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My Adult Daughter Cut Me Off

How to deal with being cut off.

Key points

  • Cutting off a family member leads to feelings of sadness and shame.
  • Cut-offs can be repaired with time and patience.
  • Seek treatment if your feelings become overwhelming and all consuming.

Dear Dr. G.,

I am beyond devastated. I am a 60-year-old mother of three children. I have a good relationship with my 32-year-old son and his twin sister. My relationship, if you can call it a relationship, with my 30-year-old daughter is in terrible shape. Just to give you some context: My husband left me when the kids were teens, and my ex refuses to speak with me. I feel that, to some extent, my ex is modeling cut-off behavior for my daughter. I don't have much control over my relationship with my former husband. He is currently remarried to a much younger woman who has been openly hostile to me at major family events.

My daughter has always had a difficult temperament. As a child, she was easily frustrated. In her teen years, she was angry and defiant. In college and graduate school, she seemed to calm down and appeared happier. Our relationship improved at that time, and I was so happy about my daughter's well-being and the fact that she reached out to me regularly and even confided in me. I truly felt blessed.

Let's fast forward to two years ago. My daughter got married to a nice man, and they seem very happy with each other. A year ago, they had a baby girl. I was just delighted to become a grandmother and offered to babysit as my daughter and her husband both work outside of the home. I was babysitting three days a week, and my daughter and her husband were grateful, and the baby and I developed a lovely bond.

About six months ago, I noticed that my daughter started cutting off her friends, her siblings, and her father. I was very concerned about this because I was afraid that I would be next. Well, alas, I was next. My daughter rarely responds to my texts and no longer wants me to babysit. She ignores my requests for explanations. I would really like to know what I may have done wrong so that I can fix things. As I am writing this letter, I am feeling devastated, hurt, confused, and deeply rejected. When my friends talk about their great relationships with their kids and grandchildren, I feel ashamed and so sad about my own situation.

I have no idea where to go from here. My therapist suggests that I wait for my daughter to reach out to me. She also suggests that I try to be patient as my daughter settles into marriage and parenthood. She says that I should give my daughter space while she sorts out her life. I do know that my daughter is in therapy for anxiety and some phobias.

Please help.

A Devastated Mother

Dear Mother,

I can totally understand how helpless and devastated you are feeling. Sadly, I hear about adult children cutting off their parents frequently. Parents go through this struggle not only with a whole host of difficult emotions but also with the stress of not knowing what went wrong. I am really happy that you are working on this issue in therapy, as cut-offs often result in overwhelming levels of depression and anxiety.

I agree with you that your former husband has been a role model for cut-offs, and that is a terrible shame. You say that your daughter has a history of emotional regulation issues and is currently in her own therapy for anxiety and phobias. That makes me feel hopeful that your daughter is attempting to gain some control over her emotions. It is possible that your daughter needs personal space while figuring out how to manage the multiple roles in her life.

I agree with your therapist that giving your daughter space is the way to go at this point in time. I am painfully aware that it is very hard to be patient with your daughter, especially since you miss seeing your granddaughter.

My suggestion is that you keep yourself as busy as possible with friends and whatever else you like to do so that you have less time to ruminate about the situation with your daughter. I say that with all due respect because any loving parent would ruminate about a similar situation. Exercising patience and giving your daughter space will take lots of self-control. Reach out to supportive friends when you feel the urge to communicate with your daughter. At this point, I strongly suggest letting your daughter initiate interactions.

She is telling you indirectly that she wants less communication at this point. Respect that. After a few months, reach out gingerly to check in with her but not to berate her about her lack of contact. You and your daughter have had a good relationship in the past, so I am hopeful that you will regain that in the future. I am rooting for all of you.


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