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When People Ask About My Estranged Children… What Can I Say?

By Linda Ward December 06, 2022 Family

Being an abandoned mom is more widespread than most people think. When asked about estranged children (parents, or family members), we are put in the awkward position of what to say. Saying too much, not saying enough, or lying can bring up all sorts of questions or guilt, added to how you already feel about this emotional situation.

It’s helpful to figure out what you will say ahead of this question being posed to you. When you’ve rehearsed what you could say, you’re ready when the question comes out of the blue. Your brain will help you by reminding you of your rehearsed answer. We do have options to choose how to answer this question.

Open-Up and Tell the Whole Story

Share incidents that may have caused the division and details of how long it’s been since you’ve been in touch. In doing so be sure you’re ready for intense questions that come back to you from curious people!

Some people related that when sharing details, those who ask, don’t know what to say, and end up giving them the cold shoulder. They may have drawn false conclusions that something must be wrong with you if your kids don’t talk to you now. You must have done something bad.

You could experience this reaction so be ready for the pain it could bring. First, the rejection from the child, then the rejection from those you thought would comfort you.

I have a friend who does this. She shares the whole story, stating that each time she does, she feels better, even if others don’t know what to say back to her. For her, it helps her continue to realize the reality of the estrangement. She has made sharing more about her own mental health, than about the other’s reaction.

Lie and Say Everything’s Just Fine

This does get the person off your radar. They move on to other topics. But do we feel right that we just lied? Maybe. The heart is already hurting and getting the heat off the question feels better.

I don’t advocate this one. Mostly because lying about anything isn’t the path I would want. There are choices you have in answering people, and the choices you make are your personal decision.

Give a Bird’s Eye View of the Child’s Life

“They live in Minnesota, just bought a home, and have a new puppy.” These details need to be honest things you have learned from their friends, other family members or from Facebook. Follow up this bird’s eye view with deflection.

Deflect the conversation by switching it to them or something else. “How’s your son Mark doing?” “What great veggies did you get from your garden this year?” People love talking about themselves and talking about their kids who are succeeding. You have answered their question to the best of your ability and now moved on to something in their world.

Deflecting is a skill for many personal conversations we encounter in life. Whenever someone crosses over into something personal to you, turn it around quickly to something about them.

Briefly Tell Them That You Are Not in Contact and Aren’t Ready to Talk About It

In the syndicated column called Ask Carolyn, she offered this to say to a mom who wanted to know what to do when someone asks about her estranged daughter: “Sadly, my daughter has estranged herself from the family.” Then follow up with, “I’m not ready to share more than that.”

Carolyn goes on to say that negative reactions from people help you weed out those who are not sincere friends to you.

If You Are an Abandoned Parent, Work on Forgiving Yourself

There is no perfect parent. In reflection, I made so many mistakes! I remember a therapist saying to me, the statute of limitations is past for that. You can’t keep bringing your parenting mistakes into the present.

I needed to get to a place of forgiving myself for painful perceived mistakes I made in the parenting job. I try to live this quote, “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”

Try Not to Isolate

If you can, invite new friends and experiences into your life. Keep life exciting in small or big ways. Living under guilt or shame of a child’s estrangement can seep the joy out of the present.

Let Joy Balance the Pain in Your Life

Think about this tip in 50+ Life online magazine. “Nonstop suffering will not bring reconciliation with your adult child, and it certainly impairs the quality of your life. Allow love, fun, and joy into your life – to soothe and strengthen you.”

Below are a few resources that you may want to check out. Be sure that support groups truly support rather than do harm by amplifying agony, fear, or pain. As in any situation, carefully choose your support.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How do you respond to questions about your estranged adult child? Are you healing over estrangement? Do you have suggestions that would help others heal? What are some of the things you do to feel joy even though you have pain?

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My only child, my son, I adopted and raised as a single mom. We were a team. I raised him to be independent and he is. However, he got married six years ago and I tried to get close to his wife and step daughter age 10 at the time. She always continued to feel distant to me. Three years ago they had a baby girl. I babysat on Wednesdays and we visited when we could due to the 1 1/2 hour drive and me working. We had a “falling out” the day of the baby’s baptism. I wanted a picture of me, my son, my mother and the baby. His wife pitched a fit because she and her daughter was not included in the picture. She pitched a fit in the church and it hasn’t been the same since. I told her I wanted a fourth generation photo. There were many photos taken after. A month or two passed and I sent an apology letter to her daughter and told her it was not our intention of hurting her feelings. So…..to this day I have been estranged. My only son and granddaughter. My heart has been broken since. I ask what the problem is and they will not tell me. They both are almost 40 years old! I am having a hard time moving on with my life. It is a struggle everyday. I know it is his life and now is my time. Nothing really helps. I just can’t accept that they are doing this to me for no reason. Just let me know what I did and I will apologize if needed. My mom is 85 and he and the baby were her joy. Thanks for listening….crying now…..

