Monthly Archives: May 2016

Opposite themes in two new “mother-son” books brings awareness to trend

book for parents of estranged adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Occasionally, you find yourself rubbing shoulders with someone unexpected. It happened to me when my new book to help parents of estranged adult children came out the first week of May. To my surprise, CNN’s Anderson Cooper was right next to me. Well, technically, it wasn’t me rubbing shoulders. It was my book at Amazon.com.

On computer screens around the world, there is Cooper’s new release. He sits with his mother on the cover of their memoir that explores enduring love between a son and his mom. Ironically, next to this there’s my book that shows a family tree with a bird flying away.  My my new self-help release tells of mother and son estrangement.

Starting the week before Mother’s Day, both my book to help rejected parents move forward after a broken bond, and Anderson Cooper’s memoir of parent-child connection with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, have been featured as Amazon’s “hot new releases” in the parent & adult child category. A version of his book is still at number one. My paperback has fluctuated from #2 to 20. Often, regardless of its numbered place, it has been featured in the right-hand column, snuggled up next to his.

Has Anderson Cooper seen my book with its heartfelt reviews beside his with its more than 700 glowing comments? Despite the 600+ quantity difference, our reviews’ star level is about the same—but I digress.

As a writer with the touchy subject of parent-adult child estrangement that’s still a bit taboo, I’ve imagined my pretty book cover catching Cooper’s eye. He’d tilt his gray head inquisitively. What’s this? He’d click my book, and then he’d realize our shared “hot new release” and “mother-son” subject matter don’t make our books alike. He might be curious. Is it true there’s a trend of adult children who walk away from loving families?

People are often surprised to learn that approximately 25,000 parents come to my website to give and receive support each month. He might be astonished that more than 9,000 parents of estranged adults answered my survey for the book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children. And then he’d be hooked. He would go to the phone. He would call me for his show.

Each time I get to this part of my fantasy, I stop. He isn’t likely to call.

If Anderson Cooper does click over to my book, I imagine he’ll be struck by the contrast. Although he’d find similarities too. Both include tough social situations and pain as well as deep-felt love, but their overarching themes couldn’t be any more different. His memoir is based on strengthening the parent-child bond. My book is the bond’s unraveling.

Like many people do, he might start to speculate about the thousands of parents who, because they fear what’s often automatic judgment, keep private their personal despair. Instead of rubbing shoulders in social situations, those parents often hide away in shame. I know, because as the parent of an estranged adult child, I was once felt embarrassed, too.

help for mothers of estranged adult childrenAs our books sat together, juxtaposed, Anderson Cooper likely wasn’t the only person who clicked on my cover, intrigued. By shelving my book for parents of estranged adult children next to a “hot new release” of such gargantuan popularity, Amazon shed light on parent-adult child estrangement, a shameful social issue that’s growing, and that one reviewer of my book said must “come out.” This serendipitous meeting brings awareness, and perhaps leads suffering parents to the restorative messages in my book. They can be done with the crying. There is help and healing ahead.

 

Adult children won’t talk to you: What does it mean to cope?

adult children no longer talk to youWhen adult children won’t talk to you: What does it mean to cope?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Often, parents of estranged adults tell me that they’re managing to “cope.”

Some associate the word, with a fight. They say it’s a constant struggle to get through the days, or refer to coping with emotional and social fallout as a daily battle.

Some sound resigned, or even defeated. “I’m enduring,” they might say. Or, “I’m carrying on but just barely.”

Synonyms for cope

After hearing so many variations in how parents of estranged adult children define the word “cope,” I decided to do a little research. In a thesaurus, there are words that represent all of the uses I’ve heard from parents.

In an effort to help you see where your definition falls, I’ve grouped some of the synonyms (words and phrases) for cope into three categories by type. The categories I created are as follows:

Active participation: struggle, battle, tussle, wrestle, tangleadult children won't talk to you

Passive participation: endure, suffer, live with, get by

 Successful participation: confront, handle, dispatch

Which of these categories best fits how you think about yourself and the situation of estrangement? There’s no right or wrong answer—only gained insight into where you stand right now.

In coping with estrangement, if you see yourself in the “active participation” category, then you’re actively engaging with the fact that your adult child won’t talk to you. You’re grappling with the estrangement’s effects in your life, on your relationships, and on your outlook. I see this as a positive.

While I’ve called the second category “passive,” that’s not necessarily a negative. Once parents consider how estrangement affects them and move past the initial shock, they might very well enter a stage of resignation or acceptance.

