Sedna’s Daughters: Healing from Family Estrangement

Families in patriarchal cultures often mete out similar types of domination and oppression on their daughters that women experience in the larger world. For many daughters (and sons/trans/genderqueer folks), this includes scapegoating and rejection. Sedna’s Daughters provides a safe space for discussion on earth-based, spiritual approaches to healing from the confusing experience of family estrangement and recognizes all people's inherent belonging to Mother Earth, the human family, and the cosmos.

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Healing the Unnatural Grief of Estrangement

b2ap3_thumbnail_nature-flowers-sun-60006.jpgThose who are estranged from their biological relatives can struggle deeply with feelings of grief, but it is a strange grief, something that feels unnatural or out of season. No one has died, gotten divorced, or was fired from a job. But what did end was the image you had for most of your life about the people you thought you knew so well.That ending is an extremely difficult loss not only because of the sudden nature of most family cut-offs, but because that ending also changed you and how you understand yourself and, importantly, life itself. Family Aggression impacts our sense of justice, fairness, and a belief in the benevolence of the world. Additionally, estrangement and family shunning is not merely the loss of one person, but a sudden loss of an entire group of people with whom you were once intimately bound. Losing all this in one fell swoop is a profound and devastating loss, especially when parents you believe love you have now become hostile, even threatening.

Because there is no open dialogue in most cultures to help one come to terms with the reality of family cut-offs, grief and confusion can remain like a dark cloud hanging over every day. Where are the grieving rituals for family estrangement? Death and divorce are now openly discussed in many countries and there are rituals to mark these transformative moments in our lives. However, family cut-offs are typically hidden by the victims because they feel so unnatural and are so fundamentally wrong. Victims often believe that cut-offs are uncommon, which is not true. Also, families who act aggressively work hard at convincing daughters and sons who differentiate from the Family Script that they themselves are wrong, unwanted, and alone. Isolating targets is a way to pressure them to conform and return to the family's way of thinking. This is a key piece in the dominating, aggressive family behavior and one reason why family estrangements are not openly discussed.

If a daughter estranged herself from an abusive family, grief can feel like a strange and unnatural response in this situation as well--didn't she want space from them? Wasn't the unrelenting chaos and abuse the very issues that drove her to tell her family "no more"? Even when it was ultimately emancipating for the target, or an act of survival for some women and men, separation from one's biological relatives is painful.

Making meaning of Family Aggression is critical for victims in order

to integrate our experiences and understand that after the initial shock,

the unraveling of grief begins.

If your family members live in the same city or county and you see them in public spaces, processing one's grief and a myriad of other feelings can be challenging. While you are at once internally facing and integrating all the different types of endings and good-byes with a group of people with whom you had different relationships, one day there that person is, alive and well! Not "gone", just rejecting you. Not "vanished", but glaring at and then snubbing you. For daughters who are under threat of Honour-Based Violence, seeing a family member is an immediate threat and they must seek safety. These are unnerving, shattering experiences that re-traumatize and make the facing of grief doubly difficult.  

When you are ready, beginning to tell people what your family has done can be an important step in your grieving experience. Remember, they created the hostile environment from which you either fled or they cast you out. Being truthful, coming out, sharing and gaining witnesses to your experiences can be extremely healing. By doing so, the focus moves from an isolated "you" to an incriminating "them".

Shifting the narrative from "I was shunned/rejected by my family" to

"my biological relatives function in a way that is deliberately harmful to me"

can be a gateway for self-compassion and speaking your truth.

In my estimation and from my own experience, I do not see grief as a process or as redemptive or something that happens in stages. To me, this is too constrictive of the rich experience and variables of being human. Instead, I understand grief is something that I continually contemplate from various perspectives, like turning a sometimes-clear and sometimes-dark sphere of my former relationships over and over in my hand, knowing much that I see has been lost, was an illusion all along, and simultaneously all that I choose to keep from those relationships remains with me eternally. Loss and containment. Bitterness and gratitude. Living with ambiguous truths makes us ready to live properly, I believe, strong enough to see what is true and not letting truth destroy us. Days eventually come when the sphere is put down and collects dust. We no longer need to review, wonder why, or identify ourselves from this experience.

Yet, the wound will remain--it is part of us now. I choose to see mine as a mark of tremendous courage and endurance, of my invincible commitment to myself.

Lean on this community, sisters and brothers, while you navigate the maze of family aggression. There are veterans of this journey here, and we can assure you that there is a beautiful meadow still growing deep in your heart no matter the depth of your grief....

