Remember this. There is no job security, be it a CEO, a President, or a parent. Yes, your parent credentials are constantly up for review. You can be fired without cause at any moment. There is no HR to appeal to. Appealing to your son or daughter goes unanswered. The silence is excruciating.
Estrangement is not in any parenting book. There are no signs to warn you about the slippery road ahead.
Unless a child’s estrangement happens to you, it may seem like some weird thing that happens to others, not to you. You may have heard of cases where grandparents, whose estranged child uses the grandchildren as a cudgel and won’t allow their parents to see their grandchildren. Some grandparents sue for visitation rights, a harrowing road of legal maneuvers, days in court, pleading with judges.
Everyone’s story of estrangement is unique but no less heart wrenching. Yes, some parents are drunks, addicts, batterers, crazy, money-sucking bastards who deserve what they get – to be estranged by their children – but just as many parents who are drunks, addicts, batterers, crazy, money-sucking bastards are still loved, watched over and cared for by their children. This is what makes estrangement so insidious…you don’t know if the ground you are walking on is a minefield or just a rocky path. You don’t know until after your fateful misstep.
My story is about a thousand oblivious cuts, little things that happened along the way in a parental relationship that became an irreparable wound that cannot be healed.
My younger son chose to click delete.
I consulted a therapist to see if she could ‘do anything’. I thought she might have some helpful insight but as I was talking to her, telling her my story, I realized I was doing everything I could to cope – read books, blogs, forums on estrangement – all offering useless tips about how to carry on with your life, about letting go, moving on, insisting “You can still be happy!”
One popular book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, has an appealing title because who wants to cry their whole life? Sadly, it is just more of the same pathetic advice. I don’t blame the author who went through this nightmare herself, it’s just that there are no answers. What I really want to know was how to get my son back. I’d pay any amount of money or walk on glass if someone could help me. However, it’s a completely unrealistic expectation.
The human mind is capable of many things from believing liars to spinning the truth to accommodate one’s personal vision of the world. Who knows what my son was thinking or how he arrived at the decision to erase me from his life. I’m not a psychic.
There are groups on Facebook that allow parents of estranged children to rant, grieve and question what happened.
I log into the groups every so often so I can see that I’m not alone. The posts and comments are gut wrenching and sickening. The groups are mainly comprised of mothers, trying their best to support each other often with virtual hugs. Why am I reading this stuff? What am I doing to myself? Sometimes it feels like self-harm, a need to be punished for being a bad mother, a bad person.
Reading comments from desperate parents is heartbreaking and then I remember I am one of them. Their grievances are haunting. How could my children betray me? How did I raise someone to be so cruel? My son didn’t torture cats or stand over me with a knife while I was sleeping (that I know of.) There were no psychopathic traits, nothing to prepare me for abandonment and for being so viciously reviled. So vicious that it still cuts like a Samurai sword.
There are support groups for children who chose to estrange.
I try and get a handle on their mindset. Why did they choose to do that? Some you understand and some you don’t. Some adult children seem petty, narcissistic, entitled, while others made a decision to get away from controlling, manipulative, or toxic parents. I have no idea where I fit in this paradigm of rejection. Apologizing to the aggrieved for your missteps, practically begging for empathy, doesn’t even garner a response. Loving mothers make mistakes but it’s too late for apologies the silence seems to say. Everyone is miserable. The hostility is chilling.
Never-ending self-blame, going over every moment of life searching for clues, is a thankless pastime. Some things are unknowable. Relationships involve two people. I take full responsibility for my end, heck, I’ll take ALL the blame for lousy behavior, misreading situations, for not being an ideal mother.
The question is, is it better to have an ongoing contentious relationship rather than an estrangement?
Is there any benefit to maintain ties when the parties are at odds, to keep the home fires burning just in case there’s a break in the case? My brain is scrambled, feeling helplessly confused.
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I am many things. As are you. I am a proud mother, ex-wife friends with my wasband, opinionated, skeptic, coffee lover, hate the heat/love the cold. I say I hate everything and sometimes I really do. Love nature, swimming (but I don’t like to get wet…go figure). Enchanted by babies. This is just scratching the surface, of course. We navigate this world essentially blind and hope to come out reasonably unscathed but, sometimes, we are scorched. There is no alternative but to move onward, so, onward we go!
Thank you Judi, I’ve been looking for some sort of hope that I’m not alone in my feelings. My adult son, no longer speaks to me, he has held onto so many resentment that I never knew or suspected he would have against me. I raised my two sons on my own when their father left when they were 7 and 6. My youngest son doesn’t have any of the issues my eldest appears to have. Like you I’m bewildered as I’ve been a working Mum all my life, never relied on anyone or any government support. I’ve given my life to my children. I’ve been told that is the problem, I’ve been too good. This is why I’m bewildered as to why he despises me so much. I’ve asked him for forgiveness for anything I have said, didn’t say, did or didn’t do, I’ve really done my best, but it’s obvious my best doesn’t measure up. Just wanted to say that your post was the only post I’ve read that really captured how I’m feeling., I just wish there was a magic pill that could turn back time to see when it all started to go wrong. The struggle now is to try and find a way to find a purpose for the remainder of my life. Thank you and wishing you all the very best.
