Estranged Parents Featured in NYT’s Article: When The Ties That Bind Unravel

Dear readers,

Today’s NYT’s featured an article on parental estrangement by one of my favorite journalists, Tara Parker-Pope. The article is one of the first I’ve seen that discusses the pain of estrangement from the parent’s perspective. She interviewed several people who post here on the When Parents Hurt forum. To read the full article, click here: Be sure to add your comments at the end of the article!





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66 Comments

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  5. Really
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Parents, check other sites for help. Estranged parents need to feel welcome and not judged.

  6. Posted February 13, 2014 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

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  7. Really ?
    Posted January 20, 2014 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    There are a lot of good parents who have children who make excuses about how horrible their lives have been. Maybe it is because they have been spoiled rotten and the parent has outgrown their role. Now little Billy or Milly feel bad. Gee how can we get back at our parents, they muse. Oh I know !! We’ll withhold our kids and smear their names! After all, we deserve and demand it all!! Grow up, shut up, and get a life. By the way I am “just a kid” and I did this to my parents until I realized my evil ways. Too bad they died before I took responsibility.

  8. Mom
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    So much pain. So much sadness. We have been estranged by our beautiful daughter 3 times. Details are not important, really, except to say that borderline personality disorder symptoms are prominent in our daughter’s behavior. She suffers, oh how she suffers! And in retaliation, she blames us, her parents. Raging, fears of abandonment, sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, broken relationships, no friendships, anger and more anger, covered in tattoos. But, make no mistake, she is a beautiful, intelligent, high verbal, witty, talented woman. Borderline is a serious mental illness. Untreated it is a terrible tragedy and waste. Parents of borderlines can look into their own families and find alcoholism, depression and other forms of mental illness. It has a strong genetic component. There is NOTHING a parent can do. Stop blaming yourselves and hope your adult child finds the right help. You have to accept it as you would leukemia, diabetes, or paralysis. Love the child you have, no matter what. Live your own life as best you can. That’s all you can do.

  9. Craig
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    For most of human history, if an adult wanted to live his life without the interference of a well-meaning parent, he just moved ten miles in any direction. That’s all it took. No postcards. No Mother’s Day gifts. Adios.

    When the Pilgrims came to the New World on the Mayflower, their families in Europe never heard from them ever again, and nobody got upset about it because people had no expectation to continue to be an intimate part of an adult child’s life if that child moved away. At least they didn’t until the invention of the telephone and the jet airliner.

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  13. Grace
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Parental favouritism played a role in the estrangement I have with my mother and sister. My father died when I was 3 years old, and my sister bullied me harshly whilst my mother protected her.
    I am 40 now. The last straw happened when my sister lied to me about a huge family issue and my mother colluded with the lie and deceived me.
    My feelings are constantly invalidated, with my mother ‘forgetting’ major hurtful things that happened to me. My mother’s tendency to talk about my sisters fantastic life all the time is very hurtful and offputting.

    My mother left all personal belongings to my sister in her will, because she is the eldest and ‘it is the law’ that the eldest receives all. I did beg my mother not to do this to me but she was very angry and regused to consider my feelings. I can’t do this anymore. I am the second best child and there was only 2 of us. Favouritism ruins family relationships, you can deny having a favourite but the disadvantaged child will always know.

    • Debbie DeWitt
      Posted May 11, 2014 at 6:28 am | Permalink

      That happened to me. In the end my sister deserted her and I was the one around to ease her dying for 1 yr and a half. The issue became unimportant. It’s just money and stuff.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    where is the forgiveness in all of these situations? Parents make mistakes, children make mistakes, and sometime it is good for all to have their distance. If we had two life times, all of this mean and hurtful life time estrangement might be okey. Since that is not the way it is, it seems as though as usually both sides are in such pain that we could forgive and love one another that would at least cause us to thank our parents for giving us life and remember some of the good that they did – tell them that they are loved……however, maybe that wouldn’t mean that they had to spend a great deal of time together. There is not a problem in this world that the Golden Rule would not solve. Just one lifetime…….love and forgiveness is what we are all about. This causes everyone to be at peace.

