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What to Do When Someone Won’t Talk to You

How to Deal with Estrangement

Important Note: If you were abandoned with no explanation by your parent(s), this article doesn’t apply to you.

Note to parents: Read this first if your TEEN or YOUNG ADULT child has cut you off

Also, bookmark Chapter 1 from the Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children

Sad teddy bear estranged from stuffed bunnyEstrangement from important others is a sad fact of life for many people. One of the most painful experiences a parent can have is to be rejected by an adult child who appears to want nothing to do with them. Estrangement between siblings, in-laws, neighbors, even coworkers, is also common.

The reasons for estrangement are as diverse as the parties involved. Sometimes there was a very close relationship in the past, and something happened that created distance.

This may have happened either slowly over time or rather suddenly, but once that distance was created, it solidified into estrangement. Or, the relationship was never as close as it could have been, and the gap just kept getting wider, until there was no relationship at all.

If you’re estranged from an adult child, a sibling or someone in your social circle, and the estrangement is their choice rather than yours, you’re probably feeling rejected.

Rejection is a powerful emotion that can lead to all sorts of defensive behavior, which in turn can further alienate the rejecting person. If someone has chosen to have little or no contact with you, it’s important to acknowledge any softer feelings you may have about that.
Often when we’re hurt we resort to anger, resentment or vengefulness. But these are indicators of unacknowledged sadness, loss and grief.

What NOT to Do

There are steps you can take to try to mend fences. It’s worth trying to do so, because the other person may be suffering just as you are.

If it turns out that you both value the idea of having a relationship again (and that is definitely an if), you’ll avoid an unnecessary loss for both of you by doing what you can to make amends.

No matter what the history, cause or present state of your estrangement from the other person, one thing is certain: Trying to convince them verbally that they’re wrong to reject you is a losing strategy.

If you’ve tried anything at all, you’ve probably tried that. You may have explained your position in full detail, and been annoyed, confused or stymied to find the person unmoved by your compelling argument.

You must understand that the other person has a reason for wanting to reduce contact with you. It hurts to think about being rejected at all, and to accept that there’s a reason you were rejected is one of the hardest things any of us can do. However, it’s also necessary if you want to have a relationship with the person again.

And, by the way: What do you really want? Is it a relationship with this person that you truly desire, or do you simply need them to know that they’re wrong to reject you?

If it is truly a relationship that you want with this person who doesn’t seem to want one with you anymore, your options are limited, but you do have them.

There is much you can do to give the relationship a really good shot, but ultimately, you must realize that there’s only so much that’s within your control.
Don’t give up prematurely, though! Here’s what you need to know.

When someone won’t talk to you…

1. How they feel is the most important “fact.”

Their emotions constitute the absolute truth of the matter for them, regardless of how differently you may see things. Arguing about facts is useless. People don’t end important relationships on a whim; at some point they really must have felt hurt/unseen/devalued/attacked/vilified/dismissed/damaged/ignored/betrayed/rejected/disrespected by you enough to build that wall.
Of course you never meant to hurt anyone, but they got hurt somehow anyway. That’s reality. That’s a fact.

Understand, acknowledge, empathize, and apologize. Any attempt to excuse or explain your behavior will make things worse between you.

2. Curiosity is seen as caring.

You can tell someone all day and night how much you care about them, but if you’re not the least bit curious about how they feel, how deep can that caring really go? To be genuinely curious about someone else’s experience is a gift not commonly given.
Now is the time to give the other person the gift of your curiosity about them.

You might send a letter or an email acknowledging their rejection of you, taking a guess as to the cause if appropriate, and asking for details of their experience. Finish by asking what you can do to make amends. Make suggestions you know they will appreciate, if appropriate.

3. Make an effort on their behalf.

Think of how you might set things right between the two of you, in a way that speaks to the other person. What do they want? What might they need? How can you selflessly be of assistance to them right now? Actions do speak louder than words, so you’ll need to balance your curiosity (see #2 above) with a contribution of active energy.
Making an effort, going out of your way to say or do something meaningful to the other person (rather than to you), will demonstrate your good intentions.

4. Validate their feelings.

You do not have to agree with their view of what happened in order to do this! You need only understand how they see things from their point of view.
 
See my article on Validation for details.
Right about now, you might be feeling that all of this is WAYYY too one-sided. How is it fair that you have to bend over backwards to fix things, while they do nothing?
It’s not.
It’s not fair, but since they’re ready to end the relationship and walk away, fairness is moot.
And along those same lines…

5. This is not about you.

Your story is not interesting right now to the person who rejected you. They are only interested in their story.
Since it was they who initiated the estrangement, your only remaining option is to be curious about them, to validate their feelings, and to be available to them in a way that they define as positive or useful.

Imagine if you went to a dentist with a sore tooth, and the dentist came into the waiting room and sat down beside you and said, “I know you’ve got a sore tooth, but I am so upset today I can barely work.”

Imagine the dentist launching into a story about what’s going on at home that’s got her so upset. How much do you care, as you sit there with your hand on your cheek and your tooth aching like crazy, about the dentist’s problems?
When you’re hurting, it’s hard to be interested in others. Realize that the person who cut you off is hurting, even if they don’t act like it.

6. Accept their decision.

For whatever reason, no matter what you do, the other person may decide not to let you back into their life.
Let them know that you accept their decision, that you genuinely wish them well, and that the door is always open if they change their mind. Acknowledge to yourself the loss of the relationship, and allow yourself to mourn. Practice constructive wallowing.

Accept the new reality of your life without that person in it. You will survive without them. Your life may look and feel different to you, but it will be yours to do with as you please.

If they ever do change their mind and come knocking on your door, decide right now to let them find a peaceful, whole person on the other side. 
 
 

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado.
She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations.
The author of “Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them” and the “Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children,” Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships.
Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called “Constructive Wallowing.”

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98 Responses to "What to Do When Someone Won’t Talk to You"

  • Moonlite
    June 18, 2016 - 7:17 pm

    This is a good article. I love this “And, by the way: What do you really want? Is it a relationship with this person that you truly desire, or do you simply need them to know that they’re wrong to reject you?”. I have asked myself this question a few times. The estrangement is with my father and his wife of 18 years (again). I initially cut contact with them because they are toxic. Recently I talked to him (and tried to talk to her but she played the victim) asking how we could have some type of relationship. I ended up hanging up because of the things he says. Part of me would like a relationship with my father (I dont really care if I have one with her as the price is too high) and yet I say to myself “Do you really want a relationship with someone, your father, who has been so mean and judgemental???

    • Tina Gilbertson
      June 20, 2016 - 9:48 am

      Moonlite, I’m always sad when I hear about problems like these between parents and adult children. I hope your father can respond to your willingness to connect by examining the ways in which his behavior comes across as mean and judgmental. I often think of such behavior as an externalization of self-criticism; he just might be his own worst critic, and if so then he’s treating you the way he treats himself on the inside.

      It’s terribly sad for both of you, but if he’s willing to experience self-compassion, his ability to share himself with you in a positive way will probably improve. I wish you and your family the very best. Thanks for your comment.

  • SimpleThings
    July 24, 2016 - 12:59 pm

    Nice article but not for a mother like myself whose adult son won’t ever come over and visit. He lives next door. When he divorced his wife last year, which blindsided not only her, but my husband and me, it’s like he divorced us too. I’m in a rural area and there are no counselors. Where do I turn for specific advice? He and I were basically best friends until the divorce. His divorce broke up our once happy entire family. Poof!

    • Tina Gilbertson
      July 24, 2016 - 5:35 pm

      I can’t imagine what it’s like to live next door to your son and be estranged, especially combined with losing your entire once-happy family. It sounds grim. I hope you have some emotional support in your life as you navigate this post-divorce phase.

      You’re right that it can be hard to find a counselor in a rural area. There may be counselors in other parts of your state who offer online and/or telephone sessions if you feel like talking with a neutral third party.

      Perhaps you’ve noticed that I offer a Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children, which might also contain some useful information for you. You can read the first two chapters and see if they speak to you before deciding.

      Ultimately, it’s most likely going to take either 1) time or 2) your very best communication skills or 3) a combination of those, to heal his need to distance himself from you. No matter what, it’s not an easy road.

      I wish your family healing and peace.

  • SimpleThings
    July 25, 2016 - 4:03 am

    Thanks for replying, Tina. I wasn’t expecting a reply. 🙂 Son & wife built their dream home here in the country to be near us & their friends, & six mos. later he wanted a divorce. It was final a few months ago. I was vocal about my displeasure in how he went about it and didn’t go to counseling first. We both said words but apologized later. I can go to his house anytime, I watch the little grands for him and his ex at times. But he will not come to our house to visit, not even for a chat! It’s all of a 2 minute walk. lol We check in with each other in email, sometimes phone calls, but it hurts he won’t come over, so I’ve been going up there less and less. Did I mention there was someone else? Not an affair during his marriage but close to it. I’m hoping time will help.

    No emotional support at all. Husband is the quiet type, I’m not. I won’t discuss this with friends, not that I have many. Small town, tongue’s wag. I don’t have a sister, daughter, and my mother is deceased. My DIL became my daughter, her family became my family. That’s how close we all were. I do have a little granddaughter though. Being the only female bites. I loved it when my boy’s were growing up, not so much now that their grown.

    I’m going to read the chapters you mentioned and see if that might help. I miss my son so much because he and I are the talkers, and we have so much in common. My other son is like his dad, quiet. And my other son is bipolar.

    Isn’t my life grand? LOL

    • Marjorie King
      November 9, 2016 - 2:19 pm

      I think your son feels like you valued his wife, your daughter in law more than him, or you may judge him because he is no longer with her,(by ganging up on him at your house), or he is ashamed of the divorce and feels like you and his father will let him know it should he come by your home, JMO

  • Tina Gilbertson
    July 25, 2016 - 3:44 pm

    You sound like a resourcefull lady who laid a solid foundation for a good relationship with your son. I’m hopeful that time will smooth out some of the rough patches, even though yes, it is tough to be the only female! Take good care and thanks for visiting.

  • Sarah Patterson
    July 31, 2016 - 6:32 am

    After a painful divorce from my abusive ex-husband my seventeen-year-old moved with him and won’t speak to me at all. I know I fought hard for him to see my side and I know that’s what caused the rift. I just kept thinking this is not fair how can you not see it? Now I pushed him away and I want nothing more than to have him back in my life. He’s cut off contact with me for almost 2 years now.

    Any advice?

    • Tina Gilbertson
      July 31, 2016 - 8:45 am

      It sounds like you’ve been through the ringer, Sarah. I’m very sorry to hear your son isn’t speaking to you.

      While I can’t offer customized advice on this blog, I generally advise self-care as the first order of business for anyone who’s been through a tough transition, such as a painful divorce. Time doesn’t always heal on its own; sometimes we need to do specific things to help ourselves heal.

      I usually advise therapy or counseling that focuses on your own emotional healing in the wake of what you’ve been through. As an adjunct, you can go to your local library and borrow a copy of my book, Constructive Wallowing.

      My position is that healing your relationship with your child begins with healing your relationship with yourself.

      Once your inner resources are replenished, you’ll probably have a better idea of next steps (or at least the energy to seek those out and try a few).

      The bright spot in all of this is that your son is so young. It bodes well for reconnection later, when you’ve both gained more distance from what happened.

      Good luck and best wishes on your healing journey. I’m rooting for you!

      • Donna fletcher
        December 30, 2016 - 2:01 pm

        Hi any advice my daughter gone to live with her farther and hasn’t spoke to me inn over a year

        • Tina Gilbertson
          December 30, 2016 - 7:00 pm

          I’m sorry, Donna. That’s rough. In addition to the article above, I recommend having a look at the first couple of chapters of my Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. You can read them right here on this website. If you see anything that feels like a fit in the first two chapters, you might want to read the whole thing.

          This is a difficult time of year for parents in your position; I hope you’re being gentle with yourself. Take care, and thanks for stopping by.

  • 2626j
    August 21, 2016 - 8:08 pm

    Hey Tina, thank you for this article. I would love to have your advice on my situation.

