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Estrangement – How Journaling Can Transform Your Heartache into Acceptance 

By Marie Morin December 17, 2022 Family

Estrangement is the widespread condition where one family member intentionally cuts off from one or more family members. Estrangement hits 27 percent of the United States’ population. Estranged individuals and those that choose to cut off encounter feelings of shock, anger, denial, guilt, sadness, and depression.  

Acceptance is a person’s psychological growth of acknowledging a presenting reality. Journaling when grieving can be an effective therapeutic practice to enhance one’s well-being. This article discusses how journaling can transform heartache into acceptance. 

Estranged individuals are uniquely familiar with grief. The uncertainty and ambiguous nature of estrangement impact the grief process. The emotional result of loss manifests in one or more of the stages of grief, comes in waves, and does not follow any specific order.  

Each grieving process is individual, there is no correct way to grieve, and there is no time limit. The estranged describe feeling heartbroken, confused, devastated, and overwhelmed. Complicated grief extends and progresses into the inability to function normally. Another possible response to loss is avoiding the grieving condition by postponing emotional processing.  

Visiting Emotions for Relief 

Many people consciously or unconsciously avoid feeling pain. The extraordinary human capability to develop coping mechanisms is rooted in self-preservation. Victimized individuals avoid feeling through depersonalization. 

This mechanism allows one to continue functioning by protecting themselves from the horror one endured. Depersonalizing occurs when reality is so threatening that one disconnects from the event, memory, and identity. However, psychologically, pushing away unwanted painful events to prevent one from feeling will postpone healing and moving forward. 

The spectrum of how individuals cope with their grief can range from bravely entering the depths of hurting to acute avoidance. Forestalling feeling is not wrong; it is a detour away from acceptance.  

Emotional visits, personally tempered, are an action plan to process grief to come out the other side. Such people choose to intentionally sit and permit themselves as slowly and delicately as necessary to sort out and make sense of the estrangement situation.  

How Journaling Can Transform Heartache into Acceptance 

Mental health clinicians recommend journaling because of its outstanding ability to cause one to pause, focus, and express feelings. A particular book or plain marble notebook will do with fine felt pens, or a simple Bic pen will do the trick. Soft music, a lit candle, and a designated time and place will enhance your journaling time, but only if this suits your preference. The essential idea is to express your feelings freely.  

Consider setting aside a time during the day to create a routine by linking it to something you do daily, such as eating lunch. Alternatively, you can wait until you are willing and ready to write and visit with the uncomfortable.  

Undoubtedly, you may not enjoy this exercise; however, its purpose is to assist you in moving forward. Your response can range from weeping to feeling very little. As you practice more often, you will feel more and recover quicker.  

When you experience even a minor release and know it is time to move on, do something else. Listen to music, walk, watch a movie, bake cookies, or call a friend. Be sure to take a break and praise yourself for the work you accomplished in improving your well-being.  

As you process your emotions and are informed of the necessity of acceptance, you will experience relief. It will take time and effort but doing this emotional work will allow you to reconnect with yourself. 

When we grieve, we often become shadowed by the emotional upheaval and lose our estranged loved one and ourselves. Reconnecting with the unique individual that you are, your hopes and dreams outside of your family will come to the surface. You can resurrect the parts of you that have been buried because of the loss.  

Acceptance follows when the reality of the loss meets your psychological growth of acknowledging the presenting fact. Accepting the loss of estrangement does not mean you don’t wish your condition were different or you don’t miss your family. Acceptance allows you to move forward and live again despite the cut-off. 

Choosing Wisely 

You may be estranged for a short time, or it can be years. Some of my readers have moved forward beautifully. They have entered a space of post-traumatic growth. Many have written to me saying they can function normally in their daily lives, but they suffer from physical ailments, insomnia, and a nagging discomfort they have not come to terms with.  

In essence, whatever the experience, many people are suffering from the angst of estrangement. You are not alone, and there is help available. Sometimes we need a professional to help us get through the intense emotions of grief.  

Being around those who love and value you, refusing to isolate, and being informed and self-compassionate are excellent strategies during this time. Practice self-care by doing regular movement or exercises, doing your best to sleep well, eating nutritious foods, and hydrating is your way forward. Choose your well-being, and you will move forward.  

