Estranged: When Your Family Falls Apart

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Estranged:When Your Family Falls ApartI 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.

1. Pride

Pride made it difficult to address situations quickly, apologize, and prayerfully consider behavior change.

2. Selfishness

Selfishness caused tunnel vision of only wanting one’s own needs to be met, and not considering the needs of others.

3. Unforgiveness

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.

Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart book.

You can find Estranged on Amazon or at your favorite digital store. 

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 fastI 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.

This is such a powerful song about dry bones coming alive. This is literally what happens when there is restoration. Listen to this amazing song and hear the powerful words. Pray them for your own family.

Book on Family Estrangement: A Christian Point of View

Are you experiencing family problems? Perhaps you and a loved one are no longer speaking. Don’t go another day without reading this book. It addresses family problems and estrangement from a biblical point of view. Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart is on Amazon or in your favorite digital store. 

Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart book.

Get Creating Family Memories for FREE in exchange for your email. If you get this book, it will help you build a good relationship with your kids so that when the hard times come (teen years), you will be able to weather the storm.

Scroll down or look to the side to sign up. You can also get it at your favorite bookstore.

Facebook Group

Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Parenting and Family. This is a place for moms with preschool age kids or older to talk about their struggles with parenting, family life, education, or marriage.

You will find biblically based advise from other moms who want to raise godly kids.

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Julie Plagens

43 Comments

  1. Tracy Honey on June 8, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    I have both sides to this story. I’m writing because yours has touched my heart with its sensitivity and wisdom. So many parents think that a child walks away for “no reason”. Absolutely not true. It takes all parties to have a relationship. I have a son, who walked from us at 19, got married and from the safety of being married, returned to us and we talked through his situation to heal and get on better terms than before. Last week, my mother who is 80 and lives 6000 miles away, had her last meltdown with me. As a Christian and a counselor, I know not to close the door on her but pray and hope for reconciliation. But, I’m thinking this. How can a parent who loves their child, ever be ok with just ending the relationship. It seems to me that you do everything possible to heal the relationship. Not just walk away in offense. My entire family of origin works from one of two states. Deep offense and anxiety, or outrage and anger. No-one will be upfront and transparent. The snipy comments, the passive aggressiveness, the accusations. None of this comes from love. Love is patient, kind, always protects. When I look at the love chapter in the bible, I see the opposite in my parents. Unfortunately, with dad being 90 and with Alzheimers, a wife who hates him but cannot cope, co-dependency on me, a hateful brother who abuses and controls, I am at my wits end with them all. None of this aligns with God’s ways. My husband and I confronted my mum, (I hate the word confronted – it sounds so aggressive). But there is a time for truth to be spoken and I had wanted to reach the ends of their lives in peace, it was not to be. I spent the last year making calls home and being hounded by my brother’s attacks, dispirited by my mother’s accusations and manipulations, threats and drama. When my husband spoke to her, she flat out denied it all and said I was the drama queen. Even in a knee jerk reaction, I am floored by the fact that she hasn’t come into address this and try and put things right. To at least say, “While I’m having trouble seeing this, I will consider it and get back to you”.

    So, my heart is broken and I don’t have one relationship with any of the three of them. I pray each day and wait to see what God will do

    • Julie Plagens on June 9, 2018 at 10:39 am

      Tracy, I can totally understand your pain. Things are said in anger, and then no one wants to go back and apologize for their bad behavior and change. At the end of the day, you can only be responsible for your own actions. If you have done everything in your power to make things right, then the rest is up to God.
      I’m sure you know all this since you are a counselor. I think this added dimension must make it even more frustrating because counselors are supposed to know everything to do. Alas, you are only one person, even as a counselor.
      It is sad that your parents are at the end of their lives and won’t try to get things right before they die. I’m sure your dad is too far gone, but your mom has time. I find it shocking that people can not put down their swords and just try to work together towards the same thing-peace.
      I will say prayers for you and your family. Many blessings to you.

    • Tracy Honey on June 9, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      thank you so much – the support means everything to me. Jesus was not heard in his hometown. I’m not comparing myself to God, but sometimes I think being a counselor is received well by those outside of family. Family has instead chosen to persecute

  2. S on April 12, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    The role of anger is so destructive.

    My in-laws are estranged from my husband and me.

