Estranged: Rifts In The Family

Estranged relationships are common in families, with feuds being especially brutal among siblings. There have been stories throughout history, from Cleopatra to Genghis Khan, of the unheard of ruthlessness by which family members with whom there is a clash have been disposed of.

Various modern studies show a sizable percentage of families are fractured, with estranged family members and disputes going on for at least four years. An estimate shows that as much as 20 percent of American adults are in a state of ‘estrangement’ among their family members.

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Love & Family

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Admittedly, many family situations are dangerous and abusive. If a situation in an estranged relationship is not entirely intractable, one can try reconciliation, which can help in healing, growth, exploration and change.

If it's possible, resist the urge to recreate the past and build a new future. Try to find common ground, be in the present moment, and move ahead from there.

While faced with a young adult who has walked away from your life, understand that you may be a problem, and the adult child has to be seen with empathy and understanding.

The formative years are bound to be problematic and it is in the nature of young adults to commit certain mistakes, which becomes a part of their personal growth. There is no need to ridicule them for their mistakes.

A simple sorry and an acceptance of your not being able to realize your actions, your prejudice and your own blindspots may help them move towards reconciliation. Do not use any toxic words or actions that can easily backfire.

Often the aggrieved young adult does not want a specific apology about a particular mistake, but is generally aggrieved about their entire childhood, or how their parents related to them. An apology then becomes a first step towards making tangible, impactful change.

  1. Do a cost-benefit analysis if you are thinking of reconciliation, weighing the pros and cons of making contact again.
  2. Understand that any clash has two people who play a role, just like it takes two hands to clap.
  3. Do not try to align the past, which is futile exercise.
  4. Be careful in setting up the terms of engagement.
  5. Therapy often delves into the parental actions of the past, and is not a good option during reconciliation which has to focus on one’s future personal growth.
  6. A successful reconciliation is not easy, and is a true achievement.
  1. Understand that one in five persons are affected by family estrangement.
  2. If you are accused of something you didn’t even do, accept that you cannot change anything about it and feel what you are feeling.
  3. Time and acceptance are great healers.
  4. Leave the doors open, not shutting yourself down completely.
  5. Do not rehash the past, but focus on the future.

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