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

How to Divorce Your Adult Children and Restore Your Sanity

By Kim Brassor May 07, 2023 Family

I am known for exposing the “elephant in the living room.” Those things everybody knows but nobody is talking about. Not every mother-daughter relationship reads like a Hallmark card, and our culture makes that a shameful secret to bear.

Dr. Christiane Northrup suggested that the bonding hormones that flood a mother’s blood stream at childbirth stay with women for about 28 years.

It is no accident, then, that the first round of truly adult separation (not teenage rebellion) begins to rear its head somewhere around 30 for women and the menopause years for their mothers. For the first time, the veil begins to lift and we see each other for the women we have become.

When It Comes to Your Adult Children, What is Normal?

Some estimate that 96% of American Families are dysfunctional in some way – making it the norm. But “normal” is not necessarily healthy, and it certainly falls short of the abundant life we’ve been promised.

Women are held responsible for the relational health of the world – at work, at home, family health and wellbeing, the sexuality, the promiscuity, the cause, the cure and the results. When a true perpetrator arises in a family, the mother protects ala Mama Bear. If she doesn’t die trying, she can later become a target.

Mom is apparently the one who knew (or should have known) what was happening at every moment of every day to their children – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. After all, moms have eyes in the backs of their heads and are equipped with the unusual ability to read minds, right?

See also: Letting Go And The Art Of Parenting Adult Children

What Is Healthy When It Comes to Adult Children?

M. Scott Peck wrote, “Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.” The pinch point for grandmothers is that any loss of relationship with our adult children means strained relations – if not severed ties – with the grandchildren who now light up our lives.

I am a mother of three and grandmother to 11. I stayed with their father for more than 20 years believing that somehow I could make him feel loved enough to change.

Over time, each of my children has drawn close to me for healing, and pulled away for the same reason. I am, after all, the one they hold responsible for the shifting emotional sand in their psyche.

Ten years ago, I remarried a man whose children were also grown. We imagined that would alleviate the adjustments of step-families. In some ways, not having children in the home made it easier to forge our identity as a married couple.

Although we shared values, we didn’t share history with each others’ children. We each brought our traditions and expectations to bear. When I recently chose to divorce this man who had played “grandpa” to my children’s children, old wounds surfaced.

Had I known that to leave him meant I would lose my only local family, I probably would have stayed for the sake of the grandchildren. It’s that old programming baby boomer women still struggle with.

If something isn’t working, you try harder. Marital problems? Pray more, love more, give more, be patient, and wait it out. Suck it up, stuff it down, be quiet and don’t make waves.

What Is Real?

I have identified four distinct stages in the journey to wholeness.


Our lives become (or continue to be) a carefully constructed illusion based on how it looks, what people will think, and what we imagine will get us the love and security we so desperately crave.

This is why grandmothers continue to “make peace at all costs” rather than saying what they see, need and want. Some have called it the disease to please.


Pretending that everything is okay when in our hearts we know that is not true can only go so far. We go along to get along. We smile in public and cry in private. We live a lie, and it eats at our souls every day.

Women think if we ignore it, maybe it will go away or time will heal all wounds. The thing is, time doesn’t heal buried pain. It has to be unearthed and acknowledged before it will pass away. Pain that gets buried alive poisons the rest of our lives.


Divorce is a harsh word when applied to our mother-child relationships, isn’t it? But it happens whether we acknowledge it or not. Divorce occurs when all communication has broken down and attempts at reconciliation fail.

It is the most painful dark night of the soul. With divorce comes all the drama of severed relationships, he-said she-said finger pointing, and drama triangles where people talk about each other, but never directly to one another so healing could occur. We might as well lawyer up and some do. It’s called Grandparent Rights.

See also: The Detachment Wall: How To Let Go Of Your Adult Children


Last is the place of acceptance. There is no anger, no angst, no more bargaining. It is where we accept what life is handing out right now and the fighting is done.

You have decided what you do and do not want, what you will and will not stand for, and are making decisions to move forward with or without the resolution you may have hoped for. You are free to stay or go because you have become dedicated to reality at all costs.


What’s Next for You and Your Adult Children?

Do I wish I had capacity back then to do some things differently? Definitely. Do I regret what I allowed my children to endure because of the choices I made? Mm-hmm.

Is there anything I can do now to go back and change it? Not a damn thing. Does it serve anyone for me to live in remorse and regret? Nope. Not now, not ever. Never.

Nobody had a perfect childhood – at least nobody in my generational gene pool. We all did the best we could with what we had to work with at the time. That is as true today as it was generations ago.

