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

  1. Kate

    My mother has always been cruel to me she told family to shun me which they did, and has never wanted to have anything to do with my daughter and I she hasnt seen us in 20 years. I have a good relationship with my daughter. My daughter now is 19years old and planeed a holiday to see her friends which i was happy for her about. Now i have found out my daughter lied to me and had gone there to spend lots of her time with my mother and now shes close to my mother and shunning and been mean to me. I feel devasted and betrayed that my daughter has done this to me not consdered my feelings when she knows how many cruel things my mother has done to us during her whole childhood now shes an adult they suddenly besties and my daughter now wont talk to me. Im so sad i cry all the time now about it. We went through so much during her childhood ive always been there for her gave her everything i could give her finacially, physically and enotionally, and my mother knew what we had been through and not once reached out. I feel my mother has been able to completely get away with not having to go through bringing up my daughter to sweeping her off away from me and suddenly having this relationship woth my daughter. My mother also never reached out to me and told me she was contacting my daughter. I tried to confront my daughter on why she lied to me and doesnt have any emapthy for me, and she said she doesnt care how i feel and she blocked all contact with me now.

  2. Lisa

    I have an adult daughter who has zero empathy for me. I tried my best to raise her myself and pampered her and helped with a lot of her financial situation. She goes out of her way to help her friends but is careless about me and does not give any sxx about me
    I m not in her life. .
    I decided to cut off any kind of support and take her out of my will and leave her alone. I m still very angry about her attitude and behavior. Just leave her alone

  3. Barbara

    Letting go is the only way to get past the grief. First I forgave them. Then I never retaliated or said anything that could be used as a excuse to hurt me the way that they did. I asked God to show me anything that I could have done to contribute to their behavior and asked “God” forgiveness.

    The details don’t matter, because I have let go. I realize now that I have been abused for years and now that I am disowned there is this huge sense of relief.

    Just because someone tells you something does not make it true. Trust yourself, trust God and when you let it go…..really let them go. God will hold each accountable for their actions. And sugar, God don’t play!

    1. Mary W.

      Barbara: One phrase that came to me when feeling my way out of an extremely abusive marriage was; “When you die and stand in front of God, he will show you a video of how you treated me. You will stand aghast, and refute the things you see but in the end, you will fall on your knees and sob. This will be your hell for eternity.” I may not belong to a church or a congregation, but I have a deep belief in God and his teachings. I know this day will come for all of us and we better do here on earth what we want to see in our video before God. For some unknown reason, my batterer would stop his abuse and turn and leave when I would tell him this. Now, I am at the point with my adult children, of having to say this to them. And, for some reason, I have no fear of doing this. My dignity and respect is important to me. If my children waant to hear lies and disrespect from their father about me, there is nothing I ccan do about it. It is more important to do the right thing for my video.

    2. Donna T.

      Hi, I have just read your post and it has really helped me as I am struggling to get over my adult son’s shabby and bullying treatment of me . I hope you are feeling better and you have handled your situation with dignity. Sending you a hug x Donna T.

      1. Catherine

        I am sending you a big hug too, I am in the same situation with my 3 adult children, it’s hard but just do your own thing.

  4. Bonita

    Hi everyone I’m in desperate need to interact with you I’m new I haven’t seen my Son in almost 14 years except at my moms funeral When I left my exhusband he said if you leave my father you r leaving the family. I’m devastated please someone respond to my comment. I know I’m not the only one going through this Bits very difficult for me at times

    1. Mary W.

      I went through what you are going through but I had three children say the thing your son said to me. One phrase that came to me when feeling my way out of an extremely abusive marriage was; “When you die and stand in front of God, he will show you a video of how you treated me. You will stand aghast, and refute the things you see but in the end, you will fall on your knees and sob. This will be your hell for eternity.” I may not belong to a church or a congregation, but I have a deep belief in God and his teachings. I know this day will come for all of us and we better do here on earth what we want to see in our video before God. For some unknown reason, my batterer would stop his abuse and turn and leave when I would tell him this. Now, I am at the point with my adult children, of having to say this to them. And, for some reason, I have no fear of doing this. My dignity and respect is important to me. If my children want to hear lies and disrespect from their father about me, there is nothing I can do about it. It is more important to do the right thing for my video.

  5. Unappreciated Mom

    I find myself, infuriated at the one time I ask for moral support while on a project that killed five people. Wouldn’t take my call, texted me he is busy and then put notifications he isn’t taking calls. Then texts me for help the next morning, and ignoring his blatant disregard for my safety. Oh, he just recently moved in with a female, and well…he can’t talk to his mom. He needs to prove he is not a mommas boy, and I said, verbal f- you. He said, I need help, to which my reply was that is why I tried to call you. Fatigue, and saddened by the loss of five men who passed on a job site where I was working at 10k feet at a dam. Tried to call as we texting was getting long winded, to which he still did not take my call.

    So disappointed and hurt, and exhausted.
    His dad treated me the same way.
    I have had enough, my life will resume, and I will continue to be a loving mom.
    But damn, the f-audacity. Entitlement and disregard.
    That’s not how I raised him. I did everything and sacrificed everything and everyone for him.
    No thanks, nothing but what he needs what he wants.
    As if I am not human with feelings.

    Thank you for letting me share, helps to know that I am not alone.
    Feel so alone. This to shall pass. I free him and me.
    Release and deserve to be happy.

  6. KP

    My oldest just turned 18 and decided to come up with a crazy excuse to blame me why she moved out. Went and is staying with friends and lying to everyone and anyone around her and playing the victim. At first I was devastated and then angry and then devastated again, we live in a huge city so my biggest worry is her safety but as time is going by the more and more I’m finding out my daughter is a compulsive liar and she really really has deep rooted issues that maybe has to do with her father being absent her whole life. She has tried to call the cops on me, cps for my other kids and turn the rest of my family against me all for absolutely nothing, this is definitely a hard pill to swallow because I just helped her fill out her College applications and bought her a car and gave her anything she needed, I’m also 7 months pregnant and very emotional so very disappointed that she decided put me through all of this at this exact moment. Mind u this all happened within a week so it’s still very fresh, I don’t see a way of us ever rekindling our relationship. I’m just ready to be done with it and hope my other 4 kids don’t look at this as an opportunity for them to do this to me as well. Very scared for that to happen, my kindest regards go out to u all. Definitely the hardest thing to endure as a mother, nobody warns us about these type of things.

  7. Alexandria

    I don’t know if I belong here. Technically, my daughter texts me, so there isn’t a total lack of communication. But, it is strained and infrequent and runs a gamut of abuse:
    Phony “niceness” to passive-aggressive jabs
    Culminating in explosions of attacks, blame, lies, and cruelty.

    For decades, I put up with her entitled attitude. She feels I owe her because we were poor while growing up. I was a young, single, 17-year-old Mom who worked full time to provide for a special needs child – I was overwhelmed knowing how to help her. (She has an anxiety disorder, but we didn’t know this for years.) Yet, I am to be blamed and should spend the rest of my life “making” it up to her. Her tone and attitude towards me seethe with repressed contempt.

    I have talked with her about difficult things that happened and owned and apologized for my part. Repeatedly! I have regrets, and I wish I had had the ability, resources, and maturity to handle things differently or better, but I didn’t know how then. I refuse to feel guilty forever over these things. That irks her, apparently.

    Don’t get me wrong. I beat myself up for the past 38 years for things I cannot change. I am just now realizing how cruel my daughter is and how stupid I have been not to see her manipulation. I realize I will likely never have the relationship with my daughter that I want most- a mutually-loving one. She’s far too toxic to keep close.

    It’s hard to admit how hurt I am, especially when I realize hurting me has been her goal, and she relishes my pain.

    My therapist pointed out she has many Narcissistic traits; a lack of empathy, feeling entitled, never apologizing, playing a victim, and smear campaigns are their standard MO (modus operandi).