In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, one of the tools helps parents reflect in detail upon just how far-reaching the effects of estrangement has been for them. Taking a realistic look at ourselves after an emotional trauma (such as when an adult children won’t talk to us), can allow us to begin to make changes toward recovering our old self—or even a new and better self.

Unfortunately, people sometimes get stuck in that passive phase. I routinely hear from parents who have been estranged for many years, or who have reconciled, only to be estranged again, sometimes repeatedly. And some of these parents seem resigned to stay in that passive phase. They tell themselves they’ll never get past the hurt, that the pain will never go away, and that there are no answers to help them.

Are you a victim? Do you want to stay that way?

While it’s true that many parents of estranged adults have been victimized, that doesn’t mean a parent must remain a victim. This moves us to the third category of coping I’ve created here: Successful participation.

None of these conscious coping strategies is wrong, but consider which one appeals to you. How have you coped in the past? How do you want to cope?

It’s up to each of us to decide whether we will learn to cope in practical ways that help us get past the pain, foster our growth, and advance us forward in our own happy lives.

What don’t you know?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

adult children's betrayalA recent discussion about statistics made me think of all the parents going back to work or other pursuits on this morning after the holiday.

Statistics are like bikinis.  What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.  ~Aaron Levenstein

Maybe you missed your estranged adult son or daughter, and so it’s trying to hear your co-workers talk about what their families did for them, and how much fun they had. You’re sincerely happy for those people, but you might also be a little envious. It hurts to hear that others are enjoying great relationships while you are suffering.

Let’s be truthful—you might be envious, too. You might even have some thoughts about how you were a good parent, maybe even a better parent than your co-worker, friend or neighbor who’s still close to their adult children. So why are you estranged, and that person isn’t?

Dealing with those sorts of emotions can be a challenge. In Done With The Crying, managing the tough emotions like envy, anger, and resentment are discussed throughout, and dealt with in a specific chapter. That’s too big a topic to cover here, but on this day after the holiday weekend, considering statistics might help (at least a little).

Stats: What aren’t you being told?

This is no consolation—but in hearing others’ fun, consider what you’re not being told. People present the best in their lives. The most horrific and embarrassing personal challenges aren’t usually the ones we openly share.

All those beautiful scenes your co-worker shares about a holiday are only a slice of their life they choose to let you see. Even the most perfect people aren’t. Even the most hunky-dory families aren’t all rosy all of the time. There may be things you don’t know about—and that won’t be shared—just as you may quietly tell them you’re glad they had a good time, then duck out of the breakroom without sharing more about your own holiday.

Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.  ~William W. Watt

Maybe this doesn’t help. Maybe it’s even wrong to point out that other people likely have secret pain. But the truth is, we don’t always know what sort of personal traumas people have been through.

Obviously, knowing that others suffer doesn’t mitigate our own emotional pain. Nor does it make up for the loss of special relationships, and bonds we believed were unbreakable. It’s just something to think about on this new day—another brand new start.

Related Posts:
Adult Child’s Rejection: Emotional and social fallout
Five ways to move on after an aduld child’s rejection

Adult child’s rejection: Emotional and social fallout

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Things aren’t always as they seem. Neither are people. In the throes of disbelief, shocked by an adult child’s rejection, a parent may feel all alone among their peers. How can any mother feel like herself when her whole world seems to have fallen apart? How can a father feel secure when everything he’s ever worked for is trashed?

When we’re emotiadult child's rejectiononally exhausted—and even physically fatigued from the loss of sleep that can go with an adult child’s rejection—we can start to doubt ourselves. And how much more so when the son or daughter we love puts the blame on us, maybe even saying that we’re crazy? Or telling others we are.

Alone among our peers

When we’re feeling so low over something as devastating and embarrassing as an adult child’s rejection, we tend to isolate ourselves. Confused, perhaps even doubting ourselves, we may not have the energy to try and explain what’s going on in our lives. But we also know people might notice that we’re not our usual selves. Afraid of questions, we might start to avoid social situations. We might also fear judgment. How can we share something so awful?

Esther—one of the dozens of mothers whose stories I relate in my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, felt like this:  If I still wondered what I did wrong, how could I expect other people not to wonder?

When we’re feeling uncertain and uneasy, socializing can be difficult (after an adult child’s rejection, that may be putting it mildly).

When your own son or daughter doesn’t believe you’re a good parent, tells you you’re crazy, or accuses you with memories that don’t match your own, even telling friends you trust and feel close to can feel scary.

Isolating the abused is a tactic out of a very old playbook. So is pinning the fault on the victim. That’s what abusers do. They excuse their own behavior by blaming another.

Abuse?

