Mother’s Day: triggering pain for mothers of estranged adults

Mother's day estranged adult childrenMother’s Day, and special days: Triggering pain for mothers of estranged adult children

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Here it comes again—Mother’s Day in the United States and in Canada. Mothers of estranged adult children in the U.K. have already seen Mother’s Day come and go. Soon, mothers in Canada and in the States will be on the other side of the holiday too—until next year, when it rolls around all over again.

Hang in there. Mother’s Day won’t stop coming just because we’re estranged. And having spoken with thousands of parents who’ve been cut off by adult children, the reality is that the situation may not be ending for you anytime soon either. That’s why it’s so important for you to adapt.

What can you do?

Since starting this site, I’ve written a few articles about getting through Mother’s Day when adult children are estranged. You’ll find in them practical advice and concrete tips. You’ll also find comments from mothers of estranged adult children who share their experiences, and acknowledge the emotional pain.

In this article, we’ll focus on Mother’s Day from an emotional triggers perspective.

Mother’s Day when adult children are estranged: Avoiding extra hurt

estranged from adult childrenMother’s Day, like any time when we’re particularly reminded of an estranged adult child and the relationship we used to share, can trigger an onslaught of feelings. While it’s helpful to acknowledge the pain, it’s also easy to slip into a looping circle of thoughts that bring us down. Everyone else is having fun, and I’m sitting home alone. What did I do to deserve this? This is so embarrassing. Nobody understands.

Each of us has our own personal version of woeful thoughts. And scrolling through Facebook with its stream of happy family shots might fuel the feelings behind them. Protect yourself if you need to.  Just as social media can push emotional buttons, going to a brunch on Mother’s Day when you’ll be surrounded by families also might not be helpful either. Do you have other adult children or family who want to take you out? Remember, this is your day. You get to choose! Take care of yourself.

Coping Mindfully

What else might make you feel sad or lonely? Make a few notes of what will hurt or help–and then be proactive. Mother’s Day when your adult children are estranged is similar to other times that are particularly hurtful because they remind you of loss, stress, or grief. In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, in one story, Julia misses her only son. They were very close, and in the early mornings, he used to call her daily to chat. Julia had come to expect those calls. So after the estrangement, she would stare at the silent phone. Time gaped, and she felt horribly alone and sad.

Before her son walked away from the family, Julia’s mornings revolved around those calls. Their chat sessions had become part of her routine. They connected her to her son, and to the life they shared. But post-estrangement, Julia learned to adapt. Using one of the tools in the first chapter of the book, the first step toward her healing was to alter her routine. Looking at her phone each morning, wishing it would ring, only reminded her of what she’d lost.

Emotional hiccups

Just as mornings were particularly difficult for Julia, Mother’s Day can prick up the feelings of loneliness and rejection that are common with estrangement from adult children. For some it’s a particular song. Others might be bothered by a particular sporting event, or other recreation. Even if you don’t realize why, you might find yourself overeating, grousing at the cat, or having troublesome dreams. The feelings or behavior may be related to emotions triggered by a holiday like Mother’s Day, or another personally significant day.

While I’m past the pain of estrangement, certain places and activities do remind me of my estranged adult child. Eating strawberries makes me think of him—he’d choose them over any sugary dessert. And a nearby street never fails to remind me of him. Memories are attached to those things, so it’s natural the mind connects them to someone who was once so much a part of my life.

Does that mean I’m sad? Not anymore. I’ve come to think of those triggered memories as hiccups. Like some of the other mothers whose stories are shared in my book, I’ve worked through the pain, and moved beyond it. Recognizing those triggers, and then taking action to make new routines can help.

Stepping forward: Be good to yourself

There’s no set schedule to moving beyond emotinonal pain. There are only steps, big or little, that move you forward. Whatever you do, don’t get down on yourself. Acknowledge your feelings so you can deal with them. Remember the utter shock you felt when your son or daughter first cut you off? Don’t think of triggered emotions as setbacks. They’re aftershocks—a normal occurrence that relieves pressure. Pat yourself on the back for accepting where you are right now, and for recognizing that in coping mindfully like Julia, you’re healing. Think: Forward. I’m adapting. I’m moving on.

parents of estranged adult childrenTake Action

Like Julia and other mothers whose stories of estrangement from adult children are shared in Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, you too can heal. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a bad trigger day. You too can be Done With The Crying.
352 pages, May 2, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9973522-0-7
Available through popular booksellers–ask your local bookstore to order it for you (but prepare for delays–it’s so new it might not show up in their systems yet). Or order online.



