What to Do When Someone Won’t Talk to You

How to Deal with Estrangement

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

Parents of estranged adult children: Please see my book, Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child.

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

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

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

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

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

What NOT to Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When someone won’t talk to you…

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

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

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

2. Curiosity is seen as caring.

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

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

3. Make an effort on their behalf.

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

4. Validate their feelings.

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

5. This is not about you.

Your story is not interesting right now to the person who rejected you. They are only interested in their story.

Since it was they who initiated the estrangement, your only remaining option is to be curious about them, to validate their feelings, and to be available to them in a way that they define as positive or useful.

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

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

6. Accept their decision.

For whatever reason, no matter what you do, the other person may decide not to let you back into their life.

Let them know that you accept their decision, that you genuinely wish them well, and that the door is always open if they change their mind. Acknowledge to yourself the loss of the relationship, and allow yourself to mourn. Practice constructive wallowing.

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

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

263 thoughts on “What to Do When Someone Won’t Talk to You”

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

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

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

      • I found your article after chosing to become estranged from my mother, and I want to reiterate to any parents whose off spring has made this choice that Tina is absolutely 100% spot on. The tragedy for me is that the reasons I have felt forced to estrange myself is my mother cannot manage the exact actions laid out in the article.

        “be curious about them, to validate their feelings, and to be available to them in a way that they define as positive or useful”

        It has taken many years and an amazing therapy called EFT to be able to work out what was going on that always made be around my mother so destructive to me (and my, sadly now dead, sister) even as she always felt she was trying to be good.

        1) “be curious about them”

        My mother cannot and will not hear anyone else’s internal experiences. She shuts me down by: losing focus and staring away, suddenly needing to do something like wipe a spot off the window, interrupting with something innane “ooh! before I forget if you want more cheese there’s plenty in the fridge”, literally just getting up and walking out the room. If she’s challenged she will explain why she *had* to behave that way, and if I would try to explain how it made me feel (as advised by consellors) she would protect herself by turning nasty. She has looked me in the eye and deliberately said the nastiest things she could think of to hurt me, just to prevent her having to acknowledge my feelings. I learnt very young that my emotional needs were not just bad but dangerous, and this treatment has continued. Being with her I would try and keep things to what she felt but it’s not human to be like that, and a slip up “oh, yes, I was upset by that news article too, it made me think . . . ” and she’s off, out the door to make a phone call she’s suddenly remembered she has to make. Everything is about how she feels, even if the discussion was about me it would be about how she felt about how I must feel (if that makes sense). When my sister was diagnosed with cancer I absolutely had, and this with huge dread, to ask her to stop using the phrase ‘but how do you think *I* feel, as a mother?” when ever we discussed it because I could not absorb anymore of her needs. She knew I was right, and she turned so nasty and vindictive although there isn’t anything actually nasty to say about me, the fact my mother was looking me in the eye and trying whatever it took to hurt me just did for me. I had a three month life ruining migraine and that was the beginning of the end for our relationship. I bet she doesn’t even remember it, or thinks we talked about it and sorted it out.

        2) “validate their feelings” my mother probably thinks she does this. Here’s an example, and this is something she told me, obviously believing she had done a good thing. When my sister told her she had a diagnosis of cancer my mother replied “Well! I know what I thought when I was told I had breast cancer. I’m not letting this beat me!” That is as close as my mum gets to acknowledging other people’s feelings. “I know exactly how you feel because this is how I felt when something similar happened to me” is as close as she has ever got.

        3) “be available to them in a way that they define as positive or useful” This is far less of a direct concern to me, but illustrates how my mother just cannot and will not allow that other people have internal experiences to express that she could or should listen to/take onboard. She will force help on my that I am openly and repeatedly saying that I don’t want or need, but expressing over and over, and getting more and more agitated, how worried she is about a situation and how much she wants to help, but when I have been absolutely desperate and asked for help (only twice that I can remember, I learnt very VERY young not to do that) she is already forming her ‘no’ before I have finished. As my own children are getting older now I am actually quite shocked when I look back at the ways she’s treated me compared to how I would respond to my own children (and I am very much an imperfect mother, as we all are). Knowing that there has been tension in our relationship since forever, my mother told me one New Year’s about four years ago that the year to come she was going to ‘work on our relationship’. Apparently this required literally no input from me because at no point did she ask me anything. She carried on this work on our relationship based on what she presumed were the problems?

        The second to last time we were together, sadly to be with my sister as she died (the stories I could tell, even at such a sad time she still managed to behave in a way that made everything about her own feelings and absolutely invalidate that my sister’s husband, sister, or beloved aunty were also going through their own tragedies) she openly told me that she expected to be praised when she made an effort to behave better towards me. I was at the end of my rope and ended up asking ‘do you want a medal?’ when she demanded I acknowledge she hadn’t bugged me to remind me to pack my toothbrush. She replied “*Yes*. I want you to see how hard I am trying”. This was another nail in the coffin of our relationship. If she is only going to make any change at all to illicit praise I have no interest.

        I have been very slowly finding a new balance since I have known I never had to speak to or listen to her again if I don’t want to . I am being freed, but it is very slow and painful. My husband and children still speak to her and see her, and this does make organising things difficult at times, but the relief, oh the relief, of not having to deal with her is amazing.

        I wish I knew that showing her this article would get through to her, but sadly it won’t. Very sadly, because I know she is devastated by our estrangement. But I do hope that maybe some other estranged parents can take onboard what you have said Tina, and try to put aside their assumptions about their relationship with their child, and approach the problems afresh. Please! Find out why your child chose this extreme path. Please! Accept what they are saying as the truth. Even if it isn’t what you meant, it’s what the outcome was. Please! Ask them with an open heart ‘what can I do differently so you never feel you have to do this again?’ You need to create trust that you take them and their feelings seriously.

          • Thank you so much for opening my eyes and heart to your heart of your mother. I am a mother of a daughter she’s 35 and cut me out. After reading this article and other materials this has hit me like a ton of bricks. Before the cutoff I can hear daughter telling me it’s not about you Nadine. Everything is not about you. Etc. wow yes I am only thinking about me and not her truth or validating her voice. I just always thought she hated me hates anything I had to say and had to shut me down. Thank you ? again.

          • Communication is a two way street and my daughter also cut me out. However, when my mom died, I let her know. The first thing she said to my husband was “I can’t unblock mom, she’s dangerous”. Preconceived ideas about mom will keep her in the box you’ve put her in, forever. She is trying and I think that estranged kids need to cut their parents a break and realize that respect does have to come from them but it also has to come from the adult child. It takes two to communicate. If she’s willing to apologize for ways she’s hurt you, I do not believe you’re a team player if you don’t meet her halfway. There is plenty of ways that adult children are unkind and downright cruel. My son used profanity with me. My husband and I have one son that does tlak to us and HE is traumatized by the behavior of his siblings. Three left, one stayed wtih us. He told us he fully plans to close the door on them if they visit. I guess I’m trying to say “who wants to tear the walls down peacefully and who is building that minefield where it’s a no win situation? Think carefully about it. If your mother is abrasive and rude, tell her it bothers you and work with her, in therapy, in finding another way. This millenial thing of throwing parents away is heinous and cruel. Some parents may justifiably be shunned for extreme behavior but many of us went from delivering groceries, babysitting, and handing out thousands in aid money to be summarily dismissed. That judgement? Both mom and child should be under the same guideline of rules. Respect first and no shaming or embarrassing the other.

          • She’s your mum whether you like her or not.she sounds as if she’s stuck in a pattern of behaviour she doesn’t recognise as annoying to you.yoh probably annoy the **** out of her with your own idiosyncrasies too but as she’s your mum , she has had time to watch them develop and understand you.you haven’t. She was fully formed (damaged) by the time you were born.cut the woman so slack.shes trying her best (as she sees it,rightly or not) and hand you get to her age and your own kids treat you like a pariah, it will be too late to simply say, look “it is what it is” agree to differ , ignore the annoying hugs and enjoy the good guys , there will be some if you stop moaning and look a little more carefully. Mums are famously smothering , if they aren’t, you’d moan too!she’s doing her best , ok it’s not good enough but we ALL annoy the crap out of close family ,yes, even you ,mother Teresa! She feels inadequate, irrelevant and as if she has to cram everything in as she’s also living on the clock.mortality is scary and so I viius when you see kids adult before you. Learn to live and let live and to accept her the way she is, warts, annoying habits and all.she lives you more than her life,trust me, she does, shejust gets it wrong all the time and has probably grow. Up being told so by her own overbearing parents……

          • I have done nothing but support my 6 siblings (& their families) past 36 years!! I’m single & living in another State, but have traveled 1200 miles 1-2 times a year To visit them (& their families) I’ve made 90% of the effort to come visit ALL of them & their families… And yet in 2020, I am hurting (Due to loss of job due to Covid) & yet NONE of them even call me to offer a friendly voice of support?!! It’s been 6 months I’ve been unemployed due to Covid I am hurting financially and none of them ever call me to say Hi!!?!
            This is NOT what family is about!!
            I supported all of them and there families past 36 years!!!???

        • Omg thank you for valuable information. I see myself as a mother who didn’t listen to daughter. In fact she would always say it’s not about you! Thank you opens my eyes

          • Hi Lena, no my parents did not divorce. My father died a few years ago. Currently I am now speaking to my mother again but very restricted.

        • I’m trying to hear all this as a mother… and as a daughter. At 47 years old, I am truly in the middle. I now understand that my mother’s perceptions, actions and feelings, and reactions and comments are… just… well… her perspective and very self-focused. Her world is oozing with all things ‘her’ like. Sometimes she’ll say something to me about our that I want to scream “That’s a blatant lie!” but I listen to her instead and I hear what she a story of what she WANTED it to be like, not how it truly was.

          Example: In my real life (my perception) I had just turned 18 years old, a girl entrenched in an abusive relationship I wanted desperately to escape. I was obeying my boyfriend because I was frightened of him and what he would do. My mother seemed so angry at me for “spending all my time with him”, but she wasn’t making herself available to me as an alternative. I was also hurt, as a teenager, that she spent so much time with her boyfriend/fiancee’ and never did anything with me. It was August, and we had a fight. I put so much effort into selecting a college in Philadelphia, and made multiple trips there to get my registration set up. I just needed help with funding… or the paperwork to get it together. We were arguing over this and she yelled at me, “I’m not setting you up in Philadelphia just so you can fuck your boyfriend!!” so viciously and vehemently. I was so deflated and felt so hopeless. Moving to Philadelphia was the only solution I could come up with to escape him, and now that wasn’t even a possibility.

          The reality for my mom though was that she really didn’t know how to fill out financial aid paperwork, and she really didn’t think she’d be able to afford it with the way her finances were going with the fiancee/stepfather. Maybe she actually did believe that I was really into my boyfriend and enjoying being practically raped by him. I don’t know. It wasn’t something I discussed with her.

          I signed up full time at a county college and found a 20 hour per week job as a bank teller. I figured i would get stronger and more powerful and be able to plan a new escape. I continued to try to break it off with the boyfriend. On September 14th, the abusive boyfriend got into our house in the middle of night, flicked on my bedroom night, I woke, startled, and saw him… he flicked the light back out then was on me, covering my mouth telling me to be quiet, that he really needed to talk. He begged and pleaded that I not break up with him, threatening suicide and homicide. I appeased and said it was fine, we could continue dating just to be able to sleep and work out a new plan later. He wouldn’t leave until I ‘sealed the deal’ with sex. I appeased, non-consensual.

          I continued to try to break off the relationship, and keep busy with school and work. In the middle of October I found out I was pregnant. I cried to my mother, so so convinced that NOW she would feel sorry for me and help me. Her response was “I wash my hands of this! You are on your own.” and I was crushed.

          I determined, in my naive way, that I would show her… that I would be a success in life despite all her horrible opinions of me. My perception was that she thought I was a slut who’s promiscuity put me in this position.

          Just today, 30 years later, she told me “Back when you and Mike were just dating, I was trying so hard to get you to go to college in Philadelphia, but you just loved him so much, you wouldn’t leave him. And I knew about the fights! And I even tried to get a restraining order to keep you two apart”

          This is complete fantasy. But I understand it’s a fantasy of what she wishes she had done to spare me the next 20 years of domestic violence, that I never told her about until years after the divorce.

          My mom and I are best friends now, and just like any true friend, I allow her flaws because I love her. In this case, i am the bigger person and I know better. She can say these complete falsehoods about the past, and I used to try to correct her, but she would get understandably defensive and argue. After all… it opposed her ‘reality’. When she uttered this brand new story today, I just kept my mouth shut, and then even closed my eyes and imagined her fantasy. Even though it’s not true, it indicates how much she WISHES it were, and that she loves me so much and wishes she could have protected me.

          Why can’t we as daughter’s allow our mothers to be less than perfect people? Why do we hold them to such an unattainable expectation of being patient, kind, loving, and always saying and doing the right thing?

          Another example: my grandmother was a mean woman. Downright cruel. When we were little she constantly told me and my siblings that we “should be ashamed of ourselves” for behaviors like laughing, or tickling each other… the types of things siblings do and our mother allowed. So we were bewildered by her. She only got worse as years went on.

          Somewhere along the line, she told me this horrific story of her 4th pregnancy. She was elated and overjoyed about it. She went to the doctor and he told it was a tumor, not a pregnancy. He ‘removed’ it and gave her a full hysterectomy. I thought the story sounded too unreal and looked up the doctor to find he had lost his license for malpractice.

          Her meanness was intolerable, but I always held to this image of her… pictures of her pregnant with my mother lovingly embracing her belly. I still feel her pain! Physically and emotionally. It’s written in my genes.

          Wouldn’t it be unfair to call her a ‘bitch’ for her behavior when I know better now? Maybe she was a bitch, but imagine the cruelty and lies and deceit she experienced. How could I expect more of her?

          Why can’t we as daughter’s allow our mothers to be less than perfect people? Why do we hold them to such an unattainable expectation of being patient, kind, loving, and always saying and doing the right thing?

          And now, my daughter turns 29 today, and hasn’t spoken to me in months.

          A few months ago I was attending a conference far from me demographically in Newark. I was scared to drive there. Along my drive, I was arranging to meet her after her work, which was a 1/2 hour away, getting closer to NYC. I was even more scared! I wasn’t the kindest person on the phone, very frantic, and very self-centered (‘all about me’) because my instincts turned to survival mode. I was cat-called on the streets. Then, at the conference, a male presentor had to be told to stop discussing sexual topics (AT A BUSINESS CONFERENCE!!!). Yes, yes, “ALL ABOUT ME”, I can hear all the hurt daughters saying. I drove to my daugher’s work, a completely unfamiliar territory to me, I even got a fine from EZPASS for making some driving error I am unaware of. I waited at my daughter’s work, and watched her work, so FULL of complete love and awe of her! Every time she tried to interject any comment about pushing herself for more achievement and higher pay, and more recognition in her career I shooed it away. I should have just told her “You are so perfect the way you are”, but i figured she must already know that every time she wakes up and looks at her beautiful being in the mirror.

          The truth is, I would be so in love with her even if she were a cleaning lady in a fast food place. I would be so in love with her even if she were in prison. Her being this super high-powered high-payed career woman doesn’t make me love her anymore. And I don’t know why she wouldn’t know that, but I suspect maybe she doesn’t. And I’m not perfect and wonderful and always knowing the right thing to say at the right time, and I can’t even recognize the pain my child might have been feeling, or possibly even equating it to me being uninterested in her because I shooed off discussions of her career success.

          At dinner, and with a shared bottle of wine, the conversation did shift away from career and to rape. She told me of two rapes she experienced. One I knew of, because as she said, “You saved me, when you walked into that public rest room screaming at me to get out, you saved me, he was raping me”… and I thought to myself that finally we were getting to a healing point, and I could be that one who helps her heal. And she told me about the other rape that i didn’t know about. And we were hushed in a restaurant and blotting our tears and I was sooo in love with this courageous survivor! My hands were reached across the table, and i was cooing quietly, it’s ok, its ok.

          But it wasn’t. She kept saying things like “Don’t you remember?” and “Remember what you said?” and “Remember what you did?” and i replayed as much as I knew, of course from my perspective. And then she kept telling me I owed her an apology, and that I needed to apologize. And I didn’t know for what.

          I thought maybe she just wanted that listening ear, and that empathy, so I said I’m so sorry these things happened… happened to her… to me… to so many. It’s so awful. And it so wonderful that such powerful amazing women are changing the world now, and I’m so proud that she has that opportunity to be a part of the change in this new world.

          But that wasn’t the apology she was looking for. I was confused. Especially when she stood up and walked out of the restaurant, leaving me in an unfamiliar place without a car, and in a suit with high heels, at night, somewhere by NYC.

          She later sent me a text saying “You told me I deserved to be raped.” I texted back “I did?”. She texted, “Cute.” and then next “You lost a daughter tonight”.

          Later I researched all about rape victims and how to consul them or help them or support them. And I thought long and hard about how hard I was on her in her pre-teen and teen years about wearing provocative clothing and the message it sends out. I sent a lengthy apology for that, explaining I didn’t mean for it to sound anything like ‘girls are to blame for the rape culture’.

