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Done With the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children by Sheri McGregor is written by a mother of an estranged adult child for primarily mothers of adult estranged children. McGregor explains that it was mostly women who reached out on her website, writing about and discussing their feelings and experiences in regards to their own adult child/ren being estranged. It is not that the book does not note the feelings and experiences of men, but only about seven percent of those who shared their stories online were male, which is why McGregor focuses primarily on women. McGregor provides the reader with her own story about estrangement and she shares tools and exercises for dealing with the sense of loss and hurt that centers around parents and their adult estranged children, with the focus being on finally coming to peace and letting go, while enjoying life again.
According to McGregor many of the women with estranged adult children have a difficult time understanding the events in their own life or that of their estranged child that lead up to ending the relationship completely. They struggle with understanding what went wrong and why their child/children chose to end their relationship altogether. McGregor dealt with the same feelings, but does note that some estranged adult children struggle with addiction, mental health issues, or partners and spouses who seem to isolate the estranged adult child. Since McGregor focuses on the experiences of mothers, we do not hear from the estranged adult children and their perspective, which could have been beneficial, but at the same time, since most mothers do not know the reason for the estrangement, McGregor focuses on how to deal with the aftermath of an estranged relationship, no matter the perspective of the child.
McGregor starts by talking about the feelings of disbelief, sadness, anger and confusion in the initial stages of estrangement. McGregor points out that it is important not to make hasty decisions, but to take time, go through and think about the situation at hand. McGregor also states that many women tend to blame themselves and go through their child’s entire upbringing, wondering about what went wrong or what they did to cause the estrangement. At this point, mothers may feel very isolated and believe that no one understands their situation, or blames them for not being good enough. During this time, it is important to reach out for support, whether it is online support groups, counseling/therapy, making new friends or finding faith-based support. As you come to terms with the estrangement it is crucial to work on your new life, deciding to either try to move on or if you are not ready to do so, wait for your estranged child to contact you, which they may, but it is also important to be prepared for being let down again. During this time, McGregor also discussed how crucial it is to take care of oneself; taking time off, exercise, get involved with something you appreciate, and to enjoy yourself. Feelings of guilt may arise during this time, as may feelings of envy, even depression and suicidal thoughts. It is important to share your feelings with others and be up front and honest about how you feel. Professional help may be needed during this time to deal with emotions of sadness, guilt, and being rejected.
Another important factor to be considered, according to McGregor is managing the effects on the family as a whole. An estranged adult child may stay in contact with siblings, or the other parent, and it is important to communicate boundaries in terms of what information to share in regards to the estranged adult child and other family-members. Once you have come to terms with the situation of estrangement, moving forward can be very difficult, but McGregor also notes that there are important decisions to be made, whether reconciliation is an option or not. Parents of an adult estranged child should consider end of life decisions, such as wills and inheritances. Will your estranged adult child inherit any belongings, estates you may have or money? Will there be rules and regulations in terms of what is expected from them or asked of them in terms of illness or death. Such decisions can be difficult to make, but McGregor also notes that they can be very crucial to healing and preparing for what may come next. In the end, moving forward may look very different based on ones situation, but McGregor feels that it is important for parents to reflect on how far they have come in their journey, how they have changed throughout this situation and how they have managed to deal with a situation that seems insurmountable, to give themselves some credit and allow for happiness in their lives once again.
As noted, the book is written primarily for women of adult estranged children, but men can certainly benefit from reading the book. Done With the Crying also provides much time for reflection, for taking time to think about ones life and to read the stories of other women who are going through a similar situation. The book is easy to read, and provides much support and insight in a gentle and understanding way.
© 2016 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.