    I am the older sister of 3 children. We are all adults now and my younger brother will not talk to me. There is no specific reason or event. I feel like he has always been jealous because I was successful and encouraged by our parents, and he was more of a trouble child. But I never treated him wrong. Now he ignores me completely. When I am at the family house and I enter a room where he is, he leaves. He will talk to everyone else but me. When I try to talk to him he is rude and not open at all. He is very stubborn and I have seen him cross out people of his life before. He does not go back on his decisions. You see, I can probably get over it and keep living my life and stop trying to talk to him, but what really hurts the most is how my mom seems to think that we are both responsible for this. She keeps saying things like “why don’t you two try to get along for once”. I’m TRYING. But he just hates me. There’s nothing I can do. I feel rejected and I hate it.

    Thank you for reading me,

    • Tina Gilbertson
      August 26, 2016 - 11:58 am

      This was painful to read, and it must be terribly painful for you to be living. While I can’t offer personalized advice in this format, I did write an article on PsychologyToday.com that addresses the silent treatment, which appears to what what you’re getting from your brother. Although it’s ostensibly about partners, it applies to siblings as well.

      I hope the post gives you some practical ideas for how to proceed. It’s here: How to Get Your Partner to Open Up.

    • Jennifer McKamey
      October 5, 2016 - 8:28 pm

      Hey 2626j, I know EXACTLY how you feel. While Mrs. Gilbertson gave some good advive, I found it very generic (I mean no disrespect Mrs. Gilbertson on anything I may state that pertains to your article but to be candid, I feel a little bit irked because you are putting all of the responsibility on the one who’s being rejected). Like you, 2626j, I have a brother who wants absolutely nothing to do with me and I don’t know why. As far back as I can remember it’s been that way and for 28 years he “tolerated” me, mainly because my Dad wouldn’t allow him to disrespect me and he was in the Air Force so he could use that as a way to not come home often and keep the estrangement going. When I turned 28, my Dad passed away and my brother went from tolerating me to being down right cruel. That was 20 years ago and no matter how I try, what I do or don’t do, it’s never enough. My entire life I have tried talking to him, asking him what I did to make him treat me with such disdain and hostility, how can I fix it, what would it take for him to at least see my 2 niece’s. I’ve even offered to go to therapy but what am I supposed to say? I’m coming here because my brother has never wanted me in his life and I don’t know why? How do I get him to tell me why because the other 6 I’ve been to didn’t know and have given me the “text book answer” like Mrs. Gilbertson gave and would be great if we lived in an ideal world. I’m pushing 50 and I have exhausted every avenue, including apologizing for reasons I DO NOT KNOW.

      I don’t badger him. I go for years not seeing or talking to him. My attempts to make ammends for his repressed FALSE memory that whatever I did are met with belittling and degrading remarks.

      So for my own sanity I had to let it go. I can’t force myself into his life and I can’t even make him treat me with respect but I can refuse to be disrespected and he and my 2 niece’s will always be in my heart even if they aren’t in my life. Even he can’t take that away from me.

      Almost 50 year’s I have been trying to fix something that is broken but he won’t tell me what. At this point I don’t even know if I want him in my life because it’s always turmoil. That doesn’t mean I don’t love him but I know in my heart I have gone over and above trying to make our relationship work and that’s another thing he can’t take away from me.

      I can only hope that when his girl’s are grown they’ll seek me out. I do not want any drama or finger pointing, fight’s or anything else that would stop them from reaching out but I can’t take the chance of reaching out to them first. I have no idea what they’ve been told or how they feel. I wouldn’t want them to be upset or freaked out because of my desire to know them. I will pray and hope they’ll be curious enough to get to know me.

      There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when you’ve done everything possible to rectify any relationship.

      I worried about tomorrow and week’s and year’s ahead of me like they were promised and wishing doesn’t change a thing. The ball is in his court now and I will walk away when he begins verbally abusing me.

      Trust God. He knows what he’s doing!!

      I wish you well and will be praying for you,

      Jennifer

      • Marjorie King
        November 9, 2016 - 2:30 pm

        I bet your brother has a issue with you that he does not want to admit, because he is ashamed at how he feels. I believe he probably was/is jealous of you since you were a little girl. Think back were you your fathers favorite, were you smarter than him, did/do people like you a lot and seem to gravitate to you, do you seem to acquire things easily, whatever it may be that you have in your life that he doesn’t may be the key. If you wish to find out, maybe ask someone who is close to him, or simply throw it out there by saying something like, “I know you are jealous of me because of ———————, and see what comes out of his mouth! Other than that, you must know by now that you should always surround yourself with people who are non toxic, people who lift you up, not down. Some people are simply not worth the effort and your brother sounds like this is the case! You deserve better, just know its his loss, and there are other people who will easily love and appreciate you, so poof be gone!

  • Julie
    August 27, 2016 - 12:16 am

    Hi Tina, do you know of any sources to help people deal with the estrangement of a family member that is caused by that family member’s spouse?

    I am the youngest of three children, though we are all adults now. Seven years ago, my eldest brother married a woman who never seemed to like our family. We barely saw her while they were dating, though we were always friendly and tried to invite her to family events. Once they were married, we thought that things would get better because she would have to accept us as family at that point and start coming around.

    Instead, about nine months after the wedding, she and my brother came to my parents house to announce that they had bought a house (about 10 minutes away), that they were pregnant, and that none of our family was going to be apart of their lives from now on. His wife screamed at my parents, who were just in shock, that this is how it was going to be. When my parents tried to ask her why, she just kept repeating that they know what they did. My brother just stood by silent. My other brother and I were away at college at the time.

    When the baby was born, we didn’t see her until she was almost one year old. My brother snuck her over to my parents house for a few hours when his wife was out all day with her mother. We haven’t seen the child since.

    My brother does not keep in touch with us, and he won’t send us pictures of his kids. The only way we can talk to him is if we call him at work, and even then he’s vague about everything. We only found out that they had two more children when my dad’s youngest sister, my aunt, died unexpectedly two years ago. We were shattered by her death, and when we couldn’t reach my brother by phone to inform him, my dad tried going to their house. No one answered the door, but two days after the funeral, which they did not attend, my dad was served with two PPOs, one from my brother and one from his wife. We fought them in court and found out about the other two children during the proceedings. Luckily, the judge terminated the PPOs, and my dad’s record was cleared.

    I have called my brother and spoken with him a couple of times since the court mess two years ago. I always try to keep the conversation friendly and just ask how he and the kids are doing and tell him how I’m doing. I have never confronted him about what he and his wife have done because I don’t believe it will do any good. He is usually cordial during these calls, but he sometimes seems annoyed and is always vague about his life.

    The other thing I should probably mention is that we have a large extended family—tons of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and grandparents in their nineties. All of them have also been cut out by my brother and his wife and have received the same treatment that we have, minus the PPOs.

    I was fairly close with my brother when we were growing up. He is six years older than I am, and I used to look up to him. We had several common interests that only the two of us shared. He even had a cute nickname for me. We had a special relationship. I realize that relationships change as people grow older, but I don’t understand how he could cut all of us out. Why can’t he make even the smallest bit of effort to keep his relationship with all of us going?

    I would just like to know how to deal with this so that it is not an enormous, sad weight that I always carry. How can I move on from someone I used to love so much and who I think would still love me and my family if only he were allowed to?

    Any direction to help that you can provide would be very much appreciated. Thank you so much.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      August 28, 2016 - 8:40 am

      Julie, it sounds like the situation is quite complicated, and it’s good you’re seeking help with it. You shouldn’t have to try to resolve this unhappy situation all by yourself.

      I don’t know of anyone who specializes in working with this particular set of dynamics. But in my opinion, any good family therapist will be able to help your family work toward the clarity that’s needed to come up with possible solutions.

      If you don’t have someone local you can ask for a recommendation, you can search for a therapist by zip code at http://www.goodtherapy.org or http://www.psychologytoday.com.

    • Jan Caron
      March 7, 2017 - 7:22 pm

      My situation is almost exactly like Julie’s. My husband and I are parent of three children. We were a very close family and my children had great childhoods. I was very close to my eldest son. He dated a girl for two years. I was unaware of some ” red flag” behaviors. Very soon in their relationship I realized he was no longer seeing close friends. When I asked he said his girlfriend didn’t get along with them so he no longer saw them we live in a very rural community and he had many friends from elementary school through college. She made him end Facebook accounts, was jealous of girls he considered friends since first grade, along with men. Her mother stated my son was good for her as he “calmed down her temper tantrums and anxiety”. I only saw a lovely, gorgeous, soft- spoken young lady.
      Shortly after the marriage, I became gradually aware things were off. They visited us many weekends during the summer but always had her entire family along, two siblings, parents, neices and nephews. While we gifted them with the down payment for their first home, her parents were invited to the house hunting. Her parents were present at the birth of our first grandchild. We were told the next day. We never expressed hurt or anger. I assumed my daughter in law was especially close to her parents. I became aware that even though they lived in the same area they grew up my daughter in law stated she had no friends other than her mother and sister.
      When their child was about a year old they visited my daughter living in another state. My grandson punched my daughters newborn, but I was told everyone laughed it off. Shortly after she told my son my daughter insulted her and he could not have a relationship with her. My daughter said she joked that when her daughter was older she would get my grandson back like she did with her brothers. My daughter is very close to my son. She apologized verbally and in writing, saying she only meant it as a joke and it was in poor taste. My son has never talked to her since.
      6 months later they came to our house saying they needed distance. They said I caused stress and they were afraid I would cause her to miscarry. I cried and apologized asking what I had done. My son never said a word. But my daughter in law said they were sick of me analyzing their child. I had NEVER done so, recognizing she was an anxious mom. I teach child development at the college level. I was careful to not offer advice and only answer questions if asked. Then she said I never visited even though I worked 20 minutes from their home. I said I would love to visit but thought it rude without an invitation. It went on. I could not believe the hate.
      During the next three years we had no contact. We had not met my granddaughter. I sent presents to the kids and cards and texts during holidays. I tried calling my son, but on the two occasions, his wife answered the cell phone telling me never to call. They became estranged from my sister and his cousins and his youngest brother.
      They came to my mother’s funeral and that week my daughter in law said they were willing to give us another chance. We saw them about 6 times during the past year. Then they stopped all contact with no explanation.
      It seems she might be a controlling spouse, preventing him from contact with all past friends and relatives. He has changed his religion to her religion. He was asked to be best man at his brothers wedding. He said yes, then a month before the wedding said he couldn’t make it.
      How do you try to have a relationship with them? I sent them texts and gifts at Christmas but no response.

      • Tina Gilbertson
        March 9, 2017 - 1:54 pm

        Yikes, Jan. This reminds me of that episode of the Twilight Zone in which a young boy with super-powers terrorizes everyone around him because of his lack of emotional maturity and childish temper. When he gets mad, he makes people disappear — just as your DIL does to you.

        Many parents have told me about sons- and daughters-in-law who don’t seem to want to get along with them. Sometimes there’s been a misunderstanding that can be cleared up, and the relationship can be repaired. Other times, it appears that the SIL’s or DIL’s own “baggage” obstructs bonding right from the beginning.

        Regardless of the source of the trouble, the strategy remains the same. Just as in the Twilight Zone episode, one can only do one’s best in the given circumstances. For rejected parents, that means TRYING to be as non-threatening, and as appealing as possible to the unfriendly SIL or DIL. If you get “uppity” and try to make them see reason, or treat them as equals instead of royalty, they can make you disappear.

        It’s not fair, but it’s the way it seems to be. Good luck.

  • Kelly
    August 29, 2016 - 8:59 am

    Hi Tina,
    My husband is no longer speaking to his mother and as his spouse, i could use a little advice how to best navigateate the situation. Up until this point, they have been very close.

    Background Info:
    My husband is the oldest of 4 children, two boys and two girls. There is a 14 year gap between the youngest and the oldest. When we got married, his little brother was only 11 years old. His little brother has always been “lost”. He barely finished high school and has made poor decisions in life. He is currently incarcerated. One of his two sisters is mentally unwell and has managed to alienate some of the extended family with her bad behaviour and choices.

    My Mother-in-Law blames my husband and to a lesser extend me, for his younger brother’s troubles and his sister’s mental health woes. She says we were not there to guide them and that he has always had it “out” for his sister. I know that this is not true. I know she is hurting and looking to blame others for there poor behaviour, but my husband has had enough and does not want to speak with her anymore. Strangely, he still speaks with his siblings.

    Any tips you can give me to help heal the relationship would be greatly appreciated.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      August 30, 2016 - 4:10 pm

      I’m sorry to hear it, Kelly. It sounds like a tense situation for you. The best thing I can think of is exactly what I said to Julie yesterday (8/28/2016). I believe it applies here as well.

