Wall of Silence: an artistic expression about living with estrangement

parents of estranged adults

Quilt, copyright: S. Small Proudfoot

This beautiful quilt is an artistic expression about the powerlessness many parents of estranged adult children feel. The quilt itself is gorgeous—-and reveals the lovely soul of a mother who has been hurt, but who has also triumphed. Sharing the quilt here is a way for the artist to help bring attention to the growing trend of adult children who sever ties from caring families. As she said to me this morning, “I hope you are able to continue making strides for a more informed society about this issue of estrangement from family and children.”

Through October 16, the quilt is on display with others at the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, California.

What an inspiration Ms. Proudfoot is to other hurting parents whose adult children have cut them off. Read the artist’s statement below, and enjoy some close-ups of different areas of this inspiring piece of art:

quilt-wall-of-silence-4-the-skin-horseTITLE:  WAll of SILENCE” Dedicated to all parents of Estranged Adult Children. The grief felt by parents whose adult children chose to terminate parental relationships leaves nothing but everlasting quilt-wall-of-silence-5-the-velveteen-rabbitheartbreak and sadness.  Margery Williams book, The Velveteen Rabbit, is used as a metaphor for this quilt.  Rabbit, rejected by his beloved child, asks Skin Horse “when a child loves you for a long, long time, does it hurt?”  Always truthful, Skin Horse replies “sometimes”.  From the darkness of despair to the serenity of acceptance, a heart once broken never mends, not to the shape it once was.

Wall of Silence: (c) 2016 Sandra Small Proudfoot, AOCA ’89, Mono, Ont., in collaboration with long-arm quilter, Mary Light, Temiskaming Shores, Ont. Canada

Floral Inspiration:    Artist Carrie Schmitt “She Lived Her Life in Full Bloom”

Can creativity help you heal?

In my book, I shared the stories of many who have healed through art in all its forms—-gardening, cooking, knitting, writing, and more. Formal art therapy works—but people have long turned to creative pursuits on their own as a means to work through troubling times and come away stronger.

Maintaining this website, and writing my book to help parents of estranged adult children has been part of my creative healing process. How have you used creative works to manage and heal from your pain? And if you haven’t yet, what might you get started on today that can help you express yourself and heal. Remember, not all creativity is expressed in traditional art forms either. Creativity can be a facet of many activities.

I hope you will leave a comment appreciating the artistry of Ms. Proudfoot’s quilt shared here, as well as share your own creative ideas that help you to heal.



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23 thoughts on “Wall of Silence: an artistic expression about living with estrangement

    1. Melanie

      This quilt really speaks to my heart. It captures the struggles I have felt with my daughter in trying to maintain a healthy relationship with her and helping her overcome her drug addiction as well. I really feel like a puppet on a string when she begs for money but I cannot give it to her because I don’t want to enable her drug addiction. It is more complicated by the fact that her father is a drug addict as well. Obviously, my whole world exploded when I realized her behavior wasn’t just teenage angst but was tied to drugs, an activity she shared with her father. I got her in re-hab once. We haven’t spoken in years. Is there any way I can get a poster or print of this quilt? It touches my soul! Melanie

    1. S. Small Proudfoot

      I am more the happy and gratified to know that the Wall of Silence has brought some measure of visual and hopefully some measure of emotional peace as well to those suffering from a child’s estrangement. The Velveteen Rabbit, mentioned previously on this site, brought to my attention a metaphor and the beginning inspiration for my work. It may be copied from this site with my permission mindful and respectful of the fact that the design is copyrighted to me, the designer and not to be used for any commercial purpose other than for the designer. The creating of this design came from not only my heart but the hearts of many others on Sheri’s Community forum who have willingly opened themselves to the sharing with others the pain and devastation of having an estranged child or children.
      S. Small Proudfoot

  1. Deb K.

    Sandra’s quilt ‘ s colors in the flowers and animals are lovely. The quilting is beautifully intricate and adds depth and meaning. My quilting hobby has given me much satisfaction and healing; it is often the only soothing activity for my grief and pain. Yes, creativity helps us belong to ourselves again, because we are broken and lost, and don’t know who we are now. Without the colors and textures and patterns of fabrics and in nature and forests, I don’t know if I would have made it through the last 2 years. Sheri’s posts have also been invaluable for me. Thank you for sharing this inspiring quilt.

  2. Donna O.

    This is so beautiful. I found that returning to my old stomping grounds: knitting, cooking, sewing sooth my soul. Thank you for this website and for all you do to support families like ours. Blessings!

  3. Rainbow

    This quilt is just beautiful and inspirational! It truly reveals the heart and soul of a shunned parent. The colors are magnificent and just looking at this piece of artwork brings me solace. Rainbow

  4. Liz

    What a gorgeous quilt!! The colours are beautiful and the depiction of the hurting parent is both inspirational and comforting at the same time.
    Thank you for this website… I discovered it by chance. The “Wall of Silence” is the perfect description of what I am experiencing and feeling.

