Ask Sheri McGregor: Should I go to their workplace?

Sheri McGregorI often receive emails from readers. Sometimes the questions and dilemmas are ones that are common. Therefore, I’ve decided to begin sharing some, in the hopes they will be helpful to other parents of estranged adult children.

As always, my thoughts are based on my own experience as well as knowledge about estrangement gleaned from researching my book. At the time Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children went to print, I had heard from 9,000 families. As of this date, nearly 30,000 have answered my survey. Thousands more have participated in the forum, commented here, or emailed me.

Below, I’ve included a recent exchange. Perhaps it will be helpful to you.

Note from Sandra,
mother to twin estranged adult sons

Hello Sheri,

Thanks so much. You have been a tremendous source of inspiration, strength, support and encouragement for me (and many others) throughout these difficult years of mine. I am doing well, all things considered. However, as Mother’s Day approaches, as well as my sons’ 36th birthday, I find myself experiencing different pockets of emotion–sadness, guilt, anxiety, depression, anger. I am sure this is normal. 

Those times are still very challenging as the families celebrate and it certainly brings back memories. It has been 3 years for me in terms if my twin sons being estranged. After reading your “wonder” book “Done with the Crying”, I have tried to use many of the strategies which you suggested. I still have bad days, but the good thing is, I am not where I was, however, still not where I should be.

I am always holding out that my twin adult sons will somehow reach out to me. It has been 3 years and everything has gone silent. No phone calls on my birthday. I have had to block them from sending me emails, for all I ever received were horrible, slanderous emails and text messages full of vitrole. I feel bad having to block them both. I had to find a way to preserve my heart from crying whenever I received those messages. However, my home address has not changed and they are still able to contact me if they ever wanted to. 

I recently heard that I have a new, second grandson. I do not know where my sons reside. But I was able to look up one of them on the internet and saw where he works and his phone number. My other son, I also have a phone number. Both of these adult men have been horrible, very abusive, and so I am unsure if I should contact them. I truly do not want to subject myself to more verbal abuse. Especially as Mother’s Day approaches. I have come a long way in terms of my depression, grief and anxiety. I still suffer from insomnia.

Question for you:

I am tempted to make a connection with my sons at their workplaces. Would this be a good idea? I would like your honest input. I truly would like to see my sons and know how they are doing. 

Thanks so much, Sheri, for taking me that far. “Done With The Crying” has worked wonders for me.


Sheri McGregorAnswer from Sheri McGregor

Dear Sandra,

My inclination would be to  discourage you from going to your sons’ workplaces. They might feel like it’s an invasion of privacy, an embarrassment or stress of some sort. Even if you contacted them by letter, or by phone in an unobtrusive way, it may be a mistake in terms of your hard-won forward progress that you mention.

Before you make any calls, consider very carefully what the intention is. If you’re hoping for a good response, and have had horrible verbal abuse in the past, I wonder how you will feel if you receive that again.

Here are a few more thoughts:

  • Your sons know where you are and/or how to reach you. (They could at any any time and have not. Do they want to?)
  • What do you hope to gain from the call?
  • What if you don’t get that?
  • If you want to know how they are (as you said) is there another way to satisfy this curiosity?

The decision is up to you, obviously. It is wise to think it through from a variety of angles, and then consider which is best for you:

  • call or don’t call?
  • try or don’t try?

In light of all contemplation and full accepting of all possible results, which of these can you live best with?

Consider your thoughts

Pay close attention to the thoughts that come up for you. Get out a pen and paper, and jot down some notes.

  • What are your worries?
  • Are they things you can influence or are in charge of?
  • Are your worries about uncertainties that are beyond your control?

I hope this helps a little bit… It’s so difficult to answer questions like this because the possibilities are so wide.

I’m so sorry you’re faced with this and the continued loss of your sons. As you said, you’re not where you once were with all of this. You’re turning a corner though. That may be one of the things that is propting the big question for you about the birthday.

HUGS, Sheri McGregor


Sheri McGregorConclusion

I later received another note from Sandra. In it, she shared what many parents do: the feeling of an echo that occurs. Feelings that run so deep they’re like habits. Parents who have loved and nurtured their children experience echoes, hiccups of what once was. In Sandra’s case, there was clearly verbal abuse. She decided not to subject herself to the abuse again at this time. And it is true that her sons know where she lives. If they wanted to reach out, they could.

Have you had experiences similar to Sandra’s? I hope you will share a few thoughts by commenting on this article. Monthly, there are thousands of visitors to this website who can benefit from other parents’ thoughts—-many so fearful of judgment and filled with shame over this situation they didn’t choose and cannot change that they are silent. Won’t you help them by letting them know they are not alone?

Hugs to all of you,

Sheri McGregor

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8 thoughts on “Ask Sheri McGregor: Should I go to their workplace?

  1. simplifyplease

    I’m in my ninth month of estrangement from my eldest son, who will be 42 next week. He’s a successful, happily married man living on the other side of the world. I can’t visit his workplace, but I could ‘phone, text or email him. However, in his final one-line message he asked me not to – so I’m simply complying with his wishes.

    We parted company for the final time after a disagreement. It was all very civilised, bringing more than 20 years of growing tension between us to an end. I was deeply hurt and shocked. It has taken me all this time to come to terms with the loss of my son and I see no point in re-opening a wound that’s now in the final stages of healing.

    I’m also very determined not to lose my dignity or his respect by chasing after him. Because he does respect me. He has always known, since he was a little boy, that I have principles. That I mean what I say. That I will not compromise on issues of justice. And what he did by abandoning me – his financially vulnerable mother in her late sixties, living in a troubled African country, struggling to support his brother as he blossoms and grows after a long illness – is disgraceful.