    It’s too much to write about here and too much to even comprehend fully. I am sorry if none of this makes sense. It’s hard to summarize so much pain in a few paragraphs, or at all.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    1. EmpressTigris

      I know the feeling. My oldest son and I have always bumped heads. He has a tendency to gravity to people I am not cool with and I feel like it’s on purpose. I feel he is narcissistic because he shows no remorse, no feelings of regret when he does something that is disrespectful to me. My parents are upset with me because I reported my niece to CPS because her oldest son was molesting her youngest 3 children. They kicked me out and disowned me. My oldest couldn’t take staying in a hotel till we got our own place so he went back to the very people that hurt me. Saying he doesn’t have anywhere else to go. He has always had a love hate relationship with me and it hurts. He says the most horrible things to me and doesn’t think twice about it. It is hard to cope with it, but it’s my reality

    2. Dee

      Your daughter sounds exactly like mine sans the anxiety. I’m 99.9% sure she has narcissistic personality disorder – I joined the dots recently when I refused to be controlled and manipulated and she cut off all contact. She certainly exhibits all the signs: lack of empathy, cruel, sense of entitlement, controlling and manipulative, wanting to be fawned over for being “special”, grandiosity. She got married last year, and discarded me within a week of her wedding. She’s now pregnant, and I heard about it via my family (who were invited to her baby shower). The whole thing breaks my heart because I raised her on my own. At 16 she met her now husband and I’m 99.9% sure that’s when the NPD rot set in. His big, extended, wealthy family made her feel so special, and I couldn’t compete with that (although I’m sure she wanted me to). If I knew then what I know now, I would have nipped it in the bud…

  8. Liz

    My older daughter sent me an email telling me that she needed a communication break. That was more than 4 and a half years ago and she hasn’t sent me one word of response to any of the messages that I have sent to her. I haven’t been able to make any sense about her behaviour at all. I am just as confused as I was in Oct 2015. I don’t know how to move on.
    Last fall my younger daughter called me one morning to tell me that she, her husband and my grand children were flying out to visit my estranged daughter later that day. She later told me how much fun they had together. I feel so gutted and betrayed. I am glad that I found this site. It helps to know that I am not the only one trying to make sense of this.

    1. Catherine

      You are not alone in this, I have the same with my 3 adult children. There has been so much disloyalty that now I just don’t care.

  9. Toxed

    Thank you for sharing, each of you. It helps. My husband and 2 children all kept from me a choice that the kids made that adversely impacts my health. I’m an invalid. It was need to know information for me so I could make the best decisions for my health. I feel betrayed and like I’ve been relegated to being a second class citizen.

  10. 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.

    3. Leiane O.

      Breathing again. Thank You! Sincerely, Thank You for your words of wisdom. Feeling strong
      Onward we carry on

    4. Jeannie

      Thank you! I just recently figured out what was happening to me. The same old words about boundaries and apologies and so many things that made no sense no matter how I thought about it all.
      All I know for sure was that somehow I had become “narcissistic mother”… the “monster” and I was so confused and hurt and devastated. And alone. And devastated, still.
      Thank you for sharing your story. I feel the cement leaving my blood vessels as I see my own experience mirrored in everyone’s words and stories. It is such a relief to not be alone dealing with this terrible pain.
      Thank you!!!

  11. 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.

    1. Marjorie

      Wow, this is all so DIFFICULT to understand. It hurts SO MUCH! I have even contemplated auicide because I was a single parent at 17, never let him go, worked my tail off to give him everything (baseball, soccer, art, swimming, martial arts). I lost so much time doing this and letting the other side of the fam have way too much input just cause they would help me out. Now, he went off (a yr ago!) got married, is having a kid, and doesn’t call or even text anymore. I am letting him go. This is so so sad. I pray for everyone on here! ❤️❤️

    2. Leiane O.

      Feeling your pain & wisdom too. The only thing, I truly understand about my son’s betrayal is, what is meant by, The proverbial rug being pulled from under me. There is no reasoning, no understanding, no words to make what’s wrong ever right again. Divorcing someone and then being put in the situation where you must rise above yourself to even just be civil to this person, takes a great amount of eating ca ca. But, we do it. We do it to try to be fair & loving, to rise above the disdane of a person we chose to not be around, for the sake of the children. How is any of this fair to “US”? It’s not, honestly it feels worse, because we tried to do the right thing & in doing that it seems, we are left at the curb crying & feeling like we will never sleep again. I would stand in front for a train for my son, I just never even thought he would be driving it. Hoping We find peace.

  12. 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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