Barbara Bush once said, "To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there."
Her words are heartwarming, and in a perfect world, all families would be blessed with that kind of relationship. Unfortunately, ours is not a perfect world, and some families experience estrangement from time to time. The disunity is usually temporary and rectified through humility and forgiveness. Both sides come to the realization the familial relationship should be cherished.
But what happens when an olive branch is offered and refused? When one party insists on carrying grudges and refuses to accept responsibility for their part in the conflict?
After several attempts at reconciliation, each with the same results, it is time to let go. No matter how willing one is to continue absorbing the hurt and deceit, there comes the point when the efforts are counterproductive. The relationship's toxicity can wreak havoc on a person … mentally, physically, and spiritually. No one should have to suffer consequences for another's heartlessness, be it from family or not.
Disengaging any relationship is akin to death, especially when it is a family member. We experience something called unconventional grief. We mourn the person who was. Someone who used to be an integral part of our life, the one who could be counted on, the one who accepts our love and reciprocates.
Unconventional grief, in many ways, is harder to navigate because the person is still alive and, in particular circumstances, continuing the toxic behavior. Today's technology, specifically social media, makes letting go virtually impossible. Friends and other family members see something and feel compelled to tell us or grow curious and look for ourselves out of concern.
What can be done?
* Allow ourselves to grieve the loss, no matter how long it takes.
* Reach out to other family members, friends, and clergy.
* Let our friends and family know we appreciate their concern but ask them to refrain from sharing things they read or hear.
* Block the family member on social media and resist the temptation to unblock to "see what is going on."
* In the silence of our hearts, tell the family member we love and forgive them.
* Keep the family member in prayer.
* Enjoy and cherish the loving relationships we have with others.