50 thoughts on “Unloved Daughters and the Shame of Estrangement

  • July 3, 2018 at 10:32 am

    So true. I appreciate the research sources. I rarely tell anyone that I am estranged from my mother, for the reasons you mentioned, because when I did, I saw the same look in their eyes. It’s instant blame and shame on the daughter. They certainly don’t want to hear the long story. The short story, about how I finally had to break off contact to protect myself because she was telling lies about me and my husband that could have gotten us in serious trouble, is also hard to believe for someone who has not experienced this level of abuse as an adult. The mother is always given the the benefit of the doubt. I hope that changes as more people become aware.

    • July 3, 2018 at 10:35 am

      That’s why I write pieces like this. This is part of the dialogue we have to have about mothering, motherhood, and meeting children’s emotional needs.

      • July 4, 2018 at 1:26 am

        What about the mothers who learn thru counseling how they were neglectful or truly do not know what is at the core of the estrangement for a long time? I’m estranged from my adult child, but I sought help to be better, to see my own mistakes, mistakes passed on to me from my own mother, and I’m raising a grandchild very knowledgeable now, I’m in attunement, where I was not with my own child…we do the best we can till we know better is that not so?

      • July 4, 2018 at 6:19 am

        Cathie, Your response to estrangement is, alas, relatively rare–and I wish it weren’t.You did the work and learned. You remain estranged from your adult child? Best, Peg

  • July 3, 2018 at 11:13 am

    I was suffering my mother’s emotional abuse for all my life when I decided to cut her off at age 44. I m 52 now and I did not attend her funeral 3 y ago. I don’t even know where dhe is buried.Our relationship was always conflictual and she didn’t attend my only son’s birth when I was 30. She had the same attitude towards my older sister and she was supporting and loving to my older brother. I had to estrange myself in order to gain my sanity. I want to Counseling and felt validated for the first time in my life. My therapist was the first person to hear me saying how much I hated the way she treated me and that I was happy to live away from her. It was a relief that he never judged me. Later, I became a counselor myself and I treat wounded children from their parents’ abuse. I find it hard though to write an article or even talk in public about the issue. It is so helpful to see that other people dare to talk and write about it. Thank you so much.

    • July 3, 2018 at 11:25 am

      I write about it all the time and feel zero shame. You should try talking about it, especially as a counselor; we need to get the word out. Best, Peg

    • July 3, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      I watched my mother deride my older sister her whole childhood and favor my brother who was brutally mean to her. She had to stay away for her own sake. The same happened to me and I chose to not estrange. I wanted to figure out who she really was. And I couldn’t bear to do it when my sister had. I am a softey. I have a lot of wounds and no regrets. I guess it depends on the person. My sister had to. But I was in therapy so l was able to handle it better. Otherwise it would have been less contact

      • July 4, 2018 at 6:29 am

        Again, an individual choice. I don’t advocate estrangement; I simply want others not to judge those who’ve made the painful choice.

  • July 3, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    I’ve over 50, and have had issues on and off with my Mum all my life. I’ve been estranged from her, and she’s also estranged herself from me at times. But we’ve always managed to reconcile.
    It wasn’t until I went through a soul awakening, over the last two years, that I could see that I had lots of work to do on myself. I gave up on looking at what everyone else was doing, and looked at what I was doing. I mean really looked. I went deeper into myself than I’ve ever done, it was the most painful thing emotionally. It even brought me to contemplating suicide on a few occasions.
    Bottom line is, the anger and resentment I had towards my Mum had nothing to do with her as such, it was my emotional reaction to everything that was causing the drama(s). I could then see that my way of reacting was also causing dramas in many of my other relationships.
    By learning about who I am, right down to the core, and then processing and accepting it all, I’ve found peace, compassion, understanding, and a newfound love and respect for my Mum, that I would never have gotten if I’d just walked away and divorced her.
    She’s now 83, and her health is not good, and I’m so sad that I couldn’t have had this realisation many years before. I’m really gonna miss her when she finally goes, even though there were times in my past that I wished she would just go away.
    Before you divorce yourself from anyone, I challenge you to ask yourself, is it them, or is it ME!?!

    • July 4, 2018 at 6:27 am

      Why is it, do you suppose, that you were so reactive, and unable to process emotion? How did your mother treat you growing up? This isn’t,after all, a relationship of equals; a mother has all power for many years. That said, you seem to assume that the drama was your fault somehow and that a daughter should take responsibility generally. Most of the daughters I’ve interviewed have blamed themselves, thought they were somehow unlovable or lacking, and that was why their mothers didn’t love them. That’s just not true. In my opinion, your question of “is it them or me?” has been asked and answered. It was them.

      • July 4, 2018 at 9:17 pm

        Peg, thank you for your reply to Sharon. There are reasons for daughters to be reactive, in general, and loving mothers don’t “estrange themselves” from daughters, even when the daughters “cause drama.” That’s not to say that we shouldn’t look inside ourselves, and if we have truly done wrong we should be sorry and do what we can to make it better. However, feelings can easily deceive, especially when family members know this and are willing to join in that deception. One usually doesn’t have anger and resentment toward others for no reason. What has the other person actually done? Have they lied, used cruel words, slandered you with others, blamed you for everything that went wrong, ignored your needs, deceived you and then acted like you were the crazy one? If so, then your anger and resentment are normal reactions, and not the cause of the drama. The initial unloving behavior is the cause. Of course, if you’re the one doing these things, then you are genuinely at fault. But, when the mother is unloving, or even abusive, daughters do tend to think it is their fault, for many reasons that Peg explains clearly elsewhere, and an unloving mother is highly unlikely to admit that the drama in the relationship began with her behavior. The power a mother has over her daughter is profound, and it doesn’t end in childhood.

      • July 10, 2018 at 9:59 pm

        I’ve found the comments on here very enlightening to say the least. But I still feel this issue is being looked at from a very unbalanced perspective.
        Yes I’ve been estranged from and by my Mum, but I’ve come to terms with that and have worked out why.
        My daughter, who I brought up as a single mum, has cut me out of her life, and after counselling on that issue, I was told my daughter was possibly a Borderline Personality Disorder sufferer.
        After years of counselling though, I started to notice something. Every counsellor I was seeing was more or less saying everyone else had the problem, giving people labels like narcissistic, BPD, etc etc and even what you’ve said to me Peg, that IT WAS THEM.
        Well that’s just not true and also really unhelpful. And lots of people now get on their high horse and point fingers at people and call them toxic, without actual taking the time to look at their own actions, behaviours and motives first.
        And Peg, just so you know, I have gone to counseling to try and work on my issues, and the issues with my daughter. I’m open to accepting responsibility for my part in the drama, but I refuse to accept full blame. I’d happily go to counselling with my daughter to further promote healing between us also. So hopefully you can have a bit more of an open mind about mothers from here on in. Just because you have not interviewed a daughter with a Mum who is willing to work on things, doesn’t mean we are not out there. I hope you also take into account the fact that many of the daughters you are counseling are not being 100% honest, with you or themselves.

      • July 11, 2018 at 6:18 am

        Sharon, I’m neither a therapist nor a psychologist so I don’t use labels in my work; I describe maternal behaviors.I have been writing about mothers and daughters for just short of twenty years, and never interview daughters who are younger than early thirties because transitions in both the daughter’s and mother’s lives cause stress, such as the entry into early adulthood. Most of the daughters I end up writing about are in their late thirties to sixties. I don’t interview daughters of mothers who were addicted or had undiagnosed mental health issues. My goal isn’t to provide a balanced vision of every possible mother-daughter relationship but to focus on the long-term effects inadequate maternal behavior has on a daughter’s development. That is an under-addressed issue in a culture where the mother is always given the benefit of the doubt. I am not “counseling” daughters; I am a chronicler of what inadequate mothering does to a girl and woman in the long term.
        You don’t mention whether you went into counseling before you had a child or during her childhood to deal with your own wounds; that makes a huge difference. My point of view is that this is not a relationship of equals because the child needs her mother in ways that the mother doesn’t need her and, moreover, the mother alone has the power to shape the connection in childhood. Finally, I am surprised to hear that your therapist was willing to “diagnose” your daughter whom she never met. Peg

  • July 4, 2018 at 1:22 am

    Thank you Peg, my decision to end contact with my mother took years and has been the hardest but best thing I’ve ever done.

