Living With Estrangement                                                                                                               

       By: Debra J.M. Smith


Dear Christian,      

Family estrangement is one of the worst things that a person can go through, especially if that person did nothing to deem such. Some of the best advice comes from people who have personal experience with this. And I do have a lot of experience with it.

I want to begin with saying that all types of family members can be at fault for an estrangement. Also, not always is the person who initiates or finalizes the estrangement, the one at fault. And I have no doubt that both parties get burned, not just the innocent. I donít believe that people who cause estrangements ride off happily into the sunset. 

The first thing that I suggest for anyone who is at fault for an estrangement, is to get right with the Lord about what happened and then get right with the person who was done wrong. All too often such people dig a deeper and deeper hole for themselves that can seem impossible to get out of with any dignity. However, what they need to learn is that it is actually telling the truth that would restore their dignity.

The person at fault is very good at playing the victim. This person does not want to be wrong and could spend a lifetime trying to make you look wrong. It is mind-blowing to have the person at fault say and do things to you that a true victim could reasonably say or do, things designed to make you look bad, while making him/herself look innocent. It's called deflecting. He/she might set you up, goad you, purposely get at you so that you will react, and then use your reactions, even acceptable reactions to make you look bad. And in between he/she may be really sweet to you. It is all about control.

You will at times feel you are unlovable, that someone could do such things to you. If you take just one thing away from this article, take this: It is NOT about you! This person's problem is all about him/her. You just happen to be the one in your position in this person's life. This person's problem lies fully with him/her. You are simply the target of his/her aggression. 

The targeted person is an escape goat, which means all the blame is put on the targeted person for what the person doing the targeting is upset with in life and someone to be used to gain sympathy and attention. And when there is this type of an escape goat, you can count on there being a golden person, someone who can do no wrong. And any close relation to the golden person, could also be treated as golden.

The person doing the targeting has an inner conflict going on, a good person vs a bad person is fighting it out inside of this personís head. The good person is perfect and can do no wrong, while the bad person false short of his/her self-expectations. I believe this inner conflict stems from a need to be viewed by others as perfect. You could complement this person all day and every day, and it will NOT help. This personís fight is not really with you or anyone else. This personís fight is with him/herself. And yet, this person causes real people to fight this inner conflict, inner fight, inner battle. Call it what you want.

The golden person is the weaker one, someone who will be willing to do whatever is required in order to keep in good standing. The scape goat wins that role, due to being too strong to be in such a submissive role. The person with the inner conflict will set these two people against each other with what's called triangulation, with lies and manipulation. He/she then enjoys the results, watching it all play out. Good person vs bad person. Of course, neither person is actually who he/she makes them out to be. The bad person is not really bad. And the good person is not really that good.    

You will know this is happening to you if the person is treating you in a manner that you do not deserve to be treated, saying things about you that are just not true, accusing you of things you simply did not do, while goading you and picking fights with you, all this and more, while treating another person the complete opposite. Scape goat vs golden person. The targeting person NEEDS you to be the bad one. Which is the reason for the lies about you. And he/she needs a do-no-wrong person to represent the ďgoodĒ person within him/herself. This controlling person is playing out what is going in his/her head.

The only way out of this for this person is if this person desires to change. You cannot change this person. And it is the individual person's choice. Even people who were raised well, can fall into this. Your grandparent can. Your parent can. Your sibling can. Your adult child can. But if you did train your child up right, you are assured in scripture that he/she cannot depart from that good upbringing. It will serve as a constant reminder to your adult child, that he/she is going against whatís right. Rest with that. Sorry, you cannot teach your siblings, parents, or grandparents.

Knowing why this person did what was done is very helpful. It is a natural thing to want to know why a person did such things, especially when itís someone we love. We not only benefit from realizing that it really was nothing personal against us, we also realize that technically the golden person is/was also used. Nobody wins in a family situation like this. Nobody really has it better than anyone else, just different.  And it is freeing to learn what happened, to have answers to our questions. It frees us from having the negative things go round and round in our heads. And we can finally accept that we cannot fix things.   

But what about the innocent one, the one who was not at fault, even if he or she is who finally walked away? How does that person live with the estrangement?            

I turn to the Lord and I do not hold back what I am thinking. If there is something He wants to change me on, He will, and I will feel it while praying and or I will find something in scripture that applies. I donít pretend with God to be okay, when I am not okay. Faking it till you make it, can cause you tremendous harm, because inside you know better. And it can eat you up, if it is not dealt with. While you might not always be able to be so open with others about how you are truly feeling, always be honest with yourself and with the Lord. Let the Lord heal you. 

