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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!

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I am the step father of middle aged woman who has dual mental health an substance abuse issues. She refuses to address them and continues use. She is abusive, she bullies us. She threatens us. She has assaulted both of us at one time another. We’ve had enough and are moving to a different home. She lives in a house next door to us that she will have to move out of. We are terrified that she will fin# out where we are moving to and force. her way
in. How do we stop her from moving in with us. We fear for our lives.


Talk to someone about her behaviour – it might help her as well as you. She may need to be sectioned for a while. If so, you can move in peace. If not, get an injunction (restraining order) to stop her approaching you. If she flouts it, call the police.
Make sure your removal service will keep your confidentiality or ask a trusted friend to help you move. You can ask police to supervise your moving out if you didn’t get that injunction!
Change your mobile no., don’t give your details to anyone you don’t completely trust, have your mail redirected to a post office rather than yr new address – and get different service providers.
If necessary, change your names.
If she recovers and alters and you relent – have a relationship on your terms, and away from your home. Don’t ever give her, or any officials to do with her your new address.
You deserve to live in peace – good luck – stay safe.


Our son is in his thirties. He met this Filipina online and then met her in person at a karaoke bar in JP. He’s in the service. Three weeks he was engaged and didn’t tell us. We found out all kinds of stuff about her she’d posted of other servicemen she’d been with, and when we say been with she slept with atleast five or six and one being six months prior to dating our son. We tried to warn him, but he insisted he was going to marry her anyways. We were not invited to the wedding and she posted a pic of our son with his dad as a baby without our permission trying to make it look like we approved when the pic was snagged from a social media account we have since canceled. We loath this woman our son has chosen to be with. She has done everything to cut our family out of his life. She’s posted stuff about us on social media, but when our son confronts her about it she makes some excuse it’s directed towards her supposed exes that according to her she’s made herself to be a victim of all the servicemen she’d slept with because according to her they were all just awful to her and treated her badly. She has our son believing their now pregnancy is a “miracle” because according to our son they tried to get pregnant but couldn’t. We just wanted to yell at him to check her medication record because guaranteed she was on bc. It is all about her and her family. Only her friends and family at the wedding, and not even a night they were married our son called us upset because he had duty and she took all her friends out partying using his money to do it. Same with the wedding, his money, but he doesn’t see her for what she is a narcissist who is covert and is using him. But, what gets us is everything she does is to try and hurt us and we’ve never met this evil individual, nor do we want to. We just hope our son wakes up and sees her and her family for what they are. Sad thing is now she’s pregnant, it’s only because our son found out he has a nephew. Next thing, she’s pregnant all because his nephew had his attention. Last time we talked last year because we let him know we don’t like or trust her he told us not to contact or follow them. We told him we’re cutting contact. That was it. It has been going on since 2016!


I am not in my sixties…but I am at this point in my life with my adult children where I want to run away. The lack of respect is overwhelming. My husband has left and I am here with my adult children 31 and 21 respectively. My 31 year old is not saving money to get her own place hence her own life and my 21 year old smokes weed barely has a job and lays on my sofa watching random movies and TV shows via his cell phone that has been turned off because he didn’t pay his bill. I am at a loss as what to do and I feel trapped. I have talked to them letting them know that I need them to get jobs and move on with their lives…to no avail. Therapy isn’t helping me any because I dred coming home from work to a house where I find my children in the same spot that I left them in.

Kim Halsey

As the author of this article, I frequently recommend the book “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie for women who are ready to detach from the drama. It’s short chapters and 3 questions of homework on each chapter. This work can change your life even at this stage.


I live with my adult son and his wife and children. My educated advice is rejected and called disrespectful. My marriage ended because of my husband adult son who now lives with him. I’m lost. I think my ex and I could work things out but we need our adult children to but out. How do you do that.


I am an older mum that has devoted my whole life for my daughter.
We literally did everything together, she has kept me young and made me look after myself.

I found out a few months ago after her long time boyfriend broke up with her that she had met a man my age.
I tried everything to convince her to stop this friendship but she has been brainwashed by him.

He has bullied me, threatened me until I have been suicidal.
He has told me I will never see her again.
He told me he would destroy me and take my daughter away from me.

She is in her final year of Uni and he has provided her with accommodation, he has lot’s of money so provides her with everything that she needs.
I have lost everything.
My life is finished and I don’t think I will ever have a relationship with her again.
We were best friends, so I really don’t understand why she refuses to meet me or even talk to me.

Thank you for letting me join.
I feel so sorry for all of you that are going through similar traumas.
It is like a nightmare that we never wake up from.

Kim Halsey

Oh Anne – I am so sorry for your pain.


Hi Anne – I’m sorry that you’re going through this. Just a couple of thoughts: Are you sure he’s not bullying her as well? One of the tactics used by this type of bully is to threaten the victim (your daughter) that he’ll hurt you if she doesn’t stay with him. It’s just a thought, but she could be terrified of him, or for you, or both.
If you think this could be the case, it might help if you could have a word with your local domestic violence support.
Also, I’d keep a record of his threats and report him to the police.
Is there any chance of enlisting the help of her ex? This sounds like a re-bound mistake. She may well be looking for a way to get rid of this Svengali herself. I hope so, and that you can get him out of your lives safely.

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.

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