- Holiday Survival Tips: 10 Suggestions for an Emotionally Healthy Christmas at https://theinvisiblescar.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/christmas-season-10-tips-for-an-emotionally-healthy-holiday/
- Don’t Feel Guilty for Setting Boundaries at http://self-love-u.blogspot.com/2017/06/dont-feel-guilty-for-setting-boundaries.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SelfLoveU+%28Self+Love+U%29
- Fifteen Effective Ways Clever People Handle Toxic People at http://www.lifehack.org/283358/15-ways-clever-people-handle-toxic-people?ref=mail&mtype=newsletter_tier_2&mid=20170630&uid=963226&hash=7c777871756e746d794c73796d75783a6f7b79&action=click
- Five Things Every Master Emotional Manipulator Does to Confuse & Drain You at http://iheartintelligence.com/2017/06/27/master-emotional-manipulator/
- Don’t Judge My Estrangement From Family – It Saved My Life at https://theestablishment.co/dont-judge-my-estrangement-from-family-it-saved-my-life-bff01d018f5a
- Ten Things Estranged Adult Children Are Tired of Hearing at http://orphansurvivalguide.com/10-things-estranged-adult-children-are-tired-of-hearing/
- The Dysfunctional Family at http://www.jamesjmessina.com/layingthefoundaton/dysfunctionalroles.html
- Abuse Amnesia at http://flyingmonkeysdenied.com/definition/abuse-amnesia/
As many have noticed, I’ve taken a break blogging about my estrangement. I’m still estranged from my family. My siblings still choose to demonize me & paint themselves as virtuous. Their passive aggressive, character assassination on social media has been aimed at dehumanizing me, promoting their enemy image of me online, & soliciting support. They refer to me as their ‘biological’ sister & still haven’t curtailed the tide of bitterness & anger towards me. However, I’ve made it very clear to them that I no longer want to be a puppet in their lives, strung along to whatever tune they’re playing.
Honestly, I wrestle with the challenges, struggles, & consequences of writing about estrangement. It’s hard to decide what to discreetly omit & what to disclose. The stakes are high & paying the price for transparency can strike hard. While many people are empathetic, some think I should bury the hatchet for the sake of peace & family.
For those in favor of reconciliation for the sake of family: While I’m no person’s judge, I don’t presume to know what others should or should not do in the same predicament, nor should you. I don’t have to explain or justify my decision to draw boundaries between me & my family to anyone. I don’t have to help others understand my position. I don’t have to defend myself or prove myself. Please don’t underestimate the power or long-lasting effect of emotional & verbal abuse. My family will never inspire a Norman Rockwell painting.
For those who are empathetic or suffer from their own estrangement: Thank you! I know estrangement is tough especially during the holidays, which promotes families and togetherness. It’s plagued by awkward moments where we dodge communication about our family & suffer in silence. While I’m never completely comfortable giving advice to others, here are three tips to get you over the holiday hump & starting a joyous new year.
- Remember – No two people view any event exactly the same, even within a family. We have different vantage points, shaped by our own perspectives & life experiences. Our different levels of awareness are impacted by our beliefs, ideas, fears, & motives. Quit trying to change your estranged family or trying to get them to consign to your perspective.
- There are NO completely innocent parties with estrangement. Reflect on your part. Don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to learn about yourself. What responsibility do you accept for what happened? How could you have handled things differently? What will you do differently next time? Life hands us our pain & hurt to teach us lessons. Transform your wound into wisdom & learn from your experience.
- Focus on the healthy relationships in your life, built on the premises of mutual respect, support, & appreciation where you are loved for who you are and not what others want you to be.
Not everyone’s heart is engraved with warm images of unconditional love & acceptance from family, nor are classic holiday reunions possible for everyone. Always remember you are not alone. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.
