Negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults: It hurts

negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults

Negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults:
It hurts

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Lately, there have been quite a few articles on the Internet about estrangement. As I say in my latest book, Beyond Done With The Crying: More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children, what used to be a taboo subject is now more known. If you’ve read some of these articles though, you may have been disheartened to find them negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults. They frequently depict rejected parents as racist, homophobic, abusive or toxic, often evidenced by some vague reference by the estranger—and sometimes backed by a therapist’s overreaching conclusion. One recent article at a site called “VOX” featured the latter, and it was brought to my attention by Tony, a rejected father whose adult child told of a similar “professional” judgment.

Tony loved and tried for many years to do right by his daughter, who had been 17 when he and his wife divorced. He knew she’d been shocked and suffered. So, he was patient and understanding of her mood swings toward him, even when they worsened (rather than improved) in her mid-twenties. Her behavior alternated between friendly, aloof, verbally abusive, and complete estrangement.

When Tony suffered a health crisis, he knew he had to make some changes for himself. He reevaluated his up-down and on-again-off-again relationship with his daughter and realized he couldn’t take the stress anymore. “I asked if we could show each other mutual respect,” he explains. “Instead, she cried foul to a therapist and called later to say the doctor had confirmed to her that I am an ‘emotionally distant’ dad. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

For this father, the article he says is another example of “negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults,” confirms a general bias against rejected parents. “That we’re deadbeats, abusive, or just don’t care about our kids.”

I understand this father’s concern. When these messages are repeated time and again, people tend to believe them. The assumptions hurt. In the case of rejected parents, they confirm a bias that already exists., partially because people who love their children and do their best as parents don’t want to believe this could happen to them. The recognition that this can and does happen is growing because estrangement has become so common. When I talk about estrangement by one’s children, people will often know someone who is going through this horrific experience or have had a taste of it themselves.

Even so, the prevalence of such negative stereotyping of parents of estranged adult children confirms the bias still exists. Judging from all the recent material, it may even be increasing. And for supportive parents whose children turn on them anyway, the negative portrayals can cause distress. As I say in Beyond Done, when people feel judged and perceive discrimination, as many parents of estranged adult children do, their physical and mental health can suffer.

OK Boomer

The dismissive phrase, “OK, Boomer,” came to mind when reading a recent L.A. Times op-ed written by a Manhattan psychoanalyst. In all honesty, her piece makes some true and sensible points. Among them are that adult children who cancel their families pay a psychological price, and that learning to adjust and to work things out is preferable to estrangement.

Too bad that buried between her sensible points is a descriptive massacre. She injures the already hurting parents of estranged adult children by generalizing them as “narcissistic” and “intrusive.” She asserts that “. . . baby boomer parents are especially troubled,” a generation for whom it’s difficult to “acknowledge or even recognize their aggression.” In a backhanded compliment, she states that Baby Boomers tried to raise their children in ways that “at least appeared to prioritize their children’s needs” (emphasis mine.)

That op-ed made its way into media outlets around the U.S. (and probably the globe). It’s among several recent writings that serve up a dangerous, misleading message that generalizes older people, the parents of estranged adult children, as nosy, unbending, and self-absorbed.

Tell that to the parents who have given their life savings to help their “kids,” some of whom have drained the Bank of Mom and Dad well into their middle age. Or the single parents who worked their fingers to the bone so their kids wouldn’t have to do without. And to the parent whose ex-spouse fed the children lies and alienated their affections.

Years of energy, love, kindness, patience, and support … for eventual estrangement.

These opinionated pieces, which are sometimes billed as “news,” trudge right past—or even trample—all the good the parents ever did. They bolster estrangers’ assertions that Mom and Dad are emotionally immature, have unmet needs, or that their motives were selfish (<—–read that as narcissistic, toxic, or both).

Negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults isn’t always done in such a blatant way either. Even in books and articles that are a bit fairer to the older generation, the negative bias exists in the set-in their-ways, know-it-all, overbearing cliches that are routinely slipped into the writing. More subtle maybe, but still there. Online, you’ll find that even material aimed at the senior citizen suffering a difficult relationship with an adult child, purportedly to help, is often accompanied by photographs of a bossy older person, haranguing a frustrated young adult.

The reality is that most parents zip their lips and try to get along. They walk on eggshells, sometimes for many years, to avoid another put-down, explosion, or a cutting off—sometimes just to see the grandchildren. The acronym for walking on eggshells is fitting: WOE. Walking. On. Eggshells. Woe! The reality is that when we’re so busy trying to please another adult, we can miss out on the beauty that surrounds us and fail to be present to enjoy our lives.

Negative stereotyping of parents of estranged adult children

photo courtesy pixabay

Dangerous words

Stereotyping Baby Boomers may be prevalent these days, but that doesn’t make it right. The negative grouping is just another “ism,” at a time when other isms are not tolerated. It’s also irresponsible. This is perhaps especially true now, when our society is suffering from increased polarization, hate, and even violence. That so many in the helping field appear to believe the stereotypes, and that venues spread these negative messages, is worrisome and maybe even reprehensible. Right now, the aged population is growing exponentially around the globe. What’s known as the “Silver Tsunami” is underway. The negative classification of older people may be providing an excuse for more intolerance.

Besides, negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults, and depicting older people as rigid, unbending, or rife with “narcissistic” and “intrusive behaviors” doesn’t ring true. Research reveals that older people crave peaceful interactions and will often go out of their way to try and achieve social harmony. That the adult children who have rejected their parents based on differing opinions or worldviews can’t “live and let live”—like the Baby Boomers and those even older learned to do—is a shame, and is increasingly asserted as the cause of estrangement. As I say in Beyond Done, if we can try on our adult children’s perspectives (and we do), they can afford us the same courtesy.

Does anxious parenting beget anxious parenting?

I’ve been hearing more about a social theory that Baby Boomers engaged in what’s being termed by psychologists as “anxious parenting.” They’re saying it’s s at the root of adult children so vehemently rejecting their parents. The thinking is that adult children must draw a line in the sand and not allow their parents past it, so that they can steer their own lives.

Like many ideas that get bandied about in our world, this is just another theory. Maybe there’s even truth in it. As I have written in the past, my husband and I gave our kids a lot of freedom, so for me personally, the theory doesn’t hold and sounds like more negative bias. You know if this is more true for you. History does reveal that a shift in our society capitalized on parents’ fears and replaced the tried-and-true methods and advice of family elders with parenting “experts.” As discussed in my first book, these experts partnered with commercial marketers. Loud messaging does have influence.

To me, it’s interesting that if these adult children estrange from their parents because they must to become independent, their self-awareness is pretty limited. It doesn’t expand to raising their own children when they engage in anxious parenting themselves. As one recent BBC article several parents told me about highlighted, kids are cutting parents off because their values don’t match. That they don’t agree with their parents’ values is a big duh to me, as stated in a previous article, but my point here is that they sometimes cut off parents to keep their kids from being exposed to their beliefs. The article mentions racism, albeit without detail. As the LA Times op-ed said, engaging in dialogue would take work but perhaps have better outcomes. Such discourse, though painful and tough, could even pave the way for these adult children to engage in discussions with their own children. This could be a “teaching moment” about differing values, how society evolves, and how we might compromise.

