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.

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 brokenness.

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.

I agree.

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.

Why a Book About Family Estrangement?

I decided to write this book because I found very little written on the subject of 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 also help you deal with difficult famil members.

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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 show you how to deal with difficult family members.

RELATED: Estranged: 3 Things You Lose When Your Family Stops Talking

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. I didn’t know how to deal with difficult family members.

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.

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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.

RELATED: How to Stop Negative Self-Talk: 6 Tips to Break the Bad Habit

Deciding to Leave the Family

Right there in the hospital bed, I decided to cut off my relationship with my parents because I didn’t know how to deal with difficult family members.

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 if 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 myself outside of them and learn how to deal with difficult family members.

RELATED: The Danger of Being a People-Pleaser: 7 Tips to Be Your Authentic Self

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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 sports 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.

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The Italian Village was the place to be in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Prayer

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 didn’t know how to deal with difficult family members either.

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.

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how to deal with difficult family members

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 each other’s 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 was the beginning of learning how to deal with difficult family members.


Purchase Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart as an ebook or paperback on Amazon or at your favorite digital store. 

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Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!

Are you experiencing family problems or have a family estrangement? Do you feel 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 (and reconciliation) from my Christian family but 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.

A farm scene with a farmhouse upside down sitting on a grass field with a lake in the background.
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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Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Family Living. This is a place for Christian women to freely talk about parenting, marriage, faith, family, and culture. Being a Christian is hard! Let’s do it together. Most of all, a sense of humor is required. Got memes? Bring it on!

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There are tips on building a Christian home, parenting, marriage, family issues, and faith. Learn how to get back to the things that matter most in your life and the life of your family. It’s time for a revival!


Julie is a wife, mom, author, and blogger. She writes about Christian family living, marriage, and faith with a touch of humor.


  1. Very encouraging. This can help a lot of families. So brave of you and bold to open about your family. God bless!!!

    • Gillian, I do hope that my book or this post helps a lot of families. We need our family right now because that is the only thing that is going to count when hard times hit.

  2. I appreciate your honesty and encouragement on a sensitive topic as I know it’s hard to be transparent as there’s so judgment out there. But it helps so much to hear other people’s stories.

    • Shara, this has been an incredibly difficult topic to discuss publically, but I had no one to talk to who understood. That is why I wrote a book about it. I am glad it has helped so many people. Thanks for your comment.

  3. This hits very close to home. My brother and his wife recently cut off my entire family. We’ve been trying to be supportive and figure out what we did, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. This was exactly what I needed to read right now, the other perspective.

    • Ariana, I am so sorry this has happened to you. I pray you will find true healing as you navigate these rough waters. I know it is painful, and there is no one right answer other than giving it to God. I invite you to fast and pray for a breakthrough.

  4. Wow, the book looks like its going to be great! I have a lot of hope in your story knowing your mom contributed! I’m looking forward to your book launch!

  5. Wow, this really hit home for me and what our family is dealing with. I look forward to reading more.

    • Jenn, I hope my story will help you. There is no such thing as a perfect family, just a forgiven family. You can’t change anyone but yourself. By handling things differently, it will make others change their behavior. I’m praying for God to do a work in the life of your family.

  6. What a great post topic! Most don’t want to talk about the existence of family rifts…I dealt with a family rift in the past. No fun at all 🙁 It is now better, not the same as it was before but much better! Praying that with time it will continue to get better!

    • Clair, I am so glad you have worked through the family problems. It is no fun. You are right! I pray God continues to work in your family.

  7. Oh what a topic to capture in your writing. family rifts exist everywhere and not often talked about or addressed to. Thanks for a good read.

    • Sonal, yes, I really hope a lot of people will read this book. Almost everyone has family problems these days. It is just a matter of how you want to handle them. There are positive ways and negative ways. One leads to life and one leads to the death of a relationship.

  8. Oooo so much valuable info in this post!! I’m sure so many are going to find the help they need to fix the rift in their family

    • Courtney, only God knows how to make dry bones come alive. I am hoping my family problems can be used as a learning experience for others. It is not worth it to let anger, pride, and bitterness get in the middle of a family. God wants to see us put down our swords and talk.

  9. I think that there are rifts in all families, but it is nice to read and know that things can be repaired and nothing is ever too bad.

    • Sophia, yes, I am so glad we were able to repair the damage. We were blessed to have divine intervention. It is amazing what happens when you start praying about your family problems. God is truly good. His mercy endures forever.

    • Sumit, thanks for leaving a comment. I hope reading about my family problems will help others with their problems. People don’t talk about their problems many times because it is too embarrassing. My family was kind to let me talk about how we resolved ours.

