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

Monday, April 6, 2009

Estrangement Polls

I'm starting two polls on the reasons for family estrangement.

If you don't see the cause of your estrangement on the polls, please add a comment to this post. Blogger doesn't allow changes to a poll once voting has begun, but I will manually add it into the results when voting is done.

I've been in contact with many people who are estranged from family members and desperately wish to reunite. Often, they question why their loved ones wish to remain apart and are left to wonder "What happened?"

Estrangements are complicated. I believe that often, the reasons for estrangement have been building for years until one incident seems to have caused the rift. Usually our perceptions of why the estrangement happened are different from our family members. Estrangements are like icebergs - we only see the tip - yet the complicated dynamics are hidden far below the surface, often beyond our emotional comprehension.

In my own estrangement for instance, although family violence was the clear reason for me, each one of my family members thought the reasons for estrangement were completely different.

Thanks for your input!

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Estranged from me:
My daughter would say I was trying to break up her marriage (I was trying to protect her from abuse).

Michele Rosenthal said...

Great idea to get everyone talking about this. Will it help lead to ideas about coping with this sad situation? I hope so! Just Twittered about the poll...

healandforgive said...

Thanks so much Michelle,

You're the best!

Marj aka Thriver said...

Saw Michele's Tweet/Twitter about this and came over and voted. Great idea!

healandforgive said...

Thanks for joining in Marj!

Anonymous said...

My father was verbally abusive to my children. After this I realized that he had been verbally abusive to myself and most of my family for the majority of our lives. Although it hurts me greatly, I have decided that I will no longer tolerate anyone in my family being subjected to his violent temper. Because of my decision, my relationship with my mother and my brother is strained.

healandforgive said...

Dear Anonymous,

I'm sorry about your loss, and the strain it has put on your relationships with your mother and brother. Unfortunately, that seems to be quite common. When I stopped seeing my mother, the rest of my family stopped seeing me.

Like you, I made the decision to estrange when I realized the damage that was being done to my children.

Sad really; we are so accustomed to the abuse that we don't see the damage done to ourselves, until we can see what is happening to our children.

All my best to you on your healing journey,

Nancy

Anonymous said...

It's been over a year since my sister and mother spoke to me. I made a mistake that involved a group of we three attended 2 or 3 times a month. I haven't heard from them. I don't know what they are thinking. I have sent cards out to them for holidays/birthdays. I received a Christmas card from my mother. It had not additional note, only a holiday message. That is the only attempt to contact me. I get very anxious when I think about the day and events that lead to my mistake. I did some counseling to get myself out of the self-hatred cloud that surrounded me. I want to end the silence, or attempt to. Just thinking about HOW makes my anxiety flare up & hold me frozen like a confused person at a 4-way stop. HOW do I make the first step? I believe that this TIME has started HEALING me. I have such a fear that when I do hear what they have to say the wound will be horribly fresh again. You are right about the iceberg of issues and that the simple tip of the iceberg event probably is NOT the true problem.

healandforgive said...

Dear Anonymous,

Each time I read an estrangement story my heart breaks in knowing empathy. I'm so sorry for your loss. The pain of estrangement is one I wouldn't wish upon anyone.

I understand the difficult space you are in (I've been there). a) wanting to reconcile, and b) overwhelming fear associated with reconciliation.

I have a number of reconciliation posts. Some of them may be helpful. At the end of the day, we each have to decide for ourselves if the time is right for reconciliation.

Here are some relevant posts (you would need to cut and paste in the address bar):

http://healandforgive.blogspot.com/2008/05/my-top-ten-list-of-points-to-consider.html

http://healandforgive.blogspot.com/2008/09/reconciliation-starting-fresh.html

http://healandforgive.blogspot.com/2008/06/reconciliation-recovery-time.html

http://healandforgive.blogspot.com/2008/05/reconciliation-taking-leap-part-two.html

http://healandforgive.blogspot.com/2008/06/reconciliation-taking-leap-part-four.html

All my best,
Nancy

Anonymous said...

They refuse to accept MY REALITY of how I have been treated,perceived and (until the cut-off) was still going on. Both parents abusers, father on all levels,mother verbal and emotional. Brothers have now clearly joined the ranks in their silence/estrangement towards me.

Thank you Nancy for all that you have done - your
articulation of your experience/philosophy on this has be a lifesaver.....................

healandforgive said...

Dear Anonymous,

My heart goes out to you. At another time in my life, I could have written your "comment," (except for my father who died).

I'm very glad my words have been helpful. As a younger woman I longed to "know" someone with a similar experience who could help "pave the way."

Stay Strong!
Nancy

Jack Y said...

This is great website. It helps a lot of people and will hopefully help me a bit more to be more forgiving and to realize that some estrangements are healthy ones.

healandforgive said...

Hi Jack,

Thank you for stopping by and for your comment.

I'm glad you are finding my blog helpful!

All my best,
Nancy

Angela said...

I am beginning to confront my desires to become estranged from my mother. I, too, have begun to realize the 'abusive' types of ways she has treated myself and my sisters, but only because I noticed it beginning to happen to my daughter. I don't know if my mother's behavior warrents my breaking the connection but I just feel aweful when I am around her. She is manipulative and controlling emotionally. I'm sad and scared and my whole family has turned against me because they don't understand why I am upset pushing away, even though my sisters have always complained about the same thing. My one sister is a family lawyer who is accusing me of parental alienation. So they may take me to court so that I have to allow visitation with her and my daughter. Thank Goodness I have a therapist for the first time ever. I think she will help enormously. Your blog helps. Thanks.

healandforgive said...

