Unexpected emotions over an estranged adult child

estranged brother, estranged adult sonMemories can spring up, bounce down when you least expect them, and bring on emotions.

The other day, when my family was together, my adult children reminisced about their childhood years here. The fun things they did around our place, the secrets they kept, the forts they built. . . . Specific good memories included their estranged brother, and for a few seconds, silence fell over the room.

Estrangement and confusion

While my family has moved forward, we are all still confused and hurt. To some extent, we may always be. An adult child’s rejection is confusing. We received no hard and fast reason for estrangement – – and from what I hear, lack of clarity is common. But even with clear reasons, memories would likely come up from time-to-time, and bring on emotional pain.

The loss of an estranged adult child  can be similar to grief over loved ones lost in death. Grief is often described as a series of stages. That’s based upon stages described by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, author of the 1969 book, On Death and Dying. In 2012 though, researchers in the journal, Mental Health Practice, describe grieving more like a pinball machine.  Events and anniversaries can trigger emotions related to the loss – – like the way my adult children’s memories bumped into their experiences of childhood spent with their now estranged brother.

Estrangement:  Handling sudden emotions

Because feelings of loss can come up at unexpected moments, thinking ahead to positive responses helps. When my kids talked about memories of their now estranged brother, it made sense to draw attention to our emotions with a simple question: “It’s still confusing why he left, isn’t it?”

As a mom, pausing on the hurt allowed me to hold up a figurative thermometer, take an emotional temperature reading, and see whether anyone needed to address the loss more specifically. I got some nods from everyone, but the conversation swiftly moved on. We were all fine, but acknowledging our feelings in that moment may have made it easier for one of my other children to bring up the subject of her estranged brother a few days later when she felt the need – – and with loss of any kind, the ongoing freedom to express feelings is necessary.

Finding supportive persons with whom you can talk, as well as providing a safe space for others in the family hurt by your adult child’s estrangement are important aspects of healing. How might you handle unexpected emotions as they occur?

Find support in the community forum: Support for parents of estranged adult children.

Related articles:

5 Ways to move on after an adult child’s rejection

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11 thoughts on “Unexpected emotions over an estranged adult child

  1. Liz

    I discovered this site while searching for articles and information regarding my 2 estranged children; the oldest two of my 4 adult children. The posts have been incredibly helpful and informative. I have never had anyone to talk to about this (except my husband, who is not the father of my 4). I’m happy to read that the things you have suggested I have done. I have been very careful not to say the wrong thing or to create any issues. My youngest 2 children are also deeply hurt and asking “Why?”. There is no real answer.
    Thank you for such a great place full of information.

    1. rparents Post author

      Liz, Thank you for your kind note. I’m glad you have found the site and articles helpful!! I’m sorry your younger children are hurt, and you obviously love them very much and are attentive to their well being. Estrangement does effect the whole family, and other relationships, too. You are doing great at managing the situation. Thank you for your comment.

      Sheri McGregor, M.A.
      Founder, RejectedParents.NET

    2. bonnebelle

      Am new to this site and have been estranged for two months. I don’t see this resolving any time soon. How did you all cope with the first months after your children rejected you? I feel like I have been hit by a truck. Thank you.

  2. Tracey

    I have stumbled onto this website and forum. I have spent days reading every single entry. I want you to know I think you have saved my sanity… I have been killing myself inside my head thinking Im a useless, worthless failure of a Mother and a human being. There must be something wrong with me because both my Adult daughters have been treating me so badly for over 18 years now. My family and friends who know us say they are selfish, narcissistic women who want me for the $$$$$$. They never offer a kind word or show any form of love or thanks for anything I give them or do for them. My story is very long and I find it soooo painful to talk about. Im ashamed that I failed my daughters somehow and I struggle with this every day. I walk on eggs shells with them and do everything they want just so I can still see them & my grandsons. Friends say I need to see a therapist but I just cant cope with telling the story and feeling like Im being judged. I will continue to read these post in the hope that I will be able to heal myself through others and knowing I’m not alone. Thank you so much for this group… Its has given me some strength.

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Tracey,
      I’m really glad that you’ve found a bit of help here at the website, and that the writing and stories of others have given you some strength. One small change can make a big difference, can’t it? Whether that’s something on the inside like knowing you’re not alone, or something on the outside that you do to change. Thank you for writing a comment here. I hope you will continue to read and find courage in others’ sharing.

