Monthly Archives: June 2016

Done With The Crying reviewed at Self-Help Daily

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

book for parents of estranged adultsJust a short note today about a review of my book provided by Joi of Self Help Daily. I’m very grateful she chose to review my book. You can see the review here.

While there, don’t limit your reading to just her review of  the book. Self-Help Daily is a powerful place of positive energy…all wrapped up in joy (which is how you pronounce the site owner’s name, Joi)! Why not stick around for a bit and absorb some of that positive spirit? We can all use a little extra oomph in the happiness and well-being department from time to time. The Self-Help Daily website is a good place to get a sensible perspective that’s also a bit of fun.


Fathers of estranged adult children: You’re not alone

fathers of estranged adult childrenby Sheri McGregor

As Father’s Day rolls around again, many of you fathers of estranged adult children are holding hurt inside. For fathers of estranged adult children, Father’s Day can be a time of embarrassment and pain—yet those feelings aren’t necessarily discussed, or acknowledged. Many fathers keep themselves busy and don’t share their pain. Some ask, “What’s the use of talking about something you can’t fix?” Others, as I’ve learned in my research, want to stay strong for their partner.

Among the men in my book to help parents who have been hurt by a son or daughter’s estrangement is a man who saw the estrangement coming. He tried to protect his wife from the pain he knew her daughter would inflict. Another hid his pain behind his anger. These men are not so different from many of you. They’re similar to my husband, who found it difficult to hear me express my pain over our son’s estrangement—-because it was something he was powerless to fix.

Fathers of estranged adult children, when you share, I’m listening. If you haven’t filled in the survey yet, I hope you will. In my book, I’ve included A Note To Fathers that you can read also here

Meanwhile, don’t suffer in the run-up to Father’s Day, feeling as if you’re all alone. Many more women talk regularly in the support forum here at the site than men, but there are a few who have occasionally joined discussions. Recently, one father welcomed another to the group. Below, is a small excerpt of what that father said:

“The pain that you are feeling right now is so intense, so deep, so gut wrenching …I know..just writing to you at the moment I feel the hurt rearing its ugly head. But when you are so down, just lift your head and try to feel that we are all here for you, that you are not alone in this misery, that the bad moment will pass, that you deserve to LIVE your life from today onwards with your head held up high because you were the best father you could have been, not the ‘perfect daddy’ that your daughter expected.”

Whether or not you join the discussion, do as the welcoming father said, and “lift your head.” Thousands of parents read through the pages of this website every month. You are far from alone.

When Father’s Day arrives, remember, it’s your day. If you need to stay in on Father’s Day, and avoid the reminders or the happy family crowds, then honor that need. Today’s streaming TV options can prevent the flow of family-centric commercials that remind you of loss and make you feel like the odd man out. If you have loyal sons and daughters, allow them to honor you as you wish—don’t agree to an outing if that’s not what you want to do. Take-out brings your favorite restaurant into your own home.

For more about Father’s Day for estranged adult children, read my article: What About Father’s Day for Fathers of Estranged Adult Children? That article also includes tips for the people who love fathers of estranged adult children on Father’s Day–so if you love a man, a father who is estranged from an adult children, perhaps you can help that father feel at ease.


Father’s Day for fathers of estranged adult children

What about Father’s day for fathers of estranged adult children?

by Sheri McGregor

fathers of estranged adult childrenI’ve asked dads and the people who care about them how they feel. Most of the fathers told me, “It’s just another day.” They blow off the holiday as if it doesn’t bother them at all. But there may be more to the story.

One father of an estranged adult son told me the holiday itself is no issue. “It’s going back to work on Monday that makes me sad,” he said. “Invariably, co-workers tell stories of what their children did for them. And there I am with nothing to say.”

So, what helps?

For fathers of estranged adult children on Father’s Day:

Recognize that feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration may lurk beneath the surface. The glad tales of other fathers can bring them up.

Before Father’s Day, figure out what you need. Then honor those feelings – – even if that means telling other children or your spouse what you really want for Father’s Day.

Plan ahead for the days after the holiday too. If you’re bothered by other dads’ happy Father’s Day tales, have a ready reply. A variation of the following is one way to excuse yourself: “That’s great. I wish I could talk but I’ve got a deadline right now.” An exit plan can help you feel prepared. Sure, this is avoidance, but sometimes removing yourself is the easiest, most self-supportive plan of action – – and it honors you and your feelings.

If you do want to talk, figure out who you’ll confide in. A supportive spouse, a friend who won’t judge you, a trained professional. . . .  Sometimes pets, with their unconditional love, make the best listeners. You could share your thoughts and feelings with God, talk it out to yourself while driving in the car, or speak into a smart phone’s memo app. Consider writing a letter to your estranged child if it helps (you don’t have to send it).

If your spouse asks you how you feel, realize they mean well – – even if you don’t want to talk. A simple thank you, and an assurance that you’re fine can go a long way.  