          …and that is where it ended. …and now it’s her 29th birthday. I typed up a text to send her using this article as guidance, but I still can’t help to think we should be be kinder to our mothers and not expect such perfection from them. I’m doing my best and I’m sure many others are too.

          (I didn’t edit or proofread or even read back my emotional outpouring here. i just spilled it. I apologize in advance for how it comes off, if in any way insensitive or with errors)

          • I can look at my mother very much as a person. I definitely didn’t expect perfection from her. She grew up in an emotionally abusive household with mental illness, married my dad to get away from it, and then spent the next 40 years of her life so angry at the unfairness of the social contract she agreed to and so scared of her narcissistic alcoholic husband that she took it out on her kids.

            When I was little, in the 90s, she would give us “couch talks.” It involved the three of us sitting on a couch while she screamed at us until we broke down sobbing. It was a repeated narrative of: we were ungrateful, we were selfish, we were lazy. She cleaned the house because it was the only thing she had control over, but she resented it and felt overwhelmed. She was depressed, and started to work through some of her issues with meds. And when the meds didn’t work that month, or things got to be too much, we got a couch talk. I was a teenager before I realized the systematic destruction of your self-esteem wasn’t normal, and in fact what authoritarian regimes do.

            She didn’t divorce. She didn’t escape. And her marriage ended in a federal trial for child porn possession that swept my father out of her life. She had roughly 4 years in her lifespan to be alone with herself and find out who she really was. And she realized she didn’t like it, or like herself, so she went out and found someone exactly like my Dad to drown it out.

            I say often that her death was the best thing that could have happened to our relationship. I’ve definitely tried hard to see my mother as a person instead of a god, and for all the effort it doesn’t diminish anything. It doesn’t diminish that she ignored her own agency and power in her relationship with my Dad. It doesn’t diminish that she chose to take her helpless rage out on her kids. And it definitely doesn’t help that the older I got the less reliable she was. My mother was determined to go through life as a victim, because victims can’t be assholes and they can’t be held responsible either. In any given situation, my mother was either. Dad was mean? She was a victim. She could’ve left Dad? Why are you being so mean to a victim, asking her to accept responsibility for her victimhood?

            I was declared disabled at 32, and lost my house. There were two very important moments in that stretch of time that solidified my mother’s determination to be a victim. One was that while I was still living in the house, I was actually desperate enough to ask her for help. She promised to send $200 to help keep the electricity on. And the money didn’t show, and didn’t show, and when I finally snapped out of fear and anger her rebuke was immediate: “You shouldn’t have depended on it.” She was the victim of my need, you see, and how could I be so mean as to depend on her? It was my fault and my mistake, not hers.

            The other was when I received a vacate notice for the house. I called her and said I was going to declare bankruptcy because it would allow me another 6 months in the property. She burst into tears about how difficult it was going to be for people in her life to know that her daughter had to declare bankruptcy. She hung up on me because she was so upset. As usual, I had to weather things by myself.

            The bottom line for most child estrangement is a lack of reliability. You can’t trust that your parents are going to help you in any way. They’re not going to support you emotionally or financially or in any other capacity. And while they should be the most reliable people in your life, they’re too self-absorbed to be so. Knowing that, logically parsing it out, and acknowledging it doesn’t make that reality any easier to bear. I know my mother had issues and there were terrible things done to her disguised as love. It didn’t keep her from being an asshole and making choices that made her an asshole. And who would miss that kind of relationship? I didn’t have it when she was alive, so what changed when she died? Absolutely nothing, except the benefit of not having to listen to her bitch about what a victim she was all the time.

            I can honestly tell you that I cried more for my dog dying 6 months later than I did for my mom. And if you don’t want that to happen with your kid, you need to stop acting like they owe you anything. They didn’t ask to be born and they didn’t ask to shoulder your shortcomings. Maybe there will be a chance for that kind of give and take when the relationship matures, but if you’re looking at estrangement your daughter has nothing to lose with you. Let me repeat that: NOTHING TO LOSE. You need to make yourself valuable to her. I don’t keep people in my life anymore who don’t give me something in return, because my parents taught me that lesson. And when the response is “Well I’m not perfect!” to excuse you being an asshole, it doesn’t make you any less of an asshole. I’d start with “I’m sorry” and go from there.

            I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I’d ever had to tell my mother about a rape. It would have immediately become a victimhood competition, just like my disability. I remember when I told her I couldn’t clean because my back hurt, she snapped “Well my back hurts too, you know!” (Turns out it was the cancer that would kill her doing that, so everybody gets theirs.) Estranged parents think that their pride and an apology is not worth their kids, really. That’s what it comes down to. You want to have your cake and eat it, too; you want to not be wrong and also have a relationship. The world doesn’t work that way, and I have no sympathy for a parent that would demand that a full-grown adult accept that kind of relationship parameter just because they were a child at some point. YOU wouldn’t accept the deal of “I’ll be in a relationship with you but I can’t be wrong too many times, ‘kay?” but you’re expecting it of your daughter.

            I am the daughter that people fear: I am the one who didn’t cry at your funeral and doesn’t miss you. I am the one who actually didn’t attend your funeral at all because I had more important shit going on. I am the one who salts the earth of your legacy by telling people what a shitty person you were. I am the one who will erase you and feel better for it. It was a long road to get here, but oh boy was it ever justified. And no amount of fair thinking and insight fixed it.

          • Dear Tina,

            Thank you for your article. I agree with it up 90% percent, however I think, there are some, probably rare scenarios, when it is really not the fault of the rejected parents, siblings or even elder generations that they are all rejected. We were rejected by my brother ( the whole of his family ), after massive narcissistic abuse by his wife, after trying to keep the relation no matter the cost, standing the chain of humiliating situations, words. We know my brother got hurt when here and there and after a long time, we stood up against the obvious manipulations, yet, despite our immense hurt on our side we never thought of discarding him and his wife. After one argument, provoked out by the wife, we indeed made the mistake of having and showing reactive anger and a heavy discussion took place during which it became clear that no matter how much we apologise, offer practical solutions to avoid these kind of conflicting situations, he has made his discard choice already. We tried many times to ask how are they doing etc, but we always received a very aggressive and further refusing to talk, short answer, or rather reaction. Thinking of your question whether what hurts us, the thought that it is wrong of them to reject us or that the person itself is gone out of our lives, my answer would be rather none of those two. It hurst to see which person my brother became due to his marriage, because I do not miss his current, new version, and that for this new person I am not valuable enough to give a chance to reconcile after which we could together or him alone, whatever suits him, find a small place in his life and heart for us, the discarded ones. The lack of reciprocated mercy, chance for a discussion is what hurts, while it was many time given to them.

            Thank you,

          • I’m very sorry for the current loss of your brother. Sometimes the only thing one can do is take a step back and wait, rather than sticking around and continuing to feel mistreated. It sounds like that’s what you’ve decided to do.
            The French have saying, “Life is long.” In my view, there’s always hope for change.
            Wishing you and your family all the best.

          • You need to forgive yourself and get counseling. Your daughter is in excruciating pain from the rapes and lashing out at you bc you are the safest person in her life and will love her unconditionally. Stay the course, pray for her and line your life. You can’t undo the misplaced blame in her mind. Only she can through working on herself and a good counselor. There are a zillion therapists that will tell her exactly what she wants to hear instead of helping her heal. Seen it a zillion times with people of all walks of life. It only perpetuates the original problem and creates more but who wants to pay for the harsh truth? So find a good counselor and do your own work and let her find her way back to you. The things we chase continue to run.

          • This was authentic and the way you relate to your mother is so wise. Another person would continue the anger at her “lying”, but you can see it for what it is. That’s love. I hope your daughter has come around. I have a grown son with a family who doesn’t speak to me. I am here for him whenever he wants to come back. These estrangements seem very prevalent these days.

        • Thanks for sharing your story, Roxy. I’m sorry for the additional mothers here invalidating & gaslighting you, and I hope you are able to forgive them for their own difficulty taking responsibility & resenting the consequences of their lack of accountability.

          The worst – “but she’s your mother” – and? Your mother isn’t entitled to making everything about her & neglecting your very human need to be seen & heard. If she’s this self centered now despite consequences, it’s not likely she was ever great at helping you feel seen, even when it was her responsibility as a parent to see you and failing to has been traumatic & lot to heal from as an adult recognizing your inner turmoil resulting from her shortcomings in parenting (despite how good her intentions may have been).

          Estrangement is such a painful choice for children (our lack of dramatic display doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt – we’re grieving the death of the parent we need & learning to forgive the parent we were given). Estrangement is rarely pursued without heavy thought, consideration, & at least some valid reasons.

          You tried your best & are being told to try harder. Your mother isn’t meeting you half way (she moved an inch & wants a medal); you have every right to expect her to do better.

          Millennials are learning to assert their own right to happiness & deserve feeling worthy. Our parents’ generation is struggling to let go of centuries of “tradition” centered around enabling parents crossing boundaries & feeling owed by their children without due respect to the child or allowing the child to be their own, autonomous person with their own needs & voice.

          I also have chosen very low to no contact with my mother, & will deal with some grief & guilt for a long time, but the relief of getting out of the toxic entanglement is definitely worth the pain. Wishing you lots of love & healing. And thank you for your vulnerability; stories like yours help me feel understood & not alone too.

          • As a mom who is imperfect not also very loving and genuine, I can tell you I find it interesting that very few here (kids or mom’s) have mentioned FORGIVENESS as a potential remedy, even though it would seem the only way to reconcile. Forgiveness does not REQUIRE apology! Although apology does help the process. If a parent is genuine and says to their child, sure I was not perfect, but I care about you and would like to share at least a small part in your life, do you think it is ethical to not simply acknowledge that here is this person who wants to be acknowledged, despite their many faults (we all want and deserve this, as humans). Unless the parent is STILL engaging in truly abusive behavior, they do absolutely deserve the forgiveness we all deserve, as imperfect humans. It is selfish and cruel for adult children to cut off parents who GENUINELY want to reestablish a HEALTHY and amended relationship. Not a toxic one. But a parent who says hey. Maybe we will not agree about all things, including our version of the past! But can we start HERE to create new memories and forgive and allow other to be loved although imperfect? I am religious, however this could be a non religious philosophy as well. It seems fundamentals to our survival as a SPECIES that we forgive!!!

        • I know this is an old thread, and probably won’t be read, but I have to comment on this. Your mom was present. She was losing a daughter, and trying to keep her head above water, and trying to fix it … as mom’s do. Moms are not perfect, but if they are present and “trying” and loving, honest, dependable, etc – there are just so many things to think of. Many of us have not read the psychological books or practiced the right words in a disagreement, but we love our children fiercely and do our best with what we have. You can have heart to heart talks and meet with a counselor, and open the love with ANYONE you decide to, but I think it is SO important for a mother/daughter to do. I never let anyone or anything destroy my relationship with my mom. We broke down, we cried – EVERY HUMAN being on the planet puts themselves and their perspective first, because that is who they are and all they know. They have to learn and be guided to listen, respect boundaries, LEARN boundaries – change their instincts literally to satisfy the comfort of their loved one(s). Love can grow to incredible heights if you take the time to listen, do the work, and love with all you have. It’s NOT easy, but I don’t think estrangement is EVER the answer unless there is someone with a substance abuse issue or mental health issue that refuses help. Other than that, I think we should be there for our mothers/daughters/husbands/sons/fathers for our entire life.

          • Well said, may God bless you for honoring your mother and father and in turn they and he will do the same for you. Revenge is not he answer and when a child or parent cuts the other off, this is revenge. The bible clearly states this is sin. Sin always causes bad consequences so avoiding it is the best thing to do and the bible is clear about what God feels about those who lead his children to sin. The many therapists who are mis-leading young adults into doing such, will one day answer to him for it and possibly the parents themselves in a class action lawsuit. Much damage has been caused to both parties the child and the parent due to such. I feel so bad for young people falling into this remedy, it is not only ruining their lives, but draining them of their much needed money. If it is the spouse and her family doing so, they too will face the same type of consequences in time, as what goes around always comes back around. This is why the bible clearly says “Treat others as you would want to be treated”.

        • I’m so sorry, but what about when you haven’t done things to your child, and their excuse is “you know” when we really don’t know. We have been asking for years if we have ever done anything, and it’s always a no. Our son and daughter in law are 30 and our grandson is 3. They have cut off all contact with us and have made up some very big lies about us that are totally untrue. I would be the first to admit, but it has to be some grain of truth. Society today is upside down.

        • Dear, dear Roxy Eastland, you describe MY mother perfectly! … and we are in the same situation, my twin sister died of cancer several years ago, and my mother made that experience all about her. My mother is bona fide diagnosed with Narcississtic Personality Disorder, and I but off contact for several years before my sister’s illness. Since my sister became sick and passed away, I’ve maintained LIMITED contact on MY terms – brief visits, I stay in a local B&B, and when I’ve reached my threshold of tolerating her behavior, I say my goodbyes. This is working for us right now. I want to send you a HUG. You are doing what works for you and keeps yourself safe and healthy. I remember that feeling of relief when I was no contact – it’s life-changing! Blessings to you. ~Dee

        • Oh my goodness I don’t know if you will see this, but I am so sorry that this has been your experience with your mother and I am so sorty for your loss of your sister.. I think that your mother and mine must be twins because I could have sworn you were talking about her. Verbatim! At the age of 61, I realized that my mother is a narcissist and isn’t capable of ever meeting my needs. I used to resent/even hate her but I now cut her some slack because she is this way because of HER messed up childhood, (which she insists was much worse than mine),LOL. My mother never wants to talk about my concerns or problems either. She changes the subject to the weather, cloud foramtions or a spot on the window and also gets up and leaves the room when I am mid sentence or crying about something. I take care of her since my sister died and it sure can be challenging.I am estranged from my own daughter and am get so much from Tina’s channel.

        • I appreciate your well laid explanation of the reason you would estrange your mother. I am a parent estranged by a son, and while my story is not the same, it helps to try to get into the point of view of an adult child. It has helped me to think, to flip to the adult child.

        • In a moment, you may change your perspective of your mum. If you approach her with a loving attitude, every action might not be seen as a flaw in her character. I see how you bewilder her with the difficulty you perceive. It feels as if she is a feeling mother who also hurts, but you cannot acknowledge that. Your needs are first in your mind. If you forget yourself and just love her, you will feel much better. Alain de Botton says we are disappointed because of our expectations. It is sometimes difficult for a mother to be an equal after taking care of children’s needs for so long. You are a good mother partly because of values she has instilled in you. I don’t see her as uncaring. Perhaps she has inabilities to react correctly to your needs, but she will be aware of them. Also keep in mind her upbringing. Be more caring of her, more nurturing. It will free you from the constraints of your history.

        • Very well said as most mother’s of EC’s, have no clue of what really happened on their child’s part. And I’m taking all you have said to heart . Thank you for sharing. I’m m glad for what you did and your freedom from all the anguish it has caused you. Your mom needs to get a grip on her own thoughts and feelings.

      • Hello,
        My sister asked me to refinance my house so she could buy a house. I said no, I do not want the responsibility of another house and that she can do it on her own. She said she cannot afford to buy a house. My sister is self employed and her business is very successful. She is single with no children. My sister has blocked me on her phone after I said no. I have phoned her and texted her offering to go to bank with her and look at houses and she will not reply. Please help. Kind regards jennifer

      • Thank you so much for weaving the gold you have into this article. i’ve been in awful fear of losing my daughter, who lives with me & her father in the marital home. My husband & i are separated under that rooof. There is civility but the situation is toxic. My husband emotionally manipulates my daughter, & thereby my own. Thoughts of leaving the house with no semblance of a mother-daughter relationship has been a weight heavier than the prospect of being homeless after settlement without any income. i haven’t been able to think clearly enough to know what i could possibly do to prevent our ties being severed. It may still not be possible to prevent a breakdown, but your words show me i have the power to work to keep & grow the relationship with my daughter. i have the power of love. You showed me how to use it well.

      • Two of my siblings have rejected me. We are adults. They both have had substance abuse issues at one time. One currently does. They have told multitudes of lies about me to my mother and stepfather. And they have believed it! I feel so awful because family is everything to me. My mother engages them but not me. Only superficially. I am self employed. Have a great business. Have wonderful children. And wonderful friends. Yet my own siblings won’t speak to me.

        • Hi Satia,

          I have 2 siblings that won’t speak to me either. It’s really tough. I try to understand where they’re coming from, yet they have accused me of things that I don’t do. We can’t really talk about it; I get cut off before we have a back and forth conversation.

          The biggest thing I’ve learned is that estrangement runs through the generations. It’s as if it becomes the natural way to deal with differences. I’ve seen this in relationships back to the 1800’s in my grandfather’s self-published book of family.

          It would take both family members actively changing that dynamic to repair the family connection.

          I am beginning trauma-focused therapy to help me heal this family pattern. Time to put an end to it. When my daughter estranged from me in her 20’s, I started healing all this. I hope to someday repair the relationship with her.

          • My sister cut me out of her life. It’s the most painful thing I have been through and continue to go through. I am the older sister and was always there for her. Helped her in anyway I could. I thought we had a good relationship, but beginning in Dec 2020, she began to change. She became more and more argumentative, acting snotty towards me. Over the next 6 months, she just ripped me apart. Almost like how a drunk person will really be honest with you, that’s how she was treating me. When I tried to defend myself, she cut me off. It’s like our whole sisterhood was a lie. I’ve done some reading and research about her behavior; she is either using drugs or a narcissist. It’s been a little over a year since she cut me out of her life completely and I’m slowly healing. I wish I could just forget all about her, but I’m just so hurt. My heart is broken.