      Sheri McGregor, M.A.
      Founder http://www.RejectedParents.NET

    2. Wepawee

      Hi Tracy,
      I just found this website as well and very thankful to be here. I have been suffering in angry silence along with my husband and youngest daughter for two years. Our oldest son who is 25 abandoned us shortly after he got married 2 years ago. That is hard enough to deal with when our 20-year-old daughter who is ADHD, Bipolar and crazy decides to go off on us. Her abuse is intense and always focused on me and or her little sister… I ruined her whole life. *Cough* A couple of days ago she picked a fight with her little sister who is 14 yrs old. She kept asking her if she had her raincoat, we don’t. I have to protect my youngest from her older sister as she can easily go from calm to violent. Anyway, she got mad that my youngest would not admit she had her coat (She does not, its not here) and stormed out of our new house with her boyfriend, said I love you Mom, but I hate my little sister. Soooooooooo Tired of putting up with this from her. I wish she would not even come over, it is never easy. Well I got my wish. She texted my husband later on, declairing how much she loves him and hates me. 15 long texts going on an don of how I ruined her teenaged years and how he should of divorced me years ago, I am lazy, mean, manipulative and brainwashing our youngest child, followed up by “I am never speaking to mom or my little sister again, and blocking them on my phone and all social media or contacts!!!
      Boooooo whooo, fine go ahead and do it you little brat, sick of trying to please you anyway!!! GO!!!! JUST GO THEN!! Now she is bragging how two of my three children have turned their backs on me because I am such a rotten mother! I don’t do the Facebook thing, to much drama. But I did go and look online to see if anyone else was having these problems and I guess we are not alone.. Its very sad really. But I am tired of being sad and abused! I am a good person and a good mom, my kids were raised with love and if they don’t love me anymore then fine, don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord Split Yah because I am DONE!

  3. carol

    I just found your website. Thank you for your helpful information. I have made attempts to contact and it backfired that she disconnected her phone. My concern is I think mental health issues are involved, ocd ,depression and major anxiety disorder. She has been suicidal in the past. I am concerned for her safety and have no way to know how she Is doing? Any suggestions how to handle this type of situation. She just broke off her relationship with her sister as well, they were always best friend. It’s so hard to not carry fear and heartbreak with you

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Carol,
      I’m sorry you’ve had these issues with your daughter. The sad news is that there’s not a whole lot you can do when another adult disconnects her phone and sends a clear message in doing so. You might check with NAMI, if you haven’t already, for their thoughts. Mental illness is discussed in my book because there are some of the families I spoke to who have experienced similar situations as yours, and getting on with things anyway. I wish you much happiness and peace, Carol. — Sheri

  4. Virginia

    I want to express my gratitude. When the book came out, I had been following the site. Such help! I didn’t hesitate! Overall, and the emotions and preparation parts.. Well, the book is just a Godsend So thank you,thank you, thank you (times a million)! I have recommended Done With the Crying to other people already and wanted to say thanks here.

  5. Wepawee

    Also to add injury to insult my son 25 birthday is coming up on the 23rd of this month of Sept and my oldest daughters 21rst birthday coming on Oct 2. I was hoping to have a family birthday party with her, now who knows. But, I am relieved in a strange way, that I won’t have to struggle to get through a visit with my child who resents me for trying to make her happy and failed because she rejected every attempt in the past. Why should I bother to try? I excuse much of her abuse because of her ADHD and Bi-Polar, but I am done with her abuse and all the nasty things she has to say about me. I wish to have a healthy relationship with her and our son, but it does not seem that is the way things are working out. I still pray and will continue to pray to a God who does not seem to care. I know he does, but I can’t take it anymore!

  6. N.

    My daughter is 25 and lives in another state. She used to call regularly and I was assured of how she was fairing but then she just stopped calling and didnt respond to texts. I was worried the first time she did it for nearly 3 months. We went to visit her and it broke the shun for awhile. Then a year later she shunned again with no apparent reason. We paid the phone bill so I have been able to track calls and texts that she is still talking to friends and is alive. I am anxious about her mental well being as she has suffered depression in the past. I guess knowing she is alive is all I get to know but it feels like a death in the family. I am grieving.


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