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Long term estrangement from parents

Community Member

Hi everyone. First time posting on anything like this. I’m wondering if anyone out there may have similar feelings to me. I am the daughter of two parents living with personality disorders and from a very early age fell into the rescuer role to help them deal with their mental health. My parents have a toxic codependent relationship yet often confide secrets to me that they don’t share with each other, which has put me in many difficult situations over the years. I’m now an adult and have realised that I am unable to continue being in this role and allowing my parents to treat me as a counsellor and then discard me when Im not needed anymore. We’ve have countless family breakdowns and have gone over a year at a time without speaking but this time, following an argument where my trust was severely betrayed, I’ve come to the conclusion that our relationship is no longer able to survive. I’ve tried countless times to fix the relationship but it’s not possible, which took me a long time to accept. I feel that a lot of people out there who haven’t experienced this deep pain and rejection from their own parents find it difficult to relate to my experience and compare it to their feelings of grief during a breakup with a romantic partner, which is totally different and a little accidentally invalidating. It’s just a totally different kind of pain because your parents are supposed to show unconditional care forever. The hurt caused my parental rejection is so deep, particularly after a lifetime of trying to help them navigate their martial issues as well as mental health. I’m wondering if anyone out there who has been estranged from their parents for more than 1-2 years could share with me how they have sat with their emotions over the years and how they have changed? Does it get easier? Do you start to forget the pain? How do you deal with people when they ask about your family? 

I would love to hear from those who understand that relationships cannot always be fixed and have lived with parental estrangement long term. Thanks so much in advance 

8 Replies 8

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hey Jenif. welcome to the forums.

I hope you find this a safe & caring space, where you can share your feelings and feel supported. 


Hugs for what you've been through in the past and now. 


You may not have many BB members that meet your criteria, but I am one.
Please don't discount other people's intentions to extend warmth to you whilst dealing with such baffling emotions and thoughts. They're only trying to understand. 
Though I know how frustrating this can be. 

It feels very lonely and the betrayal is soul deep. 


I understand that some r/ships can't be fixed. I understand how you've twisted yourself in veritable knots TRYING to meet their needs & support them. I understand how you feel the need to break free from them. 


It's been decades since having a r/ship with my mother. The Police intervened, so it was "out of my control" more or less. She was a single parent with severe MIs. Father was narcissistic, died 30y ago. They were divorced since my early childhood. Almost no r/ship with father.


You ask lots of questions, and I could share the path things took for me, but would need more posts lol. 


It's hard. 
"Do you start to forget the pain?" I retain most memories but feel less of an emotional reaction to those memories now, Exposure Therapy helped. I've sought a LOT of MH support over my lifetime. Only recently was formally diagnosed with Complex PTSD. 


Be gentle with yourself and others. This situation can evoke volcanic emotions. 
Which question next? 


Nice to meet you, sorry for what you're going through

Dear Jenif
Welcome to the Beyond Blue forums we are so glad that you have made you way here and had the bravery to post.  We want you to know that this is a safe space to discuss your thoughts, feelings and experiences and receive honest responses and suggestions from fellow forum users.
We are sorry for what you have gone through with your parents and we imagine it would have taken a huge amount of courage to be able to give yourself the permission to walk away from a dynamic that we can hear was clearly toxic for you; please give yourself credit for working through this and remember that loss and grief is different for everyone, it’s understandable too as to why you would feel invalidated when others refer to your experience in the same context of an intimate relationship, it’s completely different.
In addition to our online forums including our telephone support line and webchat, you might also find some good resources and support at Griefline (1300 845 745) too.
We are also here 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or via our WebChat.  Our team who answer the phones are ready to have a supportive and non-judgmental chat whenever you need it.
We’re sure we’ll hear from some of our lovely community members here on your thread soon. They are a really amazing community, and will have understanding, advice and kind words for you.  Thanks again for sharing. It’s a powerful and brave first step towards feeling better.
Kind Regards
Sophie M

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Jenif, your parents can't use you for counselling just to gain your favour, if they aren't getting on together then it's time for both of them to move on in their own way and leave you out of their problems.

You can't solve their problems and then expect you to side with one of them, that's not far on you, you have your own life to lead, especially after the event they discard you, there doesn't seem to any trust at all and can't expect you to cooperate because then the other parent won't be happy and may show it.

They need to sort all of this out by having counselling with a professional and if they don't want to do this, then it's should not concern you, but to overcome these past feelings then please talk with your doctor who can then offer some assistance.

It's a problem not caused by you but two stubborn parents who want to gain your support, but how can this happen, when you are desperately trying to move on and establish your own life.

You are unable to help them, because this means siding with one parent, while the other tries to win your support, so it's best to let them sort all of this out without you being involved, I'm very sorry.


Life Member.

Community Member

Hi Em, 

Thanks so much for sharing your journey and experiences with me and offering your thoughts, I really appreciate it. It’s a good reminder that others are doing their best to support even if they don’t really understand. I’m going to try and communicate that more. 
Wishing you well! 

Community Member

Thanks so much Geoff. It’s so true, if someone doesn’t want to sort the help professionally, it really doesn’t fall on me. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts very much. 

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hey Jenif, you are so very welcome. 


How are you doing today? 


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

I was thinking of you this week. I think it was 20y since the first time I was told by a MH professional to severe ties or in nowadays terms "go low to no contact" until I did. Then only because Police intervened. 


I'd had some periods of 3 - 6 months at a time of no contact over those 20y because of abusive behaviours but was ALWAYS guilted and shamed into reconciling. (I've been NC for decades now, refused the guilting and shaming since). 


I admire your awareness and cognition around the toxic criss crosses that occur in your family dynamic atm and that it's very damaging to you. Hugs. 


THE most important thing I now understand with some serious hindsight is this.... 
some times our parents teach us how NOT to parent. Yes that's mine and yes you can use it! Lol. 

BECAUSE of the detachment from these people, I was able to raise my children to be wonderful people.


Love EM

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Jenif~

While I don't have exactly the same background as yourself I think my experience is close enough to maybe give you some idea.


My childhood was with parents who looking back I can realise were cold. At the time I was the same as any other kid I guess and thought it was all normal and believed I was loved.


Later on, I went against my parents wishes in the choice of a partner whom they deemed 'unsuitable' and was disinherited - formally.


As you well know the feeling that there never was anything there during one's childhood is pretty devastating and I realized I'd simply been regarded as an extension of themselves, to be used to be a carrier of their thoughts, status and values.


It was not a case on one against the other, but a united front.


I guess I was lucky as I'd found someone who did become my partner and we were very happy together. So apart from having to grow up in a hurry my feelings of being unloved were muted.


Nevertheless I never wanted anything more to do with.  It was only very many years later when my mother was elderly and in precarious health I responded when she attempted to make contact. Frankly I did so out of a sense of duty. I'd been quite happy they were out of my life and my feelings over the disinheritance had basically receded to the point it might have happened to somebody else..


Responding it was a mistake, my parent wanted to keep on going just as she always had, and now in my maturity I'd come ot see their attitudes were toxic.


So it was with no regrets on my part when she did pass away. A sad epitaph on someone's life - not to be missed.