Letters to the Estranged

I'm reading Coming Home to Self, the Adopted Child Grows Up.

It's for adopted adults and pretty much everyone who loves them: birthparents, adoptive parents, siblings, romantic interests, spouses, children etc.

It's a difficult read... There's a lot jam packed into the book lots of subject matter, lots of research blended with lots of opinion. I can't imagine anyone reading it from cover to cover straight through. I am confident anyone related to adoption will find gems throughout regardless of what they open to. I certainly don't agree with every perspective, but I have found a wealth of information.

One topic that has me prayerfully pondering is letters to estranged adoptees. The author asserts that for letters to be effective, they must not have any inkling of blame, explanation, accusation or defense.

Yeah. I'm SO not there yet and openly wonder if it would be wise to attempt to open communications with our gun-toting, false allegating, distorted reality, hearing voices difficult child WITHOUT it being evident she recognizes how her condition and decisions adversely affect our relationship.

Does anyone have experience with writing to estranged difficult children?


The author asserts that for letters to be effective, they must not have any inkling of blame, explanation, accusation or defense.
If you decide you are ready and you can stick to these guidelines, I think writing/receiving a letter can be healing.

I will have to check out this book!


I don't know if a letter will help. And if it doesn't - where does that leave you?

I am not trying to be a naysayer - I have often fantasized about writing a letter to my son and that it could be the means to FINALLY get through to him. Because, of course a letter such as that would be something that would get through to ME.

But my difficult child is not thinking clearly. If he were - the heartfelt talks, the 18 years of loving, supporting, encouraging even just my being THERE for him would be enough for him to give us the benefit of the doubt at the very least.

Actually, I spilled my heart out to my son just 2 weeks before he left - and that night I left a mushy "I believe in you" card on his desk with heartfelt words of encouragement. He never even mentioned having gotten the card and when he left - it was one of the few things he left behind.

So that's why I caution you. I poured my heart out to my son in person and in writing. And it didn't mean a damn thing. Sure I have the solace that I did my best and that I said all the things I wanted him to know. But I also have the pain that I did my very best and expressed LOVINGLY all the things I wanted him to know and IT DIDN'T MATTER and IT DIDN'T REACH HIM and HE DOESN'T CARE.

Sorry if I sound bitter - I guess I am. It was a Hail Mary pass and it failed. And it exhausted all our efforts and left me vulnerable.

Boy I am a Debbie Downer - and I am sorry. I just want you to know that sometimes the fantasy is ideal but the reality is not. Think it through


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I have no experience with writing to estranged children, but, I've had experience with writing letters for other reasons. To my ex-husband, when trying to reach out to him to be part of our children's lives. To a family member when trying to heal hurts and mend a rift caused by him. In each case, I tried to withhold blame and judgment and just tell the other person how I felt, and made attempts at reconciliation and finding common ground. In each case, the response was not what I had hoped for, in fact, it was generally more of the same old koi and blame directed back at me.

What I learned was this: check your motives. You should write the letter for yourself, and not in hopes of changing someone else's mind. If you are writing a letter to clarify your own feelings on a situation, and to share those feelings with someone so that there is no doubt of your stance, so be it. But if you're writing a letter hoping that if you say it "just the right way" this time, a light bulb will go off in the other person's head and they'll say, "AHA! I get it! I'm so sorry that I made you feel that way and yes let's be friends again!" ----- save your energy. You're setting yourself up for disappointment.

It's kind of like forgiveness. The healing from it is for the forgiver, not the forgivee. The other person doesn't have to accept it for it to have value to you. And neither does the person you're writing to, have to accept your words and change their behavior because of what you write. You have no control over that. If you write and send such a letter, you have to be willing and able to accept their response, whether it be the same old thing, or silence. You have to find peace within yourself about it. And that's a very hard thing to do. It can be very painful, if you're not prepared.

So, I write my feelings down in my journal now, instead of writing them and sending them to anyone.


