There are no “right” words when….

Parents of estranged adults may worry about saying or doing just the right thing. We’re told how to respond and what to say ad nauseam. Amends letters, apologies, listening for the grain of truth, remaining calm, responding in curiosity, keeping our feelings out of it …. Yet, so very frequently, parents have had their ears and hearts open all along. They have tried all the words and have remained calm and loving … yet the desired results are not realized. The thing is, communication takes willingness by all involved. It can be a sad day when you realize the other person was not in really in the conversation. Yet, it can also be freeing.

Hugs to all of you from Sheri McGregor

amends letter

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Letters to Estranged adult children

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12 thoughts on “There are no “right” words when….

  1. Boots

    Sheri, I agree with, “There are no right words when someone is determined to take whatever you say as “wrong.”

    If they are out there, I don’t know them and I am even as fault for that, for I was told, “I should know.” Like Lisa R., I too apologized for all I could think of. My question is, why can’t my EDs tell me? I guess because they really don’t want accept anything I have to say. Because if they did, we would be having open communication. Face to face.

    I have relationships in my life that I value so much, that if I think I offended them or I am offended, I go to them, no matter how hard it is and try to work it out. Because if it’s stays in my head or if I start talking to other people about it, it just going to get worse. I value this relationships and can not afford to lost them. However, my EDs I suppose can afford to lose me and their dad. Which is so sad, that they do not place value on us. This is what I am in the process of accepting and learning to more forward and enjoy my life the best I can. To forgive and have a life worth living for myself and my husband.

    Happy Thanksgiving


    1. Linda B

      Thank you for this. We’ve put out apologies all in the languages the kids demanded. I think they really don’t hear or feel it! They seem to just want to dismiss us. I pray daily they have a change of heart. Am leaving it all up the Lord.

    2. Carol U.

      I think you have found the only path that will give you the peace we all deserve. I have come to the conclusion that my son just doesn’t love me and I don’t think he knows why. He was loved and cherished all his life and we tried to meet his every need and most of his desires. He made a lot of choices and decisions that turned out badly and turned to alcohol for solace. His happiness is all I ever wanted but I have too late learned that it was not my job to make him happy. That’s up to him. I will always love him and the door remains open but I am living my life with gratitude and joy. Happy Thanksgiving!

    3. Dawn L.

      Boots-I don’t understand this either. This is the same situation I am facing with my son {29 year old} I have apologized too. My new DIL got mad at me for something between me and my son which doesn’t concern her but apparently everything he says or is said to him in private, concerns her. He tells her. She was going to call up and tell me about myself but my son stopped her. I can say I truly wish he hadn’t stopped her because maybe we could have had a real conversation. If she thinks she is defending him that’s terrific and maybe it would help me see what I said/did wrong. Sadly, I fear that she knew not to call me because the simple truth of the situation would have shown her for the person she is. His new wife, at 14 years old threw a large hardbound Bible at her new infant brother because she was jealous. Thank God she missed him. She often tells my son, she wishes she wouldn’t have missed. Who behaves like that and says stuff like that? To me that tells me a lot about her character and it isn’t good. She also has a past of immediately moving in with any BF to get away from her mom and brother. The last BF kicked her out to go back home with mom and said she and her family are a nightmare to live with and deal with. She moved back home and began immediately to tear all the wallpaper down from her bathroom in order to repaint it, meanwhile her mother had severe covid-19 and had to be rushed to the hospital while my new DIL paid no attention to her mom or getting her to the hospital-she kept tearing down the wallpaper. This is the kind of person I am dealing with. Needless to say , she now has no friends and never gets along with anyone wherever she works as a teacher. Including the students. These
      situations are just awful and seem to be epidemic now days causing hurt and pain to a bunch of well meaning parents who don’t deserve the abuse.

    4. Pats J

      Happy Thanksgiving Boots, I am having Thanksgiving here at my house tomorrow and as usual dreading the day. I have 3 grown children. One is coming with a boyfriend whom she has dated over a year and I met him once at a perchance meeting in a parking lot. My daughter doesn’t want me in her life. There have been periods where she hasn’t talked to me for 8 months, 6 months and this time it has been going on 4 months. I know she is only coming because her brother and sister are coming. I will handle this the best I can. I’ll be cordial and act like everything is ok. She will barely talk to me and be gone as quickly as she can.
      I pine for my daughter but have to tell myself to not think about her and as of lately I feel like I don’t even have a daughter. How sad is that. I do have lots of good friends and I focus on them and keep busy.
      I feel for you also and think you are handling this as well as you can. It does help to know you are not alone.
      Let’s focus on our blessings and know that we did the best we could to bring up our children. We have no control in how they feel about us. I guess that’s their problem!!!
      Try to have. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Betsy W.

