Whether it’s a fresh cut or an old wound, living with estrangement can be hard.
It doesn’t matter how good it is for your ultimate wellbeing – often, it still hurts like hell.
Counselling Directory member Tracy McCadden, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘When a decision has been made to disconnect from a close family member, even when you know it has been the right thing to do, it can leave you with feelings of self-doubt, guilt, and loneliness.
‘The sense of disconnect is especially profound if you’ve no longer got any family at all to turn to.’
For anyone living with estrangement in their family life, Tracy has shared the top three things she wants you to know, as well as tips on what to try to make the whole thing a little bit easier.
Validate your decision
Even though it can be scary to open up, sharing your situation with others can be really rewarding.
‘When self-doubt kicks in,’ says Tracy, ‘it can feel shameful to talk about your decision with others when we’re conditioned to believe that “blood is thicker than water” and so on.
‘You might be surprised by how understanding others can be, and how many are struggling with their own family relationships. You’re not the only one. Remember, there’s a reason you disconnected, and nobody has a right to judge the decisions you make in looking after yourself.’
Tracy’s tip: ‘Write down your justifications for your decision and come back to your list when you feel you need a reminder.’
Consider yourself positively
Please don’t give into negative self-talk.
‘The decision you made was a courageous one,’ Tracy points out. ‘You’ve disconnected because they haven’t been able to offer you what you need – a healthy, respectful relationship, and you deserve better. The fact you feel guilty about the situation says a lot about the decent person you are.
‘Remember, you aren’t responsible for their feelings. Relationships are a two-way street, and if they haven’t been willing to work at a healthier relationship, they need to accept responsibility for that, and the loss of you.’
Tracy’s tip: ‘Sit with your feelings for a little while. It can be helpful to write a letter to the family member(s) expressing your thoughts and feelings to help you work through them. Do what you want to do with the letter afterwards – you could send it off, burn it, rip it up, whatever feels right.’
It goes without saying that cutting yourself off from a family member or members can be an incredibly isolating feeling, so it’s important to try and expand your network of loved ones if you want to kick that feeling to the kerb.
Tracy says: ‘When you only have yourself to rely on, living your life can feel overwhelming as you navigate the challenges of day-to-day life.
‘It’s therefore important that you spend time building close relationships with friends that offer you a sense of reliability and support – people you can turn to in a crisis.
‘Good friendships can offer you all the things that may have been missing in
your relationship with your family member(s) however, it’s important to recognise that you may still be craving the love, care, and attention from your family member, and this can be difficult to let go of.’
Tracy’s tip: ‘Practice gratitude journaling. As human beings, we tend to focus on the things that make us feel bad when we have so much in our lives that make us feel good. Shift your focus.’
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.
Degrees of Separation
This series aims to offer a nuanced look at familial estrangement.
Estrangement is not a one-size-fits-all situation, and we want to give voice to those who've been through it themselves.
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