  5. Annie

    I have been trying to sign into the forum for 2 days Sheri and it won’t reset my password. Can anyone help with suggestions? Thank you in advance.

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Annie,
      I’ve looked you up. Of course, you’re more than welcome in the forum, and I’m sorry you’ve been having trouble getting in. There are a couple of things that need to be taken care of before you’re able to post. I’ll just list them here:
      1. User names must not be registrants’ real names or email addresses or portion.
      2. Once someone fills in the registration forms, there’s a third step of sending me a note via the contact form that tells a real name, and just a little of the situation. Contact page is under “about” in the nav bar at the top of the web page.
      3. You will receive an email confirming registration for the community, with some guidelines for posting. I try to do these quickly, but sometimes it takes as many as a few days (and I apologize for that).
      These things are listed in the instructions on the community registration page. I’m sorry it’s complex, but a couple of months ago some site issues required the changes for security.
      Annie, I hope you will go back to the registration page and try again. You’ve written some supportive comments to posts here at the site, and replying to others’ comments—thank you!

  6. Annie

    Thanks so much Sheri. I will follow up in a couple of days. I want to contribute and my heart is with everyone on this site. My husband is a lawyer and I work with him and we just finished a 4 day trial with many witness who talked about abuse in all forms. It hit a core with me and when I went on your wonderful, supportive site the evening of the second day of trial to share that’s when I became aware of the forum; duh;) after all these months. Again, thank you so much.

  7. Nancy

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. My heart still aches for my adult children and 6 grandchildren. It’s been 5 yrs and they live within 2 blocks of me. It is disheartening.

  8. Nancy L

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I am still trying to let go of the pain of 2 adult children and 6 innocent grandchildren. It’s been 5 yrs and they live right around the block from me.

  9. Thebluesky

    I just showed my husband the picture of the quilt. Of course he knows the backstory to it in relation to estrangement, and the incredible artist that I have come to know through this site. He will often ask me if i am online; are you talking to *********? Well, he studied the picture for a good few minutes. This is a man of few words, when he has something to say in relation to the bigger picture of the universe, he thinks before he speaks. He removed his spectacles. looked at me and said, “Mind Blowing!” We then tossed back and forth our personal take on the emotional intricacies woven into this story layed out in fabric. Thank you for this gift from the artists view, one of sadness and triumph, and a will to feel whole.

    And Sheri, thank you for inviting us to put our thinking caps on. Mine and my husbands conversation about the quilt evolved into me admitting how I have always been a wee bit envious of those that possess such talent. Painters, quilters, gourmet cooks, singers etc. Even my own husband that is an incredibly accomplished guitartist. He has been paid to play, but what I coveted most was how he can just sit in a chair at home and get lost in the music. Of course I enjoy that I am the recipient of his gift.
    But as I said we were talking about this tonight. He looked me square in the eye and said, “You are a soapmaker, did you forget?”. I did.

    Soap became very trendy the last few years. Oh boy, yes you can buy giant bars with really weird names and chemical ridden scents that lather up with huge amounts of sulfates. The bigger the bubble, the better.

    A decade ago, I took my soap into my own hands. I would spend hours in the kitchen, like a “gourmet cook”, coming up by trial and error, with recipes using only certified organic ingredients of oils, dried herbs and powders, and the best essential oils. I was an addict. Hours could fly by. I actually sold at markets and specialty stores. I never made a cent on it, as I could not buy ingredients in bulk. Not only was it the soap, but the presentation of it. I loved just as much the packaging. I scoured bead shops, antique button venders, you name it, to make it special. Actually I probably not only did not make a cent, it cost me. But I loved it, and our home was always filled with the scents of nature. And the best part of it was when I gave it as a gift.

    The last two plus years have found us financialy strapped, especialy after our move and back. But this quilt has inspired to find a way to start cooking soaps again. Maybe just putting some ingredients on my Christmas wish list to start.

    I too, would love to listen to other stories here about the possible resurrection of lost passions, and how it is instrumental in our healing path from estrangement.

    Peace and Love,


  10. Ann

    Today I saw my son and grandson, didn’t see the daughter in law, I was going to go up to them but I felt like I didn’t know him…didn’t want to say things that were in my heart. Still walking on egg shells. Not able to be my self…some moments I feel healed and others I can barely breathe. Harder still is he went to see his father at a family reunion a dad who didn’t care about him most of his life,he could fly there and can’t come 3 blocks to see me. Am I really at this place and if so is this just a bad dream or real.

  11. Annie

    It’s normal that he would feel like a perfect stranger and that you were reluctant to make contact. I’m sure you are guarding your heart. I see my daughter drive by on the street from time to time and it’s almost eiree.
    I’m never compelled to wave pretentiously as if nothing’s ever happened.
    It can feel surreal and is uncomfortable but that’s the position he’s put you in.
    It’s his loss and until the time he comes to his senses and shows love and respect again and honors you the way he should; try to hold your head up
    and not let it destroy you. I have to remind myself to breathe at times and I blow the stress out a lot. It’s pitiful what these adult children have done. We can’t let it destroy us. Take good care of you. God bless you Ann. Hang in there!

