Mothers of Estranged Adult Children: Mother’s Day 2018

mothers of estranged adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

The generally recognized founder of the U.S. Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, never profited from the holiday. She fought against commercializing it, but Mother’s Day is commercialized. And all those newspaper ads and television commercials can trigger pain and sadness for mothers of estranged adult children.

The White Carnation

Did you know that the carnation does not lose its petals as it dies? Instead, it hugs them to its heart, according to Anna Jarvis. She likened the carnation to mothers whose love never dies and who hold their children close. Jarvis was against commercializing the holiday, but she sure knew how to spin a persuasive line. So do today’s marketers. The holiday is so ingrained in our culture that mothers of estranged adult children begin worrying and talking about it months in advance. What will they do to get through the day? What won’t they do, in order to protect themselves?

Before we get into some solid answers, let’s consider that maybe all the lovely images the media projects about Mother’s Day aren’t as accurate a portrayal as they seem. As I say in my book, the Norman Rockwell image of the family doesn’t truly exist. Even the happiest of families have their troubles.

Sheri McGregorMy article, What don’t you know? , features an honest portrayal of after-holiday conversations among neighbors and friends. Odds are everyone is telling the good stuff while leaving out the conflicts.

Mothers of estranged adult children may also pare their comments down rather than let it all hang out. And who can blame them? Many mothers of estranged adult children relate that they have experienced judgment. It’s common for people to suspect that a parent has done something awful to cause estrangement. But as I discuss at length in my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, it’s sometimes possible to get past the judgment. Parents can sometimes be honest, and then steer the other person’s response. You can do this by acknowledging a negative response as understandable, which lets the other person off the hook. A gentle correction can follow, because estrangement by adult children who come from regular, loving families is actually rather common. By steering people past their initial responses, we can begin to enlighten society to the epidemic of estrangement. But gosh, don’t feel obligated to do so. As mentioned, it’s perfectly acceptable to keep it to yourself. Especially in the beginning.

Early on, it was difficult for me to talk about my son’s estrangement. As time has gone on, it’s grown easier. I also see it as important, so speak out publicly to shed light on the issue of estrangement. In the fall, when my story was told to a Good Housekeeping magazine interviewer, she edited it down, and then they added dramatic headlines that appeared as if they were my quotes. When I agreed to that interview, I had no idea the story would be passed along to media outlets all over the world. As a result, I was bombarded by hateful, judgmental comments. I completely understand why some parents choose not to tell anyone about estrangement.

However,  beyond enlightening society to the problem, my intention remains the same as when I when I wrote the book: To help parents of estranged adult children. If parents can manage to let go of the whys and what-ifs, they can live a fulfilling life. Though the article that went viral generated hate, it also reached the audience it was intended for. I heard from many parents, some of whom had suffered alone for many years. They said they had no idea there were other caring parents whose adult children abandoned them. Just by sharing my story, I had helped!

Sheri McGregorSimilarly, a mother in the support forum shared that she bought herself a beautiful bouquet for Mother’s Day—to honor herself for all she’d done as a mother. The florist asked if she wanted to sign a card, and she ended up revealing the truth. It just so happens that the florist was also a mother of estranged adult children. The two shared a hug. This story is like others I often hear, where one mother lets down her guard, and discovers she has helped another by sharing.

If you’re not ready to open up about your estrangement, don’t feel bad. I completely understand, and have suffered enough suspicious stares to know how you feel. We are each on our own path. Although we share a bond in estrangement, our individual circumstances are unique, and so are we. Depending on the duration of the estrangement and any further contact that places you on an emotional roller coaster or uncertain about hope, you may or may not be willing to open up. And it’s your choice whether to let people in on your plight. Just as a carnation holds its petals close, you may feel the need to protect your heart—and that’s OK.

Mother’s Day: not always happy

Mothers of estranged adult children are not the only ones who dread the day. Last year, a newspaper reporter gave my thoughts a little space among experts and mothers for whom the holiday isn’t all lovely and fun. The article offers helpful tips and insights from mothers in other situations that make the day stressful. It’s unfortunate that my quotes come next to a those of a therapist who suggests we mend the rift. So be aware of that before clicking on the link. Mothers of estranged adult children know mending the rift is not as simple as that (and the therapist speaks of teens rather than adults).

Mother’s Day: Manage, get through or even enjoy it

First, don’t feel bad about your feelings. In acknowledging our emotions, we honor ourselves. And that often frees us up to more fully appreciate and enjoy the day with others who love and want to celebrate with us. For more specific tips and discussion, see Tending Your Heartache.

