How to cope when your adult child cuts you out of their life

coping when adult child is estrangedHow to cope when your adult child cuts you out of their life

by Sheri McGregor

Parents of estranged adult children often email me asking, “How can I cope?” When your adult child cuts you out of his life, the pain can feel unbearable. I know from my own experience, and from the 2000 parents of estranged adults who have contacted me in the last ten months, that it’s normal to feel anger, guilt, sadness, shame, and a host of other emotions we’re not familiar with and don’t know how to handle.

While each situation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all cure, parents of estranged adult children can get through this, find acceptance, and even peace. As a mom who has been through this, I’ll offer some thoughts from my own experience, and from what other parents of estranged adults who have gotten past this and moved on to enjoy their lives have shared. I hope you find something here helpful.

Most fathers and mothers of estranged adults try try to repair things. They reach out by writing letters to estranged adult children. They also call, email and send texts in an attempt to find out what’s wrong and try to make things right. But what do you do beyond that, when no satisfactory reconcilation occurs? That’s the focus here. I’ve outlined some brief points for coping with an adult child’s estrangement, getting on with your life, and finding a way to live happily and successfully.

First, as is true in other areas of life, you cannot control another adults’ behavior. You can, though, make sound decisions about your own. Accept and commit to that, in order to get past the pain.

Then, take a look at these ideas, and adopt what you can. You may find that some are easier than others, or that some don’t fit at all. Or, you may come back to these later and have a new perspective. Do what you can. Discard what doesn’t feel right. Take control. You can get through this.

Ideas for coping when your adult child cuts you out of their life.

  • Allow yourself to grieve – – this is a shocking loss.
  • Don’t try to pretend all is well, but along with (or after) crying, being angry, etc., begin to take action toward making yourself (your feelings) and your life (how you spend your time) better.
  • Think of other hard things you’ve gotten through, and tell yourself you CAN and WILL get through this too.coping when an adult child is estranged
  • Accept that your future is different than you expected … and accept the uncertainty that goes with an adult child’s estrangement. Then allow yourself to believe you can have a good future, even though your path has taken a twist.
  • Get involved in new things, old things that make you happy … activities you can enjoy. See Lila’s story.
  • Catch yourself in the act of feeling bad about what you can’t change, and stop the negative thoughts. Shift your perspective.
  • If you can’t figure out what happened, make a decision to give up asking why. Or settle on an answer for the moment (i.e., he’s following his wife to save his marriage, there’s some other problem you don’t know about, there’s mental illness of some sort, an addiction, etc and so on … whatever fits). Let it go. Some things just can’t be understood.
  • Focus on the good relationships, and the good parts of your life — and multiply them.
  • Don’t worry about the judgment of other people, and forgive them for it. But also protect yourself from people who are hurtful to you.
  • Find activities that fulfill your need to give and receive (love, help, generosity, kindness, etc).

Life can be difficult when expectations are shattered, and people we love and have devoted ourselves to so deeply hurt us. It’s also difficult to move on after a devastating loss, but it is possible to reclaim happiness. Reach out and you will find support among other parents of estranged adult children.

Below, I’ve listed some related articles that parents seeking ways to cope after an adult child’s estrangement have said were helpful. You can also navigate to all of my posts by opening the menus in the site’s righthand sidebar marked “Answers to Common Questions,” and “What Parents Can Do.”

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Five Ways to Move On After an Adult Child’s Rejection

Dealing with Undertainty

Why do I feel guilt?

Why forgive?

New Year’s Resolution: Shake it free



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28 thoughts on “How to cope when your adult child cuts you out of their life

  1. AvatarMarie

    My oldest son has disowned us. His younger brother still lives with Dad and I. He came out several years ago after so much struggle that his brother had been molesting him when they were young. I had to stop my older son from visiting our home since I was fearful they might kill each other. For 5 years we visited him and our granddaughter at his home regularly. A new woman is in his life and she doesn’t understand why they can’t come to our home. Of course he will never admit to what went down so it is best for him to eliminate us from his life. I miss my son and my granddaughter. The hurt is so deep and sometimes seems unbearable. In all this mess my family has become I turn to Jesus for strength and comfort and he is always there. I know he will never leave me. Prayers to all who hurt so deeply. May you find peace in Jesus Christ.

