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When Adult Children Won’t Talk to Their Parents

Photo of estrangement by T. GilbertsonThere’s an article about estrangement on my website that gets more feedback than any article I’ve written before or since. In that article, I offer strategies for the person who’s been cut off by someone and wants to get back together.

The gist of it is this: Like it or not, whether you agree with them or not, the “cutter-offer” perceives a reason for cutting you off.  If you want to reunite, it’s up to you to make amends rather than expecting them to see the error of their ways. In short, I recommend openness and humility.

By far the people I hear from most about that article are parents of adult children who want nothing more to do with them. Some rejected parents don’t approve of the advice provided in the article, feeling that it puts too much responsibility on them. Their feedback sounds like this:

“My child is cruel / has rejected me unfairly.”

“My child is lying about having been abused.”

“My child is selfish, unreasonable, or ungrateful.”

“My child is under the influence of someone who doesn’t want him/her to contact me.”

The problem with all of these points, of course, is the boomerang effect that occurs whenever a parent blames her own child for poor behavior. Children who learn kindness, fairness, honesty, consideration for others, reason and gratitude don’t typically reject those values as adults, nor do they choose partners who encourage them to be cruel, unfair, dishonest, selfish, unreasonable or ungrateful towards their loved ones.

One reader whose adult child had ceased all contact offered this perhaps unwittingly honest feedback: “I don’t agree we have to do something wrong.  Sometimes we just raise self centered kids.”

Not being able to withstand the criticism inherent in being rejected is at the heart of the problem.

The Tragedy of Estrangement

Let’s say you’re my child, and that you’re the best thing that ever happened to me. When you were little, I did my best to give you what you needed. In truth, I did far better by you than my parents did by me. Your well-being was never far from my thoughts, though you may not have realized it.

I really did the best I could do, and like so many other parents who love their children, deep down I was always insecure about the job I was doing in raising you. If you now tell me I hurt you despite my efforts not to, I might feel so broken by that “criticism” that I need you to be wrong.

If I tried my best and still didn’t do as well as I wanted to, what does that say about me? And what have I done to my child? And here’s a taboo thought: What did my parents do to me?

It’s all too much; you must be mistaken.

My trying to make you wrong will hurt you further. My trying to make you wrong will make it impossible for us to have a quality relationship.

Until I can stand to hear your story, I can’t understand your experience. Until I understand your experience, I can’t connect with the compassion that would compel me to apologize with all my heart. Until I offer you a heart-felt apology, you won’t be able to hear me say that I didn’t mean to hurt you.

Since I can’t stand to hear your truth and you won’t hear mine, we can’t have a relationship anymore. And all because I love you so much that I literally cannot stand to know that I hurt you.

This is the tragedy of estrangement.

Read more thoughts on estrangement by Tina:

Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children

Differentiation: “Normal” Estrangement from Parents?

Differentiation, Part 2

Estrangement Takes Two

Estrangement Takes Two, Part 2

What to Do When Someone Won’t Talk to You

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 ReconnectionClub.com, an online support and information hub for parents. 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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0 Responses to "When Adult Children Won’t Talk to Their Parents"

  • Julie
    April 29, 2012 - 6:28 am

    I do believe that humility in any parent is essential, including the willingness to thoroughly listen to and understand a child’s pain. I also believe that estranged parents often suffer from extreme self-condemnation and need gentle and kind guidance, just like anyone else working to pull their way through hell. What has left me frustrated after having read your post is the thought of parents who have reached the point of humility that you have described, but still feel their hands to be tied. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and valid points.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      April 29, 2012 - 5:19 pm

      A very important point, Julie. Thank you. It is truly tragic when a parent has the courage to open his/her eyes, ears and heart in the face of such a painful rejection, and finds it too late to make amends. You underlined the pain (“hell”) of estrangement, and I appreciate that.
      A quick note about extreme self-condemnation. For some rejected parents, this can be a way to continue focusing on their own experience instead of on the child’s.
      As someone who’s worked with people on both sides of estrangement, I can tell you for certain that it’s often interpreted that way by the rejecting child. In fact, it’s frequently seen as evidence of the parental narcissism that drove the child away to begin with.
      It’s such a brutal, tangled knot; no wonder people are so deeply hurt when the parent-child relationship goes awry — on both sides … and for siblings as well. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

      • Adpoted Mom
        May 9, 2013 - 10:24 am

        And what if the narcissism is not parental but from the adult child. Yes, I raised her with self love. But I also raised her with many positive values.

        • Tina Gilbertson
          May 9, 2013 - 2:38 pm

          If the child thinks the parent is a narcissist, and the parent thinks the child is a narcissist, a standoff will occur. Sometimes this solidifies into estrangement.

          Hopefully in your case, Adopted Mom, the positive values you raised her with (which you undoubtedly also possess) will win out. Good luck.

      • Joyce Newsom
        October 15, 2013 - 12:06 pm

        You keep saying “child”, they are adults and you my dear may be a therapist, but you obviously have no real insight into this epidemic and it is an epidemic. I am an elderly parent and I speak to other elderly parents on a weekly basis, they all speak of how they have been abandoned by their adult offspring. In many cases the elderly parent is too old to be of service as a babysitter or no longer has unlimited income to dish out. Think and do some research before you profess to be an expert on a subject. You excoriate the elderly parent and say they may be narcissistic, it seems to me this may be hitting close to home for you. In most cases there are no amends to be made and some adult offspring, no matter how they were taught, turn out to be ungrateful, insensitive people.

        • Klee
          October 15, 2013 - 5:53 pm

          Joyce Newsom, I could not agree with you more, your right on the money, children have very little respect for their parents these days, it is as if we have raised a generation of ungrateful children, very sad. Not all parents are guilty of much at all if anything, we did the best we could, nobody is perfect, children should respect their parents, visit them, care for them, my wife is from the Philippines, and boy do I love the way their treat their elders, North Americans could really learn a lot from Asians, and I mean a lot!!!!!

          • Joyce Newsom
            October 15, 2013 - 6:31 pm

            Yes Klee, the problem in this country is the parents want to give there children more than they had and in doing so cripple them in doing everything for them and giving them everything. This creates ungrateful adults who feel no responsibility for an elderly parent who may need help of some sort. The people in this country could certainly take a lesson from countries who revere their elders and care for them gently and lovingly. I do know some parents can be more than difficult, but they are still the people who brought you into this world and if there was no abuse then get over the fact they didn’t buy you a Corvette!

    • estranged Mom
      July 18, 2013 - 8:43 am

      I couldn’t agree more. After all these are not children anymore. There can be the option of consensus but not when the line in the sand has been put down.

    • jan
      November 6, 2013 - 5:06 pm

      That where I am 🙁 My hands are tied :((((

      • Julie Gym
        November 7, 2013 - 3:47 am

        I feel ya, babe. There is hope. There are tools that go way beyond analyzing, and the most effective one I have discovered is prayer. Consistent, determined, unrelenting prayer. No one can take prayer away from you. No one can make you stop doing it. There is tremendous power in prayer. It’s what brought my (young adult) baby back to me and to this side of the family. One child down and one to go. … There is another element that I have also found essential — our part as parents in being a team with God: striving each day to be the most authentic, mature, responsible, reliable, realized person we can be — and preparing for their return. They may never return, but we can always pray diligently for their safety and protection, strive for our own joy and prepare for them — because you never know from one day to the next. 🙂 My faith — that God knows what He is doing and that He is working it out for the best for all of us — is growing steadily. You are SO not alone. Love and big hugs to you.

  • Julie
    April 30, 2012 - 1:32 pm

    Your words, especially as a therapist, have much power. Please be more careful with your judgments and your generalizations.

    • Elizabeth
      May 1, 2013 - 10:38 pm

      Yes, please. I’m one of five children. Four of us have close loving relationships with our parents. One of us has a much different perspective of us and my parents. I think both my parents and my sibling are at fault for their tumultuous relationship. It is ludicrous to generalize the way that you have.

  • Brenda
    May 2, 2012 - 11:27 am

    This line, the last line of the article “And all because I love you so much that I literally cannot stand to know that I hurt you.” does not apply to those who parents continue the hurting process over and over and over. I can forgive past hurts, it’s the lies that she continues to tell that are unforgivable.

  • Brenda
    May 2, 2012 - 12:27 pm

    After reading it over, and reading the comments, I decided to comment again. This article still gives the Narcissistic parent “an out”. The fact is, the parent with NPD, isn’t at all sorry, they have no idea that they did any thing wrong. If they seek out therapy, they will fail to mention the hurt they have caused. It’s very one-sided according to them. In my final letter to my mother, I wrote that we could not have a relationship until she apologized for the lies she told about me, and the hurt she caused me. She wrote back with 2 new lies about me. And she cries to the extended family that she doesn’t know what she did to deserve this, when I TOLD her. These parents don’t need an out, they need a wake up call.

    • Mary
      December 5, 2012 - 10:40 am

      Brenda wow your comments are so one sided, what about the Narcissistic Child getting an out? Every article I read leans towards the adult children slamming the Parents. People have no idea the true impact of estrangement. This is not a game it affects not only the adult children and the parents, it deeply affects the innocent Grandchildren. This type of thinking sends a message that it’s all right to cut out family what kind of society do we live in?? One full of selfish adults posting pictures on Facebook and Twitter with every move they make. What happened to human contact and compassion??? Just remember Brenda,you did it to your mom so you have set an example to your children, odds are you will be on a blogg like this in a couple of years sounding like me. You haven’t walked in our shoes so you have no idea the nightmare we live!!! Don’t believe you are immune or you are going to be or you are a perfect parent, one day it’s gonna bite you. And ya know what!! Brenda you need a wake up call!!

      • desertrosemusing
        May 26, 2013 - 6:46 am

        Oh won’t people think of the grandchildren. Concern-trolls be trolling.

      • ShawnS
        September 1, 2013 - 7:24 pm

        Oh, we thought of our children (the grandchildren) and decided it would be better to keep them from an abuser like their selfish grandmother.

        • rgh
          September 2, 2013 - 8:20 am

          right on the money. It took me 6 months to come to terms with the fact that i would have to end the relationship with my mother. Not a light decision to make. With my baby on the way my mother was not going to be in this childs life. People are responsible for their own behaviours and decisions and must take responsibility for their actions and that is their burdon to deal with. Just because they are family doesnt give them a free passs to be negative or abusive.

      • Klee
        October 9, 2013 - 3:20 pm

        Right on Mary, I agree with you 100%, as parents we make mistakes, we ask for forgiveness, and we raise our children to be compassionate (at least I did), in the end if they cut us off, they choose to close the door, that is the child’s choice, not ours, and I can tell you this is hurting me and my grand kids, this is doing no person on either side any good, it is my child that chooses to do this, not me, I am willing to move forward, draw a line, forgive and forget (as much as possible), but no way anybody can move forward without compassion and a willingness to move forward and let the past go, of course people get hurt, we all do, get over it!!! Time to move on, the sooner the batter, yes that is easy for me to say, but it is the truth, why waste years and cut your parents off from your grand kids so you can be “right”, what a waste, and what a terrible society we live in, I hear stories like mine all the time, so sad, and such a waste, awful, sad and terrible

  • Tripsa Daisy
    May 30, 2012 - 11:37 pm

    I don’t blame my daughter for her behavior – I want her to take responsibility for it. If setting boundaries around her pain inflicting acts is ‘wrong’ then perhaps I am the monster she believes me to be. She’s a grown up, making adult decisions and inflicting adult sized pain. I cannot be held responsible for that…

    • marie genet
      April 9, 2013 - 10:00 pm

      Thank you for your comment!!!! I agree!!!!!!