The biggest healer for women in daughter divorces is to break the shame by breaking the silence. Let’s talk about what’s real and how to help live dreams without drama in our later years.



This article has generated several important conversations. Many mothers/grandmothers are going through similar realities each with their unique set of situations. Talking and being vulnerable with one another is part of the healing process – as we can tell by reading your chats. Knowing that you are not alone helps in accepting the outcome of your distanced relationship with your adult children. 

Many have mentioned that therapy has helped them through this difficult time in their lives. Online therapy sessions are now readily available and affordable. Websites like Better Help, Talk Space, and Online Therapy have therapists and mental health professionals available to listen and guide you.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Where do you find yourself in the process of letting your adult children go? Where are you on the journey to finding yourself in your sixties? Please share your thoughts below!

Notify of

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

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Marie Lee

Mother’s who treat their children with love and compassion, truth, and respect will be loved and taken care of in their old age. Narcissistic mothers who give to get, manipulate with money, who are controlling, and never accept their children for being themselves and not just reflections, will die alone. Children don’t just run away from their mothers, they run away from monsters. Apologize and make it up to them, not by throwing money at them, but by treating them with decency and kindness. Starving dogs will accept any crumbs thrown at them until they learn how to feed themselves.

Kim Halsey

Not always true. It is now estimated that 40% of aging mothers are being ghosted by their adult children. Pretty sure we weren’t all the “monsters” their story wants us to be.


I respectfully disagree, I divorced a evil deviant man that left so much trauma and damage. I am the only person my kids can kick when they feel triggered. I am now setting boundaries, they are adults, I do not throw money at them, and I take full responsibility for my behavior. I am still in therapy so I can come to the table as the best person I can be. If they choose to continue to live selfish ways of blame and projection. That is on them.


My adult daughter uses me to dump her emotional baggage on about others in her life but won’t call me or see me. Her father abandoned us when she was three. I gave compassion and love and did not control her life decisions. I tried my damnest to be a good caring loving mother. Today, my father, her grandfather, is dying. I reached out to my daughter to see if she needed help through this – you know compassion. She has not stopped sending me messages about what an awful person I am. She is writing, and writing and writing after I told her I could not take anymore abuse from her last night and goodbye. She has threatened to kick me completely out of her life but the only thing she wants from me is to be available to dump everything on. I’m finished. I sent a simple message to her boyfriend asking him to look after her, her grandfather is dying. I’m hoping he will help her. So, I now am dealing with the lose of my father and my only child at the same time. Adult children complain about not being loved but they themselves – not all adult children – only know how to abuse.


I’m so sorry for your father’s illness. You did the best you could with with her. I too have a daughter (40y) that insists on using me as a emotional support flunky. Stay strong and know you are not alone.


One more thing. How old are you? Almost no parents expects that their kids will take care of them in old age. Are you speaking from the distant past or something? Do you live with your kids? Instead of throwing shade, why not try to understand the world women live in today.


You’re obviously not a mother of adult children and have not done any serious research on the subject, but are spouting populist clap trap. By the way, children can also be a bit or quite narcissistic or develop NPD. A childhood wound (see ACEs or adverse childhood events) such as divorce could be enough to trigger a narcissistic disorder in a child who inherits the traits and tendencies from a parent and/or grandparent, especially if one of their parents is bitter or vindictive after divorcing and the other parent over protects the child. Even where parents stay together, most childhoods are not perfect and many marriages are not harmonious all the time or even a lot of the time. If the environment and the heritable traits of the child leave them susceptible (such as high sensitivity), they may develop codependent traits or full blown personality disorders such as BPD, attachment disorders such as avoidant or insecure attachment. Parents bring their own childhood wounds into their parenting style, often trying to over compensate for the ways they believe their parents went wrong with them. A parent could also suffer from a mental illness or a prolonged period of grief. All of this, along with personality /disposition, affects the way children develop psychologically and continues on into their adult lives in the way they handle their relationships, including with their parents. This could simply mean they lack the ability to articulate emotions well, or that they can not handle criticism or avoid conflict rather than face it effectively. Children can also carry other challenges into their adult relationships such as ADHD or Autism, which can be the single cause of a child wanting no contact with a parent.


You just want attention. Otherwise, why would you come here seeing the pain of us mothers and say such a thing? It’s inconsiderate and mean. I pray you never have to experience what we do!