      Thanks for stopping by my website. All my best to you and your family.

  • Jo
    September 1, 2016 - 4:06 pm

    Hello Tina,

    I have been estranged from my two adult sons, ages 39 and 43 for three years. Their father died four years ago after a very painful death from Agent Orange. I was his sole caregiver for many years. I grieved for one year, and it was a tough year. The following year I met a wonderful man on Christian Mingle and we married a year later. My sons have never met him, and have never expressed a desire to. One daughter in law has had lunch with us several times, with two of the grandchildren. The relationship is shakey at best. I have sent many, many cards, gifts, and apologized for anything that I can possibly think of, to no avail. My sons were my whole life. We were very, very close and my heart is nearly broken in two. Grieving over the loss of my sons Is more difficult than losing my first husband. I pray and pray, my friend pray. Do I have any options?

    • Tina Gilbertson
      September 3, 2016 - 8:01 am

      Jo, complicated grief can be more difficult as you expressed.

      One option that’s appropriate in pretty much every case is self-care. Make sure to find a way to get at least some of your emotional needs met elsewhere while you’re enduring the estrangement.

      Beyond that, I have to refer you to my Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. I wrote it specifically to offer some ideas for parents looking for options. All my best ideas are there.

  • PJF
    September 3, 2016 - 6:14 am

    Hello Tina, I honestly have drawn a lot from how you have articulated your key points! However, I intend to revisit them over and over again. When watching the same movie for the fourth time, one will always be amazed to find that there was some subtle aspect in the given which was lost in the previous three encounters. — This stated, I feel that there is an important aspect which you have completely lost and that is the aspect of mental illness. Everyone has the capacity to be off balance in some aspect/pocket of her-his hurt. What I am trying to convey here is, I can be mentally ill, but I fail to, or refuse to realize it. Equally, we may not be balanced enough ourselves to clearly observe and recognise the mental illness coming from the other side. This is especially true in the diverse America, where everyone is considered to be entitled to her-his point of view. But then, nothing gets done! In the more traditionally old-styled homogenised cultures, there seems to be a clearer rule of thumb to follow. Of course yesteryear’s strong influence of religion also demanded a greater capacity to be humble compare to today’s profound sense of entitlement. “Everyone around me thinks that I am profoundly selfish, but I think I am perfect”!

    • Tina Gilbertson
      September 3, 2016 - 8:35 am

      PJF, Thank you for your thoughtful words. Of course you’re right that much can be happening inside the person who’s cut you off. All of it is beyond your control, and some of it may keep the advice in this post from working.

      When shooting an arrow at a target, one generally practices on a stationary target. With a target that’s moving, it’s no less important to have that stationary practice under your belt. You need it to develop your aim and your skill with the bow.

      When practicing dealing with other people, it’s best to assume people will be reasonable and respond appropriately. That way, you develop your own abilities regardless of the outcome.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  • Barbara Brockhoff
    September 29, 2016 - 11:06 am

    Hi Tina, I found your article, advice about “What to do when someone won’t talk to you” very helpful. I have 2 beautiful adult children that I raised by myself after 18 years of marriage. My daughter has rejected me and her brother. She has 2 children, my only grandchildren. She is 36. Our estrangement has existed off and on since she was about 19 or 20, when she reestablished a relationship with her then estranged father. Currently she has nothing to do with me. No contact at all. It has been this way for almost 2 yrs now.
    She has recently been separated from her own husband. His choice, not hers. I have, again, extended the olive branch to her, with no success. I thought perhaps at this time in her life she might need me.
    I realize that to be away from me is what she wishes. The saddest part is the 2 grandchildren. I often read her Facebook posts which talk about how awful her rejection by her husband has made her feel. The irony is she is doing the same thing to her Mother. Unfortunately, she is greatly influenced by her father, who despises me, saying often that I am “the enemy”, I was the one who “broke up the family”, etc. He has gone to great lengths to denigrate me to a great deal of people, including our daughter.
    The struggle I have is the overwhelming sadness at the loss of this relationship. I accept it, but the feelings of loss, are worse at times than the grief I endured with the loss of my parents.
    I have tried counseling. I am a nurse by profession. I seem “stuck” in all aspects of my life.
    I welcome your input.
    Thank you once again,
    Barb

    • Tina Gilbertson
      September 29, 2016 - 2:52 pm

      Barb, it’s so sad when one parent denigrates the other, especially to their children. Parents who do this may not realize how cruel it is to put their children in this position. But the damage is done whether they know it or not.

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad you found the article helpful.

  • mkr
    October 5, 2016 - 9:15 pm

    There are other factors involved in family estrangement such as differing personalities and characters. Not all people are kind and generous, some are self-seeking. Every relationship needs give-and-take to be successful. But exploitation is a reality in many relationships. Just because siblings/cousins/etc are biologically related to you, they still might be no good for you to have in your life. As for parents and adult children, children have a responsibility to honor their parents, no matter who they are. They gave you life, and because of that, unless they are abusive, give them time and love and attention.

  • Lee irving
    October 6, 2016 - 7:38 pm

    Thankyou All my father wanted was TLC and I gave all . my mom and dad would be upset to know my older sister will not make a phone call to me. I tried..numerous times.the ball is in her court…now my father has been gone for 10 months He did mention that both of us have similar personalities I’m 8 years younger. Always dealt with no one Really listening to Me.number 4 out of 5 and were all over 50! Oh well it was a close relationship as my 4yr older sister said we were like oil and vinegar..together .thank goodness for the middle child!!! She can be the good seasons packet!!!! Ha ha on toward silent treatment… Thanx!!!!!

  • Susan Leitch
    October 22, 2016 - 4:26 am

    Hi, this is a very helpful article for reestablishing contact however I struggle to find anything close to my situation of estrangement to better understand it. My mother has chosen total estrangement from me her daughter. I have not seen her in 2 years and not had any contact at all in 9 months. As a child my mother always punished me with silent treatment or the cold shoulder. She also neglected us very badly when we were children. Basic needs such as clean clothes, our personal hygiene and food. Other than cooking us dinner (and sometimes not even that) we looked after ourselves from age 9 onwards. This was due to her not coping well after divorcing my dad. She could also be emotionally cruel putting me down, comparing me to my father who she hated with a passion and threatening to send us away. The thing is before I became a mother I very much bought into the idea that she was a victim of my dad and his abusive behaviour and that we had to look after her and accept.the neglect and cruel words as an inevitable consequence of the situation she was in. Poor mum it’s not her fault. Then I became a mother 5 years ago and my perspective changed. I felt angry at how she had treated us (and still did treat me). I confronted her and she knew that what I was saying was true but she was angry at me for ambushing her with my feelings (I was very calm not aggressive ). She said that I had promised her not to bring up the past but becoming a mother made me realise that the past was in the now and it made me feel terrible. I realised how conditional the relationship with her still was so I started to enforce some boundaries to protect myself and assert our values as parents. Our first concern was my mum and step dad’s smoking and getting drunk around our daughter who was 2 at the time. We put in a boundary that our daughter could not go into their house as 3 adults smoked inside and continued to do so when she was there so they could spend time with her at our house but not theirs. On a day my mum was looking after my daughter for 2 hours while I went to the doctors she took our daughter over to their house. I caught her out when I phoned her. I tried to talk to her about it but she ran away as I was speaking to her. All I had said was OK we need to discuss this and then she said she couldn’t then ran. That was it. She broke contact with me. She ignored messages I sent trying to explain my distress, she ignore phonecalls and after 6 months when I offered to meet for coffee so she could see her granddaughter she declined. I really had not been abusive to her. I had very calmly tried to discuss what I saw as being very unhealthy and damaging problems in our relationship which made me miserable and by trying to convey that to her only on 3 occasions over a period of 8 months (I was careful not to bombard her with it) she finally decided to have nothing to do with me as my boundaries were “unacceptable to her”. I don’t know anyone who’s parent has cut them out their life. I feel it constructs me as some monster when I’ve gone over and over what happened and I feel I was very calm and careful in the way I tried to address the problems and the way she would freeze me out. I feared she would do that to my daughter also. She has told my brothers that she had no choice as I was acting ‘crazy’ and they have been distant and angry with me. I’m managing to repair that with them now as they became receptive to hearing what happened. My husband reckons she just didn’t want to face any of the realities of the past or our differing values about taking proper care of children but I feel she now paints me to be a monster and has ostracised me from most connections that centred from her. I feel she is cruel and that perhaps I am better off this way although I would never have chosen total estrangement. However when I look on the Internet I can never find stories of parents who cut their children out. I feel like this must never happen unless the circumstances are very extreme. Is my mum very unusual to choose total estrangement from her own child and grandchild? Your perspective would be most welcome x

    • Tina Gilbertson
      October 22, 2016 - 10:43 am

      Susan, thank you for sharing your story. I do occasionally hear from people who were cut off by their parents, and it always hurts my soul to hear it.

      It’s sometimes necessary for parents to step away from an adult child for their own mental health, but usually it’s due to addiction, physical abuse by the adult child, or both. I didn’t read evidence of either in what you wrote.

      My position on rejection by parents, except in the cases I noted, is to urge rejected children NOT to blame themselves. Part of a parent’s job is to cherish the children they produce, and help them feel safe relating to others. It sounds like your mother has used the threat of rejection your whole life, which is incredibly sad. You didn’t cause that. Perhaps she found her own parents’ love conditional, and is continuing the family tradition with you. That’s how these dynamics perpetuate themselves.

      Although your situation may not represent the majority, you’re not alone in experiencing rejection by a parent. I do recommend therapy with a local counselor who will help you learn (and teach your child) self-acceptance and skills for navigating conflict without resorting to rejection. If you can get your mother to do it, family therapy could also be productive.

      I wish you and your family love and peace. Thank you again for your comment.

  • Gray
    October 31, 2016 - 5:52 pm

    I would like to know how to use this article to approach my mother in law before the finality of estrangement goes through.

    I am cutting her out of my life if we cannot change course.

    My husband and I have attempted at several points to request an honest, groundwork laying conversation with her in order to address what she has done to us; basically ignored us, avoided talking about difficult periods in our lives at all costs, given enormous preferential treatment to his sister at cost to us, and then when we distanced ourselves from this weird relationship neglect when she began demanding “niceties” (Letters, gifts, “public appearances” at family functions, chirpy phone calls about nothing) before she would consider doing anything at all. She apparently was not receiving them on a schedule or quantity she desired and chose resentment over actually expressing her needs. At which point it was explained to her that relationships are not built on hollow gifts, but rather on familiarity, curiosity, and involvement. The niceties come after. I was involved in her life in a way that she liked for years (all those niceties) but she utterly refused to do anything of consequence at time when I was being diagnosed as disabled and in early recovery for PTSD, not to mention my own husband’s trauma. She has had several opportunities with me where I began the conversation but she would not enter it or vehemently denied that anything needed to be spoken about.

    She is small minded not as an insult, but she literally seems incapable of understanding that her wants do not supersede my emotional and health needs. She thinks it’s her way or be guilted/shamed and never seems to care about success. Only that we give in. She has a rather narrow idea of how people universally should behave if they are good people and the fact it does not match reality does not seem to penetrate. The whole think reeks of manipulating to get her way rather than actually caring about us and our relationship with her.

    It already hurts her how much distance there is. It’s going to devastate her if she gets cut off. She’s exactly the type of person to cry about how she doesn’t understand why we’re so mean and has no idea at all why we’re estranged. The reality is she was unwilling to be even slightly uncomfortable; the “correct” relationship was my husband pretending we were all happy and fine and loving together while she reaped all the benefits.

    I’m not sure where to go from here. I need to find a way to phrase the “we’re going to be estranged now because _______. The way to fix it is _______ and if you don’t know what to do you should contact a counselor; they can teach you ways of thinking or dealing with us that you may not have thought of. I need to be left alone for _______. Do not _______. No promises, you were given two years of effort.” letter.

    Hey parents? I can’t speak for the kids who won’t talk to you about what happened. But if you’re willingly ignoring and discounting your adult children by dismissing their experience on the other end…that’s why you’re estranged. It’s not what was said. It’s not what you meant. It’s how it was taken. And no amount of correcting your intentions is going to heal the damage. You have to actually work on that. Like taking the time to glue together a broken vase rather than simply saying “I didn’t mean to do it!”.