    • desertrosemusing
      May 26, 2013 - 6:50 am

      Thank you for your comment, but I completely disagree. As an adult daughter considering distancing myself from my family because of my mother, I take full responsibility for my actions. This is not an article about narcissistic children, but you and my mother should form a club for people who can make anything and everything they read about them and their problems. Even when my mother “reached out” to me, she made it about herself. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life while I try to get better so that I can be a better wife, a better friend, and eventually a better parent. So thank you. For co-opting the comments section in this article and writing a completely pointless, completely self-centered comment.

      • Annette
        June 10, 2013 - 7:37 am

        @destrosemusin Apparently you think this article is only about you and your situation. I refuse to take responsibility for another adults cruel actions. You have never been in that person’s shoes and have no right to judge them. If your mother is really a narcissist then move on. Mine is FOR REAL and I guarantee she could care less if you go away. That’s part of the disease. YOUR comment is pointless and self centered.Grow up.

    • Lisa
      July 21, 2013 - 5:17 pm

      Sometimes the parent causes the conflict with their children. My Mother passed away there years ago. My sibling all went against my Mother’s wishes in her will. They hate my father. My Father is their Step Father. I did everything to love and protect him. My Father and I had a conflict and he wanted to take me out for dinner he offered to pay) to resolve the problem. He then calls back and tells my husband and I, he is not rich . He will only pay 12.00 dollars. I was in shock due to He is a Minister and my spouse and I have given to him unconditionally. Never the less, we did not go. Afterward, I would call him and he would say, I am busy. To make a long story short, he has done so many wicked and hurtful things to me. He had given me power of attorney. He removed me from being power of attorney. He sent the document certified on my job. He did not call me for my birthday and my daughter’s birthday. He preach love and God’s forgiveness but does not live what he preach. So, I understand taking responsibility for your part. My Father has said and done some hurtful things. When he told me to come get my deceased Mother’sclothes or he would get rid of them. I lost my mind and said somethings that I regret. He remarried on June 1,2013. I now feel he may have been seeing this church member all because of how he has treated me. He also removed me off of all accounts. How can a parent and Minster treat you in this manner but he preach every Sunday to his flock.

  • Patty Flaherty
    October 4, 2012 - 11:37 am

    Thank you for this informative article. Lots to think about and some direction in our journey.

  • Clarice
    October 8, 2012 - 2:55 pm

    So sad that you consider yourself a therapist. Sadder that some will listen to this nonsense.

  • Tina Gilbertson
    October 9, 2012 - 11:04 am

    I really appreciate all of you taking the time to share your thoughts. Keep them coming!

  • Louise
    October 18, 2012 - 9:55 am

    It is interesting that in your evaluation of the parent you do not mention the underlying truth, that, regardless of the gory deatils the parent is still the parent and in most cases, except the very rare ones that may involve actual physical or mental abuse, and I don’t mean imagined abuse but real abuse, the parent has a right to expect at least a margin of respect from thier children no matter what age. If that is not present in the relationship it leaves very little room for a lasting reconciliation. There is no shame in expecting an adult child to act respectfully or take responsibility for their actions.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      October 18, 2012 - 5:12 pm

      Louise, thank you for your comment. Many people all over the world agree with you that parents have a right to be respected by their children. My own observation about the way the world works is that respect is always earned. I’ve never seen anyone earn genuine respect just by claiming it.

      • chris
        May 21, 2013 - 10:14 am

        I think many parents confuse respect and fear. I acted the way my parent wanted me to because I feared her. As soon as I was financially and emotionally independent, fear didn’t work anymore. Without her having built a foundation of mutual respect, it just wasn’t there. She drank for years, brought an abuser into our home who hurt me and raged when I opted out of some family events as I grew older and made time for me husband and kids. And yet, she wants me to defer to her, to give her a mother of the year award. I could love her and be compassionate toward her and have gratitude for what she got very right, but I cannot respect her and I will not model after her which I know hurts her. I cannot defer to her just because she is my parent.

      • desertrosemusing
        May 26, 2013 - 7:00 am

        Thank you for your professional perspective on this. My parents were of the ilk that respect was “given” to elders, including themselves, but they repeatedly disrespect my choices in life and undermine my feelings by making any and every issue we have about my emotions and not their actions.

        What is even more funny to me is that some mothers heavy-handedly demand respect because they GAVE BIRTH TO YOU, but they forget completely that it was THEIR choice to bring a child into this world, not the other way around. Being a mother is a tremendous responsibility, but it is not one that automatically comes with love and respect, and I think a lot of mothers in this forum seem to suffer from this delusion. Demanding respect is no way to get it, and I feel like everyone who feels this way is completely missing the point of your article. I know if I sent it to my mom, I would get a huge “WHOOSH.”

    • Mary
      December 5, 2012 - 10:43 am

      Louise you touched on a good point if anything we deserve the respect but that’s gone from our society it’s now a “what feels good to me” world and to heck with the consequences.

    • kATHY
      August 23, 2013 - 4:17 pm

      I agree with you Louise….I think adults that cant show some kind of love and respect have a mental illness of some kind

    • MJ73
      September 29, 2013 - 12:24 pm

      You are mistaken, you get what you give, and if you want to get biblically correct, KJV advises children to honor and respect, advises parents not to drive children to wrath, then advises adult children to cleave to their husbands and wives. Therefore, they are to become their own persons it life, and marriage estranged from parents. Funny how parents demand respect, but fail to give it driving their children to wrath! Funny, the more biblical writers knew this 2000+ years ago.

    • Klee
      October 9, 2013 - 3:25 pm

      right on, agree 100%, glad somebody here is level headed, not because I agree with you, but because it is true, children should respect their parents, even though the past may not be perfect, as it is in any family, we still should respect our parents, love them for what they did right, not what they did wrong, AMEN

  • Brian
    October 28, 2012 - 3:44 am

    It is wrong to tell good people that they are doing the right thing by turning the other cheek every time someone hurts them. It just encourages bad people in their behavior and tortures good people with guilt for having any feelings at all.

    • Klee
      October 9, 2013 - 3:29 pm

      WOW Brian, I feel the exact same as you do, cutting people off only hurts everybody involved, wanting to be right or needing to be right only stops all growth, the sad part, is in my situation, my grand kids are the real victims, and it is NOT MY CHOICE, no matter what I did, this estrangement is not right, no matter how you slice it, no matter if the child has “rights” of feelings, it is causing a lot of pain unnecessarily to all involved, at the very least both should see a unbiased councilor, at the very minimum

  • Tina Gilbertson
    November 18, 2012 - 6:34 pm

    Teresa (comment not posted due to length and confidentiality issues), thanks for writing. I’m glad you survived, and sometimes all one can do is to decide purposely to move on with one’s life. I wish you the very best.

  • Lola
    December 5, 2012 - 7:18 am

    I really liked this article and agreed with it whole heartedly. Parents seem to think that just because they had children, that those children should love them always NO matter what. They will also say “I took care of you for all those years.” yeah because it was your duty to take care of your children. They didn’t ask to be born. I harbor a lot of resentment for my parents, and maybe they didn’t ever abuse me physically or abandon me. Its other things. For instance they were more interested in me doing house work than me getting my school work done. It was more important for me to baby sit my sisters all the time every day and every weekend than it was for me to spend any time with my friends. Actually that’s a really sore spot, why should I have had to baby sit all the time? I’m not the one that had those children. They never even tried to help me in college. I did it all by myself. They laughed at me when I told them I wanted to be a doctor. I was always expected to be the responsible one. I didn’t get to be a child; I got to be my parent’s therapist. The reason I write all this is because sometimes parents do a great deal of damage to their children and don’t even realize it. I still love my parents, but it’s exactly the complete denial of them doing anything wrong at all that really gets me angry. They won’t even admit that they could have done some things better.

    • Debbie
      May 5, 2013 - 6:58 pm

      It was hard to choose any one comment to respond to. There are many that resonate, but I have said the same as you regarding a parent’s responsibility to their children first. I agree, they did not ask to be born. Therefore, it is the obligation of the parent to provide what the child needs. Not Indulge them, mind you, but meet eir physical and emotional needs.
      I too was the parent to my motther’s inability to be an adult. I forfeited my childhood. I clawed me way through life to get where I am. I survived illnesses that twice, nearly took my life. All the whole, my mother took care of her own needs. She did not rush to my side.
      As a parent now, I can’t imagine what could possibly keep me away if my child needed anything.
      So when my mother feels hurt that I am unwilling to sacrifice my life now, for her sake, it astounds me that she feels deserving of such sacrifice. My brother cares for her, so it is really a moot point anyway. How selfish a woman she is! And how grateful I am for my wonderful husband and sons, and the profound love and RESPECT we all have for one another. It took a lot of time, therapy, soul searching, etc., to arrive to this place, but it does not come completely without sadness that it has to come to estrangement.

      • Tina Gilbertson
        May 5, 2013 - 8:58 pm

        Debbie, you’re not alone. Virtually everyone who tells me they’re estranged from, or thinking of becoming estranged from, their parents deeply feels the loss of potential in that relationship too. I’ve personally never known anyone who made the decision lightly.

        It’s a terribly painful situation no matter which side you’re on. I’m so glad you have your husband and sons to support and love you through it. Best wishes to you and your family, and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

        • Debbie
          May 5, 2013 - 9:17 pm

          Thank you Tina for your response – and sorry for my typos! I shouldn’t type on an iPad! Yes, I am fortunate for a wonderful sons and husband, but also for a network of friends I call my family.

      • estranged Mom
        June 10, 2013 - 9:50 am

        You write,” I can’t imagine what could possibly keep me away if my child needs anything” What are we teaching them if we are there for a handout when they have squandered that which has been provided previously? Maybe that’s where I have gone wrong.

    • Klee
      October 9, 2013 - 3:31 pm

      great, I’m sure you feelings are right, but your not cutting your parents off, that would be like pouring gas on a fire, right, how does anybody win if their is no relationship?

  • Elizabeth Martinez
    December 11, 2012 - 7:17 am

    Thank you for this article. It is a tangled knot. We are estranged from an adult daughter. I have apologized for the wrong things I’ve done. I would apologize for anything else I’ve done that she would share with me. I want to know to know what she has to say. I want to validate her in whatever way I can. Even if it’s not for me, just for her. I want her life to be as healthy and as full as it can be. Right now, all we get from her is silence.

    • Tripsa Daisy
      December 11, 2012 - 10:08 am

      Elizabeth I’m in the same situation with my daughter right now (does anyone have this problem with their son?)

      I’ve done all that I think I can do in apologizing, trying to make amends, being patient. I can’t understand why she’s so angry; I try to empathize but because I don’t hear anything but vitriol from her I get defensive. I know I wasn’t abusive, neglectful, cold… I was a pretty good mom when she let me be her mom.

      How do you keep from getting angry about the situation? I am quite angry with the situation and her attitude towards me; it’s not something I can understand. I compare her upbringing to my own and while her childhood wasn’t perfect (I am not!), it was a great way to grow up.

      Without communication from her that isn’t disrespectful and venom filled I really don’t know that there is anything I can do and that breaks my heart. I miss her.

      • Helena
        January 26, 2013 - 8:04 pm

        Yes Tripsa, I have a son, and the very same problem. I was nothing but a good mother to him after his father and I divorced. My son is now 31 years old. His father never bothered with him until his teens, then came back into his life after I’d done all the hard work. Meantime, I remarried a wonderful man (AFTER I made sure my son had finished his schooling and I gave him a good start in life.) Long story short…my son lied to my (now) husband and myself about money problems he had, we gave him $40,000, only for us to find it was for his FATHER who was in debt, NOT my son, and we couldn’t believe how he had deceived us like this (we are not millionaires by any means…that was our $$$ in our nest egg for retirement). My son was engaged at the time, and I was nothing but nice to his girl. Since the $$$ business, my son cut me off completely…wouldn’t answer the phone, I wrote…no answer etc. The only correspondence I’ve had is the girl to tell me they got married and that her family were there ( my husband and myself were not invited)…THEN…to tell me they were expecting a baby. I got flowers delivered to them…nothing. My son’s wife then started sending me nasty text messages, that I would never see the baby, only in photos etc…it got so bad, that I had to have my cell number changed. NOW…a few days ago, I received in the mail, photos of my new Grandson…mostly photos with HER mother nursing the baby…no note, letter or anything. I am in total shock, sick to my stomach and completely heartbroken…I just CANNOT believe that the boy I gave birth to and brought up to care about others, has gone like this. They are “torturing” me to pieces (that’s the only word for it). I just cannot stop crying, I am a total mess…why are they so cruel?…it is way beyond me…and what do I do to stop this…I am headed for a breakdown, I can just feel it.