If you’re a person who isn’t into most any holiday, be aware of any generalized negative feelings about the day tugging at you. Those feelings could mix with negative thoughts about your situation as a the father of an estranged adult and bring you down.

For the people who love fathers of estranged adult children:

Again, recognize that unsettling feelings may lurk beneath the surface. And be cognizant of the days after the holiday, too. Father’s Day for the fathers of estranged adult children in our lives may be easy to get through happily. Then they come home in a foul mood on Monday (connect the dots).

Honor his feelings, let him share if he wants, but perhaps don’t press. If he wants to talk, he will. If he doesn’t, providing support and demonstrating love in quieter ways may help. One wife put it this way: “For the two years our son has been estranged, I’ve always asked my husband if he’s okay. And he always says he’s fine. Maybe it hurts me more than him, or maybe he just doesn’t want to burden me. So, this year again, I’ll pick up ribs from his favorite barbecue place. Then I’ll watch his favorite Westerns on Netflix with him.” Favorite foods, ample space to do as he wishes, and a few kind words about what a great man he is may be best.

A positive attitude.

Really, in all of the responses I received from fathers of estranged adult children about the day, the consensus is right: Father’s Day comes and goes. You get through it. Life goes on.

Related articles:

Holidays: How to manage them

Mother’s Day when your adult child is estranged

History of Father’s Day (outbound link)

The void: Feel it or fill it?

moving on after an adult child's estrangementBy Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Often, parents who are moving on after an adult child’s estrangement tell me that once over the crushing hurt, they keep busy, and get along. But they also confide that sometimes they feel an uncomfortable void, and they wonder how to fill it.

Estrangement thrusts change upon us. The feeling these parents describe is similar to the feelings that are common in difficult times of transition and change: discomfort, restlessness, uncertainty.

I know that feeling. It’s as if your arms are left hanging open for an unreceived hug. What used to be the gentle lapping of water on the shores of a family with its natural ebb and flow is suddenly the wave that goes out and never returns. The son or daughter you love is suddenly a stranger, and your whole life—past, present, and future—has changed. It’s a landscape you don’t recognize. You can’t seem to get your footing or find your way.

Wanting to fill the void is normal. However, it may be wise to experience a void rather than rushing to fill it. Perhaps feeling the strange emptiness can even be beneficial. It’s helpful to reflect upon the many facets of the loss, and examine how you might handle the practical roles and situations your estranged child once fulfilled. In Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, I’ve provided a tool to help with this—as well as recognize what you’ve already accomplished. But when it comes to filling the emptiness with something else, not just anything old thing will do. Pause, reflect on your thoughts and feelings, and then act purposefully.

Why is the void so uncomfortable?

The obvious answer is feelings of anguish over the loss itself—of a dear son, or a daughter who lit up your life. But there could be underlying fears and anxiety, too. Is it the loss of an identity (as a mother, a father, a stepparent) that makes this extra frightening? We talked about that idea in: Who am I if I’m not a mother?

We love our grandchildren, and of course want to spend time with them. But in light of estrangement from adult children, it may help to look at the loss in another way. Maybe being so busy with grandchildren allowed you to ignore an old dream that you’ve always wanted to pursue, but are also a bit fearful of trying.

Or maybe the picture of retirement from a long career you valued, at least in part, for the security it provided your family, has suddenly changed. The time you imagined you’d spend teaching your grandchildren to hunt, to golf, or to take traveling has evaporated. What will you do with your hard-earned time off now?

Maybe without your son or daughter, you feel as if your life has been chopped off at the roots. Floating along feels like drifting toward uncertainty. Who knows what the future holds?

There’s no need to get stuck on this, or spend ages trying to figure out why experiencing this sense of a void is so difficult. But write out the thoughts that come to mind. If something resonates, explore it further—if you feel the need to. And then move on.

Moving on after an adult child’s estrangement:
New ways to think of empty space and time

Asking “why” you feel a certain way can help, but better questions stem from your intuition, build on the framework of your past, and make sense from your core self. Thinking of the quiet times, when the scary open sea of uncertainty, and the sprawling space and time make you feel sad, lost, and/or all alone, consider the reflection questions below. Feel free to alter them for your own benefit.

  • How can you think of the void you feel in the quiet moments in a more helpful way? If the extra time had appeared for any reason other than your adult child’s estrangement, how would you view it?
  • What could this feeling and situation be compared to? Can you describe this in terms of nature? In nature, forest fires that burn down trees let in sunlight. Dense dark woods can become meadows, filled with wildflowers. What can you gain from thinking of the void you feel in a similar way?
  • What do you envision filling in this void in your life? What would feel right to you (that you have control over)?
  • Is there a parallel in your past experiences that you could compare this to? What is there to learn that you can bring to this? For example, if you previously turned to comfort food and gained unhealthy weight, you know this could again be a danger for you. Steer clear.

