Dr. Josh, you were amazing! Thanks so much for everything!
AARP The Stranger in Your Family
Dr. Coleman was interviewed in a recent AARP article by Meredith Maran on parental estrangement. To read the whole article go here: The Stranger in Your Family
This is all so heartbreaking and I too am in this hellish situation. My oldest daughter got sober a year ago and in the process has decided she needed to end our “codependent” relationshi . And to be honest she has been so cruel and merciless that I would gladly walk away but she has also completely removed me from my 5 year old grandson’s life. I have been a regular part of his life since the day he was born – he has spent the night with me at least once a week for 5 year . I have spent every holiday, birthday, you name it I’ve been there and now my daughter has deemed me unfit to be his grandma! I miss him so much I literally sob daily. I worry about what he must think and pray he isn’t being permanently affected by not seeing me.
I’m in therapy and I’ve given an open invitation to my daughter to join me but she won’t. So frustrating! My son in law whom I have always been there for is supporting her decision which boggles my mind. The level of cruelty is beyond my understanding. As others have said, I wasn’t a perfect mom but I did my best and my children always came first.
Its been 6 months and I still can’t believe this is happening.
I know I HAVE to move on with my life but it is very difficult. And how do you explain that you no longer have contact with your only grandchild? So painful and yes I feel worthless at times.
Deep breath here. My only child just divorced me. I was not a perfect mom. I had issues with anger and self esteem. I struggled in many, many ways, but I always loved my daughter. She is now dating a very scary man and has cut me off.
I sincerely feel horrible for my shortcomings and have told her so, but she will not forgive or forget.
The sadness I feel is overwhelming. Any words of wisdom?
The comment by Karen made me feel so much better. I have not understood the estrangement between me and my only child and it has been a heartbreaking year. I am the one who has put her first – and maybe that has been the problem. Maybe I didn’t listen enough, or well enough. I didn’t know any better. For now though, I will follow Karen’s advice because it feels so healthy. After summer passed, I started taking courses again and doing some healing. In a strange way, I do feel like as awful as this has been, it has also been a time for me to get some of myself back. I remember loving school and feeling like that was so part of who I was. It has been gone for awhile, but now, because of this estrangement, Iam beginning to feel this again. Instead of hoping for the world for my daughter, I will own some of those hopes for myself. It is not a gift I would have ever requested, but it is a gift. This site and the hurting people who follow it has also been a gift. Thank you all.
I came upon this site last night and I cannot believe I found a place where I don’t feel so isolated and awful.My oldest son has alienated himself from me about 7 yrs ago. I started to see changes when he got into a good paying career and better than thou peers. His dad was very verbally abusive and I left the marriage after 30 yrs. I raised 6 children and the dynamics suck!! now that they are adults. I was a stay at home GOOD mom and always felt I had a good relationship with my children. I can so see the influence their dad has on them and he gets the holidays and fun week-ends with the kids and grandkids. He can afford to pay for everything and I can’t. There are no words to describe the pain felt in my heart. I feel like it is cracked. I have gotten past the beating myself up and suicide thoughts but it is still very difficult to deal with the loss I feel and hurt.
I can see my grandchildren but I was trying so hard and finally had to give it up because what is more painful than seeing your son who won’t even acknowledge you exist? Won’t even greet you.
Now my ex’s new wife rubs it in my face that my grandchildren know her better than me so have cut myself off from school and church programs because I am an outsider at these functions.
All I can say is it is sick, sick, sick.
It is so enlightening to realize I am not alone as I was feeling in this situation.
Well, as one of you pointed out, reading all of these comments makes me feel less “alone” in my struggle to maintain contact with my children. My wife left me after 20 years in a way that was less overtly violent, and more carefully and strategically constructed, giving her full control over everything, the hearts and minds of our four children included. The five of them have turned the page on all family friends, all family but her mother, father and siblings, and of course, on me. I could draw elements from each of your comments, and compared them directly to my personal situtation. We are all in agreement; after giving 120% to a marriage, and more importantly to our children, how can we just be thrown into the garbage? Yet people do it every day. The cycle never ends either, as the people who “write people off” teach children that it’s an acceptable thing to do. My question is, as one of the “written off”: what can we do about it? I have tried everything I can possibly think of, yet I am continually stonewalled. It’s been three years now, and things only continue to get worse…..
