When Familial Relationships Are Strained


A couple of weeks ago when I saw my internist for a wellness check up, we discussed the seeming epidemic of adult children who are estranged from their parent or parents. 


The discussion began when she told me that she got married last year. I asked her if she wanted to have children. She said her husband has children, but that she had decided not to have any herself. 

She jokingly said that some of her friends questioned who was going to take care of her in her old age. And she said she explained to them that the dynamic of "family" has changed drastically over the years. 

She told me that in her medical practice, she sees adult children who are estranged from their parent/parents all the time. 



When I was reading "Done With The Crying" several months ago,  I was surprised to learn that many times these estrangements come about when the parent has an accident or becomes ill.

I recall reading that passage, and being so surprised by it that I sat there and read it over and over again.

I'd never heard of this myself until the night before my first ankle surgery nearly five years ago. I guess I was surprised to learn that I wasn't the only one this had happened to.


Somehow knowing that I was not alone helped me sort things out. I cried through much of the book, but it helped me get a grip on what had happened. 

If you have an estranged adult child who wants no relationship with you, I wholeheartedly suggest you order this book, or one like it, to help you with your feelings. So that ultimately you can find some form of closure and enjoy life again. 

It truly helped me look at the situation in a new light, one I thought was not possible. It helped that this had happened to the author herself. Her son is estranged from them. And she tells how she came to accept it.

I decided then and there to save myself the pain of continuing to reach out when it seemed to make no difference. After every rejection, I was a mess all over again.


Sometimes we can't do anything about what is happening in our lives. 

I grieved for a long time. But thankfully I've come a long way in the past months.

When I feel myself getting overwhelmed and the grief comes creeping back in, I remind myself what I learned from the book. The steps that helped me find a sense of peace.

The book taught me that I was not giving up on my adult child. I was simply giving in to her wishes

If this has happened to you, whatever the reason behind their decision, and no matter how much it hurts, it is something you must come to accept. 

Then go on with your life. Stop holding onto your hopes and dreams and the life you thought you'd have with them. And come to terms with the life you have without them. 

At first it will seem impossible. But as with most everything, with time it gets easier.


I have received so many emails from parents who also ordered the book, and then found some degree of acceptance. 

They say they wished they'd had the book to read years ago. That they might not have wasted so much time grieving.

Ultimately, whether your estranged adult child ever decides to have a relationship with you or not, you are hanging onto something that is simply out of your control.

To have quality of life, I learned that I have to accept what I cannot change. And find joy again.

I ordered the book from Amazon.com. You can find it here if you are interested in reading it. 


47 comments

  1. Brenda, congratulations on finding peace of mind in a difficult relationship - so hard to do. Our family is very close, my children are a big part of our lives and I cannot imagine it being any different. I am truly blessed in that department and I thank you for reminding me of that. My sister has very little to do with my father for her own reasons, and he and I have had a difficult relationship. I decided long ago I had to be the better person, it felt better for me to help him than to hold a grudge and ignore an old man who needs help and has no one. It's not an easy road because the old resentments do come up, but I do my best and at the end of the day I know I was there for another person that needed me regardless of the issues between us. Hopefully your daughter will some day want to work on a new relationship with you, one you can both be comfortable with. For now, know that you left the door open, you let her know it was open, and you can live your best life now regardless.

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    1. We were close at one time too. I never thought this would happen.

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  2. It is terrible/terrifying to think that at a time a parent is vulnerable, the child walks away. Good luck to you; I am glad this book brought solace.

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    1. It is. But then we can't predict the future. So I just try not to think about it.

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  3. Times have changed,you are right. I have friends and family that walk the other way when someone is hurt or ill. In my case my own mother. I wish I had this book years ago.
    I'm so glad you have a relationship with your daughter. I think your other daughter has other issues. I'm glad you can see that is her problem not yours.

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    1. I do have a relationship with my 38 year old daughter, mother of Andrew. I feel the same; wish I'd had this book or something like it during these past years.