Do not ever give up on healing. With the Lord, all things are possible, even healing from the loss of someone you never thought you could live without. I know this personally. In the Lord, you can heal and have sunny days ahead of you. Another thing, if an estranged person who was at fault, wants to live life without you, then let that person go. And I mean really let that person go. Donít contact the person for any reason, even if you are dying. Truly let the person go. Hold onto any good memories, and never stop loving the person, but let the person go. I cannot stress enough, the importance of letting such a person go and going on with your life. As that is whatís needed in order to truly go on with your life. I have lived this.

The good that happens when there is no contact, is that you stop fighting to save the relationship. In these situations, there is always one who is trying desperately, bending over backwards to save the relationship, while the other one is doing the exact opposite.  Once we stop fighting for the relationship, however, we are able to think about what exactly we were doing and what exactly the other person was doing. Then the day comes when we wake up. When the light over our head goes on. And we realize the power that we allowed that person to have over us and the harm that was done to us. We realize just how cruel that person was to us. We replay in our head the cruel things the person said and did, and we grow strong, and we take that power back.

It might be hard to believe, but the day could come when it concerns you more, thinking about if the person were to contact you again, than the thought of the person never contacting you again. When you finally get to the point in your healing where you realize the fullness of what that person did to you, you might be more concerned with ever going through that again. You will know you are at this point, if and when you no longer have any desire to contact that person. This can be shocking to feel this way towards someone you love so much. But once you've been to hell and back, you might not want to risk ever going there again. 

I use to have nightmares where I thought I had woken up, and in the nightmare, I get up and begin walking in my home, just to find that lights do not turn on. Then I realize that there is danger in my home, something scary. At this point I realize that I am not actually awake, that I am dreaming and I fall back and yell, "It's happening again!" And then I try frantically to wake myself up. I believe these nightmares were due to repeated harmful things happening in my life. I now put an end to harm that I have any say in ending, and the nightmares have stopped.

Once you get on the right track, you can better heal and actually move forward with your life and have a happy and healthy life. Notice that I did not only say happy, but also healthy. I know for a fact that when someone is being hateful to us, that our health suffers. This is why scripture calls hate, murder. Your body can only take so much stress. Your body was not meant to be under constant stress. This is also true for the person at fault, yet another reason for the person at fault to make things right. Both people suffer stress.  

This is not to say you will never cry again over your loss. An occasional cry will most-likely still happen. But the constant sadness will end. The stress of it all will end. The anxiety will end. The what-ifs, will end. The waiting for the phone to ring, will end. The hoping against all odds that the person will make things right, will end. Even the anger towards the person, will end. But so too, will the excuses you have no-doubt made for the person, come to an eventual end. You will eventually hold the person fully accountable for what was done to you. And you absolutely can come to forgive the person. But whatever you do, if that person ever does contact you, only respond if that person is clearly extremely sorry for what was done to you. ĖOr it will all start right back up again, and you will find yourself back in the thick of it. If you are owed an apology, an admittance, and a reason for what happened to you, then hold-out, donít give in.

Do not allow the person to have control over you. If you want the person back in your life any way you can get the person, even still behaving in a manner that is crushing to you, then that person has control over you. And believe me, I have been there, and it is horrible. You will walk on pins and needles, and your health will suffer. You will even have to listen to that very person continue to wrongly blame you. If that person never has to admit to what happened, then that person will keep attempting to vindicate him/herself with jabs at you, lies that are meant to confuse you in order to have control over you. Don't allow it.

You might at times be tempted to seek revenge or to do something that while it surely would set things right for you, would tremendously hurt the other person. Even though you actually have cause, don't do it. Years ago, I wrote the following and have at times had to follow my own advice, "A peaceful heart is worth more than getting even." At the end of the day, you have to live with what you do and someday die with it.

This is something else that I wrote years ago: "I will walk forward and not look back. I won't be pulled back by curiosity or the need to set anything right."

Here's something that estrangement causes, embarrassment. Hey, listen, there will always be people who will judge you wrong and even those who will laugh at your pain and try to use your situation to prove them right about a hate that they have towards you. These types of people simply do not matter. They are going to think evil of you no matter what your life brings. It testifies to who they are, not who you are.

Another thing that can become an issue with an estrangement is a will. If the estrangement is from an adult child and is to no fault of your own, you might be tempted to disinherit him/her. You might even threaten such, hoping it will wake your son or daughter up. Personally, I feel it is your will and you can do what you want with it. However, I advise you think it through before going through with it and only go through with it if you can honestly say you are not doing it out of revenge or for any hateful reason, but rather that the estrangement circumstances were not your fault and deem this adult son or daughter to be disinherited. Along with a note in your will that says such, let it be known that you love this son or daughter but it seems wrong to leave an inheritance to him/her under such circumstances. Disinheriting a son or daughter out of revenge or any hateful reason (something many abusive parents do) says something about the parent, not the son or daughter. And there is nothing wrong with leaving an estranged son or daughter an inheritance, even when you were not at fault, simply because of your love for him/her. Your love might be all you have left of your child. Again, at the end of the day, you have to live with what you do and someday die with it. 

