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Isolation is a common effect of estrangement (you're not alone)

Note: If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National

Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Your life matters.

When someone becomes estranged from a family member, it can be very isolating

because it's as if a door that was previously open or cracked has started to become

closed and a new chapter or phase in life is taking place. Even if we don't talk to

someone regularly or hold a deep relationship with them, the emotional distance felt

can be painful to bear - and for some people, additional family members may find

themselves exiting the picture as well because they may fear standing up & speaking

out, they may feel that they have to choose sides or they may disagree with a person's decision to cut off someone in the family altogether.

Those who've cut off (or been cut off by) family members may suddenly feel as though they have no one to turn to or lean on. They may also struggle to talk about what they're going through with friends, coworkers, or other family members because of stigma and fear of losing these connections.

The American Psychological Association (APA) explains that isolation and loneliness can lead to many negative health consequences if not treated early on. Dr. Louise Hawkley, a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago, explained:

"Chronic loneliness is likely to set in when individuals don't have the emotional, mental or financial resources to get out and satisfy their social needs or they lack a social circle that can provide these benefits."

Between the loss of a relationship with a family member and feelings of isolation, it's crucial for those estranged to seek help from a mental health professional and find sources for support.

Isolation isn't the only after effect of estrangement - low self-esteem is, too

Loss of a relationship with a family member very often feels like rejection

(and in a way, it is). A person may feel as though they're not good enough - that

they're unlovable, too difficult, too needy, or don't "deserve" loving relationships with

others. In one study, researchers found that daughters who perceived

rejection from their mother was likely to:

A) Experience ongoing challenges with relationships throughout their life;

B) Perceive their life as conflicted because their core relationship with their mother

was rocky;

C) Notice missing fundamental "links" in their relationship with their mother

It makes sense that we might experience low self-esteem with estrangement because, in a way, it's similar to a break-up - Brown University explains that for people who are in dysfunctional family situations, it's common for issues such as low-self esteem, difficulties in relationships and other areas of life to be negatively affected because of abusive family patterns, such as:

  • Being ridiculed, criticized, discounted, or ignored

  • Being placed in a situation where you had to take a side in conflicts between parents

  • Feeling confused as a change, in reality, seems to "shift" between what a family member says happened in a situation versus what a person actually experienced or observed

  • Excessive control over what a person is allowed to do, the friends they're allowed to have, their privacy, etc.

  • And more

Overcoming low self-esteem takes time. A good place to start is to find one person whom you can trust and rely on for support. This could be a friend, another family member, a coworker, or someone you've met through online support groups. If you're able to seek help from a mental health professional, this could be a very healthy outlet to discuss how you feel and to explore options for healing. Awareness is the first step to begin moving beyond low-self esteem that stems from estrangement issues; this article breaks down some other ways that family dysfunction could be affecting your self-perception and mental health.

Mental illness concerns can become exasperated through the trauma of estrangement.

While not enough research has been done in this area, depression, stress, and anxiety are

likely to be common outcomes for many people in this situation because the life they

came to understand has suddenly shifted.

Whether the estrangement was for better or worse, there is still an adjustment period involved and it's important that you give yourself time to feel your emotions in a safe space.

Together Estranged is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports and empowers people estranged from family members due to abuse, neglect, trauma, lack of acceptance after coming out as LGBTQ+ and more. We actively work to de-stigmatize estrangement. You can learn more by visiting our social media pages and website at

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