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, October 27, 2008

Birthday Gifts?

When it comes to family estrangement, people often wonder if they should send birthday gifts to their nieces, nephews, and/or grandchildren. We want to let our little loved ones know that we love them and that we are thinking about them. Yet, we wonder: Will their parents give the children these gifts? Will their parents become angry and lash out at me? Will I feel hurt at the outcome if I send this gift?

Sometimes, parents pass along gifts from estranged aunts, uncles, or grandparents. They may believe that their children would be comforted knowing that an estranged family member still loves them and thinks about them.

Other times, parents withhold the gifts. Sometimes, parents refuse gifts out of anger. This of course is very sad for everyone involved. Another reason parents withhold gifts is that they don't want to send their children confusing messages about the broken relationship or enter into a who is "right" and who is "wrong" discussion. They may not want to make their child sad or answer uncomfortable questions about why they don't see their aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Ultimately, it is up to the parent to decide what is in the best interest of their children.

I sent gifts to my nieces and nephews in the early years of my estrangement, knowing that they may very well never receive the gifts (they did not). Yet, I wanted my nieces and nephews to know that I loved them - even if from afar. I have found that the pain of estrangement can often give way to the power of living a life of love and integrity.

Friday, October 17, 2008


According to, the definition of enmeshment is:

In human relationships, this term means two or more people who don't have clear identities and boundaries (limits) that separate one person from the other. Thus an enmeshed person can't distinguish the difference between my needs, feelings, opinions, and priorities and yours.

Enmeshment was certainly present in my family of origin. Abusive families have a way of creating enmeshed family systems. It took years apart from my mother and a degree of healing that I never thought was possible in order to break free from my enmeshment.

I often hear from estranged adult children, "My parents aren't capable of thinking about anyone but themselves. Why would I want a relationship under those circumstances?"

I get that. For many years, I felt that way too. Reconciling a relationship seemed like a return to my enmeshed (and abusive) family system.

For me, it took more than a decade of estrangement to heal enough to stand as a separate adult individual with a healthy indifference towards my mother's opinions, and needs; to protect my own well-being; to exercise great boundaries; to accept my mother just as she is; to give up any expectations of a normal mother-daughter sort of relationship, and to create a non-intimate friendship that is respectful of our differences. We simply share a history, and to me history is important.

After nearly two years of reconciliation, my mother and I are yet to know one another. She has never inquired about my life, such as how I spend my time, my interests, work, etc. and that is okay with me. I recognize that she is not my "safe place to fall," or someone with whom I can share anything of significance. We merely talk about old memories, current events, or her life.

My life hasn't really changed much from when we were estranged, but it feels better. I can move freely to and from family and social events without the negative strain of "being at odds, " or feeling rejected. I know my mother's inability to mother is about her - not about me.

I've made peace with the wounds of the past. I have "blasted through my mountain of pain" so that my abuse is a memory rather than a present reality. I no longer feel the "void" of estrangement or "lost" without a home.

Home is finally of my own making.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reconciliation – Not Always an Option

During most of my fourteen year family estrangement, I considered reconciliation to be an impossible task. Given our family history of abuse, it didn't feel safe or healthy to try to reestablish contact with my family members. Nor did they try to contact me.

Certainly, in some situations, reconciliation isn’t possible. I know a woman who moved across the country, unlisted her phone number and started life anew only to have her violent family members track her down, stalk her, and interfere with her new job, friends and neighbors.

I have heard from other people who deeply desire a relationship with a parent or sibling, but they simply cannot put themselves in harms way for the sake of a connection. As painful as estrangement is, these individuals must somehow learn to live with a separation that feels like the “lesser of two evils.”

Many people do wish to reconcile with family members only to face repeated rejection.

It can be hard to accept that we only have control over our half of the relationship. At some point, the time comes to simply accept the cards we were dealt and move on to live the best life possible.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Forgiveness Poll

Once again, I want to thank everyone who has participated in my poll! I loved receiving your feedback.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a glitch in the poll software. Blogger issues??? I checked blogger for poll bugs, but I didn't find any results. Anyhow, the votes keep falling off and disappearing.

Since the poll no longer seems to be working properly, I decided to post the last known results I had and take down the poll. Thanks to all who joined in!

As I’ve said before, during the span of the last thirty years – given where I was on my recovery at the time - I could have voted for seven out of the eleven choices here.

These are the results:
How much has forgiveness played a role in your recovery from abuse:

None 3 (6%)

Somewhat – Plays a small roll in my process. 1 (2%)

Somewhat - I don’t want to forgive and I’m okay with that. 4 (8%)

Somewhat – Forgiveness is a journey and I’m comfortable with my pace. 11 (22%)

Quite a bit – I’d like to forgive, but I am unable. 4 (8%)

Quite a bit – I won’t forgive unless some conditions are met. 3 (6%)

Quite a bit – I have forgiven. 6 (12%)

Huge - I’ll never forgive. 1 (2%)

Huge – Makes me angry. I feel damaged by pressure from others to forgive. 9 (18%)

Huge – My abuser acknowledged my injuries, asked for forgiveness and I have forgiven. 6 (12%)

None of the above. 3 (6%)