

  13. Gloria

    I can relate with all these things. There will be no call on Christmas, one daughter won’t even let us send presents. I go between hurt and angry. I am tired of being treated like this with no explaination. Right now I wish it was all ok but it’s not and frankly I don’t want to be around them either if they are going to be so hateful. As you can see I have alot of work to do on forgiving them.

    1. Monica

      Maybe a day will come when you (I) can forgive.

      I think of the situation in this way to comfort myself:
      He is not dead. He is still alive. Even if I don’t see him I know what he is doing because even before the situation changed I saw him to be hard at work screenwriting. I also figure he has to live with her so he is trying to appease her by dropping his parents and extended family.
      I’m lucky she isn’t evil to me but doesn’t communicate.
      Thanks for reading this.

  14. Linda B.

    You all relate such similar feelings that I share deeply. My daughter (28 years old) has not communicated with me for almost four years. I have reached out but been rejected several times. Now I have moved from sadness and hope to the grief stage, I think. I thought I was making progress in the numb stage, but that was just denial I now believe. This is such a roller coaster in my mind that I don’t really know where I am…and I have had a lot of professional expensive advice for several years on this issue. Facing the holidays and family events (she doesn’t attend if she knows I will be there) is harder than ever this year. I do admire people who are able to “move on” but right now I can not do that. All I feel is sadness and more sadness. Somehow I feel cursed or something similar so I just want to crawl under the covers and never emerge. I really do dislike (could use a different word/phrase) the “holidays.” Sorry this isn’t a positive comment to all of you out there needing something to get you through this distressing time.

  15. Jean

    Thank you to all of you for sharing your experiences. It really does help to know that others are in this same situation. The only coping strategies that help me are making sure that I try to keep a means of communication open ( even if my daughter chooses not to use it), keeping busy and avoiding conversations with well meaning but unhelpful people. My Christian faith is all about hope and I will never give up hope that there is a possibility that things can change. I will hold this to my dying day. My daughter will always be in my head and my heart.

  16. Mary


  17. Veronica

    I wish I could be friends with any of you. I still feel like I’m alone in my situation because no one I know has the same problem. It would be nice to have a friend to support and vice versa. Ten years of not seeing my only child (son ) and never seeing my 3 grandchildren hasn’t gotten easier whatsoever.

    1. Evelyn

      I agree Veronica. Wish I had a friend who “gets it”. The support would be very helpful and comforting

    2. swallowtail

      agree Veronica no present friends would understand what my daughters are doing and last year I was very sick. They all came to the hospital. They have not changed are back to shunning me and my son. He has a disability. The youngest is the only one who comes to see us however she goes along with her sisters shunning. It is heartbreaking and emotional abuse,

  18. Angie

    Hallo, I’m 67 and my husband is 77. My husband is getting more confused with age, and he isn’t as tolerant of our grandsons as he used to be.
    My grandsons run wild when they come to visit. The parents are totally lenient, and get offended when we discipline. The last visit escalated into a fight, because my husband accused a grandson
    (unfortunately the wrong one) of trying to kick one of our windows in. Turned out my husband was in the wrong, but still the other 7 year old grandson was guilty. Instead of scolding their son, our son flipped out at my husband. The whole family stormed out.
    Anyway… the 7 year old’s grandson’s b-day is coming up… and I don’t know if I should give him a present or not. The boy did apologize to his grandfather) So, I’ve written the mother and asked what our grandson would like… but got no answer. But funny, as I write this … I think I rather not give him a present. My son’s behavior was despicable toward his father, who had simply mistakenly accused the wrong grandson. I feel I need to protect my husband. And frankly, our grandsons are too strenuous for us.
    But then again, I feel the children can’t help that their parents don’t give them guide lines. The children are very attached to me, and I know they are the ones who will be suffering. I really don’t know what to do. I hate to admit this, but our life is more peaceful when they don’t come to visit. We have other grandchildren, and have never had this problem with them or with their parents.
    Thank you for any feedback.

  19. Connie J

    I first learned about support groups like this one about 2 years ago. It was the first time that I realized that sometimes bad outcomes happen to good parents And although it still doesn’t make sense to me, I’ve made a decision to continue to exhibit kindness to my son by sending Birthday and holiday cards and continuing to pray for his heart. I also prayed for “another chance” and God very faithfully began bringing young adult women into my life who really needed what a loving mother longed to provide. I now think of these girls as my own beloved “bonus” daughters. I know that someday I will be a grandmother again through them.
    I have also become licensed as anfoater home which is much more challenging than I expected but also so rewarding.
    Perhaps some day I will have an opportunity to have a relationship with my son and grandchildren. I choose not to think about the time that will be “lost” I’m the interim. Instead I look for ways to fill up the hearts and lives of the children and young adults whose needs fill mine.
    There is a growing organization called the Orphan Care Alliance which helps connects adults with young adult children who have “aged out” of the foster care system without having been adopted. Families can become the extended “family” and support system for these young people. This can be the beginning of our new tradition. To look around your table and be thankful for those who do want what we have to offer. God Bless you all and I hope you will come to believe that some things happen that we just can’t understand and have to make peace with.

