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Estranged Relationships

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Home Forums G’day Line Estranged Relationships

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  • #13430

    Welcome to a place to discuss the loneliness and isolation caused by estranged relationships.

    At Griefline we receive numerous calls from those dealing with the loss of close relationships between parent and child, grandparent and child, siblings, cousins, friends and others.

    It’s often a distressing and confusing situation that can go on for years, with many people moving between feelings of hurt and hope for reconciliation; anger and disappointment; frustration and acceptance.

    This forum is a space to freely share your feelings, to discuss its effects on your life and to share coping strategies that have helped you along the way.

Viewing 10 replies - 1 through 10 (of 28 total)
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  • #13534

    You can be very lonely in a relationship and when it breaks down it transforms into a different kind of aloneness. How to manage a broken relationship is a big issue and I’m wondering if anyone has an experience of how they did it really well or really bad they can share? Sometimes I fall back on an affirmation I found that says, ” I didn’t leave you because I hate you, I left because I liked myself more.” Being estranged can be about friendships and family, not just partners.


    I feel this sometimes I just talk to friends and also keep self busy do counselling lots of self care

    VM- thanasis43

    Hi @sarah, I really like that affirmation. I think often when you leave a relationship to protect yourself (and maybe also those around you) there is a tendency to feel like you have let the other person down, which comes with guilt and can make you second-guess your decision to set boundaries. Reminding yourself that those boundaries are a form of self-compassion is important.


    Hello @sarah and @flowerpower,

    Sarah that affirmation really makes a person think about how much they value themselves and what is really important. The most important person in a relationship is yourself. The reason for this is like people say, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first in order to help loved ones around you. I always think about this as being your strongest self-first, for those around us. Honestly though, this has and continues to take time to sink in for me as I am a true “people-pleaser” which really doesn’t help when it comes to putting myself first for my own well-being. I hope others are able to share their stories with you about how to cope after any kind of relationship breakdown. Personally, trying to keep on top of that self-care has become the most important thing, as I have others to be strong for too. As @vm-thanasis43 mentioned, self-compassion is soo important. We really need to be our own best friend through times of grief.

    Thank you for your contribution @flowerpower, they are some positive strategies, and it is great that you have those social support networks which act as a buffer to assist you in moving forward.

    How are you both doing today? I hope you are able to smile at yourself today for how far you have come in your own journey!


    Hello everyone.

    I live in Australia but I have a five year old son in Europe who I cannot see. His mother will not allow contact with me, her own mother or her own brother. I do not understand the reasons why but it is distressing for those of us who are excluded. We are all loving people who just want to have a healthy relationship.

    I feel intense loneliness and isolation, even when around other people, and feeling that no one can truly understand how I feel. I have spoken separately with another guy in a similar situation, but all the support groups I have contacted centred around domestic custody disputes etc and weren’t relevant to me.

    I have seen my son only three times, the last time when he was 6 months old, and not in the last four years. It is a pain in my heart that doesn’t seem to fade.

    I feel like I have tucked away these feelings, because every time I would see a friend or peer with their children I would fall into a crippling sadness, barely able to maintain composure. I would often go and cry silently somewhere alone afterwards. This has repeated a lot and my coping mechanism has shifted towards just not thinking about it and slightly disassociating from my situation. Keeping head above water.

    It is incredibly difficult to visit Europe and try to see my son and fail time and time again. Being emotionally broken and then going through those motions on the other side of the world without any support. I am unsure if I will be able to maintain my sanity and keep trying.

    I have found it difficult to find resources particular to my situation, with a child overseas and a vengeful ex. I am aware there exists a legal remedy however it is not like here in Australia, some countries take a different approach. For example the European Court of Human RIghts forced Germany to change it’s laws as unmarried fathers essentially had no rights. Going legal would require to prove I have a residence in Germany with a job there and spare bedroom for my son to visit etc. Anyway I see going legal as an absolute last resort in getting some access, as the process usually hurts everybody.

    I have been trying to find a psychologist to work with however even with a medicare rebate it is challenging for me to afford. I have also been struggling to find a psychologist that can help with what I am going through, however I recently learned this would be classified as Grief and Loss.

    What I do find helps, with all kinds of sadness is action, taking action and being active. Sitting around focusing on my sadness is crippling. Looking after myself, eating well, getting lots of exercise and being in nature, fresh air, sunshine, swimming, friends, and being kind to other people rather than let my pain become expressed onto others. I am so grateful for the relationships that I have in my life. I just wish I could see my son.

I am not sure what I am trying to achieve sharing on this forum. Maybe someone knows something that might be useful for me in coping with this situation. Maybe for those who may come after me to know that you’re not alone, and things will get better.

    VM- thanasis43

    Hi James,

    I’m so sorry that I am just now seeing your message and that no one has replied sooner. I really appreciate all that you shared, especially since, as you say, it may help those who read your story in future to know that they are not alone.