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  4. I cannot imagine the heartache of one of my children turning against me. For me my children are my world. We may go a few days without seeing each other, but I know they are near and care deeply for me. I am saddened for both child and parent who have parted ways. Both are missing out on so much. God bless you Brenda and your child.

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    1. I wish it was different. But both sides have to agree to a relationship.

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  5. I understand your thoughts on the ankle causing the break with your daughter but there were issues between the two of you earlier, right? I think it is sad that she is not receptive to any relationship or learning how to be a daughter. I wonder how she sees her children understanding the fact they don't see Gramma. I am happy the book helped and that you wrote about this.

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    1. Actually, no. The problems came after.

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  6. This post brings up memories I would rather forget. When I start thinking about unpleasant things, I just tell myself: "Stop it! That was then, and this is now, and now is better."

    It is hard to understand why a child would not be willing to be there for their parent, with both their time and attention, as well as sometimes financially. Especially when they are in a position to do so.

    Even though I tried to raise all my three girls the same, to want to help others, to be caring and attentive, they all turned out different. And the one who tries to help me the most is the one who is least able to.

    To see one of my daughters ignore the need I might have, and then regale me with descriptions of the wonderful trips they have taken, etc, etc, but ignore the fact that I am struggling to afford medical treatment and personal needs, leaves me wondering where I went wrong.

    So, even though I do not have any children who never speak to me, it remains a heartache to have a daughter who is so self absorbed.

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    1. Certainly not in the realm of easy...

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  7. Last week I had a conversation with a friend about this very thing. So often we miss the joy of living by trying to make something change that is out of our control. It's difficult to accept and move on, but it's the only way to find peace and live the life we've been given. Good post, Brenda.

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    1. I guess this is why I often write about living in the now. I've learned to do that through trial and error.

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  8. I was lucky to have such a wonderful relationship with my parents; always accepted who I was and what I wanted with my life. However, I have an older sister who has disowned me because I voted for Hillary. She calls me a liberal and not concerned for others. Well, I won't even go into that and don't think I could even change her mind. Sometimes, it's others in your life that become your family; I know that to be true! Peace, my friend, XOXO

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    1. The past year's election has caused a great deal of divisiveness, certainly!

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  9. Brenda I am so glad that this book helped you to understand and find some peace in your heart..I can't imagine how I would go on if my son, even with the problems he has, would ever stop talking to me...It is so wonderful that through reading that book you found a way to cope and move on...Bless you my friend!

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    1. I guess you just do what you have to do.

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  10. I'm so glad you found peace, despite your daughter's refusal to let the past be the past. It's important that we are able to leave the past behind us, perhaps someday she will learn that.

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    1. But the past usually predicts future behavior, and when you've been so hurt by past behavior it is instinctive to want to protect yourself from future bad behavior. Isn't that why people seek divorces? And so goes estrangements... Relief from a toxic relationship.

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    2. I've read and reread your last comment. I don't think I understand quite what you mean...

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    3. I think this reply from Lily is related to her comment farther down, in which she says your daughter would have her side to the story. I think in this comment she is again referring to your daughter's point of view. I could be wrong, but that's my guess.

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  11. For me it was just the opposite. My father never had a close relationship with me from when I was a very young child..although he worshiped my younger brother. At the age of 17 (hippie life) my brother took off and never looked back except when he needed money. My father always helped him. When my mother died, my father was alone and was very difficult and had no one but me. My husband and I did all we could to include him in all family occasions and celebrate each of his birthdays with his Great Grandchildren. Still, he let me know in every way he could that he just 'needed me' because he had no one else, and still, I did all I could to help him.
    Three years ago, he had an accident and needed home care. He didn't want anyone in his home, and my home had just been sold (we were planning to build a smaller one) Near by, so my father contacted my brother who had just retired (single with no children)... And told him if he wanted to be left Anything $$ to come take care of him, which he did...Soon after my father started accusing me of stealing from him, which made me feel terribly hurt and lead to a horrible argument and totally cut me out of his life. Long story short, my father died 5 months ago...My brother who was gone for 47 years, received Everything from my father's Estate! I was told he died, a day after he went into the hospital!
    Ask me about the pain, abandonment and betrayal I feel every day.. It haunts me and will forever haunt me every day to know how awful things ended between my father and me. The Only peace I have, within myself, is knowing that I tried my best to be a caring daughter when my father had no one. I never wanted him to feel alone or abandoned and I did it because that's the person I am.