  20. Annie

    Hi forever blue,
    Yes, it feels surreal, nightmarish at times. So glad you found us. We’re all in this together. Sharing here is helping all of us get back on track. None of us deserve this. I know we all do the best we know how given our circumstance.
    I hope you are not forever blue. God bless you! Annie

    1. Exquisite

      Wow!! So glad to have bumped into this group. God sent!! My story is also very similar!! May God bless us all and give us the strength and courage we need to keep moving forward.

  21. Jen

    My heart is breaking. My oldest just turned 23 on the 12th has cut almost all her friends and her emediate family out. She has told lies of abuse to people and we were clueless. She told her brother and sister that her Dad tried to smother her as a kid and I beat her. That I’m on drugs, I give my son alcohol every night, that I’ve put demons on her friends, the list goes on and on. People who know our family are as in shock as I am. A young man she wanted nothing to do with two months ago she now considers her life coach and has cut us out of her life. I grew up raised mostly by a single parent who at times was abusive and changed my entire life to give her the very best life possible. I’m trying very hard to keep it together yet my heart is so hurt. She has become a complete different person. We at one time considered the march man act but didn’t want to put the other children through this. We are not sure if this was caused from drugs or mental breakdown but she seems to blame me for everything including broken relationships. I keep praying daily for her.

  22. Annie

    Hi Jen,
    Bless your heart. It’s the cruel behavior that is so
    painful. We wouldn’t expect it from our worst enemies much less the children we have loved and raised the best we knew how. I’m sorry for your pain
    Jen. In reading your post it sounds to me your daughter is influenced by an addiction. It’s difficult to reason with someone who is under the influence either by addictions or ill advised ‘life coaches’. I pray your heart heals and you will begin to thrive. Sounds like you got off to a rough start in your life as I did. We deserve to be happy the rest of our days Jen.
    We are all here for one another. Take good care and God Bless you.Annie

  23. zoe

    This is just so painful. Never in a million years would I have predicted this. I was very close to both of my girls when they were growing up. Now my oldest daughter has very little if anything to do with me since she married an older man. He has been incredibly hostile to me from the beginning. Literally wouldn’t speak to me or acknowledge my presence in a room and said disparaging remarks about me in my presence. It’s crazy-making because you start doubting yourself. You rack your brain trying to figure out what you did. I think it would be better if there was a reason. When she and my granddaughter came for a visit without him, it was wonderful. I guess maybe I should just hope that I see the two of them alone every few years or so. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope there.

    1. Squiffy

      Oh my goodness! I am a new member and just saw this post from three years ago. MY daughter married an older man too, and he became hostile very quick too! Hmmm….

  24. Annie

    Zoe, I know. I think it’s called ‘gaslighting’. Look up the term. It can make you feel crazy if you let it. Most of us don’t have answers and like you said, it would almost be easier if we knew why. We’re never going to make everyone happy in this life but our own children? I think their cases are weak and I know with my ES they can’t seem to explain why. I do think their spouses, significant others have a huge influence over them, with no sense of family community. I’m sorry you are going through this pain along with so many of us. I pray you can find your joy regardless. It’s hard I know especially this time of year. Merry Christmas Zoe. Take good care of you Blessings, Annie

  25. Margaret M.

    Yes, I am a Grandmother and mother of two sons….Out of the blue, my oldest son sent me and my husband 3 e-mail, saying we were terrible parents, terrible grandparents, etc…he didn’t want us to contact him. That was 3 months ago. Now he is going to Christmas at his brother’s house with his kids, and we are invited. He said very mean-spirited, hateful things that were untrue to us. He says we can contact him via e-mail now. My husband and I worked full time, took care of my parents for 10 years, and his Aunt and Father lived with us. We were kind to our kids,and help put my older Grandaughter thru college, with our small donations and letters for 4 years. I have cancer now and undergoing a big operation in January. I just helped my husband survived a fall last year – I am very depressed and don’t know how to handle this now. Can you help me.

