Estranged Daughter (8)

How to cope with estrangement and feelings of guilt and regret

Estrangement from adult children can be a heart-wrenching and emotionally taxing experience for parents. The weight of parental responsibility, unmet expectations, and the haunting regret of past actions can lead to profound guilt and regret. However, parents must acknowledge and address these emotions healthily to promote healing and personal growth. This article explores how parents can cope with the complex feelings of guilt and regret while navigating the difficult path of estrangement. 

Understanding the Emotions of Guilt and Regret 

Guilt and regret are natural emotional responses for parents estranged from their adult children. The profound sense of responsibility for their children’s happiness and well-being can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-blame. Additionally, the loss of a once-close bond and the following grief can be overwhelming. The burden of past actions or decisions that contributed to the estrangement can haunt parents, making them yearn for a chance to turn back time. The fear of permanent estrangement and the social stigma surrounding family breakdowns can further intensify these emotions. Furthermore, uncertainty about the cause and the feeling of helplessness can add to the emotional turmoil.

Ten Steps To Cope With Guilt And Regret

  1.  Accept and acknowledge your emotions

Coping with guilt and regret as an estranged parent begins with acceptance. Recognizing that it’s natural to feel these emotions, given the circumstances, is essential. The bond between a parent and child is profound, and when that connection is severed, it can lead to overwhelming feelings of loss and sadness. Allow yourself to experience these emotions without judgment. It’s okay to cry, to feel vulnerable, and to grieve the relationship that has changed. Remember that acknowledging your feelings is a vital part of the healing process.

  1.  Identify potential reasons 

Self-awareness is a critical aspect of personal growth. Take time to reflect on the factors that contributed to the estrangement. Examine your actions, behaviors, and decisions without being overly self-critical. This is not about blaming yourself solely; it’s about understanding your role in the situation. By identifying and acknowledging any mistakes, you can take responsibility for your actions and work towards making positive changes in your life.

  1. Seek professional help

Coping with the complex emotions of estrangement can be overwhelming, and seeking professional help can provide valuable support and guidance. A therapist or counselor specializing in family issues or estrangement can offer a safe space to explore your feelings and thoughts without judgment. They can provide coping strategies tailored to your specific situation and help you gain a healthier perspective on the estrangement. Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and can be an essential step in your healing journey.

  1. Practice self-compassion

It’s common for parents in this situation to harbor feelings of guilt and blame themselves for the estrangement. However, practicing self-compassion and treating yourself with kindness and understanding is crucial. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. Forgive yourself for any past errors and avoid dwelling on self-blame. Remember that you are doing your best with the knowledge and resources you have at any moment. Embrace self-compassion as a tool for healing and moving forward.

  1. Respect boundaries

If your child initiated the estrangement, respecting their decision and giving them the space they need is vital. As a parent, it can be incredibly challenging to step back and accept that your child may need time and distance. While it may be tempting to reach out or pressure them to reconcile, doing so may not be helpful and could further strain the relationship. Allow them the time and freedom to process their feelings; if they are ready to reconnect, they will do so in their own time.

  1. Reach out 

If you believe there’s a chance for reconciliation, approach your child with empathy. This means putting aside your feelings and trying to understand their perspective and experiences. Listen without interrupting or passing judgment. Show genuine interest in their feelings and validate their emotions. This approach can lay the groundwork for potential healing and rebuilding trust in the relationship.

  1. Personal growth

Estrangement can be an opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth. Use this time to work on self-improvement and emotional well-being. Engage in activities that promote healing, such as meditation, journaling, or participating in a support group for estranged parents. These activities can help you process your emotions, gain new insights, and develop resilience in adversity.

  1. Healthy coping mechanisms

Finding healthy ways to cope with your emotions is essential for your well-being. Engaging in regular exercise, spending time with supportive friends or family, or pursuing hobbies that bring you joy can help alleviate stress and provide a positive outlet for your feelings. Avoid turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as excessive drinking or isolating yourself, as these can exacerbate your emotional turmoil.

  1. Set realistic expectations

Healing from estrangement takes time, and reconciliation might take time and effort. Set realistic expectations for yourself and the situation. Understand that progress may be slow, and that’s okay. Focus on the steps you are taking toward personal growth and healing rather than fixating on immediate outcomes. Be patient with yourself and the process, and remember that healing is a journey, not a destination.

  1. Have support

Surround yourself with understanding and encouraging friends or family members who can offer emotional support during this challenging time. Sharing your feelings with others who have experienced similar situations can provide validation and a sense of belonging. A support network can give comfort and strength as you navigate the complexities of coping with estrangement.


Coping with guilt and regret as an estranged parent is a difficult journey. By following the steps provided, you can begin to heal and work towards a more positive and fulfilling future. Recovering from an estrangement takes time, and being patient and compassionate with yourself throughout the process is crucial. While there may be no easy fix, taking proactive steps to address your emotions and actions can lead to a stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate version of yourself.

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