How can you go about daily life when you feel rejected, hurt, sad, angry, and you’re not yourself? The key to moving forward and getting out of stuck is to focus on your wellness.
The emotional stress of estrangement can take its toll on one’s mental and physical health. Certainly, you’re familiar with the personal upheaval of relationship challenges. The unfortunate fact of estrangement is the problem of when it will be resolved, resulting in uncertainty.
More to the point, the average physical and emotional distance length is almost five years. Research reports that the estrangement is a threat to wellness that results from the open-ended status of the relationship.
Kylie Agllias, the author of Family Estrangement A Matter of Perspective, discussesthe unique dilemma of ambiguous loss. When someone close to us dies, we grieve and then accept that they are no longer with us. With estrangement, the loss is confusing because the estranged is physically absent but still psychologically present. What is more, the opposing conflicting situation coexists with whether they will or will not return to bond again.
Because of my personal history of cutting off my sister and now being estranged by one of my adult children, I am keenly interested in understanding how to cope. I’ve struggled with grief, shame, and more. Out of necessity and stubbornness, I choose to move forward.
Some days are more complicated, but I keep moving, if only one inch at a time. What grounds me the most is knowing there is more to my life than just the temporary relationship in limbo. When I fear what worries me the most, I have a serious chat with myself and push myself to do what is best for me.
I encourage my clients to commit to a daily routine because of its many benefits. We know from research that engaging in just a few things daily will lessen anxiety, improve sleep, improve focus, improve feelings of self-confidence, and better self-care. When we accomplish our small goal of going for a morning walk or meditating, it reinforces more forward, positive movement.
On the contrary, amid a deluge of emotions, it is common not to feel like doing anything good for you. However, this is the time to dig your heels into the notion that you are committed to self-care and do it anyway. On challenging days, I throw my workout clothes on, do yoga or go for a walk.
Daily routines revolve around what suits you best. If you’re not into yoga, find an alternative form of movement. You can also write in a journal and dump your feelings or write down your hopes and fears. Other options include meditation, prayer, preparing your healthy meals for the day, breathing exercises, and phone conversations with those who love and value you.
The ultimate daily routine is gratitude practice. We are commonly thankful for people and grateful for things and events. Gratitude helps relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what’s positive in your life.
Studies on the effects of gratitude practice show that those who partake experience increased self-esteem, better physical health, lower blood pressure, improved empathy and awareness of others’ feelings, improved sleep. Gratitude also helps lower feelings of aggression.
Estrangement is a challenging road to travel, especially alone. Guilt and shame can keep us in a negative rabbit hole of strong feelings we cannot quickly or easily climb out of. You may be reticent about sharing since you feel like an outcast.
Most people do not share their experiences due to feelings of shame. Having support, like a therapist or relationship coach, can help you navigate your way towards your goals. You may want to reconcile and be anxious about where to start. Therapy can assist you in managing anxiety.
Talking to a professional will provide a safe place to ventilate in a non-judgmental atmosphere. You will have someone in your corner who can assist you in moving forward. Boundaries and communication skills are commonly learned in a therapeutic relationship. More importantly, you will discover that life goes on despite your estrangement.
Staying in contact with people who love and value you is vital. Studies tell us that socially connected people have the most positive health outcomes as they age. During stressful events such as estrangement, we tend to isolate ourselves and see our loved ones less. Resist the temptation and do your very best to remain connected. Additionally, there are numerous online groups on Facebook that offer support and comfort.
Self-compassion is the act of being accepting, forgiving, and kind to yourself. Being compassionate is the practice of yielding to positive aspects as opposed to critical or incriminating thoughts. In essence, it is capturing troublesome thoughts about yourself and intentionally replacing them with nurturing ones.
Dr. Kristen Neff, a compassion researcher, states, “Self-kindness is about showing kindness and understanding toward ourselves when we fail at something, or when we are hurt.” Imagine if we committed to treating ourselves as we would our dearest friend!
The people I speak with in my therapy and coaching practice describe feeling angry and shifting into guilt and shame. The complicated nature of estrangement, the potential for family members to take sides, and the witnessing of others’ shocking and mean behaviors can be overwhelming. Feelings are assaulted as well as our nervous system.
Our fight or flight system is on high alert when we are under the stress of estrangement. We are postured for threats and less likely to be calm enough to think clearly. For this reason, self-compassion is the foundation for treating ourselves with loving kindness and heal. Compassion allows for wanting the best for ourselves and how healing flows.
Dr. Karl Pillemer, in his book Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them, discusses the four threats to wellness and happiness. Understanding how estrangement affects your physical and mental health will hopefully motivate you to step into a daily routine, get support, and practice self-compassion.
Estrangement impacts one’s physical, relational, and emotional well-being. The unpredictability of resolution and any desired outcome can cause intense stress. When estrangement lingers, there can be ruminating thoughts and an expectation of a worst-case scenario outcome. Is it any wonder that being estranged can bring lowered immune system responses with feelings of helplessness and depression?
According to Pillemer, losses involving social rejection have incredibly damaging effects. Being rejected goes against the human need to belong and be included. Rejection from a loved one can harm one’s sense of self and renders one in an arena they cannot control.
It is immensely painful when family bonds are broken. A family is a place where one ought to have comfort and respite. When children’s emotional and biological needs for secure attachment do not occur, they become anxious. They are unsure and unsafe in a world they cannot navigate alone.
The bond of family, where others are there for you, accept you as you are, and love you despite your flaws, is coveted. Children bloom when they are securely attached. They can rely on someone. Adults, fortunate enough to have had secure attachments, naturally thrive with a strong sense of belonging. Despite the pain of broken attachments, the estranged may feel compelled to reconcile with family members.
The state of estrangement, differing from loss when there is death, leads to ambiguous loss. Especially if there is occasional contact, one has been cut off from emotional connection with their estranged family member. There is this limbo state of not knowing when or if there will be a reconnection. Uncertainty is uncomfortable in all circumstances; when you are estranged, the anxiety can be heartbreaking.
The worst of estrangement is abuse and its damaging long-term effects. For those who endured abusive and toxic behaviors, the decision to cut off is one of self-preservation.
My hope is this article has encouraged you to commit to self-care. We can decide to have purpose and hope and live despite our estranged condition. Whatever you are feeling today, you can move forward. Your life will be different, but it is your life to enjoy. The key to moving forward and getting out of stuck is to focus on your wellness.
What have you been doing to cope with estrangement? Which daily practice can you add to your daily routine? Are you supported by a friend or group?