  15. Candace Young-Richey
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    Dr. Coleman, Are you aware of any support groups in the Las Vegas NV area for mothers estranged from adult children? If so, could you please reply with the information? Thank you in advance for your response. CY-R, Las Vegas, NV

    • Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Candace,

      I live in Las Vegas and have tried to find a support group for mothers estranged from their adult children locally for over four years. Unfortunately, as far as I know there is nothing available. The only support I have managed to receive is through a few websites. If you manage to find some help locally, please let me know. Thanks. Sandi

      • CYR
        Posted May 13, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        Sandi, for purposes of reaching out to you, here is a temporary email address: KindnessSuccess@aol.com. Please feel free to contact me to discuss.

  16. nellie
    Posted July 29, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I am the mother of nine,single Parent,divorced,worked to put myself through Nursing School,which meant that I was away from home most of the time for 3 years,I thought that I was doing what was best for my children,but I have found out that they were feeling left out,because I was never home.
    Most of them have come to relize that I was trying to make things better for them.
    My oldest daughter does not feel that way,she started leaving home at age 15,staying away for days,and months at the time,then she started telling people that she was abused by an uncle,and that I knew about it,and did nothing ?????when I ask her about it she crys and say “you know what happen” I don’t– she has one uncle,but because I was seprated from him when I was 2 years old,she did not meet him until later in her life. I asked her if he did something to her,and she said “no, he is not the one “. There is no other uncle,and I did not allow other men to come to my house,she never says who,or what she is talking about.
    I have asked the others member of the family,,and they don’t know what she is talking about either. She will go months or even years without speaking to me,but when she was in the Service,she entrusted her 2 children to my care ??Her children and I have a very loving relationship.
    Her oldest son got Married,and we (she and I) rode together to the wedding,we rode for 22 hours,laughing,and talking. At the wedding we were fine,the next day she decied to fly to visit friends on the west coast,instead of riding back with me,thats the last time she has spoken to me ,(7 years ago) I have not seen her,spoken to her,or recieved any mail,I am heart broken,I don’t know what to do. The rest of the family talks with her,she called them,and even came to see them,but not me.
    I am 73,I want my family together,I want to see her,I love her,she is my oldest Daughter,I want to know why,what happen,I know without a doubt that I did not do anything to her,nor did anyone else,if something like that had happen,her Father would have killed that person, I have asked ,friends, neighbor,school mates,and still can’t find an answer,what am I to do ???
    A heart broken Mother.

  17. Gail
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    The heart being cut apart in the picture is how I have felt for years. My oldest daughter, so loved always….we were always so close. Her father was unemployed for over 5 years and during that time when she was in grad school and right after she married, something (?) happened. This child of my heart seemed to hate me. When her father lay dying 4 years ago, she flew from CA to AL to see him. She and her aunt, his sister, started a huge fight and the things she said to me still tear me apart today. The hard part is that I have no clue what happened. Neither did my husband, nor my younger daughter, who she treats not much better. I live with heartbreak. If I think about her, or see her picture, or call her on her birthday, I cry for hours, if not days. I have not seen her since her father died. I doubt I ever see her again. Perhaps if I lay dying, but I’m not sure of that even. If I only KNEW. And, no, you cannot have a rational conversation with her. I try to let it go, with a little success, but being a new widow, it is harder than ever. Thank God for my younger daughter. I know how the prodigal son’s father felt now.

    • Anonymous
      Posted July 3, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      You may never know the reason because there is no reasonable cause. I was told this by a reputable therapist.

      • kim
        Posted December 12, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        You were paying the “reputable” therapist, so there might be just a wee bit of a conflict of interest there. Also, said “reputable” therapist was no doubt only hearing your side of the story.

        • Margaret
          Posted May 24, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

          Grim assessment!! Of course in some cases there is no reasonable cause…

      • Margaret
        Posted May 24, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

        Your therapist is correct!!