Linda Ward

Dear Holly,
I’m so sorry for the pain involved in this whole situation. It seems like they are also cutting off a relationship with your mother. I know misunderstandings happen sometimes when sons or daughters get married. Adding the other person brings all sorts of new thoughts, ideas, emotions, and feelings to the established parental relationship.
Moving forward to experience everyday happiness is the biggest challenge you face at this point. I suggest a therapist, a coach, a pastor, or someone you trust to confide in and share your pain. Then, small steps to step out of the pain, one baby step at a time. You are still alive, and have a life to live. I wish you the best in this journey.
Linda Ward
Courage Daily Coaching


Thank you Linda for your response.

I have been counseling over these rough years which has helped some. I just can’t understand or accept it. I am working on doing more things for myself in 2023. I have to push myself and it is so hard. I am happy I have found this publication. So many good things here.

Blessing to you,


This subject comes up a lot in a Facebook group I’m in for folks over 65. Every single time it comes up, it’s always the adult child’s fault. There is never even a moment of thought given to why that child might be a strange and what that parent may have done to cause it.

I’m not saying there’s always a parental cause, but that is my personal situation as the adult daughter.

At least CONSIDER that you may have some fault in the estrangement instead of immediately pointing a finger at your adult child.

Linda Ward

Dear Sheri,
This is a very important point! Yes, many times it is NOT the adult child’s fault, OR both are at fault. This article was written from the mom’s broken heart point of view, but there IS the child’s broken heart point of view too. Thanks for bringing in the balance for all of us to consider. Linda


There are always two sides to a story, however, when we ask the adult child what is their reasoning and you get no answer then it is very difficult to find resolution. I would be happy to know if I did something to offend or upset them. I will be the first to apologize and to rectify. The hurt is not knowing the reason? I would like to be close to my son and his family. I have reached out many times in various ways over the last three years. So….time I have to try to take care of myself and enjoy my life. I big part of it is gone….my son and my only granddaughter. I have to accept it but is beyond hard even with counseling.
Wishing you the best…


Or maybe the adult child should look at the big picture and see if they have been influenced somehow, perhaps by a spouse who has estranged his parents, or maybe an individual therapist who has encouraged breaking up a family with heavy handed, but easier, ‘No contact’ instead of recommending group counselling to mend, instead of tear up. Unless we’re talking criminal abuse or neglect, I would think most caring adults would be more inclined to want help to air the issues and make a plan to resolve them with help like mediation, not to carry the burden of guilt and perpetuate scorn and judgement forever.

Kate Nelson

I am 76….done so much for my 3 sons and 2 daughters and am now estranged from both daughters. I made mistakes but also gave much much love and support in the form of acts of kindness. Did’t smother…just loved them all. But now I am tired. Recently both daughters decided to gang up on me. They are 50 and 55. I have saved the multiple texts and emails. Their anger probably started decades ago but only 2-1/2 months ago did it get ugly. They might be holding me responsible for their many mistakes. One does not have any children and the other only 1. The catalyst was incorporated into a group text. After visiting them, I told my 5 kids that I had gotten a fever and cold. I also told them that I tested negative for covid. Because my daughters suffer from auto-immune diseases and 1 has cancer I wanted to be careful but ended up exposing them to what ended up being a cold and 99 degree temperature. When 55 year old daughter asked me if I usually get a fever with a cold I said I don’t know because I have a thyroid condition and so my temperature runs low. My saying, “I don’t know” lead to my daughters both accusing me of ‘gas lighting” which I read a whole bunch on after the accusation and so then got caught up defending myself. I have always put the relationship first no matter what they said or did to me over the years but this time I decided to defend myself (my bad) so daughter #2, now 50, wrote me a long letter about my being an abusive narcissist mother. And daughter #1 called me a wolf in granny’s clothes with many metaphors. Well I recognized a line in daughter #1’s letter from a book I have read, entitled “The Prophet” so I googled a paragraph of her letter and up popped a letter written by Anna Szabo entitled “An Open Letter to a Narcissist Mother”. My daughter sent the letter to me as if it was written by her. When I told her I knew it wasn’t she said that she found it odd that I would tell her so and that she was really referring to my dad who was a very abusive, narcissist, but that is not at all what her letter suggested. She sent it as if she wrote the entire letter and addressed to me. I tried so hard, all my life, to do so much better than my abusive, alcoholic parents whom I never abandoned because I just felt sorry for them plus I had much younger siblings and I didn’t want to abandon them. I didn’t expect what has been thrown my way these past months. I have been generous with my love, not expecting much in return. Because I sold my home, I shared some of the prophets with my 5 children because I wanted to make their life easier. My parents never ever did one thing for me or my 3 siblings…not ever…but give us life. I am bewildered and confused and am going to try hard to let go and put my energy into what is good in my life. I never understood a parent who would disown their child or even choose to become estranged from an alcoholic or drug addict child..(I have 2 sons who are alcoholic and 1 son who is practically an angel and all 3 boys love me and are kind to me, but here I am deciding to let go of what I cannot control. So sad! and so confusing. I want to tell their adult siblings, ages 37, 38 and 53 what happened but also don’t want to create drama. I am on the fence. I think the reason I want to tell their siblings is I am sick of the family secrets. The oldest 3 had a Grandpa who was a pedophile, (My first husband kept that a secret) the other grandpa, (my dad) was an abusive drunk. Beat me till I bled because I couldn’t find my ballet slippers and molested me at age 12. My mother didn’t protect me or my siblings. I fortunately have no addictions except maybe addicted to the wrong kind of men. But not any more. I met a kind man 3 years ago and he is so kind to me….I am amazed and grateful. I have made my mistakes but said I was sorry and meant it. It’s a crazy world and I am sick of the craziness, and all the labels. Labels are another form of abuse and only a high trained psychologist or psychiatrist can maybe accurately label a personality disorder such as gaslight or narcissist.