      • Klee
        October 9, 2013 - 3:32 pm


      • Becca
        October 19, 2013 - 11:20 am

        Tripsa…is anything getting better between you and your daughter? I have the same problem and I really don’t know what to do anymore. Do you just try to let it go? I’m at a loss…and I miss my grandchildren.

  • Elizabeth
    December 11, 2012 - 12:07 pm

    I’m 32 years old and not estranged from my parents, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep them in my life.  My brother has already all but cut them out completely. 
    My mother uses guilt to try to get me to do things for/with her and although I don’t want her to feel neglected, I find myself saying no more and more.  The reason is that when we do spend time together I find myself bombarded with “You should…”s, “Why don’t you…”s and “Would you…. For me?”s. The biggest thing is that her ‘suggestions’ and criticisms have become ingrained and I find myself constantly self-criticizing and questioning my worth.
    I have been dating a man to a few months.  He treats me well, we have fun together and I really like him.  I spend a lot of time with him at his house.  My mother often asks me “Are you sure he really wants you around that much?”  “Are you sure he really likes you?” “Are you sure he’s not seeing other women?”  and makes comments such as “He must be tired of you by now. ” or “He won’t like you if you…”   I believe that he really does like me and wants me around, but I find myself questioning why he would after speaking with her.  I’m afraid that I will let what she says affect my relationship with him.  (I’ve realized recently that I have let it in other relationships.)
    My mother loves to give people things.  She likes to give gifts.  She will often give me things out of the blue, for no reason at all.  I appreciate the things she gives me, but I have recently decided I can no longer accept them as she reminds me of her generosity over and over and tells me I’m and ungrateful brat when I won’t then do what she wants.  She also often likes to remind me of all the things she gave me and did for me while I was growing up.  I’m not sure how to handle Christmas.  I have asked her not to get me anything, but I don’t want to ruin Christmas morning by not accepting her gifts.
    I’m also terrified that I will one day treat my children the way she treats me.  Growing up I had a really low self-esteem (I have worked really hard on it, but still struggle.)  I want to raise confident, happy children. 
    I love my mother and I don’t believe she says or does any of the above things to intentionally hurt me ( If I thought otherwise, I would have cut her out of my life long ago.) but I have spoken to her about the way she treats me on several occasions and I just see it getting worse. 
    I would appreciate any recommendations, especially on how to handle the upcoming holidays

    • bgsawyer
      November 19, 2013 - 10:35 pm

      My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was 12 and died when I was 14. She was only 37. I remember cleaning her clumps of hair from her pillow due to chemo so she wouldn’t cry. I remember standing in the hallway in the middle of the night watching her chest go and up and down because I was so afraid she would die while I was sleeping and no one would be there when she took her last breath. I remember hearing her vomit and I remember trying to pick her up off of the floor when she fell because she was so weak. I would give anything to have your problem.

  • Tripsa Daisy
    December 11, 2012 - 7:26 pm

    Your mom may not be intentionally hurting you but she is choosing to ignore your boundaries and only you to enforce them. I actually have a similar situation with my own mother and have limited my contact with her; it’s the healthiest thing I can do for myself. Best of luck, it’s a hard situation.

  • PugMum
    December 28, 2012 - 4:12 am

    Could use some input from all of you. What is an elderly parent supposed to do when the adult son has cut off all contact with all family members. My brother-in-law and his wife will not answer the phone, read or reply to snail mail or email. My elderly mother-in-law is slowly dying over this and we are at a loss of how to help her. This is not the first time my BIL has pulled something like this. Not only is he not the wronged party, he owes his mother a huge apology. The rest of us wouldn’t care if we never saw or spoke to him again. But his mother obvioiusly doesn’t share that sentiment. Her depression about the situation is starting to seriously affect her health. And, truth be told, I’m sick of hearing about it. She needs some closure, but there doesn’t appear to be any way to attain that. Thanks for any advice and just letting me vent.

  • Yanya
    January 2, 2013 - 1:39 am

    The article does not take in consideration that a person may not want to speak to a person who has abused them.

    An abuser should respect the strength it takes to move on with no contact.

    It is not fair to assume that if a person does not want to talk to another person it is the fault of the person who wants no contact.

    Most of the time there is only negative contact between two people who part ways and less or no contact is better. It should just be left at that without making assumptions.

    • Yanya
      January 2, 2013 - 1:43 am

      Adult children are sometimes over critical of their parents once they become parents; especially single mothers. I told my kids god bless them; just make sure you were a better parent than I was and I would personally not want my own kids exposed to someone I had so little respect for. My decision.

  • Peggy
    February 10, 2013 - 11:34 am

    How sad, for all parties, human beings are so complicated, we hurt each other and don’t even realize that we do. There is no easy answer to solve this heart breaking problem. I do know that there is a bond that comes with giving birth that can’t be broken no matter how many years have passed. As long as my son knows that I will always love and want the best for him,I’m ok. I will let him know how much I care for him even if he continues to reject me. I’m strong that way..

  • Carol Benitez
    March 10, 2013 - 10:40 am

    I am 60 and it’s been years since my son and I seen each other. It was 15 years that he didn’t talk to me. He all of a sudden called me, he then called 3 times but now haven’t heard from him again. He is my only son. My husband and I have been married for 31 years. We had no children which I deeply regret. I am filled with fear and regret every day of my life now. I don’t know what to do. I cry a lot. Many people tell me that one day my son will call and we will mend. My dads wife says one day my son will kiss my hand. She says we have to have hope and I try to remember that. Hope living in me one day at a time.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      March 16, 2013 - 1:53 pm

      Carol, some families have unspoken rules that keep them from talking about what’s going on in their relationships with each other.

      If this is true in your family, it might be time to break the rules and ask your son to help you understand your relationship with him. Or take the risk of telling him about your regrets, if you feel the need to apologize.

      If you don’t know where to find him, try to find someone who does.

      All my best to you and your family, and thanks for visiting.

  • marty
    April 18, 2013 - 12:14 pm


  • WJS
    May 2, 2013 - 7:05 am

    I think it is very telling that most of the people commenting here are angry estranged parents. I see little to no self-examination in most of your responses. Now you not only blame your kids for not wanting to put up with your smug nasty behavior, you are attacking a therapist you do not even know for the mere suggestion that you should be working on yourselves and not just blaming others for your problems. Too sad. You are basically showing exactly why your children find it so difficult to deal with you. You always bear part of the responsibility in your how your relationships progress. I think it is this entitlement attitude that made you not-so-great parents to begin with. Try doing some self-reflection and some real work, and then maybe things will change in a positive way.

    • Debbie
      May 9, 2013 - 9:13 pm

      I am a child in an estranged relationship. My mother clearly is incapable of self reflection and has taken her direction from my dysfunctional brother, with whom she lives. He is an angry, abusive person, entirely out of touch with reality. I don’t want to be around him. My mother is unwilling to see my husband or I unless we will also be with my brother. Therefore, we are at a standoff. She blames me for the family rift, but chooses not to see my brothers role nor her own. It is unfortunate and sad. I remind myself of the serenity prayer every time it pains me.

  • Adpoted Mom
    May 3, 2013 - 6:07 pm

    Has anyone noticed a common element? Mothers and daughters. I have also been wondering if this is more prevalent with this generation? the Gen xers. The entitled generation.

    • Russ
      September 13, 2013 - 1:47 am

      Entitled thinking yes, Capable of ever leaving the basement and buying their own piece of the pie NO. Parents spare the rod spoil the child, give em whatever they want and they will live at home FOREVER. Sit and say to yourself what went wrong I gave my child everything. EXACTLY

      • Ambrosia
        September 19, 2013 - 5:04 pm

        That reply was completely inappropriate and not even related to the one you replied to. As an estranged daughter myself, I can tell you right now that many women in our society have been trained to see any and all women – even their daughters – as competition to be marginalized and destroyed.

        My own experience reflects this. My mother`s vicious jealousy and constant dishonesty taints our entire family, but she loves to slut-shame and spread nasty rumors about as many women she knows, including her own children.

        I despair almost daily that she has no compassion whatsoever. Some people should never have children.

    • velma7
      September 29, 2013 - 8:31 am

      My mum and dad have both achieved well in life, my dad always put me on the back burner if I didn’t do what he thought was right. My Mum just followed his lead, never showed me empathy or sympathy, not much love. I have grown up at 50, with little self esteem and have a son aged 12 in a broken relationship, having followed my mothers advice I have made my own life miserable. She has managed to stop me moving twice, and now is trying again. Her negative and selfish attitude to me as a single mother has done damage to mine and son’s relationship. She has never been close to him, my dad has never taken him out. Now I am really seeing that my parents will never accept me as I am not like them. I have no wish to be like them, imposing, selfish and with no understanding. I am close with my son, and this keeps us going. Not wanting to be the best etc. For these reasons I am all but estranged, just seeing my Mum once a week causes friction, she either finds fault with me, or my son, and acts as if I have brought all my dilemma upon myself. It is not fair to expose my son to this attitude, and having tried too many times over the years to talk it through, I avoid it as much as possible.

      • rgh
        September 29, 2013 - 3:49 pm

        Alot of wisdom if i have ever heard it. Surmized estrangement without a candy coating. I myself see the same issues.

    • MJ73
      September 29, 2013 - 1:25 pm

      No, not genx fault. We’re the generation that has to courage to stand up and say ENOUGH.

  • tundrawoman
    May 5, 2013 - 3:05 pm

    I don’t know about that-there are a number of Adult sons as well as daughters across generations who have terminated the relationship with their parents. IMO Cluster Bs are pretty ubiquitous across demographics and cultures.
    Thank you for your articles, Tina. I’ve found them interesting, illuminating and honest. It’s a very difficult topic to discuss as Family Estrangements are very polarizing.
    Again, thanks.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      May 5, 2013 - 4:07 pm

      Thank you for the thumbs-up, Tundrawoman. I really appreciate it.

  • penny hoffman
    May 9, 2013 - 5:16 am

    Being a mother of two estranged daughters..and now unfortunately an estranged grandson , I can understand the deep hurt based on bewilderment and despair. I WANT to know how to make my situation better. I WANT to show my daughters how much I miss then and love them. I only get vitrolic replies to phone calls and/or am totally ignored whenever I read out to them. It was a gradual alienation and bonding that occured between them until they have no relationship with mysefl, their father, their brother nor their younger sister. Surely we haven’t ALL done something so drastic to be shut out of their lives? Their brother and sister didn’t parent them…they had no control over their lives..so why do they abandon and shut them off as well as us ..their parents?

    • Tina Gilbertson
      May 9, 2013 - 12:43 pm

      This is a good question, Penny, and the answer probably lies with your kids.

      It can be hard to get the information you need to heal this rift. The key is to stay open to any and all information in spite of the pain. That can be a huge challenge for people in general, let alone parents coping with estrangement from their children. I wish you both strength and peace as you navigate this difficult passage.

      • nk123
        November 3, 2013 - 12:03 pm

        Tina, you imply Penny can’t possibly be at fault…despite 2 of her daughters not speaking to her. This is exactly the problem. My mother also believes she is the poor victim in our relationship without being honest about how much hurt she’s caused me over years. Ask yourself honestly whether you treat your daughters with respect, and as equal adults. If you can honestly say you do, perhaps it is them. If not, apologise and acknowledge it. If you can build a relationship again, then make sure you do treat them as equals and with respect…because if you don’t their decision may be final.