  18. Dorothy
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I have been estranged from my children for 9 years now. The grief I have suffered has ravaged every part of my life. This is a very complicated issue and it is hard for me to read the posts from angry children attacking the very idea there are situations out there where there are actually hurting and damaged parents who didn’t deserve this. If you were abused and suffered because of your parents, I’m truly sorry and I wish you all the best. However, please realize that life is not one size fits all. I myself was a victim of an abusive, narcissistic mother. As an only child, I became stuck with this abuser and I allowed her to live with me and my children. I was always my mother’s scapegoat and she systematically turned my children against me and took them over. My mother stayed home and I worked and made the living for all of us. My situation has been a nightmare. I loved my children and when they cut me out of their lives as adults (the catalyst was when I actually met someone after 20 years post divorce and remarried), I seriously just wanted to die for almost five years. I still have crushing episodes of grief, rage, and thoughts of hopelessness and yes even wish I was dead. I would have to write volumes to really discuss my personal situation, but my situation is just that…personal. I never abused my children. I always loved them and told them so. I encouraged and supported them. There is pretty much nothing I would not have done for them. They were everything to me. However, I let a bad person into their lives and by virtue of the fact she had more time and access to them then I did as a single mother working to support everyone, she systematically them from me. There are all kinds of sad stories in the world. Don’t be so blind to the fact there are other situations in the world besides your own.

    • Karyn Harris
      Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Hi I am sorry and understanding of your situation. I was abused physically by my own father until 16 years old. My daughter who had a comfortable childhood, but who was smacked when very naughty, ie when she had hirt her sibling s and refused to apologise now states that she was abused, she wasn’t. I love her so much. She went to New Jersey from Scotland with a man she met in a chat room at only 16 years. This has had a devastating effect on me. I left her at home while I worked to keep a roof o er our heads. She was ill and not in school, for this I have felt so guilty. But it was what I had to do. We do what we think best. I am new to forum. It has taken me 11 years. I need now to find some peace. Karyn

  19. MSR
    Posted March 9, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Dr. Coleman: as someone going through an estrangement the second time around (the first time with my father, now with my mother/stepfather), I laud your efforts to try and get to see the “parents’ perspective” but in all honesty, you are sympathetic, but your views irk me. Here’s why: the one thing that a child wants more than anything is the love and trust of their parents. Estrangement is the final, final straw for these children, who once they become adults, come to realize and accept never filled that role. This is never something that a child WANTS to do — it’s something that they decide their NEED to do for their own well-being and survival. Parents are human, yes, but when they created life, they are the ones who ultimately took on the responsibility to love, respect and nurture the person that they created. They may not be “at fault” in the ultimate sense of how a child feels, but if a child feels that the parent directly caused it, they should be held responsible and at least be able to open their eyes. I cannot help but think the group of parents you choose to study and interview for your books, etc., are saying “I have no idea why” – and that makes me go EXACTLY! The main reason why children estrange themselves is because they either are in denial, have no communication skills, fail to see their own faults, or just can’t own up to their own shortcomings. Obviously, these types of individuals won’t have a clue — because they just don’t have a clue. I think you need to take a harder, closer look at what these parents really are like — because anyone can be in pain, even the ones who are the ones to blame.

    • Dorothea
      Posted September 2, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      It doesn’t mean the parent has no communication skills. It may mean there is a communication break down. Denial and dissociation can affect this. I told me mother from the time I was 12 that my step father was trying to molest me. There was no communication break down–she chose him. My adult son is estranged from me again. I made mistakes raising him to be sure, but he did not experience anything like I did. And never the complete betrayal. He is mad that I wasn’t rich enough as a single parent to keep him at NYU. He takes out on me that is father was absent from his life, and dissociates about (blocks out) some of his betrayals. I think estrangement is a family disease. A family with no set of tools about how to be in a healthy relationship and resolve problems. Lots of triangluation. When it gets too heavy we bail. I also think there are heavy doses of selfishness. There is a high degree of substance abuse, mild to severe mental illness (including dissociative disorders), and absent fathers. It isn’t Mayberry.

