Sheri McGregorName: Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Book Title: Done With the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children

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What is your book about?

Done With the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children is an encouraging and comprehensive book about the increasing phenomenon of estranged adult children who come from loving families. With tools, the latest research, and insight from more than 9,000 parents of estranged adult children, the book helps parents plan ahead, prepare for emotional triggers, and prevail over setbacks and pain.

Parents of adults who have walked away from the family often feel as if they can never get past the pain. But they can be happy again. With exercises derived from my work as a life coach and my own healing after estrangement, I help mothers who did their best to come to terms with their estranged adult child’s choices, and regain their health and happiness.

One reviewer recently called the book “a complete therapy course,” adding, “If this book cost $100 it would still be a fantastic bargain.” Another reviewer termed Done With the Crying “a bible” for estranged parents, and yet another said the book “is a recipe for how to live.”

This book is for fathers of estranged adult children too. Ninety-three percent of the parents who answered my survey at RejectedParents.Net are mothers, which is why I directed the title to them. But many of the book’s examples are from couples, and include the experiences of fathers. Some passages directly highlight men’s reactions, including my husband’s. The principles presented are relevant to fathers, and the strategies for coping can be used by anyone.

Done with the CryingNine in-depth chapters provide dozens of inspiring examples from among the thousands of parents of estranged adult children. Kind, supportive parents who find themselves in this shocking, emotionally devastating situation, can gain understanding and practical help from a mother who knows the pain of this loss with all its uncertainty and heartache. Hope can remain, but parents who recognize they can’t control an adult child’s choices don’t have to stay stalled, forever waiting. They can move past the disbelief and distress. Take charge. Reclaim their identity and their lives—only maybe even better.

What inspired you to write your book?

I’m a mother of five to whom the unthinkable happened. I never imagined that my own child could reject me. Yet, in his twenties, one of my children, a son, chose to walk away from me and his entire family. I know the pain of an adult child’s estrangement—the horrible shock that wrings you dry, triggers denial, blame, and even shame. My son’s departure sent me reeling into despair over a situation I never expected and wasn’t prepared for. I searched, but found little help—and lots of judgment.

Beliefs about how much parents influence children’s development are pervasive and oversimplified. Because of ideals about unconditional love and the mother-child bond, those who speak about adult children who estrange themselves are often judged, or even shunned. So we tend to isolate ourselves, fearing we’ll be looked at with speculation as to what we did wrong. We can even start to look at ourselves this way, wondering how our lifelong love for our children could be interpreted any other way.

In my search for help, I discovered that even so-called experts judge parents, believing we must have been too strict, too lenient, too nosy, too opinionated, too . . . anything. But shaming parents who have done their best only isolates them. Humiliated and hurt, abandoned parents face a quandary: tell and perhaps be judged (and further hurt), or suffer in silence (and be cut off from any possible help).

As a writer, a certified life coach, and holding a Master’s Degree in Human Behavior, it was a natural progression for me to study the latest research, and use tools that I devised for my coaching clients to help myself heal from the emotional trauma. I started a website, opened a support forum, and ran a survey study that has now generated more than 10,000 responses. Seeing the huge need expressed by hurting parents, I wrote the book to share my findings and help other parents.

Can you describe your writing process? 

In addition to Done With the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, I have three other nonfiction books on store shelves. My popular hiking guides for San Diego County, Easy Hikes Close to Home: San Diego, Day & Overnight Hikes: Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Diego, required similar discipline in terms of research and attention to detail. All of my nonfiction books have in common what I believe is an important element—an enthusiasm for the subject matter. That enthusiasm fuels the stamina required to see a project through. I hope readers can sense the zeal, care, and joy behind my words.

My writing process starts with an idea, some preliminary research into what’s out there already, possible markets, and how a potential book—or article, since I also write for magazines—could add something of value. I also search peer-reviewed journals via my alumni library membership, for the latest research studies. If, after all of this, I’m still energetic for an idea, I’ll pursue it. Currently, I’m finishing up this early process for my next non-fiction book, and moving into the concrete work of creating a loose outline to help with structure.

How did you come to do what you’re doing today?

I started writing in elementary school, with classroom plays performed by my fellow students. Later, when I found myself at home with five small children, writing allowed me to work from home, and fit my work in around my family.

Can you describe a typical day in your life?

Most days, I’m up by 4 or 5 a.m., and spend the quiet time with my laptop, writing, doing research, helping other writers in The Internet Writing Workshop, or doing the behind-the-scenes tasks for my support forum for parents of estranged adult children. When I have a goal for a particular project, that quiet morning time may spill into the afternoon. Since my children are all now grown, it’s not unusual for me to get into the flow of writing, and look up to find that several hours have passed. Even after all these years, I still get lost in my work. But on some days, I don’t write at all. It’s helpful to step away from a writing project, even for days at a time, and let it percolate in the background. Long hikes do a body good, and also relax the mind, so are fruitful for ideas and clarity.

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

I am grateful for the freedom of expression my work as a writer allows me. Taking the seed of an idea and nurturing it to a flourishing point brings me joy. And if I can help other people in the process, then I’m fulfilled. To me, writing is a bit like gardening, another of my favorite pastimes.

Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?

When my mother died an untimely death, we found beautiful poetry that she’d written. She always had a talent for writing, but for the most part kept it hidden away. Her death spurred me to pursue my dream of becoming a professional writer before it was too late.

For Done With the Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, all of the hurting parents who reached out to me during the research and writing inspired me. Knowing my articles at resonated with other parents as they strove to move forward after the emotional trauma of estrangement, as well as the isolation and judgment they felt, encouraged me to continue working on the book. Those parents, and the stories of strength they share, still inspire me.

Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

  • As a kid, I got my first rejection letter for a skit I’d written and sent in to The Carol Burnett Show.
  • I was already a grandmother when I started work toward my Master’s Degree.
  • My first book-length publications were romance novels.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently playing with an idea for a novel, and writing some preliminary pages, which has been fun so far. And I’m in the preliminary stages of work on another personally meaningful self-help book that will allow me to help others.  My work for magazines and websites continues. Two fun articles will appear in an upcoming issue of Chickens Magazine, which I write for fairly regularly.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

As writers, our words exist for a very long time, and have the potential to influence people in powerful ways. That thought inspired the email signature line I came up with when my first hiking book came out more than a decade ago: Keep your path positive. You leave a trail for others.

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