Do your questions keep you stuck?

son who doesn't talk to me anymoreby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Parents of estranged children often wonder about the future—for themselves and for their estranged children. One question so many ask is a variation on one of these:

  • Will my estranged adult daughter ever see how much she has hurt me?
  • Will my son who doesn’t talk to me anymore ever realize what he has done?
  • Will my angry adult son ever come to his senses?
  • Will my grown daughter who cut me off ever let me back into her life?
  • Will my son ever forgive me for whatever it is he thinks I’ve done?

While those are logical questions, for your own well-being, the next question should be something like this: Are these questions helping me cope?

Endless questions about a son who doesn’t talk to me anymore

I understand the thoughts, the ceaseless wondering tempered by hope and sharpened by pain. When my estranged adult son drew up “sides,” and placed me firmly behind a boundary I hadn’t known existed, he left me in shock. Most parents are.

As the estrangement wore on, the question—Will he ever . . . ?—brought more pain. I worried for my son. If he ever did realize, then I imagined his horrible regret—for the time he had lost, the distress he had caused, the horrible knowledge that he had so hurt his family. . . .
I worried for my son.

Can you relate? I hear from so many parents who share similar feelings. First there’s the hurt and shock. The slicing final moments replay in our heads. The awful words come back to us with force, disturb our peace, and intrude on our dreams. Disbelief reigns.

As time goes on, perhaps with unsuccessful efforts to fix whatever went wrong, a drab, uncertain future stretches out. We worry for ourselves, for our estranged adult child, and for the family.

It’s all so very sad.

Parents of estranged adults: Turn the page. Begin a new chapter.

To turn a new page, to move forward in a life that is different—but can still be good!—start by changing your questions. Good questions often become the canvas on which my clients paint new beginnings. So I have to ask: Whether or not your children will ever return, ever realize, ever see and regret what they have done . . . does that change your life today? In the life that’s before you now, what does the answer change?

Take a moment to separate your own well-being. Let loose the idea that you can control your adult child’s decisions. And realize that the possible consequences that come from those decisions, will be your child’s to own.

For your own life, can you let go of wondering? Or perhaps even choose an answer like one of these:

  • My estranged daughter will one day have regrets.
  • My angry adult son will one day realize he has made a mistake.
  • My estranged adult child who won’t talk to me will someday be sorry and return to my life.

Pick one, or craft your own answer. Then ask yourself:

Does the answer change my life now?

You can only control yourself.

Most of the fathers and mothers of estranged adult children who come to this site have begun to see that they can’t change what’s happening. Most of them have tried. Parents who have been emotionally abused by an adult child (abandoned, rejected, cut off), usually want to reconcile. It’s their first goal. But they later come to the realization that they can’t force their grown son or daughter to oblige. They can’t force the person their child has become, to morph back into the wonderful son or daughter they used to know.

What now?

So, what can you do now? To better your day, your outlook, and your future?

Imagine your child will never return. How will you spend your days?

Imagine that in five years, your child will return to you with an apology and full of regret. In what state of being will that child find you?

Just as each of our lives is a canvas with some space still blank, I will leave this article without a conclusion. Write your own. Make it a satisfying one. Paint your own sky, earth, and meandering path. Paint yourself—dancing, smiling, and finding joy.

In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, the question: why? is covered with a chapter all its own–and helps bewildered parents lay their questioning to rest.

In my latest book, BEYOND Done With The Crying: More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children, the million-dollar question–Why?–is covered via real-life stories that get at root issues, family patterns, and practical solutions from the parent-and-adult-child trenches.

Take care of yourself today. In doing so, no matter whether our estranged adult children will ever realize . . . . You can be you. And be well.

Related reading

The beat goes on: Politics dividing families

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11 thoughts on “Do your questions keep you stuck?

  1. Cheri

    I am heartbroken. My children’s father was an abuser. I thought it was just with me. Mostly verbal, but it eventually became physical. It happened so gradually, I didn’t realize if for a long time. We had agreed that he would not spank the children after I felt he was excessive in his discipline. He agreed to using timeouts instead. I was the only parent working and driving, so I was gone a lot. I knew the boys had timeouts, but any time I wanted to go to their rooms (which is where timeouts took place), he would scream at me that if I didn’t let him discipline and not interfere, he would start spanking again. My greatest fear! I was belittled, and made to feel worthless, and I was always walking on eggshells. Fast forward to my eventual divorce. I found out when I had him leave, that he had been harming our boys, but threatened them that if they told, it would be worse. You can’t imagine the guilt I felt for not being stronger and realizing what was happening beneath my own nose! As for me, I thought if I tried harder, did things better, etc., our relationship would get better, but I learned that wasn’t the case. One of my sons estranged me 3 months ago. He told me to “f” off and that I would never see him again, neither would the rest of my side of the family. It broke my heart. I should have seen it coming, as he had started getting verbally abusive to me the past year. I am heartbroken and keep replaying what I should have done differently. I still don’t know all that occurred while I was working or running the household errands, but I am sure my son blames me. His last communication with me when he left was that his father & fathers side of the family loved him more, followed by the “f” part. My older son is exact opposite. I am killing myself with this whole thing. I had finally regained the strength of who I used to be before I married to only fall back into a person who feels so shamed and worthless.

