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About Family Estrangement

As part of my work with couples, I have come across what seems like a silent pandemic of family ruptures, cut-offs, alienations and estrangements. Families are dealing now, more than ever, with issues like political differences, conflicts around sexuality and gender issues, and differences in values. These are only a few of the triggers for alienation or estrangement in families. 

It is only natural for a parent, whose love for their child is the greatest love of all, to suffer enormously from their child’s estrangement or alienation from them; to feel tremendous pain, grief and loss, fear, social isolation, envy, and more.

Often parents can’t stop blaming themselves and yet they are angry at their child for cutting them out, feeling that they don’t deserve to be treated like that.

I never judge, criticize, blame, or shame any parent or any adult child. I believe that both parents and children suffer when there is estrangement, and if there are grandchildren, they are victims as well.  My goal is to bring families together by developing empathy for each other’s feelings and situations. With empathy comes the hope that a door to a new way of being will open between them.

 

I believe in making amends, and I encourage parents to write an amends letter to their estranged child. I work with parents and guide them in how to write an amends letter, so that the child will at least be willing to read it (as a first step). I will try to reach and connect with the child if the parents would like me to do that. If the child is willing to see me, I will see them (usually once), listen to them and to the reasons that brought them to decide to be cut off from their parents. I then encourage the adult child to meet with their parents in a family session, with the hope that--with what the parents have learned and are willing to do (to change the way they approach the child)—this might lead to the beginning of a reconciliation process. If the adult child is not willing to start a process of reconciliation, I work with the parent on how to find a way to live with the pain side by side with meaningful live and with joy.  

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