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DEPARTURE LOUNGE, 8" x 10", digital collage, ©2023 BBose

Search #toxicparents on Instagram, and you’ll find more than 73,000 posts, most urging young adults to cut ties with their families, especially their parents. Coincidence? I’m not so sure…

Both of my kids, so far, are lost to this slick, sick phenomenon. It’s almost the perfect crime: hard to mention, so it stays unmentioned. No Contact means no conversation, no roadmap to a resolution. The only tool I have for my grief is to paint about it. I’m grateful I have this outlet. This is a catalog of artwork created during this period. Not every piece is directly about estrangement, but my grief is in each one.

This book is for my fellow estrangees, especially the moms. This is really, really hard, I miss my children and grandchildren unbearably. Moms going through this should feel seen and understood. It’s also for me. My wish is to raise awareness that parental estrangement is a silent epidemic that desperately needs healing for all concerned.

THE POA, 35" x 48", oil on canvas, © 2021 BBose

Something’s Afoot

Why are so many adult children going No Contact?

Over the past few years, hundreds of thousands of parents and grandparents worldwide are navigating troubled waters aboard the S.S. No Contact. Thrown overboard and cast adrift without a life jacket by their own adult children, we are forever lost at sea to our grandchildren.

Thanks to Facebook support groups, many of us are comparing notes. Through our anguish, we recognize ther is an ill wind is blowing from a similar direction: from so-called influencers and questionable therapists who diagnose us without ever having met us, advising our adult children to go N.C. — No Contact.

Following are some paintings I have filled my time with lately.

Niobe’s Shadow

NIOBE'S SHADOW, 30" x 40", oil on canvas, ©2022 BBose

This painting is about how nice it would be to ‘leave’ for elsewhere, past this perpetual sorrow, shown as some lucky souls taking off on their magic carpets past the cold, craggy cliff face with a waterfall that perpetually spills like tears. This image is from a real place in Turkey (The Weeping Rock on Mount Spil), which is associated with the tragic Greek mother Niobe who lost all of her children and weeps forever. She was later transformed into a stone cliff where she broods over the sorrowful fate sent to her by the gods.

It seems the only avenue I do have the agency to travel down is via my artwork. So these days I am painting about what this feels like. Most of these are large since these are big feelings.


ABANDONED, 20" x 16" oil on canvas, ©2020 BBose

This painting is based on a photo I saw in the New York Times of an abandoned arctic weather station by Dmitry Kokh which I very much related to. For me, the knocked over water tower represents the destruction of the previously highly functioning emotional wellspring I enjoyed when our relationship with my daughter and grandchildren was intact. The polar bears, the base forces of dumb yet innocent brutality, are obliviously following their nature. The abandoned, decaying house represents me. I feel wrecked from the inside out. My identity as a grandmother to my grandsons has been left in ruins. I am banished to the bleak beyond.

The sudden trap door was devastating on so many levels. I developed heart palpitations, I had a sudden amnesia attack. I didn’t especially want to live. If my breast cancer returned I decided I wouldn’t seek treatment. I’ve been through a lot in my life, but this was way more than I could handle. I had practice already with the rejection of my older daughter, but ghosted by BOTH of my children? What does this say about me? This called for every fiber of my being to not collapse into despair.

A Failure

A FAILURE, 11" x 7", oil, on wood block, 2022 ©BBose

This painting of a lost weather balloon on a block of wood is about the many attempts I have made to reach out and connect with my children. The wood block is the No Contact blockade. I’ve had the therapy, I’ve read the books and I’ve done the things: the apology letter, the gentle inquiry, the respectful silence, the video plea, the nice cards, the webinars, the podcasts, the support groups. I’ve asked for help from God, the spirit world, relatives, freinds, apps, a lawyer and a detective.

And I do, in fact, feel like a ghost. But I’ve noticed there are hundreds of thousands, probably millions of us ghosts on Facebook. What the hell is going on?

