Saying goodbye to someone who has played a significant role in your life is never easy.
Many people avoid goodbyes because they’re so difficult, but saying goodbye can give you the opportunity to express your feelings and provide a sense of closure.
Psychological studies have shown that taking steps to formally close a phase of your life can have a positive impact, promoting a good start to the new phase.
In the case of estrangement, sometimes it’s best for both parties to say goodbye for a time, or permanently.
If it isn’t possible to communicate in a civil way, taking a break from contact can lead to healing in the future.
Below, we have several goodbye letter examples to give you inspiration, plus some tips to help you write a more personalized and meaningful letter.
We’ve had our differences, but you’re still my son no matter what. We may fight and argue, but my love is unconditional.
Moreover, I now realize I wasn’t 100% right. Ultimately, the way I’ve behaved is inexcusable. I did not live up to my responsibilities as a parent. I let appearances guide my way instead of the unconditional love I should have had for my child.
Proving that I’m sorry may take years. I don’t expect you to accept me back, but I hope that you find peace and that someday we can try again.
I’m sorry, and I love you.
It’s been nearly [time] since I heard your voice or saw your face. I’ve started writing this letter dozens of times, hoping it would lead us to talk things through, or at least help you understand me better.
The day you were born was one of the greatest days of my life. I had such hope for you, our family, and the future. As you got older, I saw my baby become a fiercely independent, driven man, all through his own effort rather than my help.
I know I should have supported you more as you were growing up. There was a lot you were unaware of at the time — stresses that prevented me from being the best parent I could be. I don’t want to make excuses, but I’m only human, and I couldn’t pull myself up to become the supermom you needed.
Once you became an adult, I knew I was powerless to prevent you from distancing yourself from me. I’ve respected that in hopes that it might be better for you.
I don’t expect you to respond to this letter or reconcile with me. I just wanted you to know that I’m always wishing the best for you and wishing things could have been different.
It was a shock to find out that I am a grandmother, and even more of a shock when I saw a photo of your beautiful child, who bears such a strong resemblance to [relative].
You might want to deny your heritage, but you never can. Such things are always within us. You will notice all the little signs deeply embedded within yourself and your child for years to come.
There have been many misunderstandings between us, and I don’t write this letter with the expectation that you’ll forgive me or allow me into your child’s life. I simply wanted to say that I wish the best for you and your growing family. I hope you and your children will be and remain close.
No one is perfect, and there’s no such thing as a normal family, but I hope more than anything that your family will be happy.
You have chosen a life without me. I’m happy that you’re forging ahead with your passions and your friendships. I’m pleased for you, and I’m proud of you whether you want that or not.
How long do you need? I have tried many forms of contact, but you’ve blocked me. Will this silence last forever?
I have looked up estrangement on the internet, and all I can find are examples of forced marriage or violent alcoholic parents, or similar. I can’t find anyone to relate to. I had thought that you and I were close. I miss you every 20 minutes until it makes me feel sick.
I have tried numerous forms of counseling, and you would be pleased to know that they all confirm that I have no choice but to give you space and get on with my own life. This is what I do, but you are below the surface of everything. I am never truly laughing, never relaxed or content.
I hope you succeed in all of your dreams. I hope you find friends, love, peace, and happiness. But I also hope someday we’ll meet again.
I’m writing this because we could never have this conversation in person. I just want to let you know how I feel about you and tell you some of the things that often feel too awkward to say.
I know our relationship hasn’t always been the best through these years. I’m sorry for that. I hope you know how much I love you and how much I want the best of everything for you.
I remember being your age and promising myself that I’d do a better job of being a parent than my parents did. I knew they loved me, but there seemed to be something missing, which was that they never told me they were proud of me or loved me.
I didn’t know then how complicated being a parent could be. You don’t remember, but when you were a little child, it was so easy to connect with you. From the start, you were always the bright spark in my life. It was so much easier then, to hug you and let you know how proud of you I was. We could sit and play or read for hours, and it was so easy to be together.
Time is a strange thing. It’s hard to appreciate what you have until you’re looking back at it. Those days are gone and exist only in happy and bittersweet memories.
