“I Feel No Connection To My Family”: Can It Be A Sign Of Family Estrangement?
Family relationships can be complicated to navigate through. After all, family is the only thing in the world that we can express our sadness as well as joy. They are the only relationships where we can express our anger and frustrations in and not fear rejection. However, sometimes family relationships are not as simple.
One such challenge that we might often find in many family relationships is estrangement. Estrangement can be defined as “no longer being on friendly terms or part of a social group”. When it comes to family estrangement, it can be quite complex and devastating.
Family estrangement can look a lot like saying, “I’m done with this relationship” and walking away. Saying this to a family member(s) can either be upsetting or relieving.
It could also be a combination of these two feelings. Estrangement from family can mean cutting off all ties with them – either physically or emotionally. Either way, it can be challenging and can leave some grave psychological effects.
In this article, let’s explore what is family estrangement, the signs, and causes of family estrangement, the effects it can have on your wellness, and how you can repair a damaged relationship (or if you can).
What Is Family Estrangement?
Family estrangement is when you or a family member cut off communication – physical or emotional – between other family members. While it can last for years, some families might repair their relationship after a reconciliation. However, some families might not reconcile after a long time either.
More often than not, it could be apathy or lingering resentment that can drive family members apart from each other. Family estrangement can happen between siblings, parents, grandparents, or other relatives.
While there can be several signs of family separation and estrangement, there are some common warning signs that you should consider:
1. Communication: A lack of communication between family members is a sign that you’re inching closer to family estrangement. There’s a steady lack of communication or you ignore the family member and their attempts to communicate. If you do, you try to communicate through a third person or refuse to discuss certain topics.
2. Distance: A sign of family estrangement can also be intentional distance – physical or emotional. You have put barriers between yourself and a family member. You refuse to meet with them or share significant family events with them.
3. Lack of Emotions: Another sign that you should consider is the lack of emotion. While you have cut contact with the family member, you rarely feel any connection with them. You are emotionally numb towards the estranged member.
4. Dislike: You feel a strange dislike for the family member. This sign of family estrangement can be common in adult children who are estranged from their parents. You might also refuse to reconcile with the family member and ignore any attempts to sever separation.
5. Legal Action: It’s a sign of family separation and estrangement if you’re considering taking legal action against a family member such as custody transfer or transferring the power of attorney.
What Causes Family Estrangement?
Several factors can cause family estrangement and separation. Some of them could include a lack of flexibility in the family dynamics, gender or social differences, grief, loss, or other similar factors. Some more causes of family estrangement can include:
- Death of a parent(s)
- Parent(s) chronic illness
- Divorce or separation
- New birth
- Moving away from the family
These events can cause tension in the family dynamic and if not resolved, can even impact the relationships. Socio-economic differences such as different beliefs, gender differences, etc can also cause family estrangement.
Psychological differences or issues such as having a narcissistic mother, manipulative partner, etc. can also be leading factors of estrangement in the family.
Some other common factors can include having an insecure attachment style. For example, someone may crave closeness in the family relationship but might also not feel comfortable opening up their emotions and may prefer to remain emotionally distanced from the relationship.
The Psychological Effects Of Family Estrangement
Estranged family members can have different experiences and impacts on their wellness. Some people may feel relieved to have cut ties with their family while others may feel lonely and aggrieved.
These feelings can be temporary or persistent depending on your circumstances. However, therapy can be a good choice for those struggling with family estrangement.
When you’re struggling with family estrangement, then holidays and family events can be quite challenging to navigate through. Social life can also be affected by family estrangement. For example, you may not feel comfortable talking about your family with your friends and the mention of others’ families might stir unpleasant feelings in you.
Estrangement from the family can cause severe distress as well. Your psychological health may take a toll and you may experience feelings of grief and loss. Some psychologists also compare family estrangement and separation as a type of ambiguous loss. You may also feel distressed because of bias from other family members.
The loss of family – due to social or emotional support – can also impact your psychological health. When estrangement continues for years, it can impact future generations as well. In such cases, children may lose contact with their grandparents, cousins, or extended family members.
However, if your estrangement is because of a toxic relationship, then you may experience feelings of security and peace after cutting off contact.
If you’re struggling with the effects of family estrangement, it is recommended that you seek professional support. A therapist might be able to help you learn how to move on after family separation.
How To Repair Damaged Family Relationships?
Repairing damaged relationships – especially when it comes to family relationships – can be challenging. There’s a lot of history that you can’t just forget and that history can make it harder for you to reconcile and reconnect.
Psychologists have found that people are more likely to reconnect with family members when they were less focused on past events that caused estrangement and more focused on improving their relationships for the future. When you lower your expectations but also set healthy (clear) boundaries in the family relationship, then you can repair and move on from family estrangement.
The best way to repair and move on from family separation is to seek therapy. Therapy can help you manage your emotions and think clearly about what to do and how to reach out to estranged family members. If there’s an issue regarding communication, then therapy can offer a safe, non-judgmental space to air out past grievances.
Therapy can also help you and your family to work on your relationship. By creating strong emotional connections, you and your family might be able to repair your damaged relationship and prevent any further damage to future generations.
If you’re thinking of ending the family relationship permanently, then it’s good to think about what you need and how it will affect your future. Think about the challenges you’re likely to face and whether you have the resources to help you through the challenges.
But can you move on from family estrangement?
If a family member has cut off contact with you, then therapy can help you understand and process the grief. A therapist might be able to help you figure out your next steps as well. If your estranged family member wants to reconcile, then therapy might be able to open up new ways to begin reconciliation.
Whether it’s your choice or circumstances that caused family estrangement, it can still leave a painful wound behind. Family estrangement can cause feelings of isolation, loneliness, and heartache. With the right professional help and steps, you can either choose to repair the damaged family relationships or choose to move on from the relationships.
Estrangement is neither negative nor positive. It’s just another aspect of family relationships. Depending on your circumstances, it’s ultimately your decision to either separate yourself from your family, causing family estrangement, or work towards reconciliation, moving on from family estrangement.
I hope this blog helped you understand what family estrangement is, its causes, and how you can repair damaged family relationships.
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