Whether or not you consider your adult child’s rejection a form of abuse, it’s important to recognize that at a time when you’re emotionally wrought, feeling as if your whole world and everything you’ve ever worked for has disintegrated, you’re at risk. Isolation, self-doubt, and self-blame, are common among parents of estranged adult children. But you need to know—you’re not alone.

Talking about your adult child’s estrangement takes a plan.

When we’re feeling out of sorts, in shock, and embarrassed, it’s difficult to believe we’re not the only ones enduring such devastation. But the truth is, we don’t always hear about adult children who come from caring families rejecting them. Just as you may feel like the freak show among your peers, others might also be keeping quiet about their personal pain.

In the book, I share my own story of shedding the shame of my son’s estrangement. In doing so, I regained a sense of freedom, and reclaimed a strong identity. Being open about the situation also paved the way for me to help other parents of estranged of adult children.

If you tell others about your adult child’s rejection, you may very well be judged. Faces tighten. Arms fold. Emotional walls go up. The expected reaction often does happen. But as is explained in Done With The Crying, you can also steer the response, just as you might with some other sort of tragedy you choose to share.

Whether you borrow from other parents’ “ready responses” in the book, or use them as jumping off points for your own, it’s always easier to socialize when you feel prepared.

You might be also be surprised how many people can relate. As one mother discusses, until she opened up, she didn’t know that some parents who were a little standoffish also had estranged children.Turns out, those parents who were hard to get to know were suffering their own private despair—just as she once was. “I ended up helping them get something horrible off their chests,” she says, “which made me feel better too.”

Even though socializing may be difficult, the general advice after trauma is to mix among people, keep commitments, and get on with life. You may very well need to protect yourself, get your bearings, and regain some self-esteem. My experience, and that of other mothers shared in the book, can help you take small steps forward, steer others’ reactions to your own benefit. Remember, there’s no need to make big scary leaps. Even the tiniest of steps help you build confidence, and move you forward—in new directions, or simply back to your old self and life.

Available through popular booksellers. Ask your local bookstore to order this book for help for mothers of estranged adult childrenparents of estranged adult children for you. Or order online. Kindle lovers, your version will be available soon.

Not in the U.S?  — you can still get the book. Ask your local bookstore, or order at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com/uk

 

Happy Mother’s Day

estranged mothers mother's dayTo all the hurting moms of estranged adult children – – celebrate yourselves. Mother’s day is set aside to honor all the amazing women who give and care and laugh and love and bring so much joy.

To so many of you mothers of estranged adults who have written to me about your experiences, commented in the forum, left replies to my posts at the site, or emailed to say thanks for the articles here . . . it’s my turn to thank YOU. For your encouragement, your sharing, and for all the love you give.

To mothers of estranged adults everywhere – –  you are beautiful. You are worthy. You are valuable.

Laugh, love, be with others, or isolate yourself. Do whatever YOU need to do to have a good Mother’s Day. Here are 6 ideas.

And here is a beautiful photo and music montage fitting for mothers of estranged adults on Mother’s Day.

 

And here’s my new book to help:
help for mothers of estranged adult children

 

Related articles:

Father’s Day when your adult child is estranged

Greetings from estranged adult children

parents of estranged adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Roberta’s phone jangled its notification bell. A text on Mother’s Day? In a sudden state of dread, she pulled the annoying smartphone from her purse and saw the name—her estranged adult son. Roberta’s heart leapt, a physical betrayal to the reality she knew. What would he say this time? Empty well wishes on a tiny screen? Or worse, a slicing jab?

A familiar sinking sensation filled Roberta’s gut. For a moment or two, she contemplated squinting as she clicked it open, looking only close enough to call up the little menu and hit “discard.”

She let her wrist go limp, the smartphone feeling heavy in her hand. She’d open it eventually, she knew. But not right now. First she’d have to gather her strength.

Greetings from a stranger: your estranged adult child

Roberta is like many parents of estranged adult children who have shared their stories of leaping hope, mixed with a familiar dread. Her son still contacts her from time to time, but he isn’t the kind little boy she knew. He isn’t the teen she’d been so proud of. And the bits of the man she now sees only in snippets of text . . . well, she doesn’t know him. He has become a stranger.

Among the nearly 10,000 parents of estranged adult children to date who filled in my survey, approximately 46% replied “yes” to a question about whether they had ANY contact with their estranged adult child. Although not everyone used the box to “explain” as the question requests, those who did most commonly spoke of occasional texts or a card, usually associated with a holiday or birthday.

Sometimes, the contact comes on Mother’s Day, with the phrase “I love you,” or hugs in kisses in type: “xxoo.”

Often, parents describe how their hearts leap with hope at these periodic points of contact. They often respond, too—and then endure days of agonizing silence, unanswered.

