Author Archives: rparents

About rparents

Sheri McGregor holds a Master's Degree in Human Behavior and is a life coach. She helps parents move beyond loss of estrangement through this website, and with her book,, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children (more: www.rejectedparents.net/book-for-parents-of-estranged-adult-children/ Currently, Sheri is not taking any individual coaching clients. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter--she has some projects in development you'll want to know about.

Ask Sheri McGregor: Contacting estranged granddaughter

Ask Sheri McGregor: Contacting estranged granddaughter?

QUESTION:
Dear Sheri McGregor,

I just found your site and your Books on Amazon, and hope that you might help  –  I am looking for advice on composing a first-ever email to my 20 year old granddaughter whom I’ve never been allowed to meet. I was denied all access of any kind and never even saw a photo of her until this past summer, when I found my granddaughter on Instagram.

Let me give a little background—

I am a 75-year-old military veteran and have been estranged from my son since the late 1980s, when his mother and I began divorce proceedings. It was an extremely acrimonious divorce that took several years to finalize. I tried to keep contact but, over the years, my son has expressed hate toward me. It became clear that my ex-wife poisoned him against me. I missed major milestones, including my son’s wedding. He has two daughters and although I reached out to my son often, I was not welcomed in any way. Once, I even visited his home, but no one answered the door.

Anyway, this past summer, I found my oldest granddaughter, age 20, on Instagram and sent a request to “follow” her. She asked, “Grandpa?” I thanked her for replying and told her that I hoped we could communicate. Unfortunately, she didn’t respond again.

There is no telling what stories she has been told about me. Wanting any kind of relationship with her may be a futile pursuit, but at my age, I am not sure how much longer I have left on the planet. My own paternal grandfather died when my father was just a boy. So, I never knew him and have always felt that I missed out. Maybe my granddaughter has a similar feeling about me.

Recently, I found out she was living away at college and located her email address.  Can you help me with the exact wording to use when I contact her? I’m including a draft email, not yet complete, for your review. Here is that draft:

Dear XX:

I am sure hearing from me is a surprise, and I hope this doesn’t cause you any kind of conflict. I’ve known of you since the time you were born, just a week after my own birthday, so I have always celebrated my own birthdays with you in my heart.

I’m hoping you will consider beginning communication with me. I’ve really missed not being a part of your life and I would welcome the opportunity for you and me to get to know each other directly, using whatever method you are comfortable with (email, handwritten letters sent via U.S. mail, over the phone, or via FaceTime).

I’d be happy to send you your own phone with its own new number that I pay for the monthly billing thus no way for any of the calls to be traced/discovered by anyone else.

Give this some thought and reflect on my intention and I’ll always be ready when you are.

I’ll end this with Love, Poppa … because that is how I have always felt about you.

What do you think, Sheri? Thank you very much for reading my letter and I hope you can help.

Sincerely,

David P.

Contacting estranged granddaughter: ANSWER From Sheri McGregor:

Hi David,

I’m glad you reached out, and I do have some thoughts. While many who work with those affected by estrangement dissect their letters, I don’t typically offer specific wording as you ask. (See this excerpt from my latest book about that HERE). However, let me apply a broad brush, because there are many loving parents/grandparents who wish to establish a connection with those lost to them through parental alienation and estrangement.

First, just as you have said in your note to me, you may not get anywhere with your contact. There just are no guarantees, no matter how carefully you word things. For that reason, I would suggest that you consider altering your intention a little. That way, you can feel you have accomplished something good regardless of the outcome.

If this were me contacting a grandchild who doesn’t know me, I might consider what I could do to help her. Therefore, I might offer some information to her. This might take the form of a few photos of yourself and/or relatives from your side of the family, along with some brief historical information, links to genealogy sites with their information if those exist, or some interesting tidbits about their lives or even medical information if that makes sense.

In this way, perhaps you leave a legacy, imparting some knowledge that is helpful to her (now or in the future). I discuss the concept of leaving a legacy more in Beyond Done With The Crying More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. In your case, perhaps you could offer to answer questions or provide more information as well as convey your desire to have contact with her. By including something that you believe would be useful, informative, or helpful to her, then you could feel good about contacting her regardless of the immediate outcome. You’d be providing her a gift.

If this were me, I might want to tell a little about myself, too. Where I live and my interests, briefly. By doing so, she could see you in a perspective that is perhaps different than she has been told or has imagined. Perhaps your sharing may connect with her interest and spark further communication.

I would not offer to buy a phone that could be kept secret as your draft email implies. In my opinion, doing this could be construed in a negative light and appear devious to someone who has possibly been told bad things about you (as you mentioned believing may have occurred).

David, please take kind care of yourself. I hope that you will get your desired outcome of a relationship with your granddaughter. Whether that happens or not, I hope that by reaching out with a gift as discussed here, that you will feel peaceful about the outcome and satisfied that you have done something good for your granddaughter.

Hugs from Sheri McGregor

Rejected parents: Are you “guilting” your adult child?

Are you "guilting" your adult childby Sheri McGregor, M.A.
Excerpted from her award winning book released Dec. 2021:
Beyond Done With The Crying More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children

Are You “Guilting” Your Adult Child?

Earlier, I wrote about a time when my health was at an all-time low. After the
first year of silence, my son, Dan, had phoned. We had a friendly talk, and he
said he wanted us to have a relationship. He assured me he would call again
“soon.” That talk sparked hope, but when he didn’t call again, the fragile peace
I had worked so hard to gain dissolved. Scary visual disturbances led me to the
doctor who was mortified by my symptoms and bloodwork. The stress of the
estrangement was hurting me. I had to take charge. So, instead of waiting in a
sort of limbo as more months passed, I called my son.

