Gransnet forums


Family estrangement - what others have done

(24 Posts)
Applegran Tue 23-Feb-21 14:57:07

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.

Smileless2012 Tue 23-Feb-21 15:06:39

This book sounds like a useful 'tool' for those thinking about or beginning reconciliation Applegran.

Armadillo Thu 25-Feb-21 21:05:14

With abusive people like my mum, if you estrange because being around them made you so anxious and depressed that you needed tablets to get by and you never felt loved your whole life. Even then you think they can say the right things and you can make it right again.
I spoke to my mum again recently after being estranged. She seemed like she might listen but she didn't and I am just making it all up again. She told me she didn't want a relationship with me anyway. She was just hoping I had changed my mind. Why would she do that? I think because if I went back she would just use it to show she was innocent and she is angry some people think badly of her for being estranged. They think badly of her because of her though not me. They know that she isn't innocent as the clues are there aren't they if you really look.
I think if people can say sorry and respect each other as adults who live life differently anything can be made right but abusive people will only let you make it right and keep punishing you after fooling you with kindness for a bit. They hold grudges which isn't about not forgiving. I think it's fine to not forgive. Grudges are about punishing in secret while they pretend everything is fine. Abuse is always secret.

Sara1954 Thu 25-Feb-21 21:26:09

I think that’s an over simplification, in an ideal world maybe, but most people don’t want to go back to something which made them so unhappy.

Smileless2012 Thu 25-Feb-21 23:08:08

I agree Sara so perhaps the 'steps' referred too in the book that Applegran has mentioned may be a way to help someone decide whether reconciliation really is what they want.

A decision to be made by both the estranger and the person/people who have been estranged as either, or even both may decide they would be going back to a relationship that would only make them unhappy.

Applegran Fri 26-Feb-21 16:56:57

The book does say some relationships are not worth trying to go back to - and says it is not suggesting reconciling with someone who has been an abuser. Its other relationships where there may be a way ahead of benefit to all, which the book focuses on as far as I can see. A desperately difficult thing to do but I was struck by thier saying that no one who had tried to reconcile, regretted trying.

Smileless2012 Fri 26-Feb-21 17:17:33

Yes that struck me too Applegran. Personally I can't think of anything worse than trying to reconcile and not succeeding, apart from being estranged in the first place.

keepingquiet Fri 26-Feb-21 18:17:01

Applegran thank you for thinking about other people. I am not yet estranged but I'm realising it may be a possibility and although it makes me very sad I have to accept there is little I can do if someone doesn't want me in their lives.
Communication is so difficult right now despite technology, and so I found what you have said helpful.
However, I also think we should be careful of one size fits all advice. These books often offer real-life scenarios that don't often fit your own, so I am wary of adopting stratagems that someone who has never met me or is not aware of my unique circumstances may suggest.
As someone who has often turned to books or even forums like this for advice I am now learning to keep my own counsel when it comes to these very serious situations.
It is a lonely road but ultimately no one can say where it will lead.

Smileless2012 Fri 26-Feb-21 18:30:41

You're not alone keepingquiet even though I understand it feels that wayflowers.

keepingquiet Fri 26-Feb-21 22:06:19

Sorry, but I am very much alone. I don't think anyone has been in my situation and I'm having to make it up myself as I go along.

Madgran77 Sat 27-Feb-21 09:05:36

I think everyone who is estranged or fearing estrangement makes it up as they go along. It is a lonely place to be but talking to others who fear estrangement or who are estranged can bring some comfort and support even though every estrangement story is different. I hope that you can find it helps a little to talk to people on here keepingquuet flowers

Smileless2012 Sat 27-Feb-21 09:36:19

It must be awful to fear it happening. We had no idea it was coming, the shock was indescribable but fearing you maybe estranged must be unbearable.

mumofmadboys Sat 27-Feb-21 09:43:14

I am estranged from my younger sister. It is a cause of huge sadness to me. It is her choice. I have offered many olive branches. My parents and my brother have died. She is now my only sibling. Not a day passes without me thinking of her and her family. I live in hope. We have been estranged for 2 and a half years.

keepingquiet Sat 27-Feb-21 16:31:03

My son and is sister are all but estranged. My son's partner was the one who said it was good that their child had cousins and she hoped they would see a lot of each other but she's the one who caused the rift!