That was a great analogy. Thank You!!


My friend has a daughter who is estranged It seems uncaring to me to avoid the issue and not say anything, so I occasionally ask “what do you hear from daughter (using her name)”?
What would people, in this situation, like us to say (or not say)?
Thanks for your informative article and to those who commented on their experience.

Last edited 9 months ago by Karen

I only choose to share my pain and grief with people close to me who know me for the Mother I am. I’ll never get over my eldest daughter walking out of my life after me helping her and loving her unconditionally. She’s cut me out of my grandchildren life however I still continue to send cards etc so they know I’ll never forget them
Every night I pray for God to forgive her and guide me.
I have 3 other children and when people ask I never tell them what my eldest daughter has done to me taking money etc. I choose to not tell them as I don’t want to put my problem on them as their blessed to have the balanced family.
The eldest daughter is bullying my youngest daughter since she’s close to me. This breaks my heart as my youngest daughter is a young widow with two little girls to support. My 2 sons live in the country. I now have a heart condition and occasionally am taken to hospital. I don’t tell the DRS or staff to ring family or explain the situation as am embarrassed. I always keep a bag packed in times of going to hospital as don’t want to put any pressure on the youngest daughter due to her being a widow working full-time. I find strangers are kind and I keep enough money to get a taxi home
I’ve become stronger with the situation over time with the help of a counsellor and reading book’s. This site helps me as I realise I’m not alone. Much love to you all.

Linda Ward

Dear Susanne,
There are some things we never get over in our lives, but we learn to live with them.
I respect that you don’t tell others about your estrangement from the children. It may be the least painful way of navigating through this pain. It hurts my heart that you are unable to share your health issues with anyone in your family, and you go through the hospitalizations or medical encounters alone. Do you have any friends that would want to know if you are at the hospital or medically going through something this serious? Would they be willing to help in case you need it? If you can’t reach out to family, it’s ok to reach out to others.
You do sound strong, you have a counselor, and you read books that give you courage. I applaud you for taking these steps. This is a great life strategy to build your self strength muscles!
Above all, you are not alone. Many have faced and progressed through painful situations of life to still enjoy some form of everyday happiness.
My best to you. Linda


Thanks Linda for your words of kindness and advice. I don’t contact my sons when in hospital as they live in the country and very busy with work and family. As I mentioned my youngest daughter 42 years old is a widow with 2 little girls working full-time. If I know my medical condition is serious ill then contact my daughter and sister. My friends are now older with health issues. After many years of crying, grief, I guess I’ve just accepted this is how it is and I can’t change it. I quite often lay awake at night in disbelief that I’m in this situation. My Mother left my father with 5 children and suddenly at the age of 23 years old my father died. I was left with full responsibility to look after my 5 siblings and 3 children of my own. I feel I’ve looked after everyone for a long time. Now when I need help everyone is busy. My brothers and sisters are grateful.
The strange thing about this is even though our Mother abandoned us we still loved her and looked after her in her later stage of her life. I thank my father for that as he’d never let us talk bad about her when we’d get angry with her. He always said she is your Mother don’t ever turn on her.
Therefore I was blessed to have a father who taught us UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Maybe all these things happening has made me stronger but I still cry and wish life was better. This is why I don’t tell many people about the family as it’s too painful. Much love to all on your journey ❤️


Your story just makes me cry…You do not deserve such appalling neglect. I too lay in bed wondering what crime led to this! Yours is a perfect example of the different attitudes of different generations now. Families used to be able to depend on each other, and today our youth obsessed culture doesn’t regularly mix the generations and ageism plays a part. As well honesty and integrity are not revered like before. The new attitude is ‘Take care of yourself’ (even at the expense of others to whom you should feel responsibility)
I so hope things improve for you. You deserve love and attention. I, too appreciate the kindness of our contemporaries, as they are usually inherently kind.


But Linda, when is this ageism finally called out for being elder neglect??


I am healing from this very situation! It is so comforting to see I am not alone and there is support for this.


Hi Barb
There are several groups on Facebook that I have found supportive.

Linda Ward

Hi Gypsy, thanks for sharing about supportive groups. Would you feel free to share what they are? This may help many women. Linda

The Author

Linda Ward is a Writer and Life Coach living in Minnesota. She specializes in helping mature women find everyday happiness and a satisfying life. She zeroes in on life after divorce, retirement transitions, and finding courage no matter what the circumstances. Her inspiring new eBook is called, Crazy Simple Steps to Feeling Happier. Linda’s Professional background is Social Work and Counseling.

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