When I explained that I’d been waiting for his call, that I’d been emotional,
and that my health had suffered, my son put me off. He was gruff and dismissive,
yet later, I wondered if he might have viewed my words as an attempt to
“guilt” him. That hadn’t been my intention, but the conversation haunted me.
There was no hidden plan behind my words. I’d been as direct as always. I
had laid out my thoughts and feelings to him. In all of Dan’s twenty-five years,
I had never tried to motivate him with guilt. My son knew how I spoke. He also
knew me. Him thinking I was trying to “guilt” him made no sense. So, why did I
ever think he might?

Don’t buy into the “guilting” your adult child opinion. . . .

When Dan rejected me, my self-esteem dipped so low that I second-guessed
everything. I searched for help and came across a mental health professional
who dissected the parents’ language in the letters they wrote to their estranged
adult children. Their words were analyzed for how they might be received as an
intention to trigger feelings of guilt. In desperation, I took the guidance to heart.
After an adult child’s estrangement, distraught parents flail in the murky
waters of their own identity. They may grasp at almost anything to stay afloat,
on a wave of hope that they can repair the relationship.

If you’re a parent who used guilt to motivate your estranged adult child,
you know who you are. Admit it. Then work on more than your language. Work
on yourself and how you interact with the people you love. However, if you’re
not guilty of this “guilting” your adult child behavior, then don’t let your anguish and desperation to reconnect stir self-doubt. Don’t take advice that doesn’t fit. Your child knows
you. Why would your speech suddenly be construed as an attempt to “guilt”?

Here’s another thought: If your words trigger adult children’s guilt, maybe
it’s their conscience knocking. Maybe your son feels guilty because he has
treated you badly or the guilt your daughter feels is her inner wisdom, confirming
that her behavior is wrong. Don’t make yourself responsible for another
adult’s feelings or behavior.

There’s an acronym for “Walking on Eggshells”

If you’re not a “guilter,” then guidance that assumes you are is nothing
more than Olympic level training to walk on eggshells. There’s an acronym for
that: W.O.E. Walking. On. Eggshells. Woe! It’s a fitting term for any relationship
where one party lives in fear, believing they may be one word away from
another estrangement.

For more information about advice, consult the box, also in this book,
Advice: Be Discerning, Not Desperate.”

Related reading

Estrangement: Parents, use weepy days for your own good

Parents are people too: Even when reconciling with an estranged adult child

July 4, 2022: Permission to . . . ?

freedom for parents of estranged adults

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

I know that holidays can be tough, and do my best to produce new articles and content for those special times. For the U.S. Independence Day this year (2022), the task felt BIG. Maybe it’s because of the disunity and distress that seem so prevalent these days. I’m not certain. The truth is that I have always loved the Fourth of July. And like so many of you, the holiday holds many wonderful memories of times infused with joy and pride as well as hopes, dreams, and promise . . . for future connection, the love of family, fireworks, and continued freedom.

This year, I’m not doing anything special. No barbecues. No watching parades. No fireworks. I realized recently that I’m just not up to any of that this year. So, I’ve given myself permission to watch the fireworks displays on television (if I want), to bow out of traffic jams and the dart-and-dodge dance of crowds. I’m not even making a red, white, and blue fruit salad or one of those Jello cakes with blueberries and strawberries made to look like a flag! As of this morning, I had decided not to write an article for the site here either. Then I realized that my decision to bow out is an article: about letting go.

Giving yourself permission

When it comes to continued estrangement from adult children, we reach turning points where we either grow and change or stay stuck and sad. If you’re to move forward, you must give yourself permission to be happy, to enjoy life in new ways, and to let go of what no longer works.

It’s okay to say “no,” to take a break from what you’ve always done or said or been, and to decide you will do or say or even be something different. At this juncture of your estrangement, what are you holding onto that is no longer serving you? Consider that for a moment.

Maybe it’s that idea of a “good” parent, and what that means in terms of sending a special occasion card no matter what. Maybe that means you let go of a negative thought that has kept you stuck, such as, “I can never be happy unless…” Or maybe it means finally admitting that you have endured years of hurtful behavior, which doesn’t improve (or even gets worse), no matter how much effort you exert to keep the peace, give in, or stay in touch.

Maybe you need to:

  •  ratchet back on something you do (money spent, gifts given, time wasted. . .)
  •  spend more energy or time on your needs. (Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s a necessity.)
  •  cut yourself some slack (you’re only human like me with my blissfully boring Fourth!)

Right now, consider what things, activities, or thinking you need to change for your own well-being. And then take an important step: Give yourself permission.

Now and forever?

Remember, if you decided on one course of action (or inaction), that doesn’t mean you are forever bound to that decision. Not sending a birthday card this year doesn’t mean you can’t the next. Saying “no” doesn’t preclude a later “yes.” Sometimes, parents of estranged adults can get so bound up worrying about making a “mistake” in how they communicate or handle estrangement that they’re practically paralyzed. (And unfortunately, this mistakes parents of estranged adults make” idea is one of those dumb themes I often see in the media, and even from people purporting to help–UGH.) Give yourself permission to trust yourself.

That’s all folks

Well, for this U.S. Independence Day, that’s the best I can do. Now, it’s your turn. What can you let go or change up for your own well-being? I hope you’ll offer a comment and engage with other parents of estranged adult children by leaving a reply to this article.

Related Reading

Estrangement: Are you a firework? Or still standing?

Freedom for a new era (parents rejected by adult children)

Parents of estranged adults: Are you tyrannized by the painful emotions?