A skewed view

As I was preparing to write about the flux of negative stereotyping of parents of estranged adult children, several rejected moms and dads also shared their thoughts. Among them were parents like me, who (thankfully) also have good relationships with some of their adult children. We may suffer estrangements, but we’re not all grouchy tyrants, growing old alone.

In those relationships, the adult children see their folks as human beings, raised in a different era and holding onto some of those beautiful values, yet also learning new things and adjusting to modern life. We’re not a bunch of crotchety codgers, stuck in the past, barking orders, and demanding that our kids fall in line as we intrude on their lives. Like everyone, we disagree at times, just as all people do. Yet, for the most part, we see our adult children as whole beings, too. Not as stereotypes. We get along. And as I say in Beyond Done, “We can treat each other kindly.”

Letting go

As always, my message in my books and in this blog is for the hurting parents to learn to let go of the adult children who don’t want them. Reach out sometimes if it feels right, but don’t let their rejection forever rule or ruin your life. You can learn to move forward and be happy, even while holding out hope.

According to that L.A. Times op-ed, the children who reject their parents only flip the pain of abandonment onto themselves. I know how this sometimes plays out: Exhibiting blatant projection, the “children” may accuse their parents of abandoning them. It’s something I hear about frequently and have experienced myself. The parents may also buy into it, feeling as if a “good” parent should forever keep trying, no matter how much it hurts (and the idea is bolstered by plenty of supposed experts).

Parents sometimes express that letting their children go feels like abandoning them. But after trying repeatedly, suffering cyclical rejection and even abuse, many parents come to realize that in all their futile efforts, they have abandoned themselves.

You may not actually be “done with the crying” yet, but my books can help you be on your way. Done With The Crying provides a way forward. The next book, Beyond Done, tackles the grittier details you won’t find in in op-eds that talk down to baby boomers, or even in the popular advice that Beyond Done debunks. It offers plain talk and solutions to a variety of complex realities that often plague parents and other family members in the wake of an adult child’s heartbreaking exit.

Don’t be among the parents who wait so long that they become physically ill from the stress as Tony did. Some parents suffer trauma to the level of PTSD, withdraw from people who care about them, and find themselves aging more rapidly. Learn from these parents of estranged adult children who wish they hadn’t waited so long to recognize they must let go to hang on—to their own identity and self-worth. It’s never too late to reclaim confidence, well-being, and a zest for life.

Negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults or older people in general is wrong. Seeing that negativity in the media can be unsettling, but if you work toward your own well-being, you’ll be better prepared to debunk those stereotypes by your very presence. You’ll feel more self-confident and even happy. In time, you may find, as I have, that talking openly about estrangement is a part of your healing.

The strength of a tsunami

They don’t call the aging population a silver tsunami for nothing. We’re a force to be reckoned with—and no amount of negative stereotyping or “OK Boomer” put-downs can hold us back.

Related Reading:

Abandoned parents: Let your light shine


Birditt, K.S. & Fingerman, K.L. (2003). Age and gender differences in adults’ description of emotional reactions to interpersonal problems. The Journal of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58, 237-245.

Birditt, K.S. & Fingerman, K.L. (2005). Do we get better at picking our battles? Age group differences in description of behavioral reactions to interpersonal tensions. The Journal of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 60, 121-128.

Birditt, K.S., Fingerman, K.L. & Almeida, D.M. (2005). Age differences in exposure and reactions to interpersonal tension: A daily diary study. Psychology and Aging, 20, 330-340.

Blanchard-Fields, F. (2007). Everyday problem solving and emotion: An adult developmental perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 26-31.

Levenson, R.W., Carstensen, L.L. & Gottman, J.M. (1994). The influence of age and gender on affect, physiology, and their interrelations: A study of long-term marriages. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 56-68.

Pascoe, E.A. & Smart Richman, L. (2009). Perceived discrimination and health: a meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 135(4), 531-554.

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

69 thoughts on “Negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults: It hurts

  1. Diana

    It is absolutely deplorable how many parents have been subjected to being blamed, rejected and abandoned by their ungrateful, disrespectful, entitled adult children.
    For me, the sense of loss is profound since my 38 year old son decided to cut me out of his life after he got married and punish me with withholding my grandchildren from me. (It has been four years of no contact) I don’t know them.
    As for my older son, I have been rewarded with rudeness, verbal abuse and having to walk on eggshells.
    As a single mother (I divorced their father, who was an alienating father, 23 years prior) I’ve always been there for my two sons, emotionally, spiritually and especially financially well into their forties. They took it for granted.
    In the past I have gotten quite ill with acute anxiety and bell’s palsy (this is all due to stress) and made a
    conscious decision to move on and live my life without their abuse, even though It is sad not to have them in my life. It was not my choice to estrange. I always thought that the most important thing in life was having a family, which is the theme of my life.
    They need to take responsibility for what type of legacy do they want to leave behind. We all have choices.
    Thank you.

    1. Patricia

      Diana I admired you. I am a mother of an estranged adult children of 35 years. I divorced his father when my son was 14 and when he was 16 his father died in an accident. Mu son was very shy but very demanding too and his father always gave what he wanted even if he did not need it and very expensive things. I get marry again with a very nice man with whom my son got along well. My son and I get along very well or I thought that. When he turned young adult he started to challenge and argue very often for things without importance. He was very manipulative and for get along well and do not loose him I comply in his demands. His relationships with women never long more than a year. Four years ago a relation with a divorce women and one year later surprisingly he let me out of his life. It has been very sad but I decide to let him go because it was his decision. I had try to reconciliate with no feedback. Look for your health and enjoy the simple things of life. Someone told me: Life is not fear but is beautifull anyway.

  2. Shawn K.

    Dear Sheri,
    Although I’ve just recently joined your discussion and haven’t yet read your books, I have in fact read through many articles and reader postings. I haven’t seen opinions regarding this:
    I have an estranged adult child (on again, off again type) who has shared that she is doing a lot of work with her therapist who she claims is helping her. Due to this, I’ve been tempted to copy her on articles like “Negatively Stereotyping Parents…” so I can know she is, at the very least, hearing a different perspective to consider. Another question in mind is how much is too much for me to share with her about my own thoughts, feelings and experience? So far, when she and I communicate, I’ve followed the rule of keeping it light, impersonal, and never remotely close to our relationship… even when the intent is positive (e.g. expressing my love or gratitude is often rejected, ignored, or reacted to with suspicion of narcissistic intent!)
    I believe she’s a highly intelligent person with a fine tuned bullshit detector, therefore could benefit from reading your recent article “Negatively Stereotyping…” yet I also realize I’m prone to not fully accept her inability and/or unwillingness to take in new information at this time.
    So in general, I ask you, if parents have been told by their estranged children that therapy is underway, do you think it’s best for us to remain steadfastly neutral (with no personal opinions) yet supportive (listening and thanking them for sharing)?
    In all honesty, I’m thinking that my own intermittent attempts to help her work through her trauma & life challenges may have been a major factor in the pattern of on-again/off-again estrangement.
    Your reply will be greatly appreciated!

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Shawn,
      In general, I don’t think sending my material is helpful, but there may be exceptions. I’ve been getting this type of question a lot lately, and addressed it here:

      As for staying neutral while the child is in therapy–that’s something that would be dependent on the relationship a parent has with their own child. Sometimes, wrongheaded ideas must be pointed out to anyone not just a child. Other times, it is not our duty or place. I think we must each come to our own conclusions given the specific situation. I can’t know your specific situation!

      HUGS to you dear Shawn.


