In my last post, Estranged: When Your Family Falls Apart, I revealed I was estranged from my family for 7 years. That is a long time. Breaking away from the family was definitely not my first choice. Nor do I believe it is God’s first choice. It is pretty much like a divorce. And God says He hates divorce Looking back, I now realize there was a trade-off. Being away proved to have some consequences we didn’t account for at the time. There is nothing I can do about it now but own it.
If you are considering breaking away from your family, first of all, I am sorry you are even at this juncture in your life. It is a horrible decision, and not one to be taken lightly. Second, I ask you to count the cost. Consider what is at stake. Here are 3 things you lose when your family stops talking:
When your family stops talking you lose time. My kids lost their grandparents at a crucial time in their life. I left the family when my son was 15 (9th grade) and my daughter was 11 (5th grade). When we reconciled, my son was 22 and a senior in college. My daughter was 18 and a senior in high school. My parents missed my son’s high school years completely.
They never got to see him play baseball, celebrate his awards, meet his girlfriends or watch him walk across the stage to receive his high school diploma.
It was even worse with my daughter because they missed all of her growing up years. They missed elementary, junior high and high school. My parents missed Grandparents Day for several years and 6th-grade graduation.
They missed cheerleading, all of her track and cross country meets except one, and her Homecoming court appearances.
This time can never be regained. My kids were both growing and changing so much when we left that when we did return, my parents didn’t even recognize them. Both of my kids had become adults during the 7 years we were gone.
Now that my kids are adults, they are busy. It is hard for them to make the time to see their grandparents. My daughter is in another state and my son works full-time. We can only move forward from here, but that gap of time can never be regained. I never wanted to be estranged 7 years. It just happened. Time got away from us all.
When your family stops talking you lose resources. It would have been nice to call my parents when I had an issue with my kids and ask their advice. Or even send my kids to my parent’s house when we all needed a break from each other.
Kids can be an enigma at times. Having the experience of your parents helps because they were raising you not too long ago. They remember a few things. It’s really nice because you don’t have to spend a lot of time filling them in on details. They already know some context. Not having that resource was more difficult than I ever thought it would be.
So many times I wished I could have picked up the phone and called my mother just to talk. Maybe about something that was important or maybe not. Hearing your mom’s voice makes it seem like everything is going to be okay. Even when things are bad, it seems better knowing your mom is there listening.
The only bright side of this is that it made me run to God for everything. And He does not disappoint. God is the best parent to us all. He hears and knows all the pain and disappointment of your life. And He alone is the only one who can change things.
3. Family Connection
When your family stops talking you lose family connection. There were 7 years worth of holidays, birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries we missed participating in as a family. We missed my nieces’ wedding which was really hard. I can never go back and experience that event.
Holidays were especially hard. You may moan and groan about going to lots of people’s houses during the holidays, but when it comes down to it..it is family. It is nice to have a place to go and be with the people who love you most. (Unless your family fights when you’re all together.)
We always had my husband’s side of the family over for the holidays, but it was quiet after that. My side of the family was missing. There are over 25 people in my family that get together from time to time. It was lonely and depressing not seeing them.
I didn’t just suffer: it hurt my kids, too. They missed seeing their 8 cousins together at one time. This used to be one of their favorite things to do as a family. The 5 boys would play football and video games, and the 5 girls would get together to talk and watch movies. There would sometimes be sleepovers at my parent’s house since it could accommodate large groups.
All of this went away after we left. It not only broke up my family, it broke up the other families. Nothing was ever the same. It wasn’t as fun for the kids to get together. Now all the kids are adults. It is next to impossible to get us together all on the same day. Some are married now and have their own family holidays.
Before Your Family Stops Talking
It is important to count the cost before your family stops talking. Instead of breaking off the relationship completely, try and step back and take a breather. I suggest you get into counseling and see if you can work through some of the issues.
Learn how to set boundaries, work on forgiveness, and see if you can find solutions that work for everyone. Ask your family members to meet in counseling. It is an option worth pursuing before completely cutting off all ties. Breaking away should be a last resort. Believe me, when your family stops talking you don’t know exactly what you have signed up for in the process.
If you still decide to break away, work on yourself. Your part may be nothing but forgiveness, but it is everything. Unforgiveness eats at your heart and burns into your everyday life. It colors everything you think and feel.
You can choose not deal with unforgiveness, but eventually, it will deal with you. It may come in the form sickness, an explosive temper, or failure at relationships around you. Even if your parent/family member is gone, it is still important to completely forgive. Forgiveness does not require you to be connected to the person you are forgiving.
Here is a thought to leave you with as you consider your options:
Estrangement takes you farther away than you ever wanted to go, leaves you there longer than you ever intended, and the consequences are much worse than you ever thought they would be.
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