Hello, I was married 30 years to the mother of my two daughters. She left in a Pearl Harbor blitz attack full of rage. Mind you I know our marriage needed work and was willing but upon reflection she left the marriage years ago, Her parent never approved the spouses their children married. My daughters have nothing to do with me, their aunts, uncles, cousins, childhood friends. I used to take it very personally that they only left me behind but as the years have gone by it wasn’t only me left behind. Both daughters married and no family members other than the maternal grandparents and their mother attended.
Despite of all the pain and heartache I still send Birthday cards, Christmas and my never met grandchildren Birthday cards. So surreal, I was a part of their everyday life and never missed an event or function. I have answered every difficult question whether I abused them, their mother, was to strict or controlling,but not a perfect parent but did the best I could.
My daughters are now 34 and 31, very well educated, married, plus I have never seen or heard from my ex-wife since the date of dissolution….. nothing.
So what in the heck can I do ? I have never remarried because I was committed repairing my relationship to my daughters. I am well respected in my community business and personally. Don’t know where my ex is, but know my daughters are 1000 mikes east and west of their Midwest home town.
Anyhow after ten years and I am entering my sixties, I never imagined all the anguish. Does anybody have any good ideas. It is difficult but I have great siblings, nieces and nephews.
I thought I was the only mother this happened to. All of your stories are heartbreaking. My two daughters stopped talking to me 5 years ago this month…after their father and I divorced after 25 yrs of marriage. I have lived with horrible grief, anxiety, guilt, loneliness, despair and sadness. It is ruining my life. I spend an enormous amount of energy trying to ignore the pain but it doesn’t work. I have recently come to the realization that I must live my life in a new way and I just cherish the memories of them as small girls during happier times. That is how I cope.
I seem to have finally found an internet site that reflects much of what I’m going through. I am a mother of 2 sons, who are disputing about their fathers estate, I’m in the middle trying to keep peace but the anger and unkind words are endless. Their father and I after 24 years of marriage when through a horrible ugly divorce, I left with nothing in order to save what was left of our boys. As some of you have written, I too left him after years of emotional abuse, (there was physical abuse in the early years of our marriage). After leaving their father they both took to his side believing that I was the one who changed everything, which I admit I did, I couldn’t take another day of the torment, I believed my boys would have had respect for me but everything turned upside down, lies, and shame. After 10 years I thought we may had been on the road to recovery, even their father contacted me telling me how sorry he was for the pain he had caused……. 1 week later he died of a massive heart attack… since then the boys have done nothing but argue about their fathers estate… (he did not leave a will)… and now, I’m the one to blame. My heart aches, I cry every nite, my body feels numb… I found the words written previously on this post by mothers who have been through the same encouraging, and I do believe that staying with their father to save the family was now a horrible mistake and the price I’m to pay for that choice.
The estrangement of adult children is particularly painful for a mother. We spent our lives being there for them 24/7. Often, they were our careers, or we worked in order to provide them with a better life.
I was a very good mother who was on good terms with my adult daughters until a divorce. The father who only paid perfunctory attention to them suddenly was a hero. I was frozen out of the picture. The mother who was kind and attentive and saw to their every concern, now I have no where to go for Christmas or Thanksgiving. It was that abrupt and yet there was no defining moment.
This situation is particularly painful because it has no real beginning and no end. It’s an ambiguous loss that is unrecognized. There is no ceremony or finality.
Exactly how I feel my situation is. I have three children, and the middle child has written me off. Their father never had the time of day for them, now he is the hero. He remarried within a year and now has a new wife and stepdaughter to boot. I have been stonewalled and my daugther wont even go to counseling because she is afraid I wont “change”.
I as well have had no contact with my 43 year old daughter and her four children for four years. It has broken my heart, but I am on the mend. I was in a car accident that could of easily taken my life. I realized then this estrangement might be forever and there is no use waiting for the so called DAY when all is well. I have gotten on with my life, I have a hole in my heart, but I am moving on and it is great.