  • July 4, 2018 at 7:03 am

    I am sad that estrangement happened to mothers and their children. In my case, I have been a loving mother and showing equally love to my 2 sons because I was the unloved daughter of my mother, and I vowed never to do that to my children.
    One of my son is estranged from me. It is very painful for me. I can’t go to a counselor to tell my story for the shame that I feel. I have tried hard to give and to provide for my children. Over endulging is my fault. When I gave too much and overlook their disrespectful attitudes over times, I lost that parents and child’s boundaries. When I tried to restablished it, my son cut me off.
    I hope for all the parents and children who estranged from each other that reconciliation will happen before it too late. Times are wasting while estrangement prolong. I miss my son every day. This is so heart brokenly painful.

    • July 4, 2018 at 7:25 am

      Shame shouldn’t keep you from counseling. Therapy works so please avail yourself of it. Best, Peg

  • July 4, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    I have 3 adult children. My eldest daughter loves me and says I was a good mom. She often expresses appreciation for me and the little things I do/did, and she calls me when she’s upset and needs to talk. My second child, also a daughter, posts on social media what a terrible mother I was. My son communicates necessities with me, here doesn’t chat much but he doesn’t hate me.

    My heart breaks over the estrangement with my middle child. Sure, I made mistakes, but many kids’ mom’s have done worse and they are forgiven and everyone moves on. My daughter won’t even talk to me to let me apologize for mistakes I made.

    In the meantime, my ex throws fuel in the fire of her hatred, and tells her that the oldest child who loves me “doesn’t know her own mind” and is “brainwashed” by me.

  • July 5, 2018 at 1:58 am

    Thank you so much for writing this, Peg. I’m just about to turn 50 and I went no contact with my Mum over four years ago. It was the hardest decision and best action that I have taken for myself. The first few months of divorcing her I really thought that the Earth was going to open and swallow me for divorcing her!! I waded through those early months of temporary irrational fears, ideas of obligation and sense of guilt (FOG). I spent decades cycling thru FOG cycles while interacting with a medically non compliant schizophrenic mother. Prior to divorcing her I had became partially paralyzed from multiple sclerosis while raising an 8 year old child by myself. Mum had decompensated to the point where divorcing her was the most mindful thing for me to do for my well-being and ability to parent. The cultural stigma about divorcing parents has to be met with more education and empowerment. Our society might need the comparison of how domestic abuse survivors were so similarly shamed and dismissed just a few decades ago. Wishing you well.

  • July 5, 2018 at 11:34 am

    In my case it was not a difficult decision to near-estrange my severely abusive mother 2years ago at age 40 …the hard part was losing my good relationships with my brother and father.

    She used my self protective act of low contact as a weapon to ‘prove’ what an evil selfish and sick person I am. They are obviously confused by the contradictions between my lifelong good loving character toward them and others, vs my mother’s slanders. They try to be in touch with me but she inserts herself in the guise of sending me messages although she can just text me or call and leave a vm. I live abroad and don’t engage, whereas they all live in the same city and she has aggressively worked on them. They choose to turn a blind eye on the many lives she has harmed or ruined with her covert malignant narcissism. They too want to preserve the image of an upstanding good family.

    Despite this, it was my very very best decision. The stress, intrusive thoughts and sense of despair ceased immediately. It’s like finding a cool stream after thirsting in the hot desert my whole life. I have peace and hope and I’m never looking back.

  • July 6, 2018 at 11:15 am

    I am going through the divorce part now, after years of trying to set boundaries and maintain a distanced relationship with my mother. My therapist told me to create strong boundaries or sever ties. Honestly, I should have walked away 15 years ago when the full extent of her narcism showed and I wasn’t giving her grandchildren fast enough so she began, without my consent or knowledge, seeking a surrogate in the extended family to carry my child for me. It was another crossing of the line she had done many times despite my many attempts to keep her at bay, all with me blowing up and her apologizing, to have it all happen again. But I kept trying to maintain a relationship with her for the sake of…my dad? …extended family? …because “she’s my mom?” I don’t know, really.