  3. Karen

    I am horrified at the number of you suffering as I do. Comforting, yes that I am not alone. Helpful in coping strategies some of you have stated, but devastated that anyone else would suffer as I have. I too, sacrificed everything in my life for my daughter and son. I was always there for each of them and never turned my back, although maybe I should have. I was there emotionally, physically, spiritually, as well as financially. My husband has dementia/alzheimer’s now and takes out all his anger on me. I feel like the quintessential whipping post/scapegoat. Not only have my children rejected me, but they use the 6 grandchildren as weapons against me. We live on social security and although my daughter is a millionaire, she will not help with any costs for my husband so I am forced to apply for medicaid. I am reading Sheri’s book and trying so hard to overcome, and trust my Lord. The sense of loss this past year is profound – I had to give up our home, my job, my dog died, my chickens, my cats, selling almost all our possessions – I am reduced to a 400 square foot apartment out of a 3500 square foot home on 42 acres. I have no family except my husband who declines daily. I miss my grandchildren so much, I usually give myself permission to cry everyday. I was so close to them and I know they are struggling about my absence. My oldest granddaughter has PTSD from the first time she was removed from my life. I know that people can be cruel, but I am so lost as to how children who were loved deeply can drive a stake into one’s heart the next minute. I have letters and text messages about how deeply loved I am and I will never be abandoned. I will always be cared for – I can only say, what insidious lies!!!
    I don’t want any of you to suffer as I am, but I am so grateful for each of you who are transparent and offer some notion of hope. Right now I feel hopeless but I am determined not to feel helpless.
    I pray such great blessings on each of you and most of all for Sheri who is determined to see us all through this nightmare.
    God’s blessings,

    1. Molly

      I completely agree with you. I devoted my entire life to my children. They WERE MY LIFE. Now, they are in their 40’s and live in different states. My spouse and I hear from them occasionally. Will our grandchildren know us? No, they will not. They spend all their free time with the wife’s family. The other is “living her life.” We are completely alone and I am terrified of what will happen to us if one of us becomes ill.

    2. Patricia

      I’m sorry and I’m a rejected mother too. I read Done with the crying and Beyond Done with thr crying and those books helped me a lot. I recommend you read them.

  4. Norma P.

    Thank you all and may God bless, 5 years and nothing. She’s 42 this month, I had to put my furbaby down on my daughters birthday and what happened, I thought of her .
    I still cry and don’t know how to consciencely take her completely off my life insurance. My oldest just said again how much her sister wants my land. I don’t know how to keep her from getting it.
    I bought something from her etsy site this Christmas as it felt close to her. I can only email through it to her, I asked if she had an item and she said yes if I wanted it she’d put it with my other one. I secretly thought maybe she wouldn’t charge me and that would be a sign, at least for the one item. But when I checked my account she charged me for both. When I received them no note no nothing.

    Won’t do it again. I worry about her, lives with her boyfriend, can’t work because of social anxiety except uber and pet sitting. No kids .
    She has no contact with anyone in the family. This was not the girl I raised. And she doesn’t do drugs.
    I just don’t know……

  5. jo k.

    After I wrote an above comment, Two of my sons called to wish me a Merry Christmas. The Lord does answer prayer. Miracles do happen. Though they did not ask me to join them before the holiday , they did call to share what happened with their grandchildren. It was perhaps humbling for them because some of their children are excluding them. Take heart and pray.

  6. jonet k

    I am sitting at home, I have not been invited to join my children or grandchildren today Christmas Day,2021. I do accept that I made mistakes as their mother, but when I ask Jesus to be my savior in my 30s ( I am now in my 70s ) I apologized to each son years ago, they each said they accepted it. Then the time came they each got married and I discovered what they actually thought of me, each married women with diagnosed mental issues. The oldest married a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome, His ex- wife a Paranoid/Schizophrenic , The middle son married a Narcissist/Sociopath, and the third a Bipolar. They say men marry women who remind them of their mothers. God help them, God help me, they will not let go of my past. My daughters in law really are difficult, each of these women made their own mistakes having multiple children by multiple men but somehow my mistakes are worse than theirs & that they hold mine against me. I know they need me to be understanding, yet you know what it’s like to be alone on Christmas. I must remember Jesus is with me and I am not alone. Today is all about him not God Bless all of you today, Merry Christmas and a Happier New Year.

    1. Jamie K.

      I’m so sorry you’re alone on Christmas. I’ve spent several holidays alone and it’s not fun. My daughters did something a little different this year. My youngest lives in Alaska, so coming home is a very long trip. She arrived 12/15, one day before her birthday. As usual, she and her two daughters were picked up by my other daughter. I had asked, but was never told her flight number nor her time of arrival. I spent a couple of hours with her on the 16th. She wanted me to bring a cake for her birthday. That’s probably the one reason she asked for me to visit. Then on the 20th I spent a few hours with her and the rest of my family exchanging gifts.
      Here’s the mean part, on Sunday, the 19th, she posted pictures on Facebook of her and my ex husband, not her father. They all had dinner together one night, then on another evening went to a hockey game and spent time with him and his girlfriend at his home. The pictures detailing their activities. This was like a punch in the stomach. I’m still hurt and crying over it. I get approximately 5 hours of her time and she spent at least two evenings with my ex husband then rubs it in by posting pictures of them together on Facebook.
      But the very bitter part is she and my other daughter took part in ruining my marriage to this man. We were married for over 20 years and I loved him very much. I knew there was a lot of jealousy but I had no idea of the extent. That’s another story!
      Now, I’m sitting around with my head hurting and my face swollen from crying, trying to figure out why. Why did they choose to do this to me. They both knew it would tear me apart, but apparently took pleasure in doing it.
      I’m sorry to unload my hurt on you, but this is the only opportunity I have to actually put it in writing. But I do completely understand your pain and what you’re going through. Again, coming from someone who’s hurt for years over the treatment received from their children, I’m sorry.

  7. Linda

    I don’t know .. I tried biting my tongue, turning the blind eye the whole nine yards. And I’m currently on that just be unavailable and find my own way alone. The unavailability doesn’t bother the other party at all. I think the more I stay on this route the better ,even though it’s lonely I can at least not deal with the mean spirits in them or the abuse.
    I’ve always been a loner but my heart feels half full.
    Family has faithfully proved to me to be of some hybrid animal of some kind.
    I give up time is moving too fast I must move on

  8. DIANA

    Thank you for your support of parents! Each time I reach out, I am rewarded with verbal abuse for my efforts. I am actually afraid of my daughter. I have not seen her in several years, (her choice), nor my grandchildren, (also her choice). I took a year break from any contact with her, and when I sent her a text, wishing her a Happy Thanksgiving, I was again verbally abused. The pain I felt when this first began, is almost no longer there. I decided that I was the one who allowed her to abuse me as I initiated the contact to attempt to heal the relationship. I am done with crying (thank you), and I am done reaching out. Her hatred of me is her issue. Just like so many have said, we were and are good parents, we did our best, and if they think they are setting a good example for their children, they they have a rude awakening at some point. Once again, thank you for supporting us all.

    1. Kimberly B

      Were in the same boat as you with our 28 yr old daughter. Going on 3 years of nasty emails and texts saying ,f you I hope you die.

