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Estrangement from family- content warning abuse

(25 Posts)
Lemonon Thu 04-May-23 09:25:48


I am new here. I have been reading through threads and I think I might be on the other side of estrangement from many others on here. I hope other posters don’t mind. I imagine the estrangement experience is similar whichever side you are on.

I am estranged from my siblings and parents. It has been over 7 years since I spoke to my parents and just over two years since I stopped contact with the last remaining sibling I was in contact with.

On the face of it I am estranged because there was sexual abuse from a sibling growing up towards other siblings, including me and a huge rug sweep after but actually there was a significant amount of very narcissistic behaviour in the family not just from the abusing sibling but from my parents and another sibling too. A lot of grandiosity, delusions about what our family was like compared to the reality, perfectionism whereby I was not allowed to criticise in the slightest anything in the family, stonewalling, controlling, emotionally manipulative behaviour, cruelty, projection of their emotions and responsibility onto me, blaming me for others failings, inability to take responsibility for their actions.

When I called out the behaviour that I was experiencing I was stonewalled on all fronts. Letting go has been extremely difficult for me but the behaviour was seriously affecting my mental health and I genuinely wasn’t able to be effective in any other sphere of my life and be a part of what was going on.

The rug sweeping extended on to extended family which is pretty typical in these situations I guess but it has been very difficult to deal with that too.

Oreo Thu 04-May-23 09:37:50

I guess you have to do what you gotta do to stay sane, but all I would say is def tell your parents why you have to do it if you feel they love you and deep down you love them?
Most families aren’t perfect.

Lemonon Thu 04-May-23 09:52:08

I did tell them at the time, you are right it would be crap not knowing.

NotSpaghetti Thu 04-May-23 10:09:59

Lemonon welcome to Gransnet.
I'm sorry to hear about your family and your pain.

I hope you are now finding some peace and healing. flowers

Wyllow3 Thu 04-May-23 10:19:06

You did the only thing you possibly could including saying "why". Whether it will always be like that, who can say, but carry on protecting yourself. flowers.

Lemonon Thu 04-May-23 10:39:13

Thanks @notspagetti I really appreciate that. It has been incredibly painful. I felt so let down and betrayed by my family when I finally opened up about the abuse and the rug sweeping exercise started. It got way worse when another sibling opened up about the extreme and prolonged abuse there and the carpet sweeping intensified. It has all just been rationalised in the family and minimised and denied. I still feel let down by my family now if I am honest but the very worst of the feelings that you have at the start of any estrangement have passed. That said you can get triggered into remembering very ordinary things many times per day which can bring with them sadness and loss because no situation ever is all bad and I had lots of great experiences in my family too, the same as everyone. A restive of my OH left a decades long seriously abusive marriage and the emotions seem to be quite similar from speaking to her. The good stuff is really hard to let go of.

I found reading though other people’s experiences of estrangement on here very sad for them along their experiences but they did remind me that this is a more common experience that I had realised.

Lemonon Thu 04-May-23 10:46:30

I don’t see it changing now @Wyllow, actually in fact it did change over the years but it got worse as other family members started behaving with the same behaviours as my parents were doing.

I don’t think I could ever trust any of them again. My children suffered, I have suffered enormously.

I feel that the entire responsibility for the abuser’s actions have been pushed onto me and his other victims of the abuse so that others can continue their lives unaffected and everyone who should have spoken up has gone along with that.

Whiff Thu 04-May-23 10:48:51

Lemonon sorry you have been through this and now lost all your family . But you are stronger than you think as it takes a strong person to reach out to strangers for help.

You have to protect yourself both mentally and physically. Estrangement is a living grief you are grieving for the parents you should have had not the ones you have got. You are grieving because of losing your siblings and extended family. It's a lot for you to contend with plus the abuse you suffered as a child. And everyone is ganging up on you and blaming you. They are cowards because they would rather use you as a scape goat then face up to the past .

Sorry I haven't any words of comfort as my estrangement is different and I haven't experienced what you are going through. But you did the right thing by reaching out. Keep posting as it gets your feelings out into the open as bottling them up only hurts you not them. 💐

Lemonon Thu 04-May-23 10:59:51

Thank you so much @Whiff I enormously appreciate what you said.

I felt I experienced almost no empathy from my family and for a long, long time my empathy towards them was being manipulated particularly by my mother and another one of my brothers which completely confused me. On the face of it myself and that brother were close even after it all blew up but under the surface he was behaving incredibly manipulatively and there was a lot of gaslighting from him which confused the hell out of me. I feel so so mistreated by them all and yes I genuinely did love them but I’m not sure I do love them anymore. They have hurt me so much.