Hi Angela,

I understand your your dilemma and I feel a great deal of empathy for you. I am so glad that you have a therapist to help you navigate this slippery slope.

I faced a great deal of sibling opposition when I decided to stop seeing my mother.

I highly recommend a book called "Divorcing a Parent," by Beverly Engel. I don't think I would have made it through the process without this book. Ms. Engel does not "advocate" divorce; however, does take the reader on a thoughtful journey to help that individual decide if "divorce" is right for you.

I have a post about the book here:

http://healandforgive.blogspot.com/2008/02/divorcing-parent.html


She also has a very helpful section titled: When Siblings View You As the Enemy.

The book is difficult to find because it is out of print (it runs about $50 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble);however, it is available at many library's. Here is a catalog of libraries that carry it:

http://www.worldcat.org/title/divorcing-a-parent-free-yourself-from-the-past-and-live-the-life-youve-always-wanted/oclc/20994138&referer=brief_results

Stay Strong, Angela!

All my best,
Nancy

Anonymous said...

It's hard to describe why I estranged myself from my family, but it's mainly because of the fragmentation, secrecy, lies, and abusive dynamics between all of us. Everyone is basically at war emotionally, but no one admits it, so there's no real trust. Everyone talks behind each other's backs and the main vibe in the family is condemnation and mockery. My parents divorced when I was ten, my Dad had an affair, my Mom was self-hating and had no self esteem and was also emotionally abusive with me. My older brother molested me but we never talked about it. Everyone in the family thinks my Mom is insane and doesn't respect her. My sister has recently accused my father of molesting her as a child, which I can't verify but can see how that could have happened. My Dad was verbally and physically abusive with two of his kids from his second family, which was torturous and painful for me to witness. I got in a falling out with my father a few years ago whereby he disowned me and cursed my life; he recently tried to reach out but he's such a toxic, mean and critical person so I'm basically scared to ever see him again. I love my family so much but when I'm around any of them I become self-destructive and despair of life and don't really want to live anymore. So I have to stay away in order to heal. But I miss all of them so much, and feel so much guilt, it's a daily nightmare to deal with not talking to them. When people abuse you, your love for them doesn't die, and that's the hardest part. Desiring what can destroy you - the ultimate paradox. I have no idea how to ever reconcile or see them again. It's a mess and I'm basically alone in it, not married and no one to help me really besides God, which is a lot but it still feels incredibly isolating. Thanks for reading.

healandforgive said...

Dear Anonymous,

Your story is heartbreaking. Sometimes reconciliation isn't best for everyone. Self-preservation has to come first!

You should definitely put yourself first!

All my best,
Nancy

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I've been feeling depressed a lot lately about my family estrangement and found your website. It has been 7 years since I last saw my father and brother. My parents divorced when I was in High School. I am 35 and have no family but my husband. The estrangement happened right after my marriage (I married a wealthy man so maybe that had to do with it!?). My father had always been very judgmental and critical of every thing in my life.
He always found fault in all my life decisions and blamed me for lots of things that went wrong ie: his divorce from mom, my inability to find the right man and get married, my inability to find a good job, and a million other things in my life. His comments were rude to me at times and I he had said many horrible things to me which he never apologized. But, for 29 years he was in my life and I had some good times with him such as going on trips together. I confronted him regarding this issue and that upset him and my brother. Things turned ugly and after my marriage I distanced my self to breath a little. Then he got angry and so estrangement began. My brother immediately disowned me after my marriage. My father blamed me for not having a relationship with my brother via email. After no contact for 1 year, dad wrote a letter to tell me how much sacrifice he made and I am not fair for not talking to him. Long story short, my relationship w/ my mother also became strained as a result. One year ago, I had an argument with my mom regarding my brother and me and my inheritance from dad, it was the straw that broke the camels back and now my mother and I are not on speaking terms. She wrote and email saying she does not want to get back together just recently. It is a mess. Luckily, my husband is on my side and I am so so happy to have my husband as a family. Other wise, I would be very depressed. However, I went through so much negative emotions that I never thought possible (Just when I met a wonderful man and it was supposed to be a "happy" time for me but turned to a nightmare) The emotions were very intense at times and I lost sleep: Extreme Anger, resentment, hatred for them, feeling abandoned, betrayed, relief that they are out of my life, sad for the loss of those relationships, guilty that therfe is something wrong w/ me, and very depressed on and off. I've been reading about forgiving a lot but how can I forgive when I destroyed my family pictures of 29 years??? I know I can't have a relationship w/ any of them again (mother, father, and brother). I tried to reconcile 2-3 times but it turned ugly every time. My brother does not respond at all, my father blames me for a lot of things and I can't talk to him for more than 10 minutes without a fight, my mother made it clear that she does not want to get back together via email. To my suprise, my dad emailed out of the blue 4 months ago and asked for a visit. However, I had to make the painful decision to turn him down.
It has been so long and no contact whatsoever. They don't know if I am alive and vice versa. It is sad. They are really strangers. Totally...

healandforgive said...

Hi Anonymous,

Your story is heartbreaking. Unfortunately family estrangement is much more common than people think. And families typically "scapegoat" one person in the family so they can feel better about themselves (see my post on scapegoats).

When healing from mistreatment and estrangement, the most important thing to do is to put yourself first in the healing process.

Forgiveness is the LAST thing you need to concern yourself with. Healing absolutely comes first! We can't forgive until we are healed. And healing is a long journey.

There are a number of older posts here that you will find very validating about your experience, along with some examples on healing.

There is also a post on some support groups and other resources.

All my best on your healing journey!

Nancy