Why did my child disown me???? Making the “why?” question work for you

why did my children disown meWhy did my child disown me???? Making the “why”?” question work for you

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Why? Of all the questions I have received from thousands of parents over the years, this is the biggie. Parents who were there for every game, rehearsal, birthday, and skinned knee are asking: Why did my child disown me?

Then comes the self-examination. We put ourselves under the microscope and comb through every possible offense. And because we’re so trained on finding a reason, anything to make sense of the estrangement we never imagined possible, we even find some reasons. Frequently, these answers align with the blame and judgment we so readily find on the Internet. We did too much, or too little. Gave too much, or not enough. Were too strict, or too lenient. The list goes on almost endlessly, and parents wind up in the same sinking boat.

In Done With The Crying, I devote a chapter to this question and all the mining we do to find the cause, take responsibility and, hopefully, make it right. And no matter how many experts recommend parents write amends letters (For what!?), or offer the pathway to reconnect, it’s often a fool’s gold expedition.

Done With The Crying offers specific ways to cope with and move beyond the Why?, to remember who you really are and have been, and to move forward in a life that befits a loving human being who was dealt an injustice. Let’s turn that question around and find the real gold of a fulfilling life—no matter how far along you are on the journey.

Why? Flip the script

What’s your big why? Not “Why did my child disown me?” Not about taking the blame, making sense of their actions, or trying to wrap your head around the nonsensical. I’m talking about the why of your own well-being.

Both of my books devote time to the subject of reconciling, in a realistic way. Even if that is the ultimate hope, you need to function and learn to live with your new normal now. Rather than focusing the why question on the past—on answers that make mountains out of molehill-sized mistakes or honor invented facts that are anything but—let’s make the “why?” about something we can take charge of, own, and live with: Ourselves.

What’s your “big why?”

Working as a life coach for the last two decades, I’ve often heard the “big why” question. When you’re setting and working toward goals, your big why gets at the values and meaning that sustain your motivation. Parents work long hours to give their children what they need. A mother rises early before work or puts food in the crock pot so dinner will be done. A father cuts the grass at twilight so he can take his kid to weekend sports.

I’m stereotyping, but you get the point. People make sacrifices and alter habits for an overarching goal. That’s what I’m suggesting you do. Whether you’re still reaching out regularly to estranged adult children, have released them with love, or have decided it’s over for good (you have that right), what are you willing to do for yourself? For your own happiness, joy, meaning, overall wellness, and future? And why?

The doubts

Many parents realize, intellectually, they deserve to let go of what’s beyond their control. They understand they need to make peace with what has happened if they’re to move forward, meaningfully, in their own lives. Even so, doubts often creep in. Frequently, these are the same doubts that existed from the start. What will my child think if I stop trying? What will other people think of a mom or dad that gives up on his/her own child? What will . . .? What would . . .? What might … ?

What comes up for you when you consider letting your adult child own the decisions they’ve made, and you contemplate letting go of the rope?

When you listen to the things you tell yourself, the worries that come up about what other people, society, or even your adult child will think, you can begin to put them into perspective. You can take off the magnifying glasses (or minion goggles!) that are so trained on this problem you didn’t create and start to look at your own path … toward meaning, happiness, and your future.

NOTE: This topic of the “big why” for moving forward in your life was explored more deeply In the membership community at  a recent live event. To watch the replay, join me and other parents like you in the community. You can do that here.

Related reading

Effects of estrangement from adult children: Are you still carrying the weight?

Parents: Angry at adult children?

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8 thoughts on “Why did my child disown me???? Making the “why?” question work for you

  1. Debbie P.

    Thank you – I’m printing this one so I can read it over and over again. I need the acknowledgement that letting go was what I needed to do in order to survive without the guilt. thank you.

  2. Jodie

    My son has cut me off saying I make him feel unsafe. He feels free , safe and like he can be himse without me in his life. I supported him for years after his fathers death then through his addiction and mental health issues. I supported him to get out of an abusive relationship. Now I am cut off and he tells me I make him feel unsafe. He wants nothing to do with me. I feel broken.

  3. Barbara H.

    Why won’t mine be published? My curiosity is :
    “ Are there other moms out there who had their children very close in age?”
    All four of mine are like a pack. It’s now going on 10 years. I don’t even know what to think, feel, hope or believe anymore. I did five years ago have one visit with my oldest daughter with her 1rst and then saw my four children from afar at their grandmother’s funeral. However, I did not talk to them. OR I DID GO OVER TO THE TABLE TO SAY I LOVE YOU. I was yelled at by my sister “ You get the F -??? away from here.
    I did cried and left.
    It seems it won’t ever end.
    The 4 kids that were my life also ostracized my mom 83 and Dad 86, who speak to me. They helped bring them up.
    Yes, I had to sell my home. I couldn’t afford it and they are still mad. These are straight A students, all went to college and I helped them with that and all had cars. Single mom.
    I was physically sick. Ended up with a titanium airtic valve. I drank too much on my two days off Monday abd Thursday. I haven’t had a drink in almost 17 years.
    Then we seemed to heal. However, after the death of their paternal grandfather everything fell apart.

    I have 4 grandchildren. I never see. 3 I haven’t met.
    It’s excruciating to me. My heart hurts.

  4. Mary

    I find it timely that this article came to my feed around my son’s birthday-he turned 42 on the 12th. 6 years of silence-except a terse email asking for hubby’s and my birth places for a passport he needs for work. The wound got opened up all over again. Thanks again, for your newsletters that are SO helpful to so many.

  5. Cynthia M.

    Thank you for your knowledge it has given me the ability to put it ,all into Perspective…..

    Your books have been salve for the wounds…that have been so Devastating….

    But, there is life…after…all the damage this has caused us all…

  6. Pat W

    I used to delve into the “analysis paralysis” syndrome on a daily basis in search of answers for why my daughter has tossed me aside like a piece of garbage for so many years. I’m still saddened by the way she has treated me, but I no longer let it consume me. She has also abandoned her children. That is the one thing that really makes me sad. I wish her the best, but she will never ever be allowed to rob me of my energy again, energy that my grandchildren deserve and that I deserve for my well being. I never expected that my relationship with my only child would turn out as it has. I will survive! There are so many good people in this world; it’s too bad that my daughter is not one of them.

  7. Serenity

    I Love Beautiful Sheri’s words: “the why of your own well-being.”…
    “Rather than focusing the why question on the past—on answers that make mountains out of molehill-sized mistakes or honor invented facts that are anything but—let’s make the “why?” about something we can take charge of, own, and live with: Ourselves.”

    I do so Appreciate the Encouragement & Support…May we each find and live the “Why of our own well-being.”…Stay Curious…

    Hugs & More Hugs,


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