Rejected parents: Should you tell people?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

parents cut off by adult childrenRecently, some mothers of estranged adults brought up an article in a major publication that pegged meddling mothers-in-law as the main cause of estrangement. It’s a simplistic view. Having studied the topic of estranged adult children in depth, I know the problem is much more complex and varied. A long chapter in my book covers the causes at length. But our society has been conditioned to believe that kids wouldn’t reject decent, loving folks. So when it comes to parents cut off by adult children, it’s fair to say that most people wonder what the parent must have done to cause the break.

Unfortunately, kind, supportive parents cut off by adult children often feel a sense of shame or guilt, even when they know they did their best (often explained by the concept of innocent guilt). That, and the fear of being judged by others, can keep them suffering in silence. They may have even brought up the topic, seeking support, and received judgment instead. So parents cut off by adult children may stop talking and start to isolate themselves. Even in small communities where most people know about the estrangement, these parents veer away from the proverbial elephant in the room.

parents cut off by adult childrenEvery estrangement situation is different. For some of us, it may be possible and desirable to meet the estrangement topic head on. Doing so may educate others about the growing phenomenon of caring, supportive parents cut off by adult children.

If we remain silent and fearful of gossip, it’s possible that our silence feeds into the idea that we as parents are at fault or did something horrible to cause the estrangement. Also, by remaining silent on the matter, or keeping social connections superficial, we don’t provide the opportunity for another person to be our friend.

I know how incredibly painful estrangement is. Parents cut off by adult children can, without good reason, end up feeling very small. It’s like having your legs lopped off at the knees! But walking around with our heads bowed in undeserved shame isn’t wise or fair to ourselves. Oh, how the neck can hurt when we’re always holding our heads low!

Having authored my book on the topic to help parents cut off by adult children move forward and find happiness again, I am forever in a position to talk about the subject of estrangement. I’ve grown used to doing so. Still, I’m occasionally hit with one of those looks, odd questions, or rude responses—and sometimes it even bothers me. I’m human after all. For the most part, I parents cut off by adult childrenrefuse to participate in someone else’s warped view of me. I’m a good person. I’m a decent human being. I’m a good mother and wife, a stable, accomplished person.

Talking about the experience is easier if you steer another person’s responses. It’s about making the other person more comfortable with the truth. It’s about saying, well gosh, here’s this cruddy thing in my life, and I get that you probably wonder what I did, but you know, I’m not so horrible. It happens to the best of us.

In fact, I’ve met all sorts of really, really kind, caring people from all over the world who find themselves in shock, in a situation they would have never expected. Either there’s a phenomenon of some sort, or we’re an army of monsters wearing aprons, spending time with the kids, and looking through old albums of photographs we somehow altered to make it look like our families were happy.

Parents cut off by adult children: Some food for thought

I understand that the people reading this blog have experienced estrangement for different amounts of time. Some of you have been estranged for many years. Others for only a few months. I get that you may not want to talk to people about the experience, maybe foparents cut off by adult childrenr fear others will judge your son or daughter (with whom you’re sure you’ll eventually reconcile).

But for those who have come to accept that estrangement is long term, perhaps forever, by confronting the subject head on, you shed light. You shed light on just how many of us there are. And there are multitudes. In the article mentioned earlier, the writer said there was an estimated 75,000 grandparents cut off from their grandchildren in the Ontario area. I’m not sure if that figure is accurate. Statistics about the actual numbers of parents cut off by adult children (thus their grandchildren) are hard to come by. But I can say that this website is busy. To date, more than 16,000 parents of estranged adults have answered the survey about being estranged from adult children.

You are not alone in your estrangement. As much of the world celebrates holidays centered on renewal and rebirth, and as spring unfolds to tell the story of another season, consider how you can personally grow in a new and more self-compassionate attitude about the situation of estrangement.