  10. I can see rifts in my family even though we still talk. This sounds like an encouraging story for those who need hope. Thank you for writing it!

    • Jodie, yes many families have a rift all the way to a break. Family problems are not unusual. We have a choice every day. We can work through them or get angry and let it fester.

  11. This sounds like a great book to read. Honestly, we are currently experiencing same situation. So I am really interested in reading this.

    • Preet, I am so sorry you are experiencing family problems. You can’t change anyone else but yourself. Work on your heart and God will work on the others. Your part may be nothing more than forgiving. but forgiveness is everything.

  12. Coming from the same background as you but I see things slightly different. We love our family as we should and in no way should we not pray for them and love them and help them through the ruff patches. But we also should not be blind or be foolish when it comes to certain situations. Pray on it and keep them in pray is what my family does when the rift just can’t be fix at the moment. And it time GOD always steps in. Congrats on the book, much success and prayers to you!

    • Chastity, I am so glad your family problems didn’t turn into a full-blown estrangement. It is hard to cross back over the chasm when you walk away from your family. Hurt feelings fester over time and can move into bitterness and anger. Thank goodness we worked it out. God is good.

  13. Wow! This is so interesting to read. And I am thankful that your mom was willing to contribute to the book on your family dynamic. That’s great!

    • Kristin, yes, I am so thankful my mom contributed to my book. There are two sides to the story. I wanted my mom to have her side put in. She was very kind to talk about our family problems

  14. Chelle Dizon Reply

    You made me more curious to read more about that book. I believe in prayers and I believe time can heal everything.

    • I hope you will get it. It is miraculous the way we came back together. I fasted and prayed God would talk to my father in a dream. And God did! It still gives me goose bumps talking about it. God is good. We all had to suffer for 7 years first. It was not easy dealing with our family problems, but God is making lemonade out of lemons.

  15. This is a great topic. ALL families have issues, no matter how small. It should be something we can be more open about. I think your book will help so many families.

    • Thank you, Sam. I am praying God will use this story about my family problems as a way to help others out of theirs. Whatever happens, I know God will get the glory for the way it all ended. He is good.

  16. This is so sweet. So many people struggle with those rifts and I’m sure the advice is much appreciated!

    • Emily, thank you for saying this. Yes, family problems are hard to resolve. But God knows how to turn beauty from ashes and bring joy from mourning. God is certainly good to bring life out of such a hopeless situation.

    • Courtney, thanks for your comment. We are hoping our family problems will bring glory to God in some way. Hopefully, our mistakes will give others hope when their family falls apart.

  17. This is such an inspiring post especially to people experiencing same problem as yours. All the best with your Book Plans.

  18. I think silence is the biggest issue. People must learn to speak up and listen. Great post and so true! Thanks for sharing.

  19. This is a really important topic to discuss. It’s not easy falling out with family, the pain’s deeper than we know.

  20. This will really help a lot of people, thank you for sharing your story. Your writing kept me gripped. Wishing you every success with the release of your book.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing this story – I really believe this post will help so many people, as it is certainly so relatable.

  22. Thanks for sharing your story, Julie! I’m so glad that people like you choose not to hold onto family secrets and keep pain hidden. It’s so freeing to share our stories! It’s also so encouraging to those still hiding in their pain. I hope that those still stuck in that kind of bondage read your story.

    • Thanks, Laura. I am hoping that by speaking up, I will help those who are too scared to say anything. That was me many years ago.

  23. It’s so true what you say, so many people have family issues but most won’t say anything, so don’t feel alone!! x

  24. This is such a great post, and I really think it’s going to help a lot of people. So many families have rifts. People are people, even if they’re family, and sometimes people clash.

    • Stacie, yes, we do sometimes clash, but I hope to help people learn how to do things differently. Being estranged is horrible. I don’t recommend it unless there is no other option.

  25. You have addressed a very important issue in your book. Sometimes forgiving those close to us is so hard. And we tend to behave better with outsiders than those who are part of our lives. But we need peace in our families if we are to maintain a credible Christian witness in our neighbourhoods. God bless you for the work you put into the book. I pray that it blesses many upon its release in Jesus’ name.

    • Edith, thank you so much for your encouraging comment. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. So many people are splitting from their family. It is so sad.

  26. An excellent read so far. You had me gripped. I’m wondering why turning to God caused a rift in your family and what was so dire that caused you to disown your parents. It’s a page-turner in the making. Congratulations. I wish you lots of luck with this venture.

    • Poovanesh, I am glad you read the preview. I hope you get a chance to get the book when it comes out. All your questions will be satisfied when you read it!

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