Someone recently posted in one of the estrangement pages on facebook that the people estranged couldn’t possibly be in the same group as those doing the estranging. His argument was that if you were estranged, then there must be a reason for it, of which you are responsible. Such rigid, judgmental and dismissive thinking caused a stir in the community. I added my perspective to that post, saying that I don’t distinguish between those estranged, and those doing the estrangement, in my online support group and page, since both sides are characterised by the loss of relationship. It’s never an easy choice to have to make. And while we may be involuntarily estranged by our sibling, who may have their own set of issues causing this, it’s presumptuous that this is somehow our fault if we are gaslighted, talked down to, disrespected, threatened, or worse. When communication breaks down, it can be because we refuse to participate in the previous dominating power dynamics that created the awkwardness to begin with. Another good reason can be that the other person weaponises communication, and shuts down those channels as a means to get a one-up on someone that’s “supposed” to know what they did. Of course, this is all in the head of that sibling who engages in toxic behavior as a justification for their actions.
And what can start off as an initial estrangement can build towards our having to do estrangement for our own good. In such cases, it can mean making us less available to participate in their sometimes covert messages reminding us that they are there. It can mean that establishing healthy boundaries can look and feel like estrangement to the other person. So, sometimes, it’s not always as clear-cut as we would like it to be. To be in one camp can mean that we may be put invariably in another position depending on the type of behavior we get from our sibling. In any case, though it can feel empowering to have voluntary estrangement, it can never be said enough that there is an underlying loss in relationship.
The sibling relationship that we never had can be a grief that can cut deep. Society and media can cause us to be constantly reminded of what could have been, had they been more healthy, balanced, and empathic. If these are concerns to you, then this is very normal. You’re aware of your potential, and not being free to exercise what is within you, with that person, can be disheartening, and sad. This is why coming together with those of like-mind who experience this loss can be so vital. That, and continuing to cultivate relationships with those around us that voluntarily want to be in our life can help foster belonging.
So whether you were estranged, or you had to do the estrangement, you’re faced with a societal challenge that can confront what your ideal of a family and sibling relationship is supposed to be. There will be reminders everywhere of what we don’t have. To say that one type of sibling estrangement is more painful than another, or worse, that we somehow deserve this, is just outlandish, preposterous and dangerous. Best to focus on what binds us together: The sense of loss, and the need for connection and meaning. This, in turn, will foster the transcendence of labels, and help us to go in the direction of making the best in building the life that is right for us.