The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Accepting Estrangement

Accepting does not necessarily mean “liking,” “enjoying,” or “condoning.”
I can accept what is – and be determined to evolve from there.
It is not acceptance but denial that leaves me stuck.

~Nathaniel Branden, American Psychologist

It took most of my 14 years of estrangement to reach a place of accepting the loss of my entire family of origin. It is difficult to mourn the loss of the living.

No matter the condition of our family soil, when we become cut-off, our roots are severed from the garden of our origin.

Although the pain of estrangement did lessen with time, it was not easy to gauge any healing progress. On a scale from 1 to 10, my initial agony was certainly a 10. A few years later, I didn’t recognize that my hurt had diminished to a 6 and so on. My awareness was simply that I was still in pain, and I wanted the ache to go away completely. Sometimes the anguish did go away, and then I’d hear of my exclusion at a family event, or some words of judgment from a bystander. My wounds would grip me all over again and I’d wonder, “Will this pain ever go away?”

For many years, I worked at healing and filling the void where my family used to be. All the while, the lingering hope of reconciliation remained.

I’d wake up each morning to a feeling of on-going rejection and I had to learn to somehow live with the pain.

Sometimes, no matter how much we may desire peaceful resolution – reconciliation doesn’t appear on the horizon. We have no power over the emotional progress, healing, or choices of our family members. We can only control our half of the relationship and perform our own emotional work.

I found support to help me accept the reality of estrangement; to continue to heal from my abuse; to focus solely on myself, and to move on to live the best life possible.

Accepting what is – as what is - afforded me the opportunity to free myself from the bondage of the past, and fully experience the present.

The irony for me was, after healing sufficiently to accept estrangement, I did reconcile with my family. In an odd way, no longer needing my family left me in a stronger position to explore the possibility of reuniting. All of the love, acceptance, acknowledgment, and help with healing I used to yearn for from them, I had received from other people and from myself.



Strong & determined said...

Thank you so much for this post. I severed ties with my parents (my father is a perpetrator) just two months ago. I have struggled so much with feelings that vacillate back and forth. Sometimes I feel great knowing that I have put healthy space between myself, and the people who are toxic to me. Other times, I feel extreme sadness about losing my family. Thank you for sharing your experience. It illustrates to me that there is hope for complete healing...even if it takes many years.

healandforgive said...

Dear Strong and Determined,

You are welcome! I clearly remember the vacillation you expressed.

I celebrated that I was safe, and mourned that I felt unloved.

Take loving care of yourself!

Anonymous said...

I am estranged from all of my family members and do not have a very easy time of it. Although I have moved far away from them, , I still have moments of agony and just feel sad and lost. I so want the day to come when I can let go more of the feelings of loss and get to the place of enjoying and learning more that I am fully deserving of creating and living my own life... I am talking to people about it, and am learning to reach out more. I am looking for a group to join and think volunteering in an organization of some kind will take my mind away from things.. Slowly but surely ...I know there is hope and a lot of good role models out there guiding us forward. Thanks for this site also Lisa .

healandforgive said...

Hi Lisa,

It isn't easy, that is for sure. And, healing takes a very long time. I'm glad you are reaching out to others. Stay strong!

My best,

Tribbles said...

Hi Lisa....

I guess i'm writing because i want to know how to forget, completely and move on. I am estranged from my entire family for many years (including my own daughters). I don't post that out of pride, i realize that my style of writing and current mental state may leave people with that impression. I have cried over not having a family, i have anguished over it and i have fallen to pieces witnessing other families who were everything to each other in a way that my blood are completely alien to. I often describe my family as a gene pool that I just happen to be born into. They are selfish, narcissistic and judgemental on multiple levels. Status is everything to them....

It doesn't help that i am transgender. A condition i struggled with and hid until i was 37. Most of the damage occurred prior to my transition (MtF) but once i "came out" it was obvious that i was about to become an even bigger target. There is nothing easy about transition and this just piled 37 years of black sheep on top of a truly difficult thing to manage that in itself was fresh artillery for a family of narcissists.

I want to forget them, i want to forget wanting a real family with them. I won't ever go back, there are no overtures that i would respond to.....even after a prolonged persistent effort to bring me back into a fold that i was never really welcome to in the first place.....i would not go.

Yes, i walked away.....even ran away from them. It's not enough....i want them purged from my memories.......


healandforgive said...

Hi Michelle,
I can feel the anguish in your words and feel a great deal of empathy for your estrangement experience.

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely forget the past-there is no Psychological lobotomy. However, we can desensitize ourselves from the past in order to move on.

It does take a great deal of hard work to heal from the past.

The best advice I can give you is to find good support. I try to find support in both estrangement support groups and in the transgender communities.

I know it's a tough go. And I wish you all the best on your continued Journey.


Natalie Harrison said...

I too have experienced my dad being the culprit of emotional blackmail obsessive behaviour aggressive towards me control until i realised it had been happening for that long and I just had lived with it so long that I hadn't actually noticed it and I just moved away a lot more to the story but even tho he was in the wrong he has made all my other family ignore me now no one speak to me this has been going on for 14 months I have tried to sort of sort it out but he continues to lie through his teeth at what he has done because he isn't getting his own way again the emotional blackmail you will do what I say or else attitude . I feel so very betrayed and lost to be honest xxxx

healandforgive said...

Hi Natalie,

I'm sorry you are experiencing this sort of injustice. I remember the feelings of betrayal that you describe, as well as waking up each morning to the feeling of utter rejection...devastating.

You may also want to check out my post on scapegoating (Ridding myself of the family scapegoat mantle). You can use the search engine in the upper left hand corner of my blog with the word "scapegoat". It sounds like your dad has assigned you as the family scapegoat.

Take good care of yourself. I wish you all the best on your healing journey,