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    1. I'm so sorry. It kicks you in the gut, over and over again. But you know you did your best, because your heart told you the right thing to do, and you did it.

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    2. Thank you Brenda...even though I keep telling myself I couldn't be any other way..it's nice to hear reassurance from others.

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  12. I am so glad you found help in the book. So many times we have to take a step back and see another persons pain before we can deal with our own. My own mother has been difficult all my life. She always considered her own children behind everyone else related to her. Her mother and siblings were her main focus and she would do whatever was needed for them. She was a constant drain on my self worth and I was an adult before I was able to overcome my feelings of worthlessness. Now she is elderly, in long term care and needy. I don't want to live with regrets so I do whatever I can to make her life better. I have daughters and we are very close. Hopefully, it will remain that way.

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    1. I didn't have a mother or siblings, so my kids were all I had. So this was a great loss to me. I have now found a sister, and we talk occasionally. I was raised to help older people. It felt like a mission. I never thought any other way.

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  13. I wonder if there's a book written about the situation reversed. As in the parent wanting nothing to do with a child. My husband's father walked out on his family years ago. Then several years later tried to reestablish a relationship with all his children (11 of them). That hasn't worked out so well. My husband decided 20+ years ago not to have anything to do with his son from a different marriage. The son has tried repeatedly to establish contact but my husband isn't budging. Husband was also estranged from his mother when she passed away almost 5 years ago. I often wonder how long it will be before he severs ties with our two grown children. My side of the family is far from perfect but I can't imagine not having anything to do with my mom (my dad passed away 5 years ago). Tragic...

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    1. Do you think maybe your husband has decided not to have a relationship with his son because he fears being hurt like his father hurt him? Kind of makes sense I guess. Everyone loses...

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  14. In every estranged relationship there are two sides to the story. For me the relationship with my family member was simply too toxic and detrimental to my wellbeing to continue with it, so I had to end it....which was a very hard and painful decision to make. I still grieve over it, but I could no longer take the verbal abuse and selfishness dished out by her with absolutely no regard for my mental wellbeing. And still to this day she speaks badly of me to others and refuses to ever see what she did to me and take ownership for it.
    Brenda, sad to say, but I'm sure your daughter has her own story to tell. I'm not sure talking about her publicly on your blog is a wise thing to do....

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  15. Which I suppose is why I waited so long to write this post. However, I've never written her name anywhere. And I guess at this point, I figure the relationship is beyond repair. At least that is what I'm assuming after trying to reason with her for years. I'm tired of trying. I guess this post was my way of accepting that fact.

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  16. Brenda, you have come a long way; I remember reading about your frustrations about this subject shortly after I started following you. Be well.

    Poppy

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    1. Hard to believe it's been that long! But it is what it is. Thanks for your support, Poppy!

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  17. What a painful post to read and some of the stories. I have a step-son who didn't come see his dad for five years and he knew he was sick, but only called him at Christmas and his BD. His sickness progressed into Alzheimer's, and still no visits. I had to call hm on a Tuesday to tell him his father was going into hospice the next day, and it still took him Tues to Sat to get down here to see his Dad.

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    1. I recall when your husband was dying and you were so concerned about the son not coming to see him. So very sad.