Smileless2012 Thu 04-May-23 11:11:06

Hello Lemonon and welcome to GN.

As Whiff has said estrangement is a living bereavement as you grieve for the family you have lost, what you should have had and for what can never be.

Like Whiff my experience is different to yours but the pain I think is very much the same regardless of whether you are the one who had no choice but to estrange, or have been estranged but not because of what you've experienced.

You've done the right thing as your physical and mental well being is paramount, as is the welfare of your children. Abusers always blame their victim and it's good to see that you know that this is not your fault.

It takes courage to share, even on a forum where you're anonymous and especially when the blame has been laid at your feet.

There will always be triggers and you never know when they'll happen and what they will be. Even after more than 10 years I get them too and when they happen, I remind myself that 'this too will pass'.

There's wonderful support and friendship to be found on this forum and I hope that you will find some comfort knowing that you are not alone flowers.

Lemonon Thu 04-May-23 11:24:49

Thank you for your kind words @smileless. I totally agree that the pain exists on all sides of the estrangement. I certainly came to understand that reading though posts on here, no here has escaped the pain estrangement brings. I have a very close friend whose children have estranged themselves for complex reasons and we find we have a huge amount of common ground in our day to day experiences with estrangement.

Granny23 Thu 04-May-23 11:25:12

I wonder if you have ever spoken about the abuse with someone outside the family? e.g a Rape Crisis Counsellor? I think that talking about what happened with an impartial person could be a great help in validating what you have suffered and reinforcing your belief that none of it was your fault. You mention that you have children of your own. forgive me, but - as an outsider looking in I feel that you should, as a priority, protect them by keeping them well away from the toxic family.

Lemonon Thu 04-May-23 11:40:56

Hi @Granny23 thank you for your post. I have gone to therapy and I still do from time to time. I will say though because of my upbringing with these people my boundaries are still way, way off because I still struggle with knowing what you have said here to be true even though I have completely removed myself and my children from this situation a long time ago.

“forgive me, but - as an outsider looking in I feel that you should, as a priority, protect them by keeping them well away from the toxic family”

That sentence coming from a grandmother herself was so incredibly validating for me and I am so grateful that you said it. I have had friends of mine and other relatives over the years chastising me at worst and questioning me at best for not continuing the relationship between my family and my children.

People genuinely do not get the implications of what happened in my family and the lack of boundaries my family members have in terms of their willingness to take out their own issues on me and they would absolutely take it out on my children by extension which is why I believed early on I needed to protect my children.

Incidentally that also caused significant blow back from my children who were gutted about being pulled back from their family which was also extremely hard to deal with emotionally especially as I had what I thought were good friends telling me I was being a shit mother by doing that.

VioletSky Sat 06-May-23 14:07:51

Hi, I'm estranged from my maternal family too, I also have experienced sexual abuse from a grandparent and my mother's reaction when I told her was, well awful to say the least. I was damaged goods as far as she was concerned and not to tell anyone.

I'm glad you are free too, many are waking up to how harmful emotionally abusive, controlling or neglectful parents are and creating better lives and support systems for themselves.

Developing the tools to keep yourself safe from these people is so important

VioletSky Sat 06-May-23 14:17:32

I'm sorry some of your friends reacted that way.

I was fortunate in that my older children had begun questioning my mother's behaviour and I was able to estrange with their support

Please understand that out children are not safe around emotionally abusive people the same way they aren't safe around physically or sexually abusive people.

You did the right thing for your children

It's a difficult balance for many estranged children because while we want to protect them from abusive people, we also want to protect them from carrying out burdens so it's difficult to know how to best explain to them in general terms why we have estranged.

My older children do not know everything and my younger children have simply been told that their maternal family are not good people even though they are capable of pretending to be that way.

I know I'm in a lucky position having estranged with support from my older children and I hope things improve with your own children one day and they realise you aren't to blame for the estrangement

And that's the truth, you aren't to blame for the estrangement. Your family will likely never understand or accept this fact, that they backed you into a corner with only one escape route left but we know the truth

Wyllow3 Sat 06-May-23 14:25:18

What is so valuable about thread like this is the recognition of the grief "without the death". Knowing you are not alone is so important - its true that most people can't quite understand the bewilderment of the grief, they may think, "she's well out of it" when in fact its all twisted inside.

Sharing is indeed the key, I suspect there is a lot more of it around than people generally share - whether its the guilt or the "social acceptability' angle, I do not know.

Lemonon Sun 07-May-23 09:07:02

Hi @violetsky I am very sorry that you have experienced this too. The betrayal from the abuse is awful but equally the family choosing to not react to the abuse is a really horrible experience too. My parents had become much better grandparents that they ever were parents however once the abuse really came out, the projection of their anger onto me for not staying silent about it started immediately and my eldest daughter has told me that she was experiencing it too so it would only have been a matter of time before it started affecting my children negatively.

