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?)

Maybe this blog wasn’t the best idea


So I started this blog hoping it would give me a healing place to share estrangement-related stories, poems, etc.  I thought it would be a positive step and give me an outlet for my on-going grief.

I may have been wrong.

When publishing the letter to my oldest daughter on her birthday (that I never sent), I reread it a couple of times to make sure the formatting was okay, basic editing things.  But each time I reread it, I got more and more depressed.  I cried so much, my eyes ached.  (I didn’t realize that could even happen.)

Then I published the post with the photographs my youngest had taken on our graduation cruise.  And after I looked back through the photos, I cried and cried and cried.

All the grief just kept on building up to the point where over the weekend I thought seriously about ending my life.  The only way I managed to get through the difficult night was to drink until I basically passed out.  With the medications I take (I have a number of health issues), any alcohol consumption is potentially dangerous.  And in enough quantity, possibly life threatening.

When I was fading out into sleep that night, I didn’t care if I woke up or not. When I opened my eyes the next morning, I was disappointed to be waking up and still alive.  This wasn’t a full-on suicide attempt, but it was definitely a suicidal action.

That said, it may not be a good idea for me to keep this blog, after all.  I think this is a long painful journey I may need to take without sharing it.  When I think too hard about what I’ve lost, how much I love and miss my kids, and how bleak my future is without them, it can send me into a spiral that leads to the strong desire to just end it all.

To give a little back story, I’d spent the better part of a week in the hospital on suicide watch at the end of December, first part of January.  The holidays were so depressing and horrible.  Each day was agony. Agony is almost too mild of a word for what I experienced.  I’d never been distraught to that degree in my entire life. I’d hoped once Christmas was over, I’d start feeling better, but instead, the magnitude of it all crashed in on me, I was so overwhelmed with grief and despair that I checked myself into a place where I knew they could keep me safe.

I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day.

So unless I come across something I can share that I think won’t be triggering, I think I’m not going to update this blog much.

By the way, I’m doing much better now and I have a safety plan in place in case I get to that horrible place again.  I’m also in twice-a-week counseling to deal with the grief so don’t worry about me.  I’ll be all right, and I’m taking the needed steps to ensure I remain all right.

Thank you for visiting my blog, but I think it’s going to be pretty quiet here for a while to prevent me from triggering myself.  Yes, it’s possible to trigger yourself.  As I found out the hard way this week.

All my best to you and yours,

The Estranged Mom

If you’re dealing with estrangement from your own adult children, I highly recommend the website of Dr. Joshua Coleman, a psychologist who specializes in family estrangement issues.  He has helpful information, forums for estranged parents to support each other, and weekly podcasts and Q&A sessions.

Doctor Coleman is also the author of the book, When Parents Hurt, which I found relatively helpful, although much of it didn’t apply directly to my personal situation.


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.