  • Jo Ann
    November 2, 2016 - 6:35 pm

    Hello, my daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer on October 7, 2013. She is now thirty five years old. She had surgery, proton radiation, and a year of chemo. She is currently stable and from what I hear, feeling better. She does have deficits which may or may not resolve. We were very close until a little over a year ago. Her relationships with everyone else seem okay. I understand some of the “ways” our close relationship was unhealthy. I have made many changes. However it seems as I can do nothing right anymore. She has a partner with whom she has been with for over twelve years. I felt her partner pull away from me before my daughter did. I could go on and on. My heart is breaking, as this is not just estrangement, which in it self is so difficult. The fact she has cancer and isn’t talking to me is almost more than I can bare. Do you think your guidelines would help me? Thank you in advance for reading.

  • Marjorie King
    November 9, 2016 - 4:50 pm

    Can you talk to her partner and see f she will give you a reason why, she pulled away? I am sorry, please stay positive, aas you deserve better

    • Jo
      November 9, 2016 - 6:12 pm

      Thank you for your reply and kind words Marjorie. That was the first thing I asked, when I felt it. When I asked my daughter if something was wrong, she said no I don’t think so. A couple of months later I asked again, my daughter said, “you already asked that question and I told you no.” So I said well I feel like there is, would it help to talk to her? She said, “no that would only make it worse.” Obviously something was wrong, although she didn’t want to acknowledge it. I have come to learn, sadly, not everyone is open to discussing a problem, they would rather just not deal with it or you. Unfortunately this is my daughters partner. With everything my daughter is going through, I don’t even know what to think anymore. Just lost.

  • Jo
    November 11, 2016 - 6:42 pm

    Is Tina no longer commenting?

  • Jazzy
    November 13, 2016 - 6:00 am

    With therapist like you no wonder we have such a big population of selish, self centred, precious, no one is good enough crowd as our kids whose their ideas of resolutionis is only my way or high way! Have you ever told any of them to open their eyes and see the reality? Or no you just validate validate and let them to resent their parent even more?

    • Joyce Arrindell
      October 27, 2017 - 3:50 am

      i think you are totally right this generation of grown up children are so selfish and ungrateful i have 2 out of my 4 daughters who are so selfish my 1 daughter has stopped speaking to me for the last month because i did the unthinkable and asked her for a contribution to the housekeeping a mere pittance and to keep hers and her sons bedroom clean oh and to give me a little help around the house as i work and she doesn’t she left and moved in with her sister who is equally selfish and ungrateful a right pair together yes i’m sad but i refuse to be a mug i have other children who do appreciate me so the ball is in her court.

  • Tina Gilbertson
    November 19, 2016 - 3:55 pm

    Dear Readers,

    Thank you for reading this post and these comments. Many thanks to all who have taken the time to leave a comment themselves.

    Responding thoughtfully to every comment is something that takes time. Sometimes life intervenes. Other commitments, personal and professional, often take precedence. So…

    If I don’t respond to you individually, please try not to take it personally. It’s the limited nature of my resources, not the value or content of your comments, that dictate whether I reply.

    Thank you for understanding, and for visiting my website.

  • Sandra erskine
    January 2, 2017 - 12:20 pm

    My son will not talk to me bc his girlfriend has no manners!! We opened our door to her for an entire year of residency! She never helped out around the house when it came to cleaning or cooking! Lived here as if she owned the house! This was a big mistake! Finally, my husband told her it was best to get her own place! She did! I harbored anger issues everytime she would come over to visit on Sunday’s bc most of all, my adult girls hated her! She had no manners at all! Never said, thank you or I appreciate you allowing me to live here! I have NEVER met anyone like her! But to top it off she would tell me how at work (waitress) men would give her attention and touch her! Why, would someone like this bring these things to my attention with me being the mother of her boyfriend! So at this point they have broken up, evidently it’s permeant! I seen this coming and called it ALL out! Considering she has a son and NEVER even seen the child! I figured it was all a matter it time! But now my son is mad at me bc he says if we would have supported the relationship it would have worked! Really??? It was doomed from the start bc this girl had no morals! I knew she would leave cheating and she did! Exactly like I called her and now my son won’t talk to me!!! How do I handle this? We are a close family!

    • Tina Gilbertson
      January 2, 2017 - 2:20 pm

      It’s hard to be wiser than your kids sometimes, isn’t it? You would have had to sit on your hands and pretend you didn’t see what you saw in order to keep the peace with your son. That’s very hard for most of us to do.

      Now that your son is blaming you for the breakup, though, you get to decide whether to stand your ground or “make nice” instead.

      If you stand your ground, it means NOT changing your tactics. In that case, you’ll have to wait and see if your son comes around.

      If you want to try to “make nice,” that would mean offering your son what he needs right now in the wake of losing someone he cared about, regardless of what you thought of her.

      It seems to me your own priorities will be the deciding factor in how you handle this. Good luck.

      • Lora
        January 6, 2017 - 10:16 am

        It’s amazing how your observations and advice relate to my story which is so different. Our 17 year old started running away from home last year after a nasty confrontation about his constant lying, skipping school, elaborate efforts to change his grades and attendance records, and becoming more and more uncooperative, sneaky, and disconnected from us. Later came obvious use of weed smoking. He’d run away for a week at a time with no real contact except a text and if he came home it was as if he wasn’t here anyway. After the last time (around thanksgiving) it became clear that even his therapist was believing his lies and so he stopped going. When he came back home after his last runaway, we made plans for him to go to cousins out of town to get away from the elements in our area. He had a good two weeks with some good talks some lies and at least the willingness to throw away the weed his cousin found (she’s in late 20’s). He came back with them at Christmas and with the whole family having had talks with him before that time, he was in agreement to move to Michigan and live with his aunt and uncle, work in their business part time, finish high school, and maybe look into college. His other cousin is a psychiatrist and our son was planning to seek help from therapy at his clinic (not from him professionally -conflict of interest stuff). He’s still doing all that but now we have no contact with him at all. It seemed he just had to literally go crazy on Christmas Day-become verbally and physically abusive and we had to call the police. He was taken to a mental health facility until he agreed to take meds for anger and then went to another uncle’s where he is today until he leaves for Michigan tomorrow. A lot of story, probably unnecessary, but now I get to this point where I would appreciate your observations and insight: he refuses to talk to either of us. Anger is so intense and blame is all on us say family members who talk to us. His accounts of things are contradictory but for sure, we have to accept that no matter how much we love him and tried to do the right things, we’ve still made enough mistakes that added to what he’s doing and feeling today. Of course we’ve been made to suffer , too, but we are adults and pretty much formed and worked through the issues that made us who we are.

        My sister in law wants to make him call us to say goodbye. I don’t want him forced to say goodbye. I would love to hear his voice and tell him I love him, I’m sorry for whatever misunderstandings led to this, and assure him that we are going to therapy and trying to find better ways to improve. I would like to tell him we’d like to know exactly what we say or do that frustrates him so that we can improve and we hope this new start will give him the experiences and tools he needs to go onto a happier life. We both want to tell him this and that we pray he lets go of his anger so he can move on. I don’t expect to ever see him again so everyday is like a funeral for us and full of unanswered questions. We are discussing ways to take care of ourselves and move on. For 20 years we prayed to have a child and now, so sadly, it ends like this. We know this is the time they move on and we are ready for that, but not in this way. I daydream that he calls me and says his ramen noodles don’t taste the same at college or he tells his dad that math problem they did that drove them crazy was useful in class. Or that he barely passed English but we know he hates it anyway. I trade my daydreams for his daydreams if I knew them and they were healthy choices.

        • Tina Gilbertson
          January 6, 2017 - 3:29 pm

          This scenario sounds very upsetting for everyone, Lora. I can only imagine the pain of seeing your son act out like this, and then having to let him go.

          There’s a lot going on here — too much for me to offer more than my best wishes and an observation that what you’re describing sounds like an ideal case for family therapy.

          Of course that will be hard now that your son is leaving! Hopefully there will be opportunities in the future. Take care, and thank you for visiting.

  • Kathy
    January 28, 2017 - 3:21 am

    Hello. My 31 year old daughter and I text talk share constantly. I’m so proud of all she has achieved. We meet for lunch, shop and discuss life and world issues. Past several years she has asked many times to help the holidays with her brothers to consistently get us ALL together. It’s been difficult schedules to complete that task successfully. Christmas, birthdays – someone is missing due to inlaws and adjust schedules to alternate times for holidays birthdays not all together consistently. The clinch is I was out of the country few weeks and was on my daughter’s birthday – I have returned and I have searched w tears and found your active page. My daughter works a great responsible job, in grad school and many friends and a great husband. But for three long weeks – I am getting frozen out with no responses to texts calls. My question to you- from reading your material, I should keep focusing on her feelings in finding a remedy, correct. I should continue w a positive set of texts and messages…right. I have asked her once what should I know to help me and us move forward with no response. Your article suggests keep responsive to her feelings – correct. I hurt – this is first ever. I worry what may be hurting her – but I cannot figure it out – please suggest actions to remedy this first time ever response from my adult daughter – my son talked w her and she said family is eroded and she pulling out.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      January 29, 2017 - 11:44 am

      Hi Kathy, I know it’s very hard in this situation, but try not to panic. When a parent-child relationship has the kind of strong foundation you’ve described, that doesn’t fly out the window all of a sudden.

      One of the most difficult things to do is to allow some time and space between contact, to let the other person sit with your kind words and offers to listen. Sometimes there’s no substitute for making room like this.

      If you haven’t already done so, you may want to read my Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. Although no book can address every unique situation, it talks about the kinds of issues adult children typically say they have with their parents. It may offer clues about what the problem is.

      In any case, try to gather your best emotional support from your peers (and your own parents, if available) while you navigate this rough patch with your daughter. I wish you well.

  • sarariches
    February 9, 2017 - 2:25 pm

    Hi Tina
    Thank you for you ur article. I don’t really understand what has happened but I haven’t heard from my daughter for seven months. She lives in Holland and I am in the UK. I know she wants “space” but how much space is space? Should I carry on writing to her as I do so that contact is still there? Or should I be offended and stop communicating? I mind being ignored but at least she knows I’m thinking of her and still really love her.
    I want to scream I Miss My Daughter but how? To who?
    Any advice would be gratefully received.
    Sara

  • Nancy
    February 10, 2017 - 2:42 pm

    I have a daughter who over a period of a year estranged herself from me. She does not call or text. She lives 10 hrs away and I was invited to visit a few times a year but now I see on facebook her dad (my ex) was invited to special events but I had no invite. I am not aware of anything that happened between us. When I talk to other ladies my age I find that every one of them have one child that treats them in a similar way. I decided to back off and give my daughter time. But it hurts. I felt close to my daughter. Rejection hurts. To survive this I talk to girlfriends and try to develope new interests to distract the pain of rejection. I want to discuss this with my daughter but I feel it is not the time. I have a great relationship with my other daughter. I do not discuss this with her because it would not be fair to her to be brought into this. So I cry alone, talk to friends, and try to stay busy. I survive but I am not happy.

  • Carrie
    February 11, 2017 - 8:57 pm

    Hi Tina,

    II found your previous posts very informative, and my situation is one where I have been estranged from my dad due to his choice.

    ‘m the oldest of 3 children (brother is the middle child and sister is the youngest, each born a year apart. )My parens abruptly divorced when I was 17 (I’m now 50), and my dad remarried within 6 months to a woman with 3 children from a previous marriage who are the same age and me and my siblings. Since my mother initiated the divorce, my dad has hated her and refused to speak with her to this day. My step-mother did not encourage my dad to maintain a close relationship with my siblings and I , and her children became the primary family. My mother moved to CA from MI (where we grew up), with her new partner, and my brother, sister and I followed suit to live with her when we were in our early 20’s.

    My dad and I had a very tenuous relationship from the time I was a teenager. He is very controlling and I rebelled. My stepmother was very difficult to get along with and didn’t hide her resentment of me- nor did I hide my feelings toward her. I had a daughter at 23 and was not married- my dad didn’t approve of this. He refused to speak with me for several long periods of time and I have a very close relationship with my mom & daughter to this day.