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I guess I have a different perspective. I look at the person to whom the letter would be written and where they are at in life and what they are like and then ask myself the question.. "If this person wasn't brother,sister, aunt, uncle, mother, father, child, etc. would you invite them into your life?" Usually the answer is no and the letter doesn't get sent. Why invite toxic people back into your life?

If on the other hand the person in question has noticably changed and might want to have a meaningful relationship then that is a different story. For me any thing else isn't worth the pain and suffering either a rejection or a toxic relationship would bring.


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It doesn't work & they find a way to use it against you to dig themselves deeper into a hole.


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Speaking from the perspective of the estranged child (although I don't have the adoption/Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) issue in the mix), the few times over the years that my parents have attempted communication with me have left me feeling manipulated and annoyed. They have NOT made me inclined to break my silence.

I think RejectedMom hits the nail on the head (as do Witz and ThreeShadows): If your only reason for wanting to maintain contact is your parent-child relationship, and you wouldn't invite them back into your life otherwise, then best to keep silent for now. There may be a "right" time later, or not.



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You can't build bridges if the other side keeps blowing it up.
We learned that the hard way... with other inter-generational relationships.

But... There is a time and a place to speak/write/connect.
It doesn't usually rebuild the relationship. If the timing, motive, and heartspace on both sides is right, it can "clear the air" and remove the wall of animosity... I know some who have done it with estranged spouses, half a lifetime later, and ended life "friendly" though not close.

Sig... Don't project. Its dangerous. You do not know where he is at in side his own head/heart. You don't know if he cares - or not. You don't know if he carries your words in his heart. You may not know for a long time. But he was still "there"... he chose to be in your presence, and you chose to reach out. You did what you could when there was opportunity. Now? You couldn't write that letter and send it... the situation has changed. Only later will you ever know if there was some seed planted, some floor placed in his downward spiral, some rope with a knot in it that he will grab when he is ready. You didn't get the reaction you were looking for... he wasn't ready for that. But... it probably did matter and it probably does matter. {{hugs}}


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I sent many unanswered letters to my son, who I now call Former Son because he clearly doesn't want us in his life. We did FINALLY have a stilted meeting about six months ago after five years. He held ALL the letters against me and scanned them into his computer, telling me how they were abusive. Honestly, I have no idea HOW he could have thought my loving letters were abusive. Suffice to say it did nothing except push a Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) kid away, which was no biggie since he was already away. I have given up and decided that my pride is the last thing I have left. I will never write him another letter. He seriously does not want to have anything to do with us. Like your kids, he was adopted at an older age and I guess he never bonded, like we hoped he had. He told us, at our meeting, that he doesn't think about us much, doesn't miss us and has moved on. He asked that we not put his name on any legal documents nor make him responsible for anything in the family. He is quite rich so he requested he be disinherited. Okieeeeeeeee. I left the meeting feeling almost relieved. It was over. I do not know that this would happen with your kids. Just a warning because Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)...well, it's Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

One thing that the letters and eventual meeting did, which took place in his church with a family Christian counselor, was to give me real closure. I no longer hope he comes back or think about him too much. I realized it was hopeless and the closure was HUGE. It has been festering for five years and, even though the outcome wasn't good, at least I know now.


Thanks ICDN - it was only 2 weeks ago so I am pretty sure it didn't reach him because if it had - even in the most minute fashion - he wouldn't have left the way he did or scammed us the way he did. I am not projecting as much as I am bitter and hurt. When you open your heart to someone you basically put yourself vulnerable in front of them and there's nothing to protect you - your heart especially - from being trampled.


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I have found it literally impossible to reach difficult child unless and until she is in a frame of mind and body to receive it. And so far she is not mature enough or motivated enough to do so. I have sent difficult child many letters over the years trying to reach her, trying to pour out my heart to her, and like Sig says, it left me vulnerable and trampled upon.

I appreciate everyone's input. I'm most comfortable following what I have the most peace about... and that is educating myself as much as I can about our adoptees "brand" of mental illness in its adult form, and waiting for them to show they are ready/willing/able to move toward health.

