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

  1. Linda B.

    Yesterday I was at Walmart in line to be checked out. The lady infront of me was purchasing gifts for a new baby granddaughter and her 2 year old grandson. She had an an assortment of clothes and toys. I was so jealous. My 28 year old daughter has been estranged for 10 years and could have children for all I know. I haven’t seen or heard from her, it is like she died the day she left. I have both Sheri s books and they have helped tremendously.

  2. Jan

    Dear Reader,
    Do, its my only child my 43 yr old ‘adult’ son who is estranged from me and his grandmother, my mom who is 97 yrs old and extremely unwell.
    I won’t bore you with the horrific details; but suffice to say, I know what type of single parent I was, and I could give you enumerable testimonials in my favor; but there’s no way for me to understand my son’s feelings and behaviors and for the most part, I’ve stopped trying to figure out what I did, or didn’t do to him. After grieving our loss for the last 7 years and feeling sadness beyond the saddest, I’ve been open and told anyone who is interested all the banal details– and they express amAzing disbelief. I’ve replaced my tears and heartbreak with thinking ‘it is what it is’ and ‘that’s that’.
    Between you and me, I’m not buying what my son is selling. He owns his feelings and I haven’t He been successful in enabling him to articulate his feelings to me.

    My son and his life and lifestyle are thriving; so I’m told by his friends who still talk to me, their ‘other Mom’; and — he is, as I always hoped for him,enjoying his career and good health and wealth; whilst I’m surviving my third primary cancer and just living dsy to day being grateful for my next second, minute, hour, day, week, year(s).
    I used to hope that he’d call, ‘Hi Mom’–
    ‘Hi honey, how are You?– tomorrow. But tomorrow never came. As for my mom, I call her daily, and see her frequently. She really misses her first grandson. (But she’s got me and other children and grands.)
    Anyway, thanks for reading the above and it’s healing to know I’m not the only horrible mom in the world. Sincerely, Jan

  3. Anita

    I’ve been estranged from both my daughter and son for four years. During the first three years I struggled to tell anyone. I would worry about what they would think or even how to explain without burying the person in information and angry tears. This year I finally took the plunge and just said I was estranged. Those who want to know more ask. Once I did this I was astonished by how many of us have some form of estrangement with someone. I never expected to get so many “me too” moments. I don’t feel so alone now. So if you haven’t done it yet take the plunge and tell people. You will find people who really understand and you can support each other.

  4. Carrie-Ann

    Reply To: candleinthewind/December 6, 2022 at 5:14 am

    Dearest Beautiful Beloved candleinthewind,

    Just a little note to say that I think of you each day, most usually in the early morning…I remind my Divine Cat Beauty & Myself of Your Beautiful Words that you share with us, (paraphrasing)…”Open the Window… Hear the Birds Sing…Sit Down…Have Some Tea & Biscuits…Listen To Some Music…Buy Yourself A Special Gift…and Your Words today…

    We Are Taking Our Selves Back…Yes, Holidays can bite…But we don’t have to bite ourselves…I’m sure you were a Beautiful Mother…For sure, for sure, You Are A Beautiful Being “Here & Now”…We can shed tears, but we have already “cried a river+”…No “slings & arrows” for us…I’m thinking Tea & Christmas Biscuits (“cookies”, here in the states…lol)…& Sharing With Each Other Across the Miles…I Am With You In Spirit…In My Heart’s Mind, We Are Having Tea Together…Slowly sipping our tea…and Letting It Be…
    As in Beautiful Sheri’s words, “Sending Hugs,”

    In Gratitude & Friendship,

    p.s. May Each One of Us Be Peaceful & Healthy In Body, Mind, & Spirit…
    p.p.s. candleinthewind, What “Special Gift* Are You Giving Yourself?
    *(same question to others sharing here…)

  5. Su

    Wow, it seems that although there are a few comments here, they don’t seem to be related to the subject AT HAND..that subject happens to be one near and dear to my heart. It is really hard to meet other adults who have kids about the same age as yours. I would say that any one of them often either got really lucky and despite the many stupid things they might have done as parents, that for whatever reason their kid still seems to love them and seems to have some understanding of why their parents made the choices that they did…or..they are pretending that their relationship with their kid is great…or they are clueless that their kid secretly cant stand them but allows them to think their kid loves them.

    What I am saying here is that there are so many nuances in parent child relationships, yet despite all that, the minute you say something like “ well I hardly ever see my kid, he /or his wife, just doesn’t seem to like me very much. As soon as something like that gets verbalized, the speaker has already identified themselves as damaged in some way. It is a real stigma…and no matter how much you manage to get into your own interests, engage in self-care, stop ruminating etc. etc….it is always there…Waiting to be judged by those who are either happy with their children or are pretending to be happy.

    1. Evelyn

      You cannot do anything to avoid estrangement.
      But parents believe they can, and one thing that makes them feel safe is looking at the mistakes of parents like us. I have noticed that when I tell people, they immediately start asking too much questions which seem to come out of an sudden urgent need for reassurance. I am still looking for a way to respond to this that meets my own needs instead of theirs.

      Telling people helps though. They respond with more understanding than I expected. They are even sharing their own difficulties with their grown childeren more now, their fears. We have become people you can share this with apparantly. Maybe seeing us cope makes them less scared.

    2. candleinthewind

      Thank you for that pertinent reminder – it’s Christmas, and happy families abound, sentimental songs and carols just get me close to tears, I’m meeting a good friend tomorrow who’s just been to his grandchild’s nativity, before I know it I’m thinking ‘was I such a bad mother?’ – well, stop all that, become deaf, put on some armour (as the good book advises), any tactic to duck the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that are coming our way as a Christmas gift.

    3. Adrianna C.

      Thank you for your honest response. I sometimes have a hard time listening to people talk about their wonderful holidays/get togethers/vacations etc with their amazing children and grandchildren. I do the best that I can but I agree that when you tell people about the estrangement they can ask a lot by of questions and I do feel judged at times. I have moved on in my life but the estrangement is always there no matter how many nice things that I do for myself. I’m learning to make space in my life for those who love me as I am and make space for me. I’m so grateful for parents like you who tell it like it is and help me to understand my own feelings about the estrangement. I have 2 daughters and a son. They haven’t spoken to me in 6 years. This group has helped me to understand the situation and move forward and live a happy life. Thank you!❤️

  6. Natalie

    I appreciate this site and have the book. Recently because I have not taken a certain “ thing” 2 of my adult kids are very upset and one has a 2 year old – my grandson – so she isn’t letting me plan a visit . She’s very frustrated with me . I know i am not the only one going through this . It’s sad.

  7. Leeann S.

    Parents of Estranged Adult Children: Help and Healing
    When Adult Children are Estranged: Support and Information
    Skip to content






    This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?
    It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching can help.

    Search for:
    I am searching for help, goddamnit! And if your not going to let me in your forum or group then why the fuck do you link to it like you do?

    1. rparents Post author


      I’ve done a search for your name and email address and it doesn’t look like you have registered for the forum. The registration form is here:

      I’m not sure what the issue was and can’t quite tell from your comment. I do get that you were frustrated in some way. It could have been a miscommunication between your phone/computer/program and the site, high traffic that resulted in an error, or some other issue.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Edgar Poe

      Damn! Such foul, horrible language says A LOT about you as a person. Most reasonable people would consider first that there just might be a broken link or some system glitch. If I read this message as the owner of this site I wouldn’t even give a hateful person like YOU the time of day. That says A LOT about the type of person she is.

      You seriously need to check your attitude.


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