March 27, 2022

How Do I Deal With My Family Estrangement?

Having an estranged family can be an isolating, lonely experience, but fortunately, there are ways to process and manage the feelings that are troubling you.

By Annie Wright|Adulting, Trauma

If you have recently distanced yourself from your family, cut ties with them altogether, or have had them estrange themselves from you, you may be processing complex feelings.

Even if you have decided that it’s best to distance yourself from your family, it isn’t an easy thing to live with, especially when your friends and associates have close relationships with their families.

Having an estranged family can be an isolating, lonely experience, but fortunately, there are ways to process and manage the feelings that are troubling you.

Let’s examine what family estrangement looks like, the complicated emotions that may arise from it, the impact it may have on other aspects of your life, and how to deal with being estranged from your family.

What Is An Estranged Family?

Family estrangement can be defined as cutting off or eliminating a relationship that previously existed between family members.

Estrangement can be directed from one person to another, one person to an entire family, or an entire family to one person.

Parents and children can become estranged, siblings can become estranged, or any variation of family members.

This issue can occur in families of all cultures, socioeconomic statuses, ages, religions, genders, or career lines.

The level of estrangement can vary as well, from individuals having strained contact with family to having no contact whatsoever.

There are numerous reasons for estrangement from familial relationships, and while a single incident can trigger estrangement, eliminating the relationship usually stems from a history of tension.

Some common triggers that result in estrangement include:

  • A traumatic incident
  • A heated argument
  • Mental health conditions
  • Abuse within the family
  • Unreasonable expectations
  • Personal views that do not align with the rest of the family

The Impact Of Family Estrangement

Having an estranged family can bring about a confusing mix of emotions, from loneliness and anger to self-blame and doubt about the future.

You may wonder if you’re at fault or feel extreme sadness about why your family seems so dysfunctional.

Understand though that you are not alone.

In the US, roughly 17% of college graduates have become estranged from family members, and about 12% of individuals middle-aged and older were estranged from one or more of their children.

You may feel more isolated in your situation than you are because so many people don’t talk about estrangement from their family members.

This may be due to the fact that talking about it drags up the unpleasant, difficult feelings surrounding the situation, which may be too painful to address.

Other times, people don’t want to talk about family estrangement because it brings about feelings of shame and mistrust.

People who have become estranged from their families may worry that others will either blame them or fail to understand the situation they’re in.

It’s easy to feel discouraged, especially around holidays or difficult times when it becomes more obvious to you that your relationship with your family is far different from the way your friends and co-workers interact with their own families.

Necessary Estrangement

Even if you’re feeling saddened after becoming estranged from your family, it’s important to realize that it may be for the best.

If you often find yourself exhausted or feeling miserable after interacting with your family, cutting ties may be necessary to preserve your mental well-being.

Family estrangement is not often a positive, fun experience, but it can be the only healthy choice you have in a bad situation.

Still, even if you know that you have done the right thing, you may struggle with the loneliness and sadness you feel after making such a big decision.

How Can I Overcome These Feelings?

Estrangement from your family is a difficult thing to deal with, and often, you may need someone to talk to in order to process the way you feel.

Talking to a friend that you trust about your experience can be helpful, but you may not have someone in your life that you feel will understand your plight.

Speaking to a licensed therapist can give you the outlet that you need to discuss your family estrangement in an open, honest manner.

Visiting a professional will allow you to make sense of what happened, understand what led up to the estrangement, and accept that this step may have been necessary for your health.

At Evergreen Counseling, our therapists are relational trauma-informed, meaning that we have extensive experience in working with people who have become estranged from their families.

Therapy is an invaluable resource when it comes to exploring and making sense of the past, understanding your family’s impact on your life, and learning healthy new habits.

If you’d like support in working through the estrangement from your family, you’re welcome to contact our offices as soon as you’re ready. We’ve helped many people struggling with family estrangement and we would be honored to help you, too.

Please feel free to book a complimentary 20-minute personalized matching consultation with our clinical intake coordinator to find the best clinical match for you.

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