When estranged adult children call, parents ask: Are my feelings normal?

When estranged adult children call

When estranged adult children call: Your feelings

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

When estranged adult children call after a long period of no contact, parents often find themselves plagued with mixed emotions. They may feel guarded yet hopeful. They may consider the years that have passed in silence, the times they’ve reached out and been ignored, or remember past hurt the child inflicted. Depending on circumstances, parents may have worked hard to move forward for themselves, progressed diligently in their own growth and well-being, and not quite trust the child’s sudden outreach. Parents may look back on how many times they have been sucked into believing the best, only to have the rug pulled out from beneath them, and feel like fools. They worry they’ll be hurt all over again when they’ve worked so hard to shake the pain. When estranged adult children call, parents may even find themselves wishing they’d have stayed away. Then they feel guilty for it.

I’ve written extensively about managing these scenarios in Beyond Done With The Crying, and I hope you’ll get that book to help you navigate the sticky emotions, extended family situations, and more complex circumstances that go with estrangement. Here, I’ve shared a recent email exchange that exemplifies the feelings many parents have when estranged adult children call.

Question from Maya: Dear Sheri, Sorry for writing like this.  Until yesterday, the last thing my son ever said to me was, “I don’t want to know when you die.” That was three years ago. Then last evening, on my birthday, my son called. In a chipper voice, he just wished me a happy birthday and told me about how happy he is with a new relationship and his business.  Of course, I was surprised and pleased to hear from him! But now, I am left with this really uncomfortable feeling.  As if I am all opened up and vulnerable…I don’t know how I should feel. It has been three years of anguish, and now, I feel disconnected. During the call, it was like we used to talk many years ago, but now I’m confused and fearful. Do other people feel like this?  I don’t like this feeling of being….in shock?….is everything supposed to be okay now? I never expected to feel this way, like I’ve been punched in the gut, only that’s not even it, really, I don’t know how to describe it. I am not in control of my feelings now.

Thank you for all you do and for reading this.

Maya B.

Answer from Sheri McGregor: Oh, Maya, I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. But gosh, no. You are not unusual at all in this. When estranged adult children call suddenly, parents can be confused and torn.

To repeat what you said, your son hasn’t spoken to you in three years. The last thing he said to you was that he didn’t want to know when you died. My guess is that this last thing he said was not the only mean thing he ever said to you. My sense is there were many other mean instances. Maybe there were even mean acts. I don’t know your entire story, but if you reflect upon this, I believe you will see that your reaction and feelings are completely rational. Yes, you have accepted the call with gladness, and you talked with him like everything was normal. Except, you know it’s not. And you don’t trust him.

Very often, I hear from parents who ignore this feeling of being vulnerable, of wondering if they’ve opened themselves up for more hurt. Many quash that little voice that provides them caution. They instead jump on and ride a big wave of joy and celebration: He’s returned! He loves me! Things are back to normal! And … some do make it. They must.

I don’t often hear from those ones though. I hear the other story instead. That it all goes to hell in a hand basket when the previously estranged adult children call a few days later with a request (money, a place to stay, some other type of help). And then the parent thinks, great, I was just being used. Sometimes, the parent still ignores that voice, and goes along to get along because this is … their child.  He or she needs help, and a “good” parent (they tell themselves) does help.

I also hear from ones who open their hearts and homes and then are hurt in worse ways. I won’t go down the rabbit holes of those situations here, because problems like theft, fraudulent use of credit cards or identity, financial extortion and ruin, and physical abuse. may not be relevant to your situation at all. And if they are, you probably recognize your inner wisdom, likely based on history, warning you.

I completely understand what this is like, and the hope of it. You have loved your son. Because you are a kind parent, you are willing to forgive and maybe even forget. You always thought you would be close to your kid and have a loving, friendly relationship. Sometimes parents must try because they feel they can’t live with themselves if they close the door. And these are all typical responses, even though a son’s words that he doesn’t want to know when his parent dies is not normal (or nice) at all.

It would not be right for me to tell you what to do, or predict that it will all go bad or all go good. My suggestion is to tread lightly, and consider the facts. He called as if nothing happened, as if he never hurt you, as if you just talked yesterday. Would you ever do that to someone you love? To your parent? I sincerely hope that he has changed. I also hope that you will be extra sensitive to your own needs. You count, too, and no doubt, the three years have been pure hell for you. (Maybe even years prior to the estrangement also were.)

HUGS to you, Sheri McGregor

Maya followed up with this email:

Thank you, Sheri.  This is a tremendous help to me.  This is a rational approach that I don’t seem to get to on my own with my fluctuating emotions.  I shall reread this many times to ground myself in reason.  The service you offer parents like me is a Godsend.  Thank you again.


To which I replied:

You’re welcome, Maya.
It’s possible your son wants a genuine connection and doesn’t quite know how. If you do stay “grounded in reason,” then you can be a quiet strength that may help him to get to that place. If his intentions were/are something else, then you will not have lost yourself so deeply into the emotional mire.

