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Family Estrangement for Mental Health Reasons

August 9, 2021 Nicola Spendlove

This blog post may be controversial to some, but the older I get, the more I understand that family estrangement can be necessary for mental health. While I am in close contact with the immediate family that raised me, I have made a conscious decision to cut contact permanently with other relatives. This was not a malicious decision but a considered one made with mental health in mind.

When Estrangement from Family Is for Your Mental Health, Remember These Things

Your Reasons Are Valid

Safeguarding concerns can be a very real reason to consider permanent estrangement from family members. A history of abuse in the family, or the possibility of a family member putting you in some form of danger is not to be taken lightly. In these scenarios, putting up a firm boundary between you and a potentially dangerous person is an act of self-love and responsibility.

However, safeguarding concerns don't always have to be the reason for estrangement. It may be that your family member has a core belief or view that you simply can't reconcile with. A perfect example of this is a friend of mine who is gay but was raised in a home where anti-gay sentiments were commonplace. She is now estranged from her parents, and this family estrangement was certainly necessary for preserving her mental health.

Don't Feel Guilty or Pressured

You shouldn't feel guilt for choosing family estrangement in order to prioritize your mental health. This isn't a decision anyone takes lightly, and it's not one that you should have to justify to the countless relatives who will no doubt have questions. Feel free to politely (or not so politely) refuse to engage in discussion on your choice.

There may unfortunately be incidents where your wish for no contact isn't respected -- it's not unheard of for well-meaning family members and friends to orchestrate situations where you will "happen upon" the person you are estranged from. This isn't fair or acceptable and you have every right to react to these situations in whatever way feels honest.

If you have chosen family estrangement as a means of preserving your mental health, my advice would be to continue keeping your mental health as a priority. Depending on how your mental health develops over the years, you may choose to continue with the estrangement or take steps towards mediation -- once you're doing it for the right reasons, there are no wrong decisions here.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, particularly if you've chosen family estrangement for mental health reasons -- feel free to leave a comment.

APA Reference
Spendlove, N. (2021, August 9). Family Estrangement for Mental Health Reasons, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2021/8/family-estrangement-for-mental-health-reasons



Author: Nicola Spendlove

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Donna
June, 8 2023 at 12:52 pm

First, thank you for your balanced reasoning. Most articles, especially by mental health professionals, urge reunification, often citing the distress that must be endured by all parties. I was diagnosed with more than one serious mental illness in my late 30s even though they began at age 8. As a result of all those decades of dealing with MI alone, the symptoms naturally only became more entrenched and I became more dissociated and emotionally dysregulated. My family chose denial as a coping mechanism, and toxic positivity, and religious escapism -- they still do. My parents are now dead and I have a brother and sister who are still alive. We are in our 60s and 70s. I am 65 and 3 yrs ago chose total estrangement from my siblings because it was much more distressful to stay in contact with them than to be alone. I can't say I am happy that I'm alone, but I have much greater peace of mind now that we are not seeing each other regularly. My brother is simply emotionally distant and doesn't want to know anything, and my sister insists I am well and am choosing to hurt her. But I am not responsible for their wellness, I am responsible for my own. I freely admit: I am avoidant, depressed, anxious, and suffer from PTSD from an abusive marriage I ended years ago.. Plus the aftermath of a life with schizophrenia and possible elements of bipolar disorder. I owe it to myself to take the best possible care of myself and to enjoy the 4th quarter of my life as I see fit, not remain attached to family members simply because we are related by blood. It is unfortunate, yes, but necessary. I tried other measures before choosing estrangement and the results were not acceptable. Thank you again for addressing this matter with compassion.

Jessie
September, 8 2021 at 3:30 pm

After surviving breast cancer, chemo, radiation, surgeries, I found my tolerance for family dysfunction/drama non existent. Amputating toxic family relationships was the key to moving forward and healing. Sounds selfish but very necessary.

Erika
August, 11 2021 at 2:45 pm

I chose estrangement and I had to do it to survive. Bring the child of a narcissist is total hell. It took years for me to u nderstand this will never change. You can forgive but you have to prioritize your own mental health. Which often means cutting the hurtful person off.

August, 13 2021 at 9:25 am

Erika, that's such a good point. I've been learning a lot in therapy recently about how it's possible to forgive someone without letting them back into your life. It's definitely a very freeing concept. So sorry that you've had this experience, but glad that you've put in a boundary that works for you and your mental health.

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