 

Heartbroken parents: Are you to blame?

heartbroken parents

Heartbroken parents: Are you to blame for your adult children’s problems (or estrangement)?

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

To a heartbroken parent driving to a neighboring town in the U.S., the message of this billboard hit like a punch in the gut. The “effective counseling” it advertises comes across as one-sided and pandering. This can’t be healthy (can it?).

Thousands of heartbroken parents tell me their adult children blame them for their every problem. Yet even I was shocked at this billboard. It’s a bald-faced presentation of something I also hear often: That, when it comes to family estrangement (and more specifically, parent-and-adult-child estrangement) our culture, and even some therapists, are part of the problem.

“We live in crazy times,” said the mother who saw this offensive billboard a few weeks ago. She hasn’t spoken to her son in four years, nor seen the sweet grandchild with whom she’d previously bonded. She isn’t the only heartbroken parent to conclude, “Society is supporting these adult children to reject us parents.”

It’s the parents’ fault: A pervasive attitude

When people have issues, they are frequently advised to find the root. Uncovering the beginnings of unhealthy emotional habits, ways of thinking, and managing our lives can be a positive start. However, too often, the root leads rather simplistically to parents. A few examples:

  • Shame-based? Your parents must have used guilt to rule you.
  • Don’t trust your own judgment? As a child, you must have been told your decisions were dumb or your feelings were wrong.
  • Can’t stick up for yourself? You got the message you weren’t important anyway.

There can be truth in these, but when an adult stops there, looks for proving evidence and embellishes, or is advised to cut off relationships rather than try to dig deeper, understand or empathize, they no longer grow. In blaming parents, they can excuse themselves—and they’ll find many to echo the blame. Just as peddlers of hope can keep parents who did their best stuck apologizing and forever trying to reconnect, there are mentors of blame. They preach to a choir of adults who refuse responsibility for their own bad decisions with their resulting consequences and hold their parents accountable instead.

Parent-blaming can be subtle or direct

Often, a grabber headline misleads, like for the article I wrote about here: Are a parent’s mistakes worthy of “hate”? In our text-rich world of social media one-liners that are sometimes the sum of one’s news consumption and then are repeated like gospel, these titles negatively stereotype parents and sway opinion. The negative portrayals of the older generation are prevalent—and hurt (read my article: Negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adult children: It hurts).

Other parent-blaming is more subtle and intellectualized. In some cases, the ideas may even apply. But even the smartest sounding blame can harm loving, heartbroken parents—and their troubled adult children who don’t learn to empathize or take responsibility for their own mistakes.

One New York Times article used a grabber headline to talk about what’s known as “attachment theory.” While attachment theory makes some sense, it is just as its name implies: a theory. Furthermore, it was conceived more than half a century ago. Our world and how we live in it has evolved (or, in some ways, devolved!). Lifestyle norms have changed. Also, the childhood behaviors attributed to caregiver styles in attachment theory may or may not translate to adult relational behavior as the article, “Yes, It’s Your Parent’s Fault,” seems to convey. So, why such a certain title? Negative stereotyping grabs eyeballs. Unfortunately, it also furthers generational division and fosters blame. At the very least, it’s irresponsible. It’s also too easy, same as blaming other people for one’s own mistakes.

The piece mentions interviews/questionnaires aimed at determining one’s dominant attachment style but points out that results may vary from one questionnaire to the next. The mismatch is explained away as resulting from the skill and training of the interviewer or a person’s level of self-awareness (or lack thereof!). My translation? If you want to blame your parents for your adult relationship problems, you can. These questionnaires may help.

Do something

The more light is shed on a problem, the more society becomes aware. That’s why I call attention to the way parents are frequently portrayed as overbearing, needy, nosy, or unbending. This portrayal is an unjust presentation that fosters ageism and promotes division. This disservice to older people can manifest in unhealthy ways when parents seek help after an estrangement occurs. This is discussed at length in my award-winning book, Beyond Done With The Crying: More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children (2021). Beyond Done is a follow-up to my first book (also award winning) for heartbroken parents, Done With The Crying. I hope you’ll read both, and use the examples and exercises to work toward your own well-being.

Sometimes, our past experiences do influence how we interact with other people, including our adult children. As a parent with a long-term estrangement and in communicating with thousands of other moms and dads, my work centers on parents’ personal growth, emotional strength, and enlightenment. My work is specific to estrangement and how you may be affected in the various aspects of your family, work, and general life. Don’t stay stuck.

You spent a lifetime caring for children who are now adults. You can be true to yourself, remain open to the possibility of a healthy relationship if that’s desired, yet disengage from negative interactions or chasing behavior that steals your sense of dignity and makes you feel weak. You can hold out hope yet get on with your own life and enjoy the people who value you.

Society, theorists, and even ill-conceived billboards offering “effective counseling” may blame you, but you know the truth. You were there. Likewise, you’re here now. Take charge and make the most of your precious life. Start this minute.

Develop your natural resilience. Step into a freer, happier future.

Hugs to all the heartbroken parents,

Sheri McGregor

A gift for estranged fathers

estranged fathersA gift for estranged fathers (and estranged mothers, too)

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

As I write this in mid-June, the airwaves are flowing with Father’s Day messaging; ads for “manly” stuff. My guess is that most dads would rather have the gift of time. Well, maybe a few words about how much a child has appreciated all they’ve done. For estranged fathers whose children have cut them off (also for rejected mothers), there is often a pervasive feeling: Time is running out.

Estranged fathers ask: How much time is left?