Well meaning third parties informed me that my sister has been posting passive aggressive comments on Facebook that are directed towards me. These remarks revolve around a central theme supporting her allegation that I’m heartless, a grudge hoarder, & unforgiving. Hiding behind her cloak of Christianity she posted bible verses & quotes. Here’s an example of one:
Surprisingly my mother chimed in “Well said!” Of course my brother didn’t fail to share his two cents. Another one of my sister’s notorious post addressed carrying around grudges like garbage & forgiving before it’s too late. The following scripture accompanied this:
My mother’s response was “Wish someone we knew would!” My sister always makes a habit of publicly posting her thinly veiled opinions & life philosophies, while keeping everything else private on her wall. My mother & brother almost always feel the need to comment. Funny how the judgment train never goes both ways.
Forgiveness seems to be a religious concept for my sister, laced with scripture. She equates forgiveness with reconciliation. Her purpose – to condemn my unforgiving spirit & sacrilegious conditional love. Her holier than thou smoke screen is an attempt to get me to validate & agree with her terms of reconciliation, thus she avoids accountability & absolves herself of any need for change. According to her I’m ruining “what could be an awesome relationship with a family member” not to mention being petty.
Obviously our mother is caught in my siblings’ triangulation. Honestly, she’s been dancing around the real problems between her children for years. My mother is unwilling to dig deeper to acknowledge the damage my siblings are doing. I’m sure that she’s been influence by misinformation & conjecture by them. Though she’s never asked about my side to the story, I have told her that there are no innocent parties. In my opinion she’s giving my siblings a license to toss their psychological garbage my way. It seems like my siblings are deliberately trying to drive a wedge between me & our mother. Keeping me hostage to ‘their’ version of events, my siblings avoid feeling uncomfortable with their actions & elude accountability. Denial is a very powerful device.
Clearly my sister’s version of forgiveness & mine don’t agree. Forgiveness doesn’t minimize, justify, or excuse the wrong. Forgiveness doesn’t erase the memory. It erases the bitterness & turns the memory into a valuable lesson. Forgiveness takes place when you can remember the wrong, but the feelings of resentment & revenge are absent. Forgiveness is not the end of the healing process. It’s part of it. It’s possible to forgive without reestablishing or continuing a relationship. Sometimes forgiveness is simply closure. Most important –
After our father’s death my sister claimed that she wanted to reconcile. When I didn’t agree to her terms, she turned the tables & started claiming that I was responsible for our estrangement. Diverting all attention from her behavior, she began fishing for sympathy & sought support from others, especially on Facebook. Now she claims my reaction is proof of my unforgiving, grudge holding, cold heartedness. I challenge my alleged flaws. Who made her judge & jury? There never was any vengeance towards my sister. Likewise, I’ve already forgiven her. Truthfully, I practice forgiveness frequently towards my sister, especially when she exhibits her passive aggressive behavior.
I don’t trust my sister. Her posts & comments make me realize just how little she respects me. Furthermore her actions make it very clear that she doesn’t care; she didn’t care; & probably will never care about my feelings. Common senses tells me that at least some of the responsibility for our estrangement lies with me. I’m sincerely sorry for this. But I’m not willing to bridge the gap between me & my siblings because I don’t believe our relationship will be healthy or supportive. Constantly being met with intolerance & hostility, rather than respect & acceptance is getting old. I’m not going to cling onto some guilt laden sense of duty towards family. The repeated, unacceptable experiences with my siblings have made a deep imprint on my heart. Their destructive patterns of communication encourages me to keep my distance not decrease it. Besides I’m not willing to sacrifice myself to please my family.
Note: I chose not to respond or engage in any comments regarding my sister’s post, denying her the personal attention she’s seeking. However, I’m surprise my siblings are exposing behavior once only seen behind closed doors on social media. Facebook isn’t a clothesline for airing dirty laundry, but it does give others a vivid glimpse of their true colors.
During the holidays my brother was the ringleader of a public smear campaign against me on social media. Putting on his badge of honor, he climbed on his high, lofty perch & boasted how he always kept contact with my parents while serving our country for 20 years without the convenience of today’s technology. On his self-appointed podium he declared the reason for his post was that in his humble opinion parents should be contacted at least during the holidays. Using his wall as a graffiti bathroom stall, he criticized my inability to contact my mother on Thanksgiving. He even managed to recruit comments from others, including my sister, who chime in with support of the social ostracism along with a <3.
