“At some point, you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.”
Blood is thicker than water or so they say. All my life I’ve been taught that no matter what happens you will always have your family and to never turn your back on your own blood.
However, what if the people we call “family” end up hurting us more than loving us? Do we hold on and forget our feelings? Or do we let go and realize that sometimes we have to love even our family at a distance?
Recently, my brother who I haven’t spoken to in two years (of his own doing) sent me a series of hateful text messages. Mind you, the last memory I have with him is hugging and wishing him a safe deployment.
Upon his arrival home from Iraq, he dropped off the grid with his wife and isolated himself from me and all of our close cousins. We tried numerous times to contact and connect with him but he was adamant on cutting ties with all of us. We had no idea why and couldn’t understand what could have possibly happened. So you can imagine when I woke up to hateful text messages two days before my birthday, I was in shock, appalled and hurt.
These messages were filled with hate, anger and curse words calling me every name under the sun and disowning me as a sister. I couldn’t believe he was okay with talking not just to his sister but a woman in such an abusive way. It was a wake up call about the relationship I have and tolerate from my parents and brother.
Through some sleepless nights of crying and feeling sorry for myself, I realized I had to let go and really say goodbye. It’s never an easy decision to close the door between you and your own blood. In the end, I realized the only person who I could change is me and that my family had been only bringing me unhappiness and toxicity.
I couldn’t allow them to drag me into their own dysfunction and abuse again. I had to reclaim my power as a person with feelings and boundaries.
Often times in situations with family, we tend to feel guilty or shame if we decide to cut ties or lessen communication. However, if the relationship is becoming extremely unhealthy, abusive or toxic it is necessary to place some space between you and them for your own well-being. Someone once told me that sometimes you have to teach people how you want to be treated.
If you are in a similar predicament with family or close loved one, here are some tips to help you cope with the loss of saying goodbye:
1. Set boundaries- I have always had trouble expressing my boundaries with my family. I always feel like they never understand my perspective. However through the years I have learned boundaries aren’t for them, they are for me. Whether they choose to listen or respect my concerns is on them, I know I have voiced it. I can then decide how to move forward with the relationship and evaluate whether it is healthy to be in communication or not.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with your family and express them many times if need be. If they aren’t listening or understanding your concerns then you may have to reassess what type of family dynamic is healthy for you.
2. The Funeral- This is an intense and powerful exercise if you are faced with the decision of possibly saying goodbye to your family or cutting all ties.
Write down letters to the family members who have hurt you. Make sure you to do this in a quiet and undisturbed space where you are most clear and at ease. Write from the heart and don’t be afraid to share how you feel. These letters won’t actually be read by those family members.
Imagine that they have passed and you are attending their funeral. What would you want to say to them? After you finish writing your letters, burn them and find a place to hold a memorial or ceremony with their “ashes”.
3. Release Guilt & Blame- If you are feeling guilty about putting space between you and your family, don’t. You are a person with feelings and don’t deserve to be treated less than. Don’t blame yourself or start thinking if you were a certain way or behaved differently perhaps they wouldn’t be the way they are. You are not in the wrong. Whenever anyone treats with you disrespect or abuse, you are never in the wrong. Let go of your guilt and don’t blame yourself for their actions or dysfunction.
Lastly, love yourself and start the journey to heal from the wounds of the past. You deserve it. You are stronger and braver than you know and no one can take away your power unless you give it to them. Trust in your decision to take your space and love your family from a distance. You are giving yourself the best gift of all, true self-love.