    • chris
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Dorothea, your comment stikes to the very heart of the issue. I have recently cut ties with my parents. This after years of talking to them, trying to explain and writing several lengthy e-mails that took hour upon hour to draft. My parents are like many of the people who have posted on this site. They say “they do not understand” why I am angry and hurt. In fact, they like many of the parents who have posted here, seem to infer that I am just a spoiled adult child blaming them. I am not! I am highly educated, as are they, and have been clear as day about the behavior they exhibit toward me and my children that I will no longer tolerate. Rather than look inward, they have instead chosen to deny, deny and deny more that they have done anything wrong and insist that they are terriffic parents and grandparents. Trust me they are not. Dr. Coleman, get real, parents posting here get real. Cutting ties with a parent is not easy, it is painful, hurtful and difficult. But for many people there are no options. I suspect that 90% of the parents posting here, have simply failed to listen to what their adult children are saying. Open your ears folks, and Dr. Coleman… shame on you as a professional for not understanding the complexity often involved in these types of matters.

  20. Posted December 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Well “Dr. Coleman” It’s been over a year and I still await an answer regarding a debate over information/resources available to estranged adult children verses the parents of said children!

    For a person with such a strong opinion I find it strange that you will not submit to scrutiny of your assertions.

    You could always conceede and retract your statement.

  21. Lin
    Posted April 30, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Coleman, There is so much rage and anger with the children who estranged their parents. I joined a group and read all the pain and sadness eveyrone was experiencing but what blew me away was the absolute venomous reage, hostility and anger at me for even suggesting that love is the only way…love is the answer. I was suspended from the group this morning after posting on my blog that the only way the interplay of clenched fists, refusal to break the patterns of hatred so that a doorway can be opened to reconciliation is through love. The group, estranged stories is a hostile environment that I am relieved to be no longer a part of. You’ve got your work cut out for you dealing with such domestic violence, hatred, rage, and anger issues. I’m sending all the members loving wishes this weekend and then letting it all go. This forum is not for me. When I suggested loving forgiveness I was accused of “Baiting” and I don’t even understand what this women meant.

    I’m going to family court and simply asking the judge to allow me to see my granddaughter because I believe it is in the best interest of my granddaughter to get to know her biological grandmother. Good luck to all. Lin

    • Kevin
      Posted December 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      … and when love fails you go to court, because you know the best interest for another human being. Take a step back from that statement and you may see a (the, one of, big, etc) reason why you no longer have a relationship with your child.

      • kim
        Posted December 12, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        And, in effect, the mother of the child doesn’t have the right to determine who is and isn’t good for her child? Wouldn’t the mother of this child know her own mother the BEST- and be in the BEST position to determine that gmother was not good for the child? Suing for grand-parents rights in cases like this is just another power play by the controlling gmother.

    • Karyn Harris
      Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      Lin you can contact me at karyncomma@hotmail.com

  22. Dara
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Many of these comments make me so shocked and angry I can barely speak.
    Seriously, there are women who honestly believe they have been estranged from their children because the child’s “jealous” spouse just can’t handle their perfectly loving and healthy relationship with their grown child? Do these women live in a permanent state of denial?
    My partner has been estranged from her mother for 10 years. Of course her mother tried to blame everything on me. This struck me as rational, as I don’t see sociopathic narcissists ever actually owning up to the damage and manipulation they regularly inflicts on their family. She tried to blame me, her past girlfriends, her biological father, the mailman…anyone she could think of but herself.
    Dr. Coleman, I’d like to believe you, but when I read these comments it makes me think you are doing more harm than good. It allows these people to live in a fantasy land of thinking their evil child is the cause of the estrangement instead of seriously examining the role they played themselves. I have never, ever come across a person who estranged themselves from a close family member without good cause.

    • nettie
      Posted September 30, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Dara

      I really know from you comment that you have never been the parent of a teenager.
      i have seriously examined the role i may have played in my daughters estrangement i have pulle apart every aspect blaming myslef when actually i wasn’t to blame,its taken me a long time to realise that my daughter is actually the cause because she has told so many lies to other mothers to justify her behaviour and she has to keep up the pretense because to actually admit how bad she has been would be too much for her to bare . i worry constantly about her recently she said she regretted leaving school and regrettted leaving home but she has never told the people that she has lied to about us about that she just starts another argument and then blames her family. one day soon people will see through her and that good cause you talk of will be non existant

    • Karyn Harris
      Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Can you be subjective. You understandably support your wife which is great but nothing is as straightforward as someone being right and someone being wrong. We all need to live and learn by our experience.

