Why would I write about estrangement in adulthood? Because I’m shedding a brighter light on my life throughout this blog. I wrote about gaslighting, which is a form of emotional abuse earlier. Way before that I wrote many posts on depression and burnout. One of the factors adding to my depression is the estrangement from my family (not by choice) and from my mother, which I needed to ‘chose’. Interested in the topic of the mother-daughter bond, I decided to look into some research. In this post I’ll take you through some outcomes of a specific study that captured my attention.
From 1629 invites, 807 people joined the survey
Hidden voices  is conducted by Dr Lucy Blake in collaboration with Stand Alone Charity and its beneficiaries. An online survey via personal invite to members of the Stand Alone community, was created with the aim of examining the experiences and psychological consequences of estrangement from a family member (2015). As my interest was peaked by the mother-daughter estrangement, I selected mostly that topic.
Adult family estrangement can be understood as the breakdown of a supportive relationship between family members.
Some facts about family estrangement in adulthood.
54% of 807 people agreed with the statement ‘estrangement or relationship breakdown is common in our family’. Family estrangements are not always stable and cycling in and out of estrangement is common, particularly for respondents who were estranged from their mothers.
I must admit that in my family bonds are not that stable and if they are, it is not by choice but by necessity. My mother broke up with my father before I was born and relationships with that part of the family were almost absent. My grandmother visited twice a year, I never knew my grandfather from fathers side. The contact with my father was difficult due to parental alienation, a phenomenon that will be discussed further on. Long story short, no tears were shed when people disappeared from each other’s life. Politics come to play too as many people ‘dissapeared’ under the Communist regime.
Back to the survey; 68% felt that there was stigma around the topic of estrangement and described feeling judged, feeling as if they were contradicting societal expectations and felt there was a general lack of understanding about estrangement.
Going no contact with my mother took me for starters a very long time to decide. I tried out other options before taking that big step. A year later I found myself in therapy suffering anxiety, which I didn’t realize at the time. Physical distance came at a price but also brought some positives. I kept my story silent for the longest time. I felt like people would not understand what I was going through and why such a radical decision would be necessary. I felt like I was really the odd one out. Through blogging and reading other people’s story, it slowly began to dawn on me that I wasn’t that weird as I thought.
Looking for research my eyes are more open now. Estrangement in families is not that uncommon. What I discovered in this study helped me to realize that and I like to share it with you. Maybe you’re struggling too and thinking that you are all alone in this predicament. Well, you’re not. People aren’t perfect and families aren’t perfect. Things do happen and they can hurt. They can turn your life upside down and back again. I want to write to share my findings to shed light on this topic, to step forward from the shadow that keeping secrets can put us into. Let’s start with the why, who and when.
Why do relationships between family members breakdown?
Who initiated the estrangement? Those estranged from parents were more likely to report having initiated the estrangement, whereas those estranged from children were more likely to report that their son or daughter had cut contact with them. As I said before I ‘chose’ to cut contact. Why in brackets because there was really no other option, no other choice at that point. I was around 28 and struggling for a long time. Respondents who had cut contact with a parent reported doing so at various ages across the lifespan, with most having done so in their late 20s and early 30s.
To conclude this post they asked respondents to what extent they agreed with the following statement:
We could never have a functional relationship in the future.
Most respondents who were estranged from a parent answered ‘strongly agree’ to this statement. Whereas for those respondents estranged from an adult child, most respondents answered ‘I don’t know’ or ‘strongly disagree.’ This is something that I find so peculiar and it comes back in other articles I read. I can’t wrap my head around it, I must admit that. Daughters can pinpoint to specific actions or a feeling that is tied up directly with the behavior of the mother. While mothers seem to have a very different outlook on things. Sometimes they ‘blame’ the estranged child as being too difficult, rebellious, abusing themselves but not linking the dots.
To really wrap up we’re going to look at what the mothers and daughters wishes are in terms of their relationship. Maybe a little surprising most wishes are the same. What do people – estranged from their mother – wish was different? A relationship that was more positive, unconditionally loving, warm and emotionally close. More accepting and respectful, and less critical and judgmental. A relationship in which there was a greater recognition of hurtful behavior. Those are very powerful words for me as I’m astonished how well they are also ‘my’ words or wishes.
“I wish I had a mother that loved me and wanted the best for me. I wish my mother was my best friend and someone I could trust.”
“I wish that she would be willing to own up to her mistakes, so we could work on things together and have a functional and healthy connection. I love her, but I am just not comfortable talking with her anymore since she refuses to move forward.”
What do mothers wish in regards to contact with their daughters? They wish for a relationship that is more positive, unconditionally loving, warm and emotionally close. A relationship in which there was more contact – to know how they are. In which they are given access to seeing grandchildren.
“I wish we could have a relationship where we would be allowed to see our granddaughter. Perhaps start back on a low contact level where we just talked to each other a few times a year or so. I would love to see it be a normal loving relationship like we have with our younger daughter, but so many things have happened and she has been so filled with hate toward us, I don’t see how that is possible.”
“I wish we could still have contact and a relationship. I wish I could be there for her and support her. I wish we could talk about any issues that led to her cutting all contact. I wish I had the opportunity to ‘make amends’ for anything that has gone wrong in the past. I wish I could have been a better mother to her.”
Thank you for reading so far and please let me know in the comments if this post resonated with you in some way. I would like to read blogs or experiences that touch on those topics as I feel it would help me a lot in my journey. I also love to read your thoughts about estrangement. As it is not so uncommon as I thought, I believe I can learn a thing or two from the blogging community. So any thoughts, stories, tips, remarks or questions are very welcome.
Notes, further reads, references and credits.
Note 1. This post is written through my personal lens on the topic. I am biased. My opinions are limited to my situation and therefore I didn’t discuss other possible situations. Meaning I selected specific quotes from the survey and I take a specific stand on the matter. I would like to lessen the stigma for daughters struggling with the mother-daughter bond. In no way, shape or form I’m attacking daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, siblings or other family members who find themselves in such a situation. Every situation is unique, every family is and every person is.
Note 2. I didn’t find any references to physical or sexual abuse in this survey. Maybe I didn’t understood it well enough, but this seems odd to me.
 Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge
 Full survey ‘Hidden Voices. Estrangement in adulthood.’ (2015).
All quotes are cited from the survey ‘Hidden Voices’.
For further information you can contact: Becca Bland: firstname.lastname@example.org