    Estrangement from our oldest son of three has been a difficult journey to a conclusion that this is the status he has chosen to subject my husband and me to.. he is my stepson but I raised him after his biological mother gave him up when he was eight. He never forgave her. He asked me to apologize for things I said 20,30, 40 years ago which he took out of context. I did apologize though there was never harmful intent on my part. I did unfriend him on Facebook because anything I reply to him even trying to be kind he twists and throws at me with contempt.

  3. Missy D.

    You have company. I have said
    I feel as though I was handcuffed
    taken to prison, but no one had
    told me the charges!
    All is mentioned is me and my
    husband, have not spoken to
    our daughter or grandsons In
    years! We were very close at
    one time. This has proven to me
    so many things, we still hurt .
    It’s been a struggle, but it’s
    lessen .

  4. S.N.

    “There are no “right” words when someone is determined to take whatever you say
    Thank you, Sheri, for these words! They are healing and they certainly rang true in my experience.
    It’s been 12 years since our beautiful, loving and compassionate adult daughter suddenly became a stranger. She made a shocking announcement about herself and her intended new lifestyle. My husband and I were completely stunned. But we told her that nothing she could say or do would diminish our unconditional love, that we would always want her in our lives, and that, while she had the right to make her own life choices, we could not always affirm them.
    She responded with anger and hostility. She blocked our phone numbers and my FB account. While composing e-mails to her, I would agonize for weeks over just the right wording and tone of each message before prayerfully hitting “SEND.” I thought my words were kind, conciliatory, and gentle; yet I was open and honest about our hurt and confusion regarding her hostility. Her replies would be swift and cruel–twisting my words and making them into something ugly and false. She railed against her Christian upbringing and its gender-binary concepts. She labeled our love “toxic,” and she accused us of lying, gas-lighting, and other forms of mental abuse. None of it was true, yet I apologized incessantly and begged for forgiveness and grace–again and again. She responded by saying she had no grace for me. And then she gave us an impossible ultimatum–which ran completely against our faith and commitment to God. I begged and pleaded. She responded that if we didn’t comply, she had no room in her life for us. It’s been over 10 years without any contact. Then, about two years ago, we saw her at a family funeral. My husband and I approached–to thank her for coming, to say that we loved her, and that we hoped she was well. However, before we could speak–she recoiled from us. She actually pushed her palms out, tossed her head to the side and backed away.
    How many times can an estranged child crush your heart? Why do they choose to portray kind and loving parents as evil monsters? I may never understand what happened or why, but God gives me healing and strength to make it through each day. You’ve been a big part of that healing, too, Sheri. Your words help and heal–more than you know. Thank you!

  5. Terri C.

    Thank you so much for this message! I am so tired of reading about “amends” letters and apologizing to our children when we have just been normal parents. The problem is with them: there is something pervading our culture that is telling our children they need not care about us if we are not constantly “sparking their joy.” I finally realized that I am giving my 47-year-old daughter what SHE seems to want, which is me out of her life. We used to be really close and she confided everything in me. I don’t know what happened to make her think I’m now the world’s worst mom, except that she obviously prefers her mother in law to me. She seems happy and prosperous in her life with tons of support around her, so I’m glad for that and just keep praying that someday she will come back. I wish all of us moms could somehow mobilize against this evil that has taken our children from us.

    1. rparents Post author

      Sorry, Terri, that this has happened to you. I know you miss your daughter terribly. My hope for today is that you make a commitment to yourself to have a good life anyway.
      Big hugs to you.
      Sheri McGregor

    2. Audrey

      Thank you Terri! I feel exactly as you do. My 30 year old son feels the same way towards me & I have finally decided to let him go because he has made it painfully clear that is what he wants. So I will honor that. When this all started with him I decided to go to counseling because I was having such a hard time trying to understand what I had done in his eyes & my counselor told me she had 3 clients reach out to her that week with similar issues with their adult children. It’s becoming an epidemic & it saddens me but finding this group & people like you Terri that understand means the world to me. Thank you for sharing.


  6. Lisa R.

    Beloved Sheri and All,

    Truer words have never been spoken! I know from my own experience with my ED that no matter what I said or did it was wrong. It seemed as though she was trying to find fault with me at every turn. Nothing was every “right.” When I apologized (countless times, by the way) saying, “I am sorry if anything I did hurt or disappointed you in any way” her response was that I was being selfish and that I am toxic. My husband (not her father but he treated her like gold) and I have often remarked that no matter what I say or do it will be wrong or hurtful to her in some way. I have given up and work hard every day to appreciate the people who do love and value me while also trying to enjoy my life. I admit that it’s an effort but I do work at it every day. And what’s sad for me is that a friend of my has just been rejected by her 23-year-old son because he has gotten heavily into drug abuse and she stepped in and tried to help him help himself. He accused her of meddling so now she is just beginning her walk on this terrible journey.

    I wish you all peace and joy,
    Lisa R.


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