Interesting read and at the age of 59, I can say that I am at the Done Stage. Getting here involved a lot of anger, for decades in our dysfunctional family (my older sister is a junkie and my older brother killed himself last year). Money is and has been the route of many problems: the money, and I mean lots of money, that my parents have used over the years to try to control and manipulate (but I am not easy to control and manipulate so I didn’t get/take too much lol) and to make my now adult children obligated to them with all the money they spoiled my children with over the years. I had asked my parents to kindly keep their wallets in their pockets, but they would not oblige, and as a consequence, I have most often taken a degrading back seat. I no longer wish to cater to their posh relationship, of which I am not a part. I’m done.

Theresa Heitkamper

Dealing with my Adult Daughter, she is always saying that she’s to busy to Exhausted, to do anything with me. But when it comes to her friends she never says no to them. It hurts so bad, she is 48 has to grow daughters. That are my world. Her non-relationship with me is new. We have always been close but she has never been one to let know how she is feeling about things. Keeps everything in always have. But lately she wants nothing to do with me by herself. Have reached out but she just keeps on saying it’s my life. Don’t know how to reach out to her and tell her how bad I am hurting. Talked to her and she said I might need to talk to someone. I see my granddaughters 22 to 19 very busy with their lives. But they still find ways to want to be with me. Give me some advice on what to do. Talked to her father father just says let her be it’s her life. And have a son that I have been so close to until he married a young girl. They now have five boys that I get to see three oldest. They have had two babies together that I had to asked to see on a regular basis. Also they are too busy to want to get together on a regular basis. And the DIL is always with her family that have a lot of young cousins. I just feel so hurt because I have always had my children in my life on a regular basis. Don’t know how to accept this change.


My adult son is transgender, expects me to use his female name and listen to his hair removal, hormones for breasts, ect.,ect. He’s living with Grammy on father’s side. I feel like I don’t know him/her and trying to help him examine his feelings leaves me confused, he lives fairly close but sees me about every 6 months.I don’t drive,I have ptsd already and it hurts me so deeply to see him that I cannot sleep help I feel drained.

Bbbb b

It would do you well to learn about being trans and to learn to accept her.


Honestly, unless their other parent is also open to conversations about what they did wrong and acknowledging the kids pain and anger…my best advice is to do the opposite of everything we ve been told we should do and when the kids start to blame mom for things dont get pulled in. instead say something like sorry .. im still your mom . or one of those things many of us heard from our own parents. I say this because letting your kids blame you and tell you all their pain and anger and acknowledging your wrongs and their feelings doesnt work. it sets you up to be the scapegoat forever as far as i can tell. while the other parent and adults in their lives enjoy the holidays and time with them. i let my kids express their pain and anger and blah blah blah i acknowledged them and for awhile things between us were good i guess . i say i guess because i ve always been there for them best as i could and as adult kids they are literally never there for me. but they invited me to things and we talkled occasionally. then mother s day arrived and they opted to spend the day with their father and for once i stood up and said no thats not ok. the day is specifically set aside for spending time with your mother if work etc isnt preventing it and its my day not dads … they still went to their fathers and now we dont talk at all. they act like i did something wrong and i know it was high time i say something. holidays come and go and im never included in their plans and i act like it s ok every time. they dont show up when im ill and in the hospital and i dont site them as having to or being obligated to though it hurts very much when they dont even show up and the nurse questions if i have family out here at all. i dont say shit to my kids. i dont put pressure on them to be there for me …. i just show up to the things they invite me to and do what i can when ever they call me for help. this time i stood up for my day and my time with them and since then we dont talk at all. i m the only one in their lives they could ever talk openly to express whatever they were feeling about anything and that put me on some level they feel they dont have to be thoughtful of or respectful to and if i had it to do over again id do what everyone else does and not hear any of it . im your mom and thats that . like their father has done. . i bet id be on that pedastol however phony that he enjoys and enjoying my grandkids instead of never seeing them .


Absolutely agree. By apologizing and letting them spew their feelings out over us as mums, we become the biggest target when they get angry etc. As adults they don’t learn to sort their problems, just blame their mums while the other people they should be angry at get off free. It is exhausting. I have been to the brink of suicide so many times because my kids are still pissy about things that happened years ago that I thought I had heard and apologized for. But seems we are always to blame! So I have accepted reality that my adult kids are full of hate that is no longer my problem to try and fix. I will never see my grandkids again so working through the hurt and anger of that.


Please don’t end your life over this issue. So much to live for besides kids. Just gotta discover it!

The Author

Kim Brassor is a human resource professional and executive coach who provides education, inspiration and encouragement to people with life damaging habits, and those who love them. She is 60-something and shining a light for other women to live their dreams without drama.

You Might Also Like