  • robin
    May 15, 2013 - 9:03 am

    I am.reading all these post but they are not helping me at all my daughter cut all ties with.me after I reported to child protective that my grandson who is 7 told me her boyfriend had been kissing him sticking his tongue in his mouth.’I ask her to make him move out her response. Was that she can not have a boyfriend because of a 7 year old pervert.My son in law is pushing for half custody. But the boyfriend is still in the house. My grandson has been court ordered to go to therapy and can not.be alone with this man.Her 3year old suffered a neck injury while.in this mans care.She hates me but I had to protect the babies if I could. I have a disabled daughter now I am concerned what will happen to her if something.happens to me? When I ask my grandson why he would not tell his mom the boyfriend did this he cried and said. I am afraid.mommy will kill me and chop me into pieces.This is killing me ..When are parents not punished for loving their family. This is why so many grandchildren die and are molested in this country every year because grandparents have no rights to protect their grandchildren.N

  • Marissa
    May 15, 2013 - 11:26 am

    My nearly 26 yr. old son decided to stop contacting me shortly after Christmas when I told him to find his own way of getting a desk given to him as a gift by me to his apartment. I was suddenly invited over for the first time when he wanted me to drop it off, a solid maple desk that would not fit into my Toyota even if I, his 54 yr. old mother could lift it. Rather than ask a friend to help him he simply dropped the desk legs (which were the only pieces he took with him)off by the front steps when I was not home, even though he has a key. He is all about himself despite all the sacrifices I made for him. His father and I seperated and moved back home when he was 5. His dad had a built in cook, housekeeper and babysitter in his mother and sister. His dad was Mr. Fun. His father and grandmother have since passed away, but his aunt, who never married and is now in the family home by herself has started to see him come by once a week now since the washer and dryer at his apartment broke. He is also treated to a home cooked meal or taken out to dinner then. Despite my desire to accept what you have written I have to disagree in my situation. He is a taker and since I am no longer giving he is manipulating his aunt and yes she allows it with not only him but also her sister in law. Have I been a perfect parent, no, but who is? He is part of a generation of children that expect it all and now and that generally lack respect for others when they do not get their way. So parents, take what responsibility you may have in this estrangement, but do not let the blame lay souly with you, it takes 2 to tango

  • Judith
    May 15, 2013 - 7:59 pm

    There are no perfect parents, nor perfect children. If an adult child deliberately becomes estranged from one or both parents and/or siblings, then I think it is incumbent upon the adult child (an oxymoron, I know, but can’t think of another term, now) to explain why, rather than adding more pain to the situation by remaining silent. How can a parent apologize if they are unaware of what they have done to cause the estrangement? Who says the adult child is absolutely correct in THEIR behavior, while the parent is guilty of SOMETHING and thus should be the one to make amends? Whatever happened to to forgiveness and the Golden Rule?

    Besides that, it appears as though Ms. Gilbertson expects parents to forever remain responsible for their child’s behavior:ever-forgiving;ever- guilty when their parenting is not perfect;ever at fault when the child does anything wrong; thus letting the adult child off the hook for any selfish, cruel, neglectful, hateful, or otherwise mean behavior.

    Sorry, but I’m not buying it. Their are narcissistic children, children who are thieves, murderers. liars, and so forth. Are parents to blame for all these shortcomings, too? I have witnessed good parents being kicked to the curb by ungrateful, judgemental children too often to agree with the simplistic thinking of people like Ms. Gilbertson.

    • Russ
      September 13, 2013 - 1:57 am

      You have my mothers name and strangley appear to be in my situation. However no matter to me. Forgiveness can only be given so many times, sorry can only be heard so many times before it becomes moot. Blame the blog starter, blame whoever, ask for an apology, call a stranger simplistic thinking. Sounds like you know alot of people who don’t want to be know any longer, you know what they say birds of a feather.

  • Tina Gilbertson
    May 15, 2013 - 8:58 pm

    Thank you everyone, so much, for your comments. Familial estrangement is an emotional topic and it falls within the very gray area of “human relationships.”

    There’s no such thing as a single or simple answer to this complex problem, which many of you have rightly pointed out.

    Now that this post is more than a year old, I will no longer be moderating the comments. Please feel free to post, and to respond to others’ posts, but I am excusing myself from the conversation going forward.

    If you have a story of a successful repair with an adult child, I would love to hear it! I’m gathering estrangement stories with positive outcomes for a project I’m working on. You can find me by going to the tippy-top of this page and clicking the “About” link.

    I wish everyone who visits this post the very best, and look forward to hearing about your happy endings!

    • Adpoted Mom
      May 28, 2013 - 9:59 am

      How true. There are no cook book recipes to repair relationships and no one should expect to find the solution on the internet. What we can find are tid bits that can work for you. for me it was “do you really want to repair this relationship”. In an attempt to at least bridge the gap, I was provided with future insult and injury. I know now I need to continue my grieving process and move on.

  • deb
    May 23, 2013 - 2:42 am

    My relationship with my 35 year old son has broken down since my first grandson was born one month ago. It was my daughter who gave birth to my grandson so my son is the baby’s uncle. My daughter and I had a disagreement about a week after my grandson was born. My daughter told my son about the incident and although my daughter and I worked through our difficulties my son became extremely hostile towards me calling me horrible names, accusing me of being responsible for any negative things that had occurred in the past and threatening that if I planned to see my grandson I had better keep my thoughts to myself. When I asked my son what his anger was really about he would not elaborate. I apologized if I had hurt him in some way but suggested that getting in the middle between my daughter and I was not helpful. I then suggested to my daughter that due to the current strain in my relationship with my son it would be best if she and I did not discuss my son and I requested that my daughter not discuss our relationship with my son. Within a few days I received a scathing e-mail from my son stating that I should be supporting he and my daughter discussing me and again berating me as a mother and a person. I suffered with severe depression a few years ago which I know impacted both my children in a negative way. I have been doing well for years and have apologized many times to both of my kids about this issue. It has been the case over the years that I have been blamed for things because I had a mental health problem.Sometimes it has been justified but often not. I feel confused and disrespected. This should have been a happy time but it has turned into a nightmare. My son has suggested that I should f-off and leave him alone and I walk on eggshells when I am with my daughter in case I say something wrong and am not allowed to see my grandson. I feel like this is a tangled mess and I guess I wondered if anyone has experienced anything like this in their own lives .I love my kids but I am tired of feeling dumped on and don’t know how to proceed.

  • melanie bishop
    June 2, 2013 - 3:44 pm

    I would say anything my son wanted me too. I would apologize if I could. I would whatever it took to be in their lives. I would do anything to see my 5 and 6 year old grandchildren. Yes, he had a good life but me apologizing doesn’t hurt me in any way. I’m still the an can set a good example even if he is 30. But he will not communicate with me. He has blocked me on Facebook. Blocked my texts and emails and let’s my calls go to voice mail. This has been happening since Dec 23 2012. I still have all their Christmas presents. He came to see me in Feb 2012 when I had heart surgery and we had a great time until Dec. Previously to my heart surgery he had cut us off completely for 5 years. We had not even met our grandchildren. IF YOU can talk at all to your estranged child…. apologize or say or do whatever. Never put pride over family. You never know if you even have a tomorrow!

  • Debbie
    June 10, 2013 - 10:22 am

    I believe that life flows forward. A parent shapes his/her relationships with their children from the start. If the child is loved and respected, s/he will return the respect. If the parent is selfish, they will raise a selfish child. I know it is not quite that simple – there are lots of factors that shape a child – but this one is a core of the relationship. I can only hope I have done a good enough job with my sons (and I believe I have by the evidence so far) that they will love and respect me the rest of my life.
    I did not have that experience unfortunately with my mother. It was better with my (now deceased) father, but he could not shield me from the turmoil caused by my mother.
    Now that she is getting on in years, her memory has become even more selective and she cannot see anything outside her needs. When a mother can say to her child, “I’m disappointed in how you turned out,” and take no responsibility for her role in the relationship, it really is a lost cause. I tried for 50 years to please someone who cannot under any circumstances be pleased. It is time to just enjoy life and not let her poison my remaining time on earth. My loving friends and other family fill the void. – and it will have to be enough.

  • penny
    June 11, 2013 - 10:51 am

    Well…. I WISH my adult children would leave me alone……they are always blaming me for what goes wrong….borrow money…..try to guilt trip me when it is time to pay back, quite frankly I’m the one who’s looking for an escape,
    They’re a big fat pain in the arse !!!

    • trish
      December 8, 2013 - 11:16 pm

      Some children even at an adult age can try to turn to mummy or daddy. They need to be treated as adults. Some cannot get away from their grown up children and i feel for them. Some adult children are nothing but a pain to their parents and they cause their parents grief. I do not take every ones word for the no contact situation, but for what ever reason it is in being, do not let it ruin your life. I know that is not easy to do, but try not to let it be a huge black cloud hanging over you. It did happen to me once, but she came back of her own choice and said there is nothing to forgive. Her experience taught her well and she saw sense. She was too young to understand at the time, but she got there in good time. The divorce was handled my end in a very positive way, she thought i was wrong to be this way. I left the door open, but i also got on with my life and left the issue on the back burner. She now handles things with a positive attitude and her maturity has taken over.

  • Beverly
    June 23, 2013 - 2:18 pm

    It says in the Bible to Honor your Father and Your Mother. Also, Do not forget your mother when she is old. Children do owe this to their parents, no matter what, especially for their own peace and their parents, but often they get away from God’s word and go along with the world’s values.

    My husband and I had 7 children. After 46 years of marriage I discovered he had a secret life the entire time. He then took his own life that same day I found out. He was a great man, a genious in his work, and his life. My children idiolized him, but fortunately, I always put God above all. I moved away for two years to grieve and get myself together. While away I met and remarried and returned. Most of my children refuse to accept my husband and do not communicate or come to see us. I am so ashamed of their actions as they were not raised this way. It has been 5 years. I cannot move forward here. Memories are everywhere and my children do not help. We came back for the 23 grandchildren and to enjoy their growing up. I was a good mother and they said I deserve to be happy, but do not call or bring the children on holidays, etc. I am losing my joy,70 years young,and the years are flying by. We have decided to move back to the West, 1700 miles away, where there is no family, but lots and lots of Christian friends. It hurts to leave, but it hurts so much more to stay and experience such happy memories and a bleeding heart at the same time.

    I am sad to read that so many parents are suffering from their silent children whom we had put our love and life into. When they won’t communicate, what are we to do? Be depressed and waste away? We must leave the situation to God and know we did the best we could, pray, and hope God will accept us into eternity.

    As one of my daughter’s mature friends said “Why do we have kids? We should have dogs instead.” Funny, but not really.

    • Tracy
      August 26, 2013 - 6:51 pm

      The Bible doesn’t stop at “honor thy mother and father.” The Word also tells parents not to incite their children to wrath.

      My parents have been terrible to me– incited me to wrath. the only way i can honor them is to stay away from them. i have spoken with pastors and Christian counselors on this and they are the ones who suggested this and showed me other passages in the Bible to support this.

      • bgsawyer
        November 20, 2013 - 5:26 pm

        Tracy, yes the Bible tells parents not to provoke their children to wrath BUT God does not let you off the hook. Your pastors and Christian counselors are DEAD wrong and their lack of knowledge and acting as accomplices in the sin of dishonoring your parents is wrong. This is one of THE top ten! This is up there with murder, stealing, lying, adultery. Would your pastors also enable people to murder, steal, lie and commit adultery? NO! Don’t allow this false teaching from the church…and bad advice, keep you from receiving the blessing that comes with being obedient to God even when it is difficult.

