This is a tough subject. It’s more common than anyone knows. What causes it? Why do family members give up on each other? Irreconcilable differences? Years of conflict that has created a loss of love or caring? Or maybe it’s been difficult all along and everyone is tired of trying and finally faces reality.
I have experienced this multiple times. It’s become so common in my family that I am not nearly as affected emotionally as I used to be. I have learned to accept it, let it go and get on with creating a happy life for myself and the people who love me for who I am and visa versa.
So many family members died when I was young, I became terrified of losing anyone else. Even if they were not a positive influence on me. I believed you stuck together and loved your family no matter how hideous they were.
As the years went on and I began to really look at how people were behaving, I got really honest with myself. I looked at everything. I let go of believing everyone had to be in my life just because they had the same DNA flowing through their blood.
Then I asked some hard questions:
Before I could ask myself ANY of these questions, I had to let go of what I thought family SHOULD BE and look at what was actually true. Plus, I had to mourn the loss of my “white picket fence”, my “Walton Family”, my “Norman Rockwell” painting.
I was a dreamer and had a deep longing to be loved by the family that was still alive. I couldn’t bear the idea of losing anyone else, no matter how unkind or dysfunctional they were.
Then my adult son left me. We had had a minor disagreement and he was done. He stopped responding to me. This went on for almost a year. During that time is when I did some major soul-searching and really dissected how much control I had in all my relationships.
It’s also when I got deeply involved in Life Coaching. I was so broken-hearted, I couldn’t imagine how to go on without him in my life.
One of the most important tools I learned during that time was “the manual”. A manual is a list of rules we create for the people in our lives. This list is unspoken but it’s what we believe to be true and when the person we have the manual for doesn’t follow it (even though they have no idea about it), we become hurt, angry or disappointed because they are not doing what they “should do”.
We don’t mean to do it, it’s what we’ve been taught by other “manual creators” in our lives. It’s part of our human condition. And it’s the most beautiful and liberating information once we understand what we’ve been doing.
I had a long and highly detailed manual for everyone in my life. And I didn’t know it! During one particularly painful coaching session my coach said this:
“Your son is an adult and he gets to choose exactly what he wants to do with his life. If he chooses to not have contact with you, (for whatever reason) that is his right and his decision. Now how do you want to feel about him?”
After many tears, anger, hurt, confusion and heartbreak, I said this: “I want to love him.” That became one of the most freeing moments of my life. My son didn’t have to do anything for me to feel love for him. That was a choice I made for ME. (Months later he reached out to me and we have since rekindled our relationship.)
Then I realized I could choose to feel anything I wanted to feel about ANYONE no matter what condition my relationship was with them. No one had to do anything for me to love them. Even if we weren’t speaking!
I am the youngest of 5 siblings. Both parents died young. I am only in relationship with ONE of them. The rest are “estranged”. I have accepted this. Everyone gets to do whatever they want in their lives and that’s okay! I can still have an amazing life! I have wonderful, loving supportive people who love me for ME! I don’t have to do anything but be myself and that is a truly beautiful thing.
This process is not easy or fun but it is truly liberating. Once we learn to let go of what we cannot control, life becomes easy and light. We don’t have to swim upstream any longer. Go with the flow.
Are you suffering with difficult feelings from the loss of a relationship and don’t know what to do? I would love to help you sort through all the feelings and find a place of acceptance and peace. I know it’s possible because I did it! You can, too.