Madgran77 Sat 27-Feb-21 17:04:52

There are a number of posters on the estrangement threads who are estranged or who fear estrangement because of the behaviours/approaches/actions of their adult child's partner. It is very hard to experience and very hard to understand.

Shandy57 Sat 27-Feb-21 17:18:31

When my mother died in 2000, she had been treated with a complete lack of respect and kindness by my Dad (ex), brother, and SIL, both before and after her death. I am sorry I wasn't older and wiser then, I could have helped her more.

I wrote to my Dad explaining why I was so upset, and why I didn't want to have any contact. I told my brother on the phone, having had to go to a solicitor as he was being very secretive about her possessions and the will. About ten years later I wrote to both my Dad and brother and said I forgave them, but didn't want to see them. Unfortunately my SIL seems to be the driving force, my Dad now lives next door to them, and she is now his 'carer'. I hope he checks his cash regularly. None of them know what love or loyalty are, they have very different values to me and I don't regret it, sad as it is. I didn't want any of them near my children or have any influence in their lives.

Sparkling Sat 27-Feb-21 18:20:08

💐Mumofbadboys, have you really looked in to why you are estranged? If you were insensitive or triggered the dispute, I would urge you to own it and tell her how sorry you are, tge longer these things go on the harder it is to reconnect, if it was she at fault I would still try one more time, saying how much you miss her, we all say the wrong thing at times. I am now estranged and wouldn’t wish it on anyone, there’s no going back for me and I can honestly say I tried everything but she doesn’t want to know, but she has fallen out with every member of the family too, I don’t understand it. Life is too short to be apart from those we love, but you can’t keep trying, you have to respect their wishes.

Smileless2012 Sat 27-Feb-21 20:08:43

In our experience there needed to be acceptance of the estrangement for us to be able to move on with our lives.

I do understand and have empathy for anyone who keeps trying but for me that keeps you trapped, your life becomes all about your estrangement and there's so much more to life than that.

Pantglas2 Sat 27-Feb-21 20:50:52

I agree Smileless, there has to be a cut off point on solo attempts to resolve things. Acceptance can be a relief and a closing (not locking) of a door and moving on down the corridor of life.

Humbertbear Sat 27-Feb-21 21:56:34

Like Sparkling, Having tried reconciliation with my older sister on several occasions, I can only say that sometimes it just isn’t possible. Being anywhere near her is seriously harmful to my mental health. Over the years she has also estranged herself from her husband and our mother.

mumofmadboys Sat 27-Feb-21 22:57:07

Sparkling thanks for your comments. I don't want to go into details on this fourum but I have apologised for my part in it and done what I can to put things right. I have tried to make contact on several occasions- written letters, e mails and tried to phone. Things became difficult between us when my parents were old and frail . They decided to relocate near us and we looked after them until they died.

mumofmadboys Sat 27-Feb-21 22:58:21

My sister too doesnt speak to her neighbour and a previous good friend has also been excluded.

NellG Sat 27-Feb-21 23:11:28

My family (siblings) have never tried to reconcile. Like HumbertBear, they are bad for my MH so I'm relieved in all honesty - yet at the same time it also hurts like hell that I was right all along and that there was no care. There wasn't even a big row, I simply stopped making an effort and haven't heard from anyone since. I guess I am no longer of any use to them. After a few years it just becomes the norm. No amount of wishing that they were better people, or that I can solve the problems by being better myself will make it so. Past experience has taught me that olive branches can be just as soon be taken and turned into sticks to beat with. It's a hard path, best wishes to all who walk it.

Sparkling Sun 28-Feb-21 18:57:33

Mumofbadboys. You have done all you can, try hard to rebuild a life which doesn’t include her. You haven’t estranged, she has. Who knows one day she might just decide how much she misses you and get in touch, but don’t live your life pining for something passed and what you have no control over.