  23. michele
    Posted December 11, 2010 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    There must be roughly the same number of estranged children and estranged parents (sometimes 2 parents and 1 child sometimes 1 parent and 2 or more children) but roughly equal.
    On perusing the net however one sees numerous sites dedicated to the parents and far fewer to the children.
    A earlier stated children do not estrange themselves from parents (source of their earliest nurtrance – physical at least) without reason.
    I was estranged from my parents for 20 years but was stalked and ‘taken back’ for the past 10 years. I will soon be acting in the interests of self-preservation and getting my mother out of my life again. It is a decision I have agonised over for the whole 10 years but psychological game-playing is truly taking it’s toll on me.
    If there were some way I could not estrange myself and be healthy I’d do it but every minute of contact stabs me in the heart repeatedly.
    Out of my mothers 4 children 2 are currently estranged and 1 was for 20 years and soon will be again. Only 1 child is not. This child is the only one who plays the competitive games that my mother sets up on a constant basis. She uses all manner of degradation of sisters and brother to win attention and approval from the mother. (Not really necessary though as no-one else is playing the game.) My mother revels in being ‘fought over’. If my mother cannot give me attention or approval without having to fight for it really I’m not interested. I just want to get better. I’ve spent 57 years trying to overcome the anger and degradation. I want at least SOME peace in my life and that is not compatible with her games.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Wow, I estranged from my other when I was 60, wonder how many of us wait that long.

    • Karyn Harris
      Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      I too have estranged myself from my father for self preservation and can so sympathize. But my daughter seems to be using my story as hers I am baffled and hurt

      • Nana
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        If you used Estrangement to cut your father from your life and you truly think your father was not hurt by your action.
        What makes you think you did not teach your daughter all about Estrangem? Why should you feel hurt now ?

  24. AJ Odecut
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    “The article is one of the first I’ve seen that discusses the pain of estrangement from the parent’s perspective.” Are you kidding me? Then where Dr. Coleman are all these articles from the estranged adult childs point of view? Especially if this is the first you’ve seen from the parents point of view. I’ve been searching book stores, the internet, newspapers, and talking to counselors for years and not once have I seen an article that approaches this problem from the perspective of the estranged adult child. I challenge you to produce all these articles from estranged adult children that make this article stand out. This article that you endorse is flawed and does not follow journalistic neutrality by looking at the situation from all points of view. This reporter should have interviewd dozens if not hundreds of people before writing this article not several. And don’t give me that the reverse statistic of more people seeking reconciliation. If you are such the expert then debate me on this subject. Educationally you have the advantage with a phd. and I only have a bachelor of science degree. You say you have done research on the subject and I am yet to find the information I am looking for. So in a debate you should have all the advantages. I have thrown down the gauntlet I dare you to pick it up! I highly doubt you will because you know the statements that I have just made to be true.

    • Dorothy
      Posted August 15, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      Your comment seems to infer that there is no valid point of view for an estranged parent and the estranged children must always be justified. Ah…what a wonderful little world you have created for yourself …so black and white. What if the children are antisocial personality disorders? Here is a whole pandora’s box of what ifs to explore if your mind is open to the exploration. No real known definitive cause for the antisocial personality although it does appear to run in families which suggests a genetic and not necessarily environmental cause. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just assign blame universally to the parents and the children were never responsible. Case closed!! Unfortunately, there is a subset of parent estrangements that have nothing to do with abuse, neglect, or lack of love and everything to do with the lack of support that the estranged parent has within their community and their very own families because they are/were abused, isolated, gaslighted, denigrated by their own abusive families and ex-spouses. Sometimes this happens in connection with a divorce and a selfish antisocial ex obtains control of the children. Sometimes it happens because of the parent’s position as scapegoat within their own antisocial family of origin. Children are systematically brainwashed in such situations and the “victim” parent may have been passive in the face of their own abuse and situationally blind to it because of their own family history. Also, consider for a moment there are plenty of studies out there regarding cults who have managed to take young people and work with them to the point they refuse all contact with their loving and very concerned families. The human condition is not limited to a single solution or a single situation explanation for why some things happen within families. Abusive, neglectful parents is simply one area of study within the entire field of family psychology. Abused children and abused adults are in many cases well advised to totally estrange and alienate a parent who is cruel, exploitative, and abusive. But what about the estrangements that don’t fit that particular pattern. Research on these situations has to start somewhere. Don’t fear the answers and shut down those who want to share their stories because of a very limited point of view.

