This series on family estrangement may seem to be a strange topic to cover during the holiday season. Yet, being separated from family during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s is a familiar occurrence for many survivors.
The purpose of these articles is to offer support to all who come to this blogsite looking for hope.
This article will concentrate on two topics, the positive side of family estrangement and creating a family of choice to spend the holidays with and warm your heart.
Is There A Positive Side to Family Estrangement?
The answer to the above question is a resounding yes. Although, as Annie Wright observes in her article, “Brittle, Broken, Bent: Coping with Family Estrangement,” many consider even approaching the idea that family estrangement can feel good to be against all they believe.
The fact is that family estrangement can mean peace of mind that the survivor hasn’t known their entire life as they become released from the fear and drama that their family of origin has wrought upon them.
There is no doubt that family estrangement is painful, and one needs to grieve, but after a time, it becomes clear that staying away from family means freedom, independence, and safety.
It is far safer for many survivors to remain away from their family of origins because they have been guilted, invalidated, gaslighted, verbally abused, and sometimes risk their physical health being in their presence.
The Best Way to Cope, Finding a Family of Choice
Coping with family estrangement, especially during the holidays, is tough for survivors to face alone. This is why it is vital to find and form a family of choice (FOC). A family of choice offers welcome support to help from people who have your wellbeing at heart.
To be clear, a family of choice need not be a literal family as society sees it. Instead, a FOC can is a group of friends or work acquaintances, anyone who wishes to support you or needs support themselves.
A family of choice doesn’t need to be large; in fact, there are no limitations to the size of a new family. The only requirement is that you gather together as a group of people who have each other’s love and share each other’s burdens. Not only this, but at Christmas time, a family of choice will also share the joy the season brings.
Forming a Family of Choice
A family of choice is a group of people who will empower you to build your self-esteem and with whom you can celebrate your life. But how do you create a family of choice? While choosing a different family to spend your time with other than your original may seem overwhelming, doing so can bring the peace of mind and joy you’ve missed all your life.
The easiest way to begin is to look at those around you. Sit down and think about the people in your life who mean the most to you, including friends, acquaintances, work relationships, and associates at your place of worship.
Once you’ve identified who you might include in your family of choice, begin to share your life with them and to show how much you care for them. You might ask the people you have identified to be your family of choice offering your support and love in return.
Be cautious not to overwhelm people or to choose people that echo the terrible behaviors of your family of origin. It would be too easy to fall prey to folks who do not deserve to be your family of choice if you are not careful because survivors, like all humans, tend to go with what they know.
The Advantages of Having a Family of Choice
No matter what, the advantages of having a family of choice when your family of origin is toxic are enormous. Having someone to stand beside you through thick and thin, when you feel lost, or when you are enjoying an accomplishment is incalculable in its value.
There are at least six advantages to having a family of choice, including those listed below.
- A family of choice will make their relationships with you a high priority and not let you down. They will not make you feel guilty, show you dispassion, or ignore your needs.
- A family of choice will spend time with you talking about issues both big and small, plus engaging with you so that you feel you have a voice.
- A family of choice will deliberately seek opportunities to spend time with you. These activities may include shopping and taking a meal together.
- A family of choice will promote spiritual and emotional wellness. They will believe in you sharing their faith and offer healing actions that show they care. This promotes improved mental health and a chance for spiritual fulfillment as well.
- A family of choice will appreciate you and show you so whenever you come together with them. They will show you through behaviors, words, and gestures that prove you are worthwhile and that they love being with you.
- A family of choice is capable of facing times of crisis and stress together coping with difficulties as they happen.
Finding the Positive Side of Family Estrangement by Forming a Family of Choice
Family estrangement is an incredibly painful event to experience alone. By forming a family of choice, you can open your heart and allow someone else to help you conquer the loneliness and disappointment.
Forming a family of choice means allowing others into your life and celebrating their lives with them. It means not being alone during the crisis of family estrangement and trusting someone else to be there for you.
These concepts are challenging for those of us who are survivors and have had horrific experiences with our families of origin. However, to not reach out and form relationships with others, we risk allowing our souls to suffer unimaginable harm that need not happen.
I encourage you to reach out to others around you and share your life with them. Allow them to love you and show you unconditional positive regard and show them your affection freely. After all, a family is a supportive group of people who will lift you up when you are down and celebrate your accomplishments, not necessarily those whose home into which you were born.
“The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton
You can find this post and tons more information at the website The CPTSD Foundation