        • russ
          November 21, 2013 - 8:58 pm

          BGSawyer wrong blog your looking for the benny hinn pat robertson swaggart bob larson exorcism website. You know those guys that forgot that verse about the camel and the eye of a needle.

  • rusty
    July 18, 2013 - 3:06 am

    If a toxic relationship exists and your not happy best to cut the person from your life. I did with my mother, and my immediate family now. The years of hurt are not fixable, they aren’t just a sorry everything is OK now. It took me 6 months to come to terms that I wouldn’t speak to my mother again(the first time was 2.5 years I didn’t speak to her). I forgave, but the toxicness of someone elses unhappiness is not my burden, the judgements and lack of caring on my brothers part not mine to deal with. Being that I have a child on the way my first (in my 40’s) has made me realize that i do not want certain people around my child. My wifes mother is not a happy person, and I have helped her through this by making light of her behaviour then letting my wife watch what I say unfold and her mothers patterns become more apparant. Forgiveness only goes so far with unhappy people. Things are not OK now that there is a biological grandchild in the picture on the way(once I found out I didn’t want my child exposed to these people), in fact the years of bad don’t make the fact that it’s there now a reason to MEND everything with your family. I have come to terms with my past, my family and who they are. I have come to terms with who my family are, and I have chosen to not have any contact with them. Just because you give birth doesn’t entitle you to a part in their entire life, I didn’t ask for it. I could write a book about things like this that have happendd to me, but when you care about someone and they are negative back it’s over, you have to learn to cut ties in order to survive in life and be happy, and I can’t fix my families unhappiness, and I don’t want to hear about their problems.

    Estrangement happens and really sometimes it’s to survive life.

    • Derek
      September 18, 2013 - 9:05 pm

      Very true Rusty. I agree, sometimes things are far beyond just saying sorry. ‘Sorry’ doesn’t always cut it.

  • Sandy
    July 21, 2013 - 8:13 pm

    I know just how all of these parents feel. My daughter, 25, has not spoken to me in 5 years. She has not spoken to my parents, her grandparents or her uncle, aunt or cousins in that time, either. She communicates with her dad and his family, but not mine. It is very hurtful! I have tried to “guilt” things and I know that has made matters worse. I have tried just the short, sweet notes and get nothing there, as well. I do have her phone number, but she will not answer when I call. I only get ugly text messages as a response. She has only said, like a year and a half ago, that she blames me for the way I handled the divorce with her father and that I mistreated him. I do not believe that any of it should concern her. I have told her all of those decisions were between myself and her father. He was an abusive spouse and an abusive father. She was very much brainwashed by him and his family. I need help on how to mend our relationship. Help, please!

    • kATHY
      August 4, 2013 - 5:32 pm

      my adult daughter is putting me and the rest of the family thru hell…Its not always the parents fault I agree with Mary.. Its a long story Im to sick at heart and my soul to keep going thru it and to the point I cant keep thinking about this because of the stress its causing me.. Can only pray

    • Derek
      September 18, 2013 - 9:10 pm

      Wow, your comments could have been written by my current partner. I am sorry to read this about your daughter. What we have found, your pain gives your daughter power over you, and that becomes a control issue. She uses your hurt as a means to punish you and it empowers her. I have no doubt this behaviour is supported by your ex, who likely even encourages it to abuse you by proxy. What do we do. We stopped sending messages, the texting and even shifted schools for the younger siblings so we did not have to see the older angry teenager at school. It seems to have worked. The abusive messages have stopped, but we also hear and see nothing of her. Our life is much more peaceful. Leave it be, when you appear happy and have yourself sorted out and show the abusive behaviour will not be tolerated by you, maybe then you can find some common ground. We have not yet, but signs are showing that this may be the case in due time. Time, it takes time – my counselor said allow TEN years! But all things first, YOU need to be happy and not a focal point for anger and abuse.

  • Tom
    August 19, 2013 - 2:13 am

    I agree that everyone has a role to play in an estranged relationship. Blame can keep one from being accountable for one’s own inventory of faults. My issue was development of a co-dependent relationship with my son over the years. Divorce didn’t help the situation and some poisoning of the well by the other parent. I remember my son telling me at age 19 that he was doing me a favor by even talking to me on the telephone. I dismissed that (as teenager talk) and continued to send gifts visit when I could making almost 100% of the effort. Indeed, I was over critical, telling him he needed to have health insurance, save for retirement and pay down his credit card debt, when I should have let it go sooner, than I eventually did. In all, given the situation and circumstances I feel I did the best I could. My son always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder, and my role was to prove myself and do most all of the work to maintain the relationship. He is now 37 and I am 60. I decided about 4 years ago, that I’m not going to do most all of the work anymore after going into the hospital and being told “What do you want me to do about it, I can’t fix it.” I told him then, that I needed a break from the relationship. I needed to set a boundary, not wanting a relationship without the respect I felt I deserved. . After several years of sending pictures and emails and having an Xmas card returned with the money I sent, I made the hard decision to finally let go of the relationship and do my will (instead of waiting, hoping that things would some day change). On fathers day, I sent a copy of the part of the will disinheriting him from a significant estate. I hate to be mean, but I could no longer go on hoping things would change. A social network post shortly after said “This will hurt you more than us.” I have actually felt a great deal of relief. Focusing on the friendships and people who really do want to be part of life, rather than more false hope. Sometimes one has to accept what actually is, rather than the fantasy of what could, should or ought to be.

  • Sara
    August 26, 2013 - 10:17 pm

    We are a product of culture of disrespect, a culture not trusting and a culture full of our self. Most of us are a part of an Immigrant society struggling to fit in. Our parents have worked hard to provide for our children. The child often has grown up without grandparents, aunties and uncles. Mental health & depression has also played a big role that caused Estrangement. Mental health providers are missing the point. We as humans need each other not cut off from each other to feel better. We all need a happy pill instead of hurting each other. Group counseling maybe a good idea.

    • russ
      August 27, 2013 - 9:54 am

      So if a person is not any of the things you described, we should take a happy pill and continue to be abused by the types of people you describe?? My mother isn’t a nice person and sorry but my days of caring and getting flac and negativity are over, but by all means continue to be in your negative relationships, some of us think more of ourselves than that regardless of whether or not we are family.

  • Lana M
    September 8, 2013 - 9:09 am

    Adult children searching for some meaning in their lives and who are not able to handle their current sufferings must blame Mom. They cannot blame their current situation, so Mom is the scapegoat here. I have enough self esteem as a Mom to know I did a pretty good job though I was far from a perfect Mom. Perhaps overprotective and hollering about something or other, but I never once raised a hand to my children. It always seemed we were a close family unit but apparently we were not. The shock of being cut off took my breath away! It is a very sad world when therapists tell an adult how their childhood is at fault for every affliction they have. It is unfair to the one seeking therapy and my greatest concern is the probability of even more damage to ones mental health. When adult children seek collaboration of siblings then the damage is truly heartbreaking. Grandchildren grow up without the love and care of grandparents, and without a history of their roots and the general story telling that grandparents and little ones enjoy. This is the saddest part of all. It is time to move forward and remember always you did the very best you could do given the circumstances. Self blame does not resolve anything. This horror has become a silent epidemic now and as parents and grandparents we have to hold our heads up and move on. Volunteer in hospitals and elderly homes and the like. Take the focus off the loss and give back what you can. The empty space will never be filled but it is rewarding to assist others in whatever it is you do best. There is no “bad guy” here just a set of circumstances beyond our control.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      September 8, 2013 - 10:23 am

      Your comment really captures the profoundly sad aspect of family estrangement, Lana. I am so sorry for your loss. Indeed, everyone loses when family ties are cut, including grandchildren, as you and many others have pointed out in the Comments sections of my estrangement articles (four and counting).

      Most parents do their very best, and most children long to love and respect their parents. How do we make sense of estrangement when these are both true?

      The biggest obstacle to understanding and repairing relationships with adult children, as I see it, is parental shame.

      It’s too big a subject to tackle here, but let me just say that parenting is simply impossible to get anywhere close to 100% right. If you did the best you could do at the time, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

      Self-awareness and a willingness to accept responsibility for *specific* mistakes? Yes, go for it. It will help both you and your adult child(ren).

      Self-blame, negative generalizations (“I’m a terrible parent”), self-loathing, battered self-esteem? No way. If you experience any of these, please talk with a non-judgmental counselor, or a compassionate friend or partner.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note, Lana. And thanks for the suggestion of getting out there and spreading some love as a volunteer.

  • Chris
    September 11, 2013 - 7:34 am

    I think when someone cuts people out of their lives it is more to do with their own self-worth and self-confidence than anything else. Confident people CAN COPE with the ups and downs of relationships. They understand relationships are not perfect and they also look in their own mirror! When you have a problem with a person, your parent, your child, your boss, a colleague etc. perhaps it’s because you see something of yourself in them (we don’t like to see our own bad traits reflected back!)…or perhaps you put to much negative thought into that particular relationship. Change the way you approach the person, look at how you react…feelings don’t always reflect reality…. after all the way you’ve been doing things isn’t working. All parents are either sons or daughters too. We sit at both ends of the rope. As a young mum I was at a point of not wanting to continue a relationship with my mum. My father, thankfully, got through to me and begged me not to continue the hurt…it had only been a few weeks, but the pain I’d caused is now a big regret! At the time I thought my reasons were valid…some probably were…but I wasn’t looking at the big picture! I have 4 beautiful children. My eldest son cut communication four weeks ago. He cut communication with all the family, but has recently sent texts to a couple of his siblings after my daughter sent him an angry text. Sometimes there are other issues beyond a parents control. I’ve been worried about him for the past few years. Even educated, well brought up, good people can make wrong choices, dig themselves holes and sometimes want to blame the person they think should be protecting them from hurt…you can always find a reason to blame another person…even though we’re grown-up we can behave irrationally! My son sought councelling and alienation has been the outcome…the councellor doesn’t know me from a bar of soap…she’s only heard his side…she doesn’t know that he has relationship issues with everyone, she doesn’t know how important he is to our family. He doesn’t need to alienate himself! He is loved every bit as much as my other 3 children and a grandaughter with whom I am very close, have loving relationships and a lot of great times with….I feel sorry for my son who is missing out by holding on to hurts, thinking so much that it stops him enjoying life, and that’s what in turn hurts me. Now, I even find myself posting on the internet tonight for the first time, which is not my thing! I am also very concerned that his emotional state will deteriorate further and lead to deeper depression. I hope he, and anyone else this post touches, will understand the love and support family offers. I hope it strikes a cord somewhere. Never underestimate how important people are…life is too short not to be happy!

    • Russ
      September 13, 2013 - 1:39 am

      I read what you were saying, however it was the last sentence that surmised everything.”life is too short not to be happy.” If one person is unhappy in ANY relationship why would they want to be around them? You feel sorry for your son, perhaps he feels sorry for you? Thats a self centered comment. Many adult parents in this blog/article seem to think that it’s the money or their own importance thats important, think about it. Blame the counsellor, but you admitted yourself that his holding onto the hurts hurts you. Why is there hurt there in the first place??? Your son got counselling what about you? Sounds like the counsellor said hey here it is in black and white you have to come to terms with it so he did, door closed. Your son has relationship issues frankly so do I the more people I’m around the less I want to hear their whiny snivelling crap and hear about all this negative in their life, it’s draining and really sad, I have better things to do than waste my time around the negative unhappy people of the world and frankly there’s alot.

      What really upsets me about alot of the comments on here is that the adult parents think it can be fixed by talking about it,? How on earth can you talk to someone and change who they are, you can’t. The reality is continue with this person dragging you down, or cut all ties and walk away. Frankly far too many people get on here and tell us everything the OTHER person has done. It takes two people , and love is a very wide word that has nothing to do do with the reality of the relationship. Abusers frequently say “I love you.”, and some peoples love you just don’t want or their money.