  25. Estranged Child
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    I am a child that is on the verge of cutting off contact with my parents. I can admit that they were good parents to me when I was growing up. But I also have the self-esteem and self-awareness to know that I am a good child. My parents have quite the pattern of disapproving and then openly criticising both my partner and my brother’s partner which leads me to believe the issue lies with them. I chose to live with my parter before marriage and my parents never miss an opportunity to try to guilt me and shame me for this decision which I do not personally feel any guilt over. Their tactics have pushed me to the point, that it is difficult for me to have a conversation with them when they put me on the defensive and then claim that I have hurt their feelings. They can just not imagine what they have done to deserve my voicemail instead of a hello.

    • Karyn Harris
      Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      I understand your hurt and frustration. If they are truly unwilling to listen to where they failed you then walk away. Biut give tjem a chance before cutting ties

  26. Dana
    Posted July 13, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    After years of therapy and antidepressants, my husband finally told his mother that he would no longer put up with her constant criticism or insults. Eventually, he sent her an email telling her that there was only one condition for a continued relationship: That she give up her free-lance sniping rights and treat us respectfully, as adults. She responded with pages of ways we weren’t living up to her standards, and therefore needed her to tell us how to live, with the excuse “That’s what mothers do.” He cut her off for eight years. It has been hugely beneficial for him; he’s a vastly happier and more confident man as a result.

    He resumed limited contact with her 4 years ago — a 15 minute phone call every 6 weeks or so, and three short weekend visits during that time (she lives 500 miles away.) She still insists that she just doesn’t understaaaaand why they were estranged. She will never, ever realize, much less accept, that she chose it.

    It is my experience that very few children cut off their parents for no reason. It’s far more common for the child to try and try and TRY to have a relationship of adults with their parents, only to find their parents are dead set against it. They finally give up, and the parents “just don’t understand.”

    • Windy
      Posted November 26, 2012 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      Dana,
      Thank you. I too have been searching for support and all I can find are sites labelling estranged adult children as evil and mean. It is all very childish. I think the parents of adult children may be the ones who need to grow up. As our generation grows up and raises our own children, we want to break the cycle of abuse. The threats that we, too will become eatranged from our kids (and that is serves us right!) are dosgusting and unsubstantiated. Sad thing is that these estranged parents don’t actually follow Dr. Coleman’s advice. If they even attempted to have a less than self-centred conversation with their children, perhaps there would be a chance at reconciliation.

    • Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Well said. When I have written or discussed my concerns with my parents they abjectly refuse to address my concerns and instead go into defensive mode. They deny, tell me what great parents they are and how they provided for me financially. If paying for college and graduate school alone is the test of good parenting then I guess they are great parents. If having respect for your child, listenting to your child’s concerns, not judging your child and not favoring siblings is the test, then my parents are failures. Plain and simple. By the way, I am 50 years old, I have a great marriage, two wonderful children, many friends and close relationship with my brother. He tolerates my parents but understands and we do not discuss the issue. My sister, maintans a relationship, but has accused my parents of inteference in her life, abuse, etc. Three children, all unhappy with their parents. Yet, the parents think they have done nothing wrong…

  27. Debbie
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I see that you have material for groups to help cope with estrangement. How do I find if there is a group in my area? I live in South Orange County, California.

    I just found out about your book and web site, I am not over stating facts to say this has changed my life. My daughter has not spoken to me in more than 2 years, I have never seen my grandson and I am broken hearted.

    Reading the little I have this week has given me hope that someday with work we could find our way back to one another.

