Oct. 27, 2000. The phone rings. “Mom, I got your letter. I want you back in my life.” After years of a painful estrangement my youngest child and I finally reconnected.
Parenting is for certain one of the hardest jobs in the world. With little or no training, adults embark on nurturing, teaching, guiding, and shaping the lives of these tiny human beings they’ve created. With hearts brimming with love, they hope and pray their children grow up to become happy, healthy, loving members of society and that their sacred relationships will grow stronger as time progresses. Sadly that is not always the case.
As a parent of four adult children, I can fully attest to having made a host of mistakes during my parenting years. Every parent on some level fails their children. Though not intentional, we all fall short of excelling at the most important role of our lives. How our mistakes impact our children is not always apparent. Some, as they grow into adulthood, see things from a more mature perspective allowing for a reevaluation of past circumstances. (“I thought my parents were mean, but their strict rules were actually a sign of love.”) Some choose understanding and compassion when assessing their parents’ actions. (“Dad had a drinking problem. He was under a lot of stress at his job. I’m so sad for him.”) Others are so deeply hurt or disappointed that they become angry and distant. (“Mom’s career was always more important to her than I was!”) Rifts develop that oftentimes baffle the parent. Failure to communicate leads to misunderstandings magnifying the pain rather than healing it. Hurt festers into a deep resentment that makes reconciliation a distant concept at best.
Estrangement from a family member, particularly from an adult child, is excruciatingly painful. I know because I’ve been there. The institution of family is the very backbone of society, the most fundamental of all human relationships. When the world is unkind and frightening, family is supposed to be our safe haven, comprised of people who would never harm nor abandon us. The bond between a mother (or father) and child is sacred – one that theoretically cannot and should not ever be broken. And yet they are, every day. Thousands of adult children sever their relationships with those who gave them life. And the pain for those rejected is indescribable.
Not all separations, however, are between children and their parents. Siblings refusing to interact with other siblings is often due to a rivalry that can sometimes be traced back to childhood. Whether real or fabricated, one may perceive that the parents favored one child over the other. Sometimes as adults, siblings have unrealistic expectations of each other. When one fails to be or act as the other dictates, there is a falling out. This fracture can filter down to spouses, cousins, grandparents, etc., only furthering the division in the family unit. Estrangement is a silent epidemic that impacts over 50 percent of families in this country.
Family relationships are the basic foundation upon which each of us builds our lives. They are fundamental to our emotional and psychological well-being. When family dynamics are disrupted by estrangement it impacts every member on some level. Issues may run so deeply that individuals feel a healthy reconnection is impossible. But is it?
In 2001, I founded Reunion of Hearts, the nation’s first support group of its kind for families struggling with estrangement. I am dedicated to helping family members heal emotionally and spiritually. As one who has endured the pain of a ten-year estrangement from three of my adult children, I can assure you that individual healing and reconciliation are very real possibilities. But there is much work that needs to be done first. There is an effective way to proceed and critical mistakes that need to be avoided. If you or someone you know is affected by a division in the family unit, please join my 10-week support group. Meetings are confidential and are held every Thursday evening from Jan. 9 – Mar. 12, 2020 from 7-8:30 p.m. at St. Thomas Church, 5635 Berkshire Valley Rd. Oak Ridge, NJ. To register or for more info, call or text Janet @ 201-213-8499; or email her @ Janet@PfeifferPowerSeminars.com.