In time, the situation is likely to better reveal itself. Meanwhile, go on and enjoy your life as best you can.

HUGS to you!

When estranged adult children call: More thoughts

For the record, I am not against parents being parents when estranged adult children call. Those feelings of wanting the connection and love are understood. I hope for Maya’s sake that her son is sincere and that he will nurture a healthy relationship with her. In time, maybe they can get to a comfortable point, whether that becomes a polite, cordial relationship or one that’s much more connected. But, it is always wise to listen to your inner voice.

When estranged adult children call, if you become troubled and worried, examine your response. Write down your reservations and doubts. If you’re instantly elated, consider that feeling as well. Are their “should” type thoughts that come up? Do you have feelings or thoughts that you judge yourself negatively about (as in “This isn’t how a parent “should” feel.)? Take the time and energy to fully understand how you respond to the outreach.

To consider whether feelings are grounded in sound reasoning, as Maya so aptly said, allows parents to be strong for their own well-being (and not just, or even mostly, for their adult child’s).

Hugs to all the parents traveling this unexpected journey.

Sheri McGregor

Related reading

Adult children who reject parents: Why do they make contact now?

Trying to connect with estranged adult kids? Solid growth can change you

Estrangement from adult children: What about hope?

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28 thoughts on “When estranged adult children call, parents ask: Are my feelings normal?

  1. Lark

    I’m grateful for no apology and you’ll see why.
    It’s so nice to find this site and hear such similar, yet unique stories from parents. Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences in order to support each other. It’s comforting to know we’re not alone. It lessens any shame or guilt we may have been made to feel.
    My estranged son and daughter can’t control their own manipulative behavior. Instead, they try to make out that there must be something wrong with the recipient of the emotional abuse. It took me years to come to this realization: They try and normalize their despicable behavior in order to mask the inability of facing up to the behavior. Instead of owning it, they make the recipient wrong. I liken it to this: a person comes to your home, throws gasoline on it, rips up your flower bed, then smashes your car. In turn, when you react rightfully upset and indignant, the abuser gas lights the recipient and says there’s something wrong with YOU, that their behaviour is perfectly ok.

    Like an episode of the Twilight Zone, my estranged daughter showed up at my door 3 days ago, after 4 years. (I chose to have no contact after years of emotional mind bending, and gas lighting from her) I have no idea what prompted her to spring a visit on us, although I did say “to what do we owe this honour?” Nothing in response; no clearing the air, apologizing for past behavior; just superficial niceties and awkward dancing around the elephant. Upon leaving, things took a turn. She actually admitted that now that she’s a mother of 2 young kids, she believes mothers were put on the planet to be abused. “Kicked” was the word that I used to describe the abuse I’ve received from her and her older brother. She truly believes mothers (not fathers, interestingly) are non people. I have zero idea where she got this from. (She did not live in an abusive home, so this is coming from left field). Perhaps she attended some mind altering seminar, or drank the wrong kool-aide.
    I finally realized the following after her visit: She and her brother normalize their behavior (instead of correcting it), and vilify my (rightful) reaction to the abuse, in not tolerating it. An emotionally stable and healthy person would be able to identify when they were acting badly and treating another person in an abusive way. But like most abusers, they don’t, their shame and guilt won’t allow it, so the mind splits off. Their subconscious and conscious mind is not in tandem with each other. Therefore one part of their brain tells the other part, that the abuse is not even happening, let along unacceptable. This is the coping mechanism of a sociopath really. We did not make them sociopathic. I hold anti-depressants she takes to blame. Since taking them, she’s flat line, no emotion of her own ever shines through, in turn she thinks others shouldn’t have emotions either.
    My son and daughter used to be normal, kind and compassionate of others, but about 15 years ago, after attending university, and taking pharmaceuticals, they were both replaced by someone unrecognizable . It took years to finally accept that I know longer know, nor liked them.
    It really shook me afterward to have this specter appear out of the blue. I tried to be unemotionally invested in this surprise visit and just navigated my way through it as though nothing had ever happened (on the surface of course) because I am done with the cat and mouse game. I actually found her visit a curious, yet numbing experience. Afterward I wrote my feelings in my journal. Anger came up of course, and then some sadness. The sadness was about what we once had. The anger, to remind me that the abuse is intolerable. I learned long ago, that I can’t ever trust them again. The peace is a reminder of what life is like without the abuse. In trying times like her surprise visit, I say to myself: I choose happiness and I choose peace. It helps to ease the pain when it comes up, and reminds me that I matter. When I grieve, it’s only for the young kids they once were. I have had to learn to view them both as being dead. Because the good kind people they once appeared to be, are gone forever.
    Once I got to the grieving stage of acceptance, my mind was clear, my heart less broken. I fill my days with my loving husband, beach walks, slow stitching, embroidery, music and beauty. I have filled in the cracks and voids they left behind.
    I’m grateful she didn’t apologize for past abuse. That may have prompted me to let her back in. Phew, is all I can say, and I am grateful.

