sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Estrangement and Your Mental Health: A Guide for Parents Over 60

By Marie Morin May 14, 2023 Family

As a parent over 60, you may have thought your relationship with your adult children was solid and unbreakable. However, estrangement can happen to anyone, regardless of age or circumstances. If you find yourself estranged from your adult child, it can be a confusing and painful experience.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be particularly challenging for parents estranged from their adult children. Such holidays are in place to celebrate the bond between parents and their children, but for those who are estranged, they can serve as a painful reminder of the broken relationship.

Estrangement can complicate feelings of loss and grief, and it’s not uncommon for parents to feel a range of emotions that negatively affect their well-being.

Impact of Estrangement on Mental Health

Estrangement significantly impacts mental well-being and can be a challenging experience for older parents, who may rely more heavily on family relationships for a sense of belonging and purpose. Losing contact and communication with an adult child can leave you feeling isolated, rejected, and alone, triggering emotions like sadness, anger, guilt, shame, and anxiety. You may wonder where things went wrong and what you could have done differently.

The stress of losing a close relationship can trigger a range of physical symptoms that can disrupt your daily life. For example, you may have trouble sleeping or experiencing insomnia, leaving you tired and irritable during the day. Chronic stress and tension can also lead to headaches and migraines, debilitating and interfering with your ability to function normally.

The stress of estrangement can also affect your digestive system, leading to gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, stomach pain, and irritable bowel syndrome. Chronic stress can also exacerbate existing health conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, making it more challenging to manage these conditions.

Furthermore, chronic stress associated with estrangement can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to illness and disease. Over time, this can increase your risk of developing chronic health conditions.

As an older parent, the pain of estrangement may feel particularly acute due to the significant time and energy invested in the relationship with your adult child. If you have limited social support or are experiencing other life changes, such as retirement or health issues, the loss of family support can be even more impactful.

It’s essential to recognize that your emotions are valid and understandable and that seeking support and self-care is a powerful tool to help you navigate this difficult time.

How to Cope and Care for Yourself

You may feel like you’re the only one going through estrangement, but connecting with others can provide you with empathy and support. It could be a friend, family member, support group, or mental health professional. A therapist can help you develop coping strategies and provide tools to manage emotions.

It’s also important to practice self-compassion. When you’re going through a difficult time, it’s easy to blame yourself and feel like you’re the cause of the estrangement. It’s often a complex issue involving multiple factors. Be gentle and avoid negative self-talk.

Engaging in activities that bring you joy is another crucial step in coping with estrangement. You may feel like you’re in a dark place, but participating in activities you enjoy can help you find moments of happiness and fulfillment. Some activities include gardening, painting, hiking, or listening to your favorite music. It’s important to prioritize self-care and make time for activities that bring a sense of joy.

Focusing on the present moment and practicing mindfulness can help you manage your emotions. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindful practices can help you let go of rumination and worry, allowing you to focus on the present moment and find moments of peace and calm.

Finally, setting boundaries is an essential step in protecting your mental health. If the estrangement is causing you significant distress, setting boundaries with your adult child is okay. This may mean limiting contact or communication until you feel ready to re-engage. Prioritizing your mental health and well-being is essential, even if it means making difficult decisions. Remember that you are not alone; support can help you get through it.

Personal Message

As mental health clinician and wellness coach, my perspective is complex but not uncommon. I estranged my sister due to our inability to communicate for many years without intense fighting. I was emotionally estranged from my mom for most of my adult life. I know the sting of adult children cutting off emotionally or physically estranging, leaving me pining to see my beloved grandchildren.

Some days I was so hurt and angry with my kids I didn’t want to hear from them. I was mad at myself, with waves of complicated emotions flying everywhere.

During my practice as a therapist and wellness coach, I have listened to the broken hearts of mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers. I could empathize, validate, and support, but I needed to know and give more. I was compelled to dive head-first into what was happening in families and, ideally, find ways to bring relief to others and myself.

I have learned most of which I am sure you know as well. As we age, we get to know more about suffering. We can’t escape the grief of someone we love dying and the loss inflicted by estrangement for many of us.

The research, while sparse, is brutal. At least 27 percent of the United States is estranged from one or more family members. Cultural changes have reflected a dramatic rise in adult children cutting off their parents and often siblings as well.

Research reports that the most common contributors cited by adult children are abuse, betrayal, and poor parenting. Professionals and authors report on the trend for adult children to assess their experience by a standard where abuse includes high family conflicts.

So, What Is Happening?

I know some parents did their best and now suffer the pain of being cut off. There are parents who, by the accounts of their adult children, hurt them terribly, and yet they still care for them. The rise in individualism has contributed to people considering their well-being against familial obligations. This rise has assisted individuals who have suffered from harm’s impacts to step away to gain relief. In their stories, one can witness the anguish and hope they can live with less distress.

On the other hand, the spectrum of parents whose pain is palpable to those who are fiercely angry is equally heartbreaking. Between the weeping and regrets to the anger of “How could he or she do this to me?” Some parents are unjustly accused of being pushed to admit what never occurred. Most have given their love, attention, devotion, and resources, dumfounded that their child who was given their heart and opportunities now shuns them.

What is going on with families? The more I study and speak to hurting adult children, parents, and siblings, the more I know that the universal disbelief and heartache of estrangement cases continue to increase.

I share this because it will help others. Expanding our perspectives gives us a more robust understanding. When we understand more, we gain insight. Does it help us to walk in another’s shoes? I believe it helps.