          • Hi Michelle and Jennifer, I’m glad this post is still going. I just found it! The same thing happened to me. I always thought my sister was my best friend. We would call each other every day and end each conversation with “I love you” as adults. After I had my second child I made my sister and her husband the Godparents. Out of the blue she started refusing to be in pictures with my kids. At first she said she didn’t like how she looked in pictures. She refused to be in pics with my kids on their Birthdays, First Christmas etc. I thought it was bazar and tried not to let her push my buttons. It seemed she was going for a reaction from me. Then one of my kids 3rd Birthday I caught her off silently in a corner DELETING pictures I had taken of my sons Birthday, off MY camera. If she was in the background of ANY of them..they got deleted. When I realized what she had done I confronted her. She said “I told you I didn’t want to be in pictures” I responded “I have also said I don’t like how I look in pictures in the past, but when you said to me….Oh please it’s a picture for (insert her Childs name), I gladly threw my arm around them and took the picture. (I should also mention I don’t have Facebook and would NEVER post a pic of anyone on there. Especially with out permission.)
            I asked her why she INSISTED I be in pics with her kids…and I did gladly….but she refuses? Why is it not RECIPROCAL that I care more about her kids memories, than my own ego?? Then she said “I will be in picures with anyone but your family!”…Yea…you read that right. This happened in 2011 and I haven’t heard from her since except right after it happened, she had her husband scream at me and my husband over the phone about things she completely made-up about me. I didn’t even try to defend myself for fear of making things even worse. It’s sad because I always ADORED my sister. The world feels empty without her. I always pictured our kids growing up together and being close. I don’t know why people suddenly manufacture grievances about family members. I thought she at least had the emotional maturity to talk it through with me, but it seems she doesn’t care enough about me or my kids….or even her kids, to put her ego aside and say she’s sorry and that she acted poorly. My parents witnessed the whole thing and while she was the golden child growing up…now they see her for who she really is. It doesn’t make it any better. I just want my family back. I want my kids to feel loved by their WHOLE family. When I made her and her husband Godparents to my son they wouldn’t even come back to the house because she wouldn’t have pictures taken with my son. In hindsight I shouldn’t have made them Godparents but I was in shock. I hoped it would turn around. I just want you to know you’re not alone. It’s devastating and cruel for a family member to manufacture reasons to abandon you. Especially when that family member full well knows that you love them. It’s like a slow torture. I even reached out to her when they found cancerous cells during one of my colonoscopies. I had my Mother e mail her (I knew for sure she would just delete mine) and tell her to get checked! We didn’t hear back for months. Then my Mom e mailed and said she was desperate to know if the got checked and if she was OK? She got a response “all is well….blessings”….so strange. No thank you for the heads up….nothing. Then I reached out when Covid started to let her know we were all ok. Telling her I was taking care of our parents also inviting her to communicate if she wished and telling her she’s my sister and I’ll always love her….This was March 2020. I’ve had no response to date.
            Fortunately I’ve run into some of her friends who have told me it wasn’t about the pictures. It was about jealousy. I don’t understand why she would be. We are like comparing apples to oranges. I just can’t grasp the 40 years of having a close, loving relationship with my sister…then suddenly she rips off the mask…and she never really cared at all.
            I don’t know about you guys but it feels like PTSD. I’m so sorry it’s happening to you as well. It’s a reality I’m sure that like me, you want nothing to do with. I say prayers all the time for the situation to resolve, I will say prayers for you as well:)

    • At some point they felt really devalued /attacked/unseen/betrayed/vilified/rejected etc by you.

      You hit the nail on the head though most people who do this are narcissists and believe they did nothing wrong.

    • This article is very helpful and has inspired me to write a letter to my 3 daughters. They are age 30, 29 and 29 (twins). Their mother divorced me 5 years ago and they visit her and spend time with her but not me. Just prior to divorce my ex wife said she would destroy me (I had discovered her incest with her father). She tried to murder me and then did a brutal divorce leaving me almost destitute. I want to move on and ask God every day to give me a heart of forgiveness. It hurts so much that my children will not talk to me. I spent so much time providing for them and protecting them but that is not important. It would be good to have the odd call or text from them to know they are ok. I am desperate for the wisdom to know how to deal with the situation

      • (Late reply) It saddens me to hear of your ongoing “ordeal”. As a father, it pains me to know that you are without your “little girls”. It also pains me to hear of yet another father who has been made to endure such pain because of information discovered. Attempted murder, I believe, is emotionally devasting! I understand and long for that “odd call” as you put it from my 29-year-old daughter as well as finally meeting my 3 grandchildren (6, 3&3 twins) and her husband for the first time. Wisdom? I am confident that you’ve sought the ONLY source that matters: God. He knows your pain! He has a plan for you! David, each of us has to run OUR race!

    • Goodness I think when you are shamed or ignored or blamed for all of the family’s problems and are estranged with ptsd from that you do go on and on writing trying to repair relationships but as it is not repairable by you, often abuse is not about you, you are made to believe by family that you are the cause and must fix it. Nice suggestion in the article but mostly disconnection is just that, in my family unresolvable and ending in terrible hurt. I have to let it go or go on and on helplessly looking for solutions. Your solutions only work perhaps sometimes. My family is extremely toxic. Nothing works and I just get ptsd and more estranged. Let it go but I still look for solutions helplessly hyperventilating. Heart attack material. Be in peace. Separate partly or totally.

    • Yep kids nowadays dont want to know or work issues out with their parent…..not until their will comes into play that is. Kids disown their parents but still expect to reap the rewards of their parents will when their parents die…wtf

      • If this is how you feel, spend it all. My grandmother used to try to use money to control her family. Guess who was the nicest to her and cared for her until the end? Me, the only one who didn’t want or need her money and was very clear to her about that.

        • You have a kind heart. I am estranged from a daughter who texted me I was evil and vile. I haven’t been the best parent and I know I wasn’t there for her. I have apologized for not being a good parent to her. She is 25 now and told me she never will talk to me and won’t be there for my funeral. She said I was self centered, uncaring, manipulative, and other things. I agreed I was indeed those things, but was willing to change so that we could have a healthy relationship, but she said it was too late since she said I could never change my ways. I will always love her, I don’t have any negative thoughts about her. She is doing what she thinks is best for her even though I will miss her. Some things can’t be fixed no matter how much you want it. I will always have my heart and door open to her if she ever changes her mind. I know she told my husband he was toxic too, but she still keeps in touch with him. I just wonder why him and not me?

      • i was tortured physically by my mothers boyfriend as a child. my mother always took his side in order to protect her free lunch. she had 2 kids with him. she is still with him til this day. she still refuses to own up to any part in destroying my life. i havent seen her in 18 years. she had tried time and time again to locate me. it has gotten so bad i even had to estrange every single blood relative i knew. i dont have any family now. i live alone. i will never see any of them again… my mother has a house. when she dies, who cares. i dont want any of her property. i feel better about it this way

        • My heart hurts to hear your story. I appreciate your position, and wish you nothing but the best.

          My hope for your family is that your mother’s own healing (staying with someone capable of torturing a child speaks to a need for emotional healing) will eventually bring her best self back to you. If that doesn’t happen, I am truly sorry for your loss.

          Without knowing you, I can say with conviction that you didn’t deserve to be tortured by your mother’s boyfriend. If you haven’t already done so, please seek support. You may be interested in the Trauma Chat Podcast hosted by my colleague, Laura Reagan, LCSW-C.

          • you have to understand, that guy enjoys hurting people.

            my healing began when i pushed them out of my life. the psychological harm from allowing them to be in my life is far greater than that caused by pushing them out of my life.

            sorry, i was just trying to make a point that everyones situation is different

    • My daughter was pregnant with my first grandchild. My husband and I went to my moms house and the conversation found it’s way to names for the new baby. I told my mom that my daughter and her husband had two names they liked. Josie and Jolene. My mom said “you tell her if she names the baby Josie I want my diamond earrings and gold chain back. I said,”you tell her!” She said,”no, you tell her. So I did. She still named the baby Josie.
      My daughter went into labor so on our way I called my mom and told her where to send flowers if she wanted. She said she would send them to her house. I said ok. Baby born and I sent her pictures by email and tried calling. Left a message.
      Got back to town and she called and asked how everything went I said oh it was wonderful. Then silence. Like deafening. So I said, well it’s been nice talking to you. And I hung up.
      She pulls these stunts. Like she makes events stressful because I feel I have to make sure she is comfortable always or she acts spoiled. Like at my daughters graduation. She kept holding her ears and turning around because people were rooting and clapping and yelling for their kids. She said you wait til your 77 and have a hearing aid. She makes it obvious she dislikes my other daughters boyfriend. She says things like ,”more rope to hang yourself with” when my daughter graduates with honors and clubs so she has like 8 cords.
      I invited her to lunch after six months of nothing. I drove to her city and picked her up. We went to a restaurant I picked as it was the kind of food I had been missing. She had been there before. She ordered a lot of appetizers. They were all gross. I think she knew I wouldn’t like them as this kind of food is what we grew up on and we both knew it wasn’t real “”Cajun” food. Conversation was good. She didn’t bring issues up. Brought her home and then on my way out I said I was sorry we’ve been distant and I wish we could fix it because I miss her.
      She called me once. Don’t think I called her back. Haven’t heard from her in months. Got a birthday card w a check and it had her name in corner with pod my brothers name under it That scares me. She’s planning on dying. Last year she sent a card w no check signed mom. I was sad as she always said love mom and sent a $100 check. It’s not about the $$. But it was a sign to me. So this year she signed it love mama and included a check. My question is do I call her and say thank you and strike conversation. Do I email her a thank you. Write her a thank you.
      I’m so tired of being hurt. I have nothing to apologize for. She can’t be mad about a name. She wrote me emails that say she can’t be around us anymore because it reminds her of her family and they are circling in for the kill. Her family names. I named my son Her uncles name. My youngest daughter her aunts name. And now my daughter named her daughter her other aunts name. So NOW she tells me she never likes any of them and they were awful to her. Funny cuz one of them had my bridal shower at her home and was always fine with me. And my mom. Maybe she is trying to die without me involved. She does have copd and has had it a while. I am so scared I will say something wrong. I feel she is very narcissistic and toxic to me. Always on egg shells. I had the best childhood. Felt loved and cherished. My dad also never calls. Thinks I’m awful cuz I’m a conservative so he won’t call me. I visited him. He’s become a recluse. Anti social. My sister thinks I should of given my case of N95s to the hospital. When I told her no, we bought these for our preparedness kit and the hospital should of had their own stockpile she hung up on me. Haven’t tried calling her back since either. Trying to impress her socialistic views on me..” what is yours is mine”. Nope. Not doin it. My brother called me Karen on fb the other day. My brother! I cried. So. What to do. ”

    • I’m so sorry. My son is in the same situation. He cut off all contact with his dad because he’s so rude and judgmental. He says it’s better this way but I know it bothers him. Im trying to stay out of it altogether.

      • Thanks for sharing, Susan

        As my situation is a mirror to yours (of a kind), I wanted to share this thought.

        My mother is the dark side, rather than your family where it is the father (if I may paraphrase your comment, sorry if that is not a fair summary). My mother is also rude and judgemental plus devious and tries to scapegoat us and to segregate and belittle our children (her grandchildren). It is just dreadful. But my father is a good man, in all regards bar one, he never stands up to my mother. My father would be able to fix and heal some of our estrangement, at least to restore basic communications, but my mother silences him and my father lets her.

        I understand why staying out of things happens, for you and my father, but also feel it is a double tragedy for families. Wickedness in one parent (speaking for my mother only, not your husband) is punishment enough but becomes a tragic lost opportunity where there is a healing and kind parent who stays silent.

        Just my thought from our experience. I hope things work out for your family.

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

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

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

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

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

      I wish your family healing and peace.

      Edited January 2021: The Guide is now a full-length book called Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child. It’s available everywhere.

      • Tina, My story is too long to even begin to explain here but one main question is what do you do when you do have a son who just has some serious issues, lies constantly, so much so, can’t even tell when he lying cause he believes his own lies.

        Then gathers other siblings and step siblings and tells them stuff that maybe some small part is true but exagerates it by 10 times and now has all of my four kids not talking to me.

        How in the world do you handle that? There’s no winning it seems like. He’s seems so angry about things from like 20 yrs ago that I have apologized for so many times I can’t begin to count.


        • Hi Brad, it can be very frustrating to feel that your adult child is being unreasonable. The only way I know of to try to repair what needs healing in that relationship is to figure out something that’s within your power to control. I wrote a Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children to help with that. It’s over 100 pages — too much for me to try to nutshell here.

          You can’t control your son’s behavior. But there may be something you can do to address his pain, which may help with some of those issues you mentioned. Good luck.

          Edited January 2021: The Guide is now a full-length book called Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child. It’s available everywhere.

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

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

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

    Isn’t my life grand? LOL

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

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

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

    Any advice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Edited January 2021: The Guide is now a full-length book called Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child. It’s available everywhere.

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

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

    Thank you for reading me,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      I wish you well and will be praying for you,


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

    • I think you need to reread the article. Just because you think there is no reason does not mean there isn’t one (or many) especially since you seem to feel you’re so much better than he is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  9. Hello Tina,

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

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

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

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

      Edited January 2021: The Guide is now a full-length book called Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child. It’s available everywhere.

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

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

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

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

      Thanks again for your comment.

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

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

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

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

    • Totally agree with mkr, no matter what you may think or brainwashed about your parent. Especially as a mother that carried you in her body, (never did I abuse her or her sister I protected them from the mental and emotional abuse of their father- we are divorced and he has brainwashed her – my thoughts) we were best friends she would come to me for everything, now she has two beautiful boys. I met one on New Years Day 2018 in Barnes and Noble (what a way to meet your grandson) I tried to talk to her- no response. I’m not looking for pity, I want my daughter back, I want to be able to see my two grandsons (one I haven’t even met yet he’s 6 months old), I just don’t understand, maybe it’s because my mom has Alzheimer’s and I see her disappearing (my mother is basically already dead, she is nothing like she used to be – my daughter doesn’t even care enough to bring the boys around to see great grandma….x has ruined me, he said he wanted to see me crash and burn guess he couldn’t get me one way so he did it with our oldest daughter). I will always give my mother time, love and attention (I don’t speak much of my father because he rejected me because of his wife) WOW I’m always getting rejected lol… Sorry I’m all over the place, my mother and step father have done some evil things, and yes I have gone a few years without speaking to my mother, but I always come back, my grandmother went through the same thing, mom and dad divorced my father’s side was not in the picture. At age 16 I asked my mother for my grandmother’s phone number (she still had it!!) I called (we share the same name) and she was a little confused at first, the next weekend we went up to see her. I only had ten years with my grandmother I was her everything and she was my everything. I just don’t understand why, she sees how her sister was treated by their father and his gf, and still I am the bad one. The was you expressed taking out the sorrow is me to the tee. But I’ve tried everything. I have gone through two major surgeries (one lasting over 12 hours) and nothing from her. I know both her husband and her wish I was dead instead of her mother-in-law (yes it was said) and you know what sometimes I wish that too… But I can’t let this ruin my life with my youngest daughter and my husband (my high school sweetheart) It’s just hard, exhausting, mentally and physically.

      • I have a stepsister who cut me out of her life… I have had many people be nasty do shitty things and cut me out but will use this one as an example… she lives in a different country and when I lived there in the same town as her for 3 yrs I had a baby… and one day we had to return to my own country to live… I told my stepsister who said give her a call on my last day to catch up.. I did so she didn’t respond to my texts so I borrowed a car to drive to her and she messaged when I had gotten halfway…and told me she had gone to hang out with a friend… I took this as being stood up and that I was treated as unimportant on my last day in her country…

        Anyhow fast forward a little time later and a few occasions of me trying to tell her how I felt she told me I was too negative and that she did not remember standing me up for her friend… then she cut me out of her life… I spent 20 yrs making an effort to be part of her life when our father we share never really reciprocated with me… at times it was awkward and I felt like I was trying to fit where I didn’t belong.. the step sister and I used to get on like a house on fire… but just like that all my efforts meant nothing… she won’t even return calls or texts or read my emails… I have tried a few times in the last 9 yrs since I left her country….

        Truthfully hindsight tells me I was gas lighted and she did not want to acknowledge the way she treated me and so my negativity was my fault… how I perceive it… how can someone be so callous and conniving? And then pretend like they never did anything wrong?

        I have had this so many times with so many people throughout my life and ya know what I am sick and tired of being a doormat and mostly over being everyone else’s scapegoat. I have no idea how or why I came to be this person or why people target or choose me to be. I now have issues about that and I find it hard to get over being the target of everyone elses projection.