I promise I will NOT be "hanging-up-my-life-staring-at-our-front-door-waiting-on-them"... I've been getting out there... enjoying MY life, enjoying the empty nest season with my dear hubby, enjoying the reciprocally loving relationship with our adult bio daughter... Living/hoping/praying waiting for our kids to heal but not hanging my happily ever after on their progress.

I really believe our adoptees have embarked on a journey that is their own to walk. I don't think it's profitable at this point to pursue them. I don't know that I could trust them, be physically safe in their presence, before they begin to show strong signs of healing.

I've written in the margins of that book near the letters portion... "not yet.... not never... but not yet"

Our adoptees should learn eventually that they are to be responsible for 50% of any relationship they have. They are quite capable of surrounding themselves with rescuers until they wear them out and find new ones. That's not what I hope for them... but it is their choice to make.

MidwestMom ... I had been wondering how the meeting went with your son... Last time I was on these boards I believe it was supposed to have happened in the not too distance future. If you've posted about the meeting I'd love to read it. I've gone back through your posts you're an active poster with lots of wisdom/experience to share... can't easily find where you might have shared about the meeting specifically. I'd love it if you could direct me to any posts you've made on the subject after the meeting.


TA - and everyone else - I have been stewing on this subject for few days now. Probably because I read the OP on a day when I had been fantasizing about sending difficult child a letter and what I would say etc and dreaming that a letter MUST get through to him because nothing else had. And it was only when I read this post and re-read a few chapters in "When Parents Hurt" and then answered your post - that I realized a letter won't get through to my son. Which really stings. But it won't.

Forgive me for musing aloud, but I would love to read a letter from my son. It would get through to me. And - when I am having trouble expressing myself to my husband - I write him an email. In fact, I've copied some of my own OPs from this board and turned them into emails to my h*. When my mom and I had some problems last year - she wrote me an email. It got through to me - even though it took a few days.

But the common thread is that the reader was RECEPTIVE and open to the writer. And when our kids don't want anything to do with us - it is nonsensical to think they will be OPEN and RECEPTIVE to us - even in written form. So that's why I think it can be an exercise in futility. I think we all fantasize about it - it plays out so well on screen and in fiction - and I suspect we all have a one or two people in our lives from whom we would LOVE to receive such a letter. Adopted or not - and I understand there are special issues with adoptions - our kids have deliberately closed themselves off from us. It's not a question for me whether or not my kid knows that I love him. I know he knows. But he is taking power & some sort of sick delight in denying me his presence and his love. And a letter from me would only fuel that power & delight while at the same time giving him more of a chance to hurt me through disregard.

So there you have it. Sorry to put so much of myself in your thread. But your post struck a chord close to my core. I wish us all peace. {{{hugs}}}

*Not because he is difficult to talk to - but because I need him to understand how I feel which I don't always express clearly in a 2-way conversation. An email gives me the chance to edit, rewrite, be more succinct (tho not less wordy HA) and to get it all out there. not a normal means of convo for us - but something I've done 5 or so times when our conversations don't reflect what I am trying to say.


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MW Mom, I had not read before about your recent encounter with your son, and your decision to let it be makes me very proud. I tried to "like" it, but that button seems to be gone. I just wanted to say I'm really proud of you for being good to yourself, and for sharing your journey with us.


I haven't read the book, so forgive me if I am possibly misreading the intention of the letter.

I also realize that every situation is different and, God knows, difficult children can be volatile and unpredictable.

When I said a letter could be healing, I did not mean that it would heal everyone (although it could, in time), and I didn't see a letter - in this situation - as a way to get through to someone or to change their thinking or their behavior.

But I do see that writing a letter in a loving and non-judgemental way could help the writer to heal...and it could help the recipient to heal ... even if it's not right away.

The key is to not explain, blame or expect any result. It isn't for everyone, I realize, but there are circumstances .. in the proper time in your life .. where it might be a good idea.