  26. Annie

    So sorry you are having to deal with this too Margaret. And to have health issues besides. I pray you are able to heal both in your heart and physically. We are here for one another. Maybe Christmas will be about healing as it sounds like
    you are going to see your family. I hope so. It helps us all to share here. Merry Christmas Margaret. Annie

  27. Shocked

    The pain on here cuts like a knife. I used to love Mother’s Day and Christmas, but now I dread them like the plague. I really am afraid I will get sick over all the pain I’ve had in the past year. When you are hurt like this, your immune system is compromised. I am trying to exercise and maintain a somewhat normal existence, but some days I don’t want to get out of bed. I wonder why I am even alive. When your kids are the most important thing in your life, their hostile actions can be so debilitating. Why would they treat me like this? What did I do? Why are they berating me and criticizing my character? I could see it if I had done something, but they are criticizing me for being me. I can’t help them, at this point. I wish I could run away.

  28. Shocked

    I think mental illness plays a huge part in estrangement. What ‘normal’ kid would direct their hostility toward a loving parent, especially when they are married with kids? Why do they see me as a threat? I’ve already tried to mind my own business and let them live their own lives. This is where it’s gotten me? I had a wonderful family growing up, and I don’t understand the narcissism that is so prevalent in our kids these days. Our good intentions and unconditional love have come back to bite us.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Shocked, I’m so very sorry that you have had to suffer the effects of estrangement. Mental illness is often in the mix. It seems we are often blamed for not caring when we “mind our own business” and caring too much when we don’t.

      My hope is for parents to take care of themselves. There is much to be thankful for even in the face of estrangement.

      Sheri McGregor

  29. Velvet

    I always believed I could accept whatever comes along in life ‘s daily things, accordingly, if I was aware of all the facts and feelings and needs of my family. I am the mother of adult children and believe my family life is a blessing. Of course family rifts can happen , but when our adult children decided to make a choice to silence themselves and disconnect and disown us, discard us , their parents, and now my caring is just not enough for them. Really….When did “stuff” become a problem that cannot be clarified, and other alternatives, and work out choices? So I am ignored. Their dad is ignored too. Really …. It is simple form of mental abuse to the elderly parent. I am clueless. I love both adult children, and they are always in my heart and mind, but I don’t like them. Actually hard to say, I lost respect and at this moment I don’t like them and it is the first time I am saying it as I am reading this. So sad.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Velvet,
      Acknowledging those difficult-to-admit feelings is a good thing, and I know that other parents who read those thoughts will feel a little stronger because of it. There are a great many who suffer the “mental abuse” as you call it, of adult children who shrug off aging parents. Thank you for your comment.
      Sheri McGregor

  30. Blue

    Dear All,
    This is my first post. I am estranged from my oldest son and my 3 precious grandchildren for 2 years now. They were a big part of my life and now they are not. It is devastating as I hear all of you are as well. The holidays are so very difficult. I am looking for ideas on the gift giving situation. I have sent gifts for birthdays and Christmas with no recognition. I do not believe the children ever receive them. I wonder what others are doing? I would appreciate any suggestions.

    1. Squiffy

      Same here! I am on year seven. I have sent gifts for all those years. One year, they were acknowledged, but last year- nothing. So I guess my choice in what to do this year has to be- what is my motive? If I send gifts, am I hoping that I will be seen differently? That it will change their mind about me? In a way, the opposite might be happening, where my gifts might be seen as bribery on their part- and not goodness or generosity or love. One of my internal questions concerning my own parenting was, “Didn’t I teach my daughter to say thank you?” Is that my fault?” However, my two younger adult children said, “You taught us to say thank you, and we do.” So back to the question- what do we hope to achieve by sending gifts? I think that with any gift, it has to be free- with no strings. If you want to send a gift as a reflection of your heart, expecting NOTHING in return, and if that does not depress you, then do. But if the thought that it won’t even be acknowledged as received will hurt and cause anger, maybe not. Protect your own heart. And also be truly yourself. No one has the right to change who we are as people- at our core. We can modify behavior of course, but who we ARE, we have a right to be. And I have to answer these same questions for myself. If my daughter is behaving this way because of anxiety, (one cause of the silent treatment) then I do not want to punish her in any way. However, if she has her knickers in a knot, so to speak, I also do not want to reward her. The issue as it seems for all of us, WE DO NOT KNOW. I am starting to be suspicious that this is happening to me to cure me of any co-dependency with any other person. It is RADICAL, a chemo- so to speak, of the soul, where my validation is not going to come from any outside source, child included, and that, my friend, is kind of an exciting thought to me. One of my obstacles to internal freedom in this manner has been the nagging voice, “But they are the ones who knew us best!” so if they devalue us, they must be RIGHT!- no? But no one knows another person completely. We do not even understand ourselves, do we? So no- they knew us partially. And they seem to have an internal freeze button on a camera, where they see us one way, from a particular day, and only that way. That we learned from our mistakes and have developed is not appreciated. And we do it too. Except in our case, we see them as the babies and children they were. But they are not that anymore either. That really hit me when she turned forty. She is middle aged! Not a spring chick anymore! Yet she has the right to live her life as she pleases, even if does not include me. She has the right to be the kind of person she wants to be even if it is cruel. And I have to choose to be who I want to be, I also have that same right. So if I want to give gifts- by gum!- I will give gifts- even if they are not appreciated, acknowledged, or irritate. Or I might not. Because the person I actually am, does not really want to irritate anyone. 🙂 There is a little maxim that might help both of us in our decision: Go where the peace is. Love!

