Barbara Bush once said, “To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”
Her words are heartwarming, and in a perfect world, all families would be blessed with that kind of relationship. Unfortunately, ours is not a perfect world, and some families experience estrangement from time to time. The disunity is usually temporary and rectified through humility and forgiveness because both sides realize the familial relationship is and should be cherished.
But what happens when an olive branch is offered and refused? When one party insists on carrying grudges and refuses to accept responsibility for their part in the rift?
After several attempts at reconciliation, each with the same results, it is time to let go. No matter how willing one is to continue absorbing the hurt and deceit, there comes the point when the efforts are counterproductive. The toxicity of the relationship can wreak havoc on a person … mentally, physically and spiritually. No one should have to suffer consequences for another’s heartlessness, be it from family or not.
Disengaging from any relationship is akin to a death, especially when it is a family member. We experience something called unconventional grief. We mourn the person who was. The person who used to be an integral part of our life, the one who could be counted on, the one who is given love but withdraws theirs.
Unconventional grief, in many ways, is harder to navigate because the person is still alive and in particular circumstances, continuing the toxic behavior. With today’s technology, specifically social media, it makes letting go virtually impossible. Friends and other family members see something, and out of concern, feel compelled to tell us or, we grow curious and look for ourselves.
What can be done?
- Allow ourselves to grieve the loss, no matter how long it takes.
- Reach out to other family members, friends, and clergy.
- Let our friends and family know we appreciate their concern but ask them to refrain from sharing things they read or hear.
- Block the family member on all social media and resist the temptation to unblock to “see what is going on.”
- In the silence of our hearts, tell the family member we love and forgive them.
- Keep the family member in prayer.
- Enjoy and cherish the loving relationships we have with others.