  2. AvatarTyrsi-Rose

    Not that it doesn’t hurt, (God, knows it does) but I have accepted that the infamous mother’s day weekend is painful, but I’m hopeful (not that there will be a reconciliation: that ship has sailed). But that every year, I’m a step closer to not wanting to scream, “I WAS A GOOD MOTHER!” I used to think that a support system was paramount, but this year, I’ve weekend-blocked everyone. My “well-meaning” friends make things worse. Someone asks how I’m doing. I say, “You know, Mother’s Day is difficult for me.” They respond: “My kids sent so many flowers that my home smells like a forest! ” or: “God, I’m grateful I don’t have that problem.” This year, my dearest of friends dropped a sympathetic eye on me and said, “Poor Mommy.” I WAS A GOOD MOTHER! The only thing I’m sorry for is that I didn’t pick a better father for my children. They are just like him. I’m sorry for everyone’s pain, all year round, but especially this weekend.

  3. AvatarSad Dad

    My son has totally cut me from his life. He’s done it before, but I think this time it’s for good.
    I’ve grieved in the past for the poor relationship we have, but now I’m grieving the total loss.
    It hurts.
    He told me he wished I was dead and that I should just kill myself.
    He said he hoped I died alone and miserable.
    He is now 26 and I am 48.
    His mother and I divorced when he was a toddler. I felt my relationship with my son has always been pretty good. When he finished high school his mother kicked him out of her house because of his bad behaviour and he was fighting all the time with her and his stepfather.
    I had never seen any of his bad behaviour. His mother said, “You will. Good luck.”
    I was single at the time and lived alone, he came to live with me. His mother was right. I asked him to leave after about 6 months.
    After another year or so went by, he said he needed somewhere to live, and he came back to live with me. But this time I was living with a partner. At first everything seemed okay, but then his attitude returned and we started fighting and so I asked him to leave.
    I tried my hardest to rebuild the relationship after that, but it was never the same.
    As far as I know, I have been a good father. Everyone who knew me when my son was growing up said I was a good father.
    I don’t know whether it’s drug addiction or he just has psychological issues, but what he said to me really hurt.
    In the last conversation we had over the phone, he was angry with me because I had contacted an ex-housemate of his to find out if he (my son) was okay. And that former housemate contacted my son and told him I had spoken to them. This angered my son. He says it was an invasion of his privacy and that I was stalking him. But I didn’t know what else to do when he wouldn’t speak to me for more than 6 months.
    I just kept saying I’m sorry because I wanted him back in my life. But sorry wasn’t good enough.
    It was extremely difficult to talk to him because then told me about half a dozen other things that I supposed had done, but none of them were remotely true. It was like he was living in a parallel universe.
    How do you say sorry for things that you know just didn’t happen? At first I tried to say that he was wrong about those other things, but then I realised it was getting nowhere and that he has a lot of issues and I just started to say sorry. I must have said or done things that have contributed to his anger, but I know in my heart I have been a good father.
    He told me during that last phone call that from now on if anyone asks about me, he will tell them I died.
    The grief I feel is overwhelming.

  4. AvatarJustine

    Yet again my daughter has cut me off. I wonder how long it will be now. I don’t think she even likes me. She adores her mother-in-law, calls her mom..and her first marriage she just adored that mother-in-law too. I know the grandbabies are asking about Grammy. They love me so much. My daughter had a happy childhood…Im starting therapy for this. My son would never treat me like this.

  5. AvatarLinda E.

    I recently saw this group decided to join.
    Thankyou for existing.

