Healing Your Family Estrangement

Eva is estranged from her whole family. After years of repeated cycle of abuse and estrangement from her parents and siblings, she finally decided to let go and cut ties.

Here’s how Eva narrates her story at Stand Alone:

“My family would not admit to what had happened and they continued to take my breath away with their behaviour at times. My mother had been the problem — terribly physically and verbally abusive to all of us, especially me. She was the first one I ended my relationship with, and my brother stopped speaking to me for that. I continued to try with the others, but it didn’t work. One day I told them I didn’t want to know them anymore either, and I left, and that has been it…”

“I made the mistake of entertaining an attempt to reel me back in and reconcile. It had been so long and I’d wondered about my family over the years, so I agreed to meet one of them and we struck up a relationship again briefly.
But soon the cracks showed — the language used, the behaviour — all just as it used to be….It’s been about 20 years that I haven’t seen my mother, and ten for the rest of them.”

The word “estrangement” actually originated from the French “estranger” and then Latin “extraneare,” meaning “to treat as a stranger”, or “not belonging to the family”.

According to Stand Alone, a London-based NGO specializing in support of those estranged from family members, 1 in every 5 families are touched by family estrangement. That’s an estimated 27 per cent – people who cut contact with at least one member of their family at some point in their lives. That translates to millions around the world.

Another woman from Stand Alone put it this way regarding her healing journey from family estrangement:

“I’ve come to realise that, despite the pain of estrangement, I have greater freedom than most to explore and create my own identity, and to enjoy the autonomy previously denied to me. The friends I have now are the family I wish I had. Even through the worst of times, they have loved and supported me unconditionally.”

“I’m also able to offer support to others who have been through similar experiences. Although I still encounter stigma on occasion, I can be confident that my partner will love and respect me for the person I am, rather than judging me by the absence of family I left behind.”

Personally and professionally, I advocate that as much as it’s possible, we do our best to preserve family relationships. But its also true that in healing your wounded self, some times, escaping and not looking back is the healthiest thing.

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