You don't know what to do.
Sadly, your daughter decided to cut contact, leaving you devastated and holding a broken heart.
Notably, statistics show that nearly 50% of mothers and daughters experience periods of intense discord, and many become estranged for an extended period.
So to support you through this challenging time, we're unpacking the dynamics below and offering practical and actionable advice on how to cope.
- What Causes Mother-Daughter Estrangement?
- Does My Grown Daughter Hate Me?
- How Long Does Parent-Child Estrangement Usually Last?
- How To Deal with Your Daughter Cutting You Out of Her Life?
- Can a Mother Ever Move On and Let Go of Her Own Daughter?
What Causes Mother-Daughter Estrangement?
Estrangement comes in two varieties: continuous and chaotic.
The former is when the distancing party clearly and effectively communicates the reasons for cutting cords and sticks to the decision despite pressure to reconcile.
Chaotic estrangement refers to tumultuous, fraught, on-off relationships.
And while social media feeds may have you feeling like everyone else's life is “post-perfect,” in truth, nearly half of all families struggle with significant discord and estrangement episodes.
Why is it so common?
When people reach stress inflection points, fight-or-flight instincts kick in. Individuals who opt for estrangement believe disappearing will end the conflict and quelch the attendant bad feelings.
Unfortunately, the opposite usually happens.
But what pushes mother-daughter dynamics to a breaking point?
Common Reasons for Mother-Daughter Alienation
When people are fighting financial hardship, they tend to make irrational and reckless decisions. So, if the offended party is weathering a money storm, they may make mountains out of molehills, leading to estrangement.
Divorce and Family Discord
Many people cite divorce and intergenerational discord as reasons for severing family ties. That said, nobody should stay in a lousy marriage to avoid a rocky period — because estrangement is unpredictable.
Many children separate from their mothers over unfair expectations. Commonly, moms force and manipulate their daughters into predetermined molds instead of letting them discover their true selves.
This type of pressure often prevents kids from developing self-esteem and self-respect. Moreover, when children treated this way grow up, they may harbor resentment that metastasizes into bigger issues.
Sense of Entitlement
Nobody sets out wanting to raise an ungrateful, bratty, arrogant child — but it's impossible to prevent. Regardless of influence, opportunity, or amount of love showered, people are who they are.
Award-winning parents frequently end up with awful offspring.
Entitled individuals with little self-awareness blame everyone else for their problems, take it to extremes, and often go the alienation route, insisting you're at fault.
Neglect and Narcissism
Children frequently cut neglectful and narcissistic parents out of their lives once they can support themselves and develop a healthy sense of esteem and worth.
Unaddressed trauma is a silent killer. It seeps into the subconscious and corrodes mental health. Whether generational or individual, trauma is the fertile ground in which difficult relationships take root.
Millions of people worldwide have strained relationships with loved ones due to the influence of cults and isolating narcissists.
Does My Grown Daughter Hate Me?
My daughter has cut me out of her life, and I don't understand if she hates me or just needs time to work things through herself.
The above is a common sentiment because:
- In most mother-daughter estrangements, the mothers are most often in the dark about why their daughters decided to cut contact.
- Children are more likely to initiate alienation than parents.
- The two parties usually cite different reasons — or have different perspectives — regarding the discord.
- At the time of the triggering issue, harsh words are often exchanged.
So what's the answer? How do you determine whether your daughter actually despises you or if it's just a phase?
Consider the current state of your daughter's life. Is she navigating a challenging period? Contending with mental health hurdles? Are her career prospects on a downward trajectory? Did she suffer a recent breakup? What about her friend group? Is there drama? Is she feeling pushed out?
All of these things could impact behavior. And sometimes, when children cut you off, they're reacting to something else going wrong in their lives. In these instances, relationships can almost always be repaired.
But other times, the damage and disdain are all too real. If you treated a daughter poorly, she may (rightfully) have had enough. And perhaps the hardest to handle is when you genuinely did everything in your power to love and protect them, yet they still see you as the enemy.
Unfortunately, the only reliable way to gauge your daughter's vitriol is to talk it through, which may not be possible at the moment.
In these situations, genuinely innocent mothers may start to blame their parenting styles. They think: If only I had done X differently, this wouldn't be happening! But in reality, no parenting style is statistically better at preventing estrangement.
Dr. Lauren Cook once explained: “Even when they do their best, parents fall short regardless, and there will be memories and experiences that children find hurtful. There is no such thing as a perfect parent.”
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How Long Does Parent-Child Estrangement Usually Last?
