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Estrangement in a family

(3 Posts)
Applegran Mon 22-Feb-21 16:21:19

One of the things I realise I dread most deeply would be a family estrangement. I am fortunate not to be facing this in my family, but I know someone who is estranged from her son and her grandsons and it seems to me to be a tragedy. I feel so much for people facing life with a rift in their family. I've hesitated to write this post - is it my business? I am not facing the pain others are facing. But I have seen an article based on a book and research about estrangement, which really impressed me and am writing here some of what the article said and hope it might be meaningful and helpful even to one person. It says some estrangements should stay that way - for instance if someone has escaped from an abusive relationship. But the book quotes what several people have said, when they decided to take the brave step towards reconciliation. First, lay the groundwork - understand why you want to reconcile. Talking to a consellor might help. Second, be ready to look at the part you played in the estrangement; its painful but too easy to believe it was all about the other person or people. Third, let go the idea that the other person will accept your view and that they may well not be ready to apologise.
Many people who had reconciled after long estrangements recommended letting sleeping dogs lie. Start from the present. In most cases people found that even limited contact had its benefits and over and over again people said "Its a weight off my shoulders"
Many said it was the hardest thing they'd ever done but no one regretted it. Even failed reconciliation attempts had a healing effect. At least they'd given it a try and people had more peace of mind. The book is called "Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them" by Dr Karl Pillemer.

Grandiflora Mon 22-Feb-21 22:00:15

Thank you for the book title, Applegran. Sadly, I have had to deal with quite a bit of estrangement in my birth family. My parents were never happy together and divorced at the age of 70. Once my father had found a new partner, my mother never saw him again. My sister and I were both damaged by the unhappiness at home and my sister, who is 60 this year, has not had anything to do with either parent for 15 years. My mother died of covid in a care home last April, very sad that she had not heard from my sister for so long. There was never a reason given, just a loss of energy on my sister's part. My sister rarely speaks to me either. She doesn't want to be reminded of her childhood and I can't help the fact that I was there. I was in touch with all 3 of them for years before mum died. I am still on good terms with my sister although she makes almost no effort at all to sustain the relationship. I am in regular contact with my dad, who is now alone at 93. He's a cheerful and loving soul, having been shown better ways to behave by his partner, who died 3 years ago.
I would love to have a better relationship with my sister, but have come to accept that will never happen.
So that's it. Families eh?

NellG Mon 22-Feb-21 22:22:59

I wish more people were as empathic and willing to try and understand Applegran and I can see that your post comes from a place of care and kindness. More of that would make the world a much better place.

Estrangement is a complex and messy business for most. The pain is indescribable and for me, not something I could ever envisage taking the risk of experiencing again. The people I chosen to estrange from brought nothing of value to my life and took so much from me it caused major illness. I'd have to want them back to do what the book suggests and in reality I don't, we are all better off as we are because I do indeed see that I was as much part of the problem as they were. The estrangement that I didn't choose (which came before) will be a source of pain for the rest of my days. I can't initiate a reconciliation, it is not wanted. So I must live with it.

Thank you for posting about this topic though, it does help to know that it's not just people who are directly affected who think about and care about this issue.