        I always apologise when I do things wrong but I find when others do wrong they never acknowledge it or apologise for it. My own mother is the same. Probably the epitome of a narcissist. They are never wrong. And sometimes there’s not a darn thing you can do or say to change their minds that’s the hard part. I dont have any friends now. I have one left and can’t understand why shes my friend. But I have learnt one thing and that’s to look after yourself regardless of anyone else no matter how much it hurts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • In reading many of the comments, I find it truly ironic that your “position” on rejection by parents is to urge rejected children not to blame themselves, yet your “position” on rejection by adult children after a remarriage is to blame themselves. The irony is hardly understandable. There are parents that already have the grief process for the loss of a child. Is this just your personal experience or researched opinion?

        • I don’t blame anyone, Jennifer. I just try to help people repair important relationships.

          I hope you’re not experiencing family estrangement yourself, but if you are, I’m very sorry. Hope you find the suggestions in the article helpful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  19. Dear Readers,

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

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

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

    Thank you for understanding, and for visiting my website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Edited January 2021: The Guide is now a full-length book called Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child. It’s available everywhere.

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

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

  24. Hi Tina,

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you,


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

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

      Edited January 2021: The Guide is now a full-length book called Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child. It’s available everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

  27. Hi Tina

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

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

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

  29. Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

    Wishing everyone love and peace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

      I wish you and your growing family health and happiness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  39. Tina,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

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

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

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

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

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

        • Lisa, I have to say that when I read your initial post I was a bit envious on how you were able to accept your daughter’s absence as hard as it was. My daughter has a little girl too and I’ve been banned from seeing either of them. My heart literally aches daily from missing them. I’m so glad your situation has changed for the better. I can only pray the same will happen for me. However, I totally agree with you not fully trusting your daughter. I think if my situation ever changed, moving forward would feel very awkward. Especially since my grandbaby has no idea who I am & that is one thing I don’t know if I will ever forgive my daughter for.

          • Chris,
            I was also hopeful with Lisa’s outcome. I have also been banned from my 2 grandsons to which I mainly contribute to my DIL’s mental health and a son who is controlled by her. They have used their children as pawns and even if I can forgive them, I cannot trust them. Wishing you success.

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

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

    • I Love this response. No one can possibly understand the unmatched HURT of someone shutting you out, with no explanation or with a flimsy one, or without just talking things out!

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

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

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

    Thanks, Antonio and Pat, for sharing your experiences.

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

  45. Does this work with friends as well?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So- any advice???

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

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

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

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

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

      • You wondered why this is happening so MUCH now, and it is, I’m suffering daily with it like these people commenting… I want to point out that the Bible says in the end times ‘the love of many will grow cold’. I heard a sermon once that the word LOVE here translates to ‘familial love’. So I suggest maybe that is why.

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

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

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

    • I’m going thru the same thing as you. Both of my children, ages 25 & 20, do not like the man I’ve been living with. We’ve lived together for 15 years & during that time each child was living with their dad. They won’t visit me unless I leave him & I would but can’t do to finances. I’m disabled so its hard to swing it by myself. They’ve always said that I’m choosing him over them, which is so untrue. So I definitely feel your pain. Let me know how things work out for you.

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

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

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

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

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

      For everyone who’s not able to afford the time or expense of personal consultation either in person or by distance, I wrote my Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. It remains my best and most thorough advice on how to begin to resolve difficulties in those precious relationships with adult children who are currently keeping their distance.

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

      Edited January 2021: The Guide is now a full-length book called Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child. It’s available everywhere.


  60. Helpful to read and will be applying much of this. I’ve already done many things to reestablish contact that may not have helped, so I’m eager to try again.
    My niece recently died after battling cancer. My sister in law is unhappy with me and my family because we haven’t called, but since she hasn’t responded to most of our texts and emails, we felt she certainly was not ready for calls. We were wrong.

    It has never been normal for us to make phone calls before the death and I honestly have felt like she wasn’t interested in that anyway. She has stated many times that my brother is in charge of his family communications and she, in charge of hers. When we all have gotten together, there’s always been so much love and talk and laughter, And now, she’s shutting us all out. I know she’s grieving more than all of us combined, and I need to try without irritating her. I worry about her and my brother. It’s all very fresh pain and I hope she can doesn’t cut us out forever.
    How do I know how to respect her own personal grieving process, Esp since I don’t be know what she wants of us?
    I need to ask her just that question.

  61. Thank you for a lovely article. The lord hasn’t blessed me to be a parent yet but I am a daughter that decided to estrange from her parents. Long story short, I’m dealing with my decision of estrangement with my father and stepmom. My father decided to speak his mind one night and his words cut me deeply. That night… I hopped in my car, changed my number, and haven’t spoken to him since. For my mental and emotional well being my decision stands firm until he makes a effort. I’m slowly beginning to realize that our argument wasn’t the reason for my estrangement; it’s because of the resentment I held from feeling emotionally neglected growing up till present. My mom past away when I was five. My dad worked all the time, never had time for me, and I always fought for his attention. I’m grown now and I’m tired. I’m tired of fighting for attention that I deserve from my father. He’s retired now and he freely gives his attention to friends and hobbies but not his kids. At times my heart hurts, I would love to speak and make amends with my dad; but it’s so hard because he never acknowledges my feelings. It’s either I’m over dramatic or always my fault. For years, I thought my relationship with my father was sturdy and could within stand the storm but I was wrong. With age comes experience and as I reflect on the past, I believe my father worked so hard to avoid reality (death of wife and two kids.) Growing up, I always had material things but you can’t buy children’s love. The last night I spoke to my father he called me some hurtful names and was scared I ruined his relationship with his friends due to my behavior. My father has a lake house and his friends always stay with him. That night at dinner, I ate on the porch; my peace was interrupted due to small children (both 2) running around like mad-animals while their parents ate their dinner inside. After finishing, I go back in the house and said, “I had 10 minutes of quite before it was interrupted.” My dad smiled but never said anything. I cleaned the kitchen, said goodbye, and went back to the other cabin. Two hours later, my dad comes down their cussing and furious because his friends feelings were hurt. He said they were never coming back around because of me. I was so mad, I never said a word. I told my sister when I left, “I’m done.” Sure, I will take responsibility for my words but I’m not sorry for them. I’ve expressed in the past how I felt about his friends but he continually tries to have me around them. He bends over backwards for these people. They get his attention so easily. I’ll admit it, I’m jealous of their (my father and his friends) relationship and also hurt. Even though, I do not like his friends, I always speak and are respectful to them but they’re not the same towards me. My father says his friends behavior towards me is because they know my true feelings. He defends them against his own flesh and blood. Anyways, I’m rambling but I figured this would be good for me to write and vent. To all the ones who struggle with their relationship with their kids. Please listen to your children. When talking to them do not bring up things you did for them in the past, don’t validate you children feelings, but LISTEN. If you’re not getting return phone calls, text, or emails, fly or drive out and see your children. Make sure your children are aware they are worth your time. Put some effort into the relationship, especially, if the relationship means anything to you and is worth salvaging.! Show your children you love them. Words are just words but actions mean everything. Trust me, your kids are hurt too. Everyday, I hope when I arrive home, my father will be in the driveway but I’m slowly accepting that this may never happen. Take care everyone!

    • Brittany, thank you for your heart-felt comment. I’m saddened to hear that your father has been unwilling or unable to cherish his relationship with you in a way that you can feel. It’s easy to see why it would mean everything to you if he were to show up on your doorstep out of the blue.

      I do have to caution readers, however, that not all estranged adult children will appreciate such displays. For someone like your father, who hasn’t managed to express his love and interest sufficiently, it could be a good move. Bur for parents who’ve been accused of over-involvement, criticism or anything OTHER than neglecting the relationship, it could make things much worse.

      So many of the parents I work with would give anything to be closer to their adult children. I’m so sorry if your dad — for reasons that have nothing to do with you — isn’t one of those parents. It’s clearly a huge loss to you both.

  62. I have been married for 21 years to my soulmate absolutely love my husband but I started putting my children first their financial happiness and their wants and needs completely before him. I’ve gotten myself in a lot of trouble financially legally and with friends borrowing money taking money that wasn’t mine and all to try to be the mother of the year to my children. now it’s all come to a head and I’m about to lose my wonderful husband. my oldest daughter that I did all of this for is not even speaking to me. won’t see me what do you suggest I do? I’m not a bad person I’ve never stolen from a person and I want to make this alright.

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

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

      For everyone who’s not able to afford the time or expense of personal consultation either in person or by distance, I wrote my Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. It remains my best and most thorough advice on how to begin to resolve difficulties in those precious relationships with adult children who are currently keeping their distance.

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

      Edited January 2021: The Guide is now a full-length book called Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child. It’s available everywhere.


  63. Thank you for this. I am currently being estranged by my mom. I don’t know what I did anymore but last year shortly after my wedding things got crazy and she ceased all contact. She has opened up to find it I had a baby and I was sending her pictures of him weekly which she liked but each time I try to fix it I end up making it worse and she goes in her hole again. Honestly I’m not sure what I want out of this anymore but seeing this article has made me realize a lot of things. I’m just going to leave her alone and stop trying to “fix it” she has chosen this and it seems to be working for her so it’s time for me to get on with my life

  64. My cousins won’t talk to me. I haven’t never known them and thought we could get to know each other but they refuse. I haven’t a clue what I did.

  65. Hi I got divorced 8 years ago, reasons it was just not a good marriage. I had 3 beautiful daughters. I have an idea why the two oldest have not spoken or acknowledged me for 8 years. I have tried everything to reconcile, but they are not interested. I have mourned for 5 years and felt so rejected and hurt that I have isolated myself from this horrible world for 3 years now. I do have contact with my youngest daughter and recently that has even improved, since she moved out of her mothers home. In the early time of our divorce I tried to commit suicide twice and quite frankly its an option I have thought about everyday. I miss and love my girls dearly, but have absolutely no methods left in trying to reconcile. I have OCD and a personality disorder, so this does not help either, though I have managed to control the OCD considerably, but in the beginning of our divorce I was a bit over the top about my ex’s whereabouts and believe this caused my older two to think I was not there for them, considering I fell apart. I try and live with the mess I created and mistakes I made, but I love those girls and 6 years not seeing them is killing me.

  66. Don’t kill yourself! Fight and understand that your struggle will help someone. I know you want it for yourself, but your issue is not your own. Read Craig Childress and demand that the therapy community give credence to our issue. You are not alone.

    • Hi, Lori. This is a common problem for parents who are cut off, and the short answer is, you have to find out.

      Especially if there’s no current contact, you might have to figure it out yourself by asking yourself questions like, “When did this start?” and “What has my child complained about in the past, and what are the themes that emerge from those complaints?” In my Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children, I discuss a number of needs that often go unmet, such as visibility, valuing, physical and emotional safety, etc. Those might be a good place to start as you think about what could be causing problems for your child.

      Remember that young adults in their “launch” years may simply have a need for more distance than is comfortable for their parents, and that there may be no other reasons than that.

  67. Tina,
    I read your article and although I understand it there are a few things. If you could possibly give some advice. My daughter and I were very close up to two months ago. We spoke everyday multiple times. We both suffer from Muscular Dystrophy hers is worse than me unfortuanely. She moved to texas 7 years ago. Not much is gone right in those years and her health has been failing. She doesnt have anyone but her boyfriend there and his mother and step father dont step in to help. I have helped her financially more than I can tell you. I felt I was there emotionally as well. Her and her boyfriend decided to move closer to me in New York and I was thrilled about it as I would be closer and could help more. They started packing but he was dragging his feet on it. He had a job and quit because he wasnt happy there and he was suppose to be moving. Anyway he just blew out with it a few months ago he didnt want to move. She was packed and now she remained in libo. I had a place waiting here for her and everything. Anyway a few months ago I once again asked what was going on with her coming. We ended up having a argument and I told her I was not going to enable her to continue to live the way she is there. He goes home to his moms in a gated community at night and leaves my daughter in a terrible area to live. She isnt talking to me now and told me I was a terrible mother etc etc. Such hurtful things I cant even write them here. Blames me for her illness and terrible life. Now she is saying I have Boardline Personality Disorder and alot of other hurtful things. I let her be for a couple of months. For mothers day she sent me 4 dozen roses(which she cant afford). I reached out to her and we began small talk staying away from anything important. Then she started again about me and said the only reason why she sent anything for mothers day is she didnt want me to hurt myself. Please know I have never hurt myself so there is not a reason to even suggest such a thing. She blames me for everything. She says I am abuse to her and was never close to me. But she is the one when agree that says mean hateful things to me. What is your advice.

    • Dear Theresa,

      Thank you for visiting my website and leaving a comment. It’s painful and discouraging to find yourself at odds with your own child. Or your parent(s). Unfortunately, many well-intentioned parents and adult children find themselves in this unenviable position.

      While I can’t offer personal advice in this format, I would say to all parents out there that if you and your child are on speaking terms, and your relationship feels hurtful to one or both of you, I recommend attending some family therapy sessions together.

      A good family therapist can help you understand and sort through dynamics that may be creating problems in your relationship. He or she can support you in finding new ways to communicate that are more effective, less hurtful, and bring you closer together rather than driving you apart.

      You can search for a family therapist in your area by zip or postal code at http://www.GoodTherapy.org. In the U.S., you can also try searching by zip at http://www.psychologytoday.com.

  68. Hi Tina,

    That’s a great article and helps me feel a bit better. I’ve been divorced a few years now and my ex-husband had a well-entrenched pattern which started early in his life. This is a pattern of silence and estrangement when he gets “mad” about something. I’m the opposite, I want everyone to be happy and take a lot of abuse. Essentially, he needs to control everyone else and eventually would come back but on his own terms and when doing so, make the other party beg him for mercy. Earlier this year he sent my family invites to a gala and so 10 of us went as we thought maybe he would be nice. When we went he didn’t talk to any of us and it was confusing to everyone -they were shocked to see us and it was kind of weird. I decided to go to more events in the hopes this would help mend things. He doesn’t tell me not to come but he continues by not speaking. I did break a bit of ground as his mom was with him at one event and he hummed when I said hello. I’m honestly tormented and just want peace. It’s nice that I have returned to events in my community but I do want to make up with him, not to get back together per se, but to be on good terms. I have lived with daily/nightly trauma because of how he left. He came back 9 months later to my brothers funeral and got mad because i had tried to be in a new relationship. He called me a cheater. So I wonder what a professional might think.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, L1a. I wrote another article to help those who are on the receiving end of the Silent Treatment. It may be possible to break through and get on good terms, but you might have to first put yourself out there in ways that aren’t comfortable.

      The post is ostensibly for romantic partners, but the advice is really for anyone who’s getting the silent treatment from anyone. It’s at this link:

      How to Get Your Partner to Open Up.

  69. Our son and DIL Estranged from us 3 weeks after their wedding she is estranged from her mother for years. This very uncharacteristic of our son whom we’ve always had a close relationship with. After 4 months we reached out with an amends which they accepted. Saw very little of them and then they moved 8 hours away. We were having texts conversations, phone call and cards on Mothered and Father’s Day. Saw them at a wedding in June and now they have gone silent on us again. When we do something “wrong” they don’t tell us-we just get the silent treatment. At this stage we think we’re better off not contacting them b/c anytime they view us doing something wrong the treatment will repeat and we’ll be held hostage put whole lives. Son comes from a living intact family with 3 great siblings whom he has also cut off. Any thoughts?

    • M, I’m at a loss to even begin to offer advice to the unfortunate people whose parents have abandoned them. The only thing I can say is that it’s not your fault if you’ve been rejected by your parent(s). And I’m very, very sorry.

      And while there’s no substitute for parents, I hope there are other people in your life who let you know how lovable and worthy you are.

  70. Hi Tina,
    My Mom has passed a year ago. I have 2 sisters that did not have contact with my mom after the age of 17. I have had some contact for over 50 years with them.In the last 2 years , I talk to one sister on the phone daily.The other one lives in the same town but was communicating less. About a year ago she did not answer my calls or e-mail.I decided to stop by which is a 10 hour drive from my home.. My sister and brother in law totally ignored me when I drove up and drove off. I had so little contact that I can’t figure out what happened. I have never asked her for anything, we had a lot of family secrets but she never ever really had a discussion with me. Most of her life she did seems moody and estranged from her step kids and any family. I use to stay with them when I visited. About 5 years ago when I came down she was too busy to meet for a meal and I stayed at a motel because my other sister is ill….on oxygen….
    I was leaving phone messages and e-mails but they go unanswered. Yes, I feel rejected but I think if I go begging for communication I will be rejected which is so hard and never know why she just stopped communication. I am lacking family and want it so bad but I just don’t think it is going to happen. What would you do…I can’t get it out of my mind. My sister has never come to visit me in my current place and I have been there for over 25 years and she doesn’t work.I know I need to move along but I feel a depressing loss.

    • I wish you could have the family you’re seeking, H. It’s so sad when family members don’t feel that wonderful sense of belonging and connection that families can and should foster.

      Having to be the one to put yourself out there and make yourself vulnerable (again) is asking a lot from you. You’re in a tough position. Hope you’re being very kind to yourself while you deal with this unfortunate set of circumstances.

  71. I am estranged from my brother for almost 15 years now. I live in the states and he lives with his family overseas. There are nephews who never met. I have truly no clue as to what went south. My only clue is that my sister in law is after ipossible inheritance from my still very well mother and is “taking care” of her here and there. I was not even aware she had e-rmail or internet at all as she always told me she did not! Seeing her after 5years only led to arguments about why I would like Kontakt with my brother…(ummm…he’s my brother?!?!). It seemed to me that every attempt for any conversation into any subject let to a bigger maze. While it makes me sad to be the black sheep of the family and not even know why…I am learning that I need to take care of myself and that it’s ok to live my life according to me not others. I just want him to know that my door will always be open. The rest…I could not care less about.