I discovered the bull’s-eye on my back from a relative who sent me an email concerning my brother’s public shaming & playing on the sympathies of others. From his soapbox, my brother reprimanded me & assassinating my character by claiming that I was uncompassionate, selfish, & cold-hearted for not contacting my mother. In addition, he waged war by proclaiming that any excuse I offered was merely a lie made up to make me feel better & reinforce my misguided belief of superiority. Emotionally hijacked, he ended saying if I had a problem with his post I should be an adult & take it up with him rather than cry to mommy – if I dare!
My brother’s ill-spoken words were unfair & unjustified. Honestly, I don’t believe that most of those who liked or commented on his long winded rant even read it thoroughly. Perhaps if they had or weren’t influenced by misinformation & conjecture, they wouldn’t feel his post was well spoken. His smoke screen wrath failed to take in account that I texted my mother the day before Thanksgiving asking when would be a good time to call & received no response. Also, he conveniently didn’t mention that my mother was visiting my sister, where cell phone service is poor. In fact, I tried calling several times, was unable to leave a voice mail, & finally reached her that weekend. As for the accusations & misplace sympathy of those claiming I used the wrong number or could have used a land line, this is ridiculous. My mother’s cell phone number has been programmed in my phone for years & I don’t have a land line.
My siblings virtually amputated me from their lives on Facebook, so they feel compelled to showcase their post publicly when attacking me. Their attempt to bait me did not work. I took the high road & chose not to address their framing game & defuse their derogatory remarks. I wasn’t willing to throw gasoline in the fire by responding to their spiteful, verbal assault. Why fan the flames? Lashing out in retaliation would serve no purpose or be conducive to rapproachment. This blog is my only public rebuttal. Social media should be an open venue for positive communication with family, not manifest inappropriate, hateful & malicious comments meant to hurt, harass & abuse others.
P.S. Supposedly my sister was against Facebook bashing & felt that family issues should be for immediate family. Facebook just adds a new dimensions to our estrangement.
Yesterday, April 10th was ‘National Siblings Day.’ Many of my Facebook friends posted great pictures of themselves with their siblings. I’m happy for all my friends whose relationships with their siblings are intact, respectful, genuine, loving, & full. However, I shied away from posting, commenting or liking anything related to National Siblings Day. The day reminded me that there are many people who, like me suffer from the silent epidemic of estrangement. My prayers & thoughts are with those people. Fortunately, I’m thankful & blessed to have friends that are just like family. I hope you are too!
If you’re estranged from your siblings, you might enjoy reading “Estranged From My Sibling(s) on National Siblings Day” at http://www.e-stranged.com/blog/estranged-from-my-siblings-on-national-siblings-day/.
If you don’t have a bruises, black eye, or broken bones, then you don’t have anything to complain about. Right? Wrong!!! Although my scars are invisible, behind closed doors I’ve been subjected to inexcusable behavior from my siblings. Family may be the ties that bind us, but it should NOT lock anyone into a permanent gut wrenching, stranglehold of contempt & emotional abuse. Sharing genetic material is NOT a license to abuse others ‘carte blanche.’
I’ve been caught in an unspoken pact: What happened in the family stays in the family. Put up & shut up, so you don’t rock the boat. I was taught to conceal anything that might be the slightest bit ugly about our family since childhood. I was expected to show love & respect by not saying anything, being the bigger person, or letting it go. I’ve suffered silently for years. Many relatives & close friends don’t even know or suspect the emotional abuse that I’ve endured. Even in the general public we’re taught over & over again in subtle & not so subtle ways that it’s socially unacceptable to expose any information about our dysfunctional family to outsiders. The message remains the same, “Remember as far as anyone knows we’re a nice, normal family.”
I’ve been labeled the outcast, scapegoat, or black sheep, so that my siblings can project their sense of inferiority, dance around the real problems, & toss their unwanted psychological garbage my way. Hiding behind the cloak of Christianity my sister use spiritual abuse to build herself up & attempt to manipulate me into a guilt trip. I’m ashamed & embarrassed of my siblings, who persecute, humiliate, manipulate, & condemn me. They want me to pretend everything is perfect, wearing a mask to conceal the truth. Why? Because the key to their abuse is isolating their victim. By forbidding me to speak of our estrangement, I’m kept in a prison carefully constructed by them. Their reputations remain untarnished while they lash out at me behind closed doors, play the role of victim to others, or making vague, anonymous, disparaging comments & judgments about me through social media.
