Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dealing With Estrangement

For some time, I have been estranged from an immediate family member. The relationship had always been complicated, and after some soul searching and a few upsetting events, I came to the conclusion that I could no longer continue to have this person in my life. It was causing me too much pain.

For a long time I struggled with my decision, feeling that I was being unkind, that I owed this person a relationship with me. It can be really difficult to explain familial estrangement, or for that matter any kind of not-entirely-perfect family relationship, to other people, and sometimes these interactions can reinforce feelings of being selfish or ungrateful. We are socialised to believe that family is everything, and that we owe them something for bringing us up. That if we choose to cut off from our family, we are the bad guy in the situation. It takes a lot of courage to break out of that, and it can be very hard, and very lonely.

I am now at a point where I don't regret my decision to cut off from this person at all. I can see the positive changes that have happened as a result, how much more secure in myself I am, how I don't feel the need to seek approval any more. I can now see how aspects of the relationship with this person were emotionally abusive, and led into unhealthy relationships with others. Being happy with my decision has also taken some of my anger at the situation away. I don't wish this person any harm. I hope they manage to find happiness. I just don't wish to have them in my life.

However, it is still hard. I have a few friends who have very close, supportive relationships with their families, and as happy as I am for them, it makes me sad that I don't have that. I am well aware that the person I am estranged from wouldn't be capable of that kind of relationship anyway, which in a strange way only makes it harder. Added to this, I still have a lifetime of memories of this person. Some of those memories are happy ones. Some of the memories are of times which were personally significant to me. Now, they are all slightly tainted by the sadness surrounding the estrangement. The knowledge of what came after. Sometimes I will start to speak about a memory, only to realise halfway through that it involves the person I am estranged from.

I think in these kinds of situations, it is very important to grieve. I had to allow myself to grieve the loss not only of the person, but the relationship I never had and never was going to have with them. The support I would never get. The events they would be absent from. All the things they had done or said which made me unhappy and led to the estrangement. Even the person I could have been, had my relationship with them been different. I cried, and cried, and let the anger out. I ranted many times at my partner about how unfair it was, about how I should never have been put in this situation, how I should have been given the family relationships I wished for. I would think I was done, and had moved on, and then something would trigger me again and the tears and the rage would return. At the time it was absolutely horrible, but long term it really helped. I feel so much more peaceful now, and I have moved on. It is unfair. It is sad. It is still hard, and probably always will be. But I am still here, I am ok, and I am not going to let the situation ruin my life. I am going to live the happy, love filled life I deserve, rather than struggling with a relationship that could never be what I wanted it to be.

If this is something that you are struggling with yourself, I would recommend reading this piece on estrangement advice, and this article on explaining toxic family.


  1. Having been through similar with people in my family, I just wanted to say thank for writing and sharing this.

  2. Same here, I think this was very brave of you *biggest hugs*

    I've been estranged from my own immediate family member for about six years now, and I'm pretty much over it at this point. Two things that helped me most were...

    a)reminding myself that it was okay to do whatever it took to be kind to myself, especially when the other person couldn't extend me the same courtesy.
    and b) concentrating on my own life instead of looking back too much. There's many myths and fairytales where, if the hero/heroine fleeing the underworld looks back, no matter how briefly, he or she will be trapped forever, and that's how I chose to look at it. Just put one foot in front of the other and go from there, because it gets easier, promise :)

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  4. This was so amazingly brave of you to share. I loved the part when you said that you had to allow yourself to grieve the loss and how that was part of the healing process. We often underestimate the harm certain relationships have on us and the amount of time it takes to heal. I loved this post. Keep on being brave and inspiring people to be stronger.


  5. A very brave post. Sorry to hear that you went through that. I have had to cut someone toxic out before and although they weren't family, I did indeed grieve and I think you have to.
    All the best.


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