Estrangement seems to hit mothers harder, or perhaps they are more likely to express their hurt. That is the conclusion drawn by Sheri McGregor, author of Done With the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children.
A life coach and human behaviorist, McGregor was moved to write this book after one of her five children severed ties with her and her husband. McGregor's journey was threefold.
She searched within herself. She reached out to other estranged parents. And she wrote a book.
Although all family members dealing with estrangement could benefit from this book, McGregor specifically targets mothers. McGregor found that most estranged parents posting online were female. When she solicited respondents for a survey, over 90% of those responding were mothers. When men did respond, they tended to volunteer little information, whereas women often poured out their souls. Those women's stories form an important part of the book. In some cases, identifying information has been removed or altered to protect the participants' privacy.
McGregor also shares much of her personal struggle with estrangement. She maintains a website for parents of estranged adult children, which contains a forum for those dealing with this issue.
The Blueprint for This Book
Done With the Crying is a methodical, step-by-step guide.
It includes tools and exercises for estranged mothers. Sometimes these are merely things to think about. Sometimes they are more detailed exercises.
The book follows a roughly chronological sequence. Chapter One, First Daze, helps the reader sort through the "haze of emotions" associated with sudden estrangement.
Chapter Two, Why, gives readers guidance as they try to figure out the reasons for the rift. Chapter Three discusses where estranged parents can find support and tackles the issue of who to talk to about family estrangement.
One of the most interesting chapters explores how estrangement affects other members of the family. Here are some of the scenarios that are discussed.
- One parent has contact with the adult child, and the other does not.
- The estranged child maintains contact with siblings.
- The estranged child maintains contact with extended family.
- Social media becomes a venue for family drama.
Another thought-provoking chapter discusses end-of-life issues. Should an estranged child be told about a parent's serious illness or death? Should the estranged child receive a share of the estate?
The Possibility of Reconciliation
Although McGregor's focus is on accepting estrangement and coming out on the other side, she does devote one chapter to the topic of reconciliation. Still, the picture she paints is not a hopeful one. Many times estranged children will respond to overtures, or even instigate them. That doesn't mean that they have made a commitment to a reconciliation. Often all that happens is that parents are filled with false hope.
McGregor also weighs in on the topic of the apology letter, often recommended as a step that estranged parents can take. She doesn't know many success stories of reconciliations brought about by apology letters, but she concedes that there may be some successes out there. More often, according to McGregor, the parents' admissions only buttress the belief of the children that they have legitimate grievances.
What About the Grandchildren?
In the chapter titled "Moving On," McGregor addresses the issue of grandparents who do not get to see their grandchildren because they are estranged from the children's parents.She acknowledges that although grandparents have visitation rights in all 50 states, the way the statutes are written makes it difficult if not impossible for many grandparents to win visitation.
She also points out that filing a suit for visitation is certain to further erode relationships between the warring family members. She suggests other ways that grandparents can cope with the pain of not seeing their grandchildren. They can write letters to their grandchildren or keep a journal for them, with the hope of being able to give those items to their grandchildren at some time in the future. They can make scrapbooks or memory boxes for their grandchildren. They can become surrogate grandparents. At the same time, McGregor acknowledges that none of these activities will truly fill the void.
As the title suggests, the main purpose of this book is to help parents whose adult children have cut them off move on with their lives. "Right now, make a pledge to stop looking back and lamenting what you cannot change," McGregor urges. " Be done with the crying. Look forward. Continue weaving the artful tapestry of your life."