    My sister had a very difficult time dealing with the divorce and resorted to abusing alcohol to alleviate her depression. After several trips to rehab, she passed away at 47 in 2011 from liver failure. As a result of her drinking we had several disputes. When my sister died, my dad implied that my behavior and our disputes were the cause of her drinking and ultimately her death. I was disinvited from holiday family gatherings and completely he completely cut off contact from me from that point forward. We briefly made amends in 2012 ( this always required an apology on my part), however he became upset with me for requesting 1-1 time with him and stopped speaking with me again in 2013. My step-mother became ill while traveling with my dad in Europe in 2015, and passed away after a cardiac arrest at age 71. My dad blames me for her death (saying the fact that we didn’t get along caused her stress), and I was not invited to attend her funeral and was omitted from her obituary. I tried calling my dad and sent cards on every holiday for the past year and a half and he never responded or acknowledged them. My hope was that I would have some type of chance to make amends with him since i felt my step-mother was such a negative influence. He absolutely refuses to speak with me or have anything to do with me.

    Dad will be 80 this October, and my brother has told me that he asks about me and my daughter frequently. I have apologized SO many times, and my brother thinks that if I apologize again and ask for forgiveness, that my dad may come around. I’m reluctant to experience this rejection again, but also feel I have nothing to lose. I am also in counseling with a psychiatrist, and taking anti-depressants. Any advice you have is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Carrie

  • sara
    February 15, 2017 - 11:39 am

    Hi Tina,
    I love my daughter more than my life and more than anybody else in the entire world. However, she lives in another country and wouldn’t communicate with me, and I don’t know why. She asked me not to write to her boy friend as well. She suffers from depression, and anxiety — so I am for ever worried about her — live from one cry session to another. I don’t believe in direct divine intervention in our little problems as well, so can’t even get solace in praying — do you have any suggestion for me?

    • Tina Gilbertson
      February 18, 2017 - 9:39 am

      Hi Sara, I’m really sorry to hear about the distance with your daughter. So many parents find themselves in this unfortunate position, that I tried to put all my best suggestions for you in one place: the Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. You can read the first two chapters right here on my website to see whether you find them helpful. If you still have questions after reading the Guide, I offer one-on-one consultation. However, I hope the Guide alone will provide enough suggestions to help you create the changes you wish to see in your relationship with your daughter. Good luck.

  • Kathy Westman
    February 18, 2017 - 8:18 am

    Thank you – very helpful notes. Kathy

  • Meg G
    February 18, 2017 - 7:10 pm

    Where do I even begin.. I am 57 yo mom of 4 boys & I don’t have a relationship with any of them. I went thru hell to get pregnant , then had 4 in 5 1/2 years. I was a really good mom. I stayed at home while they were young. We played games, made ornaments ( I cherished christmas & now spend it alone). We read books at night & said our prayers before bed. I spent 2 years, several times a week taking son #2 to early intervention therapy. Over some time, after son 4 was born, my husband completely changed & became mentally & emotionally abusive Eventually I filed for divorce and I thought my life would become better. Far from it… At age 12, son #2 got mad at me & stayed at dads house for 3 days. When I told dad it was time for him to come back, dad said no, son wanted to stay. I tried getting all of us into therapy, but dad refused to go past 1 visit then son refused. He moved to dads and never came to see me. For 5 years I tried to rebuild our relationship to no avail. That son is now 24 and Im lucky if I see him once a year. When sons 3 & 4 reached 17, they moved over to dads too. You see, we ran two different homes. I had reasonable rules, chores, things that taught responsibilities. Dad did not and he allowed them to get high starting @ age 13, not sure what age they started drinking. So it’s pretty obvious to see why a teenager would rather live there. He allowed son #4 to drop out of high school in Junior year. I was devastated. For many years none of the boys had to work at all. Currently the one who dropped out of school is 20 & has never worked 1 day. Son #1 is my hardest to accept. We were very close while he was growing up & he had more common sense than his dad! In spite of our closeness, he never told me he was gay until 18. I certainly have no issue with him being gay, he is my son & love & accept him no matter what. He met his partner who was only 15 at the time. I was very concerned about him being very underage. My son wanted his friend to move in with me because his parents rejected him for being gay. There was no way I was putting myself in that situation, so I said no. Of course son #1 then asked dad & they went there also. They have been in a tumultuous relationship for 5 years now. Together/ break up etc. Neither dad, close aunt nor myself ever liked his friend. We always felt he was taking advantage of our son. Last year, son #1got very sick & was in the hospital for a month. He had not been in the relationship for several months. I spent many nights sleeping in a chair by his bedside. We became very close again. My son swore that he had no intention of getting back with his friend..”it was over” , after discharge he agreed to stay at my house to regain his strength. Well, the friend entered the picture again. Once again, we were all very upset. There was a nice place for him to stay here but he chose to sleep on a floor on quilts. I was beside myself for his health sake. I tried talking to him about my feelings, I didnt understand this & how concerned I am for his recovery. Bottom line.. If I can’t accept his friend he wants nothing to do with me. I will be surprised if the relationship works, my son will be taken advantage of, but most of all I’m concerned with his health & recovery. He will not even return a text msg about how he’s feeling. So as hard as #1’s story is to accept because of the health issue, I have a really hard time figuring out what happened with all of them. Not 1, 2, 3, but 4 sons?? I’m sure dad didn’t speak nicely about me since the divorce really upset him & it was “all my fault” because I filed. I have spent years trying to figure out how I have lost all of them when I was only trying to raise respectful, hard working members who would contribute to society. How can they let their mom spend christmas alone? Last year, only son #1 acknowledged my birthday & mothers day. Some days I really just don’t feel like going on it is so sad. I’m sorry this was so long. I was so happy to find your site & comments . Thank you

    • Erased Mom
      March 2, 2017 - 11:30 pm

      Sounds to me like Parental Alienation.
      This therapist doesn’t seem to have any training in this. In some of these posts it is so obvious that’s what is going on. It is a purposeful attempt to erase the other parent and usually the whole side of the family from the child’s life.
      This can be done by an ex spouse, child’s girlfriend/boyfriend, ex’s new spouse etc.
      There are many groups you can join dealing with this specific dynamic.

      • Tina Gilbertson
        March 12, 2017 - 5:30 pm

        Once you label a situation “parental alienation” (which is of course a real thing, and very unfortunate), the question is, where do you go from there?

        Putting a label on a painful reality may provide temporary soothing, but it leaves many parents feeling helpless and hopeless in the long run. It doesn’t tell them what to do to get their adult child(ren) back.

        This is why I generally avoid writing about the phenomenon, and instead choose to focus on possible solutions.

  • Desmond
    February 21, 2017 - 10:30 pm

    Hi Tina

    I got to know this wonderful girl for about a month or so and we started dating thereafter. She shared that she was not ready but was willing to give our relationship a try. A few weeks later, she became cold and started to distance herself from me and eventually she told me she felt we were progressing too fast and she wasn’t ready to commit into a relationship. She started to put blame on herself that she has commitment issues and all. When I tried to talk to her about things and tried to make her feel assured, she felt it was too emotional and didn’t reply to my texts. Thereafter, she cut off all contact with me with a warning. She has a history of being physically and emotionally abused when she was a child and I’m not sure if that had any influence on her actions as such.

    I really want to help her but now that she has decided to cut off all contact with me, the only way to reach her is through email. Not sure whether I should still reach out to her via email as I don’t want to stress her out and I fear that she might start cutting herself again. Do advise how I should proceed from her as I still do love her very much and would want the best for her. Thanks Tina.

  • K D
    February 23, 2017 - 10:07 am

    Hi Tina, read your article trying to find some help. My daughter for years called me every morning on her way to the gym. Her Marine husband at 27 was killed 2 years ago. His mother passed from cancer 2 months ago. This past Oct. she stopped calling and would always text back busy when I tried to call. When I called my 4 year old grandson on his birthday in Nov. the text came back they weren’t home, twice. I’ve worked through issues with manic depression for years. I’ve been strong. The rejection was putting me over the edge to the point where I just don’t want to be here. Texted her again this morning trying to make peace. The reply comes back nasty to just leave her alone and I’m not going to see my grandsons again. I know she has a lot of grief to deal with. But I can’t deal with the rejection. My family is my life, if they aren’t going to be in it I have no purpose.

  • Tina Gilbertson
    February 27, 2017 - 12:22 pm

    Dear Readers,

    Estrangement an emotional topic. Grief and despair are natural when those we love reject us.

    There’s little emotional support available in the Comments section of a blog post. If you’re feeling really low I urge you to talk to a close friend or therapist in person.

    You can seek someone in your zip or postal code using the international directory at http://www.GoodTherapy.org.

    Meanwhile, if you’re not sure you can stay safe on your own, please call 9-1-1 or get yourself to the nearest hospital.

    Wishing everyone love and peace.

  • digby5
    February 28, 2017 - 1:33 pm

    It is hard to do anything when you live in another area, the son blocks calls and texts. I’ve sent letters, cards, packages one of which I know was rejected. He is isolating because of his depression, his own self-esteem issues. I’ve traveled to see him, but he won’t answer the door. I don’t seem to have any other options but respect that he wants to be left alone. This makes me very, and we have no other family.
    Very sad.

  • Sarah
    February 28, 2017 - 6:22 pm

    Tina,
    I need guided to what to read or who to talk to. My heart is broken by my 32-year- old son. He divorced 2 years ago, has 2 children 8 and 11, shared custody. He has since had a baby 3 months ago with his 24-year-old girlfriend. When the baby was 6 weeks old she had birthday party for my 11 year old grandson. I brought my foreign exchange student with me. My grandson commented she looked different. Son’s GF asked have they met. I forgot they did and said no. Next day she told my grandson to swear on his baby sister’s life and tell her the truth. He admitted he had met her. She text me and said they will never talk to me again and I am no longer welcome in their home because I lied . My son is siding with her. They have blocked my number. I tried to talk to my son in his front yard to explain and he cussed me out in front of his kids which was a first time he ever talked to me that way. My grandson was yelling at him “you can’t talk to your mom like that.” It’s been 6 weeks and I cry every day. My son and I always got along. I miss him. I don’t know what to do and don’t want to push him away. I feel like there’s got to be more to them cutting me off because this is so ridiculous but I have done nothing but be supportive in everything he has done. My husband sided with me. He told our son what he is doing to me is wrong. My son now says he’s done with the both of us. My friends and family say leave him alone, I’ve done nothing wrong but how can I say goodbye to my son who was such a big part of my life. They’ve blocked me on FB so I can’t even see pictures of my new granddaughter. My birthday is in a few weeks and all I want is my son back in my life. I pray to God every day to heal our family.

  • karen
    March 6, 2017 - 6:49 am

    I understand what you are saying but I still feel too that the children who have done this are very self centred to care about anyone else but themselves.

  • Anxious
    March 9, 2017 - 5:00 am

    Hi Tina
    I found your article very useful, one of the only ones online that was relevant to my situation and emotional state. My problem is this:
    i’m 36 (to be 37 in a month) and pregnant with my first child to my fiance of two years who I live with and who has a good relationship with my parents. (we’re living in a lovely rented home and both have full time jobs) The pregnancy was unplanned, but due to my age and biological clock, not unwanted and having a child was always on the cards before it became too late.
    I was anxious to tell my parents as I knew they would focus on the impracticalities of the pregnancy – potential job loss due to market downturn, financial struggles, general change in circumstances etc. . . so I waited until I was around 8 weeks and told my mum. Her initial response was shock but she seemed supportive. She told my dad then I heard nothing from either of them the rest of day.
    I called the following morning and my mum just went off on one saying i’d made a huge mistake, the rest of my life was going to sh*t, I’d be living a life of poverty and how could I have been so stupid. She also advised me that my dad was very angry and upset about the news and he hasn’t contacted me at all.
    It’s now been two weeks since I told them and there has been no contact either way which is very out of character for us. I’m an only child and we’re very close. I speak with my mum every day normally and share almost everything with her.
    As a bit of background they are very stuck in their ways and can be quite negative to ideas/change if they don’t agree or support it even if they know that I or anyone else is keen on it.
    From the response I have got I feel abandoned as it seems very much that they couldn’t care less about my pregnancy and would prefer it didn’t continue and they seem more concerned about the impact it will have on their lives.
    I am concerned as the longer it is left, the more isolated and removed from my pregnancy they will be and I am genuinely worried about a future relationship if they choose to cut me off indefinitely.
    I don’t know what action to take as I can’t talk to anyone about it (apart from my partner) as it’s embarrassing to have them respond in this manner. I’m scared to try and make contact in case I receive a torrent of abuse as previous or negativity again at a time when I really need to be focussing on this huge, life-changing event that needs to be my priority.
    Any help or advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. I am due to have my 12 week scan shortly and have enough worries – telling work, working out my finances, dealing with an unplanned pregnancy in general without the anxiety this matter is causing.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      March 9, 2017 - 1:32 pm

      My dear Anxious, I can’t express the depth of my sadness about this situation. I hear from people all the time who would do just about anything to be able to hold their grandchildren, and your parents’ reaction to your pregnancy would no doubt mystify them.