    I struggled for a few years as my adult daughter changed her perspective on life.
    Some of the things she started to say and do were very hard to accept as healthy but she was an adult and all I could do was watch.
    There was no room for me to comment so I didn’t.
    It is of course a huge story too much to say here except that we now fully estranged.
    I keep hoping that our ability to enjoy each other’s company and laugh would return.
    But so far it hasn’t, and her stories grow to the point of me having no idea how i could go back as what she expresses is so toxic towards me I have no idea how to find common ground.

    She has a on line following that has taken more and more scary turns in the last few years. I’m scared for her mental health and physical safety. We also live in different countries.
    She tells frightening extremely abusive neglectful stories about her childhood.

    In the beginning she told me it was a performance and her livelihood but it got so dark that I finally had to call her on some of the things she was saying because it was increasingly cruel.
    I asked her to please stop.
    She replied that it is her truth and I am in denial showing me she now believes what she says.
    I’m so frightened for her now.
    For the last 5 years when we talked I was on egg shells I had to pick every word I said careful not to question any thing she said
    When I finally set a boundary by saying I remember some things differently than her she cut me off telling me I can send her email only, she never replies.
    I just send small letters not bringing up anything personal between us talking about the garden, seasons changing and how that looks or pets that she has loved and wish her well.
    I’m sad to think we may never resolve the things that did go wrong in her childhood because of all the memories she says she has that I can only call delusional.
    I wake in the night my heart pounding after dreams of her as a little girl where I can’t find her.
    I sometimes look at the public things she posts outside her patreon content just to get a glimmer that she is ok, when it takes a savage turn I stop reading but I at least know that she’s still alive.
    I’m going to counseling for my own mental health.
    I would not wish this on any one.
    I send my best wishes and health to us all.

  6. AvatarStephanie C-B

    My son cut me out of his life too He’s changed as in becoming a cold hearted person and seems like he doesn’t love his family anymore( his siblings and me). As I read everyone’s comments, I cry. I have not spoken to him for almost a year. My son is a marine with PTSD, so he shuts down his emotions and don’t want to discuss any issues and it’s easier to cut us off. I sometimes have anger, hurt, sadness , hope, and sometimes I feel like I am ok with trying to accept him gone, but then I think of him and all our times together and i feel so heartbroken. I decided to look up how to cope the loss of a child because that’s how I feel it is.. I lost him.. I will continue to try to accept my loss and life without him. I pray one day he wants to be a part of our family again. Good luck everyone!

  7. AvatarJanet

    It seems a lot of children born in the 80’s are very self absorbed. They need you when they get into a situation your money comes into play. They bring up stuff that happened 8 yrs ago but at the time still allowed their children our grandkids to spend days and nights with us. They are having problems at home and trying to get it a secret. If they stay away and ignore you and you have tried to sit down and talk things over but it only makes manners worst. Most likely they are not happy with their lives and making excusing to you to stay away. You can not trust them anymore. Continue to Love them from afar and let them know your door is always open to them. You have to get involved with people who really appreciate you and be happy. Happiness is a choice its not what happens to you it is how you handle it.

  8. AvatarAllison K.

    I have an estranged son, who cut me out from his and my grandchildren’s lives because I had a panic attack when I was visiting them. The irony is that I could sense him getting increasingly angry at me while I was down there, visiting with my daughter. I sensed it, and when he started to get verbally abusive that is when I panicked. I got out of the car at a stop light, stepped onto a median and then waited for it to be safe before I crossed over and entered a gas station convenience store. I was trying to get control of myself, when the people who worked there called the cops. They got me some water (it was a hot day in Texas) and helped me to calm down. It all felt like a test I didn’t pass, a no win situation. That was 7 years ago, and he has slowly started to cut me off more and more. I have sent presents for the grandchildren and he does post pictures, but just recently he moved and won’t give me his new address. I love him, my daughter in law, and my grandchildren so much! I’ve prayed and tried to be strong, but it’s just so very painful.

  9. AvatarJackie H.

    I’m glad to know that I’m not alone. I’m at the point of giving up. My husband supports her in everything she does so I feel very alone in the situation. I don’t worry about my 36 year old daughter as much as I worry about my 14 year old grandson. She has remarried and I’ve been hearing that my grandson doesn’t get a long with him. Now that I can’t see him or talk to him I worry even more. His dad is in his life which I am proud of but, his dad doesn’t care if my family sees him at all. I feel like he will think none of us care about him.