The research reports findings often do not resonate with those feeling kicked to the curb. I hope we find our way to thrive despite our grief about our families. I pray that you can find peace and joy again, no matter what has happened and what your kids say or do.


Estrangement can be a difficult and painful experience for parents over 60 who are cut off from their adult children. However, it’s important to remember that you are not alone and that there are steps you can take to prioritize your mental and physical health.

Seeking support, practicing self-compassion, engaging in activities that bring you joy, focusing on the present moment, and setting boundaries that work for you can all help you navigate your circumstance.


Let’s Have a Conversation:

What helps you to move forward after estrangement? Are you presently getting support? How are you dealing with the pain of being cut off or needing to cut off a loved one?

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I have not been a part of my daughter’s life for over 7 years. The only way I am able to see my grandsons is because each of their dads see my husband and I as extremely important in their lives. We are not allowed to see our 9 year old granddaughter because she has total control/custody of her. You see – my daughter is adopted. She told me her birth mother is her mom so she cannot have me in her life! Say what? I have had counseling over this issue. When I mentioned I believed she had mental health issues I was told that her issues were actually psychiatric conditions. Based on her behavior issues directed towards me I was told I needed to be very afraid. To be vigilant in my safety since I was clearly the most hated person in her life. Good advice. I have loved that girl unconditionally. My whole world was wrapped around loving her, giving her life experiences, raising her to be a good citizen, giving her examples of the strong women in our lives, paying attention to her school and her friends, etc. The guilt was enormous! What did I do wrong to create this situation. I’ve been fortunate to have friends and family members that have shared examples of what an incredible mom I was (NO parent is perfect!). I never would have pictured this in my wildest dreams!!! Finally – I had to realize that she has went on with her life and never thought a thing about how deeply she had hurt me. I was the only one in pain. Nowadays I’m stronger. I have no choice but to be. So – I move forward and live the life I have.


Thanks for such a timely appropriate article. I still can’t deal with the estrangement from my son.
I remind myself daily of the many things I have to be grateful for (& I truly am) I have lots of hobbies and a beautiful husband but I’m still heartbroken
I’m going to look at some of your resources

Carole Anne

I taught Parenting classes and helped families break the cycle of child abuse. Imagine my shock and dismay when my adult daughter told me she wanted no contact with me! My days were busy and I somehow functioned in spite of my grief and confusion. My nights, however were filled with alternate conversations in my head. One night I would be thinking “How dare she? I gave my very best efforts, making sure I gave my very best to mothering her with no-holes-bared love. Other nights, I tossed and turned as I searched my memories for when and how I had failed her, feeling unbearable guilt for mistakes I knew I had made and those I did not know about. I called friends from way back, friends who were counselors, asking “What did you see that I did not?”

After a week or two of misery, I realized that I was not helping my daughter, myself, nor our relationship by such ruminations. Each night, I spent my pre-dream time imagining wonderful things happening to her. I envisioned a beautiful home filled with rainbows, light and flowers. I imagined her birthday being celebrated by dozens of loving friends. I thought of her spending time soaking up the peaceful energy of nature walks and quiet time sitting by a stream listening to water rippling over rocks. Rather, I made an all-out effort to become the best version of myself.

I no longer wasted time on guilt, but made sure I tended to my own self care and healing. I spent time being happy. I allowed others to nurture me. I bought gifts for my daughter on special occasions and saved them for someday and prayed that God would help us heal our relationship.

I let myself love others who yearned for the motherly love I wanted to give and there were missing. Joy filled my days and peace came easily to my nights. I was indeed happy though still longed for my daughter. I reached out with letters, sent flowers and gifts. I waited. I believed.

Eight long years, I waited. Then she was there.

One of my nieces called to ask me if she should invite my daughter to her daughter’s baby shower. I assured her she should always invite her. So she sent the invitation. When I arrived at the party, another of my nieces met me at my car and let me know my daughter was inside, and led me to the room where she sat. I entered the room, looked into her eyes, and opened my arms. She arose and met me for the most incredible embrace of my life.

Later, we spent hours talking and healing. I was eternally grateful that I had spent my time becoming a woman worth coming home to, a mother who could love her daughter without guilt of blame. getting in the way.

I wish love, grace and peace for all parents and all sons and daughters who are estranged. May God grant you many happy days ahead. Keep the faith!


This was a very good and complete approach to this issue. I practice all the things you mentioned.
There is a group on Facebook called elder orphans. It is a great group that is very supportive.
Thanks for talking about this problem.


Thank you
I’ll look up that Facebook group

alice kennedy

I feel like I am the only one I know estranged from my daughter. I’m always looking for someone to live through this with but everyone seems to have relatively together families. Your article suggest different. That 27% are estranged. Thank you for this article. Yes, Mothers Day is tough but I spent some good quality time with my son and his family.

Merry Cohen

My exact situation Alice… you are not alone.

Ms. Rambone

I haven’t spoken to my 30 year old daughter in over a year. I went to visit her and my twin granddaughters. Next deal we fought over going shopping which resulted in yet another one of her beatings. I’ve called to speak to the twins and she completely shut me out. I have no words for how I feel. So I will end this here

The Author

Marie Morin is a therapist and wellness coach at Morin Holistic Therapy. She helps women develop a daily self-care routine, so they overcome perfectionism and limiting beliefs and be their most confident selves. Marie is a grateful blogger and YouTuber. Find out more at and contact her at

You Might Also Like