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