    I tried. I set boundaries. And it worked for a while, but she continued working from her angle, and it’s exhausting to force yourself to keep a relationship like this. After I had my children, the relationship changed to be about them and the boundaries had to be reset. And in typical fashion, she keeps pushing that line, shoving the boundary, until now when she has jumped the line and started her manipulative behaviors with my child. Now my husband and I have severed contact until we decide what this relationship should be. And I have tremendous guilt about severing this relationship now because my children have a relationship with her that I now have to meticulously tend to, or have a complicated discussion with them about why she isn’t around anymore.

    I don’t want to have to keep doing this. I don’t want the pattern to continue. I don’t want them to see her behaviors and think these are acceptable. Mostly though, I don’t want to work this hard for a relationship this toxic, where I am the only one who is listening.

  • July 6, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Born into a family of maternal narcissistic dysfunction, I’ve struggled for decades to correct what was done to me. And the depression that comes with it has me hating every fiber of my being. Because. Who dislikes their own mother? “Awful people do” society screams back. So I’ve lived like a warrior continually battling with myself and trying to explain to the lucky ones that yes, a mother CAN be awful. In my case, as the youngest of 8 and the rest all boys, I was tortured constantly by them and then laughed at by my mother when I cried. When the molesting started, she blamed it on me and when I began throw-up every morning, she finally took me to a doctor and told me she’d only take me once and then I better stop being so selfish! ??????? Today, I realize it was the multiple family members accosting me that made me sick. So, suffice it to say, she damaged me throughly and I’ll never be normal. Because what your own mother doesn’t love you, (regardless of the dynamics behind her behavior) you can never, ever, ever, love yourself.

    • July 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      Susan, That’s not true–the part about never, ever loving yourself. Therapy can help you heal as can self-help. This much I know for sure. Best, Peg

  • July 7, 2018 at 10:30 am

    We should stop promulgating the myth that adult child/parent estrangement is not a growing trend and is always a parents fault. And if we’re therapists, witnesses or bystanders, we should listen to both sides before we judge. No one person is ever capable of telling the whole story!

    • July 7, 2018 at 11:56 am

      Anue Nue, It would be more honest if you identified yourself as closely identified with the cause of Grandparental Alienation in what is a public forum. I will answer you again as I have before: Children and parents aren’t equals. Children need parental love, support, and attunement; a parent doesn’t have those hardwired needs. And no adult child cuts a parent out of his/her life without a reason or without spending years thinking about it. (The exceptions are adult children who suffer from addiction or mental health issues but that is another story.) And no one cuts a grandparent off without good reason either. And yes, a truthful person who’s not in denial is, indeed, capable of telling “the whole story.” Yours, Peg Streep

      • July 7, 2018 at 12:59 pm

        Ms. Streep, as a mother who had a very close bond and relationship with my only child and daughter, I beg to differ with you. Yes, I also have ties with Grandparent alienation groups but it is my daughter who has estranged not only me, but her entire family as well as any friends she had prior to her relationship with her husband. Everything changed once he came into my daughter’s and granddaughter’s lives. He is not the bio father of my grandchild who we help raise for the first 3 years of her life. Suddenly we became “dangerous to her family” for no reason that was ever identified. I always had a full life – I worked, raised my daughter and allowed her to be herself with her own likes and dislikes. Once she turned 18 it was like she became a different person. She started living with a group of people her age who lived from house to house, in vacant homes, or whether they were allowed to stay. None of them worked. I suspect drugs and some abuse by the males in this group. When she got pregnant at 20 (though God knows how many times I told her I would help her get birth control, she refused it) and the baby’s father ended up in jail, she came home to live with us. We offered to assist her with college or some type of trade training. But my granddaughter’s father got out of prison so she wanted an apartment. We assisted her with that but he only stayed around for a couple of weeks. While my dtr worked, we watched the baby granddaughter having her a minimum of 6 days a week for at least 8 hours a day. Then in comes the new boyfriend who soon became her partner and everything began to change again. Suddenly any problems the two of them were having became our fault. Finally in 2015 she “divorced” me/us and we had no contact for over a year. Do you have any understanding of what it is like to have your relationship with your only child and grandchild stripped from you? Apparently you only provide therapy to “unloved” daughters and not to “unloved” parents. She came back to us 3 different times over two months in the beginning of 2017 but would stay for a week at a time and then go back to her husband. I assure you, we did not try to talk her into leaving him or in any way suggest she should change her life. Finally we told her, she needed to decide to either work things out with her husband or leave him and either way we would be supportive of her but she could not continue to run back and forth between her home and ours. We continued communications and a few visits for 6 months until she “divorced” us for a second time. I have not seen her or my granddaughter (with whom we had a close bond) for approximately 9 months again. I do not understand how you can be so certainly one-sided in your views. Your use of the research is one-sided with only research on estranged children, particularly daughters, being used to support your views. Where is the research that tells the story from the parents’ points of view – the estranged/unloved parents. I have never had mental health issues, been addicted to any drugs or abused alcohol. Nor am I abusive nor have I ever been. I love my daughter and granddaughter very much. I am also educated and am a registered nurse in her 60’s.