      • Chris
        September 30, 2013 - 7:58 pm

        Councelling is only as good as the councellor you see and the information you give them. Ultimately you have to work on your own contribution to your failing relationships rather than on some past hurt that may or may not be real…Some people always want to blame someone else for their problems or think everyone else but themselves have a problem…councellors can, perhaps inadvertently, promote self-centredness and family seperation in disgruntled people…sometimes innocent people get caught in the fallout too…failing to accepting responibility there is only one sad story for the blinkered and no happiness. Distance solves nothing and you can’t get time back. Good news for me anyway, my strong, resilient son got in contact in the following days after I posted and we have talked and consequently enjoyed some special family events together..ever grateful..I have great admiration for him, because he felt his pride was at stake too…There is strength and love in our family and i will treasure every moment that i have with my son and my family. This blog did help…the road is not always easy, best wishes on your journey..

    • Lyn
      October 23, 2013 - 11:04 am

      I agree with your first sentence Chris of it being to do do with their own self worth and possible lack of confidence. It cetainley is not only to do with how people are brought up, though it can be in some instances. My son set up his own business to see himself thorough University as he didn’t want us to have pay. He involved us in some of the decisions he made, asking what we thought of a new apartment before making the move and the opening day of a new business premise. All went very well and the business grew, possibly to quick and then with the world recession all came crashing down and the big fish set their sights on the little fish. When receiving a call from my distraught son that bailiffs were there, we paid them off. Unfortunately, this then happened a number of times although his forecasts said that things would get better. They never did. We even had to remortgage to survive ourselves. He started to cut us off, not answer phone calls, texts, emails for months. Looking back we started to only hear from him when he needed help. There came to a time when we had to refuse. We didn’t hear from him from June to Christmas. We helped him again. After that we had one wonderful phone conversation in January of 2012, he was 22 and that was the last time any of our family has had any contact at all. I send emails to an address that I have no idea if its still used, varying between just giving family news and other times giving in to the heartbreak. All I know is the city he is in, but not where. I have spent hours scouring the internet for news and very occasionally have found something. The not knowing is terrible, a big void. We get on with our lives, we have to, but just having a family meal with his brother and sister with us is hard as there is a huge gap. It seems to me that the problem now is that he only sees the fact that he owes us money. I can not envisage a life time like this, but it seems that I might have to. I am so pleased to hear that you have now had contact with your son and are experiencing some good times together. I just hope that one day that might happen for us. People are important and most families would do anything for each other, sometimes maybe too much!

  • Ginger Fambro Thompson
    September 14, 2013 - 9:01 pm

    My sons are in their 40’s, married, children, successful and happy. Their father and I divorced when my youngest was 21. We both remarried. It has been almost 20 years now since the divorce. I have 4 grandchildren I don’t see and talk to often. Approaching 70 and not in great health, can not travel anymore and could not afford it anyway as I am now divorced from my second husband. My children and I have been estranged for at least 10-12 years. I think they blame me for the divorce. I have tried to talk to them to find out what they are hurt about. Somehow I have hurt them, at least I feel this way, and they choose not to talk about it. I don’t know what I have done actually. We were always close when we were a family and for a time afterwards. They have gravitated to their father and his wife. They spend holidays there and communicate often. I used to try and keep and “in” with facebook, but it became so hurtful and apparent that I was totally left out of their lives I chose to discontinue. I look occasionally to see my grandchildren and how they are. It seems the only way I can keep up with them. More often than not, I see where they have visited their father and stepmother and I cry again for a day or two. I feel inadequate because I don’t know what I have done or not done and have no idea how to change things. I don’t call and beg. I have chosen after years of making all of the effort to stay in touch and not having calls returned or being told they were too busy, to just respect their wishes. They are extremely well off financially and live in a different world than they were raised in. We were comfortable and I was able to be a stay home mom and very happy about that. I just feel that our lives are so different now, maybe that has something to do with it. I miss them and my grandchildren and have grieved so heavily that it affected my health before I began to try and let go of them. I miss them horribly and cry daily. I have no hope anymore, but would still do anything to be a part of their lives, but it appears that I am simply “not needed.” Don’t mean to solicit sympathy, but the grandchildren have so many grandmas now, maybe there is just no room for me in their lives. There is plenty of room in my life for them when or if they are ready. I don’t know what else to do.

    • kATHY
      September 15, 2013 - 5:52 am

      I think it just comes down to being selfish and ungrateful… I have the same problem with one daughter.. Could also b mental illness.. Anyone very mean and shows no love or respect for the parents are mental far as Im concerned

      • Rose
        October 4, 2013 - 5:33 pm

        I think that mental illness is a lot of it. In my life, it’s also a daughter. I’m not sure the author of this blog understands that as mothers, we would do anything and everything to bring our children back into our lives. I also abandoned facebook because I could not take the pain of seeing my grandchildren grow up – from a distance.

        For ten years, I’ve put my best spiritual, mental and emotional energies into getting my daughter back into my life, but it’s all been without success.

        Now, I just try to get on with my life and not let this kill me.

        Some days, it’s easier than others.

    • russ
      September 15, 2013 - 10:57 am

      Perhaps a short letter to each of your children, the same letter to all of them. Just place your apology and sorrys for what you think you might have done? Let them know it’s the last letter to them and that you just wanted to apologize for whatever and even things you don’t know about. If they don’t want to respond or phone or have a relationship with you then this will finalize it, and you have done everything you can. It’s their choice and you at 70 are coming to terms with it. The question is are you going to let it eat you up during the rest of your life, or come to terms with the reality? You know your past better than anyone so no amount of advice can cover what has already transpired. Russ

    • Becca
      October 19, 2013 - 11:45 am

      I feel your pain. I am sorry we are going through this. We need to just let go and get busy.

  • lauri2neva
    September 15, 2013 - 1:43 pm

    I think it is because as adults my kids have rejected Christ in their lives and have no time for their father. I never hear from my adult kids and I have grandchildren that are growing up without Jesus Christ or Baptism in their lives. I guess I just have to forget them and I do that now, no gifts for special events, no calls, no emails and certainly I will never visit them ever again!

    • kATHY
      September 16, 2013 - 5:19 am

      My adult children have done the same thing…….True its cause they have no time for God . They seemed to have forgotten what lifes about

      • lauri2neva
        September 16, 2013 - 11:39 am

        TY Kathy that helps, I guess I better just keep praying for them.

      • Rose
        October 4, 2013 - 5:35 pm

        Perhaps one of our most egregious mistakes was raising them without teaching them about their duty to their parents. I know that I have certainly failed somewhere, and it has caused me unspeakable pain and angst.

    • Becca
      October 19, 2013 - 11:50 am

      I had nightly devotions with my kids…sent them to a private Christian school…and they are not teaching their children. I pray daily…all day long for my grandchildren. My kids KNOW the way.

      • Klee
        October 19, 2013 - 6:35 pm

        Please stop with the religious comments, they have absolutely nothing to do with anything

  • russ
    September 17, 2013 - 8:20 pm

    I’m not sure how disrespecting their views on religion should hurt you so bad. You have let a belief in the unseen reject a loving child in the now seen in front of you. If you leave religion out of the equation you may find the love you seek.

  • Derek
    September 18, 2013 - 8:53 pm

    I read a great car sticker the other day, it said ‘Your parents ruin the first half of your life, then your kids ruin the last half..’ How true. I don’t see my kids. It hurt for the first few years, but as Tina states, determine if the relationship is worth it and if they value ad to your life. Same for some friends. Don’t live life being always the giver of love and friendship. I no longer miss my kids, I remember them, but don’t dwell on it. They made parts of my past life very upsetting and distressing. I have replaced them with people that are sincere, genuine and just nice to share my life and be around. The world is full of lovely, interesting and wonderful people, so ‘you’ make the choice. Where do you want to be, happy or just in conflict with people that dredge up the past? yes, some people are shocked when you say you don’t see or speak to your kids, but beyond that, no one really cares. You are not alone, that is the important part, just because they are your kids does not mean that they are decent people. Plenty of external factors influence how people behave, you can’t control them all, nor should you try to. It’s their choice sometime, let them make their own mistakes and make sure your will has an ‘exclusion clause’ so the selfish mongrel don’t come after your estate after you pass away.

    • bumper sricker
      September 19, 2013 - 1:18 pm

      When they are little they stomp on your feet . When they are big they stomp on your heart.

      • lauri2neva
        September 19, 2013 - 2:11 pm

        If I see one I will buy ten and see you all get one!

      • Ambrosia
        September 19, 2013 - 5:13 pm

        Imagine an adult, stomping on the small heart of a child every single day for 20 years. And then stomping on it again for another 20.

        Hard to be sympathetic.

    • kAthy
      September 19, 2013 - 2:16 pm

      you make so much sense Now I hope I can follow your advice

    • Laurie
      November 30, 2013 - 1:04 am

      Ha – thanks for the great advice Derek. I am going to look into that exclusion clause. Your post is the best one here.

  • chris
    September 22, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    My 2 twin sons quit talking to me the day their father beat me and was arrested for domestic assault. They never asked me what happened that day 2 years ago now. My husband of 35 years, their Dad died 2 months later. They still won’t talk to me, despite my efforts as I have 5 beautiful grandchildren I can’t see. What hurt me so bad is the fact that they could let 2 years go by and just not care about me anymore.We were a very close family seeing until then seeing each other almost every day. My husband and I had some problems, but we were working them out as we always have for 35 years. I never raised a hand to my sons, loving them from the day they were born. I think my husbands sister got involved an preached hatred. I will never get over this or move on. They were my life. HELP me please.

    • Becca
      October 19, 2013 - 11:57 am

      You will get over this…You have to. Just take care of yourself and keep busy…and pray.

    • bgsawyer
      November 19, 2013 - 10:31 pm

      I am so sorry about this. My heart breaks for you. They have NO excuse. They are sinning horribly not only against you, but against a Holy God. Please find a grief support group. People often overlook these groups for help when their children commit emotional murder against them…it is a loss, like the death of any child, you need help. Seek one of these groups and don’t let anyone tell you that your children are justified in dishonoring you. You will find so many other parents suffering like you. It is epidemic in this country.

  • kAthy
    September 23, 2013 - 5:00 pm

    I am so sorry….Stop trying to fix it maybe? Some kids want to play the victum part

  • anne
    September 24, 2013 - 10:26 pm

    My sister in her 40s has spent her whole adult life blaming my mother for her own negative feelings. She states that mum didnt value her and always favoured myself and our brother although can never give specific examples. I have always seen my parents to be loving and generous to us all. She is the eldest and says she should be given the most respect and always be listened too because of her birth order. We have another younger sister who wavers in her position. My eldest sister distorts all recollections in her own favour, always painting herself as blameless and will not stand to be disagreed with about anything at all. Mum has tried to explain she loves all her children equally and has apologised for any hurt saying it never was intended. My sister just will not accept it although is quite happy for our mother to look after her children and take help that is offered. She doesnt initiate contact other than to ask for help and is very intense, will quickly take offence and regularly comes back to the same old blame game. My mother does feel used but dearly loves her grandchildren and has hope that my sister will be happy with their relationship one day. My sister is very hostile to me, at least in part based on the fact I have a higher qualification than her and also that I dont have any negative issues with our parents. This seems to constantly aggravate her. I believe she is creating her worst fear. She wants a relationship with our mother but is destroying it with her hostility. I have a good relationship with my other siblings. We all have our own families and good jobs.
    Now my brother is married she has a new focus. According to her my mother “gushes” over his wife and has “thrown her own daughter under the bus”. My sister in law is pleasant to my mother and they are developing a good relationship. I see no evidence of my sisters paranoid accuations and feel very uncomfortable listening to the mean and hurtful things she has to say about my brothers wife. She always is playing the victim and misconstruing situations in a negative way, never forgiving even the slightest offence, whether real or perceived. I would dearly like the family to get together without conflict and hostility. Family get togethers can be very tense when my sister is present, walking on eggshells. I have learned that no argument will ever be resolved with my sister and that I probably just need to stay quiet and avoid any conflict (not always easy). I feel powerless but would love for her to let go of her insecurities and realise we all love her as an individual, its not a competition. She is obviously in great turmoil My sister goes long periods without contacting any of us except our other sister and says she has to withdraw from this toxic family.
    My parents, brother and I would love the family to stay intact but are getting worn down by the hurtful accusations repeatedly hurled our way. I hope this doesnt end with estrangement! Any advice Tina

    • steve
      October 3, 2013 - 2:45 pm

      As someone who has cut all ties with my mother I have some experience when it comes to this subject. Two points:

      Being raised in the same family doesn’t mean you have a clue what another member of that family experienced. In fact your perspective is so influenced by the family narrative you are simply unable to see beyond it at all. I was the black sheep while my brother had a close bond with my father and my sister had that with my mother. For my entire life they have blamed me for the lack of a positive relationship with my parents. In truth there was no point in my life when either of my parents were nurturing toward me while my brother and sister always had that. You simply can’t blame a toddler when their parents don’t care much about them, nor can you blame the adults they become for a poor relationship they have never been in position to define.

