I am a professional counseling in Castle Rock and Centennial working with those who have experienced family estrangements, family members alienating other members and grandparents who are alienated from children and grandchildren.
The word “family” is often translated in each of our minds as something that is supposed to be positive, loving, supportive, and safe. I don’t ever remember being told or schooled on what a family is or even what my family should look or feel like. Yet, I have a very strong and lasting feeling of what I wished family was or think it should be. I don’t think I am alone in my history of understanding the word, “family.” Family estrangement is never factored into anyone’s childhood model of possible outcomes. But it happens and more often than we think. It happens more often then it should.
What happens to those who have been Estranged?
- They may suffer since childhood a lack of healthy connection with those outside the family.
- Depression is high.
- Anxiety is high.
- Job security and retention is often low.
- They usually work below their potential.
- Physical health issues that are not solvable arise, such as autoimmune diseases.
- Marriages suffer
- Healthy boundaries with others are difficult to maintain
- They are often abuse victims in non-family relationships
The Reality of How Family Estrangements Happen
Reality is that families come in many different sizes, personalities, mental and physical health issues and strengths and levels of cohesion. For a family to embrace the relational pattern of using estrangement, they could have one of more of these dynamics in place:
Another factor is, how many children and how far apart they are born makes a difference on the level of energy the parents have for each child. Parent’s need the time, space and energy to process their own mental health about how individuals and families work in order to passing along a healthy vision to their children.
- Some parents have addictions or other mental health issues and the responsibility of children can be overwhelming on them more so than parents who are not addicted to substances. Denial of their addiction or mental health behavior, they believe is essential to their self-esteem. So they squash the needs of family cohesion that might expose them.
- A parent may have abused a child physically or sexually. When the child is an adult, he or she may decide that it is unsafe stay connected to the parent. Or the parent may want the truth of their abuse to be dismissed or be denied. They believe estranging their adult child is the only solution to keeping either their self-esteem or some family cohesion in place.
- Parents can have favorite children and they expect the other siblings to respect their choice of who that child is and agree with his/her privileged status. This naturally causes disention and lack of cohesion in a family.
There are as many reasons for estrangement as their are families or individuals who estrange. It is especially important to the individual who is estranged to get the help and support they need for making the most of their life.
This term is used specifically for a situation where one parent deliberately denigrates the other parent. This causes the children to choose between their parents. Typically, the child will initially chooses the denigrating parent. The parent who is denigrating usually exercises a lot of emotional control over the children causing them to fear loss of that parent’s love or even fearing for their own safety. This can happen in intact families or in families where divorce has occurred. Parental alienation also affects grandparents and will be very damaging to the grandchildren social and emotional growth and development.
Family holidays are particularly hard for those with children that have been estranged from them. Read more about difficult family holidays.
What I can do to help
Know that: Healthy Families Talk!
That will be my goal, but you will need to own the time table for those talks! Meanwhile:
- I provide the sounding board as you air difficult and conflictual thoughts and feelings.
- By helping you normalize your situation, it can help sort out where responsibility lies.
- If I can help you accept the actions of estrangement or ostracism are not about you, then you can move forward to make the best of the situation.
- We will practice meditation and mindfulness to keep you in the present moment rather than reliving the inflictions of the estrangement.
- Making attempts to restore relationship is always helpful for all person’s involved. I will help you with creating safe boundaries prior to the attempt and when addressing the windfall of those attempts.
Here is another good resource to help you understanding the devastating effect of Family Estrangements from a Psychology Today post.