      • July 7, 2018 at 1:21 pm

        Dana Olsen, First of all, I am not a therapist. Second of all, you are describing a daughter who is clearly troubled, if not necessarily diagnosed, given what you say about her life trajectory. You don’t mention her drug use but that of her close affiliates. Her baby’s father went to jail and rather than better herself, she decided to live with him. These are NOT the situations I write about and the research on estrangement doesn’t focus on these either.Your situation is very different indeed and I have never written a single word that would deny that. The question of why your daughter is as self-destructive as she is could only be answered by a therapist who treated her, and only a therapist could weigh in on your behavior. I do not write about situations like yours and setting it up like this is a straw man. Yours, Peg Streep

      • July 7, 2018 at 10:52 pm

        Sorry Peg, but just because you choose not to cite them in any of your writings there are quite a number of real therapists, psychologists and even psychiatrists who disagree with your inexpert opinion “And no adult child cuts a parent out of his/her life without a reason or without spending years thinking about it. (The exceptions are adult children who suffer from addiction or mental health issues but that is another story.)” And no one cuts a grandparent off without good reason either.”

        “We live in a culture that assumes if there is an estrangement, the parents must have done something really terrible. But this is not a story of adult children cutting off parents who made egregious mistakes. It’s about parents who were good parents, who made mistakes that were certainly within normal limits.” ~Joshua Coleman, Ph.D.

      • July 8, 2018 at 6:19 am

        I don’t know the derivation of that quotation but I actually have read Dr. Coleman’s book, WHEN PARENTS HURT, and interviewed him years ago (we had the same editor at the time) and his vision is a lot more nuanced than that. He absolutely acknowledges critical, rejecting, abusive, and controlling parents as a possible source of family estrangement, and counsels what a parent should do to take ownership of how he or she parented. As it happens, my article was neither pro nor against adult parent/child estrangement; it focused on the shame adult children feel and are made to feel.

      • July 8, 2018 at 9:29 am

        The quote above from Dr. Coleman is from the book, WHEN PARENTS HURT, Peg. And the operative word in your comment above is “POSSIBLE”. Of course, as Dr. Coleman points out in all of his writings, it’s possible that “critical, rejecting, abusive, and controlling parents” can and often do become the primary source of estrangement. Yet, a parents behavior, or lack of behavior and/or an adult child’s childhood experience or quality of relationship with parents are not the only “possible” sources of any kind of estrangement, including mother/daughter estrangements, or grandparent/grandchild estrangements, as Dr. Coleman and a long list of others who actually work with clients experiencing estranged relationships will readily tell you. In fact, any real therapist who works with estranged humans of any age or gender is honest will admit there’s always two sides to every story, and sometimes even multiple sides to the story. And when it comes to adult children, which we and even our parents all are, –“It’s not uncommon for adult children to tell highly exaggerated versions of the past. This is sometimes because they don’t feel like their complaints or their need to complain is sufficient so they have to make it bigger to seem worth complaining about.” ~ Joshua Coleman, Ph.D

        BTW- Although I agree with you that shame is a real handicapper on both sides of the equation of estrangement, I don’t believe we can really ever eliminate shame while we are busy blaming others. Both shame and blame interfere with natural and healthy guilt.