With the taboo that estrangement carries, I rarely feel safe enough to show my true pain to outsiders. Sadly as long as my mother is alive, my siblings will continue finding a way to reel me back into their web of emotional abuse. Slowly, I’m finding the strength to shatter the silence & expose my siblings. But it’s still hard to get around the stigmatism surrounding estrangement. Many people dodge the subject including my own mother or assume you must have done something to deserve such treatment. Despite the emotional abuse, manipulation & guilt heaped on by my siblings, deep beneath the surface lingers a fundamental need for a secure & loving relationship with them so that my mother will not be party to the collateral damage. The desire to be around my immediate family in unity will always be there, but it’s really a desire to be around a healthy family. Unfortunately my family doesn’t fit that bill & this sanctuary will forever be inaccessible to me, because sometimes bullies are home-grown.
There’s no Hallmark card for ESTRANGEMENT. Sometimes you have to erase the message, delete the number & move on. You don’t have to forget or quit loving them , but you do have to accept that they are NOT healthy relationships in your life anymore. Dysfunctional relationships are NOT worth chasing, even if they’re family. It takes wisdom & discernment to know when to let go & move on. Estrangement isn’t just about getting over the past, sometimes it’s about protecting ourselves from toxic relationships.
Sometimes it is family that most take advantage of their ability to cause & manipulate negativity. If they repeatedly hurt you and kick you when you are down, you must let them go & build yourself a family of people who support you, raise you up, & bring love, light, & balance to your life. ~ Sharon Sabbatino
Some negative people you can “tune out” & still keep a relationship, some you can give them more than a few Mulligan & if you find yourself being hurt badly more times than acceptable then you can cut those people or limit your time with them. It takes time & is agonizing if they are family but if they are acquaintances or friends it is easier. You can’t let anyone be toxic to you on a regular basis & walk away unharmed. ~ Gioia Pomerene
When I think of my biological family, I’m almost instantly filled to the brim with feelings that threaten to overflow. My throat constricts, my eyes start to well with tears, my heart starts pounding harder & I have to fight to hold it all inside. My family dynamics brings to mind the line from “Hotel California” by the 70s band the Eagles – “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” Family may be heaven-sent, but sometimes it’s an experience straight from hell. Hate to admit it openly, but my family is severely dysfunctional.
In the past I survived by playing the part that was mapped out for me by my family. I choose comfort of family rather than standing up for myself & stopping the emotional abuse. Whenever I didn’t follow my given role, I became an occasional conversation piece among family members, who don’t care to understand or respect me. They only attempted to force me to follow their ways. No more! You can’t please everyone, especially family members who don’t appreciate boundaries, show respect or acknowledge your feelings.
Note: Love this poem about trying to please everyone. http://staceyrobbins.com/cant-please-everyone/
Within a month after our father’s funeral my sister contacted me by email. Apparently her last conversation with our father compelled her to make amends & she didn’t feel the funeral was an appropriate time or place. She didn’t want to discuss the history that lead to our estrangement, but simply asked that I forgive her as she had forgiven me. For me it wasn’t as simple as pretending nothing happened. Besides, I felt it was unrealistic & unhealthy to expect anyone estranged for 2-1/2 years to magically be healed. I wanted to understand her reasons for severing our relationship as well as my contribution. Also, I wanted her to understand how her insensitive & inconsiderate Facebook post carried the message of our father’s death to me.
Although we never dealt with her Facebook post, her emails left me feeling empty & even more distant from her than before. Failing to realize how hurtful her actions were to me, she acted like it was simply a misunderstanding compounded by others meddling in our affairs & issued an all-purpose apology in an attempt to minimize our estrangement. The more we exchange emails, the more I realized she was collecting evidence to shift the blame towards me. My words & actions had & were being twisted to conceal, justify & absolve her. Wearing her righteousness like a badge of honor, she made subtle comments about being cold & bitter; not hashing out the past; holding onto grudges; & carrying pettiness in your heart; all directed towards me. She puffed herself up like a peacock & gave a good speech about forgiveness, but seemed completely incapable of the give & take of true communication. On moral high ground, her blanket apology was laced with judgment & criticism. She was invested in the righteousness of her conviction & didn’t want to be challenged or inconvenienced by what I thought or felt.