      People don’t cut all ties because of past hurts. Everyone I know that has stopped speaking to a family member does so because of the abuse and disrespect that continues to happen in the present. The fact my mother won’t extend to me simple courtesies she unthinking will give to strangers was intolerable. The fact that the rest of my family said I didn’t deserve those courtesies made me walk away.

      • Anne
        October 3, 2013 - 6:03 pm

        Hi Steve, thanks so much for the reply and good to get perspective from someone who seems to feel like my sister. The family narrative as you put it will look different from every members perspective so I think to resolve these issues we ALL need to respect that and I believe we all also need to take responsibility for our own feelings and actions. Of course I cannot speak for your experience but mine is that I have constantly had to walk on eggshells and listen to hurtful things about my family from my sister. Example .. She has stayed with my parents twice during her adult life with her family, once when they were moving and once when my nephew was unwell, a total 12 months. No problem.Years later my family stayed with my parents while we had extensions for 6 months.According to sis this is proof I was favoured and respected more than her. When put to her that she did the same she claimed it was different and that I was in alliance with mum against her. My parents go to all her children’s sport games and only very occasionally my children’s. All ok with me but wouldn’t dare reverse the situation. Just think we all need to be adults and work towards the same goal of loving family. Don’t know why I go back to her for more crap but the bottom line is she’s my sister& I want her in my life. Just sick of having to make all the emotional effort. Interested in your thoughts

  • Steve
    October 3, 2013 - 9:18 pm

    If your sister never had an experience of being nurtured and befriended by at least one of her parents what she did experience is called emotional neglect and abandonment. That can happen to one child even if the other children in the same family feel valued and respected. It is a subtle form of child abuse that causes long lasting damage and can be much harder to deal with than physical or sexual abuse because it is usually denied and explained away by the other family members. It can also cause a condition called Complex PTSD that can result in frequent emotional flashbacks of traumatic experiences that make daily living hellish.

    Don’t discount your sister’s experience because it doesn’t match yours. That’s the quickest way to drive her out of your life. If you want to improve your relationship, listen to her and acknowledge her experience even if what she says doesnt match your memories and remember that decades of pain can take a very long time to heal.

  • Anne
    October 4, 2013 - 7:43 pm

    Well it does seem that she feels she wasnt nurtured like the rest of us even though Ive seen my parents stand by her and put themselves out for her as much (actually if not more over our adult years) as for any of us. I get that you are saying that her experience is valid for her and to aknowledge that despite what my own is. I have tried to do that but do not feel comfortable with hours of bitching and negative comments I seem to have to agree to in order for her to feel supported. And how many times do I have to keep validating her version of events. Remember I was an innocent child in all this too.
    I grew up hearing how pretty and beautiful she was (mainly from my aunty and friends..even my boyfriends sometimes!) and indeed she is and I felt inferior many times as children and teenagers because of this. Despite this I have a lot of fun memories as a child with my sisters.I dont feel resentment to her. I am happy for her successes actually. My parents never said any of us were better than the other in any way in MY experience. I feel that may actually be the problem. My sister needs to be adored above us all Not equally. She told my mother at one point that she should be loved THE MOST because of her birth order.
    It would be so nice if she were happy for me and my successes as well but she pulls me down wherever she can. I have a higher qualification than her but in the same field and this makes me in her eyes “arrogant” and she will take any opportunity to pull me down. I hear what she says from other family members and mutual friends. This is very hurtful to me and I am not sure why I have to continually suppress my own feelings in this matter to keep peace. I have felt a lot of hurt from her actions too you know.
    In fact at family events we can only talk about superficial things and my sisters life if there is to be peace. On one occasion I mentioned my son was having success with toilet training. She ran from the room crying. I ran after having no idea why this would be an issue. Apparently I was being insensitive because her son a year older had not yet mastered it (which I was not even aware of).
    My question for you Steve is when is it appropriate for my sister to aknowledge what her bitterness and discontent has done and continues to do to the relationship problems she has, no matter what the cause. If she is not willing to accept the love and support that I feel I am constantly offering to her what can I do? Doesnt she need to have some ownership of the way she conducts herself too and her own contributions? It seems counterproductive to just blame others for your own personal unhappiness.
    I think she should see a counsellor and work through her feelings independently, mum has offered to go with her but she wont go and says mums the one with the problem and not her. Why then is it her that always makes waves and expresses discontent. Also regardless of how she feels about mum, why is it that I cant have a loving and close relationship with her.
    Sorry about the length of this post but I am grateful to talk to someone in her position and to have an actual conversation before tears and accusations are hurled in. Tell me more about your situation and any relationship you may have with your siblings
    Thankyou for listening and giving feedback, I am putting a lot of thought into what you have said 🙂

    • russ
      October 5, 2013 - 7:14 pm

      Sounds like a crutch using your parents and everyone else to escape the responsbility of her actions. Good looking women are frequently (not all) a pain in the ass to deal with because they feel their looks should entitle them to more and free passes for alot. Thats why most men don’t put up with it. She resents those who work for it because of envy. She will never be happy unless she decides to fix it. Maybe confront her face to face somewhere alone in a really crass way away from everyone and let her go cry about it, maybe it’ll sink in but doubtful. I personally have slapped a few people in the face with their own reality a few times, they thanked me later on because they fixed their problems and quit whining about them.

      • Anne
        October 7, 2013 - 2:56 am

        You are right Russ, I cannot do anymore. She has to decide when if ever she’ll take responsibility for self. As for confronting her.. Tried and tested& just leads to more victim playing and drama blah blah. She has no insight. I’ll just be myself, not partake in any negative talk and hope she sorts it out for self. We’ll never be close the way it is but at least there is contact and I can see my niece& nephew

  • Susann
    October 12, 2013 - 12:51 am

    Your story resonated with me. But at the same time I grew up in a different generation. There’s an expectation of honor thy parents. If the parents did their best and no abuse or neglect occurred, where is the honor? What happens to these estranged children when the shoe is on the other foot and they become the parents raising kids, trying to improve on parenting? Will they be forgiven or treated as harshly as they’ve been so judgemental and unforgiving to their own parents?

  • Andrea
    October 19, 2013 - 3:08 am

    There were times when people in my life have told me to cut contact with my father, but I didn’t because I don’t agree with walking away from family. My dad was a decent dad growing up, sure he sometimes was critical, and voiced that I wasn’t good enough but don’t all parents do that?. Things got rocky when I went to live with him at 16. Well he threatened to cut me off if I didn’t go with him. My parents were going though a divorce at the time, At the point, my OCPD and depression got so bad that I wasn’t functional, and instead of helping me, my dad was borderline physically abusive and definitely emotionally abusive. He told me to kill myself in a calm, rational manner. I felt like killing myself because of it when I was going through it. Since then, I’ve worked for him and he has been using that position to threaten me (if I didn’t go to a family event because of a final), or do whatever he wanted. I quit recently, thank goodness. Two weeks ago, I got mad because he didn’t bother to say happy birthday, I told him I was mad and asked him to apologize. He refused, and said he did nothing wrong, which is what he said when confronted with the aforementioned past issues. He got mad, asked me to apologize for being a b*tch, told my mom he never wants to talk to me again and told my brother I’m cut off from the will. The estrangement is fairly recent, and I’m still unsure if he’s serious, but if you could give me some advice that would be great.

  • Becca
    October 19, 2013 - 12:16 pm

    Oscar Wilde….”Children begin by loving their parents, as they grow older they judge them, sometimes they forgive them.

    • Klee
      October 19, 2013 - 6:39 pm

      sometimes they do not forgive, my children are very stubborn and reluctant to forgive, which is sad, we are all wasting time, my grand kids are growing older without a grandfather, very sad

  • Klee
    October 19, 2013 - 6:38 pm

    I to believe praying is a very good idea, but I am in no way going to suggest one denomination is better than another, ALL PRAYER is directed to GOD, one God, many religions, prayer is not denominational.

    Sometimes praying is all we can do for our children, and if we “try to hard” we often make it worse, this is the hardest thing for me is to wait for my adult children to come back to me (if ever), prayer is the only option

  • Anon Anon
    October 20, 2013 - 5:06 pm

    I really think you might be a therapist, but you don’t take into consideration reality with these so-called “children” who are really adults. Perhaps things will change as you get older, and encounter this more often. I hope you never encounter it in your own life!

    I am raising with my husband, and have legally adopted, two of my grandchildren, who were being badly neglected. Their biological mother, my eldest, was given ample opportunity to reunify with her children, but chose not to do so. As soon as the adoption was completed, she decided she wanted to marry a man, and that we should take her out to dinner to meet him, and “plan” how much to give her for a wedding. Part of that included setting up a plan to “give back” the children we adopted. Needless to say, this did not happen.

    She finally married the man in question, two years after their son was born. She spends a lot of time running me down to relatives who still speak to her. When she runs out of those, she finds Internet sites where she can ramble. Sometimes, she tells people I “stole” her children. Trust me, in our state, there is no possible way to “steal” a child via legal adoption! At other times, she joins mother and parenting sites, where she claims to be raising 3 children, the two we are raising, and the one she has. She also claims I diagnosed her bipolar disorder. I am not a doctor, and I can’t prescribe the medicines she was supposed to take- and left down where her children could get them.

    She was raised with love. I thought of her needs and her sibling’s needs before my own. I disciplined her when she required it.

    Thank goodness *my* therapist, and my children’s therapist, don’t expect us to apologize any time soon!

  • Rose
    November 4, 2013 - 4:12 pm

    As humans, we are all flawed. I fully admit that I am far from perfect. I know that my mother did not have a perfect life, and I honestly believe that she did the best that she could, and that she loves me in her own way. That said, I have come to terms with the fact that our relationship cannot continue.

    Her compulsive lying has caused large rifts within the family, and I simply cannot take anymore. All of my life I have sided with her and defended her, only to see my relationships, both family and personal, fall apart because I believed that everything that she said was the gospel truth. If a family member was cheating on their spouse….I believed her. If a sibling said something nasty about me….I believed her. If someone we both knew sexually assaulted her in a hallway, I believed her….etc. My constant defense of her had caused anger and hurt throughout the family. As a result, most of the family keeps it’s distance from both her and from me.