  10. AvatarVicky

    People don’t understand the pain sadness.worst of itis to greave someone’s who is living.its like a complete chapter of my life is gone.
    I try to put in back of my mind .I have found the strength to move forward. But still have good and bad days

  11. AvatarPamela S.

    My 18year old daughter very recently cut me out of her life. She is living with her father-we are divorced-and I don’t know if there is any influence there. What I can say is that I have been unable to function. (Work etc…) since this has happened. Nothing is more painful, especially given how close we were in the years before she left me. My friends are tired of hearing me talk about it. I feel completely powerless and alone.

    1. AvatarJeannie

      Hey Pamela did your daughter tell you why she is cutting you out of her life? How long has it been since you and your ex divorced? All you can do is tell her you love her and nothing will ever change this and your doors is always open. We have a strain relationship with our married son. It is tough but when they grow up and make their own decisions and their ideas change specially if there is someone brainwashing them against you. We all make mistakes. Go out and do stuff with your friends or make some new friends stay busy always helps! You metioned your friends are tired of listening about it maybe its time to write a letter express your feelings and then tear it up!

  12. AvatarSteven

    I am going through the same with my adult son. Just think about yourself and what makes you happy. We can’t make anyone even our own children love us if they don’t. Move on with your life. We are not perfect and didn’t come with instructions but I believe its extremely selfish for any child unless they were extremely abused to just take off and never speak to their biological parents ever again. I don’t even try anymore.
    Now I make me happy !!!!

    1. Avatarsusi b.

      Thank you f the info . I never knew anyone else whose kids just went MIA and blocked you out. I rarely mention my son been almost 4 years since I spoke to him,The only way I know he is alive is the little teen credit account he used and still does, I ask my bank lady to pay 102 dollars on it each month, but she cant tell me anything. He is very autistic and the fact that I told his school people once I found this issue out, he has been hateful and mad constantly. So I wait but live!
      My daughter is also cut out same as me, but she has mental issues, millenial ME syndrome. She expects me to give her his share of the little they would share and has mentioned it often . She lives w me due to rents being unaffordable.
      She is resentful bitter etc from terrible education choices she did herself .I just try to avoid her in my own home since I am treated like an employee. Parenting must be my worst failure but I did my solid best 100% effort alone 100% . Anytime you want to write pls do! It is a bit of comfort to learn how many other parents find themselves with ???? and just go on daily w one’s life. I have p ets and they are always great!!

  13. AvatarAnn

    My Grandson’s Birthday is this Wed, he will be 7, I haven’t seen him since he was 2. I was out to a restaurant with them and looked across the table to his Mom, and I said “I don’t get to see my Grandson often enough”. My Grandson was 2 he had been to my home once, my daughter in laws relatives live in the same town, and they would go there, but never to my home, even for the Holidays, my Daughter in law never came for the Holidays….My daughter in law said, “are you attaching me”. I said no, but I guess I better be going, my son walked me outta the place and said “Mom don’t worry about it”. I haven’t seen or heard from them for the past 5 years….I have cried, I have gone to counselling, I have emailed, I have written letters, I have texted, I have called, and NOTHING. I send something to my Grandson at least 8 times a year and nothing. They have taken the greatest joy of my life away from me, I sit here crying right now, I just wrote my son an email again this morning. I’m asking for help here if anyway can think of something that I haven’t already done. Thank you for reading my note, and for any future ideas..

    1. AvatarJeannie

      I know exactly how you feel. We haven’t seen our two granddaughters in 4 yrs. Our daughter-in-law use to let them come spends night and day with us. Since they both were 15 months old. They are 8 & 10 now. We all live a short distance from each other. Our son’s wife has be throwing hints to me their entire marriage last 15 yrs she thinks our granddaughters may loves us more than her parents or her. She always finding excuses why they do not come around anymore. Your son needs to bring your grandson by and she doesn’t want to come then stay at home. Our grown son’s need to stand up to their wives. They would not like it if our son’s decided to treat her parents like she has been treating us. Our son’s will not act the way she does we raised them right. Relax and be patient our son’s one day is going to get tired of all the drama and lose interest in her and drive him away. Stay busy and you will be fine.