I feel your words entirely, Susan. I only have one child, and feeling the sense of loss around that I find myself searching for a reason to keep going. My son always was that reason. As a single mom also, I struggled quite a bit and made many many mistakes along the way. I can only hope that my son will one day soften around my imperfectness and decide to allow me back in at some point in the future, if and when it feels right for him. I want to be there for him to help process through any pain I caused him, but perhaps it’s a path he has to walk without me at this point in time. For now, I look to find meaning in a life that isn’t driven by my identity as a parent. Everything I did I did for him. Now to do what I do for me, I suppose. But every day my heart feels sad and life feels a bit empty. I miss my child. My heart goes out to you and all who know such a pain.
My son has admitted that he has not told me why he has stopped communicating with me. At least that. He said he appreciates that I have been patient in a letter after a year of silence. But, I have not been patient, I have been suffering. Serious grieving. Every day. Every night.l. Silence is a slap in the face. I have read every book and every article I could find. They do help me understand. But nothing cures the pain of missing my wonderful, sweet only son. Nothing.
Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think, “Wow, I just had this terrible dream that my son had stopped talking with me”. That nightmare is real and it’s been 5 years since we spoke. The term “gut wrenching ” is the perfect description of how I feel when I see a young man on the street that resembles him. This article on estrangement gave me some comfort knowing that their are other mothers like me who have children that really love them. What went wrong with the relationship between my son and I?
Part of me wants to keep trying , hoping that there will be a moment in time when he says, “I want to talk with my Mom”. Another part of me say, “Let it go and move on”.
I appreciate this article and Susan’s comment. Thank you so much.
I too have estrangement from both of my children. I loved them both, gave th er m a good home in a good neighborhood with good family friends and neighbors. However, there was a divorce and it was poisonous with a exhusband who poisoned my children against me and his wife was right in the mix. Both sons got married. One has 3 daughters who are middle school and high school and I never see them. I am devastated and I too try and find meaning in my life aside from being a Mother but I just cant. My days are filled with thinking about them and deeply saddened that my grand girls have grown up without me. My whole body aches
I feel pain like yours. Thank you for writing it. I miss my son so much
It has been 6 months since my teenage son decided he simply didn’t want to live with me or see me anymore. There were no fights, no real warning signs. He just decided he would rather live at his mother’s. He won’t respond to my call or texts. The worst part is when his 5 year old sister asks me when he is going to come home… it feels like a knife in my heart every time.
I have almost the exact same situation. No warning, no fall out, just decided he would rather be at his Mums house and went. He’s barely spoken to me since and is indifferent to anything I say. Heartbreaking.
i havent talked to my mother in over 2 years and my family by extension, ive held resentment at my mom for most of my life being way to controlling and strict i felt like ive lost years of my life cause of her while at the same time never being there or approachable, nor teaching me how to go through life as a person of color. not to mention since 14 i knew i cant be around her that long or else we would fight. the straw the broke the camels back was being depressed worse than i ever been had having her yell and get mad at things i could care less about i justed wanted a way to die without hurtting them. So after one big fight i said fuck it i dont want to interact with you at all its better this way. and for a while i just wanted to be an orphan and just live like i have no family and have been. everytime she would call i would get mad and angry i know it sucks but try not to blow up our phones text maybe 1 once a month all your doing is pushing us farther. sometimes i think being grounded for most of the year for multiple years locked in my room with no books and or anything made me grow apart from my family. It was around then that i became naturally comfortable away from my family and less comfortable around then. I think about going back its kinda hard to comeback after being gone but also know my little sister is growing up fast i have to see her soon at some point. i dont know if this helps any of yall i just thought i would look this up to see what the other side was like and maybe get more insight on my sitiuation. Im still processing why i dont want to talk to her at first it was just you piss me off we cant talk dont talk to me to realizing ive got years of unpacking to do and shit ive bottled up that i need to process. i dont know if any of yall were close with your kids but me and my mom in my view were never really close never had deep talks and most conversations were surface level.
I like your snarkiness. I’m in the same situation as you with my 25 year old son. I’ve tried everything. The only thing that has really helped me is the audible book of loving what is by Byron Katie. It has helped me with my entire life how to accept situations and love things as they are.
A wound that won’t heal… It’s still there and I think as long as I have hope of reconciliation it is never going to heal. It’s been a year without my son and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will continue to hold out hope even if it keeps me in some level of pain.
I’m not kidding about that book though. I was barely functioning most days until I got through it. There’s also a website where you can answer questions that help you see things differently. It’s all free on the website it’s called Thework.com