It can also be tempting to contest a will if you were disinherited by abusive parents who caused an estrangement, especially if a sibling was a willing participant in the trouble that resulted in the estrangement and party to a lie that resulted in him/her benefiting from your disinheritance. Legally, you would actually have a case and estate lawyers would love to hear from you. However, I advise against this. If you were abused, then you have been through enough. And most likely you have made it this far as an adult without their money. And as a biblical Christian, your needs will always be met by the Lord, and you have a much greater inheritance awaiting you in heaven. A fight over a will could make you become a person who you are not and can fill you with extreme anxiety. I strongly advise you go on with your life and choose peace. While fighting the wrong done is a choice, so too is peace, a choice. If you came out of everything with your love for your parents intact, you have all you need concerning them.

Speaking of a sibling. How do you deal with losing someone who you shared childhoods with, someone who genetically is more like you than anyone else on earth? If you find yourself estranged from a sibling, to no fault of your own, that estrangement is really like no other. It can actually cause an odd kind of silence to rise up in you, a silence that part of you would like to break free of and yell your head off at him/her. A sibling is your equal, even if that sibling did not treat you as such. There is nothing holding you back from reaming that person out. This too, is something I recommend not doing. And if you have done so in the past, then not doing again. Let it go. It serves no good. Go on with your life. Don't let that sibling bring you down to his/her level. Trust me, I have been there too. It just brings you all that much closer to a stroke.

You might be asking how you can go on with so many unjust things, having never been dealt with. Maybe someone even has something that belongs to you, something that was stolen or wrongly kept from you. This is a very common situation in families. The best that I can advise here is to let it go. I have had to. I have been stolen from by family. It can be heartbreaking and so shocking, that family would steal from you. What was stolen from me was worth a lot of money and was very special to me, as it was given to me by my paternal grandfather, when I was a teen. And a person in the home that it was being kept for me, till I would grow up and get my own place, decided to lie, and say that it was not given to me. This was a beautiful antique, in perfect condition (at the time) mahogany bedroom set, given to my grandmother by my grandfather as a wedding gift. Eventually it was taken across state line, making it a felony. Yep. I could have legally done something. Before it left the state, I could have turned to my grandfather, while he was still alive. But it would have really upset him, something that I did not want. The person who stole it from me, actually turned to me once about some things that were kept from her that she was supposed to receive after someone died. Oh, is the Lord good, or what? I just smiled and told her that the real gift could not be stolen from her, that the real gift was that it was given to her by someone who loved her, and that nobody could take that away from her. (She became very quiet.) And yes, that is how I look at it. You see, I have the real gift, that my grandpa gave it to me. And nobody can take or keep that real gift from me.

I looked at what I do have and found my gratefulness in that my grandpa had given it to me, that I was that special to him. And I know that that really ticked the person off who kept it from me, that it was me who it was given to. So, she kept it. How sad, that people can be so jealous, that they steal and believe it is the same as getting something honestly. It never will be. The real gift has been with me all along. 

When we are wronged by someone we love, something in us tells us that we have a right to be angry and a right to fight. But truly what we have is a right to not be angry and to instead, have a healthy peace.

Scripture tells us very simply how to live. We are to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. --Micah 6:8

You might be wondering if you can ever feel better. Yes, you certainly can. But you will need some certainty on some things. And YOU will have to make those certainties. The following four steps helped me:  

First you need to fully let go of the relationship that you had with this person and render the relationship dead and not able to be revived. This answers the question if you will ever get back what you once had with this person. YOU answer this question, by saying, no. And think about it. Do you REALLY think things could ever been the same again with this person?  

That leads to the second thing: If possible, let the person know that you get it, that there will be no reconciliation, that there is no relationship left to reconcile, and that you will never contact the person again for any reason. If you cannot let that person know this, then at least write it down for yourself. The idea is for you to really get it, that it is over, that it is dead, that it cannot be revived and that you have given up.

Then, third: Commit to NOT taking that person back into your life, just to pick up where it was left off, if he/she ever tries to do that. Another question that you are answering.