Maybe one way is by beginning to talk a bit more openly about what has happened to you, even online. At articles like the one mentioned in the opening above, consider leaving thoughtful comments that enlighten others. I left a comment at the article I hope accomplishes just that. A few others also did.

Related articles:

Emotional and Social Fallout

You may feel lonely, but you’re not alone

The void: Feel it or fill it?

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4 thoughts on “Rejected parents: Should you tell people?

  1. Joanne

    For the last few years I have felt completely alone….that is until I ran across this site. Now I realize this is happening to so many people who deserve better. My oldest daughter discarded me over 2 years ago and I’m still in shock at times over it. She has a son and is expecting a daughter. I feel I have been denied the right to spoil my grandchildren and enjoy them as I should be allowed to. The pain is daily as everyone in my age group is boasting about all the wonderful things they get to do with and for their grandkids. I am happy for them all but it’s still like a knife cutting in every time. When people ask, I say that I am holding my grandchild in my heart until I can hold him in my arms. I’m doing my best to let go and move on and enjoy the life I have with my other 2 loving children, my husband, family and friends. I have to keep daily reminding myself how blessed I am. I can not let this rejection overshadow the great things in my life that I am truly thankful for. It helps to know that I am not alone. Although I feel for each and every one of you who have suffered at the hands of an adult child/children that you gave your very best for with unconditional love only to be met with hostility, discard and rejection. God Bless and stay strong!

    1. Charity

      I absolutely know the pain all of you are going through. Imagine, I have been estranged from all three of my children. They sided with their very wealthy father during a long divorce and the hatred they have demonstrated toward me is shocking beyond belief.

      Although I have made mistakes as a mother, as we all have, I was a totally devoted to all my children. I breast-fed each one until they were two years old. I took them to school every day. I spent hours and hours reading to them. But it’s as if I’ve gotten no credit for any of that.

      Their father who spent time in prison for embezzlement and has fathered illegitimate children is adored by them and put on a pedestal.

      One of my sons and my daughter live only 4 miles from me but of course I never get to see them. When my youngest son’s wife gave birth a year ago to their second child, a daughter, I decided to purchase baby clothes as a gift.

      It was a Sunday morning and I went to an upscale department store to buy the clothes. I was probably one of the first customers in the store. I raced upstairs to the baby department picked out a few beautiful things and quickly had them gift wrapped.

      I then raced down to the lower level to the parking garage as I felt a sense of urgency for some reason. As I walked through the glass doors into the parking garage I came face to face with my daughter, my son and my horrible former father-in-law. There wasn’t another soul in sight. We were completely alone.

      I hadn’t seen my youngest son in many years. At first we all just stared at one another dumbfounded. I started saying, hello, how are you and then my son yelled, No, no! You! Get away! As if I were some homeless person trying to attack them.

      I just stood there holding a shopping bag in each hand watching them ascend the escalator. I called after them. I still love you. And then I left. off the bags at my son’s house and handed them to my daughter-in-law‘s father. My son later texted me saying that if I ever went to the house again he would call the cops on me.

      My children are not mentally ill but their father is a vindictive, narcissistic sociopath who has manipulated my children with the money and brainwashed them against me. It’s all very sad but I’m powerless to do anything about it.

      As I said before, the vehemence and hatred is shocking. I could recount other horror stories but it’s just too emotionally draining to rehash it.

      Anyway, this is a sad club to be a member of but then life‘s not perfect and I try my best to concentrate on the blessings that God has given me and to be grateful for the good things what I have.

  2. Mileah

    Wow, thank you all for sharing. I am blown away that this has happened to so many other parents and I am grateful I found you all.

    I am newly estranged by my only child; my grown 40 year-old daughter. Not to minimize others’ experiences, but beingthat this is my only child makes this all extremely painful; she is my only child and birthed my only grandchildren! I have lost them all which makes it feel like I am no longer a mom nor a grandmother.
    This has been devastating, but I am determined to move on and create a meaningful life for myself without them and also maintain hope that perhaps someday we can have some sort of relationship again.


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