It's Time We Talked About the Estranged Family

It's time we talked about the estranged family. Over 43% of people have been estranged from a family member at some point in their lives. In the pre-covid days, 25% of Americans were estranged from their family. It's probably even higher now due to the stresses brought on by the pandemic.

So, why don't we talk about it?

estranged family

Normalizing Reality

When we feel shame about something (like being estranged from a family member), we keep it secret. 

This isolation can intensify the feelings that come along with estrangement like guilt, anxiety, anger, and depression. Additionally, it can lead to mistrust, problems in other relationships, worry, and problems managing emotions. 

Add the holidays to the mix, and the feelings can become overwhelming.

Accepting things as they are without judging them goes a long way to alleviating all these things. It opens the door to having support, creating change, and being okay in your skin. 

Since you're not alone, this also gives others an opening to share their stories of estrangement. Perhaps this can lead to understanding. 

cancel culture

Why This Happens

Lots of people jump to the conclusion that a family with an estranged member must be lacking in compassion. They must be dysfunctional. 

Here are the real reasons why this happens:

Mental illness. 
Addiction.
Violent behavior.
Emotionally abusive, manipulative, sexually abusive, financially exploitative, or other toxic behavior.
Parental alienation.
Cult membership or some other type of brain washing.

What Others Can Do

Don't persuade them to resume contact. Assume that they gave careful thought to the situation and they know what is best for them. 

I know. "It's family." But the price of membership in some families is too high, and getting out is sometimes the only way that healing can begin.

Support your friend or other family member so that healing can happen. Validating their experience and choice, without adding fuel to the fire, is a great way to help. 

Educate yourself about healthy relationships. People who haven't experienced the toxic family dynamic may not be able to understand how harmful it can be. People who grew up in dysfunctional families may see toxicity as normal. 

Estranged families are a way of American life. Expanding our minds to accept it can give help us to be better friends and partners.


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