While I realized our emails dredged up past hurts & misunderstanding, it cleared the air for me in many ways. Sometimes wounds require lancing to let the poison out before the healing can begin. When I realized that she was dictating the terms of our reconciliation, I retorted that responding to her latest email was like deciding whether to cut the blue, red or green wire to defuse a bomb. This definitely ruffled her feathers. Hiding behind her smoke screen, she left the ball in my court, stating that she had delivered her apology, refused to discuss the past, forgave me & that I knew how to contact her. Clemency could be gained by following the part she mapped out for me, which required playing by her rules & taking her feelings into account but totally dismisses mine. Apparently she feels that I’ve accrued a debt to her where the only acceptable form of repayment is relinquishing my rights.
Needless to say there was no Hallmark moment ending our estrangement. No matter how I look at what transpired, I can find things that I could have handled better. Neither one of us is completely innocent, so no moral grandstanding on my part is necessary. Forgiving someone is easy, but being able to trust them again is a totally different story. I’m not willing to lie down & display a “Welcome” sign where my spine is located, especially after what transpired between us. Although a day doesn’t go by where I don’t think of my sister or pray for her well-being, I know freeing myself from an unhealthy relationship with her is necessary for now. Our estrangement is not about being bitter or unforgiving, it’s about self-preservation.
Even the government doesn’t send soldiers with their family into a war zone, but I felt forced to pay respect to my father by entering a combat zone. Just like the colorless, odorless, invisible gas of carbon monoxide silently envelops the innocent, I felt attending my father’s funeral would be shroud in rifts, open old wounds & set me up for ambush. I began debating whether my family & I should attend. Could my siblings put aside their bad feelings out of respect for our deceased father? Would I be treated as an outsider? Would I regret it if I decided not to attend?
Originally I considered enter quietly with my family at the graveside service without drawing attention to the fact that we were present. However, my paternal aunt talked us into attending visitation. I was pleasantly surprised by the support & sympathy provided by my extended family, most of which were completely unaware of any estrangement. For my immediate family our gathering was far from a Norman Rockwell moment. For the most part my siblings & I put aside our differences out of respect for our grieving mother.
My brother disarmed his hot buttons, took off his amour, laid down his weapons & requested that we talk privately, but I refused asking if this was the appropriate time & place. Completely taking me by surprise, he asked to give me a hug. Again I declined. My brother wanted to apologize to honor a promise made to our father earlier in the week. Knowing I could be walking on a land mine, I told my brother that I was reluctant to re-establish communication & certainly didn’t want to remain entrenched in drama. I expressed my desire to foster a more mature, adult relationship with him. I reminded him that we won’t always see eye to eye & we will disagree in the future. However it’s important that we don’t say or do things we’re going to regret. Finally I thanked my brother for taking an active role helping our parents & recognized that watching my father’s declining health 24/7 had taken a toll on him. Eventually we hugged. I’m hopeful, but I still feel like I will always be in his crosshairs.
While I was talking to my brother, my sister stormed out of the funeral parlor, slamming the door. Her adult children were close behind like baby ducks following their mother. They returned shortly afterwards & nothing became of this incident other than several perplexed looks from others. Honestly, I was emotionally drained & completely unprepared to deal with my sister, especially considering that I learned of our father’s death through her passive aggressive behavior on Facebook. Needless to say we were unable to reconcile & our estrangement remains firmly intact.
A black cloud hung over all of us on the day of our father’s funeral. Losing a parent is one of the most significant losses anyone can experience in their lifetime. My father’s funeral was a poignant reminder of estrangement, unresolved grievances & their effect on our family. As long as my mother is alive, I will remain tethered to my siblings. While it’s true we cannot chose our family, we can choose how we respond to them. Estrangement is not easy, but time has made it easier to deal with & accept. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband, who along with his family provide ample support.