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  18. Thank you for having the courage to post this for others. It came at a time when I was struggling with the same situation. I raised 2 children myself and helped with 2 others--now that I am old, I have no children. I don't know why these situations are given to us to work through, but I'm hoping there is a reason. Thank you for helping me and putting yourself out there.

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    1. I've started to write this post many times, but always chickened out.

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  19. Our oldest child was estranged from us for almost 10 years (with 4 kids in the process). Eventually, he had a life-altering event and reached out to us through a friend. We never thought this would happen and had given up on him. We are now 5 years into a "new" relationship and it is a good one based on trust and respect. While we had given up on reaching out we had never given up hope that we would be reunited. We are thankful that God brought this boy/son/man back into our lives. xo Diana

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  20. Brenda, I am so sorry that you have had to deal with the pain of this loss in your life. But I'm glad that you are finding healing and peace. I just can't imagine what it is like to not have a relationship with one's adult child. I don't think I could bear it. But I would have to bear it, to somehow accept it or it would ruin my life. So glad you found that book. I'm going to keep the title so if I encounter someone who is in that situation I can refer them to the book.

    Thanks for this valuable post.

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  21. Beautifully written, as always, Brenda. The photos of the graters are powerful--such a fitting analogy. Some estrangements are swift and brutal, but others are slower, rather like grating away pieces of the bond. Over the years, I have come to believe that if someone wants to leave my life, they may need to go, and I won't stop them. It's still hard, though.

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  22. It boggles my mind to think that a child will abandon you in your time of need. I hope that one day these children come to see the other side of things and rethink their decisions. We all get older and we all need help.

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  23. I qualify, so - ty! Have put this on my Amazon wish list. Cannot read the comments above, as I don't want to start crying before going to the bank, but my heart is with everyone especially who has written something similar to this! I keep thinking of that verse in Titus 2, about persons having no natural affection ...

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  24. Maybe there is a support group for people with estranged family members. I go to a support group for parents who have had children die, called Compassionate Friends. It does help to get together with people who have had a similar experience and who will understand in a way that other family members or acquaintances might not. I know you don't like to go out much, but maybe there are online forums on this subject. It really does help to communicate with people who are in a similar situation. I pray that you find peace and healing in this area of your life.

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  25. Brenda,
    An excellent post. Families are complex mechanisms and they do not always run smoothly.
    I was so close to both of my parents and we all had a mutual respect for one another. I would have done anything for them and they would do the same for me. I have 4 children (as you know) and I am close to 3 of them and not so close to one of them. I have been here for all of them and the one who has chosen to step back has created so many hoops for me to jump through that I can no longer navigate through that obstacle course. I pray and hope that one day this will change. But until then I am living with gratitude and embracing the relationships that I do have. It is sad and hurts, but it is the way it is.

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  26. Brenda, this is such a great post! It is difficult when our children separate themselves from us after we feel we have given everything (emotionally) to them. My oldest son is not necessarily estranged but feels he is much too busy with is life and can't possibly maintain his family relationships. My husband has no relationship with is daughter. He has seen her once in 9 years. His ex-wife poisoned her mind against him and he finally had to let her go...a very difficult thing. I think I will be ordering this book for us! By the way, love your photo...you look so beautiful! Love and hugs to you sweet friend!!

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  27. I have both my kids in my life but there has been times thanks to others that our relationship was rocky! My daughter can't go without me cause I have always picked up the pieces of her life when she screws up. She is learning at 36 mom is not doing it anymore. But being I just went through surgery myself she has showed that she is no help at all. KIDS!!! (I say that as I shake my head)...

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  28. Dear Brenda,
    I wanted to thank you for sharing a bit of your situation, and for telling others about my book. I'm so grateful to be of help to other kind parents who find themselves in this situation. It is emotionally devastating, but there really is a good life after an adult child's estrangement. Also, I like your blog!! You have many wonderful and creative ideas! I posted a link to this at my facebook page for rejected parents (http://www.facebook.com/rejectedparents). Thank you again, and Hugs to you -- From Sheri McGregor

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