      • July 8, 2018 at 9:41 am

        Your cherry-picking Dr. Coleman’s words by highlighting a single sentence about exaggeration is insulting not just to his work but to the many adult children who are actively trying to reclaim themselves from not having their emotional needs met in childhood. Again, you are simply trying to get space on a public platform for your views which presumably have to do with being an estranged parent for no reason. I have given you the room and I’ve said all I will say. Owning your behavior as a parent goes a long way, as Dr. Coleman makes clear and I do in my own work.

  • July 7, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    It’s a cultural tragedy that so many daughters will not, or cannot acknowledge that their estrangement, their drama, their volatile relationships were seeded in the young years following birth – seeded by parent failures. Sadly they know that they will be punished by others for acknowledging this truth. For most, it’s only a healthy therapeutic relationship that can help them receive the nurturance and wisdom that their mothers did not provide; for some estrangement is enough, at least until they are clear that their mother failed them. Yes, society all too readily blames women, especially daughters for just about everything connected with elder care and elder relationships. Some mothers are so wounded and so toxic that it becomes soul’s requirement that the daughters remove themselves from the toxin. I’m all for being real. Sometimes a very limited relationship like an occasional card is all one can manage without being abused. If even this results in abuse, then stop it. The broad culture is a patriarchy, and we need to learn to live within it by first owning our souls. That process, by which we own our lives as women is often a singular journey of separation from the patriarchy.

  • July 8, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    I am so happy to find your blog and be able to read this article. That look you get when you let slip that you do not talk to your mother is hurtful. For 10 years, I went back and forth like a ping pong ball between talking to my mother and “taking a break.” Every single time it would devolve into emotional and verbal abuse and when it would be pointed out to her, she would either say she didn’t remember, I remembered incorrectly or if it bothered me so much I should seek counseling. This last time I finally did seek counseling and was able to gain the strength to understand her behavior was not my fault and while I crave having a mother, she is not the mother I need nor deserve.

    As far as cutting other family members out, it is usually unintentional but you can only listen to someone tell you repeatedly to talk to your abuser because she is your mother and you should learn to put up with it for so long. I have tried to reach out to those same family members, I even sent them screenshots of the text messages or emails or voicemails and all they can say is “yeah that’s cruel but she’s your mom so you have to deal with it. It’s just how she is.” Well, if that is just how she is, I do not have to put up with it.

    • July 8, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      Olivia, You’re welcome. I am trying to pry open the cupboard where family secrets are kept and get a real dialogue going. Best, Peg

  • July 9, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Four years ago when I was going through an estrangement with my mom, I found this phrase to be so pervasive when I would explain the reasons:
    “..but she’s your mother.” Along with “but they’re your family,” I came to the understanding just how damaging those words can be. They were internalized into my own thoughts before I caught myself. They keep people in some very abusive and oppressive relationships. I am estranged yet again, and I still hear those guilt-invoking words run through my mind. This time, I think no-contact is for good. I found out by accident a few months ago (at age 51) that I was actually adopted by my dad and that I have a bio-father. Mom was enraged and blames me for invading her privacy. Thank you for this post.

    • July 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      Jennifer, Invading her privacy? Yikes. How about your right to know your history? Going no contact doesn’t heal you; it simply gives you the room and air to begin the process of healing. Key to that is mourning the mother you deserved. Best, Peg

      • July 10, 2018 at 12:34 pm

        That is what she says. Also, that she is the victim here and that it’s embarrassing to have everyone know about her “sex life.” However, when I first asked her after a cousin let it slip, she denied it. Dad went along with her and said it was a “salacious lie.” I didn’t find out for sure until a DNA test. It’s a bit twisted. Yes, in this space of estrangement I am in a process of healing with the help of a therapist. A lot of grieving, on many levels.

