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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Letters to Estranged Young Relatives

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

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In the global community of women who have been ostracized by their biological relatives, one of the most painful cut-offs is losing relationships with their own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and younger cousins. How to handle the loss of those relationships and the inability to speak to family members who may have been very young when the estrangement occurred is what today's blog addresses. Finding a way to speak to young family members and express long-held thoughts and feelings is a key piece to managing powerful emotions of grief and anger incurred by Family Aggression.

When a non-compliant family member breaks the unspoken family rules or is the scapegoated member of the family, cutting this person off from all contact, or shunning them, is the ultimate manifestation of Family Aggression. Adults in the family initiating the aggression, along with all the bystander adult conspirators who did nothing to stop it, make the default decision that the young people in the family will also shun this person: forever. Cut-offs from children in the family are most often by intentional design, i.e. the family wants to turn up the pain volume for the targeted person as high as possible, so they deliberately keep young family members from any contact with her/him. The greatest coup for aggressive families, of course, is destroying relationships between the target and her children of any age. Subtle manipulation over a long period of time by grandparents and aunties/uncles has a profound effect on young adult children and their relationships with a parent who has been shunned by the family.

What can a cut-off parent, auntie/uncle, or older cousin do to recover

lost, beloved relationships with younger family members after estrangement?

Some barriers to reaching these relatives include breaking through the slander they have heard for years about you; knowing their current addresses; fear of retaliation from them/receiving hate mail; knowing what to say without accusing their parents/grandparents; wondering if it is even worth it, i.e. is there too much damage to the relationship to ever have anything meaningful with this person again? These fears are common and warranted! After so much trauma after a family shuns an adult daughter/son, one must protect themselves from more deeply wounding pain. Hence, care must be taken to not incur more emotional injuries.

Here are suggestions that have run through our virtual community for reaching out to younger family members after you have been aggressively targeted and cut-off from your biological relatives. Mothers have been reunited with teenaged daughters who were poisoned against them by their grandmother; nieces/ nephews/ god-children have regained contact with their shunned auntie, and so forth.

Ideas for Reconnecting Safely with Younger Relatives After Being Shunned

1. Post a letter on social media to the young relatives. You may be surprised how often shunned relatives look at your social media presence. A sample letter is below.

2. Send a short note by postmail to the individual most likely to respond positively (who no longer lives with or relies on college tuition from their parents who participated in shunning you). For example, "I know it has been a long time since we spoke, but I would love to see you. You were only a kid when the family turned against me, but I have a lot to say to you. I miss you very much." Include your mailing address or email, but you may want to withhold your telephone # until you are certain s/he will not attack you and share it with the rest of the family who may follow suit.

3. Send an email similar to the note above. Refrain from writing anything about the shunning in an email before you meet up with the relative and assess what they are open to hearing. They may not ever want to talk about what happened, but just want to have a relationship with you. See what feels right. Do not look to them for affirmation or validation because that may never happen, unfortunately. Having a lost relative back in your life may be enough though.

4. Take out an ad in your local newspaper. It may sound extreme, but can turn the tide because of how dramatic it is: "Dear _______. I never turned away from you. I Love and miss you every day so much! Please contact me, Auntie/Mom/Grandma." Someone in the family will have your contact information.

5. Send a Valentine or Holiday card. Use those critical times of the year when some people's hearts soften, and reach out to the missed younger relative with a short note and request to meet up.

Sample Letter to post on social media or send by postmail:

"Dear ______________,

When you were still a child, some upsetting events occurred in our family that led to everyone cutting off all contact with me. I had no control over the shunning. Unfortunately, you (and your siblings/cousins) were caught up in those decisions made by the adults in the family. However, now you are an adult yourself and have the right to make your own decisions about the relationships you want in your life. You may have been told or overheard terrible accusations about me that I was not present to address. Regardless of what happened between me and the other relatives, I never wanted to be away from you. I did not leave you or forget you. I loved you very much then, and I love you even more now despite how long it has been since we have seen each other. I did not write to you sooner because I was afraid of retaliation, and I must shield myself from more wounding. Sometimes families do not handle conflicts well and cut-off people, but that does not mean it has to stay that way forever. I do not want to talk about past problems with you, though; I only want to see you, hear about your life, and reconnect. I am still your auntie/grandma/cousin/mother. Nothing can change that fact or the fact of my love for you."

Readers who are estranged from their children of any age, their nieces/nephews/god-children/cousins... please know that I acknowledge the incredible wounds you carry from the loss of these relationships. Taking the chance reaching out to anyone in your former family is a big risk because of the virulent hatred aggressive, shunning families express in order to police their threatened family identity that has deemed you to be their internal enemy. The social media post can be the safest medium of reaching out and you might just allow your friends on social media see the letter for a few weeks before making it public--or not at all. That is your call! Do not "guilt" yourself into reaching out to anyone, however, if it does not feel right. Targets of Family Aggression have high trauma levels and should shield themselves from triggering events.

That said, do not give up on possibly sending an annual letter in hope of eventually getting a positive response, if you can tolerate the silence.

Until next time, take good care of your heart, connect with your chosen families, and look to Sedna's Daughters for support from Family Aggression: www.sednasdaughters.com and on Facebook.

 

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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/

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