After a few of these emotional roller coasters, parents may start to use words like “obligatory” and “generic” to describe the greetings from a son or daughter they no longer know.

Sometimes, the texts start out friendly enough, but then resort to backhanded slaps:

  • “Thanks for being a good mom when I was a kid. I don’t know what happened to you.”
  • “Happy Mother’s Day. I still wish you were dead.”
  • “I love you. Maybe one day we’ll reconnect.”

 Poignant poison

Sometimes, the greetings that fill parents with hope, are later understood as veiled attempts to fulfill a need. Parents say that several texts, maybe even a brief call or two get spread out over several days, preceding a request for money or some other assistance.

Some parents oblige. In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, Vicky recalls with clarity the way her daughter first rejected her. Her daughter had volunteered to bring the cake to Vicky’s 61st birthday party. “There I was waiting in my front room with pink paper streamers strung all around,” says Vicky. “Danielle’s siblings were there, a few neighbors, and even my pastor’s wife. Then I got the text.”

The pain of hope made Vicky vulnerable. But after nine long years, she made a change. At age 70, she tells other mothers not to wait so long to get on with their lives.

What can you do?

Roberta wishes things were different with her estranged son. She’ll read the text, and maybe even reply. But she’ll do it on her own time. After she’s had a good meal and enjoyed the day as she’d planned to—with her daughter who remains close, and a friend who is all alone on Mother’s Day. Maybe she’ll open the message in their presence even, with support from people who know—just as Roberta knows deep in her heart, and is proven by lovely memories of all the good she has done—that she was a good mother.

Or maybe she will delete it. Her daughter would tell her she had the right. Anybody who cared about her would. But Roberta still holds out hope. Even so, she won’t let it hold her hostage. She won’t sit around and cry any longer.

Your estranged adult child’s choices don’t define you

No matter what choices our adult children make, their behavior does not diminish the good we did or continue to do in ours and others’ lives.  Someone’s inability to see our value does not detract from our worth. Value yourself.

If you find yourself sitting around waiting for a text or call on Mother’s Day or some other special day, think of Roberta reading her son’s message on her own terms. Think of Vicky with her advice. You don’t have to give up hope, but you can be in charge of yourself and your life. You count.

Related articles:

Mother’s Day: Triggering Pain

Six Ways to Get Through Mother’s Day

What am I if I’m not a mother?

Mother’s Day: triggering pain for mothers of estranged adults

Mother's day estranged adult childrenMother’s Day, and special days: Triggering pain for mothers of estranged adult children

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Here it comes again—Mother’s Day in the United States and in Canada. Mothers of estranged adult children in the U.K. have already seen Mother’s Day come and go. Soon, mothers in Canada and in the States will be on the other side of the holiday too—until next year, when it rolls around all over again.

Hang in there. Mother’s Day won’t stop coming just because we’re estranged. And having spoken with thousands of parents who’ve been cut off by adult children, the reality is that the situation may not be ending for you anytime soon either. That’s why it’s so important for you to adapt.

What can you do?

Since starting this site, I’ve written a few articles about getting through Mother’s Day when adult children are estranged. You’ll find in them practical advice and concrete tips. You’ll also find comments from mothers of estranged adult children who share their experiences, and acknowledge the emotional pain.

In this article, we’ll focus on Mother’s Day from an emotional triggers perspective.

Mother’s Day when adult children are estranged: Avoiding extra hurt

estranged from adult childrenMother’s Day, like any time when we’re particularly reminded of an estranged adult child and the relationship we used to share, can trigger an onslaught of feelings. While it’s helpful to acknowledge the pain, it’s also easy to slip into a looping circle of thoughts that bring us down. Everyone else is having fun, and I’m sitting home alone. What did I do to deserve this? This is so embarrassing. Nobody understands.

Each of us has our own personal version of woeful thoughts. And scrolling through Facebook with its stream of happy family shots might fuel the feelings behind them. Protect yourself if you need to.  Just as social media can push emotional buttons, going to a brunch on Mother’s Day when you’ll be surrounded by families also might not be helpful either. Do you have other adult children or family who want to take you out? Remember, this is your day. You get to choose! Take care of yourself.

Coping Mindfully

What else might make you feel sad or lonely? Make a few notes of what will hurt or help–and then be proactive. Mother’s Day when your adult children are estranged is similar to other times that are particularly hurtful because they remind you of loss, stress, or grief. In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, in one story, Julia misses her only son. They were very close, and in the early mornings, he used to call her daily to chat. Julia had come to expect those calls. So after the estrangement, she would stare at the silent phone. Time gaped, and she felt horribly alone and sad.