      • July 10, 2018 at 3:52 pm

        Same can be said to what you do to mom’s.
        We are human too. I am that mother.
        Don’t demonize all parents so quickly.

      • July 10, 2018 at 3:55 pm

        I’m not demonizing mothers; I am addressing the issues of the roughly 40-50% of all children whose emotional needs weren’t met in childhood. They need healing, and I write to help them heal. Motherhood doesn’t need any more defenders; it has plenty.

  • July 10, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Everyone gets older. Truly I hope that none of you will or have done anything that is “unforgiveable” to your children, friends, or family.
    Do you ever think of your parent as a human being and realize he/she has lived a life before having you? Maybe they did not do everything/anything with an intent to harm you. Perhaps they were abused, or had things done to them that society made them push down or feel “less than” for? Or perhaps a bad marriage they couldn’t leave? or never felt strong enough to leave? Felt it was best for the kids to have a home? Tried to give you a better situation than they grew up with.
    They did the best with what they were dealt. As we all do.
    Granted there are evil people out there.
    But then there are broken young parents/people, who over time have worked on themselves as they grow older. Have apologized, and offered to go to family counseling. But their adult child says “no – you are not good for me” and will not forgive. This same adult child is not growing as a person. For they do not know how to forgive. Everyone around them is “disrespectful” to them if they disagree. “How dare them! They don’t know the life I’ve led.” Everything bad that happens to them is someone else’s fault. They remember nothing good in their childhood life. Or totally disregard it.

    For your own sake , I hope that all of you find forgiveness in your heart before (or after) your parent’s death. Forgive yourself and whoever else you blame for who made you the person you are.

    • July 10, 2018 at 3:47 pm

      Sorry, but I have yet to interview a single daughter whose mother sincerely volunteered to go into counseling and admitted her mistakes and who turned her mother down. NOT one. As to forgiveness, that is a personal choice. This is the kind of comment that muzzles unloved children and induces shame.

    • July 10, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      Sometimes your best isn’t enough. Also, forgiveness doesn’t mean the hurt or injures forgets. It also does not mean you will be allowed back into the injured’s life to reoffend.

      Many serial killers and rapists have poor childhoods, that doesn’t mean they aren’t given consequences for their actions.

  • July 10, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    The other side of estrangement (not the focus of this article) is parental alienation syndrome. The toxic abusive parent will often weaponize the child and alienate her from the innocent loving parent. It can happen with or without divorce.

    Sadly, dysfunction and personality disorders almost always repeat down generations. In my case I was an unloved daughter, married and divorced an abuser. I have been fighting his alienation of my children from me for 12 years, across states and countries.

    In short, your child can estrange from you despite you being a loving good parent by the doings of the toxic other parent or relatives. But this is not what this article is about.

    • July 10, 2018 at 9:13 pm

      That’s right. This is NOT what this article is about.

      • August 3, 2018 at 9:24 am

        Although the remit of this article is not parental alienation, I think every discussion of mother/daughter estrangement must take into account that there may be an alienating father who is doing all he can to sow discord against a loving mother. In many cases, the father tells horrible lies about the mother “Your mom never loved you.” preying on the child’s insecurities. He may add, as many abusers do, “Don’t ever ask her about this or you will be in big trouble.”

        All I’m saying is that it is disingenuous to have a single-issue mantra about horrible mothers without taking into consideration all possibilities including parental alienation, or even daughters crossing their mothers’ boundaries and those mothers reacting badly.

        Earlier in a post a daughter said she found out something about her mother and her mother was angr;y for her crossing boundaries. You support the daughter, but you don’t know what boundaries she crossed. Did she steal the mom’s personal diary? Get the keys to her house and do a search when the mom was out? Is the daughter willing to admit that she herself is aggravating the situation?

        I know that some mothers are horrible, but I also know that the mother/daughter relationship is fraught with complexities and I think we all agree that the ideal would be if mothers and daughters could have some kind of relationship, however minimal, where possible.