  72. It’s not worth the effort if someone is willing to be estranged and leave the other person In state of torturous limbo because one doesn’t want to look within themselves but outward only.

    If there is a clear reason I understand. If the reason is unclear because of bad or no communication in the first place.. then estrangement is just another form of abuse inflicted on the other member of the ‘relationship’.

  73. This article was enlightening but I am unsure how to approach my brother-in-law and nephews. My sister passed away before our mother who survived our father. My mother passed without a will but she had me as sole beneficiary on her accounts and real estate. She passed away 6 years ago and I didn’t realize right away that my BIL expected an inheritance for my nephews who are 26 and 15. Looking back, there were comments he made about money that my husband and I spent but we shrugged them off. It became clear when my BIL asked me how much we got from selling my parent’s house and it seemed that he expected “their portion” so I said maybe I would contribute to purchasing a home when the nephews were ready. After discussing this with my husband, we decided it would be impractical to give funding to nephews when we hadn’t given to my own children plus there is such a large age difference between my nephews. About nearly a year ago the older nephew was buying a house and my BIL called holding my feet to the fire for house money. I tried to beg off saying that I needed to consult with my husband, my financial advisor, etc. But he kept on and on so I said there was no money set aside for any of thr grandchildren and if any was left I would include them in my will. He said okay we would never speak of it again. And we haven’t spoken at all since then, only 2 or 3 text messages. There are more details but my mother was very deliberate in changing beneficiaries when my sister passed away. She apparently never discussed inheritance with my BIL and he probably did not ask her. But I feel like I am being punished for my mother’s actions. I understand his position and might feel the same way but I hate that he has cut me off and probably tainted my relationship with the boys. Any advice?

  74. I am empty inside. My every waking second of every minute of every hour I think of my daughter whom I love dearly. 10 years she will not talk to me. The pain in my heart and body and soul often is too much to bear. I have tried everything to reach out to her. She wishes I was dead. I have zero clue what I did that was so bad. So unthinkable to have hurt her that she wishes me dead. Her very few responses over the years are beyond cruel. I cry most days. I am 54 and I must admit I can’t wait for my time on this earth to be over so I don’t have to live with the pain. The pain keeps me awake. I can’t concentrate or function properly. I have health problems and I have decided I will not help the cure. I just want one day of relief. A mother above all parents just can’t stop loving her child no matter how I talk myself into been harder or reason rationally with myself. I dare not tell anyone I am estranged in fear they think I have done something unimaginable to my child. My daughter is 32 and she has a 5 year old daughter that I have never held or seen. God the pain is constant nagging and eating away at my soul.

    • Natalie, it sounds like you’re severely depressed and I urge you to seek help immediately. Please find a local a mental health professional, or at the very least, talk to your doctor about the symptoms you’re describing.

      If you’re in the U.S., you can pick up the phone and call 2-1-1 for local social services information. They can direct you to mental health services as needed.

      Untreated depression is a terrible thing, and nobody should have to live with it. Please seek help immediately. If it seems like too much effort to do that, ask a friend or neighbor to help you. Depression IS treatable. You deserve much more from life than you’re currently getting.

      Wishing you healing and peace.

      • It does not feel like depression and I certainly would never dream of dying by my own means. I am sorry it came across that way. I am 54 and my words of pain was meant to come across as my natural time on earth is over. So if I live to say 74, I only have 20 more years of pain.
        The pain in my heart and throat is the worse pain imaginable. I can be driving down the road and a song comes on the radio, instantly wakes up the monster and memories and I have to pull over inconsolable and cry and then get on again. I am good at pretending to people and I smile but oh if they could only see inside of me. It’s raw and you can’t touch it. I could break a bone and I , I fell a year ago and I didn’t feel the pain because this pain supersedes that physical pain. I got bit by a very poisonous spider and was hospitalized but again the pain level of that was a walk in the park compared to this.
        This is the worse and most cruel infliction on a human soul. I once was happy and attractive and outgoing. I look in the mirror and honestly it is empty. My eyes say it all. I try to be a good person to others and I have my dogs who I treat as children. So you see I have some meaning to my life.
        I always thought children or other people close to us would only fall out with us if we did bad things. I have no words or ryme or reason that I can fill the sentence with the burning WHY

        • I’m glad to hear you’re enduring, Natalie, but am still concerned about your suffering. The only person who knows the answer to your question is your child. I wrote a Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children in part to help parents try to answer “Why?” for themselves when their kids won’t communicate. Take care.
          Edited January 2021: The Guide is now a full-length book called Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child. It’s available everywhere.

  75. Thank you for this article. Im currently at a loss and not sure what to do. My brother and I have always been close. I even lived with him for a while when I needed to get back on my feet after a divorce. It was a good set up for us, and my young daughter. He appeared to care for her deeply. My mother died 3 years ago. My brother and father have never been close. My dad was not the best Dad, but since he is all I have, I’ve managed a decent relationship with him. Anyway, my brother hasn’t spoken to my father in 2 years, and about a year an a half ago he stopped speaking to me. He has cut contact with all family members, all his close friends and takes down his Facebook page whenever anyone reaches out. I have called, texted, emailed, and left birthday cards and Christmas cards at his apartment. All with sentiments of I love you, I’m sorry for whatever made you leave. I even rang his doorbell on his birthday, he was home, and never answered. I want to know he is OK. I want to know why he has isolated himself from us all. I recognize this is a very concience effort on his part to avoid contact, and part of me wants to just respect his choice, although I don’t agree with it. I was planning to go to his apartment to confront him, like an intervention, but maybe I just need to let him go. I would appreciate any advice you can offer.

  76. Hi Tina,
    I keep referring back to your article when I find myself feeling upset over my dad not speaking to me for the past 6 years. These feelings of grief have been happening more often than ever. It almost feels as if he has passed away. I bought your book a while back and I have found tons of articles online about parents being cut off by estranged children, but nothing on an adult child wishing for their parent back. I miss him terribly and there’s not much I can do at this point to ever get the relationship we had when I was younger. I’d do anything to have my dad in my life but I don’t think he’s feeling the same way. It doesn’t seem like this is as common as an adult child not allowing their parents in their lives. Would you call this abandonment? I’m not sure what you would call an adult child who is rejected by their parent.
    Thanks for any help- C.

    • Dear C., it pains me to hear of parents turning their backs on their adult children without explanation. Sometimes, such as when adult children are out of control — drugs, profanity, elder abuse, etc. — it may be necessary for parents to set boundaries and yes, even keep their distance. But when no such situation exists, I never know what to say to the bereft child other than this: It’s not your fault.

      If a parent is unwilling or unable to engage in a relationship with his or her own loving child, it’s not because of the child. I don’t know why some parents are not up for connection, but I can imagine how painful and what a loss that is from the child’s perspective. I feel for you. I wish I knew what to tell you. I really wish I knew what was going on with your dad.

      Without any information from the parent’s side, I can only take a wild guess that self-loathing is what keeps parents away from perfectly wonderful, loving adult children. A parent who despises himself may reject his own child in a sort of altruistic way, so as not to corrupt or ruin the child with his own failure/worthlessness/etc.

      No matter what the cause, it’s a terribly sad situation. One that deserves to be grieved. Wishing you and your dad love and healing.

  77. “It’s not your fault” I’ll let those words really resonate & keep them with me through my journey. Thanks so much for writing back. If I lived closer to you, I’d be in your office!
    Take care,

  78. Tina,
    I know this is not directly related to adult child estrangement, but I found your advice helpful in dealing with my teenage daughter. After a very nasty divorce, I have been estranged from my children. It is absolutely not fair, but I have come to the realization that there is NOTHING I can do about it. Your advice has kept me in my daughters lives, even if it is not the relationship I had before.

    Thank you,


    • You’re welcome, Daniel. I’m pleased for both you and your daughters that you’ve manged to remain in their lives, even if it’s a different kind of relationship. Keep doing what you’re doing, and enjoy.

  79. Dear Tina, my name is Vishal. I recently faced a situation. My best friend has not been talking to me for last 18 hours. We have been best friends since we were 6. Right now we are 32 years of age. I think your article helped me a lot and I wrote him a letter just now. I hope he will be back as soon as he reads it. Thank you for the wonderful support.
    Love, Vishal.

  80. What do you do when the estrangement is brought on by a third party? My mother is mentally ill and I cut her out of my life, for my own sanity. She in turn manipulated my younger sister into cutting me out of her life. I’ve tried to get in touch with my sister simply by saying how much I love her and asking her to contact me. She’s now blocked me from all means of reaching her and it’s breaking my heart. Do I just need to come to terms with it and continue to hope that some day she will talk to me? How do I cope with loving her so much and knowing she wants nothing to do with me based on a toxic minded person?

    • I’m sorry to hear about that, Natasha. If your sister is a minor and/or still living with your mother, this situation sounds similar to parental alienation — only in this case it’s more like sibling alienation. You might want to do some research on “parental alienation,” or “parental alienation syndrome,” in order to better understand what’s happening and how you might deal with it. Good luck.

  81. Hi,
    I wish I had read your article earlier. I choose to cut off contact with my husband’s mother because seeing her brought up overwhelming emotions.
    My husband can not tolerate any type of emotion in a crisis. I’m talking major crisis, diagnosis of incurable, life shortening disease in a child & job loss resulting in extreme financial hardship. I made the mistake if crying. When I cried during the 1st crisis, he raged at me that I was just like his father, overflowing everything.(he hated his father who was abusive.) His anger simmered & continued for several yrs because the angrier he got the more I cried & became even more upset.
    During the 2nd crisis, he refused to talk about anything, job search, money, etc. After about 1 yr, I was so upset, I tried to talk to his mother. She refused to talk after 3 attempts by me to steer the conversation to my emotional distress.
    I made the mistake of crying & telling my husband that I was upset that his mother wouldn’t talk to me.
    Absolute rage. I got so upset that he was taking his mom’s side, being angry at me because I was asking something of her that he felt she was not capable of giving. As I cried, he got even angrier. Of course, I got more upset & so his anger & my depression continued. The next time he wanted to visit his family, I said I couldn’t go, I was too upset & was going to cry & embarrass my self. Of course he was furious for treating his family with disrespect. I have cut off all contact with his family to avoid my overwhelming feelings. (Both brothers say that hey, that’s just not mom to get involved but for 15 yrs, I was her sounding board for her intense dislike of her husband. I felt betrayed that the relationship was just one sided & also that my husband was more concerned with her feelings than mine. Unfortunately, there is a wedding coming up (my childs) that I would do anything to avoid because his family will be there.(He carried his anger for yrs. For example about 16 yrs after this happened, I was scheduled for anMRI. I asked him to drive me because I am claustrophobic. He became angry because he said I deliberately scheduled this MRI on a his mothers bday. I said I had no clue when her bday was & they only gave me one appt, not a choice. He did not believe & never even asked what the appt was for. I went myself.
    So yes, I am estranged from his family. All I heard was his mother say “She did nothing wrong” & why don’t I get over it.
    So now what?? How can I avoid them at this wedding?

    • Maggie, I have no answers for you, just a ton of sympathy for all that you’ve been through, with so little emotional support. Crying is normal, especially in the circumstances you described. I’m sorry you’ve been treated as though there’s something wrong with you. It sounds like you might be the most emotionally literate person in your inner circle. I really feel for you.

      Thank you for visiting my site. Hang in there.

  82. Hi Tina, I came across your blog post after searching for ways to deal with close family members no longer talking to my immediate family. I am pretty sure I am the cause after being publicly humiliated with a video that was put out when I was 17. It has been a few years but it is hurting me more each day. My uncle and his wife hardly talk to my mom (his sister) and my family. They never invite us to celebrations and the same goes for family on my dad’s side. I made a mistake when I was younger and it has haunted me since. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever live a normal life and if I can move on from this. I feel alone. I am distraught and wish I can move on but I can’t seem to. I feel like my life is over but I’m trying not to lose hope. I want to move away and finish college, so I can move on, but I don’t have the finances to do that. I feel awful about everything. I don’t know what to do. Thank you for what you do.

  83. My daughter is 43 years old. When she was three to five years old she would wait for me to come home from work and when I walked in the door she would run and jump in my arms. I wold read her a bed time story every night and we would laugh a lot. When she started school I still had a very good relationship but around when she turned between 11 and 13 she changed dramaticaly. She would not talk to her mother or me unless it was absolutely necessary or if she wanted something. As she grew into her teens she was very quiet and spent a great deal of her time in her room. her mother and I wondered what was happening and sometimes we thought is was just a phase she was going through. After high school she did nothing but lay around the house all day long until we told her it was time to find a job. She did but she still did not communicate very much with us. She met a young man and had a two of three years relationship with him. During that time her mother and I divorced. A year later her mother died of cancer and when I went to the funeral all she said to me was thank you for coming. Soon after her relationship with the young man ended. All this time there was absolutely no talking to me. Her brother and her inherited the house and she lived there for two or three years then moved out on her own. She lives in her own apartment and works two part time jobs. She owns a car and aparently pays all her bills as she does not ask her brother for any money. I have been emailing her for almost a year telling her I love her and what I want is a mature father/daughter relationship. I have asked her why she will not talk to me and to please tell me so I have a chance to try to make things right. No luck. He brother has only some time contact with her and she calls him when she needs something or help like when she recently moved. If he knows what the problem is he will not tell me and he will not give me her address or phone number unless he asks her first and of course in all probablity she will say no because he has asked once or twice in the past and she just shuts down and says no and will not talk. I think she needs counselling but her brother says she just works too much and does not want anything to do with most people. She will not answer her phone, her emails and only if you get lucky does she say anything on facebook. Your suggestions or help woould be sppreciated.

  84. My estrangement is with my adult granddaughter. We were extremely close until she turned 17. She just graduated from law school and did not want me at her graduation. The problem is I don’t know what happened and she will not tell me. She has me blocked from all social media sites. Her parents won’t tell me either. How can you mend a relationship if you don’t know what the problem is and no one will tell you. My son (her father) barely communicates with me. My heart breaks.

    • My estrangement is with my adult granddaughter as well. I have no answers for you only empathy. We were also very close until 17 (taught her to drive) and she also will not tell me what went wrong. I cry and wonder to this day if I will ever see her again. My heart breaks too.

  85. Hello, the premise of I only think about my feelings are somewhat true for me. Thank you for the heads up. I still don’t know why my son has stopped talking to me. I have apologised for anything that I have done to him. I have asked him how he is doing a few times lately with little response from him. I’m probably dieing from my problems health wise that have come up last 18 month’s. He does not want hear that and will block out what im saying. He even told me he doesn’t want to hear that. Im having new tumors show up so at some point this will speed up and will be dieing soon I guess. I love him but im done trying different approaches. I dont know what to do really at this point. I did ask how is he doing and what is going on in his life and he still blocks me out. Im kinda done with trying to have a relationship with my son but im affraid his actions will eventually cause my grandkids not talking to me as either. Does anybody have any suggestions for this situation? Thank you for your time and any help.

    • Chris, I’m saddened to hear about your declining health; that’s bad enough in itself without also having to deal with distancing behavior from your child. You didn’t say how old he is, but if he’s under 30 he might just be needing more room than normal.

      Apologizing is always a good idea when someone cuts you off, but a poor apology is sometimes worse than none at all. Not being specific about what you’re apologizing for is a fatal flaw in many apology attempts.

      I wrote my Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children to help parents figure out whether they really have tried everything, or whether there might be a different approach they hadn’t thought of. If you’re up for it, you can learn about the Guide and the accompanying school for estranged parents at tinagilbertson.com/estrangement.

      Edited in May 2020 to add: The Guide is now a full-length book. It’s called “Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child,” and it’s available wherever books are sold.

      All my best to you and your family.