Before her son walked away from the family, Julia’s mornings revolved around those calls. Their chat sessions had become part of her routine. They connected her to her son, and to the life they shared. But post-estrangement, Julia learned to adapt. Using one of the tools in the first chapter of the book, the first step toward her healing was to alter her routine. Looking at her phone each morning, wishing it would ring, only reminded her of what she’d lost.

Emotional hiccups

Just as mornings were particularly difficult for Julia, Mother’s Day can prick up the feelings of loneliness and rejection that are common with estrangement from adult children. For some it’s a particular song. Others might be bothered by a particular sporting event, or other recreation. Even if you don’t realize why, you might find yourself overeating, grousing at the cat, or having troublesome dreams. The feelings or behavior may be related to emotions triggered by a holiday like Mother’s Day, or another personally significant day.

While I’m past the pain of estrangement, certain places and activities do remind me of my estranged adult child. Eating strawberries makes me think of him—he’d choose them over any sugary dessert. And a nearby street never fails to remind me of him. Memories are attached to those things, so it’s natural the mind connects them to someone who was once so much a part of my life.

Does that mean I’m sad? Not anymore. I’ve come to think of those triggered memories as hiccups. Like some of the other mothers whose stories are shared in my book, I’ve worked through the pain, and moved beyond it. Recognizing those triggers, and then taking action to make new routines can help.

Stepping forward: Be good to yourself

There’s no set schedule to moving beyond emotinonal pain. There are only steps, big or little, that move you forward. Whatever you do, don’t get down on yourself. Acknowledge your feelings so you can deal with them. Remember the utter shock you felt when your son or daughter first cut you off? Don’t think of triggered emotions as setbacks. They’re aftershocks—a normal occurrence that relieves pressure. Pat yourself on the back for accepting where you are right now, and for recognizing that in coping mindfully like Julia, you’re healing. Think: Forward. I’m adapting. I’m moving on.

parents of estranged adult childrenTake Action

Like Julia and other mothers whose stories of estrangement from adult children are shared in Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, you too can heal. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a bad trigger day. You too can be Done With The Crying.
352 pages, May 2, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9973522-0-7
Available through popular booksellers–ask your local bookstore to order it for you (but prepare for delays–it’s so new it might not show up in their systems yet). Or order online.

 

 

After an adult child’s estrangement

Mother's day when adult children are estrangedThe mother who isn’t, and
the grandmother who isn’t allowed

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

If I’m no longer a mother, then what am I?

It’s a question I hear often after an adult child’s estrangement. Among the more than 9,000 mothers who have answered my survey for parents of estranged adult children, or reached out in site comments or in emails, hundreds ask the same or a similar question.

Even the busiest mothers go out of their way for their adult children. Sometimes, mothers even say their lives revolved around them, as if they’ve been on-call.

For some, the question has layers of complexity that make the situation even more heartbreaking. Like when grandchildren are involved, which makes the loss even more cruel and sad.

Grandmothers picture the sweet, innocent faces of the grandchildren their estranged son or daughter has ripped away, and worry what awful picture is being painted about them. That they’re crazy? Or worse, that they don’t care? Those women may ask, if I’m no longer the devoted grandmother, always there and ready to help, then who am I?

One of the many tools in my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, can help you answer that question. While answering doesn’t change the situation, it can change you. When we change, everything changes—for the better.

Maybe you’ve been a mom that puts everyone else first. Maybe after an adult child’s estrangement, when that part of you seems stripped away, it’s hard to remember who you even are. You can figure that out again. You can find your very essence—and use that knowledge to move forward in your life.

In my book, you’ll have the opportunity to reflect on what it is that makes you you, and even embrace parts of yourself you’ve never given yourself credit for.

When we know who we are, we’re stronger. We’re better able to weather the storms of life, and the disappointments caused by the people we’ve felt so close to.

As Mother’s Day approaches, with all the television commercials, and the families around you that seem so happy, it may feel like you’re all alone; like you’re the odd woman out of all the joy and love that fills the day.

But you can reclaim your happiness. When you remind yourself of who you are, at your very core, you become your own guiding light—to a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Crying front cover_medium Join the ranks of mothers who recognize the gifts they have given. Applaud yourself, even if your children don’t. It’s not your fault they don’t recognize the love you’ve shown. Right now, recognize and honor yourself. You, too, can be done with the crying. Get help and healing. Move forward in your own fulfilling life.
352 pages
May 2, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9973522-0-7
Available through popular booksellers–ask your local bookstore to order it for you (but prepare for delays–it’s so new it might not show up in their system yet!). Or order online.