Until next time, find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SednasD/

Love, always, Sedna XO

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I have a Ph.D., am a victim's advocate, college-level educator, and was shunned by my maternal biological kin and their family friends over a decade ago. I have built an international community of daughters (and sons) committed to supporting one another and thriving despite the aggression of our relatives. “Sedna” is the EuroAmerican name of a revered Inuit Creatrix who was violently rejected by her parents and cast into the sea to die, but instead survived to create otters, seals, and whales.  Sedna is also the name of a star just appearing in the farthest reaches of our solar system and discovered by astronomers on November 14, 2003. Nick Anthony Fiorenza writes that "Sedna's message here is that humanity must recognize the truth about the suppression, persecution, abduction and exploitation of the feminine force in the world; and this mentality perpetuating such must be addressed and changed." Healing women is my life's work. See my Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/SednasD/

Comments

  • Mark Green
    Mark Green Saturday, 21 July 2018

    A wonderful post. I have been estranged from my blood family for decades, and as my parents have died off and others have simply moved on with their lives, it is, indeed, a strange and alienated experience. I, too, have drawn the conclusion that my family meant me harm (or, at the least, didn't flinch from taking actions that harmed me)--it is a powerful reframing that changes the wrongdoing from being mine to where it belongs.

    I am sorry for your experience, but I see you have derived true wisdom from it.

  • Sedna
    Sedna Saturday, 21 July 2018

    Mark, thank you so much for sharing your experience with your family. I appreciate not only your feedback and support, but your courage to share, tremendously.

  • Virginia Carper
    Virginia Carper Sunday, 22 July 2018

    I left my family years ago for reasons of sanity. I had several stints in mental hospitals and was under a doctor's care. We went into the weeds, and he noted that my family made me insane. They operated as a cult with a groupmind that denied my perceptions. Since I left them, I have been sane. However, my in-laws and others have always been threatened by my choice. They worried that if I did it, then it would spread and they would have to do it too. I never understood that thinking.

    I did ancestor work and family work, and noted the patterns that filtered through from generation to generation. I realized it was time to break the patterns and try to heal the family line for the future. I do have a family altar and do make offerings for healing.

  • Sedna
    Sedna Sunday, 22 July 2018

    Virginia, Thank you so much for commenting and having the courage to share your story. As you note, "groupmind" is really a core piece of family estrangement behavior. I am sorry for your acute suffering and laud your tenacious commitment to your own healing! A family alter and an intergenerational approach are certainly powerful parts of that healing. I am glad you are in the world, Virginia, and stayed the course! XO

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Wednesday, 25 July 2018

    Thank you Sedna. I too am e-stranged from my family who made me feel like the strange one. You are right that family estrangement shapes our understanding of the fairness of the world. When I used to suffer depression, my mantra was "no one will ever love me. I am alone." I should add that my mother always loved me but my father often stopped speaking to me. It is no mystery that I moved 3000 miles away for grad school and then even farther, to Greece. Thanks for opening a space to speak the truths of our lives. One of my "crimes" was to become progressive and a feminist. In my genealogical research I discovered my 2x great-grandfather, Thomas Christ was a socialist. Even though I don't believe in literal life after death, I find that he is sitting just behind my left shoulder looking out for me.

  • Sedna
    Sedna Wednesday, 25 July 2018

    Thank you for writing and sharing your experiences, Carol, which enriches this circle. A goal of the Family Script for scapegoated family members is meant to isolate, and thus disempower/ disrupt our unfolding self-awareness and healing, and this enforces in us a message of not only 'wrongness' but of aloneness--the psychologically/spiritually crippled family wants us to believe that no one desires us, in other words. This is a key piece of the brainwashing, a message you got so clearly! Cut-offs are meant to reinforce that message by psychologically punishing daughters (and sons). Isolation makes one feel vulnerable, and thus more apt to endure abuse. Tragically, I have seen cut-off daughters return to outrageously abusive families because they could not endure their feelings of isolation. Isolation is a critical piece of the power and control dynamic in families, just as it is in abusive intimate partnerships. My goal with Sedna's Daughters is to reinforce over and over again that people cut-off from their abusive biological kin are still part of the Human Family and are very, very loved by this world...healing the isolation wrought by family estrangement is key to healing overall. I believe, without hesitation, that your Grandpapa Thomas is at your side bathing you in his love every moment of your life...Carol, your support is much appreciated. I laud your courage to be yourself through the storm of abuse and to create a beautiful life from which so many of us have benefited! XO

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