I hear this question at least once or twice a month, usually from estranged fathers and mothers who recognize the eons of time they say they’ve wasted on hope or strife. They realize they must turn their focus to something they have the power to fix or change: Themselves.

Here, we’ll utilize a few familiar phrases to take charge.

  • Be a leader. If you’re in a relationship, take the lead in making your life great. Sometimes moms tell me their husbands don’t seem to care if their children are estranged. They can shrug it off easier, they say. The dads, however, share that seeing their wives so hurt makes them mad. How could a child who was so well-loved and -cared for be so cold? Estranged fathers, you need to tell your wives how you feel. That you do hurt, that you are sad, but also that you want to be sensible and strong. You still have a life, and you can work to make it great. A little honesty and understanding can go a long way … and help make your time together emotionally close. Then do take the lead in finding things to do and enjoy, despite the estrangement. Whether in a relationship or alone, what would help you to enjoy your life? Beyond Done With The Crying has many examples of ways to move forward both as a couple and alone. Some of what’s included are the prickly situations of one parent remaining touch with an estranged child who rejected the other, divorce situations including parental alienation, protecting your business, and looking out for yourself (and/or your spouse) as you navigate retirement and later life.
  • Know when to quit. In Beyond Done With The Crying, I share the story of a dad who has always been there for his daughter. He paid for her college tuition, even when she asked for “space.” He reached out lovingly on occasion, respected her boundaries, and held out hope that she’d mature, and that they’d be closer again. Eventually, this estranged father came to realize that the only one he could change was himself. He decided to initiate no further contact. He also made some decisions about investing in his own future. He realized that time was fleeting and, regardless of her decisions, he needed to prepare. Whether your situation is similar to this dad’s or completely different, distance, “space,” or full-on estrangement is the common denominator. When is enough enough? Only you know the answer for yourself in your situation–but it may be time to go with the flow.
  • Turn yourself around. If you’ve made the decision to empower yourself and take charge of your life despite an adult child’s estrangement, be patient. Most estranged fathers and mothers find that, at first, one step forward and two steps back isn’t unusual. Setbacks may be caused by emotional triggers like birthdays or holidays, or perhaps adult children reach out and you’re not sure the motives are pure (as described in this article: Adult children who reject parents: Why do they make contact now?). You may need to set some boundaries, and that’s true both when interacting with an estranged adult child and in how you think. You can learn to recognize our own unhealthy thought life and make changes to support your well-being. There’s help to wrestle our thinking into healthier patterns, and techniques to set boundaries in my books. If you do have a setback, the reminder can be painful but also beneficial. While it’s wise to forgive, forgetting may not be. A setback can help you grow stronger for your future.

 Time waits for no one

Many of estranged fathers and mothers have lived by clocks and calendars. Rhythms and cycles are a part of nature, and people naturally embrace them. While it’s true that time waits for no one, making plans provides a sense of mastery. By embracing the cycles of day, night, and the seasons, we can look forward to things we love—and then look back and savor time well spent.

Consider the year ahead (you don’t have to wait until January!). Think of the seasons, special occasions, big holidays, or personal anniversaries or days of remembrance. Reflect upon how you might like to spend those seasons or days. What can you do to commemorate them? Try new ways that honor who you are now and the season of your life you’re in. You can let go of the tried and not always so true, and move into new territory, at any age.

Maybe you want to spend more time with friends, on a fishing boat, or with your feet in the sand. Perhaps you’d like to see a particular site, travel somewhere exotic, lively, or breathtaking. You might visit a relative you’ve missed, witness the autumn brilliance of your hometown once more, or experience snow falling softly on a winter night. Maybe you finally want to get a bird feeder, binoculars, and books to help you identify the feathery variety that comes around. Or, you could join a bird watching group. Is there a particular festival or event you’d like to see? A regional food you’d like to try? This fall, I’d like to visit each of the farms clustered in a nearby area, taste their products (fruit, wine, cider, cheese, beer, baked goods, and more). Can you think of a similar pursuit? Perhaps thinking of the dates ahead brings to mind special people or momentous events in your life. Could you plant a memorial tree in a loved one’s honor, contribute to a place of worship that has special significance for you, or donate or volunteer at a pet rescue where you found a furry friend? What can you plan for?

Without any hesitation or censor, jot down any ideas that come to you. You can dream big, and you don’t have to think realistically—at least to start. Keep a running list over the next several days or weeks, perhaps organized into months or seasons. Later, choose several from your notes, and make plans to accomplish, pay homage to, or simply honor those choices in a personally significant way. For parents who have dedicated so much time and energy to raising children and grandchildren, calendars can suddenly be as empty as arms. Fill those slots with learning, laughter, and meaning.

Looking forward

Looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them.– L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables)

If you’re resistant to this idea, consider whether you’ve become bitter, don’t feel worthy of happiness, or have lost all hope. There’s help in my books to identify your sticking points,  strengthen and flex your emotional muscles, and step forward with a more optimistic outlook. Won’t you join me?

Related reading

Be sure to click the links to highlighted words in the article…many link to related reading.

Mother’s Day for moms with estranged adult children: Facts to distract

Mother's Day for moms with estranged adult childrenMother’s Day for moms with estranged adult children:
A few facts to distract you

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Mother’s Day for moms with estranged adult children can be tough. For many years now, I’ve written heartfelt holiday messages to help. This year’s posting is a slight departure, meant to occupy and distract—yet practical.

Distraction can be a healthy coping tool. Research shows that using distractions such as puzzles, music, films, reading, sports, and other hobbies can temporarily halt unhelpful thinking patterns, ease anxious nerves, help to relieve even chronic physical pain, and calm the symptoms of depression and PTSD1.