  14. AvatarBeverly

    I too, am finding it hard to move forward. The emptiness is there. I stay busy but when I lay down at night and say my prayers. I ask God how long? My daughter has not spoken or tried to get in touch with me since 2017. It hurts. I pray for each name I read . I know we will survive but at what cost.

    1. AvatarEllen

      Hi Beverly, I am asking you to pray for me, I have been going through the same thing for 2 years and my grandson we took care of for 3 years we haven’t seen In those 2 years….I am learning to trust and relinquish it to God , but it still is such a grief…I have tried to reach out to my daughter but with to no avail…I will keep you in my prayers as Well Beverly…I know how hard this is and how hurtful

  15. AvatarMarilyn

    One son passed away then other one says I have nothing more to say to you .More than ten years. Glimpses on other’s social media-not accepted on his- his wedding and birth of children and his in law’s visit with them in a foreign country
    My old age entering in and his special needs brother are here to take care of in our poverty and uncertainty.
    I’ve found certainty ,though, in Spirit’s guidance but once in awhile, like now, I feel sorry for myself. It won’t last or linger like it used to. It will end when I resume my Course in Miracles studies and let it lead me to smile and help others. You too can find hope. God bless.

  16. AvatarSusan

    Hi linda I am so sorry another mother is feeling the anguish and pain of having a child who is estranged from them. My son and family have been estranged for 4 years when my x husband left.
    The only people who truly understand are those that know the pain. The inner yearning and lonliness are so raw, living with the fear that could another one of your children do the same. You put on a mask that few ever see….you are definitely not alone ….hope is always a part of me…warmest wishes susan

  17. AvatarRia

    My daughter does not agree with my disicion to help a less privileged young woman . She now totally ignores me and cut me out of her life. The young woman decided that she does not want to become between mother and daughter and left. I feel so guilty because I love my daughter but how can we live happily ever after when I know someone else is suffering. My daughter still doesn’t speak to me even when I chose . How do I live with a bad relationship with my daughter ánd the guilt of not helping a person in desperate need

    1. AvatarAngela W.

      Your daughter sounds selfish. So, thats on her, not on you. It’s not your job to help everyone in need for ever. You can help those in need who need the help. Join a church or a charity. You will make friends, and feel useful and liked. This will minimize the focus on what you feel you lost.

    2. AvatarJean C.

      I recently suffered the same fate. My nephew started to date a friend of my daughter. She did not approve of the relationship. She blames me and said I should have stop it. My nephew is 48 years old and the woman is 50 years old. I had nothing to do with this. How can you control grown people. My daughter call me and scream at me that is all my fault. Now she refuses to speak to me. I tried to contact her and sent her a nice letter asking her what this is all about. But she refuses to answer. Before this happen ever thing was find between my daughter and myself. My daughter is a very controlling person. My nephew has since stop seeing the woman, he realize she was not the woman for him. Also he is very upset about all the trouble it cause me. I am almost eighty years old and I cannot believe my daughter is acting like this. My nephew and I are very close, I think she resents our relationship. She does not like her cousin. My daughter has never acted like this before.

  18. AvatarLinda H.

    After reading about estranged children in the article, I already have been lifted up from the life without my daughter after my husband’s death five years ago. Feeling alone really hurts, and not knowing why.
    Thank God I have found other’s that I’m not alone. Sincerely, Linda H.

    1. AvatarSweetMom

      Don’t forget that in Heaven we’ll be reunited with our children and husbands and our kids will be holy and pure and love us like we deserve and we’ll be with them forever. They will see with the clear light of the Holy Spirit the wrong they’ve done and the pain they’ve caused you. They will ask your forgiveness and you’ll love each other forever.

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