  2. Linda P.

    Here I am joining the highway of bereft mum’s and dad’s. I have been walking this road for 29 years. My oldest son and his wife haven’t had contact with the family in any way for too many long years. Trying to contact them results in abusive behaviour and language which destroys me so I have given up. I cried constantly for 5 years and then dried my tears and got on with my life. There are 2 teenage grandsons that don’t even know of our family’s existence. My oldest daughter has practiced this same estrangement over the years but always seems to find her way back after a couple of years of silence. Life goes well for 2-3 years and then the abusive behaviour starts and she shuts down completely for another 2-3 years. She also has no contact with the family during the periods of estrangement. Last week she was so cruel and vile that in order to preserve my own health and sanity that I decided to end the cycle. She is 49 and I expect there might be years more of verbal abuse and I am not getting any younger. One of my daughters is still close with me and she grieves the loss of her brother and sister deeply but has decided that she cannot live like this and has retreated from them both. We seem to have found the wherewithal to be strong together. There was one more daughter who passed away at 7 years of age from heart malformations and I often have wondered if her death twisted something in them when they were teenagers. My youngest daughter was only 4 when she dies so was perhaps not as deeply affected. I have no answers and as the years go by, just more questions. The loss of 3 children has been devastating. I think of them all daily and wonder how their lives are turning out and if they happily live their lives as I would want nothing less for them. So I go out of my way to live a life of volunteering which makes me feel fulfilled and keeps me very busy. I am a musician as well and volunteer on musical nights at nursing homes and seniors centre’s. I take elderly folk to medical appointments and I sew and walk my dog and eat healthy. But I think no matter how busy and fulfilling your life becomes, the nights are hard. I miss my children and long to see their faces and know about their lives. So my grief spans years and will quite probably continue over what is left of my days. But the sun is shining today and it would be a sin to waste the beauty of the day on self recriminations. Carry on and have an ice cream. Blessings to all folks on my highway.

  3. Stu

    Well I know what my feelings would be. I would instantly think, what does he want. I would hang up without a word. Then I would be on they lookout for more attempts to contact me. Looking to see who is at the door before opening it. Not answering unknown phone numbers. Probably change my number. I think, you have to stop wanting what you know you can’t have. Your child is not coming back. They may in body, but not in heart and mind. I’m not interested in busting my arse or walking on eggshells to sustain a one sided stressful relationship with a stranger who used to be my son

    1. Kate

      I agree. If my ED were to ever contact me again, I would know that she only wanted something. After living so long with absolutely no contact from her and knowing just some of the many nasty lies she has said about me through the years—I would NEVER trust or believe anything she had to say. Years ago, when we did finally have some contact, it only lasted until she found someone else to use (a new guy) and then she dumped me once again. I’ve been dumped by her too many times already—NO MORE!!!

    2. Charity

      Stu, I’m grappling with that myself. It’s been over 2 years and if my son were to contact me, I don’t know how I can trust him. I think I would be wary and unable to be authentically engaged in a relationship with him. I think I would keep him at arms length, afraid to even dare let my guard down. I would be in conflict with myself. On one hand, I desperately want to hear from him and desire to mend our relationship. On the other hand, I’m not sure what his true disposition is with respect to integrity. I do know that I am not prepared to fake it, or put aside his disregard/dismissal of me and my feeling that I am expendable/disposable on his terms. And I would want to express to him my distrust, anger, disappointment and feeling bereft.

  4. Lisa R.

    Dearest Jennifer,

    Thank you for your reply and support. This means so much to me. Apologies for the brief post here but I am on the run. I wanted to assure you that you are not alone and that I can relate to every point you made here. My husband is strong and clear-minded and I rely on him so much. I am grateful for him. And he is right about this.

    I wish you and everyone here a loving and peaceful new year.

    Sending all my love and hugs,
    Lisa R.

  5. Teresa

    I have estranged myself from my adult daughter. I look at this sentence and wonder how did this happen? I know I am not alone, many parents have sensed the gradual decline of their relationship with their child. When I realized that I no longer had the privilege of being in her life it broke me.
    It took a lot of personal inner work, tears, a loving husband and a dear friend to get me through all of this. I won’t lie I’m still grieving some days. As hard as it is to think it, let alone write it…… I needed to save myself from her and the dark drama of it all. To go on with what is left in my life. I understand as you get older time is fleeting and waits for no one. Do I hope for her and I ? Yes more than anything, however I do not want the same relationship, we both are so worthy of something so much better. I will not settle for anything less.

