Estrangement is one of the most difficult experiences a parent could endure, and the fact it carries such a bitter social stigma makes it even harder to deal with. The fact is, however, it can happen even to “good” parents, as this mom’s story shows.
An unshakeable mother-son bond
Growing up, Sheri McGregor and her son, who she identified by the alias Dan, seemed to have an unbreakable bond. Beyond family ties, they also shared various interests and hobbies, like hiking and photography.
They’d spent time doing those things together, and just enjoying each other’s company. When Dan became an adult, he was, above all else, dependable. Whether Sheri needed help with the computer, or just a laugh, Dan would be there for her.
Meeting his future wife
Sheri recalled meeting the woman Dan would later marry for the first time. It was dark then, and she was in a car. She remembered the dashboard lighting up her face as she smiled when they were introduced.
She and Dan had gone to school together, apparently, and she’d always had a crush on him. All seemed perfect at first, and they even connected over their shared passion for fashion. Dan then began renting a place from Sheri and her husband, and months later his girlfriend moved in with him.
Popping the question at Disneyland
Dan and his girlfriend seemed to be getting pretty serious, and talk of marriage began circling around. One day when he was visiting, Sheri casually asked whether he’d proposed yet. He grinned, and explained that he was planning to pop the question on their upcoming trip to Disneyland.
He even had a location in mind – the castle bridge outside Fantasyland. Since his 24th birthday was coming up, Sheri and her husband bought the Disneyland tickets for them. Dan did indeed propose, and his girlfriend said yes. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
The first crack appears
Immediately after Dan got engaged, however, Sheri noticed things started to change. The happy couple began planning their wedding along with his future in-laws, so Sheri didn’t see much of them. When she did, she got the distinct sense that her own family was being compared by Dan to his fiancée’s – and found lacking.
He made passing reference to her family pushing their kids into sports, and how his mom probably didn’t know anything about it. While true, Sheri found it unfair, as they’d always encouraged their kids to pursue whatever their interests were.
An innocent mom question
About two weeks before their wedding, a phone call between Dan and Sheri took place that she later identified as signaling the beginning of the end for their relationship. As they were discussing some last-minute details around the big day, Sheri casually asked if Dan was certain about the marriage.
She thought it was a perfectly innocent question, considering how young they were. “Yes, I’m sure,” Dan replied. “I’m marrying her.” They continued chit-chatting normally some more, and disconnected. Days later, Dan phoned again, and she came to realize just how wrong things were.
‘That’s my family’
The next time the phone rang, it was almost midnight. Sheri answered, and found Dan on the other end, informing her very coldly and matter-of-factly that his fiancée’s family would not be attending the rehearsal dinner they had planned.
Then things got worse – he put his fiancée on the phone, and she told Sheri, “That’s my family.” Completely bewildered, Sheri said she didn’t know what she meant. Dan then explained Sheri was supposedly unfriendly to them at a bridal shower a month prior. Confused and hurt, she didn’t know what to say.
Just calling to confirm they’re not coming
The next few days were spent in a daze. Neither Sheri nor her husband knew what they did to warrant such an attitude. They were anxiously waiting Dan’s next call – anticipating yet dreading it simultaneously. When it eventually came, Dan wasn’t calling to apologize, or even to explain his actions.
He was just calling to confirm that his own parents would not be attending his wedding. They needed to know, he continued, for “the plates.” Sheri burst out crying, having been diminished to a number on a catering order.
Trying to keep a level head
After it was clear they were both disinvited from the wedding, Sheri faced the unenviable task of having to call all her relatives and explain why Dan’s parents won’t be at his wedding. Naturally, she was flooded with questions about what happened, and “I’m not sure” was the best answer she could muster.
Feelings of guilt and shame overwhelmed her, as her own family assumed she must’ve done something awful. There were also more supportive responses, of course, but regardless, she refused to badmouth either Dan or his fiancée to anyone.
Dreading every phone call
That fateful phone call was two weeks removed from the wedding. In the remaining time, Sheri felt as if she was floating in space. Every time her phone rang, her heart jumped at the thought of it being Dan calling to apologize and mend fences. But it never was.
There was a lot of sadness, but there was even a sort of relief mixed in, as he’d never been so cold, so calculating towards her before, and she wasn’t looking forward to hearing that tone of voice from the boy she thought she knew again.
One of the saddest days of her life
Still, Sheri never let the animosity Dan developed towards her affect the rest of her family, going so far as to tell his siblings that they’re free to attend the wedding if they so desire. None of them did. Looking back at the wedding day itself, Sheri recalled being mostly sad.
She was sure he’d call them that morning to make amends, but he didn’t. They spent that day not doing much of anything – just spacing out in front of the TV or the porch, staring but nothing seeing anything.
Walking right by her
It was strange – even though he hurt her so badly, Sheri could still remember wondering how he was feeling – if it wasn’t sad for him to get married without any close family in attendance. Then, some time later, she was given a strong indication as to precisely how he felt.
Waiting in line at the bank, she saw Dan exiting a grocery store across from her. He then proceeded to walk right by her without saying a word or even acknowledging her existence. Sheri finished her business at the bank, got back to her car, and broke down crying.