      I’m afraid I don’t have a general position on “what to do when your parents are angry that you’re pregnant even though you’re an adult in a committed relationship.” All I can offer is my deepest compassion for you in this difficult situation. Perhaps other readers will have some good advice for you. I hope so.

      I wish you and your growing family health and happiness.

      • Anxious
        March 10, 2017 - 2:21 am

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, I very much appreciate it. In reading your article, I think the most helpful thing I can do is recognise that their reaction is not fair, but if I want to have a relationship with them, I have to accept that that’s how they feel and hopefully, with time, understanding and patience on my side, they will come round. Hurt, anger and upset are not useful emotions to me and that’s not the sort of environment I want to foster for my new family. I hope that their shock and unhappiness will give way to a situation that, while it may not be ideal, isn’t fraught with tension. I’ve decided today to send them a message to say that i never intended to cause them any upset or hurt with my news, that I love them very much and am open to us talking/having a relationship if and when they’re ready. I don’t feel I can offer any more as trying to discuss their feelings and mine is only going to cause more hurt and upset as we won’t ever see eye to eye. Fingers crossed for a brighter way forward.X

  • KA
    March 13, 2017 - 9:18 pm

    As a 35 woman who has been somewhat estranged from my mother for the last 18 months I can tell you that your advice is on point. We had a falling out weeks after my youngest son was born over the way she handled a new romantic relationship with someone she met online. She had been taking my oldest son 4 hours per week. She started having her boyfriend over during those visits and when I told her I wasn’t comfortable having a man she hardly knew in such close proximity to my child she got mad and told me if her boyfriend couldn’t be present when she was with my son then she would no longer spend time with my son. No offer to compromise or find a different solution. If she couldn’t do it her way then she was done seeing my son every week. She then moved said boyfriend into her house and he’s been there ever since (he’s 65 years old and living off of my mother and grandparents).

    All I have ever wanted from her was exactly what you outlined above, but every time she reaches out it goes nowhere. She isn’t open to talking about what happened because she doesn’t think she did anything wrong. Instead of validating my feelings she just rolls her eyes when I try to explain how she hurt me and she refuses to acknowledge my feelings as a parent. She still sees herself in a parenting role and doesn’t respect that I am my children’s parent and it’s up to my husband and I to decide what we’re comfortable with when it comes to them.

    It’s so sad. We had a wonderful relationship for 34 years and this completely ruined it. I invite her over for Christmas and for my son’s birthday celebrations (because I don’t want to punish them), but aside from that we are essentially estranged (and she only lives 10 minutes away).

  • Pam
    March 16, 2017 - 8:31 pm

    This article has helped me step back and evaluate my situation more reasonably. Thank you.

    A long, long story that I’ll try to condense, but basically my mother has been in a horrible 10 year marriage with my step-father and is unwilling to take steps to leave him. By horrible I mean emotionally abusive, controlling, manipulative, jealous, and resistant to helping her financially. (She’s been working two jobs to make ends meet for awhile now after he lost his job and decided it was “her turn” to provide for them both. My mother literally stopped working for just one year of her life because he wanted to be the big shot and take care of her, and now he won’t let her live it down.) I used to vent all of my frustrations towards him (commiserating along with her when she called), but with the passage of time and my mom’s constant complaining about her situation – while taking no definite steps to remove herself from it when she says she will (been offered a long term place to stay MANY times by me, my sister, and by her own mom) – has made me slowly shift blame onto her. It’s like they both know they are living in a toxic relationship without love anymore (she fights nearly as bad as him now) but they just keep doing it for the drama, because they don’t want to be alone, or I don’t know for what reason.

    It’s perhaps wrong of me to judge from a far-away, outsider perspective, but how do I help my mom realize that her own marriage is beginning to ruin our relationship? We barely talk anymore since I told her how little I want to hear about her husband, and now she seems wounded and afraid of saying anything to start conflict between us. Pity parties happen all the time. Her main MO is to avoid my concerns about our relationship with sarcasm or jokes, even when I ask for us to just have an honest, serious conversation. Little comments become misunderstood and hurtful. How do I get her to talk about things openly when she seems so afraid of honesty?

    • Tina Gilbertson
      March 21, 2017 - 10:33 am

      I’m really sorry to hear about this situation, Pam. It must be incredibly hard to watch your mother remain in such a destructive-seeming relationship.

      There’s a general principle that might be of interest here. People talk openly only when they feel safe to do so. How does a would-be listener create safety? By demonstrating that there will absolutely not be any judgment or criticism as a consequence of opening up. It’s a tall order in this case; I’m not sure I could manage it if this were my mother.

      Still, if you can create that safety, that would be my approach.

      If you’re not sure you can do it alone, a good family therapist can help the two of you have a clarifying conversation.

  • Mark
    March 20, 2017 - 11:09 pm

    Hi Tina, this was very helpful like many have said but most do not pertain to my situation. My wife my 2 year old and I returned from living overseas for the past 2 years. I am the oldest of two. My brother is 30 and I am 40. He married a girl about a year ago and we first met her last year when we returned home. Everything was going fine up until last month when she really showed her true colors. Long story short we argued via Facebook as I’ve noticed she liked to lie alot about little things. So recently she had birthday in where she said she had invited my wife but in actuality she did not. My mom asked my wife if she had invited her and she said no. My mom then asked her a few days later as to why and she replies that she had txt her many times and my wife had already showed my mom that she had not. A few days later she txts one my wifes and her mutual friend. Calling them backstabbers and accusing them of trying to cause trouble with her and my mom. She then called my wife a b@#! and that got back to my mom. My mom arranged for the two to talk. My wife wasn’t ready to talk but she weant anyway. My brothers wife gave a somewhat meaningless apology fake so to say and played the victim card and saying she calls everyone the B word. My mom then kind of took her side saying that in america that is kind of common which my wife knows that in play yes but in this circumstance was not the case. At this point my wife figured that nothing she said was going to get an honest apology. My mom and my younger brother have since alienated us and have not spoken to us at all except through txt and even then she has told me that she would not be responding and to have a good life. Don’t know what to do.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      March 21, 2017 - 10:44 am

      I see a lot of communication go off the rails when Facebook, email, texting and so on replace voice-to-voice or, better yet, face-to-face conversations.

      My personal rule of thumb is to get myself OFF those media as soon as things start to feel tense in written interactions. Rather than taking things further electronically, I will make a phone call or suggest meeting in person if possible.

      When repairs need to be made, apologizing is my go-to. I can usually find something I regret saying, doing, or not-doing, and offer a sincere apology. This helps immensely — far more than figuring out whose fault it was, and insisting on blame being assigned correctly.

      That’s why this post focuses on apologizing: *Not* because you’re clearly in the wrong, but because apologies are powerful relationship menders.

  • Mark
    March 20, 2017 - 11:19 pm

    I should add that my brother and I were very very close and my mom has always favored him. He’s had them both kicked out of country’s, he’s been to rehab for behavior and drugs and never graduated high school. I graduated on the honor roll. Served and retired from the military but I always got the cold shoulder and have been threatened before by my mom with her saying that she wanted nothing to do with me if I stayed with my ex wife do to my ex being disrespectful to her. My current wife had been nothing but nice, respectful and they always got along well up until this incident. My mom has turned anything I’ve said against me as I’ve been trying to reconcile this matter. She seems naive or manipulated by my brothers wife my brother or both. My mom hasn’t spoken to my wife and I only through txt in where she is blaming both of us for what has happened. My mom doesn’t even acknowledge my 2 year old daughter in which she seemed to really love also up until this incident.

  • Michael
    April 6, 2017 - 7:04 pm

    My two elder daughters have not spoken to me in 5 years, I have not seen them, but do send sms messages asking for a connection or join me for a breakfast but get no response. I am so upset I have isolated myself from society, never go out just so heart sore, do work though. Considering suicide every day.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      April 7, 2017 - 10:47 am

      Michael, suicide is not the answer. If you ever feel you can’t remain safe, please call emergency services (9-1-1 in the U.S.), call a friend to stay with you, or go to your nearest emergency room.

      If you’re not already seeing a counselor or therapist, I urge you to seek one at http://www.GoodTherapy.org or http://www.PsychologyToday.com. Take care.

  • John Viss
    April 10, 2017 - 2:52 am

    Tina,

    I read your article and I have done everything that you prescribe. I am lost without an answer. My relationship with my 3 teenage daughters continues to deteriorate.

    When their mother and I decided to divorce I was under the impression that it was a joint decision where blame was mitigated based upon the importance of our roles in our childrens life and our love for our children. I tried to bridge the chasm we had for many years and did that without my ex’s support. Almost immediately after separating, my daughters pulled away from me and they chose to forget about how close we really were and the many enjoyable times we shared.

    At the 6+ year mark, we are virtually estranged. I have gone through the courts to get therapy enforced to no avail as mid to late teens, it cannot be enforced. I believe that what started as PA, has my daughters effectively doing their part on auto pilot, without realization that they are doing me and more importantly themselves, harm. I have tried to rebuild my life and am remarried; not having my childrens acceptance leaves a gaping hole in my life.

    The really sad part is that through all this time we have not been able to build positive experience and that has become the new reality of our relationship.

    It is a vicious tornado that is devolving into its own vortex. I need help getting them back and have no solutions, I don’t want to accept that it may never be so.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      April 12, 2017 - 12:48 pm

      John, this is a sad time for sure, but with how young your kids are I’m hopeful that things won’t always be this way. I’m heartened to hear you say that you’ve done everything prescribed in the article. How did it feel like it went at the time you were doing those things? What did you notice about the responses you got at the time?

      Parenting teens and young adults can be a very one-sided affair. A parent can do absolutely everything “right” and still get no response, or a negative one. Needing their children’s acceptance can hinder parents’ ability to play the parent role effectively during what may be a challenging time.

      Therapy might help you. Individual therapy helps us clarify and resolve the “stuff” that we’re bringing to the table, independent of the other people involved. The self-knowledge and self-acceptance that result from a course of good therapy are indispensable to anyone enduring relationship problems with important others.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  • Lisa
    April 17, 2017 - 1:04 pm

    I have been estranged from my daughter for two and a half years. The grief from this loss was unbearable at first and I spiralled downwards into a very dark place. Eventually I learned to live with the loss, just as you would after the death of someone you love dearly. It never disappears completely, but my outlook is brighter than it ever was and generally I’m happy with my life. Five months ago I gave up trying to heal the rift, stopped trying to communicate, and truly accepted that my daughter would never be in my life again. I lived the pain of that loss with every fibre of my being. It affected my entire life and everything in it….. but then somehow I moved through it. I realised something I never understood before. I learned that no other being truly has the power to make me happy. It comes from within. It is a choice of how to be. I no longer define my happiness by whether my daughter loves me/wants me in her life. Life is easier now, with much less drama. A week ago, out of the blue, my daughter invited me to meet my new granddaughter for the first time. I don’t want to, but I will, partly because its the right thing to do. I don’t want to because it will be impossible not to love this first grandchild, but you see, I no longer trust my daughter to play fair. I lived through that pain and came out the other side and I never want to go there again. Unfortunately my walls of self protection will have to stay up. Any advice on how to handle this meeting?

    • Tina Gilbertson
      April 17, 2017 - 5:56 pm

      Lisa, I felt every emotion as I read your story. I can’t begin to describe how much I feel for you with this new development. It always seems to happen this way: You go through the ringer and finally give up on someone … and when your surrender is complete… they come back. What then?

      I humbly offer the only thoughts that occur to me as I try to imagine myself in your shoes. Maybe others will also weigh in. I think going in with no agenda, no expectations, no preconceptions but just being open to the experience, and knowing that it may be fleeting, is one way to approach it.

      Life can be challenging, but it’s in the challenges where our character is forged. The fact that you’re willing to visit instead of spitefully staying away to get back at your daughter says something about you as a person. I wish you only good things. Thank you for writing.

