Estrangement: What it really feels like.
I am a 25-year-old female. I went to college in Boston and currently live in New York. I am also estranged from my family. I want to quote what I think your reactions will be, but honestly I’ve heard it all and I don’t want to have to repeat them in my head at this moment.
Being estranged is not easy; in fact it is really lonely. Our whole culture is based around family, The American Dream. The fact that you are supposed to just accept your family as is is a common theory amongst the masses. You are allowed to have your tiffs but in the end the question asked is “How would you feel if they died tomorrow?” As if that has any effect on how I am suppose to take care of myself NOW.
I want to make it clear, I am not here to bash my family or air out dirty laundry. I simply did not grow up in a household that was conducive to make me stay apart of the family. A family that can’t see beyond their own realities. I mean I tried and tried, I screamed and yelled, I sat them down to talk rationally, I told them I would leave by the age of 22 if they didn’t get their act together. Nothing changed, so I stuck to my word. I no longer wanted contact with my mother, so I stopped.
That’s when the rift between my family and me started. I hold no ill will towards them for that. It makes sense, they wanted to be there for my mom. She had just lost a daughter. I did not expect them to expand their thinking or to take the time out to sit down and have a serious heart to heart about it. Like the Grand Canyon, it was just a rift that expanded over time. Now my family consists of me and my dog Chèvre.
Sometimes Chèvre is all the family that I need. For example, this morning during her walk she kept stopping to give me some love. While I am grateful for the love my dog expresses towards me, it doesn’t replace the empty part of my life that was once filled by family. I didn’t go anywhere for the holidays, my family isn’t around for my birthday, and my graduation from college was a hell that I wanted no part of.
I never expected that when I became estranged from my family that I would become estranged from my childhood. Every memory that comes into my mind, good or bad, hits me like a ton of bricks. When people talk about how they wish they could go back to their childhood, I cry. I know I never want to go back there. The worst feeling is when I get jealous of my friends, that I love, for having their families.
What surprised me the most was the lack of acceptance from friends and family friends about it. Although they try to help, all they do is justify my family’s actions. The worst is telling me that I’m wrong and that I created a false childhood. When I hear that, I think, “Does this person actually think I am choosing to feel this way? To feel emptiness, to feel rejection, to feel less than human and worthless? Do they really think I enjoy feeling like a victim?”. It has gotten to a point where I don’t say things that will make me seem victimized. As if this was something I have been plotting since I was 8. The funniest part about it is that I don’t see myself as a victim. I always tell those who inquire that my mother is a great person, but we just don’t work together. The same thing goes for my family. I did not chose to be broken. I was born that way.
Everyday is a fight to feel like there is a point to life. When something bad happens there is nobody to tell, it just builds up until it explodes. There is constant internal dialogue consisting of “What if I just suck it up? What if I smile and pretend like nothing ever happened? What if I just say sorry for whatever they think I did and go back to pretending.” Except, that is what kills your soul.
I often daydream about Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly adopting me. I dream about a father figure coming into my life. I dream about having my own family and starting my own traditions. And yes, I day dream for a wonderful man to come around, see me for who I am, passing no judgement and rescuing me from this loneliness and be my partner in this crazy world.
I have to say though, people need to get it together on how they treat people who are estranged from family. Don’t automatically assume it’s the person you are talking with fault and try to cure them with your tidbits of advice or tell them to reconcile. Don’t tell them that their memories are false, don’t say just talk to them or that they are irrational and especially that your family loves you unconditionally. And if you do and that person starts getting sad, angry, frustrated or any other type of emotion don’t use it against them saying ‘You need to let go of that to move forward’ because guess what those emotions are directed towards you, not my ‘family’.
Friends are nice. Close friends provide a great support but they have their own families. I love my friends dearly and would do anything for them. They are my chosen family, but it isn’t a family that will fill that hole my mother and father left behind. This isn’t always a two way street. Understandably so, I would never want a friend to choose me over their loving family. They deserve it, they deserve all of it. But it isn’t a family that will fill that hole left behind.
I know this may seem all over the place but that’s what it feels like. Constant emotions that can never be pinned down. Life is constantly full of contradictions. You feel happy you are independent. Yet this independence is also incredibly isolating. You feel like an outcast desperately trying to fit in; but you also feel joy. More than anything though, you are torn between two halves of your own self. One half is the internal you. It’s the acknowledgement of how you view yourself and the knowledge of what you need. The other is the one that people expect you to be.
It’s a lonely place, and if someone with an estranged family cries and there is no one who hears the tears are they actually hurting. Yes they are, if you need any better clarification just listen to ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’ by Frightened Rabbit.
So if you know me, or know someone like me, do them a favor. Do not tell them to reconcile. Don’t say they are your family. don’t tell them are you sure. Don’t question how it went down. Don’t tell them they enjoy playing the victim. Listen to them talk, read between the lines. Just be there for them, support them, and let them feel everything they are feeling. Let them know that even if they are alone it doesn’t mean they are invisible or do not belong. We just need a little extra TLC and to be talked to respectfully. The best response I ever got was when I told my close, trusted friend Jonathon about my estrangement he just said ‘It sucks that it happened to you, but I like the person you are now.’ All we ask is for some acknowledgement and support. And then don’t let the person push you away, just be there anyway and let them feel everything and let them know that even if they are alone it doesn’t mean they are less than, invisible or like they do not belong in this world where families are so coveted.
I am 25 year old family estranged female that lives in New York, works hard, has a dog, cooks, smiles but at the end of the day feels out of place wherever I go. And that is okay.