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Cutting Birth family ties and anxiety

Community Member

Hi, any thoughts you can offer about this will be greatly appreciated. I'm in my mid 50s and my brothers and sisters are 6 to 15 years older. My experience of family growing up was very different from theirs. They had left home and then our mother died. I experienced chaos and abuse from my father and step mother (both now deceased). After many decades of depression, I now feel very anxious about everything in general but particularly family matters. We have never discussed anything about family or our mother and any attempts to do so have been swept under the rug. As someone who needs to have concerns and feelings out in the open and discussed, I have been shut down so many times by them. I am now not invited to family gatherings and now hardly see any of them because I will ask the difficult questions about why I'm being excluded and now almost shunned as if I am too difficult to deal with. Honestly I don't think I am and I would be the first to criticize me!! I feel so much better not having to deal with them and I guess they must feel the same. Is it ok to just let those family relationships slide?

I feel guilty not making the effort but their comments and snide remarks make me so anxious. They are quick to put me down in very oblique ways. I feel I am still the little girl waiting for their understanding and encouragement and approval - I never got it then and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get it now. I get along well with my husband's family so I do have family and our own kids. I feel so different from my brothers and sisters that there's not much in common anyway and what was in common has all gone. It's much easier without them in my life. Has anyone experienced something like this?

6 Replies 6

Community Member

Hi Serenna, I too am around the same age as you and was raised in a very dysfunctional family. There was never any sister love as we were all probably fighting for survival in our own ways and to afraid to lean on each other. Fast forward to 2008 I was caring for my ill father (also an alcoholic). Five years earlier my mother took her own life...she had endured 47 years of emotional and physical abuse from my father. I dont know how I cared for him but i did. During that time my 2 sisters continually criticised me on how and what i should be doing to help him. Early 2010 my father also suicided in the house while i was present. I will probably never overcome the tragic scene and have terrible nightmares. On the day it happened my older sister held me responsible for his death but she did not ask me how i was coping. I have depression and PTSD after being being bullied by my sisters the majority of my life because they were taught from a very young age to otracise and shame me as i am deaf and i was seen to be an embarrassment and a lesser person to my family.

It has been 7 long years since i have heard from them despite me trying to make some inroads with them after our fathers funeral. My sisters are both very self righteous and I thought I could mend our relationships..wrong..They continued to shame and criticise and treat me with contempt.

After much crying, grieving and wishing I eventually had to let go of the possibility of ever having my sisters in my life again. It hurts still but I know it will hurt more if I try to mend our relationships. These days I just take care of myself and try too see them as just people on their own journey. I still love them but I do not like them.

Our family was so fractured from early days that it will be a miracle if my sisters ever come forward to try and recover as a family.

I feel for you Serenna and know the pain of wanting to be accepted and loved as a member of your family unit but repeatedly shunned.

I hope this has helped you a little. Hugs for you Serenna x

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Serenna and Celery

You have both painted disturbing accounts of your blood family and its demise. Reality is, its common for whatever reason and although every case is different they all play a similar final tune- alienation from other members of your family.

Is there an answer? Not really, if you cannot reconcile in a peaceful way then we must turn the focus from them to ourselves. Finally we have to become selfish and that isnt easy when you are not of that ilk.

My sister and l cast our mother adrift in 2010. We drew a line in the sand. What was that line and where was it drawn?. It was drawn in the sand to protect our mental wellbeing. We both knew the power of our matriarch mother dearest, that we'd lose family members she'd manipulate and after 50 years of trying, tolerating and putting up with narcissism...it was time.

If you are tormented by the attitudes of your family then why torment yourself further by trying longer? Some people might be able to continue on and meet once a year and exchange pleasantries, good, but its rare.

Ive recently lost my youngest daughter from my life. She first left my life at 14yo, re-entered it last year at 24yo and our relationship over these last few months displayed the same contempt for me her mother had, the same lack of respect and the same rudeness. It wasnt workable.

Although she broke the relationship off who did it is irrelevant. What is important here is that l have tried my best, l have to move on and survive with my remaining daughter and my other loyal and wonderful family members.

Once l got rid of my nature that of "saving the world" l then embraced a realistic world of expectation, obligation, love and tolerance.

It doesnt mean I'll stop thinking about my child nor that nurturing side to my mother. It does mean l cannot live with their attitudes and contemptuous manner.

Thats ok l tell myself. I'm no superman. I'm Tony and l am not responsible for maintaining relationships that are not sustainable.

Thankyou for this post.

Tony WK

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Dear Serenna.

I feel your pain and understand those feelings of alienation and loneliness. You have suffered alot and clearly deserve better. In my own experience, I have learnt to accept the way things have unfolded, even though it hasn't always been the way I would have liked. I would love to be loved by my sisters and to enjoy good times together but I know that my expectations are unrealistic. The main reason for this is very similar to your situation... we cannot change the way other people think. They have formed their views based on their own reality and they will treat us according to those views. We therefore cannot allow their opinions to affect us as they don't see the world the way we do. We must look inside and be gentle and forgiving towards ourselves and choose to surround ourselves with the people who make us feel worthy.

In all the years I have suffered I realise that I was missing out on enjoying the wonderful things life has to offer. Then one day I said to myself 'this has to stop. I cannot continue to allow my sisters and mother to sabotage my happiness any longer'. It was a major wake-up moment. All those years I suffered when I was with them and couldn't wait until the day I turned 18 and could have my own passport so that I could leave the country and be far away from them. And yet the suffering continued... ... I placed too much emphasis on not having a good relationship with them and not enough emphasis on enjoying the friendship opportunities that life presented to me along the day.

I see that now and I am so much happier. I recently turned 50 and decided it's about time that I am happy!! I no longer require validation and love from my sisters and mother because I have everything I need right here, right now. Ironically, one of my sisters is now edging closer to me as an ally and we have agreed to spend some time together later this year. Who would have thought!!!

What I'm trying hard to work on now is my thoughts and feelings about these people who have always managed to bring me down. I am going to learn to forgive them and accept that I am just as happy without them in my life. I hope in my heart that in being more accepting and forgiving I will be more relaxed about whatever the outcome of future interactions with challenging people. I will be resilient and not allow their negativity to affect me. It will be hard but I am optimistic.

Wishing you strength and love.


Community Member
Thanks very much for your thoughts Celery, I really appreciate them and they have helped. I read your post and then was without a computer for a few days and during that time could really think about just letting go. I can feel the anguish your situation has caused you but you are in a better place now. In the end it does come down to looking after yourself and those closest to you. A family fracturing early seems to me to be particularly hard because there's not a lot to hang on to. Thanks again.

Thanks Tony WK, your thoughts are so clear and very well expressed and that helps a lot because my own thoughts go round and round and turn into a stew. You're right it is useless to try to apportion blame and hope that my siblings will be persuaded by me - it's not going to happen. Your last statement is great - "I am not responsible for maintaining relationships that are not sustainable" Thanks again for your thoughts. They are very much appreciated.

Community Member
Thanks very much for your thoughts Hermosa. There must be something about being in your 50s and making these types of decisions about what is important in your life and what needs to be left out of it. Your advice is very helpful. It is a hard thing to do but necessary and I am glad you are optimistic. I think I am too and that it will eventually get easier and not feel like such a torment because the evidence is that it is better not to be caught up in their negativity and jealousy. I do struggle to be accepting and forgiving but I hope to change that. Thanks for your thoughts.