Parents of estranged adult children: A broken heart?

parents of estranged adults broken heartby Sheri McGregor

At one point, when the loss of my son felt utterly final, the air rushed from my lungs. My vision narrowed. I couldn’t breathe. My chest was tight, my throat so dry it closed in on itself. My heart clenched into a fist of pain.

I believed I would die.

Years have passed since that fall afternoon, and I’m still here—alive and thriving.

If you’re like me, and many other parents of estranged adults who have experienced moments where they felt as if they couldn’t breathe, and suffered chest pain, you understand what it feels like to have a broken heart. The emotional upheaval can affect us physically.

I hear from parents often who describe themselves as heartbroken.

There really is such a thing as a broken heart.

“Broken heart syndrome,” or “stress cardiomyopathy,” occurs more often in women than men. It’s believed to happen because of stress hormones from a sudden shock, loss, or acute anger. Those feelings are common to parents of estranged adult children. The temporary condition disrupts normal heart functioning. Most people recover well, and don’t suffer the condition again, but it’s wise to seek medical care for any symptoms that could be indicative of heart trouble.

Listed below are a few articles to read more thoroughly about broken heart syndrome.

Frequently Asked Questions About Broken Heart Syndrome

Broken Heart Syndrome

Can You Die Of A Broken Heart

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14 thoughts on “Parents of estranged adult children: A broken heart?

  1. TheblueskyThebluesky

    Sheri, thank you for providing this article and links. I knew that my physical feeling was real. I, of course did not realize that the anatomy of the heart could have very real physical changes to it. Most spiritual teachings lean towards validating these facts, that if our emotions are not balanced, our bodies will manifest those emotions in real physical ways. Our bodies are our emotions. Days after I posted “I CANT BREATHE”, I began some pranic exercises and it has helped when I begin to feel overwhelmed.

    Reply
    1. rparentsrparents Post author

      Thebluesky,
      I’m glad you’ve found some help with pranic breathing! There are so many things we KNOW are real and valid …. Our society is very evidenced-based, and it is helpful to have science show things (even when they’re things we already know). I wanted others who happen onto the site to know about the syndrome, so they could seriously consider their symptoms. Thanks for sharing here, and I am glad you’re feeling better and are finding positive things to turn to!
      Sheri McGregor

  2. Flowersbringjoy

    Thank you for sharing. I had the exact thing happen to me two weeks ago. At that moment I knew I needed help. I’ve suffered alone for 2 years. I’m glad I found this site and am working with a therapist to help me accept my unresolved grief.

    Reply
  3. Linda

    This makes perfect sense. I have been internalizing the hurt and rejection by my adult children for four agonizing years. I started noticing that my heart was skipping beats and racing as well as very high blood pressure. i went to the heart doctor and have been diagnosed with a life threatening heart condition. I have been telling my close friends that its a broken heart. I am a nurse and i know what stress does to the cardiovascular system. I feel like life is slowly being sucked out of me. it’s not a matter of relaxing and changing the subject. It’s physical damage that cannot be repaired. It does help to know that I am not alone.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      Dear Linda,
      I so identify with your “broken heart”, because it is! The late Paul Pearsal, PhD-writer of many great books about psycho-neural-immunology, especially the heart, says it can, and does, die from grief, especially prolonged grief (yours four years and mine five years). Another favorite book, Love and Survival (by Dean Ornish, MD), also supports this fact that separation/death from loved ones can kill. I believe that this rejection and betrayal-especially from our own children, who just happen to be “adults” (I question this “term” now), has to be our greatest emotional burden, and possibly even our physical death! Time just dulls the pain a bit, but it does not remove it. In fact, I feel more vulnerable, more fragile today, as if the slightest problem is a major emotional storm. I have many physical ills now, and prior to five years ago, I was healthy and happy (when I met & married my husband). I have substantially aged, too! A real bummer! My husband has also had serious heart issues lately…I believe from trying to help and comfort me! In fact a deep seated fear is losing him…which paralyzes me, because then I would be completely on my own! And a reality that I simply don’t think I would be able to tolerate, on any level. As you said, it is physical damage we’re referring to. Pearsal said that most heart attacks happen on a Monday, due to the stress of “another week”. And the heart is the only organ other than the brain, that has neurotransmitters. So stress does go to the heart first, before the brain. As Ornish said, love is survival. Take care, Linda! Our kind of sadness/loss needs support for sure!

  4. amelia

    I have been estranged ,from my two adults sons for one year now,Im falling apart and don’t know how to deal with,it is physically affecting me, I need advice.

    Reply
  5. leeann

    Hi amelia,
    Just wanted to let you know that I read you post and feel you pain. This is a great place for support and understanding. I see that you posted September 2015 and it is now 2/16. Just wanted to let you know you are not alone.

    Reply
  6. Cindy

    I, too, feel physically weaker and have an increase in fibromyalgia symptoms. I hate to say this, but I am being brutally honest. I’ve been betrayed so much by family and those who are supposed to love me, that I no longer really care whether my life goes on or ends. I will not take my own life, but I have simply had enough pain and the joy has been sucked out of my soul.

    Reply
    1. Kimberly

      I also have fibromyalgia. I feel the same way you do I just want to not be here on earth any longer. I’m afraid to take my life but have decided not to get my skin cancer checked or have mammograms any more. I never have any feeling of well being anymore. I dream of my young grandchildren every night and cry day and night. I look at my Facebook page and see all my friends with there kids and Grandchildren and I grieve every moment. I only have the one child and I have no idea what the heck i could have ever done to be treated this cruel. I send you my condolences .

    2. stephen g.

      hi cindy ,please ask yourself this question,are your children feeling the same way as you do ?no they dont ,once you accept that be strong and start to live your life again !if you dont they will have finally beaten you! you, just like them , you are a human being, a being with deep feelings, love, affection ,careing ,giving ,what are they in this jigsaw other than blood !exactly none of those things you are !if they were they would not treat you this way! ,this i have learned, always painful but not the over riding one !be in charge of your life and live it to the full ! you only have one chance in this life so dont throw it all away !

  7. Donna P.

    Hi, I also know what it is like to have a broken heart and when numbness takes over your body! My estrangement from my adult daughter (30 years old) is relatively new (during the last year), however it is unique from most other estrangements ( as confirmed by my psychologist whom I see due to the loss) because not only has she refused to have anything to do with me and her father, she is also of the belief that she is not our child and that she has been either abducted/adopted. I also must mention here that she had abused drugs on and off for the past 5 years or so, became bankrupt and owes thousands of dollars for rent and utilities. She also became paranoid and started making wild accusations which had nothing to do with reality. This is where her obsession with the idea that we her parents must have abducted her from her “real” parents surfaced. Questioned about this, she stated that “someone in the know” told her that and that she believes them. Her personality also changed, she became aggressive, confrontative and generally verbally abusive to the point that I am scared of her. Currently I do not know where she is, and have no way of contacting her. I ask myself “what went wrong, when and why did I not see it coming”??? Almost first time in my life I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO!! How do I reach her????

    Reply
    1. Lynne

      Hi Donna, I am sitting here this early morning reading new postings. I want to say to you that I feel and know your pain. I know the horrible pain of seeing your child have mental illness. My now grown child has had mental illness for many years. There have been the times where he was in my life and then out of my life for months . I can’t really give you advice except to say….do what you are able to do to help her and if you aren’t able to it is ok. Many times in my life I just could not help in any way. This is one of the Most horrible of emotions…to not be able to help your child. I am praying for your daughter today that she is safe and that God will send people into her life to help her. Take good care of yourself. You are in my prayers today. I know, Love, Lynne

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