      • Lisa
        April 18, 2017 - 3:15 pm

        Thank you Tina, your reply sharing your empathy was exactly what I needed. I went into the meeting with exactly the attitude you explained. My daughter shocked me by acting as if nothing had ever occurred. Two and a half years of nothing. I don’t understand why the sudden change and I didn’t ask. I took it as it came, and though confused, I just accepted. I greeted my daughter with arms open and cuddled my beautiful granddaughter. The conversation stayed neutral and the visit lasted just over an hour. It was a beginning. I’ll let my daughter decide on the pace and wait for her to invite another visit. One day in the far future I will maybe try and broach the subject on what the sudden turn around was all about, but not for a long while. I forgive her, but I will never forget these last two and a half years and I will never completely trust her again. Again Thank you so very much for your kind words

  • Pat
    April 24, 2017 - 7:14 pm

    I had just returned from visiting my daughter on the opposite coast. I watched the four grandsons age 2 to 14 for three days so she and her husband could have some time away. they are struggling financially so I filled the refrigorator plus we have helped them out many times financially.
    I stayed a week to help out. When I left,they said to have a nice flight and thanked me for everything. I did not hear from them again for 10 days ,during which I called(phone numbers changed) e mailed and texted. after hearing from my sister ,who talks to my daughter often,I was told I was manipulative and interfering . I finally heard from my son in law who says that my daughtetr no longer wants to speak to us. I am a very laid back person and love my daughter and grandsons.I can’t figure out what triggered this and I am heartbroken. I can only visit twice a year and they have never come to see us,We have flown the older boys out for two weeks. When she married my son n law 3 years ago he kept saying she “wanted a mom she could spend time with and share her life with” When she lived closer to me she never wanted to spend time with me…..

  • Antonio Amador
    April 25, 2017 - 2:24 am

    Sometimes, when someone stops talking to you, the relationship is damaged for life. One of my so-called friends stopped talking to me one day. I ignored him and I didn’t bother to ask him what was going on as I am a PROUD animal. Him not talking to me when on for a long time. After that he tried to talk to me again and restart the “relationship” but, as far I was concerned, I had moved on, made new friends, etc., and I was not willing to put up with him. In short, I ignored him and refused to talk to him. If he has a stroke in front of me, I would not call an ambulance for him because, as far as I am concerned, he has been dead for sometime now. By all means, if you want to, refuse to talk to someone but remember that there will be consequences in due course for you. I have never stopped talking to someone I know and I have never laughed at someone because I think that they are inferior to me, etc. I treat people with respect. Maybe someone will say that I don’t have “character” and that’s why I am always polite to people (except the bastards who have insulted me). The word forgiveness is not in my dictionary. P.S. I do think that people who stop talking to someone without an explanation are like little children. At least, if they are cowards to talk face-to-face, they should put a note through the letter box.

  • Tina Gilbertson
    April 25, 2017 - 1:48 pm

    The stories of Antonio and Pat both remind me of the damage that can be done by non-assertive communication.

    Both the silent treatment described by Antonio and the triangulation (talking to someone about a problem you have with someone else) described by Pat are examples of this kind of communication.

    Refusing to talk directly to someone we have a problem with can cause big trouble and pain within families, as well as in workplaces and romantic relationships. It’s rarely easy to do, but clear, direct communication can save relationships that might otherwise be lost, and help things run more smoothly in work and life.

    Thanks, Antonio and Pat, for sharing your experiences.

  • Helen
    April 29, 2017 - 11:40 am

    Hi Tina, thank you for this article. It really opened my eyes. I have three adult children 22, 23 & 26 years old. I left my husband 8 years ago. I gave my children the choice at the time to come live with me or stay living with their dad. We had moved 7 times in the 8 years prior do to financial issues. I didn’t want to force them to move again, change schools, etc. But at the same time it broke my heart to not have them with me 24/7 I tried to explain why I was making this devastating choice. Their father and I just could not longer live or be together any longer. He was affecting my health and well being. Because of the situation I wasn’t being an effective parent to them. I was just their. I did tell them many times it was not any of their fault. I knew they were hurt and I tried to make up for leaving every chance I had. When they came on visitation to me I was the Disneyland mom. I made sure they got everything they needed and really tried to show my love for them. Over the years we’ve had an okay relationship. Not great, it always seems like they don’t quite know how to be with me. And I still feel guilty and awful for leaving them. We’ve never fought, we have sat down and talked about what the circumstances were and why I did what I did. My father past away this past January, he & I were very close. I planned his services and my children attended, everything seemed normal then. I was appointed trustee of my dad’s estate. I sent them their copies of all the documents. My sister was estranged from my dad for years so he only left her a very small portion. He left me a majority share and the grandchildren 16%each. Right after I sent everything out I got very sick bronchitis turned into pnuemonia. I was down for two weeks. I talked to my daughters a couple of times during this time. After I was better I noticed it was becoming more difficult to reach my kids and they weren’t returning my messages. I didn’t push because I know they are busy with work and school. But it became evident to me that they weren’t talking to me at all. I texted them asking why & what had happened with no response. Two weeks later I received a letter from my sister’s attorney stating that my kids were now her clients too and they wanted a full accounting of my dad’s assets. The request is no problem but I asked my kids why not ask me directly? What happened to our relationship that they felt it necessary to cut me off? I spoke to my ex husband and he said they all didn’t like the fact that I was receiving a larger portion of my dad’s estate and they all want to make sure I wasn’t “monkeying around” with the funds. I told him that was ludicrous and I was doing the trust to the letter of the law. He said prove it and maybe they would be interested in talking to me. That their attorney told them not to communicate with me and to leave them alone.
    I know this whole attorney thing is my bitter sisters idea because it’s her MO with everything in her life. And I know my ex is all for anything that will hurt me. What I don’t understand is my kids going along with it when I would never miss appropriate my dad’s estate assets. I am shocked by this, I asked them had I ever been dishonest before? Why would they think so now? They won’t answer my pleas for an explanation or why would they follow my sister when they know she’s a very difficult person. My ex just laughed & is enjoying what he calls vindication.
    I stopped attempting to communicate with my kids. I didn’t know what else to do since they aren’t answering. I have no idea how to rectify things with my children. I sent my sister’s attorney what she requested. Their is nothing misappropriated. And if this is the only reason my children followed my sister in this I’m very dissapointed in them. I truly thought they knew better. So where do I go from hete?
    I think more then anything else that they are still hurt by my leaving 8 yrs ago. In my mind that has to be the only treason th hey could be so easily swayed. Please let me know your opinion and advice! I would be so grateful.

  • Melissa
    May 12, 2017 - 11:35 pm

    Does this work with friends as well?

    In both cases I know I hurt them but I made the mistake of trying to explain why…and neither of them are speaking to me. And that hurts just as much, if not more, because they were both people I respected.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      May 20, 2017 - 5:13 pm

      Melissa, I’m sorry to hear your friends stopped speaking to you. That does hurt.

      I wrote this article originally with friends, coworkers, siblings, etc. in mind — not just parents. The principles should apply in general.

      You might also want to take a look at my blog post on how to apologize for tips on winning folks back when they’re upset with you.

      Please remember that anyone can make a mistake. It’s okay to forgive yourself!

  • Elsa
    May 24, 2017 - 12:29 pm

    Hi Tina great article !!! I started googling and why my 25-year-old daughter does not acknowledge me not even for Mother’s Day i’ve always been there for her every step of the way !! I recently married I’m 42 decided after my daughter was an adult that I would find my significant other so I did she’s not happy about it she’s very selfish and always wanted me to herself when my son that is 18 now was born she was jealous about that too I will never forget when my son was small she use to tell him (I wish you were never born ) she still to this day is jealous of her brother and mad at me because I married I tried just about everything to make her happy but I am just so tired to the core . But like you said in this article it’s best just to let them go and let them know the door will always be open when there ready!! Thank you for this great article made me understand A couple things .

  • Leanne
    June 2, 2017 - 11:19 pm

    Loved your article! However, I am puzzled about letting them be if they refuse to mend things. It seems to me that if you love someone enough, you don’t just drop it, you keep trying to win them over (while of course doing the things you’ve recommended, like not trying to argue old issues and letting them know you made bad choices/mistakes in the past and apologizing)… thank you!!

  • WendyG
    July 10, 2017 - 12:20 pm

    Hi,
    My situation is similar to so many already posted here. My situation has to do with sibling alienation. I am the oldest of 8 children. Our parents divorced when I was a teenager and the three oldest girls took on may responsibilities after that, household chores and child care. Through it all I suspect we may have been considered sort of parents by the younger ones? Anyway one of the younger girls ( we are 10 years apart) her and I became very close. Eventually when I married, she came to live with us while she finished collage. We’ve gone through many challenges in our lives and I always felt I did my best to be there for her, just as a true sister and friend would do. She and her husband faced a serious challenge a few years back and my second husband and I took on major support roles for the two of them. Know one else in the family knows to this day about all of that. We are now 63 and 53 and have seen each other through many difficulties, most recently the passing of my second husband of 10 years and our sisters passing. When my second husband was alive we were very close with her family. We vacationed together each year and celebrated birthdays and family holidays together. I felt so blessed to have my sister as my best friend. I adored her. In the past year and a half, my husband passed away and then 3 weeks later another of our sisters….both of these deaths caused me incredible grief, that I still cope with. My husband was an exceptional man who I loved deeply and my sister was an amazing wife, mother and sister. We feel her loss every day. Since their passing, the sister I was the closest to has alienated me. This past Christmas my entire family was invited to her home except me. When I heard they all toasted my late sister and husband my heart broke. I have written her letters asking what is going on and sharing with her how I feel rejected and betrayed by her actions…she refuses to return my phone calls and when we do happen to be at family functions refuses to acknowledge I am even in the room. I keep hoping the next time I see her she’ll respond with a smile or acknowledgement but nothing. In my last letter to her I asked how many times do I keep reaching out before I give up? I have asked her to meet up to clear the air, but nothing. It is causing problems amongst my other siblings and my ageing mother who wants this resolved before she is no longer here. I feel rather hopeless about all of this and am hurting very much. Out of all our friends and family she and her husband were two people who I thought could understand my grief and knew my husband so well and adored him. I am at a complete loss to understand this situation and know I should be moving past it all but I feel so let down, betrayed and hurt. I would appreciate an outsiders point of view. I know I have to determine what kind of relationship I want to have with her if one at all…we are family and as we have already lost one sister…it breaks my heart to think of the next loss in our family and how that will manifest itself. I am left feeling so confused. Who does this to a friend? am family member? I can’t help but think if what we had mattered to her, she would have spoken to me about what ever the problem is. I have never had a cross word with her and always been in her corner…I would appreciate another point of view on this. thank you

  • Chandra
    July 24, 2017 - 1:14 pm

    Many good points in your article. We have a son who is no longer speaking to us. When he became engaged he asked us to help with the wedding. We asked for a few days to try and arrange some money for him. When we didnt have it for him in less then a week – he got verbally abusive towards us and told us to FORGET IT- he would do it on his own. All thru text messages. of course we tried calling him straight away to sort out why he was so angry as we were in the process of arranging it for him. He would not speak to us. That was in February. Fast forward to today- he has still not communicated to us other then a single line text on Mother’s day and Father’s day. He has shut out his sister and her fiancé, and now is friends and parents. He is missing her wedding in August.. telling her HAVE A NICE LIFE. They were so close that it’s heartbreaking to her our daughter say things like- he was supposed to be my best man. If someone told me things would turn out this way, I’d tell them NEVER in 1000 years.

    We are beyond heartbroken and at a point of real non understanding.
    We find it hard to believe this could happen over money that we told him we had.
    We have cried, pleaded and begged him for a phone call to SPEAK to him- but he wont communicate any way except text or email.

    So- any advice???

  • Kirsty
    July 30, 2017 - 2:25 pm

    Great article. I haven’t spoken to my brother for 6 years and I have no idea why he has cut me out. He has also made our parents choose between the 2 of us, which they refused to do and now he doesn’t talk to them either.
    He won’t explain why he hates me so much and he has even turned other family members against me. X

  • Hendrebb
    August 1, 2017 - 10:43 pm

    I have a brother.. not by blood but by bond. I consider him as my real brother and we get along well. But sometimes we do fight about things he dont like. Like maybe about interfering into something he does which in my opinion is just a misunderstanding. Maybe i am just overprotective of him and sumtimes overdoing it. He got mad at me and hes not talking to me and it hurts me so much. He said that he dont want me into his life because of this.. Hes 22 and im 29.. and i know that hes still a kid inside. Can u pls help me what to do?

  • Allene
    August 18, 2017 - 3:59 pm

    My children have decided to cut me out if their lives and I do t know why. My daughters boyfriend told me I put myself before my daughter, I was a parasite, and I wasted my education. My daughter did not deny it. I have always put her needs ahead of mine but they seem to begrudge me buying an iPad for myself. My daughter is 23 and her boyfriend is 24. When they were in college I bought food for them when they didn’t have money and even paid for their heating oil when they couldn’t afford it. That was the nstead of saving money toward my own retirement. I am divorced. I have acknowledged and apologized for mistakes I have made. I never claimed to be perfect and I never relied on them for anything. Even when they asked me to move in with them, I didn’t. I am just so hurt and angry right now and I don’t know what to do. I just started seeing a therapist. I just don’t know how much more I can take.

  • Carol
    August 20, 2017 - 12:27 pm

    I’m so glad I found this sight ! Reading people’s situations. My 20 year old daughter cut me out of her life a few months ago , it’s a long story as they always are and not knowing what to do found the reading very helpful

    • Sharon Bamburg
      November 6, 2017 - 10:23 pm

      It’s staggering how often this incredibly painful situation happens in life. Estrangement appears to be near epidemic proportions these days. It’s bewildering that no desire to communicate or repair the damage exists. It’s as if relationships became disposable, nothing of value to a segment of society anymore. Respect for family, appreciation for fellow human beings looks like it’s becoming extinct, I wonder what has caused this disregard for family and its significance. You are not alone unfortunately, but I feel sorry for anyone experiencing the emotional turmoil of estrangement, feeling abandoned, insignificant, unloved, ignored, not valued. It’s gut wrenching, frustrating, maddening,confusing. You wonder if there is hope or if you should try to heal, go on as if you’ve experienced a death, yet you know they’re alive. What is realistic, optimistic, pessimistic? Who knows? I’m so sorry you are dealing with this.

  • Elaine
    September 25, 2017 - 12:29 pm

    My story is not unique but it is very painful. My husband is 11 years older than me. He is 61 and I just turned 50. I met him when I was 21, married him at 26 and had two boys by the time I was 30. I knew he had a rough upbringing….both parents were alcoholics and abusive. He is the oldest of 4.boys. He left home at 15 and never looked back. About 7 years ago, I received a private message on FB from someone claiming to be his son. He denied it but eventually the truth came out. He had met this girl when he was 18, she got pregnant and one month before his 21st birthday, she left with his 1 year old son. The year was 1976. He put it behind him and never spoke of it again. Literally. He never mentioned it. When I found out, I was devastated. Not that it would have changed anything but more so because I believed my sons should know…he didn’t want them to. That said, I also made the decision to hold off because my oldest (16 at the time) could not have handled it. He would have fled. I also made the decision to forgive my husband for not telling me. Fast forward to August 2017. The 42 year old managed to send friend requests to both my boys. The youngest took it in stride like he does everything. We talked and answered his questions. The oldest was talking for a few days and then he lost it. He has blocked my husband and I as well as his younger brother from his phone and social media. He has “unfriended” every member of mine and my husband’s family. I cannot get him to talk at all. He internalizes everything….always has. The sad part is that he is getting married in September 2018 and they found out they were expecting a baby in Feb 2018. He vowed we would never know our grandchildren. He reacted exactly the way I knew he would 7 years ago. The only difference now is that I know where he is. His girlfriend talks to me and updates me on the pregnancy. Now, I am a mess. Started counselling because I don’t know how I am supposed to live my life without him. He is in the army and is 2.5 hours away. We didn’t see each other often but we talked every couple of weeks. His girlfriend is not pushing him nor do I want her to. I had already offered to give them a substantial amount of $$$ for their wedding so they could have it at their dream venue. I have stuff for the baby that he now doesn’t want. My husband is hurting as much as I am, he just doesn’t show it. I don’t know what to do.

  • Elle Millar
    October 5, 2017 - 3:04 pm

    Tina Gilbertson. What very kind person you must be to be responding to everyone’s comments! I’m not really seeking advice on my specific situation.
    I came across this site while trying to deal with an ex boyfriend who took our breakup harder than expected. WE both have abandonment issues, so I made certain to make him know that I cared about him, despite a problem with compatibility. i fully expected to be friends but his response was hostile and blamed me for things I had not known about. and withdrew. Unfortunately, we circulate in the same hobby community, and Ive felt a need to explain to people and defend myself. that need doesn’t seem rational and it causes some problems. He doesn’t like that and feels gossiped about, and i have trouble not talking about it it, despite being aware that it doesn’t help.
    At this time Im just trying to keep myself busy outside of that community so my own distress about the unresolved conflict doesn’t make things worse.
    Thanks for your writing and being kind to people in need.
    Emm

  • Sharon
    October 8, 2017 - 7:57 am

    I havent seen my 19 yr old daughter in 18mths i got married to an abusive alcoholic tried to keep our family together she moved in with her dad. My husband is now sober but ive heard my daughter wont talk to me if at all unless i get my own place. She says i put him 1st which i can c her point i felt caught and i should have left with her. My heart is breaking

  • Anon
    October 23, 2017 - 7:10 pm

    Very one sided. What should you do if the person cuts you off, without explanation, and won’t tell you why. What happens if that person treats you so badly that you want to die. My sister cut me out of her life. If she cooks she’ll cook for everyone else, she ignores me, goes through my stuff, talks about me behind my back, pretends I don’t exist… it makes me physically sick to have to go back home and see her. I don’t know anything about her anymore. It’s been almost two years since we last spoke. She’s told people she doesn’t like me and that she has two sisters (not three). She’s told her friends not to talk to me and just to pretend that I don’t exist.

  • Sharon Bamburg
    November 6, 2017 - 10:10 pm

    My son and his disabled wife eloped 10 years the weekend my daughter planned a surprise birthday party for me. Then they didn’t see us for 3 months. The goal was to break the bond my son and I had according to my daughter in law. After awhile we got together but would be absent for holidays or show up.late. We bought them a place to live, wheelchair lift, furniture, took them on outings and vacations, helped with kids when they came along. We tried assisting in every way possible due to our love for them and because of the disability. Somehow we offended them and rather than tell us, they blocked our phone numbers, unfriended us on Facebook. We noticed texts were ignored. Eventually we tried sending an email asking why. We received a couple of unfriendly replies and the last of accusations were minor or either made up by the daughter in law. It’s been months. I adore those little ones and was so close to them and them to me. I feel devastated. I sent a note apologizing, admitting where I was wrong, offered for us to go to counseling together, mentioned I respected their decision to cut us off, said we would always love them and be there for them. I got no reply and no idea if my email was ever read. I sit and wait as the holidays approach cautiously hoping perhaps maybe we might see them.

  • Patrizia
    November 19, 2017 - 3:48 am

    Dear Tina, my daughter is nearly 26 and, after a two year marriage, she split up and she is now living with another young man. When she told me she had fallen out of love with the husband I just told her that whatever decision she was going to make I was going to support her. She was born in Africa where I had been living for several years. Due to my narcissist husband and his constant betrayals I left him and took my daughter with me. He had always been a terrible husband and a father. He was quiet relieved to see us leaving. We travelled a bit. We moved several times till my daughter got accepted in the most prestigious ballet school in Italy. Three years later she begged me to leave as being a tall girl had become a problem. The teachers didn’t make her work hard enough in order to strengthen up her body therefore we begun to travel again in order to audition in more prestigious international ballet schools in the world. Finally at the age of 16 she moved to Germany where she lived for 6 years and then to London where she has been living for the past 3 years. The first two years apart were very tough for both of us. I cried all the time and so did she. I gave her the option to come back and pick a different sport but she was determined to become a ballet dancer. The bipolar Teachers begun a subtle manipulation where by kids would be told off if caught crying as crying was a sign of weakness. The teacher advised the kids not to call the family as they were never gonna become professional dancers as the family might have made them weaker. Over the years I saw my daughter change radically. At the end of a show, back in Germany, I was so moved like most parents were and, soon as my daughter saw me with tears, she ordered me to get a grip on. I was flabbergasted by her reaction. She froze me. She had lost her sense of humor and had become a harsh young woman. As the years were passing by I felt put aside. She’d call less and less and when I saw her, she was very aggressive. I was desperate, I couldn’t reason with her and with her verbal aggression so I also lost my temper and we ended up arguing and shouting at each other. Each time I came back home I felt totally empty and deeply hurt. Years went by where she wouldn’t answer the phone. She was the only one who decided when to call so I just had to stay put and wait. Over the years her neglect ion, luck of love and empathy made me fall into a dark tunnel whereby I was operated three time till the doctor decided to take my uterus, ovaries and tubes out. After the operation I cried so much as I had also lost my daughter’s first nest. It took me one and half years to get better again. During the operation my daughter asked me to come and visit but I didn’t wanna be a drag for her so I pretended everything was just fine. If I called her she was always too busy for me. She came up with millions of excuses in order not to talk and there I was all alone in my misery. One day she took a contract to work as a dancer on a ship and during those 9 months she had never showed me her face on skype. I can’t describe the excruciating pain that was pulling me apart inside. At some point I remember thinking that it wasn’t worth living without her love. To cut a long story short, every time I visit her or when she comes to visit me, I am always so loving which I think irritates her and we always end up arguing as, for no reason, she become verbally aggressive and I react. If I call her she may answer but it is rare. She will call me once every ten days or so. If I send messages she replies days later and she is always brief. Sometimes I see her on the chat so I try to have a conversation with her but she is literally coming up with millions of excuses. “Sorry, I am going in the shower, sorry I am working, sorry I am tired, I am cooking, I am in bed…”…etc. Recently she invited me to go to Greece to meet her boyfriend’s family and during those three days she was totally defensive and distant. Not once did she relate to me as her mom. I had to smile with everyone and pretend I was having a great time when my daughter was the sweetest girl to everyone except towards her own mom. Over the years I have become weaker and more emotional as my heart can no longer take so much pain and yet she tells me off when she sees me weak. I may not be well educated like her father but I have given up my career, my life in order to make all her dreams come true. I know it is wrong as we should always come first but she so desperately needed my help so I gave it to her with my unconditional love. Today I am being accused of having done too much. She will always call me when she has a problem and I will always bend over backwards to help her and what do I get in return? Aggression. She corrects me when I talk, she doesn’t like I keep more than one toothbrush in the bathroom ( I brush my teeth with all of them as I have the soft one, the medium and the hard one), she doesn’t like that I keep electric wires in a draw when she thinks I should throw them all away. She criticizes me on how I react when I forget something. According to her, my tune of voice is too apprehensive…etc… Sometimes I truly think she doesn’t like me. She thanks me for not having spoken badly about her father as today they have managed to mend their relationship. Actually today, my daughter describes her father as a great dad and husband and how well educated he is therefore he could talk about anything under the sun. Her father is rich and I am poor. He remarried and has a wife, two other daughters and a dog and a huge family all around him. What can I offer? ME! My own family is totally dysfunctional. Just me it isn’t very interesting, I guess. I noticed that when I was going out with a man steadily Jenny was happy and she became closer to me. When I left him after almost 4 years she cried so much. He was another liar narcissist and I guess I was the usual codependent.
    Dear Tina, please forgive me for this long message but what can I do in order to change the situation?
    Thank you

    • Tina Gilbertson
      November 20, 2017 - 2:37 pm

      Dear Patrizia, and all broken-hearted parents who are looking to ease the pain of estrangement from an adult child…

      I’m sorry to say that I can’t begin to address your personal situation in this format. If you’re in one of the places where I’m authorized to offer therapy (see my Psychotherapy page), I’d be happy to meet with you and try to help you one-on-one.

      For everyone who’s not able to afford the time or expense of personal consultation either in person or by distance, I wrote my Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. It remains my best and most thorough advice on how to begin to resolve difficulties in those precious relationships with adult children who are currently keeping their distance. Start reading it today and find out if it speaks to you: http://tinagilbertson.com/estrangement-guide-1.

      Many others have found it extremely helpful. See the Testimonials page to hear what they have to say.

      I wish every family a peaceful, joyful reconciliation in which all can feel seen, heard, understood and respected.

      Shalom.