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My oldest daughter, age 36, lives in another state. When her father and I divorced, she was 10 and wanted to stay with her father. She threatened to run away to him as I was moving 200 miles away to go back to college. I wanted her to have a stable and familiar place to adjust and heal so I agreed she could stay with her dad. It started out to be a "friendly" divorce with good visitation and shared custody, as I had our 2 yr daughter with me. It did not stay friendly. He got religous, demanded I come home as his right and refused to let me see our 10 year old for a year. Lots of calls later and she started to come to visit myself and her sister. 4 years latter she rebelled against her father and came to live with-me, my new spouse and sister.

It was a very hard time with her lies, anger, leaving home to hang out with her boyfriends for days and getting her counciling. I sent her to live with my brother in her senior year of HS after the strain and lies became toxic to the rest of the family. My brother lived a mile away and agreed to help me try tough love. Sort of worked. As the years went by, I chased my daughter to try and heal the distance between us. It seemed we had for a time, but she became jealous of her younger sister and became estranged. She denied letting me see my 2 older grandchildren, ages 10 and 6.

My youngest daughter and I have an easier relationship and are close. My youngest daughter has been helping me with my 87 year old mother for 6 years now since my father died. We moved my mom from Dallas to our current home town so she would not be alone and we could help her live independently close by me. My brother moved to Colorado to live with my older daughter and her family as he has a hard time living by himself. Weird family mix there, seems to work for them but her husband resents my brother's influence with the grandkids and oldest daughter. He is afraid if he says anything he will lose his wife and children.

Neither my brother or my oldest daughter have helped much with my mom. My mom developed dementia the last few years with other health issues and this led to 15 hospital visits in 16 months, 10 of the hospital visits in a 3.5 month period last year. I had to resign my job last May to take care of my mom, move her to assisted living and consolidate the financial affairs as her primary manager. There is a moderately large trust set up to provide income for mom, both my brother and I are trustees on it with our mom. My brother has ignored the trust for 6 years. Mom has allowed me to access some of the trust funds for my personal needs over the years in return for the time, care and effort I have given to her the last several years. Not a lot, but it helped me fill in some financial holes I had. Mom has also helped my youngest daughter and her family for thier efforts in caring for mom. Currently my youngest daughter is living in a rental house my mother owns, paying rent to her, with mom getting badly needed income tax breaks from the house. My youngest daughter and her family will purchase the house eventually from mom or myself when it come to me. The trust is divided equally between my brother and I when mom dies, but part of that is the ownership of the house is included in my share of the estate. That house has been the catalyst in this whole mess.

My oldest daughter wanted mom to help her purchase a house for her family in Colorado. Mom declined as she does not want to own property out of state and knows my oldest daughter is lousy about paying lent money back to the family. Oldest daughter became jealous, accused me of favoritism and decided not to talk to any of us in Texas or have any interaction.

My brother jumps in here to be an advocate for my 37 year old daughter, accuses me of mismanagement of the trust, still does not try to help with our mother but wants treatment to be equal between my daughters.

How can people expect equal treatment/affection/goodwill when they don't make the effort to share in the You +1'd this publicly. or at least interact with the family?

My brother and oldest daughter have created unneed family drama with a great deal of pain for those of us in Texas and refuse to work thru a mediator to resolve things. My brother and oldest daughter are now demanding an audit to prove my mismanagement of trust funds. My oldest daughter is not on the trust.

My oldest daughter is hitting back to hurt her sister and myself due to jealously and greed. My brother is hitting back for control and greed. I miss my grandchildren, but I am wanting to disown my oldest child and my brother.


I think your attitude about this is very good..and I think what you said is something like not now....but perhaps later. You are thinking about it seriously as something that might be appropriate to try in the future, especially when your heart is in the right place. And you understand that it may or may not be helpful. Also, liked hearing that you continue to move forward in your life despite this great difficulty in the background. Sigh. Sending good thoughts.


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MWM, I just read your post from your meeting with your son and his wife. I understand the thought about trying to bond as a parent with an older child. I just don't think it can be done. We can have relationships with them, but they're not our family.

And, FWIW? He said a closing prayer? Gag me with that sanctimonious garbage while he's tearing your heart apart. I hope God gave him the power to forgive, too, because only a sick rat would treat you that way, whether you wrote letters of anguish or not.