I know exactly how you feel. I was estranged from both of my children for a couple of years during and after my divorce from their father. He was verbally and emotionally abusive. I “took” it (except we did fight a lot) for years, hoping to spare my children the “heartbreak” of divorce. I was wrong. I should have divorced him 10 years before and removed myself and my two children from watching the abusive situation. Eventually, I think they thought it was okay to verbally and emotionally abuse me. They saw their father do it for years. My son lives with me now. He is 24. He needed help and support and his father has denied that. My daughter lives with her boyfriend in CA. She will not talk to me. We haven’t celebateed holidays in 2 years….in any way. Every once in a while I will send her an “I love you” with no response. I have also texted “I would love to talk to you” recently, however, still no response. I have decided to leave her alone. That is what she wants…..so be it.
My Son stopped talking to me 5 years and 1 month ago. I have no idea why. He was married in 99 and until his wife became pregnant, things were great. I have three grandchildren, one I have never seen, the others I have never been allowed to babysit. I gave them 25,000 towards the purchase of their home and everything else they asked for. I am sick now of being sad and wondering. My time is coming to let go. I am sad to say that they may face what they did to me. God Bless all those grieving and sad Mom’s and Dad’s buried alive.
i feel for you, but it is their loss. It burns me that they did this to you AFTER you gave them the $25,000.00. We have spoiled this generation!! Find someone else to love, another family! and live fully!
Alas, one can not ready order a new family. You seem to infer that Mari can remarry and be folded into a stepfamily. That would likely present even more problems as stepfamilies are notoriously unreceptive to stepmothers. Second marriages are statistically even more likely to fail than first ones.
Rather, the answer is to find happiness within ourselves, and perhaps with the help of travel, going back to school, learning a new hobby like art, music, etc. Above all, stay busy.
Yep, spoiled is exactly what I did. I believe that is one of the biggest problems here….
Sad, I know friends who have told their dysfunctional parent(s) if they weren’t in professional counseling, they would never see them again and some never did and their parents passed. You have to heal that, come to terms with. Sad, what pride, self-righteous, pious, being right or stupid religious will do. Loyal to a dead religion that would be covered well by Arthur Katz and Leonard Ravenhill’s written works. There are support groups, tapes, self-help books, counselors. Minirith, Meyer group, Townsend/Cloud, Allender, lot’s of good teachers/counselors. Read a really good article “Parade Magazine” did years ago, “When Your Family Makes You Sick”. Books out there write about that unforgiveness, major issues will cause arthritis, cancer all kinds of diseases (unfortunately I’ve dealt with that and dealing with). Derek Prince does a really good teaching on forgiveness along with “Bold Love by Allender(?). Deut 30:19, chose LIFE THAT YE MAY LIVE=LIVE! One of the best classes I took was that you were responsible for your own happiness in “Women Aware and Choosing by Betty Coble”. Life changing=On going. Joy to be around happy, wonderful, bringing out the best in you people rather than negative, doom, gloom and you can’t change them, repentance is to change! Experienced this, there are people who would love to see you in the grave early, very sad because they think what you do, reflects on them, people with NO SELF-ESTEEM ARE DEADLY same for those who are jealous (spirit of murder); they don’t want to see you happy or successful. Forgive and move on. JOY UNSPEAKABLE..sing that song and “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE”. Learned this the hard way, people who gossip, have NO life, live their life through others and are very unhappy people! BE HAPPY. Go sing, dance, shout for joy.
Louise, maybe you were in a hurry, but this posting seems unintelligible to me.
