Why is this so hard to get past?

adult child's betrayalParents often ask: I’m a strong person, so why am I am having such a difficult time getting past my adult child’s betrayal? How can I move on?

An adult child’s estrangement can happen at any age. There is never any one-size-fits-all answer, but parental reactions are often similar. A sense of betrayal is one of the most profound wounds felt by parents of adult estranged children. How could a child, to whom you have given so much love and energy, turn his back on you? The betrayal rejected parents feel is rooted more deeply than any other estrangement. This person is your child.

When parents start a family, they may have assumptions. They cherish the fleeting baby and toddler stages of intense bonding, guide and enjoy their children through bedtime stories, skinned knees, and homework. Then they shepherd their kids through the growing pains of adolescence. Many parents look forward to seeing their love and guidance pay off as their teens grow into caring adults, responsible citizens who contribute to their world. Parents anticipate remaining close to their adult children, bonded by a shared family history and envisioning a future with grandchildren they can cherish.

Because of these far-reaching expectations, an adult child’s betrayal can be paralyzing. When an adult child deserts a parent, whether fully or through indifference, neglect, or a series of behaviors that elicit disappointment or even involve bullying, the proverbial rug is ripped away. Parents are tripped up, and lose footing. The foundation they thought was solid feels more like quicksand as they begin to question themselves, their relationship with their child, and their parenting. What have their lives been all about? Where do they go from here? What does the future hold for them now?

An adult child’s betrayal takes time to sort out and move past. How do you mend from the deep wound of an adult child’s abandonment, neglect, or even abuse? Find help in the “What Parents Can Do” category, or with this specific article:

Five ways to move forward after an adult child’s rejection




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8 thoughts on “Why is this so hard to get past?

  1. Nave

    They do it to have control over us. They do it to get attention and support from others, especially the other parent. They do it because they know most parents will keep trying; keep begging; keep blaming themselves.
    In most cases, the only failure of the parent is in raising entitled kids. We centred our worlds around them, and sent them the message that we owed them everything. Then one day, we failed to do something they wanted us to do. Or, they needed a sacrifice to help them solidify a stronger bond with someone else. Or, they felt helpless as an adult, and needed a target to dump their negative emotions.

    Let go. Live your life. Stop chasing them. I don’t know why there are not more articles about toxic, narcissistic kids. Most are about parents.

    We need to give our adult babies one final act of love: letting them go. Once you take the “monster” from their tales—the game ends.

    1. J Tanner

      Thank you so much for your words. I have an adult child of 37 who I love dearly and have helped alot emotionally and financially get where he is today. But now it’s not a mutually based relationship. He just got his Masters in Psychology and Social Work. He told me he would consider having a relationship with me, but only after he and I went to counseling together. I replied that I’ve apologized for any issues or pain I’ve put on my sons but I’m 68 now and done with apologizing. It’s like the Cold War now between us. No response to my texts or calls. I’m so glad about finding this site. I want to learn how to detach and use that energy for myself that I have given to my family.

    2. BR

      In some ways your words ring true. Especially about being a target and sacrifice. On the other hand, our estrangement from our eldest son just started seven months ago. I know I am not ready to let go. I am more interested in how to get my family back. My husband believes this estrangement is going to last a long time and is letting go. He doesn’t think that we’ll see our grandkids, now age 8 and 5, until the oldest turns 16. This breaks our hearts. We just miss them so much.