    2. Jeanne

      I really believe that this generation of young adults are just cruel. The culture says nothing about love..kindness or forgiveness! My daughter has a little sign on her bathroom shelve that says “Be Kind”…which is a joke! My parents were cruel…unkind…and yet as a young adult I forgave them. I had my dad over for every holiday..made him his favorite pie etc..and he would rant on and on while I did dishes. Some of the best memories I had of my dad..because I knew he needed to talk out his regrets….and he played his harmonica while my daughter danced. I reached out to my mom…and because she didn’t drive…I told her to come live near me so I could take her to writing classes (She wanted to write a mystery novel) I was a better daughter to them…then they were a parent to me….but it was satisfying to help my parents as an adult..especially because my mother was so miserable and blamed me for her unhappiness.. I tried to be the kind of parent that wouldn’t burden her kids with my unhappinesss…I created happy memories..never asked them for a thing..consistently showed them…but they’re dad forced they’re loyalties to only include him as he needs to be top dog. It’s so obvious..yet they don’t see it or the devastation it has caused my heart. Isee my grandbabies..and they don’t have to hate me yet.

  9. Sue

    I bought your book and read it. Thank you for understanding my devastation and pain. I heard your message of moving on and living my life. Very painful but now I know it’s necessary for my emotional and mental well-being. That’s all I can write at this moment through my tears

  10. John

    We recently obtained a book on Audible by a recommended writer (self-styled expert) on reconciliation and estrangement. After multiple references to “Clueless” parents in the first half hour, we had had enough.

    No reference to how clueless many adult children are in distinguishing beliefs from facts, in communicating about problems without abuse, in distinguishing boundaries from brick walls topped with broken glass.

    We were grateful to receive a refund from Audible.

    1. rparents Post author


      No kidding about “no references” to all you said (love how you put that!). I don’t know what book it is, but this doesn’t surprise me one teeny bit.

      HUGS to you.
      Sheri McGregor

  11. Laura

    I have to confess that reading this article and most of the comments brought a lot of emotions to the surface. My own experience with estrangement started about 12 months ago. My daughter and I were extremely close before all this. She grew up in a very stable household. Both my husband and I placed her at the center of our universe. We sacrificed a lot to make sure she had the best education and the best experiences. She loved being with us. So much so that she decided to live at home during college and for the most part during medical school as well. Medical school was brutal. She was totally unprepared psychologically speaking for that experience and started to suffer of anxiety and depression. I believe medical school killed her soul or at least profoundly damaged it. We doubled out efforts to help and support her and she seemed to understand and be grateful at least on the surface. Now I am not really sure if she understood or if she was just planning and taking advantage of us. She refused to go to any residency interview without me. She asked for my presence and my help. I was there to make all the travel arrangements, make her luggage, iron her clothes, make sure she had breakfast, lunch and dinner, drive her from hotels to the hospitals where she was interviewing. We spent a small fortune on her. She treated us like her personal ATM even after she got her first job as a resident and had a decent salary. My husband and I found a really nice, safe apartment for her in the new town she had to move and spent two months with her furnishing and decoration her place. We did everything, she did nothing except going to work. When she worked nights we even dropped her off and picked her up from work. We paid her rent for the first few months and pretty much everything else. We continued to pay her car and her phone bill plus a few other things and services. The first fight and verbally violent reaction from her came when one year into her residency I asked her to start paying her phone. She told me I was petty for asking her to pay. She told me this was an unreasonable request since she is our only child and why we would not continue to pay? In the meantime she was spending her money to pay for her boyfriend’s parents vacation they took together. She took them in the car we were paying on a very long trip despite us telling her we did not approve and suggesting to her that her boyfriend should rent a car and pay for the trip himself. I tried to make her understand we had no obligation to finance their vacation. She responded by getting angry and telling me again that I am petty. Things continued to go down the drains with her becoming increasingly verbally violent and abusive. She used phrases like “I will not tolerate those things from you”, “you better think before you open your mouth” etc. She made me question my sense of reality and sanity when I told her something from the past regarding her boyfriend whom in the meantime became her fiancée and later husband, and she started yelling at me calling me nasty and telling me it never happened and I was making it up. She accused me of never telling her she is beautiful which was just crazy since words like “you look gorgeous” were something I even put in writing when exchanging text messages with her. In the meantime, at the suggestion of her boyfriend (at that time) and his mother, she stopped wearing makeup on a daily basis. They told her she does not need it at all and they like her without makeup. She never used makeup in excess, just a little bit to look well put together. She is very attractive and I suspect her boyfriend (now husband) was getting jealous when she was receiving too much attention from other guys. She started gaslighting us, distorting the reality, ignoring our questions and messages and just straight out lying to us. My fear was, still is to a certain extent, that she is in an abusive, controlling relationship and just could not see it (her boyfriend/fiancé now husband checks her phone, email and social media, does her finances and sets up limits on the amount of money she can spend on a monthly basis). If that is the case not only that she is a willing participant but she is militant against us, her parents. Anything I say, is interpreted as an attempt to destroy her relationship with her husband. We became the enemy. I tried to understand why, but all I can get from her, is that I am negative and I do not understand how other people see me. I don’t even know who those other people are. I searched for clues in out text messages. That was an interesting exercise, as I discovered how accommodating and loving I was, supporting her, encouraging her, always thinking about her first even when she became increasingly hostile. I came to believe that we are her easy target, the safe target. She truly thinks she can hit me as hard as possible and I will still do anything in my powers to accommodate her and close my eyes to all her rudeness and abuse. I believe her horrible behavior is a result of her perceived failures. She does not live up to her expectations. She is not happy with anything in her life right now, from her professional life to her personal life (i.e. her relationship with her husband). She needs to blame others. She cannot take responsibility for her actions. I think we are looking at a generation of people who refuse to take responsibility, and if you, as a parent, give them a reality check, they immediately place the blame on you. Our daughter is rewriting history, she wants to depict herself as a victim, in order to justify her perceived failures and unhappiness. My husband and I decided to stop trying to communicate with her. She is toxic and any attempt to establish a dialogue leaves us disappointed, sad and troubled for days. We feel she violated our trust and desecrated our relationship. We do not want to let her drag us into the mud. It is difficult but my decision is to stop communicating with her until I see some genuine understanding and remorse for her unacceptable behavior. She needs to treat us with the respect we deserve. As long as she refuses do that there is no place for her our house.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Laura,

      “…desecrates the relationship.” It’s one of the phrases I use in my latest book, and it is so fitting for so very many of the “relationships” that I hear about.

      Hugs to you dear Laura.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Karen

      So very well put. Thank you for your words. Your situation describes my own experience. I find your words give me comfort in moving forward. Thank you.

    3. John M.

      There is quite a lot of what you wrote that I have experienced. Rudeness: I realised I was being spoken to in a way that I would not tolerate from anyone else. Communication: I had to steel myself to phone knowing that the abusive, hectoring conversation would disturb me for several days.

      Your analysis that your daughter has made you a scapegoat for her own failings rings true.

      I hope and pray that in future your relationship with her improves.
      Best wishes.

    4. Constance

      Laura, How many times have you and your husband gotten into arguments regarding your daughter? Although our situation is not the same, we find bringing up her treatment towards us causes us to become cranky with each other. We actually have what many would say is a perfect marriage (50 years) and many people love to be around us because we are a positive pair and fun loving. It really hurts when friends don’t understand why we are estranged and we have no explanation, not that we need one. It does have a tendency to make us think there is something wrong with us. However, we are a very committed and loving couple to each other and to many others and outside our circle of friends. The holidays are the worst though when we see others so fulfilled with children and grandchildren. Then we remember, we are not alone, this is almost an epidemic in this day and age. Merry Christmas, Christ allows us to love others even when they are acting unlovable. We will always love our daughter and never give up on her. After all, God has not given up on us and we have no right to shun others. I do understand though that our adult children are accountable for their choices, not us. God Bless!