    1. todie

      Ann you are so “not alone”. I am a senior and I have been left out of 2 of 5 children’s lives. When I went to them I felt like we were going to be OK. Then no phone calls or visits. My older son has been keeping in touch and I so appreciate that. My oldest daughter died 3 Summers ago and I miss her so much. Before she died we were close. But there were years that she drank with her father and didn’t want anything to do with me. After their father died he became their hero. The good news is I have become so much stronger and filled with a joy that only comes from the Lord. Now I donate items to the Veterans Assoc. This gives me a feeling of helping those in need. Again Ann, know that you are not alone.

  12. Shoshanah

    I am so very grateful for this safe space where we can support one another. After both my daughters rejected me, I have channeled the energy of knitting and crocheting things for my grandchildren into Project Linus, a nationwide organization that collects blankets for children in need, from babies to 18 year olds. It has turned out to be very therapeutic and soothing for me.

  13. Zenaida

    The quilt is beautiful and yet I feel saddened by the puppet on a string. And since the holidays are here with gift giving and families coming together….I need to share my Christmas Wish:
    I wish I could go back 20 years. Life was simpler then. Raising children alone, without a father, was a tough job especially raising three boys and one girl but somehow we got through it. And even though we had seen hard, hard, times and tears were as normal as opening up the morning news paper, the laughter flowed just as much. But how did it all become so complicated, so painful? A parent’s dream is to see their children grown and starting their lives and families of their own. At that point a parent sits back and says,” yeah, all the struggle, all the hardship…yeah, it was worth it!”

    I would give anything to see my oldest son, to hear his voice, to see his child, my grand daughter. I know my mind plays tricks on me at times. I think I see him while driving, while shopping, even at the gas station. Tears well up in my eyes as I strain my neck trying to get a peek thinking maybe, just maybe, it could be him. It never is. It’s silly, I know, so silly, but in that moment I still have a child like heart, filled with hope and excitement. When hope leaves despair becomes my constant companion. Tears are never ending and do not provide any relief. I liken it to someone holding my head under water. I’m struggling for air, I want so desperately to breath but I can’t; there is no air!

    My Christmas wish is for every child to know the depth of a parent’s love. My wish is for every family to mend their rifts…there should never be anything that comes between that bond.

  14. Joy

    I am new to this. It just happened in the past month or so. Our son has begun the process to have all things, visits (they live 2 or so hours away) and so on his and his wife’s done on their terms with no consideration of any other of our factors (jobs, health) allowed. After I spoke with a counselor it seems like the beginning of them pushing us away if they can’t control us. We also have observed this in the way they treat their son who has some learning and consequently behavior issues. They tried counseling but that is also on the list of what we cannot even inquire of how our grandson is doing at school – questions about the grand daughter at school are okay. The message to is show up on time, don’t question anything or we won’t see our grandchildren 8 and 5. We are only to spend time with children and not with the adults. While we watch her parents (with whom we have a good relationship) who live close by them post weekly fb photos of their time with the and the adults. I wrote a poem in my attempt to find out how I can be a better person in all this:

    One foot planted in the past, my parents and those who came before
    from another country another time and place
    One foot planted in the present lived my life in a hard fought balance
    remembered the past and planned the future
    Now asked to plant one foot in a strange place, the future
    I cannot keep my balance and must remove one foot
    from the past or the fading present
    So hard, so painful I cannot find my balance
    Easy says youth, difficult says my heart
    Somehow I will find the balance but I flounder in
    the river of life trying to find it.

  15. Sarah N.

    Beautiful illustration and beautiful quilt , I find it so helpful reading all these posts and sharing coping mechanisms , I myself have become more involved with volunteering in my church Trent Vineyard . I have become a volunteer within one of the projects called the Arches which helps needy , homeless people in providing both socia,l support , providing basic living needs , furniture , bedding , laundry , food as well as language classes. And so much more . I also volunteer in the Charity shop called the Attic which is part of the Arches. Selling vintage goods , furniture restoration , and running craft classes .my life has taken a new dimension in so many ways I still hurt every single day for the void in my life and my estranged daughter this will never go away I just try to divert my energy into giving and helping others and that feels so rewarding .

  16. Betsy

    What a gorgeous piece of art. As so many have said, the colors are soul-soothing. But the connection to the Velveteen Rabbit’s loss made me cry. AND gave me hope for acceptance. Up till now, after 2 1/2 years, I have refused to believe this situation won’t be rectified. Now I see that, whether it does or not, I have to learn how to be “real”…again.

  17. Sandy Small Proudfoot

    Please know that I am so very grateful that my work has reached those for whom it may make a visual difference and hopefully a comfort to them in this journey towards acceptance of a very painful issue in our lives, that of being abandoned by our beloved children and learning how to adapt to a new life without them. I work alone so it is very gratifying for me to hear that my work may touch the lives of others in their time of need.
    SandySmallProudfoot (c) 2916 Wall of Silence


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