  2. Sunnyside2019

    My middle child estranged from me almost 7 years ago. I don’t even know the reason. She didn’t like something I said and cut me off now for 7 years. What I said was very minor and no reason to cut a parent out of your life over. Now, my youngest, too, didn’t like some comment I made about something insignificant and has cut ties with me going on 3 months. The youngest I am shocked about because she was always the easiest and an angel until she married her husband. Now, the youngest is telling me that she wants a relationship with her father whom I divorced 18 years ago. I am so confused by this remark, as she’s always seen him since the divorce. I think is she is having him and his girlfriend take care of her kids replacing me. She won’t let me see the children I helped her out with for 7 years .. I told her saying that I wouldn’t let her have a relationship with her father is a lie. She’s been seeing him all along and I never objected to that. So, for now, I just told her to stop messaging me that it is making me sick. She is calling me names and actually being very abusive which isn’t like her. I know there’s something going on that I don’t know about and this youngest is feeling guilty cutting me out of her life (that’s why she kept on messaging me – to try and ease her conscience) but honestly I am drained from her comments and cruelty. I didn’t sleep last night and this has been on my mind constantly. I’m not surprised by the middle daughter’s estrangement as she was very difficult when she lived with me, but this youngest one I am shocked over. I tell myself that she isn’t in her right mind right now – I know she hasn’t slept good since she’s had her kids and I’ve expressed my concern over this to her. I used to have them sleep over at my place and they loved being with me, but now all of that is not happening for now. I miss them terribly. I felt better realizing I did nothing to deserve this – my concience is clear. I’m leaving all of this in God’s hands. Thank God I have an older daughter who really loves me, is always there for me and just a purely good person. This older daughter and I have had disagreements in the past, but she would never think of taking me out of her and her childrens’ lives. Take care everyone. Your posts help me as I’m sure they do others too.

  3. Doris

    My Husband and I have been estranged from 1 of our 2 sons for 6 1/2 years. We are basically healed and accepting of it all. 12 days ago we had to put down our little dog after 18 years. He was supposed to be the children’s dog, and indeed they loved him fiercely, but we lived alone with our little dog for 10 of his 18 years. We decided we should text the estranged son to let him know which day we had scheduled the euthanasia and which day he could come say goodbye to our little dog, should he choose to do so. We recommended him getting in touch with our other Son, so he could be more comfortable with an “ally” here. I could not believe it when he said he would come. When he arrived (he has a wife who despises us, and 3 children we have never met), he came in happy and relaxed. I asked if I could hug him and he said of course. I got a bear hug and so did my Husband. We had offered to leave the room while he visited our ancient little dog, but he said no to that. We visited for over an hour and it was as though nothing had happened. When he left, we got another bear hug each. In that instance I knew (1) he loved us still (2) he is a great Dad and (3) nothing had changed. The estrangement would continue. His wife doesn’t want us in her life and so it shall be. But the heartache of losing our little dog was a tiny bit eased by knowing our Son still loved us. At least it wasn’t one of our own funerals that brought him to us, even if that is the next time one of us sees him again.

    1. rparents Post author


      I’m glad that you were able to accept this as is. Now you must go on and live your lives as you have been–and I’m sure you will.

      My condolences on your little doggie. Oh how I know the pain of losing a loved family member, four-legged, furry or feathered.

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

    2. Jan

      It was very kind the way you extended to your son the last opportunity to see his sweet dog before it was put down.
      But I so understand your sadness about any ‘imposed’ estrangement. If we don’t want to be seen ‘the mother-in-law’ from hell, we have to choose to shift all of the relationship power, so to speak, to our children’s other half. Some will be emotionally mature and wouldn’t think of leaving grandparents out of the picture. However, extending this power can have such devastating outcomes when the other half does not take into account this imposed estrangement on their mate but consequently the children. I have a daughter-in-law who has denied me the opportunity to see my grandchildren for 10 years. I don’t make a fuss because she takes it out on my son. Some say he should stand up to her meanness: why, what it prove. Life has a way of turning these things around if we are patient. Grandchildren grow up, leave the defected nest, and can then contact you, or you them. The waiting is hard, but not impossible. The key is putting time into yourself, giving yourself the love you were/are denied. Life is not a score sheet with the ‘other halfs’. Stepping out of that belief process begins, or continues, the healing process. Be patient with yourself. Were you treated horribly, yes. Not deserving of this, no. But stepping away from the tug of war, mentally putting the rope down is so freeing, liberating. I’m getting better at it and I’m not as exhausted now. It’s also letting go of the fears we create. I don’t know much, just sharing what I believe to be true.

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