Estrangement may not be what you want; however, it is likely not within your control to change your situation. You can change your attitude towards yourself, your emotional state, and your future. You can choose wisely and find joy. 

Writing Prompts  

  • Here are a few ideas to get you started writing if you need help beginning your journal practice. 
  • How did I feel the last time my loved one spoke to me? 
  • How do I feel about not seeing my loved one for (how many years?) 
  • How do I feel about not having my family intact? 
  • How does it feel not to know if I will ever have a relationship with my family member? 
  • How does it feel that I cannot be with my family due to their abusive or toxic behaviors? 
  • How will I feel when I forgive myself for the estrangement? 
  • What will I feel like when I accept the reality of losing the relationship status with my family member? 
  • Can I accept and still pine for their connection?  
  • Can I choose to move forward and not betray my loved one? 

A Personal Note 

This holiday will be my fourth year of not having my son, his wife, and my grandson join our family holiday gathering. My husband and I, along with our other children, are processing the best we can by continuing our family traditions without this son and his family.  

I still have waves of hurt and tears; sometimes, I feel guilt taunt me, and less often, I am angry. I meet regularly with a therapist, continue to process my grief, journal, and work on my daily habits. There are times I binge-watch a mindless miniseries and avoid feeling.  

My hope for you this holiday season is that you have others who love you to share in celebrating life. I am deeply sorry that you have lost your loved one to estrangement, and I pray that you find your way to acceptance.  

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What will help you to journal and visit your emotions? Have your journaled and found it to be helpful? What stage of grief do you find yourself in most often? 

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Thank you very much. That helped!!


Estrangement has to be the most cruel experience I have ever been through in my life. Grieving a living child and grandchild is the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s killing me. I’m withdrawn. I’m so depressed. I can’t even love my other grandchildren. I don’t know how to get over it. Journaling isn’t helping me. Good luck to the rest of you or maybe I’m just doing it wrong. Hope you all have a very Christmas


Me too. My mother was a narcissist and despite telling my sister and I that we had a small family and needed to depend on each other created a rift between us and did not even try to fix it before she died. I want to fix it but am not sure it can be fixed because my sister has become like my mother and only finds fault with me. She also turned my beloved nephew against me.

I have not seen either of them since my mother’s funeral in 2020.

It’s very difficult to process and accept. It’s especially hard this time of year. Getting to January 1 and through the holidays will be a relief.

I’m in a new place and need to build community but that takes time. I’m trying to take it one day at a time. It’s still incredibly difficult.

Thanks for the column. Estrangement leaves a hole. Grieving helps fill it, staying in the present moment and taking action towards the future I really want helps. Sending good vibes to all.

Carol Ann

Almost two years’ ago, my second-born son inexplicably cut me out of his life, without a single explanation. He is married, has moved away with his wife and son ( my little grandson, who surely doesn’t remember me now).

I will get through this, but the betrayal is not something I would ever have predicted. I refuse to try to contact him, anymore, but I wish him well.

Donna Meacham

I was estranged from my parents for over 40 years until their deaths ( not by choice with my father) but my mother wouldn’t allow him to have any contact with me and he would do anything for a quiet life, he was such a mild mannered gentleman.
My mother on the other hand was a toxic narcissist who resented the fact I was even born, my childhood wasn’t particularly abusive nor was it a happy one, my mother never told me that she loved me or that I looked nice even on my wedding day.
she always put me down and never believed I could achieve anything.
My mother had argued with everyone in the family at some point and even argued with neighbours.
after a nasty argument I moved away with my husband and children because I didn’t want her being toxic in my children’s lives.
I saw her once at my fathers funeral and even then she didn’t miss a chance to put me down.
in all the years of estrangement she never once sent me or her grandchildren a birthday or Christmas card.
I found out she had died by accident as she told the family not to tell me.
To be honest it may shock some people for me to say this but I never missed her in all those years and I still think my children who are now adults were better off without her in their lives, don’t get me wrong there were times in my life I missed not having a mother but she was never really one anyway

The Author

Marie Morin is a therapist and wellness coach at Morin Holistic Therapy. She helps women develop a daily self-care routine, so they overcome perfectionism and limiting beliefs and be their most confident selves. Marie is a grateful blogger and YouTuber. Find out more at and contact her at

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