    I have tried talking to her, I have tried writing letters. I went to a therapist with her. I have tried to fix things over and over for years, but everything is always my fault. “Everything she has told me is the truth, she does not tell stories or lie”…. “there was always something wrong with me…she tried her best to socialize me”, “she doesn’t know why I am doing this to her” and then the lies just start getting more and more hurtful. Every time she e-mails me, or I see her number on the phone…..I panic. Yet, every time something goes wrong, I swoop in and fix it. It is not a healthy relationship, and I feel that I have done everything that I can to try and fix it, or at least come to some sort of understanding and set boundaries. Sometimes I honestly think that she believes that she is telling the truth, and I honestly don’t know how to fix it.

    Please don’t judge all estranged children as being spoiled, ungrateful brats when everyone’s story is different. Many of us are responsible, caring adults who have made every effort to preserve the relationship, and are simply at our wits end. I will always love and respect my mother. I will always make certain that she is comfortable and well cared for when the time comes, but I refuse to continue to be part of a relationship that does nothing but cause me pain and anxiety, and alienates me from the rest of the family.

    Let the attacks on my character commence.

    • russ
      November 5, 2013 - 12:13 am

      I feel your pain and have been in the same situation. Those who have lost their children on here see themselves as a victim and lash out then wonder why they aren’t in their children’s life. Not everyone has a perfect family. Many people believe that being a parent entitles respect love and the child to always be there, once a person comes to their wits end, self survival and a happier life is wanted. The world is full of unhappy parents looking to take others down with them. That’s life.

  • Indiandude
    November 6, 2013 - 1:21 am

    I think that your article transports the blame on to a parent’s shoulders and I just feel it is a bit unfair.
    There might be cases where the parents are not ready to accept any criticism from their ‘kids’ but then there are others who are ready to accept it.
    Parents are supposed to express humility most of the time but aren’t their any limits to it?
    Can ‘kids’ take their parents for a ride just because those kids have been brought into this world by them?
    What about kids who really abuse their parents and treat them only as some money-minting machine even as full-grown, able adults?
    And, what about kids who turn towards drugs/prostitution or even some other self-destructive/taboo behaviour – are parents supposed to put up with all that?

    Yes, the parents can put boundaries when their adult kids want to use them only some golden-egg laying hen and that alone can put immense pressure on the relationship with such kids because they would label their parents as selfish and mean.
    So, are parents supposed to admit that they are selfish (clearly, false accusation by the kid) and failed as a parent and then open up their purses to appease the kid?

    This is even more complicated here as I write from Asia. Our notions of love and family are different from those in the western hemisphere because it’s not just about loving and caring for one’s kids. It’s also about loving & caring for one’s parents as adults.

    I thoroughly understand that just because one has loved his/her parents intensely, he/she can’t the expect the same from his/her own kids. (though a mental note of it is inevitable)

    Moreover, in Asian societies unlike the ‘western’, parental responsibility (including financial support) extends well beyond their offspring’s age of 18/21. It carries on many more years to come.

    I am neither married nor a parent but I can understand how deep the pain might be for parents when their kids are truly unreasonable and unkind.

    Should a parent only learn to forgive if he/she wants to get along with the estranged kid and wouldn’t it mean that the kid will the spend the rest of his life thinking that he/she was right with his/her decision to snap ties with mother & father, something that might not be true?

  • Helene B.
    November 9, 2013 - 11:59 am

    I am the parent of an adult daughter who is my only child, who has erased me from her life. I am very depressed and not coping with it well at all. I’m hoping I can get some feedback on how others have learned to accept the loss of a relationship with their child. I have tried to reach out to her since the relationship unraveled, but she ignores any attempts I make.

    • bgsawyer
      November 19, 2013 - 10:25 pm

      I am so sorry that this has happened to you. I don’t care what you may have done wrong, if anything…your child is to honor you. This is solely her sin. I would find a grief support group and meet with other parents who have lost children in death or as prodigals. I find that there is very little to no support for parents like you who have lost a child through the sin of dishonoring. If you had lost your daughter through death, people would respond differently and have more empathy. Please read the Biblical account of The Prodigal Son. I don’t know if you can ever accept the loss of a relationship through this unnatural sin. I think you just learn to live a different sort of life. You live one day at a time. Unfortunately, we have a society that makes excuses for adult children such as your daughter. She will find a lot of support for what she is doing and a lot of people will enable her behavior. One day at a time, one day at a time. Pray and ask God to have mercy on you. Remember, no guilt. This is her sin and hers alone. She owns it. I don’t care what she says you’ve done, I don’t care what you’ve done…she is to honor you.

  • bgsawyer
    November 19, 2013 - 10:18 pm

    From a Judeo Christian perspective, we are to honor our parents. Period. Even in cases of abuse. It is a hard truth. There is an epidemic in the United States, and ONLY the United States, of adult children dishonoring, disrespecting and emotionally murdering their parents. There is NO excuse. Our society is excusing and creating an entire population of ingrates and wounded elderly persons. Think about it. God put honoring your parents up there with not murdering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, yet our society, and even our churches are making excuses for this particular sin which in the top ten of commandments! Why is that? Why do people make excuses for this? The burden of HONOR is ONLY on children. I also believe this means ADULT children. Small children are to OBEY their parents. Adults are to HONOR. Of course it is going to be more difficult for some than others…but that is life. I personally know several adults who have been horribly abused by their parents and they CHOOSE to HONOR and RESPECT them. They are incredible people!

    Of course it is easy to love the loveable…anyone can do that. Children have become spoiled, ungrateful, entitled little brats…and these are the ADULTS that I am talking about!

    There is NO excuse to dishonor your parents. NONE. Honor your son and daughter is NOT in the top ten.

    As I said, this phenomenon of disowning your parents and dishonoring your parents is epidemic only in The United States. We need to be asking ourselves why.

    • russ
      November 20, 2013 - 5:50 pm

      Well it sounds like you found religion to explain your pain in life. Lots of peoples parents die when they were young(mine 18). My mother didn’t even give me a 10$ coffee pot that I wanted when my father passed away (7 figure estate). 20 years later I got the same one my aunt gave my mother which was found at a garage sale. I only keep pictures of my father no other family member now. Yes I am being more self respectful of my own feelings and not subjecting my own family to a negative person or negative family members. I walked away from any money or inheritance, I could care less about it. If any drug or religion could erase the bad memories I would happily take it. Unhappy people abound and they are generally unhappy with how their life has turned out to date in their last years. I just don’t want to be taken down in their unhappiness or repeat what my mother went through. Good luck

  • Guest
    November 20, 2013 - 12:17 pm

    My issue with my mother is that she cannot respect boundaries. I have gradually distanced myself from her over the years, as any time I take the time to take a trip to visit, arguments arise within the hour. Now she is very upset because I am not going to visit her for the holidays. But I told her that for the last decade my visits with her have been so hurtful and miserable. I just can’t put myself through it anymore. I do not accept any kind of money, etc. from my mother so a lot of these situations have nothing to do with a spoiled child.

    People are just respecting their own feelings more than they did 40 years ago. When visiting another person becomes such a stressful, hurtful, unbearable situation, then eventually the relationship is going to cease. A lot of parents think they have the right to say whatever they want and make criticisms, etc. just because it is their child. I used to think I had the obligation to be the dutiful daughter and use my vacation days to visit her instead of taking trips with friends etc. After I told my mother that I would not be visiting any time soon because I am not putting myself in this situation anymore…her response was “I hope you see one day the horrible thing you are doing to me if you have children.”

    This seems like the typical attitude with the parents here….that their adult children should not respect their own boundaries but should allow themselves to be disrespected. So when some of you say that you have absolutely no idea why your child would cut you off….they prob. have told you but you refused to acknowledge their feelings. I know there are some just plain selfish, thieving children out there but estrangement typically just doesn’t happen out of the blue.

  • R. Clark
    November 24, 2013 - 9:24 pm

    This article is well written, but the comments are maddening. I am 45 years old, and after suffering years of abuse by my family of origin I am now estranged and much happier for it.
    I was my fathers caregiver before his passing, and since his death my mothers primary caregiver for the last decade until May this year. Weekly, while my siblings ignored her, I cleaned her home, did her laundry, did her grocery shopping, holiday shopping, bill paying, and took her to Dr appointments. I prepared holiday meals at her home for all of my siblings and their children. I did this for over a decade after my fathers passing while I was working part-time and raising three children of my own. When Christmas rolled around, I received the same gift as each of my siblings, nothing extra. She never paid my bills, nor did I ask her to. Approximately 6 years into this arrangement my eldest sibling went through a divorce and moved back in with her to get on his feet. This sibling not only verbally, physically and sexually abused me as a child, but continued on with his dictatorship when he moved back in. Of course Mom. now in her 80’s didn’t want to be alone, so she let it happen.
    As my mothers health was going down hill, my brother began to make a lot of trouble for us. He would become angry at my mom after we left and lie to her stating we hid his coffee mug, his chocolate was missing, we opened a window we shouldn’t have (as if we had time to dream up these petty things let alone do them.) In fact, every weekend we were there we not only cleaned up after Mom, and any mess our children made, we cleaned up his mess too (excluding his laundry – I had to draw a line somewhere.) Meanwhile, he never got a job, and just mooched off my 84 year old mother, and she let him, and she still does. He is still the evil abuser he always was and my mother makes excuses for him.
    There was a blow out one day, and Mom was completely in the wrong defending my abusive brother and looked straight at my husband and I and said “you were never invited, he was.” Imagine that? After over a decade serving her, to tell us we were never invited.
    We swiftly picked up our things and left. Within 3 days, we received a phone call from my sister (who has been selfishly absent from caregiving for my parents all this time) that locks on the home were changed and we were no longer welcome. Imagine that? My older siblings conspired to take over the estate seeing Mom going downhill, boy did they swoop in fast.
    Since that time, I have tried to call my mother and my calls are blocked for the most part. I sent her flowers, and she doesn’t call to say thank you. I phoned adult protective services to tell them my siblings are isolating her- and they went out to her home and told me “Im sorry, your mother said she needs peace and she doesn’t want to see you.” Really Mom? How about the time you almost died and I stayed int he hospital for 5 days with you neglecting my own children and when you were released you stayed at my home for 6 weeks to recover while I was your 24/7 nurse.
    Obviously I am very hurt and angry. She obviously has dementia. When I told her I was coming with my husband to retrieve our things (we decided we will never subject ourselves to my brothers abuse again) my mother accuses us of causing more trouble. Really? We sacrificed every Fri-Sunday for 10 years to care for her while other families enjoyed their weekends. SAD!
    I am better off without the lot of them. No, it is far far healthier for me to have ZERO contact with all of them. Further, elderly people shouldn’t be so desperate to move low-life abusive loser adult children in with them and allow these perpetrators to isolate them. Sure I hate my brother, nor do I consider him my brother- but I BLAME my mother- she had a choice. She made her choice, and I accept it.
    This weekend I went hiking with my husband and kids, and next weekend (Thanksgiving) instead of cooking for Mom and all of my ungrateful siblings and their children… my husband is taking us to a Las Vegas Buffet.
    Life is good. Estrangement can be very good! I am still healing from this nightmare, but I have my life back and I am intact! Any mother should have been extremely proud to have a daughter like me take excellent care of her – she will reap what she sows. I wasn’t born to be abused my whole life… just the first 44 years apparently.

    • russ
      November 25, 2013 - 5:57 pm

      Wow quite the story glad to hear you have left and are happier for it. Never look back and hang onto the happiness you have now and whats left of your heart, I have. Although what has been taken of my good nature and kindness from others may never leave me as giving as I once was, I am happy to have left my family behind for the the last year. Your story is not the first I have heard about the FAMILY siblings swooping in like vultures to pick the family financial bones, it is a sad state your ex family members are in. All we can do as humans is hope karma and the universe doles out upon death. Forgiving is easy, forgetting is TOUGH and takes along time, but I’ll never have contact with my family again to sit and rehash the past it’s done and over.

  • Tina Gilbertson
    December 17, 2013 - 6:17 pm

    My friends, it’s been well over a year since this post went live, and so I think the time has come to close the comments section.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me, and with each other!