  6. Carrie-Ann

    *Beautiful Beloved Ones, I am sharing the following words concerning the pain, sorrow, guilt, self-blame, etc…etc…etc…that we experience in this “thing” called “estrangement”…
    Sending Love & Lots of Hugs & May Each One Have a Peace-full & Joy-Full Week-End…
    In Gratitude,
    Nooo…You are NOT Crazy…

    With time, you’ll come to
    see that the frantic,
    broken, anxious, unhinged
    version of you was nothing
    to be ashamed of. You were
    simply a kindhearted
    person reacting to a very
    unkind situation…

    1. Trish

      I so appreciate and relate to your comment! I begged and pleaded and tried to turn myself inside out. I’m embarrassed that the old me groveled! Your words encouraged me. No one gives you a guide book for what to do when your child estranged themself from you. I’ll show myself some grace; I panicked because I loved my daughter so much, but I’ve found my dignity! I have often wondered if she came back whether I could ever trust her. This is her second estrangement of me.

  7. Carrie-Ann

    Reply for candleinthewind, Lisa R., & Each One Here:

    Dearest candleinthewind & Lisa R., Thank You for Your replies & comments…

    After posting my previous reply to Lisa R. about the anger within me…I found myself thinking how and where did this anger manifest into consciousness…It really came to Light in this Beautiful Healing On-Line Community…I realized that over time, as I was reading the posts and comments, that, I was feeling and expressing, what the Bible, and some call, “righteous indignation.” As I read the sharing from your Hearts, I felt deep empathy and kindredship with each of you…I also found myself sharing the “righteous indignation” concerning how such decent, kind, generous, sweet Ones, as Yourselves, were being treated so unkindly, to say the very least…

    What I have come to realize is that I have not expressed this for myself in my own situation…As I read about what you are all experiencing, it brought up the many, many, many times that so-called “life-events,” that should have been Beautiful, Sharing experiences, have been literally destroyed and/or turned into such cold, mean, and twisted events…With my being pushed out and ignored for many of these “life-events”…and the precious resources that I worked for, such time, money, etc., (lots of etc.), to freely share without expectations, other than common kindness and decency, were used and taken for granted, with the time, money, etc., never being good enough, or enough, for that matter…

    So, over time, in the past year, since Beautiful Sheri, and Each Of You, have come into my life, I began to be able to understand and grieve the pain, loss, and sorrow in and of my own Life…My heart broke wide open as I shed tears for each of you…And then for Myself…So, the Gift is that I was guided to my Heart of Hearts…To My True Self…To My Authentic Self…and I am now Healing and Taking Myself Back…

    I would like to Thank Beautiful Sheri, & Each & Every One of You for This Divine Gift…

    I am also sharing the following reference, which might be of Benefit For You…I apologize for not providing the you tube link, due to being conscious of Beautiful Sheri’s time & energy, as it is a 1 hr.+ video clip, and would require longer time for review before posting…So, if you are so inclined, you can type in the following title in the you tube search box…There are also other videos with Gabor Mat’e….

    When the Body Says No — Caring for ourselves (Gabor Mat’e)

    In Gratitude & Friendship,

  8. Lisa R.

    Dearest Carrie-Ann and Eilsel,

    Thank you so much for your care here. Every message means so much to me.

    Carrie-Ann, I cannot tell you how much your understanding of my struggles with anger gives me strength. I know that it sounds strange but just having someone else who can relate to my emotions and experiences helps me to keep standing. I feel like one of those inflated clowns that can be punched down but, like the clown, I keep getting back up. Your support helps me to do so. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Eilsel, I am profoundly sorry for your struggles with your son. I completely agree with you that many members of this younger generation somehow feel entitled to treat their elders with little or no respect. Twenty-five years ago I used to cringe when my young children’s friends (ages 3,4,5 etc.) would call me by my first name. I *never* would have done that to another parent, teacher, or anyone else at that age (or even much older) but that was the new norm facing me. These new standards have come at a great cost to societal respect and value. We have lost so much, I fear. And as for their anger, the only thing that I can think of is that we well intended parents gave our kids opportunities that we never had ourselves, and in doing so created a generation of entitled and emotionally weak individuals. Not all are like that, but, in my opinion as a 40 year veteran teacher, many. Things have changed and not for the better. The journey through estrangement is extraordinarily difficult and unfair, but we somehow have to keep moving on. Everyday I tell myself that I have to focus on those who do love and want me so that I, in turn, have the capacity to be good to myself. It’s hard and a daily challenge for me, but I do it for all of our sakes. I hope that you can, too.

    Again, I send all of you love, peace, joy and a great big hug from sunny Arizona.

    Lisa R.

    1. Lin B.

      Thank you, Lisa R. This is something I’ve noticed myself–how society created a generation of entitled individuals. I remember reading a quote that said when did we go from teaching children not to think too much of themselves to this self-esteem, self-love stuff? I mean, the latter is important but we blew it up out of proportion.