The meeting doesn’t go as planned
A couple of weeks later, Dan reappeared – sort of. He texted Sheri, telling her he’d gotten a new job and would be moving out of the property he was renting from her. He even offered to meet in person to hand over the keys. With visions of a tearful reunion in her head, they drove over to see him.
Sadly, it was mostly just awkward, with both parties remaining reserved and tight-lipped. Eventually, Dan ran off to his car, with Sheri calling after him, “I’m going to cry every day for the rest of my life.” He never turned around.
‘Will everyone else just leave me too?’
During the first six months of being estranged, Sheri described herself as being a “basket case.” She wasn’t eating or sleeping, and the first holiday season without him was really rough. After all the hustle and bustle, she was left lying in bed feeling drained.
“Will everyone else just leave me too?” Sheri recalled wondering. After all, if Dan could leave her, why wouldn’t everyone else? Finally, it dawned on her – she was wasting her life on a grown adult who clearly wanted nothing to do with her. She was worn out, and the rest of her family was as well.
Reading up on estrangement
Determined to get her old life back, she stopped wallowing in the misery of the past and decided to shape her own future. She started reading up on estrangement, and discovered to her great surprise that it had happened to thousands upon thousands of perfectly nice regular people, just like her.
Normative parents, just like her, who’d been kind and supportive of their kids but still suffered the same fate. Parents who took out mortgages to pay for their kids’ college education. Still, ties were severed. All of it made her realize something.
Refusing to let it define her
Reading up on the literature, Sheri noticed something infuriating. Most of the advice she could find on the matter placed the blame – and responsibility for reconciliation – on the parents. But it wasn’t her fault. It was Dan’s choice, she told herself, and she wasn’t about to let it define her forever.
She was a good mother, and a good person. Her family was still good. In the end, it didn’t take all of the king’s horses or all of his men – little by little, that realization allowed Sheri to start putting herself back together again.
Publishing her book
Perhaps it was fate, or perhaps it was God not giving someone more than they can handle, but life had equipped Sheri with the tools to fight back against what she was feeling. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in human behavior, she was uniquely qualified to make sense of what had happened.
She eventually put together her experiences and conclusions into a book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, which was published in 2016 and was highly rated.
Reconnecting a year later
A year after Dan moved out of the rental property, he called the house again. At times, it felt to Sheri like she was talking to a stranger. At others, he seemed to be intentionally bringing up again the things they had had in common – like his new camera, or the hikes he was going on.
‘Was he trying to reconnect?’ she couldn’t help but wonder. “I’ll call you again, Mom. Soon,” he promised. She allowed herself to feel hope, for the first time in a long time.
Almost falling back into old habits
When months passed, and she never heard from him again, she suffered a serious emotional setback. Those feelings of lost and sorrow came flooding right back, but her knowledge on estrangement clued her in to the fact that the people who initiate it do sometimes come back, only to leave again.
She dubbed it “emotional torture” – appearing back in the lives of the people who love you, only to pull a vanishing act. This pushed Sheri to decide to take better care of herself – and help other parents in the same position.
Won’t talk about the past
It’s now been years, and Sheri’s only seen Dan a handful of times. They had one good visit from him, which gave her hope for the future, but then days later he stopped in with his wife. Things were cordial at first. Sheri apologized, though she didn’t exactly know what for, and Dan’s wife did as well.
However, both her and Dan seemed uninterested in talking about what had happened. They wanted to move forward and just forget the past, but Sheri wasn’t comfortable with that. She refused to go forward without understanding what went so wrong.
The last meeting
Four and a half years ago, Sheri and Dan had their final meeting to date. Apparently, Dan and his wife were moving to another state, because his wife’s entire family had as well. Before they left, he came in to say goodbye to his parents in person.
The meeting, however, went poorly and was mostly awkward. It must have been weird for Sheri and her husband, saying goodbye to their son without having an idea if they were ever going to see him again. To date, they have not.
Would open the door for him if he came again
Just because Sheri’s relationship with her son had broken down, possibly irrevocably, didn’t mean that anyone else from the family was barred from ever contacting him again. In fact, she told her other children that they were completely free to try and reconnect with Dan as they pleased.
As far as she knew, though, none of them had. And still, despite everything they had been put through, Sheri stated that if Dan were to knock on her door right now, she wouldn’t think twice about opening it.
Giving in, not giving up
Even now, with all the time that has passed since the estrangement, Sheri still sometimes found people judged her unfavorably for what happened. These people often chastised her for supposedly “giving up” on one of her children.
While she understood why they might have felt that way, she felt something else was going on. She wasn’t giving up, she was giving in – giving in to the decision Dan made, as it was the only sensible choice available to her. She still loved him and wished him happiness, true, but her happiness mattered just the same.
Two sides to every story
As always, we must never forget that there are two sides to every story. To hear Dan’s wife tell it, Sheri wasn’t being completely upfront with how things went down. She claimed they tried patching things up multiple times, but to no avail.
She also stated she’d actually encouraged Dan to have a relationship with his family, despite the fact they seemed to hate her, and that no one was really uninvited from their wedding. In the end, she said, Sheri was demanding some kind of justice that could never be fulfilled.
Original article here
Disclaimer: Some photos may be stock images used for illustration purposes only. The people or places in these photos are not to be associated with the article.