    5. P King

      So many similarities between your ED and ours. As bad as it sounds, I’m relieved to know it’s not just us going through all of these issues. The book helped me get over blaming myself and get on with my life. My husband gave up long before me! We finally had to stop responding to all communication in order to move on with our lives. All of the lying, blaming, shaming, accusations, spewing hate and so on went on for over 15 years. We finally said no more and took charge of our lives. Best thing we ever could have done!

    6. Susan R.

      Thank you for telling us your story . It’s so comforting to know that there are others in my position .
      I particularly can identify with your comment regarding your daughter ‘ re writing history ‘ because in my experience this is exactly what my own daughter has done . It will be seven years in May , that we have been estranged . I only completely stopped contact with my grandchildren one year ago . I would write and send presents , my daughter never acknowledged the gifts . When the children were old enough they started to write back , and for a couple of years I hoped things would progress . I realised however , that all this has done has kept me hooked in to this soul destroying scenario , so I wrote to my daughter to say sadly for my own well-being I needed to stop . I said I was just an imaginary figure in their lives , it must be so confusing for them and it was too painful for me … I heard nothing . I don’t recognise the lovely little girl she was and the woman she is now . I think there comes a time when your efforts reach the end of the road . I still live in hope , but I can’t survive being knocked to the floor with any efforts I make . I suspect you and your husband are at the same stage . Hugs to you both . Sue xx

  12. P.

    Thank you Sheri for your article, and thank you to all who responded. I am amazed and shocked that there are so many young adults choosing estrangement, and I wonder what happened in our world. I too did everything I could. I lived a quiet life, faithful to family and career. I did not manipulate, manage, or meddle in my kid’s lives. I did not talk ill of their father, because I was raised that you didn’t air the dirty laundry (he did not abide by the same “rules”). I thought we had all managed to at least tolerate one another and respect each other’s choices. I discovered that was not the case at all, as this 42 year old son cut everyone out of his life. Everyone, that is, except his alcoholic, gambling father who cannot speak well of hardly anyone. I have never known why my son chose to do this. It has been 3 years, and yes, I have done all that I could do. And now, I need to move on and live. I don’t owe him this, to live in misery. At this point, I don’t expect to see him again, and this choice is completely on him, whatever it brings his way. He probably assumes the consequences of his actions stop with him. That is never the case. He alone is responsible for the sad legacy that will trickle down to the next generation.

  13. M.

    I am currently going through this. My children all had mental health issues and my ex husband worked diligently to turn them against me after the divorce. Unfortunately, because of their issues, one of them had a child and that child has been subjected to her irrational anger and behaviors. When the child was an infant, CPS became involved. I became the child’s caregiver. When the CPS order was over, the mother continued to have me raise the child but I was constantly “Walking on Eggshells” and suffering extreme amounts of abuse, as was her child when her child was spending time with her. Fast forward 6 years. A stranger who witnessed one of her abusive episodes reported her. CPS again became involved and after doing many inspections and reviews, decided to have the child remain with me as this was her home. They have interviewed the child, interviewed the person who reported it and interviewed me. On the day that happened, I did something I never did before, I surreptitiously video taped the end of the incident. That was one of the smartest things I ever did. Now we are in court for all this and I am just sick. My children and my ex are fighting the apprehension, blaming me for all the abuse and are fighting it in court. The case is pretty solid, I am not overly concerned that this apprehension will be overturned, what I am sick about is the lies. They have been gaslighting me for years and there were many times where I questioned my own sanity and reality. Because of this recent stressful event, I was forced to finally review years of abusive texts and messages (things I saved but were too painful to look at so I avoided it) to provide to CPS regarding dates, things said in front of the child, behaviors witnessed etc. Thanks to this and my current therapist, I am freeing myself. I am done with them all to be honest and will no longer subject myself to their abuse. That being said, my biggest and most pressing fear, is for the child. If returned to her mother, she will be estranged from me, the one person she loves and trusts. She will also again be estranged from her father and her sister, as her mother forbid contact and kept her from them. Worse than all of that, is she will be subjected to her mother’s continuing anger, instability and violence. The lies being woven to continue this are, for me, completely inexplicable. I am hoping and praying a Court sees that as well. Just another form of the lies and abuse they hurl at me. They have so often accused me of lying, and yet, in looking back over years of documentation, the lies were not coming from me, they were coming from them. I am doing my best to get through this, I am going to try to see what good I can find on the other side if, for some reason, the Court rules against CPS and I have done my best to ensure that the child is not only prepared for the worst, without scaring her, but that she is aware that I love her and that she knows how to reach me if ever needed. That is all I can do. That is all that I have. Now I pray and hope for peace. The grief has already diminished because my resilience and survival has depended on that.

    1. Su

      I surely hope that you find yourself a really good support group. Not just Rejected parents, but a group for grandparents raising their grandchildren due to parental drug abuse etc. It sounds like you need to have Solomon be the judge assigned to your case and that some sort of compromise be reached.

  14. Andi

    This article, and all the comments helped me today. Thank you all for sharing your stories. It confirms to me that there appears to be a common, self-centered theme that is being harmfully imbedded into our son/daughter’s minds by many “lay”, or “professional” counselors/therapists/psychologists. Instead of trying to “heal” relationships in families through communication, there is a view that one should draw a line in the sand, set boundaries, prohibit all communication, blame, and be the victim. I find no “love” in these concepts. I actually find “abusiveness, anger and self-centered behavior” in this form of so called therapy. There can be no healing without communication, love and forgiveness. This kind of counseling is destroying relationships.

    My son has been convinced that his anxiety and depression couldn’t be a hereditary condition that may require medication and professionals therapy, but instead has been caused by our so called emotional abuse toward him. Abuse which he never claimed before he saw an unlicensed lay person who suffered from sexual and emotional abuse herself. Because my son couldn’t think of what may happened in his childhood, he called his sister and brother to ask them how their childhood was, to which they automatically said, “we had a great childhood”. My son wanted someone to blame for his psychological issues.

    It has been 4 1/2 years since we have seen our son, daughter-in-law and three beautiful grandchildren. They live a little over 1 mile away. He not only cut us off, but his siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. I hurt for him because he has been so misled. I get angry because he bought into this stuff. Yes, we did everything we could. I continue to pray and hope. My husband and I are making the best of our retirement years, focusing on our other two children and grandchildren, and taking road trips, exercising together, and trying to enjoy what we do have in our lives.

    It’s been a long road to get to this place of some peace. We still have plenty of ups and downs, but for our health, both mentally and physically, we must move on.

    1. Judian

      Thank you for sharing your story. I know exactly the feeling of being blamed for their depression anxiety and life skills….and I know the shame and pain of having this weird Parental Rejection experience. My heart breaks for all of us. And my health has been severely damaged from this whole thing ..They are my only family – so I WOE…..walk on eggshells.. Maybe its time to think of ourselves..warmest regards JC

      1. Alex

        Thank you Judian, and so many others here. I cry reading each of your posts. It is how I feel. I am in the right place. Thank you for sharing your situations and feelings. It is so strengthening.