    I imagine the loss you are experiencing is excruciatingly painful but also probably less recognised by those around you than if your son was no longer living. This is known as disenfranchised grief and this type of loss can be particularly tricky as the griever is usually given fewer opportunities to talk about the grief they are experiencing.

    It sounds like you are very resourceful and have come up with several strategies for boosting your mood and taking care of your mental health, which is both reassuring and positive. I would encourage you to keep doing all the things you listed and to lean on the healthy relationships you have in your life.

    You may also like to read the Griefline resource on loneliness and isolation ( or relationship loss to help you cope with some of what you are feeling.

    Please keep talking and hopefully others may be able to provide useful advice too.


    Hi James and all, I am new to this forum. My husband and I are both experiencing disenfranchised grief due to estrangement from our adult son who is 26. We have been together for 32 years.

    While it is not a custody situation and there is no vengeful ex, I believe I can relate to James’s feelings.

    My husband is not comfortable talking about it and that just makes it harder.

    A few years ago my husband went through a difficult patch. We both had stressful jobs, or youngest daughter was suffering from a serious and debilitating illness and we were trying to cope with my husband’s ptsd. He had been exposed to alot of trauma in his job over the last 32 years. While we always put our family first and worked hard, our daughter illness burned us out. This led to tension and conduct which triggered my husband’s ptsd.

    Our son was way at uni and hadn’t lived at home for some time. There were a few occasions where we spoke on the phone when he expressed issues with his dad. He blamed his dad for being up with his girlfriend when he was 18 and for the issues in our relationship. He asked me if seeing a counsellor was a good idea and I supported him.

    Sadly, our son came to me and said he wanted to cut his dad out of his life. I told him I would never advocate that as a solution, that he would hurt more than just his dad, he would hurt all the people around us and himself most of all.

    A couple of months later, my husband and I had an argument. He then had a meltdown which left me distressed. My daughters came their brother. The sound of his voice made me feel instantly comforted and safe. Unfortunately, he then told me he was going to follow through with his plan.

    He came home the next weekend and told me that if I wanted to have a relationship with all my children, I had to choose in that very moment to walk away from my husband, my home and my life and he would support me to do a financial settlement but i want to cost him for anything else. He was not there to support me and didn’t want to know if i was upset because he had his career to focus on.

    If I didn’t comply, he would cut me out that same way as he was about to do to his Dad. That was the price I would pay.

    I was too fragile and shattered to even cope with what he was saying. To me, it was like a nightmare and I literally crumbled on the floor in tears. I felt isolated, alone and destroyed with noone to advocate for me or support me. My daughters seemed unable to negotiate with him too.

    In the weeks that followed life became hell. My husband was angry at me for my sons actions and my son was angry at me for not complying as well as angry at this dad.

    Trying to cope with this on top of the heartache of my marriage almost broke. Inmy darkest, loneliest and most excruciating times, I was alone, except for my dog. I was not a burden to my son. I didn’t call him to cry or be needy. It was hard but somehow my husband and I have been able to work through all this and we are truly happy to be together. Our biggest problem is our estranged son.

    Fast forward 18 months and he is hostile, disrespectful and rude if I dare even send him a text message. He has alot of contact with or friends and family who are now trying to keep it secret. He willingly tells off his sisters for not knowing enough about what’s going on in the family but refuses to talk to us. He told his sisters that if they upset him, he’ll cut them off too, just like he did to mum and dad. It is like emotional abuse on top if the grief for the lost relationship with our son. I am allay waking in eggshells with our extended family and friends because I am losing trust in them. It seems noone will call him out on his behaviour.

    The pain is with me always and doesn’t really subside. I try to distract myself, do grounding exercises to get through difficult moments, all the usual strategies but the pain of loss never goes away. If I’m awake, it’s there. It’s getting worse lately because our son has taken to hanging out with friends and extended family and even his sisters but not us. It is leaving this people uncomfortable around us. The longer he drags things out, the darker the shadow cast over is as parents and the more isolated we feel. After having been so close and making so many sacrifices for our children, and striving to be good parents when we had no support, it is gut wrenching and heartbreaking. I’ve spoken to a psychologist who told me to tell him how hurt i am, call his behaviour out because it is coercive control, emotional blackmail and a host of other things. It didn’t work. He just upped the ante without remorse. We’re shattered and sometimes it’s hard to just be awake ley some function. Not sure that anyone can help but if anyone takes the time to read my post, I will be grateful.

    vm Lollie

    @missjedi I am sorry to hear about the relationship breakdown within your family. It can be so hard when you are put in a position by someone you love where you feel you do not have an option or time to process what is happening as it sounds like you felt that is what was happening.

