Coping with the Pain of Parental Estrangement

Feb 28, 2023
Coping with the Pain of Parental Estrangement

Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement.
― Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays


Parental estrangement is a difficult and emotionally draining situation to be in. It is often caused by verbal, emotional, or physical abuse, manipulation, the parent using the child to fulfill their own unmet emotional needs, the inability to see the child as a separate person, extreme parental narcissism and selfishness. It can be especially painful when an adult child has to cope with being estranged from their biological family – and has nowhere else to turn but their chosen family. In this blog post we will explore why estrangement is so challenging and painful – and how you can start coping with it.

What Is Estrangement?

Estrangement is when two people who were once close become distant or estranged from one another due to a variety of reasons. It usually involves a dramatic change in how two people interact with each other which can lead to feelings of hurt, anger and sadness for one or both parties involved. Estrangement can occur between any two people but is especially difficult when it involves an adult child becoming estranged from their parent(s).

Estrangement Between Adult Child and Parent

The conditions that often lead an adult child to become estranged from their parent(s) include verbal, emotional, or physical abuse; manipulation; the parent using the child to fulfill their own unmet emotional needs; the inability to see the child as a separate person; extreme parental narcissism and selfishness. These conditions can have lasting effects on both parties involved in the estrangement process. The adult child may struggle with trust issues and difficulty forming meaningful relationships while also carrying around guilt for having distanced themselves from their parent(s). The parent may suffer from loneliness and regret that they weren’t able to maintain a healthy relationship with their adult child.

Photo credit: Neil Thomas @Unsplash


Coping With Estrangement

It’s important for an adult child struggling with estrangement from their parent(s) to remember that they are not alone in this experience. There are many coping strategies that an adult child might utilize in order to help them cope with circumstances of estrangement including: therapy; self-care activities such as yoga or meditation; journaling about thoughts & feelings surrounding the estrangement; participating in activities that bring joy such as art projects or cooking; reaching out for support from friends & family members who understand what you’re going through; taking some time away & spending it alone in nature; talking openly & honestly about your experiences of estrangement while also practicing self-compassion & understanding; seeking professional help if needed.

It's also important for those dealing with parental estrangement to recognize that even though biological family relationships are significant – chosen family relationships are just as important too! Our chosen families consist of people who we consider our closest confidants including friends & extended family members who provide us comfort & support during tough times. They are there for us no matter what – so make sure you reach out for help if you need it!


Dealing with parental estrangement can be extremely challenging & painful – but there are ways we can cope! Taking care of ourselves mentally & physically is essential during this time so make sure you carve out some “me time” each day just for yourself! Reaching out for support is also key since talking openly about our experiences of parental estrangement helps us feel less alone & more understood by others. Finally, make sure you appreciate your chosen family because these people will always be there for you no matter what! We hope these tips were helpful - good luck on your journey towards healing!

Photo credit: Caleb Woods @Unsplash

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