Cutting Ties with Family? Consider This Before You Do
Wednesday, March 30 2016 Taylor Arthur
Before cutting ties with family, take time to heal yourself and forgive them. Admittedly, no one can wound us like our families can. Even if we rarely spend time with our families, no one can topple self-esteem and wound us deeply like our families. In families with a lot of dysfunction (every family has some, right?), it can be easy to get overwhelmed by repeated hurts. Sometimes it seems like the best way to heal that hurt is to cut ties with your family. But before cutting ties with your family, take time to heal yourself and forgive them before making this life-altering decision.
Before Cutting Ties with Family, Heal Yourself
Working to unearth the hidden emotional wounds you carry will help you heal yourself first. My first amazing therapist, Dr. Phyllis Bentley-Bales, used to tell me again and again,
A grown-up’s job is to get over their childhood.
In other words, a grown-up’s job is to work at healing old wounds, even if those wounds were inflicted by others. No one benefits from allowing old wounds to fester. These old wounds only continue to affect our lives negatively (Feeling the Feelings). Maybe you can't control what another person did to you, but you can control how you deal with that hurt. Healing yourself allows you to move on with your life. Find the steps of forgiveness in Healing Aspects of PTSD With Forgiveness.
Before Cutting Ties with Family, Forgive
No matter how you’ve been hurt--whether it was abuse or just plain dysfunction--it is in your best interest to forgive your family members. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean letting them back in your life. Healing yourself allows you to move on with your life. If your goal is to heal your wounds and lead a happy, productive life, forgiveness is key. Forgiveness can take many forms. You may never be able to physically meet your abuser and tell them you forgive them. That’s okay. You may never want to forgive a toxic family member face-to-face because it might result in yet another harmful exchange. That’s okay, too. In Forgiveness and PTSD: Releasing Trauma or Excusing the Guilty?, author Michelle Rosenthal quotes her interview with Dr. Margaret Nagib about the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation:
Forgiveness can happen and we still remain disconnected from the person who hurt us. There are people I have forgiven that I will never see again. Reconciliation takes two. That is, both parties have to be willing. We can forgive and not reconcile.
Maybe forgiveness happens through writing a letter. Maybe you send that letter to the person; maybe you read it to your therapist or a trusted confidant. Maybe you burn the letter, or bury it. Whatever it takes for you to get closure in a safe and healthy manner, do it. What matters the most is that you settle the issue with that person in your own heart so that you heal yourself and move on with your life.
Once forgiveness has occurred, you are in the right place to make the decision as to whether you should cut ties with your family. But once you have healed yourself, you just might find there is more space in your life and your heart than you were able to see while you were hurting.
Cutting Ties with Family May Not Be Your Only Option
Whether you cut ties with family or not, healing yourself first will enable you to make a decision based on what is best for you, instead of reacting to the hurt others have caused you. Once you heal yourself, you may discover cutting family out isn't necessary. When you have taken the time to address your pain, there may be more options available than you could see before. Maybe setting stricter boundaries (Setting Functional Boundaries) will help your specific family situation. No matter what you decide, taking the time to address your own needs through healing and forgiveness will help you decide whether cutting ties with your family is the healthiest decision for you.
Taking Time Off Before Cutting Ties With Family
For more on making space to heal yourself and your family relationships, watch my video: