Do you know how to deal with difficult family members? Perhaps you have a family estrangement.
You are not alone. This seems to be happening more often than people want to admit. Fights happen and family members walk away, sometimes forever.
If this has happened to you, you know how embarrassing it is to tell your Christian friends you are not talking to your family, even if it seems to be for a good reason.
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As Christians, we are supposed to be different since we follow Jesus.
But many times we are not. We suffer from pride, anger, and unforgiveness just like everyone else.
What if I told you there is a better way to navigate difficult family relationships so they don’t turn into an estrangement? Would you do it?
Here is an excerpt from my book. It includes the Introduction and part of chapter one. My mother was kind enough to write the afterword. We both give solutions on how to deal with difficult family members and find healing in the brokenness.
Table of Contents
Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart
You may wonder why I would write a book about such a messy subject. No one in her right mind would want to talk about how to deal with difficult family members publicly. It could cause another family split.
It is risky, but my family has been very supportive along the way. They have sent me information to include in my book and have proofed it several times to help guide me in the right spirit.
In fact, the afterword is written by my mother.
I wanted others to hear her perspective. It is important that both sides of this topic are addressed. I am grateful my mom has taken the time to give her thoughts on how to deal with difficult family members.
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Why a Book About Family Estrangement?
I decided to write this book because I found very little written on the subject on how to deal with difficult family members or estrangement, specifically from a Christian perspective.
When I left my family, I found no books in the bookstore close to my situation and very little online that talked about Christian families being estranged. Yet, here I was, a Christian, reeling from the pain, and no one could answer my questions.
The books I did find about family estrangement were from psychologists who retold stories about their patients, angry women who were never going back, and others with stories but no biblical viewpoint. None of their stories were like mine.
I was looking for a person who had been estranged from family and learned how to deal with difficult family members. Possibly even someone who had reconciled when all the bridges had been burned.
I needed to hear a Christian talk about real forgiveness.
I am not only a Christian, but I also come from a family in ministry. I am a preacher’s kid.
I feel God could use my story to pull the curtain back and reveal the truth. The truth is we are all sons of Adam and subject to the Fall.
There are no perfect families, mine included. We all have to learn how to deal with difficult family members at one time or another in our lives.
I do not want to portray my family in a bad light. My intention is for you to see God glorified in a messy situation. He alone is the Author and Hero of this story. He is to be praised for all the healing that has happened between my family and me.
He is the only one who can soften hardened hearts and bring life back into dead relationships. He can do the same for you that He has done for us. God is no respecter of persons.
How to Deal with Difficult Family Members
This book lists actionable steps that show you how to deal with difficult family members, whether you are the parent or the child. These ideas will help you work toward forgiveness and change the way you feel about your family members even if there is never complete restoration.
The steps are not easy, but they work. It doesn’t matter if you just want to learn how to deal with difficult family members or you are experiencing a complete family break, you can move to a better place than where you are right now.
I would like to add that although you may be going through a difficult family situation and are physically and emotionally sick, you should recognize that good medical advice should be sought. This book is not intended and should not be construed as a substitute for medical care.
I pray my words will give you hope for your own situation and help you know you are not alone. There are a lot of other people just like you who have family issues. They just don’t talk about it.
I want my story to help you see there is a way out of your pain. God can use your brokenness for His glory if you will let Him and show you how to deal with difficult family members.
Chapter 1 Sick of It All
I woke up from anesthesia and heard the words, “You have Crohn’s disease.” The nurse went on: “You are probably going to lose your colon and will have a bag for an intestine for the rest of your life.
The doctor is going to have to take out the lower portion of your colon. It is diseased and looks like hamburger meat.”
That was not exactly what I was hoping for when I woke up, but I wasn’t surprised. Actually, I was grateful the doctor didn’t find cancer.
I was sure that was what was wrong with me. But removing my colon didn’t sound much better. I didn’t want to have a bag attached to my side for the rest of my life. The combination of the smell, the noises, and the utter shame was more than I could handle.
I would never want to go in public again. And what about my marriage? That was even more frightening. I knew my husband would love me, but I would be embarrassed to be intimate with that kind of alteration to my body.
I had been so sick for the last three months and was positive I would not live another year. I had lost 30 pounds in that short time. Nothing would stay in my stomach. Everything I ate came right back out. I couldn’t even drink water without ill effects.
I was slowly wasting away.
As I was lying in bed that day in the hospital, I knew what was wrong with me. The denial left, and my eyes were opened. I could no longer run from the real problem.
I was angry.