  86. Hi Tina I am so sad that my mom of 82 years old has decided not to talk to me. The story is a long one. I grew up being very close to my mother so I thought. My father cheated on her when i was about 5. I heard about this a lot as a child. i was like my mother’s therapist. Then, i found out my father molested my sister and brother when i was 22 years old. I had a real love/hate relationship with my father. On one hand, he was a good person, and on the other hand i thought he was a monster. My mother chose to forgive him. We never received any type of family counseling or help. My dad passed away at 70. He died a painful death. My mom has put him on a pedestal in her mind. Our relationship was fine until after my dad passed. My mother has held a grudge against me because i talked to a preacher of their church in confidence about my feelings. This preacher went and told the whole community. My mother feels embarrassed and prideful. She talked to my younger sister about this. My younger sister now lives with my mom. A role i thought should be my part because i am the eldest. I went home two years ago to give my mom a birthday party for her 80th. I traveled thousands of miles and spent a lot of money, i really didn’t have to do this. The other day on the phone she told me that “i ruined her birthday party.” I asked, “how?” She said, because i came to her job and told her that she was a terrible mother. I told her, ” i never called her a terrible mother.” She perceived that I called her a terrible mother. She said, my daughter was patting me on the back and agreeing with me. I had just had a terrible argument with my sister. My sister started the argument. Basically, mom had decided after dad died that when the house was sold after she passed away that each of us would get something from the sell of it. Well, my sister has had a hard time living in a basement and not being able to pay rent at times, but she had a compassionate landlord. Since, my sister moved home, she is saying she is going to buy the house. I feel that isn’t fair, and that mom is playing favoritism. The way she had it designed before is fair. I told my sister i am the oldest and i should have been the one to take care of mom. They are saying in the family that it doesn’t matter, if i am the oldest or not. Anyway, it is all very hurtful because i thought my mother and i were so close. On my way out of town, i was so mad at my sister. I went to where my mom worked, and i asked her to come out to the car once she finished her job. She works at the Dollar Tree. She said, on the phone, that i pulled her out of work to talk to her in the car, but she was getting off anyway. She said, that my daughter was patting me on the back and agreeing with me about the things i said. Well, she helped me raise my daughter and they were very close, but since we moved away my daughter and i are very close. Thank god, or i wouldn’t have anyone. So, i think my mom is jealous of our relationship now. So, on the phone she told me that i ruined her birthday party because i told her that she was a terrible mother. I said, “mom, i never said that!” She said, you might as well have. She told me in that car that day that she just wished the family could get along. I told her that how can we get along, if you keep talking about me to my siblings. She said, ” can’t i say, good things.” I said, ” of course.” She is always talking about one of us kids to each other and i dont’ think that is nice. That is all i can remember saying to her that day. She told me that after that conversation she was never going to talk to me or her granddaughter again, but we had made up for two years. I was talking to her nicely on the phone and just explaining that I still felt upset about the argument with my sister. My sister isn’t talking to me. We also used to be close. Everyone thinks i should have forgiven my father, which i did. They think i just want to keep things going. No, i am trying to resolve it. However, i have days where i am moody since i had a total hysterectomy at 30,but some doctors have diagnosed me as bipolar. However, i don’t think i am, but i do have some of the symptoms of it. I feel it is a disease and i should be loved unconditionally. I am so hurt. How do i get my mom to talk to me again. I sent her a letter and told her that i have tried to put myself in her shoes and realize she sees it from a different perspective than i do. My daughter has nothing to do with it. I just can’t understand why she wants to punish her. So hurt!!!! Also, i don’t know how much time my mom has left on this earth, and it is a bad time not to be talking.

    • I was very sad to read your story, Victoria. It doesn’t sound like you’ve done anything to deserve what you’re getting here, and I don’t know what else you can do to make things better. There has to be a will to get along on both sides, and it seems your mother doesn’t always feel that way. I’m terribly sorry.

      On the bright side, it is a blessing that you and your daughter are close. Many parents don’t have that. Not that one family member can substitute for another. Just that it’s good to be able to be close to one’s grown children. Thank you for visiting and sharing your story with us.

  87. There is comfort in your article. I wished I had read it sooner. It’s so foreign a feeling to lose contact with a child. I could only think it was like mourning a death. My son and I had a good relationship and he chose to live with me until he graduated from college about 1 year ago. I enjoyed that time not patenting him so to speak. He started seriously dating a girl 21 he was 26. She had lots of issues with insecurities and jealousy. He is the most loyal and also patient young man. I watched him tolerate the accusations and drama helping her to grow through some of this He’s very logical with his life plan and let’s just say she was talking babies and marriage after 30 days and he was still looking forward to his first apartment with some guy friends just to live on his own and enjoy all his hard work to get there. She pushed and pushed the topic and it almost pushed him away. At her suggestion he bought her a promise ring at 6 months. Gorgeous it was $1500. He was still living with me and she joined us every weekend and honestly I love her. She and I became very close. Then after just 1 year of dating , my son tells me they are pregnant. I cried and not tears of joy. I just know how many things he had hoped to experience and wanted to always have as a foundation before getting married or having kids. And as much as I adored her, every week there was some dramatic episode of her not trusting him if she wasn’t with him. He moved out a month before this and would stop by to say hi on occasion after work and have to leave or never be able to get out of the car because she was blowing up his phone. So I was concerned. And he explained their method of birth control was an ovulation predictor that would indicate a riskier time of the month but on this one occasion they agreed to ignore the risk but if it resulted in pregnancy they would take responsibility. The next day after he tells me the 3 of us have lunch and it’s very happy. They have lots of questions and want advice as they have not told her parents yet. And the subject of health insurance comes up and she thinks her parents cover her. My son leaves for work and she and I finish up. I mention that if she has no coverage medi-cal would cover her. And she is offended stating she’s not having a welfare baby. I apologize and explain what it is about. But she stops me and says I don’t know what your son told you but this was no ooops we had both decided we wanted a baby now and had been tracking ovulation for months and decided to try. Well I was shocked and told her nonthsts not what I was told but before you tell your parents be sure you are both on same page. Well she left and I called my son I know him and he would not have decided to do this st this point in his life or his relationship. He said I must have misunderstood her. What happens next is she thinks by going to my son and asking him I’m accusing her of getting pregnant on purpose. Never said that. And she wants nothing to do with me. I tell my son we all need to talk now before this gets out of control. She refuses and eventually after a month of trying he tells me that she told him he has to stop talking to me and cannot see me at all. If he refuses she will leave him. He panics and complies telling me to just give him a few days and he will work it out. I been promised the give me some time I’m trying we are also so busy with everything. So I wait and it’s now been 7 months and she’s made him block my phone and all social media views and my grandchild is due in 2 days and I won’t be there at the hospital to enjoy and share this with them with my son like everyone else will. No one in my family will step in as they are afraid she will do the same to them. This isn’t the man I raised or know. She has sent me horrible text messages and I never reply – I know better. But recently she said I’m sorry you are in denial that your son lied to you but I told you the truth and you insult me by doubting what I told you and run to your son to ask him. If she knows he lied to me then why is she punishing me? I think it’s normal you question 2 versions of a story like this. No one ejse in my family was told it was on purpose and I’m positive she didn’t tell her parents it was on purpose I think she made a mistake telling me and has to keep me away or her truth comes out to people who would be very upset like her parents. But why my son has no voice in this and who tells someone they have to banish their mother or they will leave them ?…. that’s love? I miss my son deeply. I’m confused and depressed. I’ve already missed sharing the joy of the pregnancy and I’m anticipation of being a grandma and what that means …everyone says just be patient it will work out but how many years will I miss? And I really want to be mad and say I don’t want to see you for treating me like this but I can’t even take a stand It feels like I am cowering and begging and it shouldn’t be like that. I don’t know what to do

  88. I am so glad that I found this article. My story is more of a sibling that no longer wants me in his life. He has been dealing with severe depression since my mother passes many years ago. Growing up we never received love from our mother like other kids did. She was not big on emotion. More so towards me that my brother so when she passed it did not effect me in the way it effected my brother. Since that time I have always tried to be supportive of him and helping through his hard times. I would call him daily to check in and this has been going on for many year. I know that he is still in a very fragile state and try to show my support to him. But I also have my own life and family which he seems to resent. Recently he has told me that he no longer wants to speak to me. He will will take calls from my son but is “changing some things in his life” and would prefer not to speak to me. I was upset at first, them confused. Now I have all kinds of emotions and not sure how to accept this all but I respect his wishes and have not called in hopes that he would reach out to me but he has not. I plan on giving him space and hopefully he will turn things around if not I will have to learn to accept his wishes

  89. My wife and daughter no longer speak to me after spending 18 months in jail for a crime I did not commit. Wife divorced me after 25 years of marriage sold the house and left me homeless. 24 year old daughter followed her mother and they have not spoken to me since. My 18 year old son moved in with me to get aw as y from them after I got settled. My crime was burglary. I’m so lost and confused. They will not tell me why

  90. I have been estranged from my 27 year old son for about a year. He is from my previous marriage but has been close to his step-dad, my current husband since he was about 3 years old. Although I had joint custody, I did my best to be an attentive parent and a good provider which my son disputes. My son served in the Marines for 4 years and is doing his best to make it on his own. My husband has not been generous about helping him and I feel caught in the middle. My son has always felt we favored his 23 year half sister which is untrue. She needed more attention due to being hyper active. Last year, my son jokingly asked us for a large sum of money to buy a house with his girlfriend and her young daughter. There were other inappropriate requests and comments made by him. We didn’t discuss his request then, but after he left, I decided to write him a text message about how inappropriate his request was. My comments were basically advising him about the home buying process starting with having good credit and such. However, my husband, decided to add judgmental and demeaning comments to my already started text. I forgot to include that the text was from the both of us. My son believes, rightfully so, that the entire text came from me and responded that my text was f-d up. He particularly was upset over the stuff my husband wrote as he referenced his words. I didn’t want to throw my husband under the bus so didn’t out him out. My son has refused to talk to any of us including his step-dad and half sister. I have reached out so many times, including showing up at his house but was promptly sent away. He wants NO contact. He also blames me for everything wrong in his life. My husband refuses to tell my son that he was also responsible for part of the text. My husband and I have been in a very tumultuous marriage since this incident. I have seen 3 different therapists who all say to leave my son alone and respect his wishes. I am hurting and withdrawn from this entire incident. I want to reconnect with my son as this separation is so very painful. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • It does sound painful, Selvi, and complicated because of your husband’s involvement as well. I usually advocate apologizing to estranged adult children, because that’s how you break down walls and re-start communication.

      Have you read my book, “Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child?” It talks about the expectations that children have of parents, and how parents can manage strained relationships with adult children through deeper understanding and better communication.

      In general, criticism is not a good approach with adult children, who can find that anywhere. What they can’t always find is unconditional love.

      You can read the first two chapters of the Guide here: https://tinagilbertson.com/estrangement-guide-1/

  91. Thank you so much for responding!! Yes, I have read the first two chapters over and over again. To answer your question, yes, I have apologized many times via text ( even though he has blocked us, I believe he can unblock to read) I have apologized via email but he has asked not to be contacted again threatening to get a restraining order. I tried in person but he sent me home.

    My husband, on the other hand has not and will not. Do I abide by my son’s wishes and leave him alone? Or risk a restraining order to continue to reach out? I doubt any Judge would issue one, minus any sort of threats, stalking or abuse.

    What makes my situation unique is the fact that I was asked to stop contacting him. That sort of ties my hands behind my back. I am struggling with all the suggestions to apologize and I did!! But, he is steadfast with his position. I am in a quandary as to my options. Thanks again for responding!!

    • Selvi, I work with parents all the time who have received no-contact requests (and some who’ve received restraining orders, in which case their hands are *really* tied).

      The first thing to do is to verify that the apologies you’ve offered (and good for you for offering them) have actually been effective apologies. See my post, “How to Apologize,” to make sure.

      If your apologies have been really good ones, then it may be just a matter of timing. Adult children have lots going on in their young lives, and dealing with difficult parent-child dynamics often has to take a back seat to more pressing matters. He simply may not be ready to address this with you.

      Where this is the case, most parents would benefit from giving it six months from the last attempt, then trying again with another good apology and a request to reopen communication.

      If you aren’t sure your apologies have been effective (e.g., because they included qualified language, etc.), then it might be appropriate to issue another one, apologizing for those other apologies (!). Let him know that you’ll be available when he’s ready to talk. And be prepared to sit on your hands for a while, while he mulls that over.

      Please note that I can’t offer individualized advice in this format. So this advice is general in nature; there may be circumstances I don’t know about in your individual situation that would change the recommendation.

      There’s usually plenty of personal work for parents to do while they’re giving their children time and space. Time spent in introspection is never wasted when it comes to repairing the parent-child relationship. Good luck!

  92. I am so grateful to your prompt responses!! It’s obvious you truly care and are dedicated to your profession. I never dreamed that I would be in this position and it’s truly humbling!! I just read your article on “How to apologize”. I will take your advise and wait 6 months and will keep you posted!! I am so very happy that I stumbled on your website!!

    • Don’t be a stranger. We have a weekly podcast that comes out on Mondays. It’s called the Reconnection Club Podcast, and it’s for parents who are unwillingly estranged from adult children. You can find it wherever you normally get your podcasts. You can also listen to episodes at reconnectionclub.com/podcast.

  93. Thank you for this article. I find myself wondering WHY I NEED to have a relationship with people whom when I leave I feel terrible about myself. So why do I beat myself up? Why do I go to the ends of the earth for these people, who will so quickly cut me out when I voice my opinion. I genuinely have saved and printed off this email as a reminder that I can’t fix all relationships, and whatever will be will be. My sister stopped talking to me and having a relationship with me after I called her selfish, which she was being at the time. I find myself dedicating time STILL to take care of things for her after SHE cut me out after telling her the truth. I hope after some time this article will become my truth.

  94. I’m having a hard time with this myself. My sister and I spent 2 days a week laughing and hanging out for 10 years, she literally lives across the street (she can also be pretty mean sometimes but I’ve always let it slide). then all of a sudden she stopped answering my texts. I finally asked if I hurt her and she said yes. The reasons were so pathetic “Didnt get a photo of our nephew when I stopped in on him for 20 mins” Like WHAT? she sees him once a week, I see him every other month. Anyways 6 months later she still refuses to see me. I will not keep asking her and texting her “i love you”. I just think if you’re willing to make someone feel so sad and not give any reason, then byeee. My sister is cold as ice man. I’m not begging her to come back.lmao

  95. Wow, as a mother of estranged daughter this is mostly one sided. My daughter can’t admit her flaws. She won’t admit she has an anger problem and I have always been the one to beg and forgive and say sorry, to no avail; all she did was treat me worse instead of better. The sweeter, kinder and generous I was with her never made a difference.

    • This sounds like my exact situation with my daughter. The more I do the more generous I am it doesn’t matter. She cut off contact from me 6 months ago and I cannot see my 15 month old grandson. She is my only child and he is my only grandson. My heart is broken.

  96. Thank you all for your advice and stories. Aside scrolled down and read all of your experiences I started to cry and my heart breaks for both mothers and for the daughters.My daughter has been gone for three weeks now. I am not sure why because she wont speak to me period. She is staying with a co worker that has been intrusive since they met about 2 weeks before my daughter left. I am not sure if this woman has anything to do with this but this woman is my age my daughter is 19 and disabled she has a learning disability. The cops wont help me bring her home, she wont talk to me, I have been writing her letters and her birthday was yesterday and I didnt see her
    She is my whole heart. I was a strict mother but I had to be as a single parent. Her father was never involved. I was just trying to be the best parent I could be because I grew up in an abusive household constantly moving constantly getting blamed by my narcissistic parents for everything that ever happened to anyone in the house. I didnt want to go through what I did. I’m not a perfect parent but I did the best I could with what u had. My intentions were always good. I wrote her a letter apologizing for hurting her or making her angry and that I wanted to sit down and listen and hear about what she is going through that I am hurting but I know she is going through pain and a lot of emotions that i love her and i am here. She still wont talk to me. We just moved into a new home that she was supposed to come with us and i cannot even go upstairs and see her room right now. She is avoiding seeing me,talking to me. She will only receive messages through my narcissistic dad who i dont know if he actually is involved in this or ‘neutral like he says’ hes never had my best interests. Like i said i was always wrong. Someone could burn down a building and he would find a way to make them look like a saint and I’m wrong. I really am lost. I want my daughter to come home. I want a relationship with her. I want to walk through this together hand in hand and be there for her. I just honestly am heartbroken and lost… any advice I would graciously appreciate

    • I hear the pain in your lines here, Karen, and I’m so sorry for the loss of connection with your daughter. There are reasons why this happens, even to very well-meaning and thoughtful parents like yourself.
      The best advice I can give you is to make use of the all the resources I offer, to educate yourself as best you can and prepare a reconciliation plan that fits for you. Check out The Reconnection Club, the Reconnection Club Podcast, my monthly newsletter, and the many blog posts I’ve written just for estranged parents. You can join my mailing list to get started here. Hang in there.

  97. Hi

    I hope you don’t mind me posting here, but I feel like I just need to get it down.

    My eldest sister, is dying of cancer, but she doesn’t speak to me. Its a long story, so I’ll start at the beginning

    Just over 3 years ago, our Dad died of lung cancer, it was a shock, and happened really quickly. Over the couple of months that he was ill, my brother in law acted appallingly. My eldest sister was also always the “big sister”, and has always acted like she is a bit better than us, and more intelligent. My grief was bad, and I found my brother in laws behaviour really distressing (he has a history of not being very nice, but pretending he is). So, I backed off from them, knowing that my sister would never see anything wrong in him (she treated my Mum very harshly after brother in law lied to my sister about something, painting my Mum as a villain). Basically, he is a very toxic person, and is a compulsive liar.

    I still sent cards, went to family celebrations at her house when they happened, I didn’t turn my back on her completely.

    Last year I sent her a birthday card and gift voucher (which I would always do). This precipitated a message from my sister saying thank you and would we like to clear the air. So, I invited her to my house. I was hoping we could just move forward, but she became quite billigerant wanting to know why I had become more distance. I didn’t want to go over it, knowingshe would not accept it, but she wore me down. I tried to choose my words carefully

    I said “I founD it hard to cope with some of Steves behaviours after Dad died”. and gave a couple of eexamples. For instance, when my Dad actually died, he forbade my 22 year old daughter from coming to the hospice to give me support. All my siblings had spouses, I had no-one. He laughed as he recounted a time when he had my Dad running up and down the stairs looking for some tools getting out of breath.

