Anyone who’s been through a divorce knows it’s rough. Actually, that’s an understatement. Now imagine that you must divorce your adult child. This is the person you raised, you dedicated your life to for at least 18 years, the person you had countless hopes and dreams and goals for, who you sacrificed for in endless ways to make all those wishes come true. Now, for whatever reason, you no longer have a relationship. It’s brutal.
You’re likely struggling with ALL the emotions as you navigate life without them.
First, you’re dealing with your own loneliness, sadness, and hurt. Life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. Plus, you’re likely battling some guilt, wondering what you could or should have done differently, so things didn’t turn out so miserably. Maybe there’s some denial because you don’t believe you could have said or done anything that could have led to something this dramatic. Betrayal is there, too, if you were the one wronged. You may be feeling isolated because it’s unlikely you’ve told others that you and your adult child no longer speak. Rejection. Anger. Disappointment. The emotions you’re enduring go on and on, no doubt.
The reasons for the estrangement often vary, from another family member turning them against you to you struggling with their mental health, whether it’s anxiety, depression, addiction, or alcoholism. But this story isn’t about the why. It’s about how to move forward and find some peace.
First, it’s important to accept that younger people see family relationships differently than people in their 40s, 50s, and older. For older generations, family relationships were non-voluntary and permanent. Nowadays, younger people are more inclined to feel that they do not need relationships with people who they believe are harming their well-being. It’s irrelevant if those people are their parents. As gut-wrenching as it may seem, that is important to note in understanding how it’s possible they can cut ties.
Ignore those who judge. You have to tune them out. Everyone else doesn’t know your experience of what happened. Honestly, your child’s version of the story may vary from yours. That’s part of the challenge. Don’t let others’ opinions interfere with your recovery.
Remember, you are not in control here. This is especially important if you’re the person who dictated decisions in the past, as moms often must. When the kids become adults, they get to make their own decisions. That includes a choice to end the relationship. They don’t even have to tell you why. It’s maddening, I know, but you must remember you’re not responsible for their choices now or the consequences because of them.
It’s also important to realize that cutting you off is about their inability to address and maturely resolve whatever conflict has come between you, whether it’s from a sudden issue or ongoing problems. Your child may believe it’s easier to just stop talking than it is to manage the misunderstanding.
You’re not the first parent this has happened to. It’s wise to join a support group with people going through something similar. The “I get how you feel” connection matters. Of course, it’s ok to ask for professional help. Getting support from friends and other family members can help, but be careful not to stoke the flames, so to speak. It does not need to become a “he said, she said” feud that goes around and around in the family because that may exacerbate the issue. It’s ok to be angry, but not to line people up to take sides. That only makes it harder to reconcile later.
Speaking of reconciling, keep the lines of communication open. They may have cut you off, but that doesn’t have to be your response. Send birthday and holiday messages. Let them know you’re thinking about them, but if they’ve asked for no contact, respect that, too. Get on with your life the best you can, and don’t stop doing what you must to heal in the meantime.
If they do reach out again, try to listen openly. Be willing to admit your errors. Try not to get defensive. Be willing to listen, even if you disagree with their stance. Be open.
If they don’t reach out, keep living the life you need to heal. Do what you must to get to the place of acceptance that allows you to move on and deal with what has happened and what is happening. It’s not ideal when you’ve dreamed of such a different reality for decades, but it’s important to let go of the anger, disappointment, and resentment and ultimately find peace in accepting your life and making it as happy as you can, with or without your child.