I recently received an extremely moving e-mail from one of my Work and Family readers concerning family estrangement. The e-mail caused me to re-read my copy of Healing From Family Rifts by Mark Sichel. I bought this book after my brother and I healed our damaged relationship. Considering we had not spoken for a couple of years, I should have bought the book first. However, it was not until we reunited that I thought about how hurtful that time had been for me.
Looking back I do know that I made a conscious decision to try to fix my relationship with my brother. In the end, all it took was a Fatherís Day card for brothers, that seemed to have been written specifically for me. I sent the card, he called me and we were O.K. again. My brother and I were lucky; I do realize that all family estrangements are not so easily healed. It takes courage to take the first step, but whatever the result, you can make peace with yourself.
Why do family members become estranged, sometimes for decades, sometimes forever? In some cases, once you are privy to inside information it seems obvious. However, in other cases, the reason for such rifts seem less clear, even after you hear both sides of the story.
What is often so striking is that monumental fights are sometimes over things that seem petty or unimportant at first glance--things that just are not that big a deal or should not be. So how does it happen that parents, adult children and siblings sometimes stop talking permanently over these matters? Therapist Mark Sichel, author of Healing From Family Rifts says when families who have a hard time expressing themselves, or do not have the communication skills needed to express an issue, they often choose to do so without words and resort to actions to show the intensity of their feelings. One very severe action is severing ties with the family member.
Arguments or fights are often expressions of longstanding and unresolved issues in the family; these can stem from difference of opinion, low self-esteem, feelings of deprivation, or a host of other problems. It can agreed that family estrangement is more often than not, the result of a build-up of bad feelings and a lack of communication.
Sichel recommends that you reconcile the problem within yourself first. You may need to accept your familyís unwillingness to be a part of the healing process. He suggests that you strive to feel good about yourself . Then you will be able to move on no matter what others in the family choose to do, or not to do.
Mark Sichel's book is available from Amazon. Healing From Family Rifts : Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being Cut Off From a Family Member