    My eldest son is afraid (yes, afraid) of what I will have to say if ever he contacts me again. He knows there would be no emotion. He knows I would simply tell him, calmly and icily, that I no longer trust him and need to protect myself from the pain of a repeat performance. He knows that there would be no discussion. He knows that I would end the call by wishing him well and saying ‘Goodbye’.

    My eldest son a decent person, someone of whom I’m very proud. But he made a huge mistake when he abandoned me and needs to learn a lesson, to live with the consequences of what he chose to do. I have a responsibility as his mother to ensure that he exercises a great deal more circumspection in dealing with those he once professed to love. That’s what parenting is all about: leading by example.

    This may sound hard and cold, but my sense is that grovelling and pleading and chasing after someone who has been cruel enough to abandon their own, decent, caring mother is a form of self-harm. I refuse to indulge in that. I refuse to lose my self-respect and dignity. I forgave him long ago, but I shall never forget the horror of what he did to me.

    1. Materi

      Dear Simplifyplease,

      I agree with you that chasing after someone who has cruelly abandoned their parent can be a form of self-harm, and after a year plus of doing exactly that, I am have decided I’m done. In a way, I’m grateful that my ES has broken off contact with me even though it means I have no contact with my very young grandchild.

      Reading Sheri’s excellent book and many of the posts on this website quickly convinced me that there is no point in “trying” to change my estranged daughter. For the past year, I have agonized over whether to speak or write/text and what to say. Now, I’m done with that agony and I do not expect nor even want a reconciliation, given how terribly cruel she has been.

      I’m working on the “release” imagery from the book, which I have found to be overall extremely helpful. I hope you can read it and find peace.

      Big hugs. Materi.

  2. Yellow Rose

    I have very uncomfortable feelings about parents showing up uninvited to the workplace or home of their estranged children. It feels like stalking and boundary busting to me. I’ve worked in a lot of places and nobody’s mom or dad just pops in to visit — so the chance of embarrassing our EC is very great. Even at their home, many people hate surprises like this or unexpected guests. I think we parents start going into magical thinking because our pain is so great. We just want to try anything! Solve this! Communicate better! Sheri is being very nice here but if we think of this as a man going to his ex-wife’s workplace on a surprise when she has made it clear that no contact is to occur well, we’d all say no, no, no. Or tell the woman to call the cops, get a restraining order, etc. We parents are in a tough spot but sometimes we have to really assess our thinking and seek wise counsel. I’ve had my ES call and show up 15 minutes later and frankly, it never goes well with this person who spouts vitriol as was mentioned. I can’t imagine surprising someone who isn’t nice or welcoming of contact.

    1. rparents Post author

      Of course, Yellow Rose. We did talk about her not showing up unannounced.
      It could very well end up with someone calling law enforcement. I’ve heard it happen.

      Sheri McGregor

  3. Kona4

    I agree with Yellow Rose about parents showing up uninvited at a workplace, or anywhere else for that matter. I couldn’t imagine ever doing such a thing, regardless of the relationship. Work and personal drama should never cross paths. I also think it crosses a boundary and really does show disrespect and I think is very humiliating for all the parties. I don’t see how doing that could ever have a positive outcome.

    I am so sorry for all parents who have been at the receiving end of cruelty from their children.

    1. rparents Post author

      It is right, too, that showing up anywhere unannounced could have negative results. I have heard of people doing “interventions” with an estranged adult child as well. And unfortunately, of the stories I’ve heard, it has hurt the situation even more.


  4. Yellow Rose

    I am very empathetic to parents who feel this is their only alternative. It seems like the horror stories of how the EC act when surprised are overwhelmingly negative. I do like how your suggestions help us think it through and see the bigger picture of what’s best for us. All the “interventions” I have done with the one ED and the ES have not improved things at all. What that means is neither EC became nicer or more loving. The ED backed off in her verbal torment of me but went behind the scenes. The ES just never stops because he sees himself as the victim. We can’t move the game piece towards mutual respect no matter what kind of discussion or intervention we try.

  5. Tyrsi-Rose

    The estrangement from my son has stunned me silent. I think about all the time I have spent trying to resolve conflicts, restructure perceptions, defend myself and giving what I didn’t have in an attempt to buy the relationship. All those years. Yes. If I called my ES he would pick-up the phone and quickly remark that if he didn’t pick it up, I would just keep calling. (which is not true). I hear his description of me and in all honesty, I don’t know who he is talking about. After 5-years of no contact, I reached out and invited ES/his wife for lunch. When my son excused himself, his wife laughed and said I wonder how this would have played out had you not reconnected, as “I’m pregnant with your only grandchild.”

    I asked another estranged mom, if she had a choice, would she choose total estrangement or engage in a disrespectful relationship with her EC. Those lines are so blurred.

    My Dgh moved to be close to her brother and has become close with his wife. I’m noticing a disrespectful change in her. I can’t help wondering if my expectation of a mother / adult child relationship is realistic with the new generation. I can’t model it after my relationship with my mother’s generation or her mother before that. Maybe the estrangement we are facing is part of a bigger picture… a paradigm shift that changes world structure.

    Maybe my pooch, Waltzing Mathilda had it right. She birthed 16 puppies that she lovingly nurtured, until their sharp teeth broke the surface of their little pink gums and then she spent the next few weeks running from them and growling in an attempt to set-up boundaries. We would pass one of her growing pups with their new owner in the community and she would sniff in acknowledgement and pull on the leash to keep the walk moving: she always appeared to be happy to have her solitary routine back on track.

    I’m still waiting for my book to arrive from Amazon. I heartfelt appreciate reading everyone’s story and how they are striving through all the difficulty that presents with estrangements. We are all so different, but we share the same pain and want the same thing.


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