For more direct thoughts about Mother’s Day for moms with estranged adult children and how to cope, refer to my past articles. I’ve listed some of them under “Related Reading” at the end. That said, here are a few “Mom facts” to occupy your mind. Links to articles here at the site and elsewhere offer further reading on these disparate subjects loosely related to motherhood and moms.

#1—Mom: The same in every language (almost)

Some things are said the same in every language. Like us saying “mmm” when we eat yummy food. Also, what we call Mom is almost always the same.

Common thought among linguists is that the enunciation of “mom” or “mama” matches up the mouth’s motion when an infant suckles. The “mmm-mmm” sounds are classified as “labial.” These sorts of sounds are made by pressing the lips together, and infants are thought to naturally do this because the lips are rich with nerve endings. Perhaps that’s why, with a few variations, “mom” sounds the same in so many languages. For example, the French say maman. Spanish versions include mamá, mama, ma, and mami. In Italy, Iceland, Latvia, and Sweden “mamma” is spelled with a double m. For a distraction, consider your heritage and find the appropriate term. (While most languages use these sounds/names, not all do…I wonder why?)

Try making the “mmm” sound right now. You’ll have to press your lips together.  Who knows? Maybe the action will trigger a wave of physical responses that link to anything good we might have ever associated with making the sound.

Labial sounds paired with another vocal category, “wide vowel sounds,” help infants begin to form words. They press their lips together with the “mmm” sound, and when they open their mouth abruptly, wide vowel sounds naturally occur. Can I get an oooh and an ahh?

We’ll stick with “ah” for now, which makes “mama” or “mom” an easy first word, associated with a mother’s protection, sustenance, and care. Think about it. Mmm+ah+mmm+ah. Depending on when you close and open your mouth, you get mom, mama, or a string of babble. Since the “mmm” sound is so naturally made with the motion of suckling, it’s no wonder babies say “mama” first.

Later, as we become more sophisticated in speech, the ”mmm” sound is used as an encourager during conversation. We typically say “mmm,” or the variation, “mmm-hmmm,” to indicate we understand what someone is telling us. The sound encourages the other person to continue. Next time someone’s talking, purposefully offer this encouragement, and even think about the sweet baby you once knew, encouraging your love and care with labial and wide vowel sounds. Maybe everything has changed, but those sweet moments were real—and can still be savored.

Of course, Mother’s Day, for moms with estranged adult children, might be a triggering and sometimes painful time to reflect upon a child’s growing up years. But savoring good memories fosters older people’s resilience2, something I talk more fully about in my books. Right now, I challenge you to pause and remember a happy time. Choose a single moment, an event, or a day. Travel back in your mind, remember the smiles, the joy, the surroundings … and feel the goodness you experienced on that day. Life is a journey. Enjoy the pleasant stops and the memories … repeatedly.

Now, let’s switch gears and move on to another distracting mom fact.

#2—Your flesh and blood?

No, not exactly. Cells die off and exchange for new ones throughout life, so estranged adult children become their own “flesh and blood.” Well, except for some cells that migrate during pregnancy and persist, a phenomenon known as microchimerism. Research shows that mothers can carry their offsprings’ DNA well into old age. If your estranged adult child is on your mind, that might, in fact, literally be true.

While some research seems to indicate that the presence of these cells could be problematic, other studies show that they offer protective health qualities. Look up “microchimerism” for a plethora of articles as well as speculation, unanswered questions, and some facts. Or, because it’s Mother’s Day, read this one by an M.D. with a positive spin.

#3—Are you like an octopus?

As a young mother of five children, I used to wish for eight arms. I imagined how many hugs I could give (and receive) while simultaneously finishing all my work. A silly dream, of course, but one I used to say aloud. One of my daughters even drew a picture of me as an octopus!

Mother's day for moms of estranged adult childrenAs it turns out, an octopus mom’s life isn’t much about hugs and getting things done. In fact, these fascinating creatures become so single-minded in their parenting that they will neglect themselves for their young. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Recently, researchers discovered this self-sacrifice relates to the optic gland, located between their eyes. It’s said to be something like the human pituitary gland, releasing various hormones at different stages of life. When scientists removed the gland, mother octopuses carried on as if they’d never laid eggs. They left them to fate.

While I can’t imagine having let go of my precious children when they were young, their adult lives become their own. Remembering this fact can help any mom. This may be especially true on Mother’s Day for moms with estranged adult children.

Next time you find yourself sacrificing your own precious life moments for negative thinking, wishes about what could be, and worries over adult children’s choices, think of those octopus mothers with the optic gland removed and imagine you’re free. Get those legs (arms!) pumping and take a deep dive into the colorful reefs of your own life possibilities. If you have any trouble, consider the question: Are you an octo-mom? I wrote an article to help.

#4—Wowza wrap-up

I hope you found this article a helpful distraction. Here’s a final thought: The word “mom,” turned upside down, spells “wow.” That’s what I think of all the moms who write to me and encourage each other at this site. Wow! Just wow. You are amazing women.

What do you have to say? Leave a comment. List a few thoughts about how the helpful distractions you choose. Or offer what thoughts came to mind about what was included here. How can your thoughts help on Mother’s Day, for moms with estranged adult children? I know you’ll wow me.

Related reading

Mother’s Day 2021: Cancelled!