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16 thoughts on “Mother’s Day: triggering pain for mothers of estranged adults

  1. BrokenHeart2

    Ordered your book yesterday. My Mother’s Day gift to myself.
    Thank you for being my lifeline at this time of my life. ❤️

    1. rparents Post author


      Oh my…what a kind and generous thought. Thank you for your support! To have this site be considered a “lifeline,” at what I know from experience is such a horribly devastating time makes me incredibly grateful. I sincerely hope you will find the book of value as you move forward in your own wonderful life.
      Fellow moms are so great.

      Sheri McGregor

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Denise,
      Yes, the book will be available on Kindle at some point probably. It’s not a simple book with text–requires a little bit of finesse and extra handling in order for the electronic version to be a quality product. I will let everyone know of any electronic version when available (I love Kindle, too!). For now, let me publicly thank you. I so appreciate you asking me directly. Someone just told me that an individual posted a “review” today, just saying that she wished it was on Kindle. She had not read the book, but gave a one-star review. The book is so new. Hers is only the second “review” (the other person gave it 5 stars), so that pulled the ranking way down. I hope people who find the book helpful will post actual reviews at Amazon. –Thanks again for your support, Denise.
      Hugs to you. ~ Sheri

  2. Ros

    HI Sheri,

    It is nice to know that I am not alone and that is comforting because of all the things it has triggered in me is the shame of where did I go wrong and what is wrong with me. I feel if I talk to others about it I will be seen as a failure or that there must be something wrong with me. That is more than I can cope with so I keep it as a dark secret and even speaking now about it makes me tear up as it is held so closely to me. I pretend all is well, but I never let it out and I think that is the hard part too. The lie to others and the truth I know. Don’t know if anyone else experiences this, but it is not easy.


    1. rparents Post author

      Yes, others do experience that same thing! There will be an article up that deals with that in the next few days, in fact.


    2. Brenda

      Please feel free to contact me any time. I have been estranged from my daughter for 5 years. I would love to talk or write to someone in the same situation you are. I don’t talk a lot about it with family or friends. I would enjoy hearing from you.
      Thanks Brenda

  3. Jo-Ann

    Every Mother’s Day I plan a tour to far away places. Right now, I’m in The Southern Caucasus on a tour that I didn’t want to take but it was the only one I could find that got me away from any Mother’s Day celebration. I want to stop running away each year but the pain and confusion of estrangement is so powerful. Someone sent this website to me. I know it will be a source of comfort as I become familiar with the offerings.
    Thank you so much. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

  4. Courtney

    I can’t say it’s Mother’s Day that breaks my heart for my 2 sons as I have been a motherless daughter since the age of 8. I am 43, with 4 sons. Ages 25, 20, 13 & 5. I beg, I cry, I feel like I do the right things but they can never live life with my perception . I never treated them poorly or spoke I encouraging. I’ve asked what to apologize for because I don’t know. I just want my kids to know me, they have forgotten.

  5. Annie

    Merry Christmas everyone
    Just a few thoughts here. I honestly believe the thing that bothers us most is the disappointment we feel in our estranged adult children. We know we didn’t set out to raise narcissistic children. It’s difficult to feel now they are complete strangers. That in itself is difficult to accept but I think most of you feel as though they are. It’s the worst betrayal ever to have it come from someone we gave our heart and soul to. Personally I tried to lead by example many times more with my heart than my head I suppose. My estranged daughter developed a giving heart because of me. How that heart turned so cold I will never know. Like many of you, I’m going to focus this season on all the people that do love and appreciate me and try to be positive no matter how my heart hurts. I am forever changed and I must accept the new normal. I pray God blesses each one of you this season. Hugs to all. Annie

    1. Bee

      Hey Annie, When I think of my son I think of words like, disappointing, cold, frustrating, and narcissistic. Before I found this site I felt like I was the only Mother who had this problem. Then after naming just some of my son’s attributes I have to ask myself why do I want this person in my life anyway. Yes, I’ve loved him since he was born. But, he’s not the sweet child I bought into this world any longer. So,
      I’m so glad I found this site. I’m going to strive to change my life for the better and if that doesn’t include my son, it was his call after all. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Cheri

    Why does my daughter contact me on Mother’s Day and my Birthday?
    She won’t let me see my Grandchildren. Why? Why does she do this?


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