Learned all you can do is apologize for your part, your not responsible if they forgive you. You have to do your part and then forgive yourself/them and release and let it go. Really good books that helped me is: “When you and Your Mother Can’t be Friends” by Victoria Secunda anything by Dr. Susan Forward, Dr. Laura, Dr. Herb Goldberg, “Kingdom of Self by Earl Jabay”. Sad, you might get lied about because of wrong perceptions, unhealedness (like Joseph in the Bible). I’ve said this over and over, if your family is dysfunctional you make it somewhere else where you are loved and cared for and the best brought out in you, not railing, or control or manipulated, FREEDOM. Sad, we want to say don’t do as I do, do as I say, but we do what’s been modeled. WE have the ability to change, repetance is to change. It’s like when Ms. O when into homes with cameras and showed the railing, raging, abusive mothers/fathers=oh my. If, we thought of our behavior effecting someone else. When read the book “Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands we don’t realize what we’re doing to spouse, children and or the entire family. Friend recommended “My Mother My Self by Nancy Friday”, or we all know this: “If Mama Ain’t Happy Nobody is Happy by Author! Very sad, we live our life for other people’s approval or we put our friends above our families when God #1 (seek ye first..), FAMILY, not church building or pastor, but the FAMILY, HEALTHY SPOUSES, CHILDREN. But we need to guide, guard and protect our families. I think of the Malachi 4:5&6 call. My friend is asking his mother where are your church friends now, helping with the house, gardening, life as she is entering her 90’s. Have another friend who let his mother/sister ruin his life, robbed him of a fulfilling life. very sad. This AARP article was very good. Want a bumper sticker that says quit yelling at your spouse and your children, work with them, NOT against them and deal with your issues that they all pay for. Isn’t it sad when we have a book called “Why Men Marry Bitches” and yes, men, what were you thinking when we children had to deal with that behavior growing up, goes for both genders. RESTORATION, FORGIVENESS. and then we have prayer, not our will be done, but God’s will be done.
My only child, my son, cut me out of his life, in 1999, via an email which said: ‘I’m alive-no further communication necessary’. My last contact with him prior to his email was on 22 September 1998 when I took him and his then girlfriend out to dinner. There was no indication then that there were any problems between us. He is now 32, has a professional career, and is married. Following his email, my physical health instantly declined and is now terminal. I am only 56. He gave me no reason. His father and I had an acrimonious divorce after years of domestic violence by him towards both my son and me. I only know of my son’s whereabouts and movements via the internet and electoral rolls. Before he cut me out of his life, unbeknownst to me, in 1998 he created his own website – which is still current – and which is full of defamatory fictitious information with personal details about me. Despite my innumerable efforts to contact him and send his money and gifts over the past 13 years, the email remains in place, and I have heard nothing back from either him or his new wife. If I knew WHY he changed overnight – as we had a close and loving bond and relationship before that email – I could possibly be able to come to terms with the fact that I will never see my son again. I welcome comments from others who have suffered a similar fate as I. How do you cope day to day? I find the important anniversaries are the worst; ie his birthday, my birthday, the festive seasons and especially Mothers’ Day, which is today.
Sorry about your situation, but I have the same situation. Only its been 3 yrs, almost four years since my 2 dtrs cut me out of their lives. My ex was very abusive to us all as well, both emotionally and physically. I just think that sometimes when the father was abusive, for some reason the children turn on the mother. I personally have never been given a reason for the estrangment. My youngest dtr. has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and I think the older one also has some sort of personality disorder as well. At any rate, for over 2 yrs I went to CODA support groups and that helped a lot. I’ve researched this and I’ve also used prayer, and my husband has been extremely loving and supportive as well. Anyway, after a major depression due to the estrangment, a suicide attempt, and many many sleepless nights and days filled with tears and agony, confusion and continual pain and agony, I think I’ve finally reached the other side of this horrendous situation, This is the least painful Mothers Day since the estrangment. I guess you just have to do the grieving and come to acceptance.
I hope for you your pain lessens as time goes on. Don’t feel that you’re the only one being lied about by your son. My dtrs have made up horrible things about me too. Stay strong. God Bless and love yourself.
I am sorry for your situation. My son, daughter-in-law and 3 grandkids cut meout of their lives 5 years ago. I sent the kids money for their birthdays and x-mas and they never cashed them. I tried calling them at home, left messages and never returned my calls. I called my son at work, which he inevitably had to answer, and asked why the checks were never cashed, he gave some excuse that that they were sent in their name and not the parents name. The conversation was very one-sided with one-sided answers. I didn’t want to keep calling without any response so I eventually stopped. I think about them almost everyday and I don’t want to be a burden in their lives. I love my son deeply but I can’t force myself upon him if he doesn’t want anything to do with me. Try and accept his feelings and move on because it’s the only way to keep going.
I’m another one that is dealing with BPD. Horrible.
Reading that what i am going through has happened to someone else is comforting as i dont feel so alone even though i dont wish this pain on anyone else.
I have a daughter who stopped talking to me nearly 3 years ago she has moved away and I have no idea where she is now living
I was also married to a very controlling and abusive man and feel that this may have had a effect on my daughter
My grandson was born last september and although I have had photographs sent to me by his aunty who is my other daughter I have never ever been allowed to hold him or see him this causes unbelievable pain to me.