An actual ghost does not have agency. I still do. So I’m doing this project for my fellow estrangees, us ghosts. There are so many of us and we don’t have to suffer silently.

I’m suffering out loud and in color.

Why Make Art?

The Ain Ghazal sculptures were buried more than 9,000 years ago, unearthed when a road was being built in Jordan. This is a depiction of one from the Louvre. More than 100 reed and plaster figures like this have been found, each had distinctive faces with eyes lined in bitumen. Many had no arms, some had two heads. No-one knowswhat they signified. It seems people have been compelled to make art for a very long time.

Still Kickin’

STILL KICKIN', oil on canvas, 36' x 48', ©2022 BBose

The process of dreaming something into existence is the same for all of us. I, too, feel compelled to make art. It transcends the limits of language and time and speaks directly to the transformative, universal world of feeling. To me, judging by the look on this sculpture’s face, what she is saying across the eons is: “I’m pissed. Where are my arms? While there’s plenty I can no longer do, I’m still here, feelings and all.” 

Because these days I have been abruptly ghosted by both of my children and am now off limits to my grandsons, this is exactly how I feel. Helpless, yet existing, sad and upset.

My loving arms are not only empty, they no longer exist.

What’s Really Going On Here?

The terms we ghosts are all hearing: toxic, narcissist, controlling, manipulative, transactional, poisonous, dysfunctional, judgmental. In my day, it was called parenting, human, fallible, doing the best we could.

Cutting off a parent who dedicated their life to the well-being of their child without any discussion or prior warning is heartless. Even a murderer gets a day in court. Why can’t they face with their accusations? While this draconian No Contact method may feel justifiable to them, it is, in fact, cowardly. Justice without mercy is cruelty, as Thomas Aquinas said.

And what about the grandchildren? What are they being told? That Grandma no longer loves them? That Grandpa is suddenly crazy? That they’ve become dangerous? That cutting someone off is a good way to deal with life’s conflicts?

Since this happened so suddenly, it took time to recover from the shock of losing my entire original family. Despite a kernel of hope that things will change, it is like a mass death with an open grave. No funeral, no shiva, no memorial, no outpouring of consolation except from those I trust. There’s a huge element of embarrassment and fear of secret judgment. This hard energy needs to go somewhere. It is why I’m doing art about it. It helps to put the feelings someplace beyond my guts.

With You

WITH YOU, 24" x 32", photograph, 2023 ©BBose

My hope is that the countless hours spent lovingly grandparenting my grandsons will follow them through life in their heart of hearts.

A Ghosted Story

GHOSTED STORY, 12" x 17", photograph, 2023 ©BBose

I shot this photo from the perspective of how my grandchildren might remember me. Now they are taller but memories of me are no longer being formed. I create artwork and save it for them.

Head Trips

Estrangement is a head trip that takes all of my mental muscle to keep in perspective. Once I consulted a psychic who told me that unlike most folks, I am in constant touch with the spirit world. That took me by surprise because at the time I thought everyone else was, too. But now I think most people don’t really believe in anything. If they really thought they were being watched by a higher power, why would they act as they do?

A Prayer

A PRAYER, 24" x 32", oil on masonite, ©2022 BBose

I have always kept a special shelf in my house with significant small objects. I call it Tiny Town. The images on the bottom of this painting are from Tiny Town and refer to my family. The puppet woman with the blank expression represents my daughter who claims we have been faking it with her all these years, but since she is unable to face me with her complaints and judgements, then who is the faker? My prayer is for some intervention from the spirit world since I am completely out of ideas.

An Inevitable Truth

AN INEVITABLE TRUTH, 66" x 42.5" framed

I haven’t seen the face of one of my daughters for 15 years. She is satisfied and comfortable with her life and obviously not interested in rocking the boat with my presence. Indeed, all of my attempts to reach out are ignored or met with threats of restraining orders. None of this negates the fact that I gave birth to, loved and nurtured this person to the best of my ability. Despite the cruelty, I actually still love my child very much. All of the people in her life have been told a story that explains away the deeply painful reality of my non-existence. The story she tells is represented by the chimney built with a golden trowel that wants to incinerate the past. The starfish, lying flat on the ground in an exhausted way, represents me and my wish to be in touch with her in a real way. It is a beautiful day in her life and all is well, except for the fact that underneath it all, a child and her mother are still connected, and always will be.