    Well, she absolutely exploded and stormed out of the house, telling me “thats it”. the next day she put the gift card back through my door, and hasn’t spoken to me since.

    When she got her diagnosis, I sent her a card and told her how sorry I was to hear that she was ill, and to let me know if I could offer some practical help? she did not reply. Then about a week into lockdown, her son found himself homeless, so I took him in. When he left, the next day I received through my door an envelope of money with the word “rent” on it. I felt so upset that they could not even write “thank you” on that envelope. I gave the money to charity.

    Now I have heard through her son, that she is terminal and only a year to live. I don’t know what to do. If I get in contact again, it may just cause her more distress.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your sister’s diagnosis. It’s very difficult to know what to do in a situation like this. I hope you have some good support around you, and someone kind and patient to talk this through with. All my best to you and your family.

  98. I have two daughters. Lost them both. The oldest has a lot of my qualities, decency, passion for what is right, and a good heart, but also is immature and territorial. Negative qualities I did not teach. One of the issues with parenting is not those early stages of development. There are a safety and time period where a parent makes his most memorial mark. Those ages from 1-7 where you practice solid self-sufficient daily routines. You teach them how to read, write, dress, and that doing the right thing and wrong thing has consequences. Your whole world is about that hug, and then I love you dad and then they go off to public school and learn 1000 lessons you are not part of. I only had a few rules in the house with both girls. A decent hour to sleep that 8 hours was important and no phone/text messages after ten. When my daughter reached adulthood 18-21. I saw I could not provide the money to go to the best colleges, so my wife and I decided to give her the time to support herself. Instead of asking for rent, making her pay her fair share of the rent, and even though I described all the costs and responsibilities parents have to just to keep a roof over our heads. I figured if she worked hard for that dream. Saved. Even if she saved 100 weeks, 400 a month, after a few years. She would have quite a nest egg to start her journey with. 4800 a year is smart. However, she is liberal in her thinking. Liberals tend to open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values. We felt her going out with friends, no wanting to drive, spending instead of saving was taking advantage of her parents. It all came to head during the pandemic. We have 3 members with serious pre-existing conditions. She wanted a play date with someone she is in love with. I would not let back in the house. I felt so upset that after all, I taught her. She would be that irresponsible in breaking the lockdown law and endanger her family for a play date, I even went out to the driveway to her ‘boy/friend” that this was irresponsible. Yet she left. She sent me the worst text message. How the boy’s parents both psychiatrists thought my actions to be horrible. She has never spoken to me again.
    My second daughter who is 14, was also a very great young child. However, she was a follower. She always struggled even at a young age with trying to fit in. A kind of child whose spoiled tendencies as a child were difficult to handle. That kind of emptiness is difficult to fill and it would lead to arguments with my wife as to spoiling her. She only came to me with “I want” and it would leave to animosity from her when she would not get what she wanted from me. When she reached 5th grade. This beautiful girlie girl, dressed wonderfully and raised to respect conservative values, was severely bullied. The abuse she endured made her destroy herself. That bully was a girl who acted masculine, rough, brutal. we felt something more happened during this confrontation. A sort of dominance happened. We came home to find she had thrown all her feminine clothes away. She cut off all her hair. Dysphoria set in, and it was so drastic and traumatic. I felt despite my catholic upbringing to support her. You are still beautiful in short hair, wear what you wish, but like many bullied she began to bully her mother and curse at me. This past year I have heard f-bomb rants and I hate yous that brought me to tears for the first since I was a child. Since then she has a therapist she speaks to and I try to focus on the positives, but she avoids me when I try to just talk to her to get to know the person she is becoming with subject matters maybe she wants to discuss. She always pushes me away. “I don’t have to speak to you”. So, as you can read. I have lost both my girls. The oldest as my wife says will find out the hard way, when she runs out of friends to leach off of and will stand on her own or fail. The other has made a few comments on suicide, as she said “I don’t know who I am or what I am supposed to do, thus the counseling. I am always here for both girls, but I feel its a battle I have already lost. I am constantly having sleepless nights going over what I could have done differently. So, you see, sometimes it’s not about you. You get that perfect apple off the tree and so much can go wrong. Today there are too many pitfalls and good communication is everything. It’s their journey, not mine. I look at my relationship with my parents which was not always the best, but I loved them. As I became a parent I understood all they sacrificed and still sacrifice. I do view myself as a failure as a parent, for many reasons. Many will give advice, or judge and that is fair game. I am glad many parents have great relationships with their children. One practice I disagree with is that a genuine good hug is everything. That was all I ever wanted really, However, today, it’s about individualism, and disrespecting as a form of strength. My mother was abusive, physically, and mentally. I swore I would never be that parent. The girls’ privacy was their own, they got a time out, and believed that doing the wrong thing was losing a privilege. I cherish many moments with my girls. Today the kids are much crueler. They remember the one thing you said wrong, instead of the 1000 things you did right. A perfect example was when I said to my daughter that when you disrespect a parent according to some beliefs, GOD takes your eyesight, and you wander all eternity blind, a lost, a loser to him and she then weeks later said, you called me a loser and what father does that. Anyway, those who are young parents, film it all, stay postive, cherish every moment and think before you speak, not only what to say, but what you think they will say back. Stay well.

  99. Please I really need your advice very urgent. I never grew up with my mother because thing were so difficult for us and my father died early. We were six children and in the 4th in number. I was always sent out to live with people as a house girl and despite how wealthy they are yet there was no good story to talk about them, and it gives me the courage to hate people that are wealthing. It takes me years before I can see my mum and siblings. I grow up seeing that my mother never loved me because I was the only person going out to serve and others grow up with her. She nver help me to archive anything as a child. So it makes me not to be close or have deep feelings for her. After many years of my life craying with bad conditions, I was forced to get married thinking things will be better. Last 3years I met a woman who I’ve not seen before, she came to preach in my house. I never knew if she is wealthy or not but from the first sight I loved her more like a mother. At time goes on, I get knowing her little by little and she has been of great help to me. I even gave her a name which even my children always calls her “My Beloved” i call her my Beloved mother, sister and friend because she fills those gaps for me. She was close than my blood relative. I always sent her messages like good morning text or quick recovery if she is ill. After 2yrs of our friendship I sent her good morning text and she replied me in a way that makes me tears through out a day. And I replied her with false words about me thing that will make her come close to settle the issue with me because she always visits me or call me on phone. But she didn’t do that, on the contrary she got hurt and was hospitalised for days because of the message. I was told that she was down and I try calling her to correct my message and tell her I was just pulling her legs to no avail. When I saw her I try telling her everything she told me how deep she loved me like her own daughter and that i betry her trust. Etc, but i didnt relent since i I find out that my word hurts her and she never come close again. Months later she told me she has forgiven me but been the person i know i doubted her. Some times when we see outside she advise me if I want. She was caring, asking people that knows me how I’m copping but she banned my lines from reaching her. Yet I didn’t give up apologizing with my husband phone. This is 1yr and 5months. But I was surprised last 2months she reported me to some council of elders which I was punished. Yet I cant hate her. Please, is as I’m chocked, i never belive in love because my mum never did that so i think no body can love me. even I never love my husband in the first time, I just got married to Him but things is fine with my marriage. Please I need advice, should I let her go even while she stirs at me like her daughter whenever she sees me, or should I let her go even while our distance affect her? Personally I’m more than broken and hot. In fact I’m distressed right now. I can’t have my sleep can’t eat well cant even do things that makes me feel happy any longer. I grow lin by the day, I can’t smile or talk much to anybody, always in tears. As if I’m getting insane because she met me in a condition that was too difficult to forget the help she renders to me. She is the one person that has seen a potential in me and try to gave me a shoulder to cry on. Please I’m hopping to hear from you as soon as you can. Thank so much.

    • Dear Joy, I’m so sorry to know how much you’re suffering. I advise you to seek a local counselor or therapist who can support you while you work through this, and figure out next steps. Many counselors aren’t meeting with people in person right now, but they are meeting online.

      This is all the advice I can provide in this forum. Wishing you peace.

  100. Hi tina. Me and my niece where always close since she ways young and she would always give me a attitude when i text her and i text her and told her since shes wants to act like a bitch i guess i will act like one to and when she turn 14 out of no were she stop texts and talking and she 15 now and still dont talk or she ignores my texts it like she is giving me the silent treatment or a estrangement do you think she will get over it i only told her that cause her attitude i didnt call her that i told her sorry she just said shes not mad but she dont text or talk she just says maybe one day she will talk

  101. Hi, I’m very hurt, and I need the best advice I can get.
    I have a close friend I have known and talked to for several years now, and very recently it feels like he’s pushing me away. I don’t know exactly what I did, I have never offended him or been rude or clingy, anything of that; he has gradually stopped replying to my greetings to the point of not even acknowledging them, and any questions about his well-being are answered in monosyllables now, sometimes taking hours to do so. He has also steadily stopped talking to me, and asking about how I’m doing, how my day has been—caring, in short.

    I do not ask him how he’s doing just as greeting like it is done in the US, nor I greet him as a passing thing; I genuinely care when I ask, and I greet him with enthusiasm because I want to brighten his day that way, by letting him know I think about him. We have a lot of trust in each other, and we have told each other many things about ourselves; I have also let him know I really mean it when I ask about how he feels, and how he’s doing.

    I’m pretty broken because it all seems like I’m making him sick of me by caring; I have flatly asked him, “am I making you sick or tired of me?”, and he answered no, but his actions are saying otherwise, and this mixed messaging is very hurtful.

    I read your article on how to apologize, and I’m trying to put it down in writing right now. I’m apologizing for being tiresome while trying to show care, and that I have noticed his gradual change of attitude, although I don’t know if I should mention that because I don’t want to seem confrontational, despite it being reality. Then I wrote I’d rather stop entirely if I am being that uncomfortable to respond to, and that it was never my intention, that I genuinely care about him. Lastly, that I’m very worried I have damaged the bond between us, and that I hope I haven’t done so beyond repair.

    I don’t know if this is enough to properly convey my sentiment, and I don’t know how soon I should let him know; I don’t want to give the silent treatment either, since that doesn’t help at all. Needless to say, the possibility of him ending the relationship right there and then is absolutely terrifying; he is one close friend I don’t want to lose, but I have to know what is going on in order for me to move on—regardless of the outcome. I need your wise advice, please.

    • Hi Cindy, it sounds like a really painful situation, but it’s not one that I can offer advice on here. If you have a counselor or therapist, I suggest talking it over with them before you decide what to do.
      Meanwhile, if someone else reads your comment, perhaps they’ll have ideas to share.

  102. I’m really at a point where I have no idea what to do or say! My two nieces are no longer speaking to me. Why? Cause, I wrote a private message to my brother, their Dad. To put his foot down. They were getting divorced. One of my niece found his password to get into his phone & read the message! She didn’t stop talking to me till we got back from Florida. Than I got the silent moment. Wondering why she was a little rude to me & what happened? I wrote her a letter. She called me a couple of weeks after, her Mom was on the other line. I’ve given & loved these two girls like my own. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them… even paying monthly payment on her student loan. When she called she was very disrespectful, screaming, called me a liar, since I told her her cats had ripped my new mattress, scratch the window ceil, pooped on my carpet, broken my hurricane lamp on my garden window in the kitchen. My neighbor saw two cats laying there in the sun! The cats were not to be brought here. However, she was getting a divorce & didn’t know what to do with her cats. Her Mom called us in Florida & begged if she could bring the cats home. Feeling sorry for her. We said, ok, however they’re to stay downstairs. Well, she brought the cats upstairs, I had cat hair all over my kitchen chairs. I went in my bedroom & wanted to wash the sheets. Low & behold,,, mattress ripped, bed skirt all tangled. I never mentioned a word to her. Since she left the house before I got home. When I saw she was disrespecting me. I mentioned what I found when getting home. She didn’t even say thank you for living here the whole winter, paying nothing. She just screamed your a liar! Asking her politely to talk to me in a respectable way. She scream even louder. Than her Mom on the other line started calling me a liar as well. She has cut me off & said Auntie don’t ever speak to me, my Mom or my sister ever again! On on & on . I said I’m hanging up. I did. Have not seen or heard from her since. What do I do?? My heart is torn…..

  103. I ended virtually all contact with my three siblings and their families nearly 20 years ago. They pretend to be baffled as to why I would “cut them off.” And I have to think this pretense is the case in many situations where one family member has estranged themself (or as I prefer, escaped) from the others. Every few years they will try to contact me by email or text. The current series of messages concern their health problems. I don’t wish them ill. But they are strangers to me, and that is never going to change. I have had health issues of my own, currently on nine prescription medications daily and unable to walk or stand for more than a few minutes without significant pain. I wouldn’t think of contacting them for some sort of reconciliation because of my failing health or advancing age. To be blunt, they proved nearly two decades ago that they weren’t deserving of so much as a moment of my time or energy. My husband and my friends are my family. My siblings are people I don’t know, have nothing in common with, and truly don’t want to know. It turns my stomach when they “reach out” to me after one of them decided 18 or 19 years ago that I and my husband were to be excluded from family gatherings and the others had no problem with that. Yes, we weren’t to be invited to Christmas but “maybe” we could get together some other time without the other sister. After helping out my second sister numerous times with money and other things, I ended things completely when she informed me, while I was doing yet another favor for her, that my brother was coming to the city where I live (he lives all of 40 minutes away, and at that point I hadn’t seen him in a few years) and they were all planning to go out to dinner together. Some people are simply not worth knowing, even if you are unfortunate enough to be related to them by blood.

  104. Hey,

    I didn’t know this happened to others. The people I am around have friendships with their families members and there is no one to talk to around me who has had this experience. I am 25 year old young woman and I am estranged not from my mother but my sister, brother , nephews and father who did I didn’t not grow up with no was raised by. I am in such unbelievable pain of being constantly rejected by my siblings. Its so horrible.

    When I was younger they were around my brother and sister but they both married off and had kids. They are both 20 year older than me. I left my home on and off to life with a friend starting at age 13. And on and off throughout high school. Growing up my mom doesn’t speak English so we moved from place to place and had really unstable living arrangements. My mom did her best to make it work. She is a seperate conversation entirely.

    For a long time I was part of my sisters life and kids but ultimately was used for my taking care of the children. I loved the kids so much I did it unconditionally. Her husband is historically very authoritative, aggressive, loud, obnoxious and controlling human. But in the house it was known to not say anything against him. When I went off to college is when it all got worse and worse. I decided I needed time for me and I started to make better quality friendship and got rid of some old ones that hurt me.

    When I started to open my eyes to the world I realized I had been really mistreated. The years kept passing and no one called for birthday or to check up on me. Holiday gatherings were always a disaster growing up and they left me feeling upset.

    Overtime I learned not to reach out and I made my own relationships. In the last two year I tried reaching out to my brother and sister and I made the mistake as noted above off sending them message of how I felt . Did that make everything worse! I ended up in several face offS of screaming, crying and being told I basically nothing in comparison. I was blamed for my mom situation basically? That I had gone off and left my mom deserted?? While I am the only one that has really been by mom sides all along. Anyways all the horrible things were said and I got down to my sisters level of cursing and being just straight up foul mouthed. It was truly horrible and I am very hurt.

    I don’t think the relationships with my siblings were even relationships to begin with and the relationship with my sister is soooo toxic. She has done many weird bad and misguided things to my mom. She is caught in her own world of hurt. I don’t believe I should carry on with these relationships. I should let them go bc that is when I am better and think clearly.

    My life outside my sibling is still difficult but I managed to graduate , have found a job and have a beautiful husband. We still don’t have the best living arrangements but every year we get a little closer.

    Even though my present and future looks bright I am left with an unbelievable amount of hurt and anxiety. It makes me over criticize my relationships and sometimes prevents me from forming more enduring friendships because I carry such a heavy burden from my past.

    I have never been able to speak to anyone really about this stuff. I read many books on compassion, meditation, and such but I am having trouble with this new awakening I am feeling. I feel almost crippled.

    Thank you for putting this article out , it resonated with my experience profoundly.

    If you could offer a pathway as to how to learn to reach out for a more guided form of help I would appreciate.

    To put it in layman’s “ who the eff do I talk to and what do I do next”.

  105. Well, what I will say in this case as it pertains to my family, child, be it siblings, is this factor and it has literally set me free from even wondering anymore, what did or did not happen. When my mother passed away in year 2019, my best friend had gone, and I literally stop caring about much else. Do not misunderstand me here I love my family, always have, even when I did not receive it back. But I heard a pastor once said, and this is where I was set free from that moment, when I were reaching out to them, he said this, ‘You better catch me while I still care, because when I get to the point that I don’t care no more, I’m not angry, I’m not acting funny, I’m just done, and I really don’t care anymore. That is their problem, I’m living my best life and I have moved on. God has blessed, liberated me and I am fine. I made this factor very clear to my family and their phoniness. So, be it as it is, I am at this point where I don’t care anymore. But I still love them and always will!