And finally, the fourth thing: Tell yourself that IF that person ever does come back with his/her heart-in-hand, fully takes responsibility for the wrong done, and talks with you about why the wrong was done to you, then and only then be willing to work through what happened. (Don't ignore the wrong done to you, as it needs to be talked about). THEN you can begin a new relationship with this person. But do not set your hopes on this happening, as you cannot know if it will ever happen. This fourth step is simply an answer for you to live with, as to what would you do if the person comes back in a manner that appears to be good. This step puts the question of what you would do in such case to rest, so that you can move on with your life and stop thinking about it.

You might question the need for a true heartfelt apology and the need for this person to take responsibility. If you truly were not to blame and this person caused the trouble that led to the estrangement and sought to blame you, possibly even saying that you should take responsibility and or apologize, then this person will just do it again. Look at what this person has demanded of you, and it will tell you what you need to demand of him/her, should he/she ever want back in your life. 

This person falsely accused you of being wrong and made demands on you that you should have made on him/her, not only to confuse you and make you question your own ability to know what really happened, but also to beat you to the punch, so that you wouldn't say such to him/her.

Do not think that he/she will not do it again. This person has already proven to not be able to just move forward with you. This person has a powerful need for you to be the wrong one. This person cannot deal with being the wrong one and must have you be the wrong one. I have been through it and I know for a fact that such people do not change, unless they want to change and turn to God for that change. At which time this person would have a need to make things right with you. 

I am sure the greatest thing you want to know is how stop the hurt, the severe and traumatic emotional heartbreaking pain of having been rejected without true and expectable cause, by someone who should have never done such to you. And then there is the slow-burning pain of all the things this person no-doubt did to you and or said to you going round and round in your head. I tell it to the Lord. When the pain flairs up for me, I say to Him, "This is really hurting me, Lord." I might cry some, or a lot, depending. But God always gives me a peace and comforts me. And I know that it is a true test of myself, to turn to God. This is because if I was at fault, I believe God would show me. Also, being in sin hinders a person's prayers. So, when I feel God lifting the pain off of me, I know that my prayers are not hindered. The person not at fault tends to look through his/her actions with a fine-tooth comb, looking for something for which to say, "sorry." Believe me, some things for which I have said, sorry, were ridiculouswas and bit pitiful at times. I was looking for anything that would put the blame on me, so that I could fix things. But fact is, I simply was never to blame for an estrangement.

That's another thing, some people find it hard to believe that anyone can say with such certainty that he/she did nothing to deem an estrangement. Well, I can also say with certainty that I never murdered anyone, set fire to any building, or cussed out a random stranger. Hey, there is nothing wrong with knowing what you are, and what you are not. And if you were not at fault for the estrangement, then you were not at fault.

Gratefulness is also an amazing way to counteract the hurting in you. Just begin speaking out loud that which for you are grateful. And counteract negative thoughts with positive thoughts. And oh, my word, do not just sit around thinking about what happened and your loss. Set some time aside to purposely talk to the Lord about the person, when you find the need, and then move on with your day. Accept the fact that the memory of that person will be with you forever, and set up healthy ways to deal with that memory. Don't let that memory control you. Get on top of it and you control that memory. It is written in scripture that we are to take our thoughts captive. I believe that means that we are not to let our thoughts run amuck, run all over us. Our thoughts are in our brain, something according to this scripture, we can get control. We can actually teach our brain a new way of handling triggers, things that trigger hurtful thoughts. Acceptance is a very powerful tool, accepting the situation as that which is part of life, is powerful. You've been dealt this card (so-to-say), and there's nothing you can do about it. So, accept that card and play it the best way you can. God brings good out of everything. Look for that good. It's there. It really is there.  

So, get going with those things you like to do, your hobbies, and getting out of the house to be around people. Embrace those people who are still in your life. Get a dog. I love my dog! Start taking care of yourself, something you probably have not done in years. Eat better and exercise. Get a physical and bloodwork done, so that you know if there has been some harm done to your body and where to start fixing your body. Educate yourself in something you are interested in. Do puzzles. Deep clean your home. Get started on that project you have been putting off for so long. Life goes on. Start living it.

A final note:  If you were good to the person you lost, then that means you have something to offer someone else. What your loved one so carelessly threw away (you) would be a blessing to someone else. Okay, your loved one did not want the good you were to him/her. Don't hide it away. Share it with someone who wants it. Share your love with someone who will appreciate it and could turn out to also be a blessing.

Family does not have to be only with people who are related by blood. Get out there and meet people. You might be surprised to find there is someone looking for you, who needs your love and wants to love you.

"We can't be so caught up in what is no longer, that we miss a new beginning." ĖI also wrote this quote years ago. I wish you well.

Copyright Debra J.M. Smith

"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee..." --Psalm 55:22a 

© Debra J.M. Smith