  2. Lynn

    Hi, I can let go & live my life when it comes to my adult daughter & son (he had addiction issues that he’s dealing with).
    It’s sad & I realize & know that they have to come to things on their own terms. I always pray & hope they will come around.
    What hurts is I’m not able to see my grandchildren. Their innocence in all this hurts me more because they don’t have a choice (their parents are making it for them)!
    I know they miss me yet there is nothing I can do (send cards, birthday gift etc, yes I know. Just not the same they range in age 8-4 my heart breaks for them)!

  3. SteelMagnolia

    Stacey, first of all….Bless your heart! I am so sorry for the way in which your son handled this!

    There is no set pattern as to how adult children break it to us that we’ve been ousted from their lives. But the end result is the same. We, as parents, are left in disbelief. We cry our eyes out and hope there’s been a misunderstanding, but to no avail. I’m sorry for the steps you will have to work through, as we all have. Just remember your value as a person as you go through this journey and read every book and every article Sheri has written. And read our comments and stories and know you are not alone. It happens in the best of families and it’s NOT your fault!!!

  4. Joyce L.

    Thank you, Sheri for all of your posts with support and encouragement. I have followed you for the past 5 years. I have gone through all of the stages of estrangement: shock, disbelief, guilt, shame, isolation, protecting our estranged children from the judgement of our friends by remaining silent for two years, blaming myself – even though I knew we had loved, protected and raised our children to the best of our abilities, hoped to find some common ground, letters of amends – everything that everyone else on your site has done or is doing. Then came Covid – for us – a blessing in disguise. Through four waves, none of our 4 children called us once to see if we were still alive. Our badly needed wake up call. That’s when we hit bottom which we call “radical acceptance”. We spent this past year of Covid, planning for our final days, knowing we can count on our 4 adult children for nothing. We are elderly, in our mid 70’s and early 80’s. We are finally focusing on ourselves and the time we have left and are no longer going to wait and wait and wait. We are going to live again. We know it will be a fluid year but we are determined to be happy once again. We have come full circle. When we married 53 years ago, it was just the two of us and now it is just the two of us again. I love my children unconditionally but could never forgive them for the choices they have made, for depriving us and their children of our deep love and sound relationship and of the way they have forced us to question ourselves. We love them but do not want to find ourselves in their presence again. They are cruel. I wish them well but cannot say that I am proud of them at all. I don’t even like who they have chosen to become. My husband arrived at this decision more quickly than I was able to but I have finally caught up. I am so thankful for his patience.

    1. SteelMagnolia

      Joyce, Good for you!!! I’m so glad you’ve finally accepted things as they are and are getting on with your life and finding happiness with your husband!

      I’ve been estranged from my daughter (age 46) for about 5 years. At first I sent cards and gifts which were not recognized. I stopped doing that 3 years ago. As for forgiving my daughter, I am not there. She took me away from my grandchildren and them away from me and oh how we loved each other! It was cruel and IF I am ever able to forgive her, she won’t know anything about it. It will be just for me, not her. In the meantime, I am the best version of me I can be and I surround myself with those I love who love me.

    2. Jan

      Wow!!! You have taken the words from within my soul!!!
      Both of my children radiate to me …don’t BUG me!
      But I am doing as the two of you!!! Planning my future without them! I plan on happiness and good times without

    3. Marianne L.

      Your post was extremely beneficial to me, a reminder that it’s not just me going through this alternative universe reality. Did we raise thoughtless people? I called mine a light worker since he saw me work nonprofit his entire life. He now tells me his self-focused wife is his rock, even though she thinks of no one but herself. All I know now is that I don’t like him anymore and don’t really wish to spend time together, which I know his wife is relieved about. I’d be afraid to find out the person he’s become, even after rescuing him from domestic violence. There is nothing more I can do. He’s relieved I’m gone and I can’t stop crying. So superficial.

  5. candleinthewind

    I should have written “breathe in for the count of 4 and out for the count of 6. Repeat”. It helps get some immediate distance from yourself and the problem.

  6. stacey

    Stuck! Its such a simple word huh? That is exactly how I feel. The questions are haunting. My son just came out of the blue with cutting off my entire side of the family. He had lied to me all that day and I felt something was wrong but he assured me I was being paranoid. He called and invited me for a 30 minute session to meet my first and only grandson. Then a couple hours after that, I was blocked on his and his wife’s social media. Thinking it was a computer glitch of typo, I called, no answer? I waited a while and called again, no answer and no return call. Thinking they were busy, I just text and asked “Where did all Ranger (my grandsons name) pictures go. I been following everyone you post all day, he’s such a happy and alert and calm baby esp to be hours old. No response! I brushed it off as two new parents bonding and they would holler in a day or so. Radio silence. In fact in the “day or so” he had cut off his cell phone and got a new number. My mother, sister, his brother my oldest son, myself, etc, etc, etc still dohave a number to reach him. no explanation was given and no warning was spoken. I dont know what happened, why or what to do?

    1. Gene

      Stacey Your post sounds oh, so familiar. Our son has been completely manipulated and brainwashed by his wife who suffers from a personality disorder. We believe D-I-L simply did not want anyone in our son’s family to be in contact with him as she views us all as rivals. I suspect a similar situation may have happened to your son. No doubt about it….it’s rough. But hang in there. Hope and pray for change.


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