  106. You know, I read these articles and it’s sad at how much people are obviously hurting and in pain. It’s not just one side or the other, but both in a lot of cases. People struggle in life a lot of the time. I get that there are some who don’t want to love anyone, or are simply not capable of loving. I get that there are those that are cruelly abusive, or flat out abandon their young. Those to me are the exceptions. I feel intent and circumstances should always be taken into account when we judge others. One size does not fit all. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Some are truly evil. However, some do honestly love and are unaware of how it all gets tangled up into such a divide and long for for families to be healed. We should never walk away from our families without full honesty and giving it every effort to communicate and being open to explore to understand what went wrong and why. If it’s fixable, we should try. If someone is reaching out to us, that’s our signal that there is something there worth looking at. People don’t get to always choose the hand they are dealt. Whether it’s the parent , or the child, one affects the other. Sometimes it’s unfair to both and the deck is stacked against you from go. Children need to realize parents are only as human as they are and many times are victims to. It doesn’t always mean you didn’t love your child or do you best despite the outcome. You all suffered. If your parents tried at all , that needs to be recognized. It means something. Parents also need to acknowledge the child’s point of view. Everyone should be recognized here. Everyone s pain is valid. Everyone is important here. We should never walk away when a hand is being extended in good faith. If someone is saying, let’s work on this, you should try until you have exhausted all true , “thorough” equally balanced efforts. We should never not consider the other person. Parents can be cruel, but children are not always angels either. We all as humans have the nature to be self centered, egotistical and unforgiving. Children are no exception to this . It’s not always just the parents fault. Many times children play a very present role in the demise of a relationship. No one in life, can have all the answers, solve all problems or shoulder all responsibilities. Children often place parents in a god role. They look to them to be able to handle it all, fix it all, carry it all and have all the answers. That’s sets up one for failure. Parents are only learning as they go in life , as well , in most cases. Not all parents came from good role models, or have the blessings or good fortune that allows for smoother parenting experiences. Many shoulder great challenges that often compromise their best efforts. Gods greatest commandment was for us to love one another, bear one another’s burdens and to forgive. The greatest of these is love. For if ye do this , then you are my disciples . We all need forgiveness, everyday. Children and parents , both, need to be understood . Bridge the gap. Build the bridge together.

  107. Some people and families are just dysfunctional. Often times, dysfunctional people don’t know they’re dysfunctional, just like people with mental illness often don’t know they are the ones who are mentally ill. People can accumulate wealth, large homes, and new cars, and somehow because of this, they’re “right in all their thinking”. If you think differently than they do, you’re obviously wrong and stupid. Truth be told, having wealth and being prosperous doesn’t really mean that much, what matters is how you treat your family and those around you; the true mark of functionality is how you treat other people. Functional people realize this. Granted, you can’t have toxic people in your life and ever find true peace, but you can still treat everyone with respect, regardless if those people are in your life or not.

  108. My adult daughter lives at home. Prior to entering high school school she was diagnosed with severe depression. She made it through high school and college. College was definitely a challenge as she is very much a loner. After college she moved back home and had a few different jobs (not in her studied field, but jobs). A few years ago she wanted to drive (alone) cross country to somewhere out west. We would not give her a car to do this alone. We suggested flying out seeing the area, trying to find a job and then we would go out there with her and help her move and get established. She refused this suggestion and was furious with us and has been non-talkative ever since. On one occasion when she did slightly open up to me she stated that she has so much anxiety she hates leaving the house. She is no longer working, has lost her health insurance coverage through us and stays in her room. When u try to ask her anything her pat answer is ‘i don’t know’ and she just will repeat that to anything and everything you ask. My husband would throw her out if it werent for my stopping him. We just do not know what to do or where to go for help. She is a beautiful, intelligent woman who is just wasting her life in our eyes but of course she doesnt want to hear that from us.

    • You must be very worried about her, Chris. Severe anxiety merits professional help; you don’t have to figure this out by yourself.

      You might try to find a gentle way to offer assistance in locating a counselor for the anxiety. You can search for local mental health professionals by zip or postal code at goodtherapy.org and psychologytoday.com.

      If money is an issue, you can your local social services (2-1-1 in most states) and ask about low-cost counseling options. I wish you and your family all the best.

  109. you need to realize that the parents are not always at fault. There are other factors and people that have a hand in estrangement. Boyfriends or spouses are the main culprit to come in between family for instance if the said spouse bf are narcissists!

    • In my opinion it’s not about whose fault it is, Worriedmama. It’s about finding a way back toward someone who’s cut you off.

      If a 3rd party has total control of someone you love and is forcing them to ignore you, that’s a very sad situation for both of you. I’m truly sorry if this is what you’re up against.

      If this article doesn’t apply, you might want to do some reading about either cults or abusive relationships to see if you can get a handle on what’s really going on. Good luck.

  110. One month ago, I was talking on the phone to my daughter who lives 7 hrs away. We discussed vaccines, and I said we had received our COVID shots. She indicated that her husband was hesitant after receiving a flu shot a while back that made him feel ill. After the FaceTime call, I thought the call was ended. I then said “I hope they aren’t anti-vaxxers”. She texted that she heard my comment, and they are NOT anti-vaxxers. I texted I was sorry and that I thought it was very important to get the shots. I apologized when she said I was disingenuous & not sorry. I texted & call several times, but she won’t answer. How many times do I need to apologize? It appears we are incommunicado. Mother’s Day will feel empty.

  111. I find all the replies here fascinating. I stumbled across this post from issandei/Down the Rabbit Hole, and it’s amazing how many of the estranged parent responses conform to their findings.

    My story: parents are both deceased now, but I always had a wonderful relationship with my mum. Never had a good relationship with my dad; was estranged from him for a few years in my 20s, although I’m not sure he even noticed as he was such an odd anti-social duck! I reconciled at my mother’s request, although it wasn’t really “reconciliation” so much as “accepting that we would never have a loving relationship, and just staying chill throughout visits by ignoring his nastiness and changing the subject.” I have been estranged from my sister for a couple of years, although it seems she only noticed that recently, because she is an odd duck like my dad.

    I was especially interested in this particular post because my sister wrote me a letter recently that was upsetting and frustrating and enraging. She sent a letter saying she “didn’t understand” why I don’t see her anymore, and it was pages of “I feel…” and “I did…” and “I, I, I.” Not even a “how are you doing” or “hope you are well.” I could have written a novel in response about all of the wrongs done me over the years, but at this point I don’t have the energy to invest in unpleasantness.

    Anyway your points on how to reestablish contact really jumped out at me because they were so absent in her letter! And like many of the commenters here, she “has no idea” why I stopped maintaining our relationship. I don’t think she ever saw me as a whole person at all, just a free babysitter or taxi service or cook etc. It’s not a relationship I miss. And I wonder, for the people who are longing for contact… no one seems to say what they love and miss about their missing person? Just lists of complaints? Maybe focusing on what you liked about them and your time together would be a good starting point?

  112. My brother is like this, he is so rude & blunt, doesn’t mind hurting my feelings
    & talk out loud so everyone can hear then later on he will just be nice NO APOLOGY BUT sorry he has done this so many times now I don’t tell him anything, my soulmate is more nicer like my dear old Dad was than my own family

  113. right Now I would like my mom to stop talking to me. Stay away from my room and to no longer make me breakfast or lunch anymore and to stop making me dinner and to stop telling me she’s going to Granny’s and ask me if I want to go to Granny’s and no longer tell me she’s going to the to the store. And for her to return my bankcard to me and then never come near my room anymore.

  114. I am in this situation and it is so difficult. My sister has cut me off twice now – the first time after I fell ill on holiday and whilst I was in the ICU on a ventilator she was going through my phone and saw a text I sent to my partner saying my sister didn’t believe I was ill. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and once I got home she shut me out for months on end. When we reconciled she told me her emotions that she felt hurt by the texts. I didn’t tell her how I was in such a panic because I genuinely felt so ill and she told me to just sleep it off. When I called her from the ambulance she didn’t come. But I accept this is all in the past and I apologised for my part without expecting or receiving an apology from her.
    Now my sister is cutting me out again as we were due to go on a weekend away and I had just had my son. I had asked my sister to be a godmother but she wasn’t happy I’d invited someone to the Christening she dousnt like. She was being really off with me for the week leading up to the break – and I became really anxious because I need to trust that the people around me will look after me if my diabetes gets out of control. So I messaged my sister explained that I could sense tension between us and that I think we should not go on the break as I didn’t want to fall out. It’s been 3 months since then and she still will not speak to me despite me trying to extend the olive branch. It looks like I will have to apologise to her again about cancelling the break without an apology for her behaviour towards me regarding the christening. It’s hard always being the one to be the better person – it’s exhausting.

    • It is hard indeed, Zoe. And exhausting. Not everyone decides it’s worth it and that’s a decision that only you can make.

      Family therapy might be helpful for the two of you to clear the air, if she’s willing. Best of luck and good health to you.

  115. My told me she did not want to speak with me until I “denounce my beliefs.” among a lot of other hateful things. I told her I loved her, never raised my voice and that I was sorry she felt that way.

  116. If important people in your life have refused to have contact with you, you just might be a narcissist. Do some research on Narcissistic Personality Disorder and look at yourself closely. You might be surprised at what you find.

  117. Thank you for this. We recently had an incident with our 16 year old daughter where we openly called out some of her eating disordered behaviors and lies she’s been telling for nearly 2 years. We have all been in therapy throughout this time, offering support, doing the things we’ve been told and asked to do and still she’s been denying and lying as we watched her get sicker. It came to a head one night and we pointed out many lies we were aware of- she left our house and moved in with her other parent (we’re divorced) and hasn’t spoken to us since.
    Other parent has vilified our house for the past 10 years and we know isn’t supporting repair with us. Other parent also in denial of kiddos illness and states we’re “making it up” despite concerns from therapist and PCP.
    We’ve lost her. She won’t communicate, isn’t interested in family therapy sessions to try to work on repair or any of it and we’ve been reduced to mailing packages of her belongings (favorite clothing and other items) to the other house- while continuing with our own therapy and working through the grief.
    Everyone keeps telling us “this isn’t forever” and she’ll figure it out when she’s 25 or 30. But…it’s a long time to wait.
    It’s just hard. Anyway. Your article made me feel better so- thank you.

  118. One thing I’ve learnt this lifetime: YOU CANNOT LOVE SOMEONE IF YOU ARE TRYING TO CONTROL THEM. You have to accept every single choice they make and love them anyway. Most of the comments here are complaining someone else won’t do what they want them to. You must respect their free will as I’m sure you want them to respect yours. Sometimes our world views clash so strongly it is impossible to have a relationship without continually trying to change one another.

    If you are the parent you may have been happy with the dynamic of your relationship and thought everything was fine but the child, whilst compliant, might not feel the same. As they grow up and realise this is not the way they want to live they can really struggle to change that dynamic. You might be offended at every step they take away from you and your ways. Letting go shouldn’t be a problem if you respected their right to autonomy from birth. You never owned them, they don’t owe you a debt. Your privilege as a parent was to love and get to know them, your responsibility was to protect, nurture and teach them to be independent of you. You can guide them but trying to forcefully control them is a big mistake. Lead by example. Give without expectation. It is hard to do, but if you’re hurting from disappointment you must realise you were projecting expectations. When we project we hurt ourselves and blame the other person.

    We are taught ‘Love others as you love yourself.’ It goes both ways. This does not mean you’re entitled to demand the same back that you give. It means to also love yourself as you love others. The downtrodden adult child realises that just as their parent has power over their own choices, they must also give themselves power over their own life. There the boundary line must be drawn. No one likes to give ground but if you’ve overstepped you must carefully negotiate your retreat.

    Letting go doesn’t mean you will never see them again, that generally only happens if you prove yourself perpetually abusive. No one wants to lose a loving parent. Trying to exert control over another and not respecting their right to autonomy is abusive. Whilst estrangement is very painful to BOTH parties, it is not abuse, it is a last resort to give each party power over their own lives. You might even view it as a loving act. Just because you feel hurt by having your power over another person taken away does not mean you are being abused. You are being asked to shift your focus and take control of your own life. Things were too far out of balance. You are now in a place to begin healing yourself. Start meeting your own needs and you won’t need to demand someone else do it. Tina keeps trying to bring the focus to self care because you truly are the only person you can control.

    I hope you learn to love yourselves and your children whether you see each other or not. If you can’t see or speak with them you can practice sending love energy and visualise blessing them whenever they come to your mind. Respect boundaries even if you don’t like them. Create joy in your own life. Learn to fill yourself up with so much love it spills out and blesses everyone around you. You life will be beautiful and people will want to be around you.

    • Thanks for the sanity of your lovely message.
      I particularly liked your suggestion about “sending love energy and visualise blessing them whenever they come to your mind”.
      I’ve been doing this, and have found it helps my own peace in the midst of sadness.
      Someone said: ‘If you want love, put love, and then you find love’ Even if we don’t seem to get a response, that doesn’t mean the ‘love energy’ isn’t doing it’s job – certainly in ourselves, but unknown to us, in the lives of those we miss so much.

  119. I feel that unforgivness on either side of a relationship only hurts the two involved. The reason for an estrangement, either parent or child, is because those involved do not want to listen to each other. Noone wins when either person does not listen. Feelings are real to the one who feels them, and unforgivness is a wound that never really works or heals. It appears to me that stuborness, not willing to say your feelings, and unforgivness, are huge negative emotions. At a mature age one should know when they hurt or irritate someone or what is fair or not. I believe some of this has to do with mental illness, addiction, or deep wounds from abuse. Both would benefit from a good therapist and pastor.

  120. Tina,
    I’m curious if you have any thoughts on estrangement with regards to parents of adolescent children. I am now at a place where unfortunately, my 12-year-old daughter barely speaks to me. Her mother and I have been divorced for several years and our relationship is fairly contentious and communication is very limited. My options feel very limited as I’ve pushed for family counseling but my daughter does not want to do this. Her mother will not encourage her to do this either. I’m wondering if the points you make in your article about estrangement apply in the same way with an adolescent child or if you would modify them in anyway. Thank you.

    • I’m sorry to hear about this difficulty with your daughter. I would search for a family reunification specialist in your area. They deal with situations involving underage children and divorce. If you call 2-1-1, that will connect you with your local social services if you’re in the USA. Good luck.

  121. I was married for over 22 years and have one son. My ex and I got divorced when my son was 20 and he has decided to cut me off. Ironically I still pay his college tuition as well as his health and auto insurance but he rarely engages with me and all respones are cold and borderline rude and disrespectful. I had always thought that ‘cut off’ parents were either absent parents or abusive, but I don’t believe I was either. I was the sole provider and paid for a career of private schooling along with activities including basketball, hockey and crew. I was a coach and always a participant in his extracurricular activities. From coaching, to driving his friends around to booking, paying and taking us all on vacation, I was always there and present. When the divorce was going down, I tried to remain present and have conversations with him about how this was not really about him and I but more about my relationship with his mother, but he was having none of it. I moved out in December of 2021 and it’s been over a year and not a word from him. He previously told me that my divorcing his mother was destroying his family and I tried to expalin my position but it proved fruitless. I even tried to make the whole divorce as easy as possible by conceding on many issues to avoid problems and to hopefully show my desire to remain in his life. None of it worked. I tried texting him regualrly after the divorce but it became very disheartening and started creating anxiety for me. (For all of you Iphone users, the psychological effect of seeing nothing but blue in your conversation and knowing the person doesn’t give a damn about what you’re saying or care to respond, is devastating.) It’s now 2023 and I’m at my wit’s end. He’s my son and I will welcome him back whenever he comes, but I cannot continue to take the lack of contact and being used. He’s got several things he needs to pick up from me and I was thinking of trying and using this as another opprtunity to talk but I don’t have confidence that it will go well.

    • It sounds like you’re in great pain over your son’s estrangement, Taddy23. I hope you have good local emotional support while both of you continue to heal and grow. It seems that this is a time of being apart, but don’t confuse today with forever.

      You can be certain that your own healing is one of the most potent medicines for the relationship you share with your child(ren). Hang in there.

  122. Hi Tina,
    Wondering if you have any tips on healing a fractured relationship with someone who has borderline personality disorder.
    My sibling and I were close even though we had rough times in childhood. One day I helped them plan a big birthday party- they had me stand up and introduced me to their friends and colleagues then said I was the worst sister in the entire world. Announced the same thing again in front of family after we flew down for a visit. Called to say thanks for Christmas presents and said how much they love me, but then refuses to speak to me.
    The last trip up here they refused to see me unless we did family counseling with our Mom beforehand. I was hesitant and the trip was only 2 weeks away. I found a bunch of options; my Mom sent them the names and times that worked for us, they said nothing worked for them and the topic was dropped. They came up for the visit anyway and didn’t tell me, but asked my Mom if they could see my child (I said no). I’ve apologized for any childhood issues over and over again. We’ve had so many heart-felt conversations with cries and hugs and love and I thought things were finally all good, but out of the blue things flip and they hate me.
    Their spouse said they were dx with BPD and that it was causing some of the emotional issues, but they said they don’t have it and was offended. They’ve been in counseling for 20 years, but things only seem to be getting worse. I was hoping to have a great relationship and raise our kids together, but I’m not sure it’s possible.
    They’ve ignored me for 2 years. Not sure it’s really worth trying anymore, I’m about 90% over it, but I’m still sad.
    Thank you.

    • That is super sad, Jj. I’m sorry. I’m afraid I don’t have any generalized advice outside of what’s in the article, but I understand there’s a lot of stuff out there for family & friends about BPD. Good luck and best wishes to you and your family.


Leave a Comment