  9. Lisa R.

    Dear Liz,
    Thank you so much for your care and concern. I can relate to so much of what you have shared and I am sorry for your pain. My former husband has and continues to play an enormous role in the equation. He was always the one to be the best friend and enable rather than the parent. He has told both of our children terrible things about me, all of which were outright lies. Complete fabrications that would be laughable were they not so destructive. My son has seen through this but not my daughter. Moreover, my daughter has surrounded herself with people who believe every song of woe that she sings, despite the fact that they have never once even met me. The things that have been circulated are shocking. A good friend of mine who has witnessed this all keeps reminding me that she firmly believes in Karma and that the truth will ultimately prevail. I would like to believe that and continue to take the high road.

    I hope that you can rejoice in your self-worth You don’t deserve the hand that has been dealt to you and I hope that you can rise above it. One step at a time.

    I wish you love, peace, and joy.

    Lisa R.

  10. Lisa R.

    Dear Carrie-Ann,
    Thank you so much for your validating message back to me. Finding one’s voice is an essential part of the recovery process. While I still struggle with emotional pain I at least feel that I am regaining some self-worth. As for my totally supportive and understanding husband, he knows in his heart that he has done everything he can to address the situation. It doesn’t solve the problem but at least we both feel some stability. One of my biggest issues that I am working on is that I am just downright angry that my daughter has imposed this on us. She has no right whatsoever to make us feel this way. I have to learn to let go of the anger because it’s just not worth it.

    I wish you peace, love, and joy,
    Lisa R.

    1. Carrie-Ann

      Dearest Lisa R.
      Thanks for your reply…I am currently dealing with deep anger issues that I think have been lying dormant and growing for many years…As I’ve shared with Beautiful Sheri, ‘It is just too much!!!”…

      Lisa, Anger is the opportunity to really look at what’s going on and seeing it for what it really is…If One meets it and Listens for what it is telling us, it can Truly be Enlightening & Freeing…Acknowledging, Accepting, and Releasing Anger is so important…As denying and/or keeping in can destroy One and Others as it spills out in our Lives…It can destroy our very minds, bodies and health with blind pain…In Observing it, as it comes up…We can learn many things…Wisdom and Guidance can come to us in how to move forth in Life…It’s helping me set Healthier, Safer, Stronger Boundaries, with Love being part of these decisions…(Love for Self, as well as the Estranged Adult-Child)…

      So often, Kind, Empathetic, Loving Ones feel such Guilt, Remorse, and Confusion In Acknowledging and Accepting the Anger and Rage that is within us and comes forth into our lives…Emotions can help or hinder our navigation of Life…They do bring Gifts if we just Listen…And Let It Be…One has the right, and responsibility, to allow experiencing anger…It truly helps us find our Voice and take a stand for ourselves and other loved ones that are affected by the toxic situation…

      We’re All In This Together…
      In Gratitude & Friendship, C.A.

    2. midsomermaiden

      I’m not sure where to post this apologies if in wrong place- I have had since Christmas a little more contact from my daughter all be it on mobile I contacted her to tell her my husband has cancer (divorced from her father 16yrs ago) estranged for now 12 yrs after my ex poisoned her mind about us (she lived with me and my partner for 5yrs now married) my ex in that times has had 2 relationship breakups and is in a new one again daughter has had her own also she’s now 26. I’m hoping and praying she now has a understanding of breakups and that somethings are not meant to be. She’s sent me a string of recent pictures/car do I hold out hope we’re slowly moving forward now? So scared of it comes ti nothing again – what have people done here

  11. Eilsel

    Hello Sheri, Lisa, Liz and all Mom’s on this site,

    Lisa, I’m so sorry for all you have been through with your daughter, such a trying relationship and you extended the olive branch many times over, as we all do with your kids. I can imagine the hurt, despair and frustration over time. I commend you so much for your strength, as well as the support from your husband. I think it validates our feelings when others help as well.

    Liz, your situation with an abusive ex and the resentment from your daughters sounds all too familiar. Unfortunately, not true with boys in my case, I have just one son and he’s estranged.

    I am relatively new to the estrangement, only a few months in – but its felt like years. I feel lucky to have found this site and Sheri’s books, although this is my first time posting – I’ve found some peace in reading related stories.

    It’s been tremendously hard as he is my only child (early 20’s) and I’m a single Mom but it didn’t come out of the blue either. It’s been years in the making, he’s been a handful since the age of 13 when weed was introduced into his life. I’ll never under this generation. We, as parents, were taught to empower them, telling them to ‘use your words’ when they were little. Asking them to always tell us or others how they feel. Well there’s no stopping them now. I don’t regret instilling independence and confidence but I do regret the breakdown in lack of respect. That layer of adult/child (or in this case young man) is missing. He always feels like he is ‘at my level’ and can tell me what to do or how to act. Never mind only filling in the gaps for him when he needs me. It’s such a horrible feeling to walk away knowing you were used – both emotionally and financially.

    I just don’t understand where this resentment comes from. We do our best as Moms to protect them, provide for them, heck we are always there for them and they build a resentment towards us? Why are we always blamed for things gone wrong?

    The hurt is real, I just hope some day he comprehends the extent of what he’s done.

