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

  1. 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

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