    It’s difficult because they accuse me of stealing their son. As their wife, how does one do that?

    They tell family members that “she won, we lost.”

    But why do I need to apologize for the reality that my husband and I answer to each other and not to his parents?

    Just because they feel betrayed and a deep loss doesn’t mean that I am guilty of wrongdoing!

    Why do I have to apologize for my husband’s primary loyalty is to me (and vice versa!) and no longer to them?

    Our marriage is about love but they see our marital union as competition and loss.

    Am I supposed to apologize for having a happy and healthy marriage?

    By the way, when my husband communicates these points, his parents accuse him of being spineless and brainwashed!

    Sigh. Because we cherish our marriage and want to be able to schedule our own vacations and raise our children without criticism and meddling, his parents have cut him off.

    Sometimes anger is part of a personality disorder and you have to give it up to God and pray!

    • Julie Plagens on June 9, 2018 at 10:22 am

      My heart breaks when I read this. You are right to have your marriage as the first priority. When you say “I do” you become one. Such a biblical principle and so many parents feet threatened by this normal union.
      In a healthy relationship, you can all make room for each other. So sad they drew a line in the sand and lost all contact because they couldn’t share. They are the biggest losers because they lost their son and any future grandchildren.
      I hope you will pray for the situation daily as God can change hearts. Thank you for opening up and being vulnerable about this situation.

  3. Annie Cho on March 3, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    Very insightful read. I hope that your relationships with your family can mend over time. Being estranged is never something you can predict to happen as family dynamics continue to change as each individual changes.
    xoxo
    Annie

    • Julie Plagens on March 3, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      It is so much better. Thank you so much for your comment. Working things out is so much better than being estranged.

    • Lori S on July 23, 2019 at 9:49 pm

      Today is when the relationship with my 23 year old daughter imploded and ended. I am 51 and she is my middle child and only daughter. I am heartbroken. I have apologized to her, but she will not accept it. She maintains that she has done nothing wrong and has nothing to apologize for. Basically she thinks we are mean to her because we are not giving her something she “deserves because she is our child and if we love her, we will do this” . She told me if I am heartbroken, it is my own fault.
      My dad died two months ago, and his loss pained me greatly, but it pales in comparison to what I feel now at losing my daughter. I am faithful. My mom says to pray. My husband says God can bring good out of this. At this point I don’t see how.
      You are right, anger is the root of all this and her pride, selfishness, and unforgiveness have brought us to this point. She has been this way her entire life. It is my belief she will never apologize. I can’t believe I raised a child that turned out like this.
      My grief is great. I am already mourning for all I will never experience with her, things in her life we will not share. I have lost my dad, and now I have lost my daughter.

  4. Bobbi on February 4, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    It can be so tough when families drift apart to reconcile after a long amount of time. I give you major kudos for making a relationship again.

    • Julie Plagens on February 8, 2018 at 11:22 pm

      Thanks and they are nice to let me write about it. Lots of grace. Thanks for reading.

  5. Becca Talbot on February 1, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    What a very personal, and emotional post. I applaud you for having the courage to share all of this with your readers (and even your family, as they may see it). Wishing you and your family lots of love x

    • Julie Plagens on February 1, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      Thanks. Yes, my family has read it. They are very supportive of me talking about it because they know how difficult it is to find people who will share. Once you do get things worked out, it is hard to say anything public about the details for fear it could go awry again. My parents are giving me lots of latitude which I am quite grateful.

  6. Dee Jackson on February 1, 2018 at 4:18 am

    Wow. This was such a powerful read. I don’t know anyone personally who this has happened to but I loved your tips on what to do and how to handle it.

    • Julie Plagens on February 1, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks. I am truly grateful you don’t know anyone who has experienced this. Thanks for commenting.

  7. candy on January 31, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    I have a little brother who has written me out of the family. He doesn’t have God in his life and everything is always someone else fault. Including his wife and children. I keep in contact with my sister in law and the kids. I tried with my brother but to no avail.

