Estranged daughter


Estranged daughter


your avatar   Anna, 61-year-old woman

I am a single parent with grown-up daughter in her mid-twenties. I work full-time, while my daughter has only studied and had occasional jobs. Neither one of us has any substance abuse issues. We live a rather healthy and balanced life being outdoors and eating well.

I wonder if my grown-up daughter has some kind of a psychological problem like ADD or something. She seems incapable of talking with me. She partly listens and does answer my questions but never talks with me like normal people do. I feel so hurt and shut out. It feels like there is a glass wall between us. She has a wonderful partner, though. For example, if we sit at the dinner table, it's mainly her partner who talks or answers me; my daughter may just utter one word or so. They partly reside overseas and partly here with me in my apartment. When she is overseas she never gives me a call - she doesn't even ask how her beloved cat is doing. Of course the cat is now my responsibility and a well-loved family member. It's like her thoughts do not reach outside her immediate sphere. I am so dreadfully sad about this, so sad that I could die.

What do you think the problem is? I talk about this with my very dear and closest friend but nobody else. I would very much appreciate your comments about this.


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Anne,

I can see how hurtful this situation is for you. The one person who should be the closest to you treats you like a stranger. She lives in your house when not abroad, no doubt depends on you for various material things, but refuses any connection.

My first question is whether this is her behaviour pattern with other people. Is she generally one to avoid chatter, to stay within her own world while avoiding emotional contact? If so, she is not behaving like this because she doesn't love you or appreciate you, but simply because that is her pattern. In that case, your hurt doesn't come from what she does or doesn't do, but your expectation to have things differently. If you can simply accept and love her the way she is, then your suffering will disappear. When you get a flash of "I wish she'd phone me," you will get an automatic smiling reply: "This is just her way. It doesn't mean rejection or lack of love."

On the other hand, if she is vivacious, animated, and talkative with some other people, then the problem is that she remembers some childhood events that exist in her reality, but probably don't exist in yours. Memory is creative. If you remember an event from yesterday, it is not like turning on a record, but is the construction of something new, based on a complex array of stored-away components. Some "childhood memories" can be disproven on the basis of objective evidence. In most families, the memories of different people are widely divergent. Usually, there is no way of deciding who is right. The memories represent the different realities these people create. So, it is quite possible that she holds a deep grudge against you for some event or series of events that you have a completely different interpretation of, or don't even know about.

The only way forward is to bring the possible difference out into the open. I suggest you write her a very carefully worded letter, in which you avoid judging her or implying that she may be faulty, and in which you don't cast any blame on her or admit any possible guilt on your part. Start with stating your love for her, regardless of how she acts. Then describe your vision of the current situation, your distress about it, and ask her for a reason. Tell her that, whatever her version, you will accept it as her reality with respect and love, even if your memory is completely different. Then ask for and offer mutual forgiveness. "We draw a line. Before the line is water that has flown down a river. After the line, it is all gone, never to be seen again, and we are loving family."

Remember, I set out two possibilities. If the second one is the case, I am happy to help you with your letter.

With love,


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:

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