    1. candleinthewind

      Hello Eilsel. I think waiting for your son/my children to understand is somewhat like pissing in the wind. Excuse the vulgarity. I also think that mothers, and especially single mothers, are easy targets because we have loved so much, loved and parented as both father and mother, begged, sacrificed for their good, he/they kind of know we love them and that gives them some kind of invitation for abuse. Not a happy conclusion, and I also realise that life is much more of a fight than a present, we have to keep fighting for our right to have a voice (as Carrie-Ann says), to dare to be ourselves etc. etc. It’s particularly difficult at this time of year, so keep your faith, look for the stars in the darkness…..p.s. I’ve just developed pulsatile tinnitus in my right ear, it’s quite annoying hearing a heart beat in my ear and can keep me awake at night, however, when I ask myself what can I learn from this, it makes me smile, and I think it reminds me that I do have life, a heart beat, blood flowing, life, a right to life etc.

  12. Lisa R.

    Dearest Maya, Sheri, and All,

    There are so many things that I could say here, much of which has been said before. However, if it helps you, Maya, or anyone else reading these posts then perhaps my words can serve as reinforcement of previously stated words of wisdom. Before I share my story I want to thank you, Sheri, for all that you do, including the protection that you extend to us from would-be naysayers who question the parents on this forum. We all know the truth and reality of this unfortunate phenomenon. And Maya, my heart aches for you and I sincerely hope that you can find the strength to get through this.

    I read these posts quite regularly but have worked hard to balance the amount of time and energy that I spend dwelling on the horrific estrangement that I experience with my daughter (almost age 27). I haven’t written for quite a while but I want everyone to know how much your posts and sharing help me on a daily basis. Sheri’s books and wisdom have been a godsend, too. It is work and a process to emerge on the other side of estrangement but I am getting there.

    Here is the part of my story that may be of help to you, Maya. My daughter and I have been on this downward spiral since she left for college in 2014. She became a different person the day she left, although the seeds of this new personality were sown during her high school years. I hardly saw her or even communicated with her from 2014-2018 (her choice) and then after that she refused to see me at all. I might add that she had a most elite international college experience on my dime, by the way. When she returned to the U.S. in 2018 she refused to see me. She would not come to see me, even though I offered to purchase a plane ticket for her after she moved to a different part of the country. She would not allow me to come to see her either. We spoke on the telephone only when she felt like calling as she would not answer when I called. When we did speak she was cold, distant, and rude. I walked on eggshells during every conversation. I expressed to her my dismay about our dwindling relationship and that I wanted to chat more regularly so that we could preserve what little we had left. I told her that I missed her, that I was sorry if I failed, hurt, or disappointed her in any way, and that as a parent I always had her very best interests at heart. I told her that she was my sun (my name for her was even “Sunshine”) and the breath of my life. She didn’t care and just went on as though I never spoke those words. Vis-a-vis the apology, I also have to say that I could not think of one specific thing for which an apology was necessary but I did it anyway.

    One year ago (November 2021) she called me and told me that she would be coming to see me within the coming weeks/months, and that she would have a nice long visit with me and that we would work things out. I was quite apprehensive about it but, like so many parents of estranged children, I wanted to explore any and all opportunities to rescue and improve our relationship. I agreed and thought to myself, “well, maybe she has finally matured and come to her senses.” I was certainly wrong! A few days later she called to tell me that she was not coming and that I must have misunderstood. She had been abundantly clear spoken about her plans to come and then in this follow up conversation she said that she had only been thinking about it. She seemed to have forgotten that she said to me, “I promise.” Needless to say I became very upset and she could hear it in my voice. She had the audacity to ask me, “How does this make you feel?” (Doesn’t that sound as though she has gotten some coaching from a questionable “therapist.”) I responded by asking her “How do you think this makes me feel? I feel terrible, of course.” She proceeded to rant at me, exclaiming that she owed me nothing and that I was an abusive and neglectful mother. I was horrified. I had been over and over this in my mind and memories and could not think of one instance that would warrant such a response from her. I was not the perfect parent, as no one is, but I provided a loving, nurturing, privileged life for her throughout her entire life. (I do believe that social media played an enormous role in the perspective that she adopted.) I told her that I would always be there for her, that my home and heart were always open to her and that I, as her mother, would walk through every step of her life’s journey with her whether in person or not. I then told her that I was hanging up as I could not listen to her diatribe any longer. That this was on her, and I hung up.

    Fast forward to May, 2022. My husband (not her father) called her to find out exactly what had been going on with her during the six months of silence since the previous November. He asked her what I had done to her that would upset her so much. She could not offer any specific examples of neglectful, abusive, or even just “less than” behavior on my part. She told him that she would think about it and call him back the next day. That call never came.