  15. Susan

    I am kind of amazed , quite amazed to find myself, for the
    first time , feeling “ kinda over it” when I think of my son.

    My 20 some years of therapy have helped but the last 4 years, I think my
    Therapist ….,cracked the code……for me. She made the remark
    looking me right in the eye as I fussed and berated myself for the
    Millionth time, she said “ Susan, I don’t think I would want to
    Meet him. He sounds not at all my idea of a nice man. I choose
    not to engage with people in my private life who are not nice people.”

    I thought about it and thought about what she said. Yes, I suppose he has
    Good points though I wouldn’t know because as soon as he began earning
    More than his Father and I did combined, the abuse became worse and he
    Withdrew with a final dramatic announcement “ I don’t want to ever see or talk to you
    again, ever” that was the summer of 2016 and I don’t expect our
    Paths to cross again. If they do we would need a 100% change. I am never putting up with that again.

    I find myself not reliving every sweet detail of his childhood and the many loving
    and generous things I did with him and for him.

    I will admit easily to yelling at him in in frustration , not proud of it, asking him, what is wrong? If you want to share a problem with us, it might help. Only
    To be snubbed. Again.

    I do on occasion hit my hand on my forehead as I think of the small fortune we spent on his education, his wants, needs he should have covered himself…..
    I just didn’t know better. I am not blaming myself, not really thinking about it.

    I am a failure on WOE, I always broke the eggshell, he is so touchy and really put me on edge, in actual fear I would displease him…..on the rare times I actually saw him. Money can be wired you know. That knot in my stomach, nervous , actually afraid of how quickly I might say the wrong thing.afraid of my own child. Adult man.

    I may have had a short session of crying this year but about 2 minutes , more in disappointment than in his decision to ditch us . not 12 months of the year, just a short pre Holiday time of the year quick tearful spell. Then it was over.

    I feel……not so bad about myself these days. I kind of expect it may last.
    I would never have believed it. I thought we were hopelessly doomed.
    Your newsletters have helped me so much. I honestly thought it had only happened to
    Us. Then you shed the light on this enormously not unusual situation.

    He is not in our Will. I don’t think he would ever believe we would disinherit him – though
    That has nothing to do with why I bring it up. I don’t relish “ we will show him some day!”
    Rather, just mentioned it .

    Thank you for the part you play in my life.

    1. Terri

      Susan, we just rewrote our will and took out our ES. I find it heartbreaking and have read articles that say doing so is like telling them they were right. But I would guess that that writer did NOT have an estranged child that was mean and disrespectful towards them. My son is in academia and gives interviews that have out right lies; 1. He ran away at 17 – he lived with his aunt while attending community college. 2. I wouldn’t let his quit soccer – I told him he had to finish the season because the team would not have enough players. 3. I had nothing to do with him for 3 years – we celebrated every one of his birthdays, never missed any of his shows, always celebrated Thanksgiving & Christmas together. 4. Because he came from a traditional Catholic Italian family, he could never talk to us – we always tried to be available and would get mad when we would try to talk to him. 5. He was the black sheep of the family – never said it and never thought it. 6. He sees two therapists because of me – WHAT? 7. I have issues and need help – I’m an average American mother & wife who always tried to do the right thing for her family. The reason I decided to take him our of the will was that my husband’s father died this summer and I asked our son to contact him & he sent me a nasty text saying that I was manipulative and playing the victim. He has chosen to keep us out of his life so we have chosen to keep him out of our will.

    2. Sandra

      Amen about the small fortune spent on children like this. It applies to me and my husband too. I wish the US was like some Asian countries who respect the elders. I read an article awhile back about a son whose mom had worked and put him through school only to have him refuse to help her when she could no longer work like she did. She took him to court and the courts over there ruled that he had to support her because she had supported him when he couldn’t support himself. Kinda wish I was Asian. I bet they don’t put up with children abusing their parents either, especially adult children.

  16. Soulshine&Daisies

    Thank you so much for this post, Sheri. Before I found this forum, I had actually started reading some articles found online in regards to estrangement. Then stopped as they all seemed to be so distorted. Some of them seemed to give me an emotional “slap in the face” for being such a horrific parent. I was a good Mother. I did not deserve what I received from my two sons who have gone totally no contact. I would have never imagined that they would turn into people I no longer recognize. We had almost 40 years together before they left me and the rest of our family. Finding this site has been tremendously healing for me. My thoughts, my acceptance of what is and knowing that I cannot change it, being able to share with other parents that are experiencing the same heartbreak. I have both of your books and the accompanying workbook. I am so thankful to have them. I find myself underlining in them…and putting exclamation marks. Seriously. They have a permanent spot on my reading table. This coming holiday season, Christmas and always, I wish every parent here peace of mind and soul. We deserve to have a good life.

  17. HopingForChange

    Thank you, Sheri, for these insights and for helping us read “professional opinion” pieces with care to determine if age-ism or Boomer-ism is the author’s subtle point.
    I so appreciate your shout out to parents who have given “Years of energy, love, kindness, patience, and support”…and, can I add, would have even given their own lives…to their children, only to be rejected later. The fact that we can maintain positive, giving, mature, and reciprocal relationships with other people…and even our other children and their spouses…”does” confirm that we’re not the horrors we have been made out to be by the child who estranges.
    Our daughter began seeing a counselor (not even sure if the counselor was licensed…she was very young and may still have been getting her 3000 “intern” hours) about the break in our relationship and was empowered after that to set “boundaries” with us that included cutting off all communication (I thought boundaries were supposed to “improve” communication between parties in conflict). She also found several “lay” people to reinforce her viewpoints (“Like, 50,” she said) and rejected any communication from friends or family members who wanted to offer an alternative viewpoint that might help with our relationship strife. She drew a line in the sand and said we had to meet her expectations for the relationship to go forward. Unable to do that, we offered a compromise solution, which she rejected. And then the icing on the cake was that despite that she left our family, she accused us of abandoning “her.” And we have not spoken to her since March of 2019. It appears that as I’ve been emotionally/socially/physically/spiritually damaged by the experience, she is content to move on and away from us.
    I read an interesting blog post about boundaries (unrelated to parent-child estrangement) in which the author suggested that the boundary of complete disregard is a response to anger and fear, a way to avoid the present moment, and is at the expense of kindness. That kind of self-assertion…is selfish. The end result of that kind of boundary can cause anxiety or inward-turned anger. (Or, as “Debs” says above, a “hollow life.”)? Open communication, she says, allows both parties to hopefully find a common ground. But if there is no communication…then…?
    My husband and I are trying not to “abandon ourselves” in the process. Maybe there will never be restoration of our relationship to our daughter. It’s hard to keep moving forward sometimes. Your newsletter and having contact with other parents in this situation in the “Community” forum at reminds me that at least some of the problem may not be “me,” and despite that I can and will continue to self-reflect and work on my part of the problem, there is nothing I can do to compel the same for my daughter.

  18. courageousme

    This is a great article. I hope that you will submit it for publication (maybe a shortened version?) in order to refute other articles. Vox is an extreme left publication so they call everyone “racist, homophobic” etc. LA Times also leans left, although it seems as though you felt that article was more balanced. Our culture is focused on victimhood and outrage. It is what sells right now so the plethora of articles about these “poor adult children with unbearable parents” doesn’t surprise me. I sincerely hope that you will explore a larger audience for your well-written portrayal of the other side. Personally, I believe the only answer (albeit extremely simplified!) is for the estrangers to “grow up” and take responsibility for their lives and actions.