    • Julie Plagens on February 1, 2018 at 1:55 am

      That’s such a difficult situation. I am so sorry that has happened. All you can do at this point is pray for him. Hopefully, he will come back someday.

  8. fashionmommy on January 31, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    I think the key point is that there are no perfect families, this is so true. I’m glad you found your family again, it is a shame you lost so much time with them.

    • Julie Plagens on February 1, 2018 at 1:56 am

      Yes, that is the sad part. 7 years is a long time.

  9. LavandaMichelle on January 31, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    Anger can truly hurt you physically and mentally. Its important to not build up anger, I am glad to have fought through all the arguments my parents. I just had to realize they wont be here forever.

    • Julie Plagens on February 1, 2018 at 1:58 am

      I am so glad, too. It’s sad when things don’t get worked out.

  10. Christina on January 31, 2018 at 2:07 am

    It’s so easy to let anger get in the way of relationships. Glad your story has a happy ending!

    • Julie Plagens on February 1, 2018 at 1:57 am

      Yes, anger seeps in like a slithery snake. One day it bites you.

  11. Becca on January 31, 2018 at 1:07 am

    This is so hard to read; I can’t imagine going through what you have. I’m happy you’ve managed to reconcile, and I hope you are a lot happier for it.

    • Julie Plagens on February 1, 2018 at 1:56 am

      Thanks. God is still in charge. Maybe our pain will help others.

  12. Sarah Bailey on January 30, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    It is good you found a way to work through and reconnect with family, I hope it brings you love in the future. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Sela on January 30, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    I can totally relate to the situation that you were dealing with, Anger will tear you up and cause all kinds of health issues. We have to get over it and put it behind us in order to start forgiving.

  14. GiGi Eats on January 30, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    I am so lucky to have such a strong family bond. We may not talk much, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love and support each other. And perhaps that’s the key to a STRONG family bond… Not encroaching on everyone’s Territory!

  15. Vanessa Redaelli on January 30, 2018 at 10:30 am

    So strong of you to share such a big struggle! I cant imagine how hard it is for you and your family but it must be one of the toughest things…Big hugs!

  16. Growingwithmer on January 30, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Ah this is something I can relate to. I am estranged from my parents and it actually was the best decision I have ever made. Not something I would reconcile. I totally understand how hard it can be.

    • Julie Plagens on January 30, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      I’m so sorry. It’s such a difficult thing to navigate.

  17. Corinne Tomorrow on January 30, 2018 at 3:32 am

    This hit very close to home. My father and I had been estranged for over a year after a big fight the last time I visited him in Europe. I just felt so suffocated by him and his ‘right way of doing things’ that I decided to cut off the relationship for 11 months. Let me tell you, I really needed the time away to just think about our relationship and stop being so angry at him all the time. Now we are back to talking and stronger than ever. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Julie Plagens on January 30, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      I am so glad you were able to come back in the relationship. Kudos to you.

  18. Sam ventura on January 29, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    Julie u did a great job with your blog.i am proud of u. Keep up the go work. Dad

    • Julie Plagens on January 30, 2018 at 10:47 pm

      Thanks, Dad. I appreciate your support so much❤️

      • April on November 11, 2018 at 1:14 am

        This topic hit home so it had me reading the comments. As I came to this one from your dad, my heart melted!! God is so good and the power of healing restoration is sure a beautiful thing!!

  19. Grace on January 27, 2018 at 6:24 am

    I am proud of you for sharing some of your struggle, as I know it must be difficult to put it all down in black and white. I can only imagine it was even harder for you (and all of your family) to live through. I am thanking our Heavenly Father that the estrangement is in the past.

    • Julie Plagens on January 28, 2018 at 9:54 pm

      Thanks. That means a lot. I’m grateful to have my family back!

  20. 1blogify2 on January 26, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    I love what you wrote. We are estranged from parts of my husband’s family. People urge us to reconcile but the truth is they are very unsafe and cruel. We feel that God has us in a mode of separation. But boy, we do get a lot of condemnation for it.

    • Julie Plagens on January 26, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      I’m so sorry. I pray you can get through it with grace and love. No easy answers are there??

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