What Does Estranged From Family Mean?
If you are estranged from family, then you understand all too well what this means. It means you don’t talk.
And there is probably no communication going to your kids either. That one issue seems to vacillate between estranged families. Sometimes the grandkids are left out of the estrangement, sometimes they are not.
In my case, our estranged relationship meant ” no contact” with anyone, including the kids.
No gifts, no cards, and no phone calls.
We just couldn’t figure out how to let our kids see my parents without us being involved. Our kids were young at the time, and it would have been awkward.
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How Common Is Family Estrangement?
Family estrangement is more common than you think.
Karl Pillemer, a professor of sociology at Cornell University, states that 27% of people live with some kind of family estrangement. Sadly, the percentage of adults estranged from family makes up a good bit of this statistic, according to Pillemer.
And the adult child is the one who usually walks away.
As a Christian, I can tell you that estrangement is just as prevalent in the church as it is for those who don’t practice faith in God. Personally, I know a number of Christians who have experienced a family estrangement or family rift at some point in their lives.
Before you go pointing fingers and getting into a tizzy, check out the Bible. Estrangement has been going on since the beginning of time. Here are a few dysfunctional families that God used despite themselves: Cain and Abel, Abraham and Hagar, Issac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban, Joseph and his brothers…
And that’s just in Genesis.
Miraculously, God still loved these people. That doesn’t mean there weren’t consequences because there were, but God redeemed their situation for His glory.
“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25).
What Causes Family Estrangement?
Every estrangement from family is a little bit different. I have found that most families genuinely love each other, they just don’t know how to do it in a healthy way.
And that is where the wires get crossed. What does love look like to the adult child as opposed to the parent’s idea of love?
The parent may step in and say too much thinking they are lovingly trying to help, but it comes across as controlling or manipulative.
Other times, it may be that expectations aren’t met, boundaries are crossed, or tempers are too volatile. maybe there are even addictions getting in the way. A lot can go wrong on either side when we are not submitting to the Holy Spirit in all areas of our lives.
Check out this list of things that both the adult child or the parents may be doing to ruin the relationship:
- Addiction-drugs, alcohol, porn, etc.
- Mental illness
- Abuse-mental, spiritual, physical, sexual, emotional
- Economic control-withhold money or help
- Holiday stress-who goes where and when
- Divorce-who talks to whom
- Control-telling adult child what to do, how to act, what to believe, how to think, threats
- People pleasing-expectations must be met to be in the family, can’t say “no”
- Sexual choices
Some of these behaviors are so egregious that you may be estranged from family and happy due to the psychological effects it was having on you. I get that. Others of you may be feeling God tug on your heart to reconcile.
Does Estrangement Ever End?
If you are estranged from entire family, there is hope. My estrangement lasted a very long seven years before God intervened. Our reconciliation is probably one of the best estranged family stories you will ever read.
In 2017, I felt God pressing me to pray and fast. I had been praying for a while for God to move in our relationship, but nothing happened. This time, I felt God tell me to add fasting. I thought it was kinda stupid to starve myself, but I reluctantly obeyed.
It’s amazing God didn’t just strike me dead right there for calling fasting “stupid.”
As you can see, I wasn’t exactly loaded with faith…God still loved me though.
I prayed and fasted on a Monday and Tuesday. Specifically, I asked God to talk to my father in a dream.
I know this doesn’t seem real, but after seven years estranged from parents, my father called that Friday. Three days later.
He called because God talked to him in a dream.
On top of that, I found out months later that my sister had been fasting and praying at the exact same time as me. She had no idea I was doing this too.
I believe prayer and fasting broke the stronghold.
So, yes, there is hope if you are estranged from family.
“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast him out? However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:19,21).
RELATED: Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart for the full story.
How to Move On From Family Estrangement?
So how do you move on from family estrangement? Fasting and praying was the first thing that broke the estrangement with my parents. It was the first step in a long journey. God works slowly when it comes to reconciliation. It takes time to build trust and work through the problems that got you there in the first place.
Not everyone will have the same results as I did; it may be that fasting and prayer only break something in your life that needs to be broken. Your family member may not be moved right now. It is important to trust God as you move on from family estrangement.
You are also dealing with free will. The only thing you can control is what you do. And obey God when he prompts you to act.
In the meantime, I suggest counseling where you can learn to set boundaries and understand what a healthy relationship looks like. When you are no longer estranged from family, you will have a better idea of how to handle conflict when it arises.
Believe me, some things won’t be changed when you go back. It’s a process.
What Does God Say About Forgiveness?
We expect God to forgive us for our sins against Him, but He, in turn, asks us to forgive each other in the same way. I realize you may have good reason to walk away, but you can still let go and forgive those who hurt you.
If you look at the story of the wicked servant in Matthew 18. He was forgiven a large debt by his master but was unwilling to forgive the much smaller debt of a fellow servant.
When the master heard of his actions, the wicked servant was put in jail. In the same way, God expects us to forgive the smaller debts since He has already forgiven us for such a large debt—our sin.
If you are in the middle of a family estrangement or rift, I encourage you to pray for God to change hearts, even yours. Perhaps even fast and pray for reconciliation with your estranged parents.
You might even have an estranged relationship meeting and try to talk through the issues. If there is a way to move back into your family and set boundaries, that is the better choice. Ask for God’s perfect will in your situation.
I understand it may not be safe, and that is okay. Sometimes you have to love from afar. No matter what, you can forgive.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not for- give others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” Matthew 6:14-15.
Are you estranged from family? Have you prayed and fasted? Have you asked God to break a stronghold in your family, even in you?
Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!
Are you experiencing family problems or even estranged? Are you feeling shame, anger, or rejection? Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store.
This book talks about my seven-year estrangement from my Christian family and also gives solid tips to help you with your family problems. Break free from your pain. Allow God to heal you no matter what has happened in your family of origin. There is hope when your family falls apart.
Creating Family Memories Book
Get Creating Family Memories. This book will help you manage your family in a way that allows more time to be intentional with your kids. It includes a schedule too. You can get it at your favorite bookstore.
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