As you got older, you wanted to spend more time with your friends. I stopped being so smart in your eyes and slowly started to become someone on the outside looking in. I still loved you then as much as the day you were born. Did I show you that? Did you realize that? I’m not sure I did enough.
We have had many rough times. Things didn’t always go as I planned and I didn’t always make the right calls. If I could just relive those moments, I would control my temper and take back some of the things I said or maybe try to see it from your point of view.
I want you to know that I love you so much. I always have, and always will. The only thing I can do for now is pray that one day you can find it somewhere in your heart to forgive me and know I am only human.
This letter is long overdue. I’ve wanted to write you many times, but I always felt there was simply too much to say and I had mixed feelings about what I even wanted to write.
First, I want you to know that I love you very, very much and that will never change, no matter what. You have brought so much happiness to my world, and I will always be grateful for you.
If someday you become a father, you too will understand what this feeling is like, of loving someone so much that it feels like your heart will burst. Of loving someone so much you would gladly give your life in exchange for your child’s.
There are few things in this world more important, and sometimes more complicated, than the relationship between a parent and a child.
Even though I reveled in being a parent, I fell short, didn’t I? I could have done it better. Differently. I could’ve been more patient, yelled less, and focused on being a better cook and not getting home so late from work.
Maybe seeing my worth as a person is not something you can do right now. Maybe that will take time and distance, but I hope you will see it someday.
I would be lying if I said I won’t worry about you, because I will. But you’re an adult now, and you are capable of making your own decisions. I trust that you’re making the right ones for you.
Regardless of how you feel about me, I love you for you, and I love you forever. I hope you find everything you’re looking for and are happy.
My darling son,
When you were a baby, you were full of wonder and joy. I remember the glorious hours I spent rocking you and singing lullabies to you, while you smiled up at me. When I would stop singing, you would ask for more.
As you grew older, you were smart beyond your years. Your teacher told me one day, “He is an old soul.” Confirmation that you had been around before and that I was lucky enough to be chosen as your mother this time around.
Sometimes in families, the dynamics become set, and each person has a role to play. I regret that yours was to be the [bookish one/comedic relief/etc.], and I regret that I didn’t realize your needs weren’t being met. I want to rip up the pages of the past and rewrite them. The only way I can do that is to tell you how sorry I am.
As I have worked to heal my many deep wounds, I pray that you have been able to find a way to heal the wounds that I created, that our family created. I know that I always loved you with a ferocious love. I still do.
May you be well. And if we should ever walk this life together again, may we do it with the joy of forgiveness, laughter, and music to accompany us.
I love you.
Tips for Writing Your Goodbye Letter
Writing your goodbye letter will probably be a difficult process, but even if you aren’t a natural-born writer, your time and effort can lead you to write something very meaningful.
Keep these tips in mind as you write:
- Avoid the blame game. Parent-child relationships are complicated, and you and your estranged son have probably both done or said things you regret. Be honest, but don’t use your goodbye letter as an opportunity to berate your son for his wrongdoings. Continuing to dwell on these regrets will only be more hurtful.
- Be specific. If there’s anything you feel the need to apologize for or address, or certain memories you’d like to share, your letter is a good time to do just that. With the opportunity to edit and rewrite as much as you need, you can express your feelings and thoughts in a more measured way than you would during an emotional, face-to-face conversation.
- Decide whether to leave a door open for the future. If you and your son might have the opportunity to reconcile or talk things out in the future, you can use your letter to let him know that you’re open to that possibility. Conversely, if your letter is more of a final goodbye, your message can reflect that.
- Adapted from “Letter to Son From Mom: 15 Examples to Inspire the Right Words,” Live Bold & Bloom
- “A letter to… my estranged daughter,” The Guardian
- Adapted from “A letter to… my estranged son — please come back to me,” The Guardian
- Adapted from “Writing To An Estranged Son,” Last Goodbye Letters
- Adapted from “Letting Go: A Love Letter to My Daughter,” HuffPost Life
- Adapted from “A letter to my estranged daughter after eight years apart,” MamaMia