I wasn’t just a little angry; I was filled with bitterness and hatred.
It was a deep, dark feeling I could no longer control. The bitterness had been simmering in my heart for years. I could no longer keep up the facade.
From the outside, it looked like I was okay. Not physically okay, but at least emotionally okay. I had done an excellent job of hiding my difficult family relationships from others.
No one knew what was going on in my heart.
The truth was I was tired of living one way and feeling another. Our family had problems, and no one was talking about them. The family issues had been there for so long that it was normal. But our normal was not healthy.
Over the years, I had tried to push back against the unrealistic expectations I felt had been put on me, but I was met with a lot of resistance. I felt like no matter what I did, it was not good enough. I had no idea how to deal with difficult family members.
Deciding to Leave the Family
Right there in the hospital bed, I decided to cut off my relationship with my parents.
I didn’t know how I would do it at the time. That didn’t matter to me. I just knew I had to leave my family to get well.
At the time, I didn’t realize I had a natural tendency to run and hide when I couldn’t resolve my problems. As a child, I Ioved making secret hideouts outside or secret forts in my closet. It was my way of coping with my family issues.
By the time I became an adult, running and hiding were second nature to me. It just felt like the normal thing to do when there was no way out.
In the hospital, I came to the conclusion I was mentally and physically exhausted from trying to jump through all the hoops. I was done.
After I made this decision, I decided I didn’t care what people thought. This was huge for me because I always cared about what everyone thought.
I am a people-pleaser to the core.
I was so sick that I didn’t care what it took for me to get well. I didn’t care if my church banned me or my friends left me. I didn’t care if I had to run to Mexico. I was going to leave and get free of the family drama.
I wanted to be free from the entangled relationship we had and the pain it was causing me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I needed to find out who I was as a person and a Christian outside of my family of origin.
I wanted to find me outside of them.
The Origins of Our Difficult Family Relationships
My family was well known in the Dallas area when I was growing up. The Ventura name was synonymous with live entertainment and Italian food.
My parents owned the Italian Village restaurant, Club Village (the first supper club in Dallas), and Gringos (the first disco/nightclub in Texas). This made my parents wealthy in their early twenties.
It was a lot for them to handle at such a young age. They didn’t realize it would create difficult family relationships.
They would be the first to say that fame was hard on the whole family. Some family members were jealous, and other family members were angry. I’m sure many were wondering how a 23-year-old kid hit it so big.
Things like this usually didn’t happen.
There was no way to prepare for that kind of money and responsibility. My parents were pulled in so many directions trying to manage a business that exploded overnight.
For many years, the Italian Village was one of the best places in Dallas to have a good time and eat an amazing Italian meal. There was very little competition in the area. They dominated the nightclub industry in Dallas.
Even stars from Hollywood and Las Vegas would eat at their restaurant when they were in town.
At one point, it was the only place to watch the Dallas Cowboy game on television (during a blackout), as sports bars in Texas were non-existent. My dad’s concept was the forerunner to the sport’s bars you see today. If the Dallas Cowboys weren’t playing, the players would often come in and hang out in the bar area or eat at the restaurant.
The Italian Village was the place to be in the 1960s and 1970s.
After about ten years of living in the fast lane, my dad found he was empty. He had accomplished everything he could in his field. There were no challenges left. He started asking God if there was more.
He prayed and asked God to show him if He was real. My father was a Catholic Italian, but not a good Catholic. He only attended mass on holidays, but those little times in church pushed him to ask the question.
I think he was hoping it would be answered.
God answered my father’s prayer rather quickly. Two weeks later my father encountered God in a real way. And it changed his life forever.
Nightclub Owner Turns Christian
My dad was making a commercial for the restaurant at a TV station in Dallas. He thought it would be funny to suggest they pray before the taping. The television station had recently turned to Christian programming. Pat Robertson, the host of the 700 Club, owned the television station at the time.
To my father’s surprise, everyone put down what they were doing and grabbed hands. Within a matter of seconds, he was holding hands with some man and praying.
The whole station became quiet as prayers were lifted for the taping of the commercial. After my father’s initial surprise, he said he felt a warm, electric feeling run up his hands and arms and all through his body.
He couldn’t forget it. Eventually, it led to questions, and later he was led to a relationship with Jesus Christ by the station manager. My dad became a born-again Christian.
Little did he know how much family drama this would cause my parents, grandparents, or his business.
But my dad couldn’t go back to his old life.
He was changed.
This book not only talks about my seven-year estrangement from my Christian family, but it also gives solid tips that show you how to deal with difficult family members. 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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