I know my daughter tells all sorts of lies about me like the fact I almost forgot her 18th birthday and she paid for her own party which just isnt true she infact had a fun cake a limo and a fire engine ride and a meal out I at this time had no money as I was bringing up the girls on my own after their dad had left for another woman. I spent my last party on this treat for her as I did not want her to be different to her friends.
she also says she has no respect for me as she does not like who I became when I was single I did go out for nights out when previously I never left the house my daughter was 16 when I had my Divorce. I worked too at a professional job to give my daughters all I could and in a nice area to live
It hurts so much that she will not even talk to me she also tries to poison the mind of her younger sister against me saying all sorts of things to her about me things that just are not true . To be honest it would be a lot easyer if they were true and then at least I could beg to be forgiven and hope to move on from this but I have never ever hurt her.
She is to be married in september and my hurt is so vast I dont know how I will live with the grief as I am not getting to go to the wedding, her father who was as I say abusive and mostly absent is going to the wedding as his his mother who didnt see my daughters for years. can anyone please help I realy dont know how to cope with the grief of all this.
I would be so glad for any advice
Thank you xxx
You are not alone. My 41 year old daughter suddenly disinvited me from her wedding last May (her first wedding). She is and educated woman but has embarrassed me in front of family and friends with this action. She is lying, saying I have abused her when she was a child. This is absolutely untrue as I was the most caring and loving mother to her. One day I decided to not let the hurt destroy me and suddenly I feel much better. You must move on, Annie. You can cherish the memories of your child when they were younger but the child is now and adult and obviously a different person you no longer know. Remember, before your child was born, you were living and fine. Go back to the days before your child now, think of yourself and care for yourself. Be selfish! Suddenly the grief will end and you will have your mind full of other things. Get regular massages, get your nails done, check out the ” meetup groups” that are listed on the internet in your area and join a few…..meet new people and try not to dwell on your ungrateful child. It’s the only way to deal with the situation.
Love to you,
blame his wife for poisoning his mind..then hope that one day he gets out of her control and sees the light..otherwise, just try to enjoy life, this is not as rare as you think, you are not alone.. dont live for him anymore, live for yourself! and find other people to love.
Hello, I have been reading some of these messages and it brings me to tears because I am in the same situation. I have 2 daughters (only, no sons) and neither have spoken to me, 1 not in 5 yrs and the other in 2 yrs. The one that hasn’t spoken to me in 5 yrs lives on the west coast but the other lives a 1/2 an hour away from me. I have tried numerous times and they tell me to “F” off and leave them alone. I recently sent both of them a letter apologizing for my mistakes in raising them and doing things I shouldn’t have and that it wasn’t their fault it was mine. Still I have heard anything from them. They don’t even contact their grandmother anymore so she stopped sending them money for Birthdays and Holidays. It’s comforting to know I am not alone in this situation but it still hurts….because regardless of what we may or may not have done wrong we are still a mom….and mothers are loving and compassionate by nature, the way God has mad us. I have decided to go to counseling to deal with this because it is starting to effect my health (I’m 57 yrs old) and don’t want to be physically sick over this. God bless all the mothers that try so hard to keep their family together. I’m not perfect and have made numerous mistakes but I don’t deserve to be shunned.
Hi I feel I understand what you are feeling, I too am now in the position that my eldest son has walked,away from our family, his personality started to change when he got with his girlfriend she does not express emotion we as a family always did , . They got engaged in october i wasn’t told and have now got a child my grandchild I am devastated I feel that Iam grieving. I had such a good relationship with him that I cannot comprehend his behaviour now. All any parent can do is live today and pray to our lord for comfort. My sincere wishes that you keep
Your strength until we all meet in Gods kingdom.
I also have a son who met a new girl friend 6 years ago and will not have anything to do with any of us since then. We met her one time. He will not accept emails, letters, phone calls with no explanation. Not just my husband and I but his sister, grandparents, etc. It is very difficult to not take this personally. And worse yet, how do you explain this to other people who ask about him? Why isn’t he around anymore?