Researchers say the average parent-child alienation lasts between one and nine years.
Karl Pillemer, author of Fractured Families and How To Mend Them, conducted a study of about 1300 people and found that extreme family discord lasts 4.5 years. Additionally, 85% of participants reported going no-contact for at least twelve months.
Kylie Agllias, from The University of Newcastle in Australia and author of Family Estrangement: A Matter of Perspective, studied 35 people and found the average separation lasted nine years.
Things that affect the length of dysfunction include:
- Mental health conditions
- Trauma / Stress
- Motivation and pressure to reconcile
Why do people typically end up reconciling?
Time plays a massive role. People and their perceptions change over time. The more people live and learn, the more they realize life is much more complicated than previously believed — resulting in a surge of compassion, understanding, and capacity for forgiveness.
How To Deal with Your Daughter Cutting You Out of Her Life?
We've discussed what estrangement is and how long it typically lasts. Now, let's explore ways to deal with your daughter cutting you off.
Having one of your children drop you like a hot potato is the emotional equivalent of a torture chamber. When it happens, friends and family can be tremendous support. For the most part, people enjoy helping loved ones. So allow yourself to be open, vulnerable, and willing to accept kindness and care.
Continue To Reach Out
Never stop reaching out if your child has fallen prey to a cult or isolating narcissist.
One day, they could wake up and see the light. And in worst-case scenarios, you want them to know how to contact you in an emergency.
On the other hand, if your child is otherwise happy and safe but has made it crystal clear they don't want to be in your life, it may be time to let go (which we'll cover in more detail below).
Try To Avoid Defensiveness
Defensiveness is an instinctual reaction to criticism. Even the most serene, humble people can't help but get their backs up when confronted with censure.
The problem is that defensiveness is never productive. It doesn't solve anything and almost always serves to heighten tensions.
So, if you speak with your alienated child, do everything you can to curb your defensive instincts. Listen to what they're saying, and fight the urge to explain everything. Even if you're right, focus on points of agreement, which will hopefully forge avenues to reconciliation.
Suggest Family Counseling
Therapy is a great option. Trained counselors can assess the situation from a neutral standpoint, spot problematic behavioral patterns, identify emotional triggers, and give your family tools to overcome the obstacles unique to your situation.
If in-person therapy is out of budgetary reach, consider trying one of the online counseling platforms. Checking out books written by therapists can also be a big help.
It's not just new-age claptrap. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have proven that yoga, meditation, and journaling are potent medicines for the body and mind. Mindfulness practice has been credibly associated with:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Decreasing anxiety levels
- Improving sleep
- Coping with emotional and physical pain
- Improving cognitive function and resiliency
In a way, being present lifts you out of internal troubles. Calming the body's nervous system is soothing, and you'll be better positioned to see things objectively and not let emotions get the better of you.
Set Boundaries and Communicate Willingness
One of the more difficult aspects of traversing a mother-daughter estrangement is balancing healthy boundaries and communicating your willingness to find a middle ground. You're more than willing to work toward a reunion, but not at the expense of your own mental health.
Writing letters can help. Go out of your way not to sound pedantic or demanding, but also make it clear that you refuse to be walked over. Some people enlist another family member as an intermediary. But be careful. The chosen messenger may feel caught in the middle, creating more issues.
Can a Mother Ever Move On and Let Go of Her Own Daughter?
Anything is possible. And while estrangements can last years, most mothers and daughters eventually find a way back to each other.
In the meantime, look for ways to rationalize the situation and feel better.
After all, you can't go through life in a permanent state of misery. That's not living. Even if you made mistakes, you deserve to find peace of mind and live a fulfilling life.
So, to that end, try to remember the following points when you feel yourself spiraling:
- You can't control other people's behavior.
- You cannot rely on your children for happiness.
- You're the captain of your life and in charge of filling up your emptiness.
- A life spent ruminating is a life wasted.
- Everyone makes mistakes. The key is acknowledging and learning from your flaws, not wallowing in them.
Reading can also be a highly effective balm. The three selections below are particularly helpful when dealing with a mother-daughter alienation.
- When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
- Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger, Ph.D. and Christine A. Padesky, Ph.D.
- Let the Healing Begin! Pathways to Healing Mother-Daughter Relationships by Imogene Brown-Robinson
Grappling with the difficulties of being estranged from your daughter isn't easy, and you have our deepest sympathies.
If your goal is to repair the relationship, take it slow. If it's a lost cause, it may be time to move on and start rebuilding your emotional framework. Either way, may luck be your boon companion, and may forgiveness guide both your paths.