It is very sad that people try to normalise abuse rather than get help themselves for their own issues that make them do that but it tends to be that incest abuse happens in certain types of dysfunctional families (narcissistic families where children are not allowed any voice) and that type of family tend to all deal with it in the same way, by blaming the abuse victims and avoiding responsibility left, right and centre while pushing responsibility to do more forgive, behave impeccably, carry the load for everyone, onto the victims. It is a really horrible experience.


“Knowing you are not alone is so important - its true that most people can't quite understand the bewilderment of the grief, they may think, "she's well out of it" when in fact its all twisted inside.”

This is such a true statement, I “should” feel I am so well out of it but actually I feel lost my family for the most part over having grown up in a dysfunctional family which was already difficult to come to terms with. It is been a huge loss and grief, you are so right in what you said.

VioletSky Sun 07-May-23 15:45:02

Grieving the loss of family, even an abusive one is definitely part of the process

Or more grieving the family relationship we should have had. Not a perfect one but a loving one

JaneJudge Sun 07-May-23 15:51:52

I have been estranged from a parent for a very long time so i have done a lot of reflection but I think 'the family' normalise their behaviours because to them IT IS NORMAL. The parent I am not estranged from talks of the estrangement as 'an escape' 'we have escaped' because they recognise the mainpulative and cruel behaviours

I think this can be true whether you are the child or a parent in an estrangement because generally it's caused by similar behaviours and abuse.

Smileless2012 Sun 07-May-23 15:57:12

I agree Jane that there are often similar behaviours and abuse where an AC estranges and when a parent has been estranged.

You make a valid point about families/family members seeing their behaviour as normal, because to them it is.

We have escaped too, although it took a long time for us to see that because at the time and for a long time, estrangement was not what we wanted.

Coronation Sun 07-May-23 16:13:41

I too am estranged from all my siblings and parents. It sounds simple but they were emotionally abusive and neglectful, it was a slow decision. Then I was scapegoated, and really horrible stuff said which was the final straw. So I stopped making the effort, but because I was the only one making the effort I never heard from anybody again.

I wish I was from a better family as I'd love support. I'm sad that being born into that family meant I had zero self esteem, poor at boundaries and thought I had to be perfect to be acceptable. I didn't know how to identify or express feelings. I learned to be invisible and thought I was worthless.

In my mid 20s I hated zebra crossings. I really believed drivers would despise me for making them stop!!!

The consequences are huge. Although my confidence etc has grown I still struggle and my childhood has held me back.

Sadly I think I have passed some bad habits to my children although I'm definitely than my parents.

I also struggle with shame about estrangement. Very few people know.

Smileless2012 Sun 07-May-23 16:25:39

Hello Coronation I think a lot of people experience 'estrangement shame' which is why being able to talk about it here anonymously has for so many of us, been a blessing.

So many of us will carry the scars long after the wounds, be they physical, emotional or both have begun to heal and none of us will ever be perfect parents, regardless of how hard we try.

VioletSky Sun 07-May-23 16:26:45

It's incredibly difficult to grow up in abuse and have every stage of emotional and physical development impacted by it.

Then to find out that as an adult, not only are you now responsible for undoing this harm they caused, some things, like your physical health, will never fully recover.

Anyone who tries to shame an adult for walking away from abusive family is obviously trying to hide from their own trauma or trying to cover the trauma they inflict on others

welbeck Sun 07-May-23 16:35:17

OP, sorry to hear of the burden you had imposed upon you.
does your husband's family give you any feeling of family in a good way ?

Lemonon Sun 07-May-23 17:27:28


“I have been estranged from a parent for a very long time so i have done a lot of reflection but I think 'the family' normalise their behaviours because to them IT IS NORMAL”

Yes that is so true, one of the manipulations I experienced was when the family became overtly aware of the abuse there and initially there was all talk about how bad it was, how bad my parents behaviours covering it up were but it was the minimising, rationalising, projecting, gaslighting and manipulation that followed where they explicitly started rationalising the behaviours as normal which was actually the “normal” and typical behaviours in my family.


“We have escaped too, although it took a long time for us to see that because at the time and for a long time, estrangement was not what we wanted.”

I totally agree with this and it is absolutely what I experienced too.

Yes @violetsky it had affected my entire development and my physical and mental health a lot.

@wellbeck my husband had a very difficult family dynamic too. FIL was extremely abusive in every way but the rest of the family are gems and I am very close to them thank goodness. My OH is really fantastic I am so lucky with him.