  31. Debra F.

    Hi everyone. This is my first post also. I’ve read so many posts that I can relate to. The holidays are the worst! I gifted my DIL a designer diaper bag before my grandson was born. She was very angry and told me that I was financially irresponsible and was not allowed to buy her or her baby anything. He was 4 months old when she told me that I was very unpleasant to be around and how she didn’t want someone like me around her child. This was the first time I had ever gone to my son trying to “resolve” an issue she had. My son didn’t believe she would say that. She claimed I was the one to call her and belittle her!!! I did see my grandson in January. My son is a firefighter and is off of work at times when she’s at her 9-5. She came home early and when she saw me, she had a nuclear meltdown. My grandson just turned two. I sent him a beautiful gift that I know was just perfect. I did need to get on UPS tracking to see if it got there. I have Christmas gifts ready to mail for my grandson. I’ve decided on a gift card for my son and DIL. I somehow think they wouldn’t throw that away!! I don’t expect an acknowledgement. I know in my heart that it’s the right thing to do. I guess I still have hope. In the meantime, a big thanks to everyone here for helping me feel less alone.

  32. Jan

    I feel as Velvet does. We did everything for our two children and both of them have hurt my husband and I deeply as adults. We still see our oldest, a daughter, and our older grandchildren quite often. Our son, a police officer, has turned out to be a very difficult person the longer he is on the job. He has two younger children whom we see very infrequently because of his odd hours. As Velvet said, I love them both, but I don’t like them. Our son, in particular, seems to do something to upset me always just before the holidays. i dread the holiday. And today, as per usual for the last 3 years, another thing to upset me before the holidays – I got a TEXT message saying he and his girlfriend got a marriage license and will be getting married soon. I also sometimes wish I’d never had children. I would never have believed that they would turn into these people I don’t even like. All my dreams of great family Thanksgiving and Christmases with family dinners and good times are dust.

  33. Uptotheskyandbackagain

    Dear Velvet,
    The saddest part of estrangement, apart from our whole lives being turned upside down and not knowing why, is the colliding of reality with our perceptions. Our adult children are not who we thought they were. We not only are hurt, angry and devastated. We lose respect for their unwillingness to sit down and work on what we thought was one of the most important relationships in their lives. We are disappointed in them. Despite attempting to not feel responsible or guilty for their actions, a part of us feels we must have left out some important lessons on forgiveness, unconditional love, and healthy boundaries that lessen toxcity in our lives vs emotional abuse of a parent and certainly never to the exclusion of those who have spent a lifetime loving and cherishing them.

    I am right with you on this emotional roller coaster ride, but I know if our 6 year old twin grand children came tapping on the glass of our front door or our daughter walked through it, all of the anger would be replaced with that unconditional love and forgiveness we thought we taught. I want our daughter back. I want our babies back. I want my life back. That is all I know for sure!

  34. Kathy

    This is the first Christmas without my only son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren (grandson just turned 6; granddaughter is 3). I was disowned via a text message January 16, 2019. I sent Valentine cards to my grandchildren and it was returned to me with a “cease and desist” form letter, warning me legal steps would be taken if I tried to communicate in any way. My DIL has a lot of issues with her mom dying of cancer when she was 14, her dad went to jail, her sister became a man, her half-siblings have been “divorced” from her as well. Her old longtime friend was dismissed. She talks about having the perfect life. I gave them the family home, which they sold; my son dislikes my new husband and I cannot make any heads or tails out of why I am disowned and how things got so bad. I believe my DIL is poisoning my son and he is afraid if he doesn’t give in, he will be divorced and unable to see his children. I cannot understand what I did, even in marrying a wonderful man, and being happy, though, for whatever reason he is not accepted. My son had only been around my husband possibly four times and doesn’t truly know him at all. My DIL and son had dismissed my ex-husband at different times, but they are all okay again. Since I retired, and I have a limited income, it seems I am no longer of any value to them. My DIL said she had a health issue with migraines, temporary blindness, and would pull over to the side of the road when she had children with her. She said my help was unnecessary. I realize I’m rambling, this is the first time I’ve typed or talked to strangers…though, we certainly have a bond, I’m sorry to say for all the stories I read. God bless us all. If I couldn’t pray and believe God has this situation in control, I honestly, don’t know where I would be. Thanks for listening. God Bless!


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