    It is good you have a psychologist to speak with and gain advise from. Has it helped you to be able to draw those boundary lines with your son and tell him how you feel? Sometimes, even if the other person does not respond to us straight away, they may need time to think about our words.
    It does sound like your psychologist has given you some good techniques to practice for when you cant sleep or when the grief perhaps gets a bit intense for you. Are these helping you with sleeping or would you like a few links from our webpage?

    I think it is beautiful and a real show of character strength on your behalf that even if you are met with a hostile response you are still reaching out and showing you are not letting go of the relationship from your end. A parents love for their child is a wonderful gift and so special an endless love.
    Keeping that door open for him to come back is a wonderful way a mother always shows her unconditional love to her children.

    You mentioned this is hard for your husband to discuss what is happening. Aside from your psychologist do you have close people in your life supporting you that you can talk with openly?
    I know it doesn’t always seam like a big thing but to have your dog with you, in moments like you expressed above, can be the greatest blessing. Sometimes a wet nose and furry dog cuddle can say ‘I Love You’ in a million ways. I am glad you had your dog with you when you really needed that extra love.

    All the best Missjedi for you and your family


    Hi Missjedi, As parents, it can be incredibly difficult to navigate an estranged relationship with an adult child. The pain and hurt of not having a close relationship with a child you have raised and loved can be overwhelming. However, there are ways to manage this difficult situation and potentially even work towards reconciliation.

    First and foremost, it is important to remember that you are not alone in this situation. Many parents experience estrangement from their adult children, and it is a common struggle. It is important to reach out to others who have gone through similar experiences and seek support from them.

    It is also important to take a step back and reflect on your own actions and behaviour. Have you said or done something that may have contributed to the estrangement? It is important to take responsibility for your own actions and apologise for any mistakes you may have made.

    Once you have taken the time to reflect on your own actions, it is important to give your adult child space and time to process their own feelings and emotions. It is not uncommon for adult children to need time and distance to heal and come to terms with the estrangement.

    It is also important to remember that reconciliation may not be possible or may take a long time. It is important to be patient and not push for reconciliation before your adult child is ready.

    In the meantime, it is important to focus on your own well-being and make sure to take care of yourself. This can include seeking therapy, joining a support group, or finding other outlets for self-care.

    Ultimately, managing an estranged relationship with an adult child as a parent can be a difficult and painful journey, but it is possible to work towards reconciliation and healing. Remember to take responsibility for your own actions, give your adult child space and time to process their feelings, and focus on your own well-being.



    I just found this site tonight and wanted to share my story.

    I’ve been estranged from my parents for 7 years and I have flourished as a person, my mental health has never been better and I feel like a burden has been lifted off my shoulders.

    I can honestly say that I don’t want to reconcile with them as the trauma of childhood is far too great to overcome. You can forgive but you can’t forget.

    My parents were young (mother 18 & father 21) when they had me. I have a younger sister who speaks to them, but keeps them at a distance for the sake of her children and her husband.

    I was an abused child( mentally and physically) and the majority of my childhood memories are of a constant never ending fear and endless anxiety. I had to see a therapist to “fix” me which has helped. I battled drug addiction as a young adult as a result of the childhood trauma and I’m so thankful I’m 10 years clean.

    My father would beat me until I had blood bruises or a bloodied nose. Wetting the bed was the worst, sometimes he’d lock me outside which used to scare me. I used to think it was normal for 6 year olds to be locked outside or locked in the bathroom at night when they wet the bed. He’d feel guilty and the next day would buy me chocolate & Coca Cola. He’d never apologise though. He was sadistic. I ended up in hospital once from a beating. He told the doctor I fell out of a tree my bike to explain my black eye and injuries. I had to wear a neck brace for a few weeks. I was 7. And that’s why I still have trauma today from his beatings but it’s much better than what it was. I don’t want to talk about the “other” abuses as it’s still triggering.

    My mother is undiagnosed bi polar and she was just as crazy and still is. I’d plead to her for help but she never did anything. My mother left my father 3x times but she always took him back. She’d give me the silent treatment and ignore me for days at a time if she was angry with me. When I got older she wouldn’t speak to me for weekend at a time. She was estranged from my sister for 3 years as she didn’t like her husband. Her psychological abuse was on par with my fathers physical abuse. She sat me down at 12 years old and told me that if I ever came out gay, she’d commit suicide.

    I severed ties with my parents 7 years ago for good. Before that we barely saw each other and it would be the occasional abusive phone call or text message from my mother or my dad asking for money.

    My anxiety is back as my mother has reached out wanting to connect and I’m not having a bar of it. She’s still a narcissist and believes it isn’t her fault as she was a young mother. She won’t apologise and said I should apologise because I was an unruly child that needed discipline. My father knows our relationship can’t be mended and he’s left me alone.

    I don’t want reconciliation, but my aunts are on my back saying I should forgive my parents and be the better person. I can forgive them but I don’t want them in my life. I’d love an apology but they don’t apologise. It is what it is.

    This is my story.

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