    Then came July, 2022. Since we live in different parts of the country I wanted to let her know that I would be in her area that month. I suggested that she, her brother (who lives about 3 hours from her and with whom I have a very good relationship) and I get together for lunch or dinner. She told me she would rather be with her friends. I said ok, thank you, and graciously ended this telephone conversation.

    Skip ahead again to October, 2022. My son’s wedding. Back to that part of the country again. My daughter was there (in jeans and a t-shirt, even though everyone else was well-dressed and well-mannered) and she ignored me from the start. I did not want to make a scene as it was my son’s special day. At one point I did approach her, reached out to give her a hug while saying,”It’s great to see you.” She quickly gave me a partial (obligatory) return gesture but then walked away from me. She left the wedding without saying good-bye and I never heard another word after that.

    My beloved husband has seen me ache with great pain over this estrangement and I realized last week how much it has unfairly impacted him. The night before Thanksgiving he called her and told her that this year he was thankful that his own daughter has the grace, maturity, and wisdom to treat me with the love and respect that I have earned and deserve. He is grateful that his daughter and countless other people love and appreciate me for who I am and that no one, under any circumstances, has the right to treat me the way that she does. And he ended the conversation. I asked him about it and he said that it had been building up in him for years and that after her atrocious behavior towards me at the wedding he finally could not keep it in him any longer. Basically, he just “lost it.”

    I have come to realize and accept several points, all of which have been put forth by Sheri and others on this list:
    1. We cannot trust anyone, our children or anyone else, who play cat and mouse games with us.
    2. We do not, under any circumstances, deserve this abuse, and yes, it is abuse!
    3. We cannot allow the outrageous behavior of our adult children to impact the lives of others who choose to be in our own circle of love.
    4. For me, personally, just because I can still love my daughter does not mean that I have to like or trust her.

    Thank you for reading this very long post. I sincerely hope that my shared experience will help you, Maya, and anyone else out there who is grieving.

    Love, peace, and hugs to all,
    Lisa R.

    1. Carrie-Ann

      Reply to Lisa R. & Beloved Husband:
      RE: Post/November 30, 2022 at 7:33 am

      As I was reading your words, I just had to share
      the following thoughts concerning your husband’s phone call
      to your daughter…
      You say:
      “And he ended the conversation. I asked him about it and
      he said that it had been building up in him for years and that
      after her atrocious behavior towards me at the wedding he
      finally could not keep it in him any longer. Basically, he just
      “lost it.”

      I just want to say, ACTUALLY, HE “FOUND IT”…It seems
      like we are held hostage, helpless, and voiceless, as
      well as choiceless in these estranged and “strange”
      circumstances…We need to find our voice & and take back
      our dignity, freedom, happiness, & lives. I bow to both you
      and your husband…

      In Gratitude & Friendship,

    2. Liz

      Hello Lisa,
      Sorry to read of the estrangement with your daughter. I just came to this site bc I am very recently going through basically the same thing. But it’s with more than one daughter. Mine collaborate with each other via text gossiping about me behind my back as well as telling other people their interpretations of how things were, or are, & it’s always negative. And it’s not fair to me because whoever they’re gossiping to is only hearing one side of the situation. They don’t tell the good, the focus is on the small grievances, exaggerations of things, misunderstandings, & also how bad they say things were when they were younger when it wasn’t regarding me, but there were bad with their father bc I lived with a controlling abusive husband for 20 years. He was also abusive toward the 2 younger ones, & the eldest was around some of it & knows of things that went on. I did the best I could to give them a half decent home & pretty much everything they wanted mostly at my expense. I’m the one who did everything. My x husband had the idea that the wife & mother’s job was to do everything regarding the house & kids. He just criticized & insisted on his way. My daughters were well looked after by me inspite of me being abused by my x. I’m the one who gave them the great bday parties, Christmas’s, Easter’s, Thanksgivings, backyard fun with their friends, took them places etc . Yet they blame me for everything & the family breaking up after I couldn’t take it anymore outside of committing suicide. They sympathized with their father after listening to him blame me for his horrible behaviour. I was the submissive wife trying to keep the peace all the time & trying to make things as normal a household as possible for my daughters. It seems to be true that daughters stick to their fathers, and it’s been through him manipulating them & playing the victim even though I was the victim in the marriage, even ending up at a women’s shelter at one point with my daughters bc of his abuse. It got so bad that I attempted suicide. Things gradually have gone down hill with my daughters over the years even though I’ve tried to have relationships with them. They’re on their own with spouses, although one is now divorced & living with a guy with her kids (my now estranged grandchildren). They always seem to put their father first, as a priority, and me as secondary – an obligatory afterthought regarding Christmas, my birthday, or mother’s Day. I’ve always hated Mother’s Day bc have never felt wanted, validated or loved by my daughter’s. They carry resentment bc of what’s gone on in the past when I was with an abusive husband and they blame & resent me. One doesn’t want to see me anymore and has kids, & one has been so nasty & has gossiped about me so much that I’m so fed up with it that I now want nothing to do with her. It’s all just sad. My husband (2nd marriage) told me that he couldn’t stand the way my daughters talked to me, treated me, their constant demands & expectations of me and never giving anything in return. He said they have a sense of entitlement, and that it seems to be prevalent with the younger age group these days. So I am yet another grieving mother, misunderstood, blamed, and estranged from my 3 daughters and grandchildren, but I’m also sick of the drama. I’ve wished I’d had boys, or at least one because they stick to their mothers.