When adult kids cut parents off: Don’t get [sun]burned by Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day radio interview with Sheri McGregor

Mothers of estranged adult children: Mother’s Day 2018

Mother’s Day for estranged mothers: Tending to your heartache

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

‘Twas the night before Mother’s Day for mothers of estranged adult children

Mothering Sunday for UK Moms

Getting through Mother’s Day when your adult child is estranged: Six thoughts to help

References

  1. Dolcos F, Iordan AD, Kragel J, et al. Neural correlates of opposing effects of emotional distraction on working memory and episodic memory: an event-related FMRI investigation.Front Psychol. 2013;4:293. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00293
  2. Smith, J.L. & Hollinger-Smith, L. (2015). Savoring, resilience, and psychological well-being in older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 19(3). doi:10.1080/13607863.2014.986647

Solid growth can change you

reconnect with estranged adult childrenTrying to reconnect with estranged adult children?
Your own growth provides perspective

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Fiddle Leaf Fig trees (ficus lyrata) are known for their big leaves. So, when I found a scrawny one at the back of a crowded nursery shelf, I wasn’t worried and took it home. Unfortunately, my waiflike ficus struggled all summer. Pale, misshapen leaves, a toothpick-thin stalk, and holes like windows etching into her foliage was the norm. New buds would start but then dry up before developing.

Discouraged, I donned magnifying glasses and checked for pests—none. I fed and talked to that plant, set her next to fellow fiddles who had already doubled in size, and hoped for the best. Still, her paltry leaves curled. Determined, I pulled her from the pot and was surprised when the soil fell away. Only a plug of dirt near the center clung to the stem. A small net bag imprisoned a tiny ball of roots. No wonder my fiddle had failed.

Online digging–(okay, research)–revealed that some growers use what houseplant enthusiasts refer to as “root cages.” The disdained seed-starting nets are touted as easy for the roots to penetrate. Not the case for my sickly fiddle—and lots of plants people fret over in online forums. The cages can stunt growth.

Parents of estranged adult children: Inside the net?

People usually have wonderful memories of time with their kids and take very seriously the role of parenting. We love our children. When they reject us, we’re devastated. Eager to regain a good relationship, or to prove we’re good parents undeserving of rejection, we may take the high road and keep trying to reconnect with estranged adult children even to our own emotional harm. And there are plenty of opinions out there to keep us stuck.

Like those nets that imprison plant roots, opinions about what it means to be a “good” parent can keep us bound. Idealistic views such as a parent’s unconditional love and ceaseless patience, or even that we’re in control, can keep us in the realm of wishes. It stunts our growth.

Have your attempts to reconnect with estranged adult children been rebuffed or met with silence? After enduring an adult child’s disrespect, disdain, or disregard, parents are wise to reflect and reevaluate. The same is true when mentally ill or addicted adult children refuse treatment and engage in abuse. Deeply rooted beliefs, fears about how we’ll be perceived or what might happen can motivate us to hang on, to our own, or even to our adult child’s, detriment.

My book, Beyond Done With The Crying More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children, covers the way parents’ emotions evolve in a continued estrangement or when there’s difficult, intermittent contact. Our actions may not keep up with our emotional changes, or we may have trouble admitting our feelings. We may think: What father wouldn’t always be there for a daughter? What mother says “no” to a son needing help? What kind of parent gives up? This is particularly true around special times when we may ponder what is “right,” ruminate about how we’ll be viewed or worry how a change in us might affect our adult child’s feelings.

The reality is that estrangement does change us, and those darling kids that exist in our memories have changed too. When we refuse to see them as they are today, we aren’t acting on reality. We risk opening ourselves to repeated hurt.

Some of us do this knowingly for a time. When is enough, enough? Only you can decide when you’re ready to halt attempts to reconnect with estranged adult children. Just make sure you’re facing the truth of your unique situation and not caught up in a net.

Outside influence

Friends and family members whom we love and respect may also influence us—and not necessarily on purpose. Frequently, other people’s opinions for our lives, and their thoughts about what we should do, are misinformed or sometimes self-serving. That’s why it’s crucial to examine our own circumstances, which shift over time. We can renew or refresh our decisions about continued attempts to reconnect with adult children, and whether to acknowledge special occasions, keep them as next-of-kin, or disinherit them. Each of us and our dilemmas are unique. There is no one size fits all answer. However, setting boundaries, in your thinking and in your actions, helps a person cope.

Beyond Done With The Crying More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children includes tools to reflect on deeply rooted beliefs and motivations, as well as the facts of the current situation. Even the wisest, most worthy pursuits may no longer serve us or our estranged adult children. If we can always be counted on, despite mistreatment, then what’s their motivation to change how they treat us? Just as an addict whose parents keep funding substance abuse enables addiction, parents who send the message of unconditional forgiveness without consequences despite meanness and disregard may be enabling abuse.

Break free but stay aware

As I carefully cut the net from the roots and repotted my ficus, I recalled the early daze of my adult child’s estrangement and how my worries, what-ifs, and wishes negatively affected me. But life is not static. To cope and thrive requires self-examination weighed against shifting circumstances, and then recognizing how that relates to enjoying life regardless of one’s ability, or inability, to reconnect with estranged adult children.

A few days after repotting my little tree, I noticed growth. Wow! Without the root cage, a new leaf had unfurled, swiftly followed by another. Overnight, that second leaf swelled to gigantic proportions. It grew so fast that the fiddle’s narrow trunk bowed, threatening to break. Freed now, it seemed to overcompensate for lost time, just as I once did in breaking free. It’s a common occurrence among parents—and apparently in plants.