The Great Beauty

THE GREAT BEAUTY, 16" x 20", oil on canvas, 2022 ©BBose

A friend snapped a blurry photo of a woman looking at him while he zoomed past a market in Morocco. I loved this lady’s beautiful gesture, captured during a random, split second connection between two total strangers –  a tourist passing by someone going about her day shopping halfway across the world. Her beatific pose suggests a blessing – and indeed, I feel blessed as I remember the beautiful truth that whatever our personal reality, we are all connected in time and space, wherever and whoever we are. Now the stranger waves to me from my bedroom wall. I think of her and hope she survived the earthquake. While painting her, I wondered if she’d been shopping for her kid or grandkids.

Seeing the Light

Painting is about what the light is doing to a thing.

Sun Dog

SUNDOG, 36" x 48", oil on canvas, ©2022 BBose

This large painting is from a photo I took in my back yard. I love how many elements are represented – reflected sun, reflected sky, light and shadow on the water and stone. In the distance, the colors become murky. So much is unknown to me these days. My mind wants to fill in what it doesn’t know but without more light it really is a mystery. The dog is a sculpture, a fake dog with a real shadow.


RESQUIETCAT, 48" x 36", oil on canvas, ©2022 BBose

This painting is about the importance of my cat Sambellina, who likes to lie on the floor in a Supergirl pose. Her loving cuteness has helped me weather these turbulent storm clouds. Below her is her predecessor Moggin, whose passing allowed the space for the advent of Samy in the yin yang ballet of the lives and deaths of family pets. Resquietcat means “may she rest in peace.”

To Shining Sea

TO SHINING SEA, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, © 2020 BBose

This landscape of two people on a walk by the mighty Pacific reminds me to seek true communion where I can find it and to remember how small I am in the scheme of things.


REFLECTING, 20" x 30", oil on canvas, © 2017 BBose

This portrait of my husband is from a stay in a gloomy rainforest. We were overjoyed to see and feel the sun.

As for me, sometimes it takes an effort to not sink into a depression. Celebrating the beauty of nature helps, and luckily it is all around me in Florida. Right in front of me in the here and now is my adorable kitty, my wonderful husband and the love of his excellent family, including two amazing step-grandbabies. We have a lovely home, security, great friends, relatively good health and I still have creative ability. I have also realized that nobody gets everything. It helps me to hear others’ stories. That’s why I’m sharing my real story. Each of us has one.

"Welcome!" 20" x 16" digital painting canvas print

The only advice I have to offer other estranged parents is this: We all have our karma to make and work through. Every action we take and even every thought we make affects each other in obvious and subtle ways all of the time. Everyone is in various stages of self realization and everyone is writing their story on the fly. We have to forgive each other, we have to be patient and allow grace to kick in. If we are lucky, it will. Look for joy and help each other.

Meanwhile, I will continue to make art.

The Art Directress, oil on canvas, 30" x 40"

Barbara Bose Artist’s Statement

“The marvels of nature never cease to fill me with awe, particularly the ingenious beauty of nature’s intricacies. It seems that so many answers can be found in there, if we only look. To me, art is a form of worship. I love the mystical, mythical and the allegorical. I enjoy painting the interplay between the natural world and people. My work seeks to connect our shared human experience by reminding us we are fused to more than just this here and now. We are inextricably linked with each other and art is what we can add to the world.

Lately, my work has been a form of personal art therapy. Like thousands of other baby boomers experiencing the epidemic of estrangement from my own adult children and grandchildren, I am processing my grief by expressing this hard story on to canvas.”

– Barbara Bose