I am one of many adult children who chose to break off the relationship with not only my parents but my whole family. My husband, children and I became estranged. And I can say I am one of the few who has actually reconciled.
Looking from the outside, you would never think this would happen to my family or to me. We were the model family. A prominent, well-known family in Dallas with deep roots in the restaurant business and in real estate. And then in the ministry. Yes, Christian ministry.
My Family Was In the Ministry
My father was the Associate Pastor of several very large, well-known churches in Dallas in his middle to later years.
And my mother was the Pastor’s secretary for many of those years.I was a p.k. (pastor’s kid) starting at the age of 11. I was not your typical p.k. You know the type. Kinda on the wild side… My sisters and I never did anything remotely naughty. We were model p.k’s. All three of us.
On top of that, we were all high achievers. Valedictorian or top of the class, cheer captains (not me!), Homecoming Queen or court, Who’s Who, NHS, etc. You get the picture.
I am sure you are nauseated by now. My point is that we looked like the perfect family. And we all looked like the perfect Christians.
How Does the Perfect Christian Family Fall Apart?
You might be wondering how the perfect Christian family falls apart? I’ll let you in on a secret.I became estranged because there are no perfect families and there certainly are no perfect Christians.You may wonder how you can be a Christian and find yourself estranged? I wondered that, too.
Or how could my parents be Christians? They had been in the ministry, for heaven sakes. I have to admit, I questioned my faith, my parent’s faith, and, mostly, who God really was to me.
My husband and I never left the church or acted out, but I had to rewire my thinking about God. I saw Him as angry and out to get me. I could not feel His love. In my mind, I thought He loved everyone but me. I was just an afterthought. From there I connected how very angry I was with my parents.
Anger Was the Root
From my perspective, I see anger as one of the root problems of my whole estrangement. I can trace everything back to that. Anger destroys relationships.
Joyce Meyer says:
Anger is the fruit of rotten roots. One of the primary roots of anger stems from the family. Angry people come from angry families because they learn from their role models and carry on the same behavior in their own lives, eventually passing it on to their children.
When you are angry other things start to manifest.
Pride made it difficult to address situations quickly, apologize, and prayerfully consider behavior change.
Selfishness caused tunnel vision of only wanting one’s own needs to be met, and not considering the needs of others.
Unforgiveness created the right to harbor bitterness.
These three things all circled around one thing-anger.
Once you are caught in this vortex there is no escaping out of it. If it spins long enough, it turns into a tornado and causes an enormous amount of destruction to everyone everywhere.
The destruction it caused in my life came out in the form of sickness.
Anger and Unforgiveness Can Come Out in Your Health
I believe I had internalized my anger and unforgiveness for so long that it came out in my health. At one point, my weight was around 100 pounds (I am 5’8).
I could not keep food in.
When you get that sick you start wondering what’s going on. I just couldn’t seem to get better.My doctor told me I was going to lose my colon and have an ileostomy (bag) the rest of my life if something didn’t change. It was at that moment I knew I had to leave my family. I never wanted to, but I just couldn’t find my way through the darkness.
At the age of 42, my family and I broke off all communication with my parents, and later, other family members.
That was October 2009. It would be 7 years before I spoke to them again. I needed those 7 years to not only heal physically but also to forgive.
I had to find forgiveness on my own terms. Not as the pastor’s kid, but as Julie. I was a broken and sick child who was lost and looking for Gods’ love. I do believe I became a Christian when I was a child, but I needed to see and know God as Abba Father. Daddy.
New Living Translation
And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:6
I called out to my Heavenly Father in utter desperation. I needed Him to bind my wounds and heal me. God is faithful. He has done just that. He sent people all along the way to help me pick up the broken pieces. And I still have my colon. Thank the Lord.
The Shame of Being Estranged
Being estranged from your family is very hard to explain to outsiders. There is an enormous amount of shame and embarrassment. I know my parents felt it, too. It couldn’t have been easy for them trying to explain it to everyone.
I found I really couldn’t talk to many people about my secret because I was embarrassed or people just didn’t understand. Since I couldn’t talk too much about it, I found myself googling it on the internet.
There were several categories I found when I looked up the word “estrangement.”
1. The psychologist’s point of view I found this very clinical. They had never actually experienced it. It was logical and cold.
2. Angry women on blogs rationalizing why they left. (Don’t get me wrong. A few had good points.)
3. Preachy websites that condemned me for leaving.
None of this really helped me. I needed to read about or talk to a real person who had been in my shoes and found a way through it.
Finding People Who Have Worked Through Estrangement
I couldn’t find anyone on the internet who had made it through the process of forgiveness and restoration. Plenty of people were willing to talk about their feelings but no one could show me a way out. I wanted hope. I was tired of wallowing in my grief.
After a lot of searching, I realize it would not be easy to find someone who had been estranged, worked through it and was willing to talk publicly about it without stepping on their family’s toes in the process. That is a very odd and rare combination. (There are only a few books in the bookstore or online that even talk about it.)
My parents have been gracious enough to give me their blessing to write and speak about this issue.
They don’t want anyone else to go through what we have gone through. Both of them have become extremely vulnerable not knowing what my blog posts or words to others will be next. I am just one sentence from embarrassing them. I do try to wrap each word I write in a blanket of forgiveness which I hope gives them some peace of mind. Thank you, mom and dad, for letting me do what I need to do to help others.
Are You or a Family Member Estranged?
Are you estranged? Is your child estranged? Let me tell you now that you are loved. It doesn’t matter if you are the parent or the child, or whether you go back to your family or your family comes back to you. You are not condemned. God hurts for you, and He hurts with you. I believe God’s perfect will is to reconcile, but that isn’t always possible.
Your loved one may be gone from this earth, or maybe the damage is so bad it is not safe to return. Whatever the reason, God knows your pain. He understands how you feel. He understands the shame, the embarrassment, the complete destruction of your heart, and the agony of your loss. What can you do?
I invite you to do two things:
1. Start praying.
You may not see results right away, but prayer works. Let God show you how to pray. He showed me to start praying for my parents. Yep, it was hard at first. But it broke the anger. Prayer is how I ended up reconciling with my parents and my whole family.
Hopefully, I will share my whole story, but just know that it was truly a miracle. There is no other way to explain it. If you want to speed up things, then fast. I specifically fasted and prayed to be with my family for 2017 Christmas and it happened.
Here we are all doing the dished together.
2. Ask God to show you what to do.
You may need to get into counseling if you are stuck, or maybe you need to work on forgiveness.You don’t need to talk to your estranged family member to forgive. This is strictly for you. It is worth doing!
Maybe you need to prayerfully consider reengaging. Whatever you do, I am praying for you because I know a lot of you out there need God to work a miracle. Trust Him. He is able.
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