Breaking free for ourselves can result in a sense of urgency, fueling massive leaps forward that can stress our foundations or cause us further injury. That’s why awareness is so important. In Beyond Done With The Crying More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children, I tell more about my own and other parents’ overcompensating experiences, to help you avoid precarious pendulum swings in how you take charge of your life, parent other children, or otherwise interact. Even when our relationships with our adult children don’t live up to our expectations, if we’re honest with ourselves and focus on solid growth with needed support, we can embrace our own brand of resilience for a fulfilling life.

Providing support

To progress, my fiddle leaf fig tree will require a new strong foundation. For a little while, until her roots grow sturdy, I’ll let her lean on other trees and maybe even provide a brace. I hope this website, my newsletter (subscribe below), and my books will enhance your continued growth. Be sure to read the article comments and leave a reply to other parents’ thoughts. We can encourage each other.

Related reading

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

Sheri McGregor honored in prestigious book awards

Sheri McGregor Benjamin Franklin Award

Sowing Creek Press is thrilled to announce the nomination of 2021 title, Beyond Done With The Crying: More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children, in the 34th Annual Benjamin Franklin Awards presented by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). Beyond Done, written by life coach and author Sheri McGregor, will receive either a gold or silver award during the ceremony for this prestigious award on April 29, 2022.

“I’m honored by IBPA’s recognition of Beyond Done,” says McGregor. “But mostly, I’m excited that the award shines light on this topic, so will help more people. I hear from heartbroken parents every day. When they find my books or website (RejectedParents.Net), they realize that they are not alone. From all over the world, there are kind, supportive parents whose adult children nonetheless reject them.”

McGregor, whose self-help book is a finalist in the Psychology category, is no stranger to the genre—or the subject matter. One of her five children separated from the family. McGregor, who holds a master’s degree in Human Behavior, used her education and experiences to move beyond the emotional pain, reclaim her identity, self-esteem, and happiness. She helps other parents by way of her website and her books in the Done With The Crying series. Her first book on the subject (2016) was a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalist and a winner in the Living Now Book Awards.

“Estrangement can leave a confusing legacy,” she says. “Possible twists and turns ahead aren’t always immediately apparent. Concerns that later reveal themselves may be traced to roots that involve the estranged one or connect to history that began long ago. Beyond Done offers more for parents as well as the whole the post-estrangement family.”

Beyond Done With The Crying: More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children provides tell-it-like-it-is advice and sensible solutions for the gritty, complex issues that parents of estranged adult children face. With examples and from-the-trenches insight drawn from more than 50,000 families, McGregor offers encouragement and proven techniques to heal.

Helpful observations are included from parents, grandparents, grandchildren, and the siblings of adults who chose to estrange. “Commentary, tips, and advice derived from my work and my research to support parents’ well-being round out the pages,” says McGregor, whose work points out that the most common advice often doesn’t help and keeps parents stuck in an unhealthy cycle. “At times, my positions make me the lone dissenter, but then standing up for ourselves as decent, loving parents in a world that doubts us is a lesson for us all … and covered in Beyond Done.”

Others who contributed to the book include:

For more information, contact Sheri McGregor directly via: https://www.rejectedparents.net/about-helping-parents-of-estranged-adult-children/contact-rejected-parents/

Abuse is never acceptable: Must I tell my estranged daughter I’m done?

abuse is never acceptable

Sarah asks:

* Dear Sheri McGregor,

I am a single mom to my 29 year old only daughter. We were always close, but she estranged from me without giving any reason about a year ago. At her wedding, she and her husband treated me and my friends like dirt. I did nothing to merit the behavior. Nor did my friends. Since then, she hasn’t responded to my emails, letters, gifts, or offers to reconcile, except to say that she doesn’t want to get together at holidays.  I am trying to move on with my life, but it’s hard to wrap my mind around this change.

A month ago, I wrote an amends letter and mailed it—no response. I go between hope and despair. I’m heartbroken and angry and am not sure I can forgive this. I read your book each evening. Should I continue to wait or just cut it off and start fresh? Right now, I just want to send an email to say that I’m done with this abuse.

Sarah

Sheri McGregor replies

Hi Sarah,

The simplest answer is to do what you need to do to be able to cope, learn to live with life as it is, accept the parts over which you have no control, and to work toward your own healthy, sensible future—regardless of your daughter’s decisions.

You mention being uncertain whether to continue to wait or just cut it off and start fresh. You also said that right now, you feel like emailing her that you’re done with the abuse. I’ll try to address these thoughts.

In my work as a life coach, I often ask people questions to prompt further reflection, which can help them make sound decisions for themselves. Here are a few for you:

  • At this point, is it is necessary to state anything to your daughter about a new decision to just get on with life?
  • You mention that you have written an amends letter, but I’m not sure for what. Are you?
  • There was no response. Consider what is prompting the idea of reaching out again right now (though in a different way, as you say, to finalize your decision not to allow abuse). Is there a secret hope that this will prompt her to respond and engage with you?
  • Is reaching out again a way for you to “correct” the mistake of sending an amends letter and apologizing for things that made no sense? Sometimes, amends letters are sent from a place of emotional weakness or desperation, or upon a counselor’s advice. I have heard from many parents who later regretted those letters, which is why I ask this question.
  • Is reaching out again this time a way to feel as if you’re taking back power? Sometimes, a specific action can be helpful. However, the act of writing the letter—without ever sending it—may be enough or an even better idea. Try writing out the words—I will not allow abuse—for yourself. Putting your decision down on paper can become a pact with yourself. An affirmation of sorts. Come up with a few more and hang them somewhere prominent. Read them aloud—and mean what they say!

Let me clarify that these questions are not intended as judgments or advice. Your situation is unique, and you must come to your own conclusions. A person’s emotions and the desires that motivate potential actions are important to consider.