Second, take care of yourself in the days leading up to Mother’s Day. This involves recognizing the feelings the holiday triggers and making a few decisions for your own happiness. Be mindful, and then act. Even the tiniest of steps help, because positive action for yourself results in momentum. Be good to yourself.

Third, remember that holidays can influence a person’s thinking. If you find yourself contemplating doing something out of the ordinary to try and reconnect, take a little time to reflect and consider your actions more carefully. Like one mother who felt compelled to reconnect with her adult sons, ask yourself a few key questions. You may decide, as she did, not to act. See her story here.

Fourth, realize again that you are not alone in this situation or the feelings that come with it. Recently, I reached out to the women behind a website for women. They contemplated, and then ran a thoughtful review of my book because they realized they both knew people who were estranged. These days, it’s common that someone is estranged within most circles. The support forum for parents of estranged adult children at this site is filled with parents of estranged adult children who offer one another care and kindness. You may find it beneficial too.

Fifth, take care of yourself. If that message hasn’t been set forth clearly so far, let me say it now: Take care of yourself!

More help for Mothers estranged from adult children

Sheri McGregorThroughout this article, I’ve embedded links to others with more specific tips, techniques, and strategies. Below, I’ve listed a few more of the Mother’s Day and holiday related articles to help (and the opportunity to get a free audio book). Why not get out a notepad, and as you read the articles, take a few notes about what might work for you. As always, the comments, too, contain wonderful suggestions from other parents like you.

Can you help other mothers estranged from adult children? If you have a comment about Mother’s Day that can help others, please share. Thousands of people visit this site every month, and in the weeks surrounding Mother’s Day, the traffic spikes with hurting people looking for help. I hope you’ll take a moment to make a comment here.

As a special Mother’s Day gift from me to you, I have two digital copies of the audiobook version of Done with the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children to share. Here’s how to possibly receive one:

  1. Comment directly to this article with a thought about Mother’s Day to help mothers estranged from adult children. You can do this by using the box below, or by clicking on “Leave a Reply” at the top of this article. In your comment, be sure to talk a little about your estrangement–and don’t worry, although the comment form asks for your email address, that will not be shared or visible on the page when your comment appears. (Your comment will not immediately appear, so don’t worry when you don’t immediately see it. Comments are moderated for approval.)
  2. Do include your real first name.
  3. Comment between now and midnight Sunday, May 13, 2018 (Pacific time).The two winners will be chosen randomly by draw. You will receive a redeemable code to use directly from the audiobook publisher’s website. Until next time, Happy Mother’s Day! And lots of HUGS to the hurting parents.

Sheri McGregor

Related articles

Getting through Mother’s Day when your adult child is estranged: 6 Thoughts to help

‘Twas the night before Mother’s Day

Holidays, how to manage them

Happy Mother’s Day

Greetings from estranged adult children

Mother’s Day for estranged mothers: Tending your heartache

Mother’s Day: Triggering pain for estranged mothers

The mother who isn’t, the grandmother who isn’t allowed


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23 thoughts on “Mothers of Estranged Adult Children: Mother’s Day 2018

  1. Izzy

    The article was very nice. Your book is the most valuable book I own.
    I let go of my ED. I stopped calling and texting. If she texted, I’d respond with something bland. Things seem to be getting better but I’m not all in. Maybe I will never be able to fully trust her. I’m ok with that. I raised my child to be be self sufficient and to be the best she can at whatever her choices were/are.
    I did a good job, the best I could and have no regrets. I won’t see her on Mother’s Day. It will always be my favorite holiday and will treat myself with kindness.
    I still remember the first time I saw and joined this group. I cried like I never had. Seeing so many others suffering the same way I was almost more than I could bare. I cried for too many years. I have no expectations of my ED.
    Thank you for all your support and great articles.
    It’s because of you and the group that I’m ok now.
    Best wishes to all on this Mothers Day!

    1. Sasha

      I feel more exhilarated after finding this group than in a long time. Mother’s Day has never been celebrated for me. It’s basically the same for any of my special days. I’ve been a mom for 42 years and I can’t say that my son has ever celebrated it at least not with me. He has never given me a card which I would love to have, even if it’s only a dollar card. I have a foot high pile of cards for every occasion from my daughter and her family. I read them often and smile and sometimes cry because she went to a lot of work to pick up a special card. It’s the acknowledgment and validation that you have a special day or that you were born, etc. etc. I teasingly asked my son one year if he was going to buy me a card for Mother’s Day and he said I was thinking about it. I knew he . wouldn’t, and he didn’t.

  2. Nautical

    Spent so much money, time and caring. Very tired of crying for seven straight years now which has affected my health. My daughter married a guy who is Chinese. My daughters children happen to say that I was more fun than other grandparents. The Chinese mother did not like that so I am now trash. I have thought about moving away, starting over as someone who never had a child. My daughter and I were so close until this happened. If she has had no contact with me for seven years no matter how much I tried, then I guess she does not have a mother. Much easier for me to say I don’t have a child than for her to say she didnt have a mother. There should have been enough room for both grandmothers. Brainwashing is a terrible sin. Children who do this violate Gods commandment and he sees everything. I think he brings justice to them in some way while they are still on this earth.

    1. Effie

      Nautical… I am so sorry. I think of moving too. I live in a small town and my daughter literally trashed me to all the people she could .. I have a small business and I struggled and still struggle to go into Walmart. Its very complex but most of the things she was telling were twisted things to hurt me. Its the worst pain I have had as well. She set on my bed talking with me till her senior year of school…then when she didn’t get her way with dating rules as her grades were slipping she threw me under the bus and left home.. Its been 3 years.. now I am the one that’s done. No more reaching out to be rejected.. I have been smashed like a bug and I still cry too… but I am grieving the loss and moving forward.. Hugs to you..

    2. Bleedingheartmom

      Hello Nautical..I feel the same pain. Brainwashing, totally sinful and disrespectful. I also live in a small town near my EDS and grandchildren that I will never meet until they are 18. I have found the book and this forum to be extremely helpful. Please focus on yourself and others. I am glad to meet you and hope to help. Stay str ok ng.

    3. Ophelia

      Hello, I have just joined the community and reading you experience, I can see similarities in my own. My husband has always been good with children and my daughter-in-law has seen this. I think she actively turned our son against us out of pure jealously and selfishness. But saying that, he was obviously weak to allow it to happen. The green eyed demon wins again. But like you say its against most people’s beliefs, of honoring parents. As you say there is enough love to share. What annoys me the most is how they take an innocents child choice to know their Grandparents away. I am newly estranged but I have already gone through a myriad of emotions and am still having down days.. Sheri’s book has helped though, and I feel I need to say to myself now is “onwards and upwards”

      Best wishes to you take care. sending hugs!

  3. rparents Post author

    FROM “Dee” who could not login, so this comment is being added manually:

    “Another silent Mother’s Day watching other families surrounding their moms with flowers, love, and hugs. I jokingly tell others I’m expecting to get a cactus plant from my (34 & 36 year old) daughters, but I know even that won’t happen. I went from being “the best mom” just a few short years ago to being “heartless and callused.” Despite the years of their self-inflicted dramas, I was always there for both of them when they needed me. Now, I am the terrible mom who only thinks of herself. How can this be? I am confused.

    “But let’s focus on today. Whoo-Hoo! Happy Mother’s Day! How can we get through this day without the roller coaster of emotions of abandonment, scars, and questions as to why and how this day has come to be another holiday of sadness? Another day of pulling the covers over my head and staying in a depressed bed is not going to change anything. Getting myself physically ill over their petulant behavior is not going to improve the situation. Lamenting over what “could be” today and fantasizing how wonderful it would be to have two daughters who put their arms around me and say they love me is not going to happen. So what will I be doing today? I am putting my attention on all the women who have been in my life who was there for me like a mother. I’ll be thinking of my mom who died 17 years ago and all the things she’s done to make me who I am today—strong and resilient to get through life’s challenges. I’ll be thinking of my aunts and neighbors who treated me like a daughter. They are the ones who are being acknowledged today. I have also visited nursing homes to sit and talk with the “forgotten” mothers who have nobody to visit them. I take the focus off of me by remembering others. Focusing on others is a great way to keep things in perspective. Focus on those who ARE in your lives. Be grateful for those who do love you and include you in their lives. Create your own happiness!”

    1. Effie

      I get it… I was told by everyone I was the best mom too… gave my life for them and they were the center of my world.. then wham… without warning accusations flew.. I have heard people die from heartbreak at times.. I though I would and still feel I could. You are not alone..

  4. roamingbutterfly

    This morning I awoke looking forward to spending time with my own mother, grateful I still have her in my life. My grandmother, (mom’s mom) passed away earlier this year. So my focus was on my mom and if this would be a difficult day for her. We planned a simple day, a movie and lunch. She ended up having car trouble so went to my brother’s to have him look at her car. Meanwhile I took a deep breath and faced the social media and text onslaught of Mother’s Day wishes. I surprised myself by not feeling overly emotional as I exchanged comments and texts with friends and family members.

    I thought finally I can deal with this day without the gut wrenching pain that has become “normal” to me over the years since my estrangement from my daughter. I’ve been moving through the spectrum of emotions I’ve felt since this last estrangement and feel like I’ve come to a place of peace. I hesitate to use the word acceptance, because I still hope and pray for a reconciliation.

    But after years of emotional ups and downs, estrangements and reconciliation this past one has seemed more permanent. I haven’t spoke to my daughter (aside from an outburst at a family funeral) since November of 2014. I’ve exhausted myself from examining every choice I made while raising her or apologizing for things real and imagined she’s felt I’ve done that were wrong. I finally stopped sending cards and gifts for her and my grandchildren. She made it abundantly clear she wanted nothing to do with me and so I stopped trying. I figured what do I have to lose? If I give her the thing she says she wants maybe it will give her time to heal and reflect. I realized that doesn’t mean I have to stop loving her or the grandchildren. and I don’t have to stop praying for them or for a restoration. But I do have to stop punishing myself and placing myself in a position to continually get beat down and rejected.

    So I had made that decision to step back and let go. So I sat down to a meal today with my mother I felt fine. Grateful for the relationships I do have and looking forward to sharing a meal and conversation.
    Then it happened; the restaurant manager approached our table and asked if we were mothers. As I went to answer him, I suddenly was overcome with emotion. My eyes filled with tears and I chocked out a very weak ‘yes”. He said that in honor of Mother’s Day our meal would be on the house.

    I was taken quite by surprise that I reacted in such a manner, as I thought I was handling the day quite well. At least up until that point. I realized that while I am finding ways to cope, the pain lies just under the surface ready to sprout up and surprise me at a moment’s notice.

    As I sat there trying to compose myself I looked across the table at my own mother and saw her compassion for what I was going through. I apologized and said I didn’t want to make this day about me, but to spend time with you and enjoying your company. She simply smiled and nodded that understanding look of hers and the proceed change the subject and together we spent time reminiscing about times we shared with my grandmother. I spent the rest of the day focused on my mother and as I did my own pain subsided.

    To other parents who are dealing with estrangement my advice is to not let the estrangement define you. Hold on to what you know is the truth, the undying love you have for your child(ren) and that whatever you did while they were growing up, I believe each of us as parents did the best we could at the time with the knowledge and resources we had at that time. To go back and rethink everything is just wasted energy. What’s done is done. If you did do something wrong or could have done something better or different. Forgive yourself and stop beating yourself up. Being estranged doesn’t mean we have to stop loving our children. We just have to learn to love them differently, from a distance.

  5. ahavah

    Each year, I remember how Mother’s Day was celebrated in my family of origin. My dad made sure that all of us honored mom in any way we could. I put so much effort into making it a super day for my mom, (may she rest in peace) and other mom’s too. Years ago, I put on a brunch for my mother-in law. It was quite spectacular. We arranged for everyone to pretend to forget the day and her son met her at home,politely blindfolded her and said she was being “kidnapped”. She thought her husband was out of town. When she arrived at my house for brunch we seated her next to her husband and removed her blindfold…yep worth every minute of the planning.! So, I continue to make mother’s day happy for those other mothers around me. The other side of the story: I got a text from one son, nothing from another and my daugther stood me up for the mother’s day brunch I planned. ..So I took friends whose kids live across the country, out to dinner. One of my son’s told me years ago, “it’s a fake Hallmark holiday made for marketing” He should read your lovely post! Well I guess that gets kids off the hook for poor behavior, NOT! I see that the neglect of Mother’s Day is everywhere. My behavior hasn’t changed but now people won’t even simply show up for a Mother’s Day brunch which requires no work for them whatsoever, but that won’t stop me from honoring myself or other mothers.

  6. Effie

    Hi Sheri.. or anyone that wants to comment. Mothers day was hell. Now, the one estranged daughter has drawn her brothers in as they ( feel sorry for her) although my counselor agrees 100% that my daughter is extremely manipulative and playing a victim.. But, my question is.. my father who was a very good grandparent has been ignored 100% by them for 3 years because they are mad at me. I tough loved my rebellious daughter so they shut us all out…grandparents too. I am broken hearted as he is nearing the end of his life and I am sooooo angry. They ignored me the first few years when I asked them to visit him.. They are all college educated professionals. Two are mental health degrees 🙁 But the 30 age range seems to be much different now.. Anyway.. I stopped asking and stopped reaching out to them, the rejection was too overwhelming. My 3rd mothers day of being ignored helped me to turn a corner… I will not beg or keep saying I am sorry for whatever I did to them… I just need input on the grandfather issue. I feel I will never get over this when it comes to my elderly parents last years..My dad is so sad and pretty much homebound now…

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Effie,
      What can you possibly do? You can’t force them to visit. Maybe it’s best they don’t…. It isn’t right that they don’t care … But they don’t seem to.

      I’ve heard a few stories where the”kids” are persuaded and it goes fine. Sometimes it builds expectations too though, and the letdown is bad when they don’t return.

      If you want to try asking them again, why not? On the other hand, it would be acceptable to enjoy your dad as much as you can and don’t try anymore to get them to visit. Some day they may realize and feel bad … Or not.

      Are you able to accept that this is how it is? That there’s nothing you can do, really? If you feel like you must continue to try and get them to see, perhaps put a limit on what you do and when and when you will feel it’s enough.

      I’m sorry Effie!!


  7. Effie

    Thanks Sheri… yes I am willing to let it go. I know I cant control any of this… something has happened to the hearts of this generation and its far from pretty…. And yes I shower my parents with love and respect because its right and I want too!


  8. Mabb

    I do not understand my daughter she is mean, takes every opportunity to be mean, recently my husband and I were going threw health issues I emailed her and my son was having a cardiogram to see if there was another blockage he had by pass 7 years ago my colon cancer stool test came back positive. HER response via email was Well we are all ageing that is why we need to exercise and eat well … it was my fault. On mothers day I get this lovely card…not her words …do not understand why at every opportunity she is so mean yet sends me these cards. I do not speak to her text email phone nothing she never calls me when she responded to my email she went on to talk about a trip she was taking. My son has always said she was mean from the time she turned 14 I hated to give up on her and kept trying once she said to me the only way anyone would want to spend mothers day with you is if you went to visit them. At Xmas she never invites us to her place she is not married and has no children. My son says she does not like herself I am seeing a great therapist who has helped a lot in detaching from her she was such a wonderful sweet girl I love her so much but have to pull back its like I am her dart board.

  9. Kathea

    Mabb, I feel your pain… My daughter and I were so close. I was a single parent and didn’t remarry until she went to college. At about 12 years of age something happened and she was very depressed and cried a lot. I asked her what was wrong but she wouldn’t tell me. We had reciently moved back to our home state and I think her dreams of establishing a relationship with her emotioally/unavailable/absent father was at the root of her discontentment . She started pulling away from me more and more around three years ago and 4 days ago ( I’m counting ) she told me we triggered each other too much and she was blocking me from her face book. Later she texted her stepfather to have him tell me she was cutting off
    all communication so the we could turn to God for
    emotional support and not to each other. She won’t tell me what I did to her except that she was emotionally abused as a child and she isn’t going to pretend otherwise. I have been her dartboard as well. Occasionally she will remove the darts and replace them with knives. After the shock of rejection ebbed, I felt relief flow into my mind. It’ has been exhausting mentally to ride her rollacoaster of emotional up
    and downs. Since finding this support group I can rest assured that I don’t have multiple personalities, am lying about my abusive personality or that she is the victim. I believe most of these estranged adult children have false
    memories as well as the “ me “ generation. Know you are not alone in your sadness/grief.

  10. BiCoastalMom

    I was so close with my own Mom, she was just a wonderful, warm woman. Mother’s Day was a chance to remind her of how much I loved her. My ED has ignored it since she was 14. Part of her “you’re the enemy and a worthless person anyway” campaign.

  11. Sasha

    We always celebrated my parents special days. We respected them and would never think of treating them like many “adults” nowadays do. Too many have no morals even though they are taught what they should know. Really sad days.
    I remember when my daughter was in her late teens and got mouthy I told her about the family curse. The karma one. I laugh when I think of it now because she apologized later after her kids did the same thing. She has really turned out to be a great woman and We get along great now.

    1. peachy19

      i am happy for you that you and your daughter are getting along , i too shared with my son the karma story that his aunt my older sister is estranged from her 3 children my son thought that was terrible so he estranged from me to be with her

  12. Sasha

    Hi peachy19

    I feel sad for any parent whose child turns away from them to another. I hope everything gets better for you. My husband and I have been at the bottom of our son and daughter in laws list for years. They think nothing of visiting everyone they know and we rarely see them. They live two blocks away. Any of their friends, new friends, kids of friends come well before us. This includes celebrating birthdays, etc. This is their choice. But Lord help us if we aren’t there for them when they want something.
    I have just gotten used to not being anywhere in their lives. I still text the kids though. I want them to know they are loved by gramma and Grampa.

    Sending you hugs

  13. peachy19

    Thank-you for your reply, it began to feel like no one understood or cared ,my family keeps telling me he will be back but i really think i am done . my heart still hurts from missing all the b days holidays and only being called to watch their dog when they go on vacation with their in laws


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