The Early Days of Estrangement


What follows is my response to the questions and exercises in the first part of the book, Done with the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, by Sheri McGregor, MA.  I’m going to start working my way through the book in the coming days and sharing my thoughts on this blog.

51cRtf49Q8LMy estrangement from my three adult children began after a misunderstanding on Thanksgiving night. The timing was awful.  For nearly the entire month of December I was in shock.  How could my children desert me at the holidays?!

I was so alone, so sad, so shocked.  In Done with the Crying, McGregor states that the initial feeling most parents feel when an estrangement begins is shock.  That was definitely the case for me.

Unbelief, confusion, helplessness.

I waited for them to call or email.  I wanted to talk and help clear things up.  I wanted to listen.  I tried to contact them throughout the holidays, but was met with silence.

When I asked if we could meet with a neutral third party (a counselor or a family friend who’s a pastor) to begin some sort of communication, I received a curt email response that said, “We’re not ready for that.”

That was six months ago.

Will they ever be ready?

Without any sort of communication, we can’t even begin the process of reconciliation or understanding.  They’ve also cut off all contact with my dad.  My dad said yesterday on the phone that he doesn’t even care at this point about reconciliation with them, but he’d just like to see us all have a civil relationship so we can all attend family gatherings and holiday events (and even funerals) at the same time.

Pain.  Isolation.  Silence.  Abandonment.  Betrayal.  Judgement.  A broken heart.  Loss.  Anxiety.  Fear.  Powerlessness.  Defeated. Devastated.  Depressed.  Suicidal.  Numb.

Like walking through a thick fog.

This was the new hurtful reality that suddenly presented itself.  I couldn’t get my mind around it, no matter how hard I tried. And as a single mom, I had no one who shared these feeling with me.

The first month was so overwhelming.

I felt like I’d lost my identity.  I’d never realized how much my personal identity tied into the idea of being a mother.  Now that I didn’t have that relationship with my children, I felt so lost.  I suffered a major existential crisis in addition to the grief and shock.  The pillars of my life had been knocked down and shattered under me.

The pain was so great, that each night during December I self-medicated with alcohol.  I couldn’t bear going to bed and being alone in the quiet and the darkness with nothing but my thoughts, my misery, my memories, and my tears.  So I would drink until I could just lie down and pass out on my bed.

Every morning when I woke up, my first thought was, “Wow.  That was the worst dream ever.”

And then I’d remember.  It wasn’t a dream.  They really were gone.  They really had cut me off.

I really was alone.

~ The Estranged Mom



Articles and Links on Estrangement

This list is also located on the sidebar of this blog, but in case you missed it, I thought I’d make the list a blog post, as well.

Mother’s Day


Sometimes this is what a “happy” Mother’s Day looks like.

So I’m sending (((hugs))) to any of you out there who can relate. Whether it’s due to death or estrangement or infertility or something else, this day can be very difficult for many of us moms.

Personally, I’ve just kept busy and been sort of on autopilot all day. (Denial, anyone?)

To My Estranged Daughter on Her 29th Birthday

mother daughter
Photo credit: hotblack from

Dear ——–,

I miss you so very very much. Especially today on your birthday.

Not being able to share my life with you makes me feel incomplete. Nobody else shares my quirky, snarky sense of humor in quite the same way you do.

29 years ago today, I held a tiny little 8 week premature baby for the first time. You were so beautiful. And so small. Your diapers were the size of a Kleenex.

The nurse at the hospital referred to you as a little Peanut. That seems so humorous in light of your life-threatening peanut allergies now. The nickname, Peanut, almost stuck, too. Your dad and I actually called you that on and off for several weeks, but decided we didn’t want some random nurse we didn’t even know giving you a lifelong nickname. Wouldn’t that have been a horrible nickname for you? I’m laughing as I think about it. I think you would laugh, too.

I wish I could hear your laughter again. Or see your smile. Or watch you roll your eyes at something ridiculous.

I miss our heart-to-heart talks. I miss our Gilmore Girls’ mother/daughter relationship. I miss those days when you used to tell people I was your best friend. You were my best friend, too.

I miss calling you up when I’m on the way to the grocery store to see if you need anything, or if you just want to come along to get out of the apartment for a while.

I miss walking around the duck pond with you.

I miss talking about our homework assignments and professors.

I miss hearing about the latest books or articles you’ve read.

I miss having you and your husband over for dinner so I could give you another option for an allergy-free place to eat besides your own home.

I miss watching Doctor Who with you. We never did finish watching Torchwood. I hope you watch the rest of the series yourself someday. The most touchingly beautiful and sad moment I’ve ever seen on television happens in a later episode. You’ll need Kleenex. But you’ll love it. I’m sad that I probably won’t be there to watch it with you.

I miss sitting with you on the back deck, just talking and laughing, or reading books quietly in my outdoor “Reading Room” under the tree.

My house feels empty without you ever being here.

My entire life feels empty without you.

I’ve never cried so many tears as I have in the past few months. I never knew how sad it was possible to be. I never knew it could feel like you’re dying from a broken heart.  I never knew it was possible to actually feel like you’re drowning in your own tears.

My life, my future, my heart — all broken and empty now. I can’t imagine how I will go on living a life without you in it.

I love you. I always will. Forever. No matter what.

Happy birthday, Sweetie. I miss you so much.