Positive imagery: Steering you to something good

Giving a twist to what we view as feeling out of sorts or lost can make all the difference. A shift in perspective can shift everything.

Rather than not knowing where to turn, what to do, or how to fill the lonely gaping space, try a new thought. In moving on after an adult child’s estrangement, be open to possibilities and ripe for opportunities.

One woman recently sent me a message saying that she dearly missed her grandchildren. Since her adult child’s estrangement, she had earned an advanced degree and was now teaching at a college. Full of pride and enthusiasm, she acknowledged that she never had time to pursue those personal achievements when she was babysitting grandchildren. Her energy had been spent providing support for her adult child to build his career. Her support let him pursue his dreams—but left her with little time to follow her own. She now felt fulfilled, yet she still missed her grandchildren.

As this woman’s thoughts demonstrate, filling the void doesn’t necessarily mean you stop feeling the void. Just as other heartbreaks remain sad but don’t forever debilitate us, so it goes with a son or daughter’s estrangement (and the loss of relationships with grandchildren). Maybe we don’t fully “get over it,” but we get on with our lives. And our lives can be happy. I’m a testament to that fact, and so are many other parents who are moving on after an adult child’s estrangement.

Open to possibilities, and ripe for opportunities

Are you feeling lost and alone, with time suddenly gaping? Can you accept those feelings, explore them, and then think of them in a helpful way? Can you be open to a bright future that may be different than expected, but can still be good?

Cut off by adult children: What do your prescribe for yourself?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

cut off by adult childrenParents who are cut off by adult children often tell me their hearts break daily, that they can’t get away from the pain, and that they will never heal.

When you’re cut off by adult children, it’s as if your world stops. Life as you’ve known it becomes a memory—only you can start to wonder if any of those happy times were even real. The shock is normal, and in my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children (which is for fathers too–see note), I speak plainly about the early daze of estrangement, and explain some science behind what you feel.

Cut off by adult children? Evaluating your medicine cabinet

One thing that helped me was to regard my thoughts and actions as an assortment of remedies in bottles on a shelf. Imagine your thoughts as powerful herbs. Are they soothing healing tonics? Or more like poison? Imagine the things you do and talk about as strong medication. Are they helping you to heal? Or causing side effects?

When a doctor prescribes medication, adjustments are sometimes required. Trying different remedies, evaluating their effects, and making alterations, are often all part of finding a cure. When we’re cut off by adult children, it helps to think of our actions in a similar way.

Ask yourself if the things you’re thinking and doing are helping your broken heart to heal. Here are some examples of more specific questions that can help you determine how well you’re “medicines” are working:

  • Is looking at my estranged daughter’s social media pictures and posts helping me or hurting me?
  • Is sitting up in the dark after everyone else has gone to bed helping me heal?
  • Are my attempts to contact my estranged son bringing progress?
  • Is thinking over my situation problem-solving, or more like dwelling?

Is the “dose” too high? Or perhaps too low?

  • Can I limit how many times I look at social media?
  • Can I make a decision not to allow myself to dwell?
  • Would it be helpful to fill more of my time with productive hobbies?
  • Can I do more activities that fulfill me as an individual aside from my role as a parent or grandparent?

Reflect for a few moments on your reaction to some activities and thoughts. Is there a connection to how you feel? Do things you do, think, and talk about affect your mood? If you had an allergy symptom, your doctor might expose you to substances until the source of your adverse reaction was clear. When we’re cut off by adult children, we know the source of the pain. Could what you’re doing, saying, or thinking be making it worse?

What are you prescribing?

Your go-to thoughts and actions can become habitual. Without intending to, you could be prescribing daily doses that hinder your healing.

In the book, I talk about healthy reconciliation and what it requires. One of those things is a solid foundation of self-respect. When we’re cut off by adult children, we can easily fall into modes of self-blame and self-doubt that make healthy reconciliation unlikely. Whether toward reconciling from a place of strength, or simply to rebuild your own wellness and self-esteem, ask yourself:

  • Are the things I do, say, and think helping my broken heart to heal?
  • Am I “prescribing” useful remedies, or are my thoughts and actions more like ingesting poison?

Cut off by adult children? Be your own doctor

My book explores the painful phenomenon of being cut off by adult children in a logical manner that starts with the devastating shock of estrangement. Pages of examples and insight help you move through the most common questions, deal with sticky situations, and overcome obstacles toward healing. But you can get started now.

If you could step outside yourself, and imagine being a loving caregiver, what would you tell yourself? What would you do for yourself? What would you recommend or prescribe?

You are courageous and kind. You are mothers and fathers—among the smartest most resourceful people on the planet. Use that strength now.


Of course, I’m not talking about actual substances or medications of any kinds. I’m using those sorts of terms as metaphors, The prescriptive remedies or medications mentioned refer only to thoughts and actions.

With that in mind, put yourself in your own loving care.