My husband and I have decided as a way of healing, to sponsor a child in a third world country. It helps to counterbalance this horrendous pain we feel every single day of our lives knowing we are doing something good for someone else. Oh, and Our son is in my daily prayers. Very important to forgive also.
I am positive there is a special place in heaven for parents like us. Nobody should ever have to experience this kind of pain, loss and rejection. It is absolutely cruel.
The ones who choose the estrangement are the ones with all the power, obviously. We are powerless and beg for scraps of connection. Why? Why should we beg for these scraps when we gave so selfishly for so many years? Must we continue to give now under such horrendous circumstances? Did you not feel my heart and its devotion to you while you were growing up? Did you not see me by your bedside when you were sick? Was I not your greatest ally in times of trouble? Was your very life not the cradle of my heart? It is now my time. I choose now to be estranged from you! From all your faulty memories, hatreds, and misperceptions, whatever they might be. You are misguided. If you are happy…remember I first showed you how. If you feel grateful for the life you have…remember you could not have flourished if not for my loving kindness. If you are a success…that is because it was my dream for you when you screamed at the OBGYN for the first time. If you have found love in your life…remember it is because I taught you what love looks like. If you think that I am a burden to you today, know that you were never such a thing to me. If you think that anyone born in the entire world could have the same love and bond for you as your mother you will be wrong. There is no more pure or devoted love than a mother’s love.
Here is my answer to all of you suffering as I did: A child will gravitate to the parent who always put themselves first. Not the one who put themselves last. Why? I believe it is because the one who puts themselves first represents survival and strength. The one who puts themselves last represents a lack of self love and, perhaps, neediness. So there is our answer. We don’t love ourselves enough to show them that we care for ourselves more. We didn’t love ourselves raising them enough to put ourselves first, ever. We beg for scraps today because we are still, in our own minds, putting ourselves last. We don’t appear strong or resilient. We appear needy and confused. Go away. Leave. Stay away. You, who gave everything you had and ended up shunned, are the wrong one in the estrangement. How dare they? How dare they? If your “child” cannot see that the sacrifices you made and the unconditional love and laughter you brought to their lives came directly from God, then they do not deserve you in their lives. If they are raising their own kids today then I feel sorry for those children. You cannot estrange a parent and at the same time possess pure love toward your own offspring. It is not possible. You cannot raise a child with a pocket of hatred in your heart. And hatred is what it takes to estrange a parent. We knew all too well raising our children that it took endless love. That it took an open heart that contained no black stone that would leave another out to punish. It is their loss for the life gifts you could have brought to them today and tomorrow. Learn the lessons and learn them today. Put yourself first. For the first time in your life love yourself today more than you love that child you raised. Therein lies your recovery; your ability to walk away in return. Let go. Find someone new to love who might have their own loving children that you can make your new family. Family doesn’t always come from giving birth or sharing the same genetic marker. It comes from love. Give up the ideal you had in your mind as to how life would be when your children were grown, perhaps with grandchildren. Give it up because it was a fantasy that we, ourselves, created. It doesn’t exist. Let it go and make a new ideal. Make a list today and as #1 put your own name. Don’t estrange yourself and don’t give anyone else, even an adult child, the power to estrange you either
Karen, your words were so powerful and helpful to me. I read this post over and over and I want to say thank you,
I too read your post over and over. It has brought me a great deal of comfort. I attended my sons’s graduation this weekend, hoping that he would at the very least acknowledge me but instead he looked right at me and walked away. I don’t know what I did, I get no replies when I try to contact him. He moved out of my home about 2 years ago to go back to school for his masters degree. I was divorcing his father at the time, and it was very bitter divorce. Ex is a true narcissist. I was being threatened and verbally abused throughout the divorce. What you said about the child gravitating to the parent who put themselves first was enlightening to me. I had never thought of that possibility with my own son who I had a close loving relationship with. But it makes sense now. So I take your advice since I have no other choice. I’ve made a list and I’m first on it. Thank you.
Karen, this is now my battle cry! You nailed it and you are so very right. Thank you for the wake up cal .
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NPR On Point with Tom Ashbrook
Boomer Grandparenting on PBS: Life Part 2
NY Times: Working Women Say Their Marriage Is Richer For It
Dr. Joshua Coleman is an internationally known expert in parenting, families, and relationships. He is Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families and is a psychologist with a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.