Estranged: How to Heal Broken Family Relationships
Are you dealing with a broken family relationship? Perhaps you are even estranged. When this happens, no one wins.
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 have 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 Christian family in Dallas, Texas with deep roots in the restaurant business and in real estate. And then in the ministry.
Yes, Christian ministry.
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The Perfect Christian Family
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 eleven. 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.
Broken Family Relationships Can Happen to Anyone
You might be wondering how we could have a broken family relationship when we all professed to be Christians. 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 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 else but me. I was just an afterthought. From there I connected how very angry I was with my parents. And that is how we ended up with a broken relationship.
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Anger Was the Root of Our Broken Family Relationship
From my perspective, anger was one of the root problems of our broken family relationship. 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.
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 around.
What Happens When You Are Angry
Some people are not affected when they are angry. Not with me. My health went downhill.
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 due to Crohn’s disease.
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, I broke off all communication with my parents, and later, other family members. That was October 2009. It would be seven years before I spoke to them again. I needed those seven years to not only heal physically but also to forgive.
Our broken family relationship grieved me, but I didn’t know how else to handle the situation.
I had to find forgiveness on my own terms. Not as the pastor’s kid, but as a child of God. I was a hurting, 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 from my broken family relationship.
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 a Broken Family Relationship
Having a broken family relationship 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 words “estrangement” and “broken family relationship.”
- Psychologist’s point of view- I found this very clinical. They had never actually experienced it. It was logical and cold.
- Angry women on blogs rationalizing why they left. (Don’t get me wrong. A few had good points.)
- 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 with complete forgiveness from their broken family relationship.
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How to Heal Your Broken Family Relationship
Do you have a broken family relationship? 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.
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. After seven years, God moved and my prayer was answered.
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 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 that God will heal your broken family relationship.
Do You Have 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 not only talks about my seven-year estrangement from my Christian family, but it also gives solid tips to help you with your own 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.
Join Christian Family Living Facebook Group
Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Family Living. This is a place for Christian women to share their experiences and get helpful tools to navigate the Christian life. We love to laugh, cry, and encourage each other to live out our faith one day at a time.
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