    3. Jennifer

      Hello Lisa R,

      I just wanted to share that when I read your husbands “losing it” moment with ur daughter… I felt like I was cheering him on! Is that bad? I don’t know. I often have just wished that someone, anyone else in my family would do that for me. Stand up to my estranged daughter and say what ur husband said. Cause she sure won’t listen to one word I say. She has completely blocked me from every possible way of contacting her. Today is New Years Eve and I’ve been crying a lot since Christmas Day realizing this Christmas marks 3 years she has blocked me out of her life with silence, after saying very cruel, mean and nasty things to hurt me on purpose. Which worked and traumatized me for at least a year(from the things she said). They still hurt, but feel much more numb and distant now. I just want to thank you for sharing ur story because it did help me. As I sit here crying… I don’t feel so awfully ALONE in my pain. Because of you sharing ur story and all the other moms(parents/guardians/dads etc.) that can understand too. Each one of us has our own unique situation and story. But they all relate to each other. We all love our children. We all have been hurt by our children. And there are way too many thoughts, experiences and emotions and feelings to even find the words to share in a post. We share little pieces here and there of our stories…and we do our very best. Every day. One day at a time. That is all I can do. Is just try to do my best to live. To hope to feel some happiness in each new day. Even my cat saying “Meow” to me makes me thankful for his sweet companionship. I have other children and sometimes people say I should be thankful for that. I am. But they do not replace or fulfill the spot of my missing daughter. I still hang her Christmas stocking every year and it makes me so sad. I am proud of your husband for staying the truth to ur daughter and he did it in a very bold yet honest and respectful way. I truly do pray that his words will penetrate her heart with conviction and that a glimmer of light and love will spark within her, to one day change and love and let go and forgive and move forward. I’m sure all of us hope for that in our own ways. Even if we have let go of hope of our children changing or coming back to us… Somewhere, somehow, deep down inside(even if we buried it)… hope holds on. Love is the greatest thing in the whole world and this is why we hurt so deep. We love our children. And it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to hurt. And before I used to feel guilty to smile and laugh. But now I do that sometimes and I am learning from Sheri and all of you amazing, wonderful, strong parents here in this place that we are not alone. That we can try to live for US to, and we don’t have to feel guilty for that. That it’s okay to live for us too, and not only for our children. Not easy at all. I don’t even know if what I’m typing is even making any sense! It feels all over the place! But I am just trying to say thank you for sharing. And thank u to every, single person who has shared also. Every word helps me. And thank you to all the parents out there reading and crying and have no words to type in group. You are seen too and I am thankful for you too. I am thankful for Sheri being a light for all of us and creating this space for all of us. I hurt for all of you and for me. I am thankful we have each other. I am thankful that we are all living, and breathing right now reading these words. I hope today or tomorrow or the next day we can all find something in our grieving that can still bring us joy and true happiness, even while we are still in pain. It feels not joyful enough for me to exclaim “Happy New Years!” to you all or anyone… Cause the word happy doesn’t feel like the right fit for me right now. But I would say “Looking forward with hope to this New Year!” It may not mean that this whole New Year of me holding on to “hope”, that this hope is only reserved that maybe this is the year that my daughter will come back to me and our family(I’m a single mom with 7 children).

      But this hope for 2023 can mean something else. Something new. Something great. Something exciting. Something fun. What do those things look like? Or what are they? I have no clue. But I am going to release my faith and hope for myself and for each and every one of you today and into 2023.

      All of my love,

    4. Stu

      I believe what you should now do is refuse all contact with her. Hang up if she calls, delete emails and text without opening if she sends them. Don’t do this for reason of prompting favorable response, it will be phony and temporary if you get it anyway. Do it to remove her from your life finally and completely and stop the endless cycle of abuse which will conti us until you die if you don’t. I now tell people who enquire about my Son that I want nothing with him. I am no longer the rejected parent with everybody wondering what sort of monster I must be, I am the rejected, and people can wonder what a horrible person he must be, which is the truth. And to hell with anybody who sees it any other way

    5. Trish

      No wonder you felt so confused- she totally gas lighted you! There was a time when I would’ve offered a hug. I’m very much a hugger! As my parents age, I have envisioned a time when I may see her for a funeral and I just can’t picture greeting her. I hope however I choose to respond it will have dignity as I had groveled in the beginning. May God bless all of us as we navigate these estrangements. What’s funny is I honestly don’t enjoy who she became. I miss the girl she once was terribly, but that changed in high school and she is 31 now. Love to you.


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