      • August 6, 2018 at 10:11 pm

        Thank you for putting so succinctly, what I feel about this whole discussion. It’s not a one sided issue, so all sided need to be taken into account

      • August 7, 2018 at 5:50 am

        This piece isn’t about parental alienation and it isn’t even about why an individual daughter decides to go no contact; it’s about the cultural shame associated with estrangement. I don’t have a single issue mantra, n fact; I write about the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship here and elsewhere. You are reading in and have an issue of your own, I suspect.

  • July 11, 2018 at 10:43 am

    In my case ,I’ve been back and forth with my mom for years , not only from a neglectful hurtful childhood , but as an adult my mother wouldn’t listen to my boundaries with myself or my kids ,I’ve been in and out of counselling for years thinking what’s wrong with me that I have no bonding with my mother, the physiologist was trying to get me to distance myself from my mom ,but She always had my sister and I feeling sorry for her as she’s been on her own for 35 years and I was having a hard time doing this ,finally I begged my mom to come to counseling with me and she turned her head away from me and said she won’t discuss this !!!
    That just broke me ,so I went no contact ,it’s been 2 years ,I didn’t hear anything from my mom until just recently ,her asking to see me through my daughter this is after my sister who has borderline personality disorder finally went no contact with my mom .I don’t want to see her as I feel I’m just an option and we will end up in the same place as before,If my mom showed any kind of love or remorse or said should would work on our relationship I would have gladly had a relationship with her. I do feel shame around some people about not seeing my mom ,but I have support from my husband my kids and a few great friends

  • July 16, 2018 at 6:52 am

    What blows my mind is that even with awareness and firsthand experience, many parents still insist on passing on painful legacies down to their children, which eventually leads to intergenerational estrangement. My mother was estranged from her parents for much of her adult life due to physical abuse and a refusal to acknowledge that she was being sexually abused by one of their tenants. Then, my mother ends up physically abusing me and inadvertently punishing me for my father’s sexual abuse. Needless to say, we’ve been estranged for 8 years and I will never see her again (I am estranged from my entire family- father, mother and siblings). After much therapy, I still cannot understand how someone can be fully aware of their cruelty toward their children and do it anyway- it’s inhuman. Peg, I’ve been reading your work for years- thanks for all that you do for our community. I’d love to learn more about the role of parentification as well as covert and overt incest in these cases and how often it factors into estrangement.

    • July 16, 2018 at 7:00 am

      Thanks, Nicole. Because I’m neither a therapist nor a psychologist, I don’t write about sexual abuse or incest; there’s real pathology thrown into the mix there, and even if I were to rely on the research, I’m just not qualified. Alas, the truth is that the mothers I write about are lousy and abusive parents but are relatively healthy. All best, Peg

  • November 19, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Ok. I am in my 40s. Stood up to my mom 2 years ago when she “apologized” to me. I thankfully said, “Sorry for what?” because I wanted to hear it. Well – she proceeded to tell me 1. It was all my fault 2. She never did it and 3. She wasn’t going to change. My mom never apologized to me growing up. In fact, in my teens I called her out on this and she said “I am the parent – you are the child – I have to apologize for nothing.” Really her most recent fauxpology of 2 years ago was just a hoovering technique to get me to play my role as abuse receiver who is supposed to just sit there and take it. Well since I stood up for myself 2 years ago she hasn’t called me more than on my birthday and when someone dies. 2 years of silence from her because I stood up for myself to her. Just another form of punishing behavior. My therapist says my mom is most likely narcissistic with sociopathic tendencies. I absolutely hate it when parents give their adult children “space”. It’s abandonment. I need to hear from my mom that 1. I love you 2. I truly want to hear why you are upset and will listen 3. I want to take accountability for what I did that hurt you 4. I will try my hardest never to do it again. It is not an apology otherwise. Space is tantamount to “you mean nothing to me and I don’t care how you feel”. Trust me I am there right now. I have forgiven my mom as I don’t wish her ill but I cannot be reconciled with her until steps 2,3,4 happen above. I will not subject myself to abuse. But she prefers to give me my “space” so she can be the victim and bad mouth me to all who will listen, taking my 3 sibs and other family members from me. You cannot win with someone who is never accountable for their behavior. They are just not safe to be around. Parents need to be a parent. They are still supposed to be one even if their “child” is an adult.


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