Everyone fights with family members and close friends at one time or another. Arguments are part of what makes us human, as true closeness isn’t always about getting along. But what if you have been estranged from a loved one for weeks, months, or years? For those banned from seeing loved ones, the feelings of guilt and loss are overwhelming. For those choosing to stay apart from a family member or friend, the decision does not always come lightly. Either way, estrangement is difficult for everyone involved. Here are the best coping practices:
1. Grieve Without Obsessing
Grieving a once-close relationship is essential for moving forward in life and letting go. Pretending these feelings don’t exist will only increase the anxiety and depression that coincides with estrangement.
However, obsessing about the pain will only result in an endless circle of thoughts. What if I had said this? What if he hadn’t said that? What if I die and I never see him? Because we can’t always know the outcome of our “what if” thoughts, it’s helpful to put a stop sign up when they arise. This doesn’t mean that you are ignoring it or forgetting what happened. Instead, you are living in the now and staying grateful for those relationships you do have.
2. Imagine Life Without This Person
While you shouldn’t give up hope of ever seeing this person again, there is some comfort knowing you can embrace life as it is, without this individual. Focus on those people you do love and all of the joy they give you rather than the absence of joy caused by the estrangement.
Chances are you will be able to survive without seeing this person again, even though it will be difficult and painful. If isolated, try to find new people to bring into your life in whatever way possible.
3. Don’t Let Sadness Define You
If you let the pain overtake you, you’ll likely drive good friends away, struggle with relationships, and be absent from other areas of your life. You deserve much better than this. Try to appreciate the people you have right now and enjoy the time you spend with them.
Focus on being a good employee, friend, husband, wife, son, or daughter. Though it’s important to communicate openly about your feelings from time-to-time, don’t always prioritize the estrangement during conversations.
4. Practice Self-Care
Building a better life requires practicing daily self-care, regardless of how you feel inside. Exercise, a balanced diet, and getting outside are critical for overcoming anxiety and depression.
Find new hobbies that you haven’t been able to do before. Meet new people. Go to new places. Do whatever you have to do to make your life richer and more fulfilling so the pain of the estrangement is not at the top of your mind each day.
5. Live in the Reality of the Moment
Instead of constantly calling and begging to speak with the estranged person, let it go for the time being. While acceptance is difficult, it is the only way to feel free. This doesn’t mean that you have to like the estrangement or accept it forever, it just means that you have decided to accept it for now.
You can revisit the issue in a few months to see whether it may be an appropriate time to reach out. Constantly nagging the person to come back into your life will only push them away further. Give them the space they need and wait for later to act.
Have you been estranged from a loved one? Are you struggling with anxiety and depression? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.