Abuse is never acceptable

Abuse is never acceptable, but is stating that in a letter sent for that express purpose necessary? Or would your energy be better used to serve yourself?

In my experience, strong urges to act can be turning points which, if we resist the urge to act in haste, can result in our own growth. Rather than reaching out with words of finality, consider whether this might be a good time to quietly go about the business of living out your decision. To take care of yourself, plan for your future, your wellness, your happiness…. In this way, you train yourself to cope through very practical and focused actions in your own life and toward pursuits over which you have control.

Whether you decide, ultimately, that you must tell her now that you will not accept abuse (No one should! Abuse is never acceptable!), my best “advice” is to work at making yourself feel at peace with your decisions, your future, your activities, and your past (if that’s applicable). Work at your own wellness. If the future holds contact between you, even amicable contact, you will benefit from strength. Why not nurture that now?

I hope that you are finding the book useful. I’m assuming you mean the first book (Done With The Crying). If you are not already doing so, consider engaging with the exercises. They are designed to aid in personal growth, offer emotional strength training, and help you gain peace with the past … as well as in designing your present and future. If you’re reading the e-book or listening to the audio book version, I hope you’ll consider the WORKBOOK. It was designed to accompany those formats, and the exercises are all provided with lots of extra room to write. As time goes on, consider following up with Beyond Done With The Crying (available in print and as an e-book, and will soon be on audio as well).

Hugs to you dear, Sarah.

Sheri McGregor

* all letters are edited for clarity, space, and privacy

Related reading

Adult child’s rejection: Emotional and social fallout

Parents whose children cut ties: Another date with yourself

parents whose children cut tiesParents whose children cut ties: Another date with yourself

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Last February, I suggested an exercise to bring the focus back to yourself and your progress for your own well-being and self-care. If you did the exercise for neglected parents and self-love, it’s time to pull out your “same time next year” or Valentine’s note to yourself and analyze how you did.

In the neglected parents and self-love exercise, you were asked to choose your own words to go with each of the letters in the word “love.” And then you wrote a few notes about what those meant to you and how you’d achieve more freedom, set boundaries, and focus on making your life good despite what another adult has chosen to do. Remember, this exercise is about what is within your control (and not what—or who—is not).

The words I shared as examples, and my thoughts about each, went like this

L: Limits. How can I limit how much of my energy or thinking goes toward the estrangement (or: problem, relationship, situation)? Have I spent enough time being miserable? Have I let my adult children surpass the limits of how I would let another adult treat me? Is it time to set some limits now, and get on with living my life? What does that mean to me? What can I do right now to start setting limits and/or enforcing them?

O: Observe. Am I listening to myself think? How often does my mind wander to this problem I can’t solve? What’s a new way to think about this? Do I still think I’m the only one? Do I still blame myself?

V: Value. Does what my adult child say about me, or how s/he treats me, truly define who I am and who I’ve been? (HINT: The answer is NO.) Does this other adult’s decision or opinion change history or define who I am now? Have I been devaluing myself? How can I show myself the value I deserve for all my hard work and loving care?

E: Evaluate. Where am I on this journey as a neglected parent? (Name your spot like a town or venue, i.e., Tearsville, City of Hope, Onward Town.) Where do I want to be at this time next year? How can I get there? (Name at least one step.)

If you didn’t do the exercise or didn’t need this site back then, you’ll find the exercise in self-love here. Take time to read through the comments as well as the instructions—and jot your own thoughts there.

If you did do the exercise, take it to the next level now. Write each of the words you chose again, and this time, and add a few notes about where you succeeded (or failed). As you do, remember that even the smallest steps for yourself are progress. As for the failures, don’t get down on yourself. Consider how and why you fell short of your goals. What circumstances contributed to your loss of focus or control. Learn from the past—and set a few goals for the year ahead.

Parents whose children cut ties: Take charge

My focus for parents whose children cut ties (or are unloving or abusive in any way) has always been to recognize where they can take charge for themselves. That means letting go of what is beyond their control. This is different from many “experts,” who espouse an if-you-do-this-then they-will-do-that tactic that’s focused on doing whatever it takes to get your adult child back. While you may very well be able to start some dialogue and move toward reconciliation, for many parents, that tactic becomes just another eggshell walk—and sets up an inequitable relationship that leads to more pain. Relationships aren’t one-sided and it’s a disservice to us (and to our adult children) to pretend they are.

parents whose children cut tiesIf you’d like to learn more about taking charge of your life and your future, my books in the Done With The Crying series can help. I also offer individual life coaching sessions (on a limited basis) for those seeking more personalized support and/or accountability—but I suggest you read one or both books first. One counselor from a community helping center that has been seeing an influx of parents whose children cut ties recently contacted me to say that she is offering my books as a resource. She told me about a rejected mother whose session was delayed. In the interim, the counselor suggested my work to the mother, and reported that after reading and doing the exercises, the woman said she didn’t need more help. You may feel the same—and I hope you do! However, we are all as unique as our situations. It’s wise to get the support you need. My books also offer detailed information about how to find the appropriate help for your individual needs, which might mean therapy, pastoral counseling, life coaching, or some other assistance.

Tell us how you did

If you’re up to it, leave a comment here about what you did right or what you learned in the year since doing the exercise. Loving yourself includes recognizing that what you learned might help other parents whose children cut ties. While it might feel scary to share your thoughts, your experience may be just what another parent needs to hear. I believe that through sharing we also grow strong.

Take charge where you can, and to the best of your ability, make the year ahead one filled with joy and meaning.

Hugs to you this Valentine season and always,

Sheri McGregor

Related reading

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