    • Janet Mitchell
      Posted September 24, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Debbie,
      I saw your post on J. Colman.com. I am also estranged from my adult daughter. I am in Fresno and have been posting on Craigslist hoping to start a support group for estranged parents with no luck. Please share with me any answers you got to your question about finding a group in your area.
      Janet

      • Posted February 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        it is very sad that my daughter and her husband are estranged from us we live 10 minutes from each other but I have not seen my daughter for last four years. I
        like to find out if their is any support group in Irvine and Newport area. I love to join it.
        azra

  28. Carol
    Posted June 6, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Coleman, thanks for all your support on behalf of estranged moms. We are a group of sorrowful people who ‘lose’ their children by a jealous significant other or spouse. We have formed a group for several mothers who experience this pain- http://www.dailystrength.org/groups/mom-of-estranged-adult-children-all-topics/discussions

    We post your articles and discuss them. We’re elated you are getting our message out there. Thanks.

    • Posted July 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      I am so relieved to find out that I am not the only Mom that is in the situitation, I have not seen my son or grandchildren for 1 year now, and it all steamed from the fact that I wouldn’t cancel a vacation to speand with my sister for Thanksgiving, it was also my grandaughters 16th birthday, which I explained to her that we would go out and celebrate her birthday when I get back, but that was not good enough for my daughter-in-law, who always wants to have control over people,I thought in my mind what have I done,I was a single Mom ,my husband and I divorced when my son was 1 year old, I felt I did the best I could considering the circumstances,I continue to place blame on myself, I can’t call him because she always answers the phone and my son tells me he don’t know his cell phone number,how sad.

  29. sottovoce
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Children, even when adults, stay in expectation of what their parents’ should do for them. Little thought is given to the hardships and sacrifices parents may have faced during their marriage raising these children. Divorce is so often a reason to side with one parent or the other after parents have delayed divorcing until the children were grown. They stay in a selfish mode of their needs and often fail to understand the falling apart of their parents relationship over the years.

    Those parents of estranged children please join our support group at:

    http://www.dailystrength.org/groups/haven-of-peace-for-estranged-parents-hope/discussions

  30. anonymous
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    I’ll bet that a lot of the egg and sperm donors whining in the article and in the comments are in serious denial about why they drove their adult children to sever ties with them. Abusive, manipulative people never really own up to these things. It’s grossly irresponsible for you, Dr. Coleman, to suggest continued cards and letters to people who don’t wish to be contacted. That’s called “stalking.”

    • Posted May 9, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Dear Anonymous,

      I’m sure you’re right that there may be some adult children who will experience it just as you say. And every family is different. But, for every child who feels stalked, I would argue that there are hundreds more who feel upset that their parents didn’t work long or hard enough to save the relationship. The purpose of the reaching out isn’t just for contact, it’s to try to heal whatever hurt or damage may have been done by the parent.

      • Selenge
        Posted May 5, 2011 at 1:02 am | Permalink

        Having just endured yet another attempt on the part of my spouses’ estranged parent to ‘reach out’, I feel the need to comment on this process. It is not so much the fact of reaching out but HOW it is done. If estranged, and estranging parents reach out mechanically, with no genuine desire to hear their offsprings’ side of the story, reaching out is sadly next to useless and can actually further hurt the situation. If a parent ‘reaches out’, only to retreat into wounded and narcissistic hurt when their offspring does not reply as they wish, then all that happens is that a negative pattern is reinforced.

        Instead, I would strongly advise parents who are suffering from repeated offspring rejection to closely examine their own behaviors.

        • Karyn Harris
          Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

          Yes, I agree all must reflect sincerely and wisely if any hope of true reconciliation may happen.

      • Anonymous
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. Estrangement I feel is no different to depression it’s contagious and incouraged. Our young is maturiting later and feels privileged siting on purch looking down at us. As a parent of an Estranged child. I am guilty I did not see the tell tail sighs of depression and meltdowns. I was told by my daughters theripest she was doing great. Yet she told my daughter we were the toxic parents. Good Lord the gravy bowl got deeper & we were feeding it.

        • Anonymous
          Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

          Thank you. Estrangement I feel is no different to depression it’s contagious and encouraged. Our young is maturating later and feels privileged siting on perch looking down at us. As a parent of an Estranged child. I am guilty I did not see the tell tail sighs of depression and meltdowns. I was told by my daughters therapist she was doing great. Yet she told my daughter we were the toxic parents. Good Lord the gravy bowl got deeper & we were feeding it.

      • Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        Dr. Coleman:

        The key is not simply reaching out. It is having a desire to actually listen and to try and understand the problem. There must be a desire on the part of the parent to take in what the adult child identifies as the problem and to have it in their sole to actually try and understand and to then make real change. My childhood looked ideal, my parents look ideal now. But there is a truth that nobody outside our family saw long ago or now. At age 50 I just can no longer continue in the same abusive famly tradition. My parents have tried to reconcile with me, but their e-mails to me deny, deny and deny that they have done anything to warrant the estrangement. My father has suggested that I bury my bad memories and only focus on the good because people experience all sorts of up and downs in life. I refuse to bury my memories of physical abuse (ended at age 14) and emotional torment which started as a child and has continued to this day. I cannot understand how my parents can be so crazy that they can deny the undeniable. I suspect many of the parents on this site are just like my parents. I see their written words and just scratch my head.

        Your advice to parents needs to be fine tuned. Its not simply a matter of reaching out. Its a matter of taking on a real self exploration that will allow the parent to see form the adult child’s perspective what the problem is. I do not think many people are really able to face the facts, its far to easy to live in denial and claim that their adult child is selfish, living in a fictional truth or is just unappreciative. As I have said in other posts cutting ties with a parent is extremely difficult and emotionally draining!

    • AJ Odecut
      Posted November 16, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      I certainly agree with you on this subject. The good doctor has no concept of the estranged adult children and their feelings or point of view. His writings and appearances on this subject are of a very narrow view of this problem.

    • buddyroe
      Posted January 30, 2012 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      Parents aren’t perfect, but most of the people posting on here will one day regret the estrangement. Even if you don’t have a relationship with you parents, you should at least let them know you are alive. They at least deserve that much. Do it before it’s too late. You may one day reap what you have sown with your own children. Just remember, one day you may be the parent who is hurt and bewildered.

      • Karyn Harris
        Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        Indeed.

  31. jen
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    This is in reference to the NY Times article. My husband’s aunt is dealing with this right now. In her case, I wonder why she wasn’t the one to cut off contact with her daughter. The short version is that Aunt Julie was married for a long time to an abusive man. Thankfully she finally left him and married a wonderful man, Arthur. However, her kids were upset. One of the kids accused the new husband of abusing her daughter (Julie’s granddaughter). After a lengthy investigation, Arthur was found innocent.

    The daughter and granddaughter have cut off all contact with Aunt Julie. The granddaughter now has a daughter and Aunt Julie has never been allowed to see her. Aunt Julie’s heart is broken. She has tried and tried to make amends but to no avail.

    As far as the family is concerned, Aunt Julie’s only mistake was in not getting divorced sooner. It shouldn’t have taken the jerk putting a gun to her head to make her leave. However, times were different then. I can understand how a Catholic woman of her generation would see divorce as something she shouldn’t do. And since the 3 other kids still have great communication with Aunt Julie, it really does seem like this one kid (and the granddaughter) are just jerks!

    • The Unloved Daughter
      Posted April 2, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

      I am quite sure that there is more to the daughter’s side of the story. Since the mother has 3 other children, I wonder if parental favoritism helped play a role in the estrangement. I am estranged from my mother and step-dad (my bio father died when I was 2 yrs. old) because they are prescription drug addicts and because of their favoritism. My mother favors my brother (the only boy) and my step-dad favors his red-headed evil, youngest daughter. Both of them siblings are junkies just like my parents.

      My other sister is ignored just like me. We are considered the crazy ones, even though they are the junkies and live every day to snort pills. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was watching how my younger half-sister could do and say whatever she wanted and I was suppose to just take it.

      I mourn not having a mother and for my kids not having a grandmother, but I will never contact them again and I won’t be at their funerals. They have caused unexplainable hurt and damage to me that I’m still trying to comprehend. I admit I am full of rage for the hurt they caused me and never cared enough to apologize or even acknowledge it when I told them. I have no respect for them and my love fades for them daily. I doubt they care that I’m gone and they have never tried to reconcile with me.

      I would love nothing more than for my mother to show any sort of love towards me. I want her love, but I realize she doesn’t love me and is incapable of showing or talking about hurt feelings, hers and mine.

      Goodbye Mother,
      Your Unloved Daughter

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