    1. Barbara

      I certainly echo your sentiments….estrangers need to “grow up” and take responsibility for their lives and actions. And I may add…do so quickly.

  19. Susan N

    Thank you for your email, Sheri. I so needed to read your informative words. I have read your first book & will be buying “Beyond” shortly. I am 74. Last fall, I saved my daughter from bankruptcy & then, Just before Xmas, my beloved Yorkie died. My daughter said I was not to get another, because I was too old. When I questioned this, she became irate & then estranged from me. I think this was just an excuse for the estrangement. I’ve reached out by text and cards several times. Occasionally she would answer with a text of about four words. I was told by my lawyer that this was “malicious behaviour”, which indeed it is. I phoned once, but my call was blocked. I was devoted to this daughter. Now, I am frail & my health has suffered as a result of the ongoing stress. I realize after reaching out yesterday & receiving silence, that I have to let go now. Thankfully I have another daughter who is wonderful, but lives a long way away. I am grateful for her support & for yours too, otherwise I would not be here…….Thank you from

    1. Jane Ann

      Deaer Susan, Please find another Yorkie! My little dogs have been a godsend and my dear companions as I’ve endured the partial estrangement of my daughter for too many years. You have much love to give and receive yet in your life. Give this “gift” of a new little loving creature to yourself AND to the little furbaby – you will both be so happy.

    2. Sydney

      I share my life with a 9 pound adopted rescue dog, a precious mixed Rat Terrier. I would not make it without her- my dearest friend and loyal companion. She and I are here for each other.

  20. Debs

    This is so true and sadly endemic in our younger generation and, its not just their parents they abuse.
    I was on a private group of 25k members, relating to the town where I was born and members memories thereof.
    A particular young man was picking on and demeaning comments from older members and if they tried to talk to him he would endeavour to demean them further with comments such as ‘you boomers are what’s wrong with the world’ and ‘you ruin everything’
    Aside from the angry young man I made little progress until another lady of mature years berated him for his rudeness. Aside from lighting the blue touch paper, she actually reinforced his beliefs and it became abusive and nasty.
    With the years of recent experience of trauma and abondonment in my family I took a step back and asked him a genuine question, ‘why was he on that site if all he wanted to do was berate and abuse his elders and their memories?’
    He replied by saying that he enjoyed reading about the old town and its history and pictures. I replied that maybe, just a suggestion that he might want a pictorial history book with no individual memories, it might be better suited to his needs. His reply was ironic in the extreme in that he didn’t want people like me spoiling his experience. I replied that that worked both ways.
    And there you have it. An impatient selfish generation, wholly lacking in respect for others, wanting a subliminal experience purely for themselves and turning to vitriol and abuse if they don’t get it.
    He didn’t make me angry. I felt sorry for him. For all the love and experiences and understanding that he will miss out on and the hollow life and feelings he is carving out for himself and again I realised.
    I don’t want to be a part of that.
    Seasons greetings and much love to anyone reading this.

    1. Caterina

      I understand that it’s all too easy to get into the gutter with the abuser rather than to simply succeed at putting them in their rightful place. Nevertheless, it sometimes needs to be done for everyone’s sake. I’m not as subtle as I could be, but I am one of those outspoken individuals who ask them if their scroll wheel works. You were very kind and gentle in your attempt to get him to cease. Unfortunately, if they continue to disrupt and abuse, the only thing left is for an admin to remove them from the group. I pity those who make it their life purpose to be the turd in everyone else’s punch bowl. They get to be the center of attention for all he wrong reasons and their glory is based upon negativity. We can’t let them feed off of us.

  21. Rhonda

    All I can say is 2 Tim 3, which says it all. We who are believers in Christ Jesus, and through Him, obedient to Father God Most High, understand that this was foretold to be the world 2,000 years ago, in the end of the Church Age days. Prophecy being fulfilled. And this is where our estranged adult children don’t get, because they have turned their backs on Father God Most High, and Jesus Christ, they have been indoctrinated by their schools, by society, to reject Him (began to be taken out of our lives in 1963 here in America by SCOTUS) and accept His Adversary, Leviathan (many know him as Satan, or Lucifer), instead. This is what it all boils down to. What hurts is when I tried to share this with my daughters, that’s crossing the ‘line in the sand’, their boundaries of topics we cannot talk about. So, to me, letting go is knowing that I will not see my daughters on the other side, in eternal life, unless God Himself intervenes in their lives. This is what I pray for, incessantly, but in the end, it is entirely up to Him, for only He knows who are His. And so my fear for them is replaced by my trust in Him. Ultimately, it is He is the most important to me… my Father in Heaven is the One that counts the most, not my daughters who have rejected Him.

    1. Mimi

      This is 100% correct! We are living at the end of the age. The time is short. And, we are told not to fear, but rather we are to lift up our heads (and rejoice) for our redemption draws near. Come LORD Jesus and rescue us. Amen.

    2. Caterina

      Keep praying Rhonda. Pray that our Lord will place such circumstances in their lives to soften their hearts and remove the scales from their eyes. He gives each of us free will. It is up to each of us to choose Him and relinquish the ‘self’.

  22. Lil

    In the beginning of the estrangement I was asked “What did you do?”
    Now that I’ve let accepted, let go, moved on and found peace, I’m often asked “How can you let go?”
    Both are accusatory questions and harmful and totally devastating no matter what stage of grief or growth you are.
    I finally found the true and proper answer to both questions.
    “What did you do?”
    Answer: “Everything I could.”
    How can you let go?”
    Answer: “I’ve done everything I could.”
    Once you realize the truth in these answers, your journey to peace will be safer and less difficult and it’s okay to do everything you can do to heal yourself.

    1. Linda

      Your answers to those two questions stopped me in my tracks! They are perfect for me. My youngest son walked away from his older brother, sister-in-law, two young nephews and me two years ago during a family vacation that he filled with alcohol abuse, anger and self entitlement, as usual. In his alcohol driven state, he perceives every look, action and spoken word as favoritism by me toward his brother (whom he sarcastically calls “the perfect one”.) But this trip he was physically and emotionally abusive toward his oldest nephew, who was 7 at the time and who he knew had just been diagnosed with autism. Yet he incessantly teased his nephews in hurtful ways and became increasingly annoyed with his oldest nephew’s incapacity to “take a joke”. My son ended up slapping and shoving him. My oldest son politely asked him to leave and made sure he had comfortable accommodations that night near the airport 60 miles away for the first flight back home. After two years, a few close friends and family members still catch me by surprise with their questions even though they know my family’s dynamics and the mental health and substance abuse problems my younger son has had. But I won’t engage any more. I will simply say I did everything I could and leave it at that. Some chose to keep in touch with my ES so their questions are both unnecessary and hurtful. My sister and her daughter now send him care packages filled with goodies. They have told me it’s so they can keep in touch with him and keep me informed. I never asked them to do this and I’ve told them it’s hurtful but they never listen to me or anyone else. They simply do what they want to and have always inserted themselves into family affairs in the guise of being the “saviors” of the family. Ironically, my sister and her husband are estranged from two of their own kids. And my niece has alienated herself from some of her siblings. Anyway, sorry for the long post. This whole estrangement has touched a nerve with me. I truly wish peace and comfort for all of us and those who truly care about us. Thank you for reading this.

    2. Etta

      Thank you so very much for your story. Most importantly, thank you for your response to the question individuals always seem to say that somehow cause more pain to the situation.

    3. Carrie-Ann

      Oh, Sweet, Sweet Lil…Thank You So Kindly For Your Beautiful Simple True Words…

      “I finally found the true and proper answer to both questions.
      “What did you do?”
      Answer: “Everything I could.”
      How can you let go?”
      Answer: “I’ve done everything I could.””

      These words are “…the true and proper answer…” for myself… when the pain comes… So Empowering & Healing…As well as Downright Practical…Cutting to the chase, circumventing “The Story”…and Getting To The Truth…BAM!!!

      Sending Hugs & Great Love & Respect For You…
      In Friendship & Gratitude,

      May Each One of Us Realize These Words…

    4. Given Up


      I LOVE your answers!! You are 100% correct. Unfortunately, there’s nothing else we (the hated parents) can do. We’ve tried every way possible & yet the results are always the same.

      My narcissistic adult daughter asked me to handwrite her Christmas cards, which I agreed to. There were 4 families that I don’t get along with, but I went ahead & did the cards for them.

      But I refused to do 2 Christmas cards. One was to my narcissistic sister & the other was to her narcissistic adult son. Both hate me.

      So I hand wrote 70 Christmas envelopes, stuffed them & put stamps & sealed them. That left my daughter to do 2.

      I told my daughter I would do all, except those 2. Instead of saying thanks for doing 70 cards, she only criticized me for not doing 2 cards!

      Her exactly hateful words she texted were: “Fine. Be petty. I would expect nothing else.”

      She likes my handwriting is the reason she wanted me to do it. It took me several hours to beautifully handwrite the envelopes & prepare them so all she had to do was to mail them.

      After all that, she never thanked me or acknowledged that I did her a big favor. Absolutely unappreciative of what I did to help her out.

    5. Beverly

      I really like your responses to those two questions….I feel the same way now, but through the stages of grief, the doubts would creep in, and wear you down…finally able to proudly share your responses now, as I no longer walk on egg shells any longer…so good to share in the site, and find the terms that I heard so many times…toxic, immature parents, emotionally distant etc…and those were the more gentler terms.

    6. Jasmin

      Hi Lil, I found those answers of yours very useful as the reactions from others can be very painful. Even when you put on a brave face things comments and attitudes from others come back to haunt you. When you’ve spent many many years trying to be the best mother you can and others clearly now think you must be the worst sort of mother it really hurts, it’s crushing and humiliating. I liked your answers as they are honest, yet also show that to the end you did everything you could as a good parent without allowing narrow minded ppl to know the painful details of it all. It’s hard when you value honestly and are an open person to suddenly be faced with a situation you feel you need to cover up and lie about for fear of being judged and then alienated. Mostly I pretend my daughter doesn’t exist, However, for those tight spots, those unavoidable moments, I will bear your answers in mind. Thank you and bless you x

    7. Dawn Y.

      Thank you…its been a long night. Many tears. The heartache is extremely painful. My first child died at age 9, his needs were physically exhausting for me. Having 2 more children before he passed and 1 after he passed. A husband that was absent physically, mentally and emotionally, a lot of responsibility was placed on me. I have moments as a parent where I know I could have handled my response to being called a B, stupid, idiot, dumb and if you didn’t want to be a maid you shouldn’t have had kids. I did spank, maybe a few times, more time outs, consequences of grounding or privilege taken. Now 2 estranged children and one I’m on “eggshells” sometimes I think they get the humanness of parenting and other times i feel they are clueless. Regardless they were spoiled and ungrateful. I suppose spoiled because of guilt, pain, trauma of my own childhood, co dependence, depression. I did my best with what I knew to do. I gave my all and my life. In return, they think I’m awful. I just feel so broken. I was told last night by my only not estranged child that when I cry, I’m playing victim that I need to be able to understand what others feel. Damn thats my life, my job, being empathetic!!! I always put others first, before my own mental, physical and emotional health. I work with ppl who have disabilities. I empathize daily to de-escalate behaviors in order to keep others safe. I place myself in harms way to protect. I advocate for others daily. When will they realize the sacrifice, the painful things they’re doing. Thanks for listening, just need a platform to put this in words. I cant stop the pain in my chest or the tears. I feel like Job. Jesus take the wheel!

    8. Pam

      Oh my goodness, I love your answers to those questions. I’m going to use them. I very rarely mention my son (only child I have) and only a handful know what has happened. He lives several states away so I always just say when asked, “oh he’s happy and busy” and change the subject. But upon the rare occasion that I’ve admitted the truth I have had those questions asked. It’s just impossible for the majority of people to understand that your children can do this with no provocation. Again, thanks so much!

    9. Sue

      Thank you, Lil. I do not talk to anyone about my ES, so no one asks me hurtful questions. But, I do a great job of beating me up by asking myself over and over and over these very same hurtful questions. From now on, I will answer myself with your wise and compassionate replies.

      A new year for me, Sue 2024

  23. Anna Marie F.

    This is quite an accurate article in my case. I haven’t spoken to my daughter and her family in 7 years. And prior to that, I ‘walked on eggshells’. Many tears have been shed, thoughts if suicide ran through my head, confusion of what I may have done wrong, PTSD confirmed by my psychologist. And health issues prevailed. Begging for a reason from her…no answer. I have given her space the last 5 years or so…feeling somewhat guilty as I have felt I may have let go too quickly. I sometimes wonder what she said to her son as he and I were very close. I am referred to as ‘toxic, but I must say that is far from truth. I guided both my children and helped them make decisions when asked. I never was an interfering mom or grandmother, but I was always helpful when called upon.
    My son. Who at one time was highly influenced by her, has sought therapy, and we have a relationship…but minimal. It is an up and down relationship. I see his family from time to time. I take it one day at a time at arm’s length as I do not wish to go through the pain again.
    I have to say I was a single mom for most of their teenage years and beyond. I taught school, worked an after school program, and another parttime job. I worked approximately 70 hours a week so their life would be easier. (Mind you no help from their father who made considerably more money than I did.) Each had their own car. Their own apartment in college. I required only parttime jobs now and then from them, but not at the expensive of their grades. Losing a scholarship was not worth a minimum wage parttime job, so i took on more jobs. Both my kids have great careers and live in million dollar plus homes. But according to my daughter, I didn’t do enough.
    I have aged significantly through all this. My health deteriorated both mentally and physically. I sought help for a couple of years until she said something to me one day that shook me-“Wouldn’t it be better that you suffer than them?’ That was the last time I saw her. I felt as if she looked down on me-like I deserved it.
    I still cry, as I did a couple of days ago, but not as often. I take comfort knowing that they both live amazing lives, have amazing children, and amazing careers. However, the void in my heart cannot be filled no matter what I do. It is a death to me- like family members that have passed away, all i have are memories and unanswered questions.

    1. emv

      Hugs to you. May God comfort you and us all who are going through these circumstances. We gave too much and the children came to believe THEY were the only ones who mattered.

  24. Jennifer H.

    This is 1000% accurate and I am a Gen x parent but the same things apply. The letting go has been hard but I am finally doing it for my own sanity and I definitely have CPTSD from all of this. I try hard not to project my fears onto my younger daughter that she will grow up and do the same thing. I am getting help with all of this and hope to be in a better place by this time next year.

  25. Tom

    I really appreciate this blog entry. It mirrors so many of my experiences in the last 22 months. Thank you for writing it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *