A Thread for Those Who Have Gone No Contact with Family: Does the Loneliness, Isolation, and Grief Ever Get Better?

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
Yes. I went no-contact 20 years ago and don't regret it at all.

The first few years were turbulent - there was a lot of fallout.

But after the dust settled, the benefits started becoming visible.

I have grown, healed and thrived a little bit more each year that I've been no-contact. It's really added up over the years.

Each year I would feel a bit freer, still.

Yes, it's been a difficult journey too... It's hard to find a "substitute family" of sorts. But, we're not the only ones with crappy families... A lot of people struggle with the same stuff and finding people who are in a similar situation really helps - it can become a kind of substitute family, with everyone helping each other replace those things that family usually offers - help when moving house, a couch to sleep on in emergencies, etc.

Personally, I think "family" is a matter of the heart anyway, not a matter of having the same DNA.

I've often wished I had "a family" but I never wished to have MY family back.

So, yes, success stories are definitely possible.

The question is, what do you need to help turn your story into a success too?
I am glad to hear you use words like "thrive". I'm hoping to get there some day....and not just "get by with a longing to go back and talk sense into my daughter." I need to give up the need to "fix" things. I think I've done that a lot in the last couple of years....but I sometimes still have that yearning. I have the same feeling about feeling freer each year......It wasn't until this year, that I believed this new house I live in is really mine. Me was not a strong concept.

I was adopted, and so I was supposed to be wanted.......and my parents were both alcoholics.....and cold....and distant, both bitter about their own upbringing. The concept of "family" isn't what I see on TV....I think looking at it your way.....it is a matter of the heart and not DNA is a helpful and healthier perspective. 😋

I am so different than before when I lived in Dysfunctionland. I'm not afraid all the time, not walking on eggshells, and not constantly hypervigilant. I know I don't want my family back the way they are now. I want my daughter back the way I imagine she can be...so smart with so much potential; and the way I know she can be when not using/drinking, kind, considerate and an excellent teacher........but I really don't want to deal with her dysfunction and unpredictibile behaviors, and inability to feel or empathize...........not the way she has treated me in the more recent years...so very hurtful. I still love her because she's my daughter, but I don't like her behavior the way she is. I can't tolerate how she treats me any more than how the rest of the family treated me. She's gone to the dark side. It was hard setting clear boundaries with my daughter.....and leaving the fixer role (if she had an issue, I was always there not just to support but to fix it)....and when I stopped, she called me mean and crazy.

And there is my grandson, a new child's pure love is so awesome-they love just because they can....because that's what they do...without prejudice or malice; my grandson's was so very precious....so special and so very loving. But part of what made me finally leave the X was watching him, be there on his mother's lap, while they taunted me, had dramatic scenes, made fun of me, and belittled me......and I realized I was watching it happen all over again, to generation 3. I was watching him learn to be like them. I saw glimpses of it happening to the X's children, and now with this generation, I saw it daily happening to my grandson....I was the stepmother....the butt of jokes.....and my grandson was learning how to treat me like shit.....all reinforced by the X and his daughter. I miss my grandson. I taught him the sign for love, and my last memories of him, standing in the truck as I pulled out of the driveway and he didn't know I was crying.....signing I love you with both hands...and me signing back......makes me cry when I think of it. However, I don't miss the abuse from any of those who blatantly abused me and taught him hateful behaviors.

The dust is beginning to settle.....and life is so much calmer and I can see the good in the little things each day....... I think I was in such a fog all the time, that I didn't notice the little things around me. Since the fog has lifted....I'm now entrenched in feelings of loss, grief, and wishful thinking....they can be such a bitch some days, that's for sure. Thanks for your thoughtful and hopeful words.
 
I wonder if you can find "other ways" to feel a connection in your heart to your daughter and grandson?

Maybe you could start a journal for each of them, where you share stuff with them, the way you would like to.

You can give it to them, when your grandson is grown up and when your daughter has one day come to her senses.

I think it would be an incredible treasure to receive such a gift... Proof that someone was thinking of you and loving you, in the time that you couldn't be together.

Also, could you volunteer a couple of times a month with little kids? Many kids and their parents would be incredibly grateful for a grandmother role in their life.

My family moved overseas when I was 7, so I didn't have extended family around, and I remember always having some adopted grandmothers and grandfathers around. They were lovely.

We tend to "cling" to love... Thinking that when we've lost it in some way, that that's the only "real" love and that it's gone.

Sometimes we have to be gently open to different kinds of love, which can be things like journalling for someone or helping with little kids that don't have the grandparents they need.

I reckon you'd be surprised, how heart-filling things like that can be... It can make the loss less aching and acute and easier to live with well.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
This is a powerful statement and one that truly freed me when I recognized that it was a pure belief:
I think because the expectation is that family is fundamental, and there is something wrong with you if you don't have family.....when you do.
There was so much shame when I cut off my mother and I shared with friends who were ironically struggling much more with their families but were wearing badges of honour cause they could stay in relationship. I also grew up a very collective society - where relationship are blood and air!

I relate to your post so much and I just want to hold you and your feelings about this.

I cut off my mother for many times but last time for 6 years. I lost some siblings along the way....they were her minions - re-enforcers. I reconnected with her after therapy and I am more confident and sure about my boundaries. What I am learning is when there is a traumatic family, the one that gets out becomes scapegoat - black sheep, and ostracized but the objective reality is there is a good reason - mental health OR HEALTH - we got out.

People die. I know it is harsh but ultimately we lose people to death or to save ourselves. But it makes me appreciate that I can breathe without being put down, belittled and I may be lonely as I get older (even though luckily I am happily married). personally, I rather die alone and sad than be hated, hating, hostility and the inhumane way my family relates to each other. But I know the feeling of grieve every time I mentioned does not lessened.

It is tough. but I do admire your courage.
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
This is a powerful statement and one that truly freed me when I recognized that it was a pure belief:

There was so much shame when I cut off my mother and I shared with friends who were ironically struggling much more with their families but were wearing badges of honour cause they could stay in relationship. I also grew up a very collective society - where relationship are blood and air!

I relate to your post so much and I just want to hold you and your feelings about this.

I cut off my mother for many times but last time for 6 years. I lost some siblings along the way....they were her minions - re-enforcers. I reconnected with her after therapy and I am more confident and sure about my boundaries. What I am learning is when there is a traumatic family, the one that gets out becomes scapegoat - black sheep, and ostracized but the objective reality is there is a good reason - mental health OR HEALTH - we got out.

People die. I know it is harsh but ultimately we lose people to death or to save ourselves. But it makes me appreciate that I can breathe without being put down, belittled and I may be lonely as I get older (even though luckily I am happily married). personally, I rather die alone and sad than be hated, hating, hostility and the inhumane way my family relates to each other. But I know the feeling of grieve every time I mentioned does not lessened.

It is tough. but I do admire your courage.
Thank you for your very thoughtful response.....it truly hits home, but is very helpful and reinforces my initial reasons for leaving. I can't save those who don't even recognize that they need saving, and it's not my job anyway.....not my responsibility. It has been very hard being the black sheep and being rejected and abused because I left. When I was there, I tried so hard to keep peace in the family.......and it was a relentless and unappreciated role/ job. That burden has been lifted by my leaving.....and I guess there is a void left. What I had as family didn't "feel like family," but it was my normal....which was very abnormal.

Trying to take the non-hateful high road and leave was the best I could do for me. But now, there is that void......that causes me to feel such loss. I need to remind myself, that I left to save me.....it's kind of like I'm waking up from an awful nightmare.....and now that I'm awake, I'm glad it's over.....but I wish it could have ended differently.

I suppose you are right when you say the obvious....we lose people to death or we leave them for whatever personal reasons....and I guess life is all about change....
I never thought of myself as having courage....I think I left for survival.....and I spent some time in a big ol' fog......and now am able to feel the loss, grief, and mourn the outcome. Again, I truly appreciate you taking the time to respond. It is comforting to hear from others who have left to find a better way to live, and who have dealt with the emotional fall-out.
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
I wonder if you can find "other ways" to feel a connection in your heart to your daughter and grandson?

Maybe you could start a journal for each of them, where you share stuff with them, the way you would like to.

You can give it to them, when your grandson is grown up and when your daughter has one day come to her senses.

I think it would be an incredible treasure to receive such a gift... Proof that someone was thinking of you and loving you, in the time that you couldn't be together.

Also, could you volunteer a couple of times a month with little kids? Many kids and their parents would be incredibly grateful for a grandmother role in their life.

My family moved overseas when I was 7, so I didn't have extended family around, and I remember always having some adopted grandmothers and grandfathers around. They were lovely.

We tend to "cling" to love... Thinking that when we've lost it in some way, that that's the only "real" love and that it's gone.

Sometimes we have to be gently open to different kinds of love, which can be things like journalling for someone or helping with little kids that don't have the grandparents they need.

I reckon you'd be surprised, how heart-filling things like that can be... It can make the loss less aching and acute and easier to live with well.
@Sophy (in lockdown) I'm a retired teacher and I now write for a living. I stay connected to high school age kids and started an internship program to assist kids with college expenses in exchange for helping me with the everchanging virtual world. I have a little home based business, and enjoy working with the kids without the politics of education....I've always been about kids, I guess.

I started a college fund for my grandson and am on board with a hope chest for my daughter....putting things in it that I want her to have. I think a journal for them both, is an excellent idea! I did that when my daughter turned 18, made her an emergency journal when she graduated high school....with all kinds of advice (when I look back...most advice was solid with the exception of relationships...I could have done better in that department but I also understand....given that my parents were clueless about the fundamentals of relationships). Thanks for these great ideas...it is very helpful.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
"I'm sorry you feel that way. I have to believe that others who have gone no contact, have found a way to internally reconcile the situation.....and detach themselves with some sense of resolution."

Oh yes @TruthSeeker , I suppose what I said wasn't really clear- though I don't know how to make it so.

The peace and absence of abuse was very good. Loving from a distance (so I thought) was preferable. Giving the freedom for others to live as they choose was essential. Trying for many years before coming to the conclusion it takes 2 people, was reinforcing. After others died, and there was no sense of needing to protect them, it got even less impactful in terms of emotional pain and upheaval. Now, too, the ridiculous comments are, well, I don't take them to heart. One just called me 'a porker' a few months ago, and I weighed 90 lbs. I think, 'your opinion of me is not my business'. But it helped to have other's feedback. Be it big things or small.

When I say seeing another way, I didn't even mean free from addiction, because I don't see that only as a willful choice. I didn't mean it even that they should care about me, because i couldn't make them do so, or be a person they thought worth doing so. Nor was it a desire to connect to prove I had worth vs. being worthless
I only meant it as the benefits of support, family, having each other's backs. having good times, and connection.

Yes everyone does die, but if it's that simple it wouldn't be worth investing in anyone or anything, it would be like everything in life (or every relationship) is like eating a cheese sandwich. (But that's just me.) However, when it comes to addictions or abuse, and humiliation and fear and devastating one's sense of worth, saving yourself is not at the expense of another, I think it's just sanity. But the pain of loss is that. Pain for them. Pain for (myself).

There were times I wondered if it could be overcome, almost went out there. But was counselled against it. And, -they were right. It would have been horrendous.

I think it's normal to think, "Could there have been a better way?" But ultimately, much is over, That is just the truth.

I agree with the others. Try to be kind to yourself. Listen to your heart of hearts and do what that tells you. 🤗
 
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ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
Following this because I’m going to enter in a phase of… perhaps not complete cut, but severe distancing.

When I was 15, I cut contact with my mom on whom I was deeply disappointed after having spent 7 years under my stepdad’s constant emotional abuse. She went back to Lat Am, I remained in Europe. So that was quite a giant distance. After talking back and forth several times, it still was problematic until I was 24. Almost a decade. But as @Survivor3 mentioned, eventually people do change. My mom surely did, and I’m very happy that I can speak to her again in a supporting and sustained way. Unfortunately the Atlantic still sits in the middle.

I am cutting contact with my father since early December. Now the rest of the family is pressuring me to come back in contact, but I just don’t see why. I’m much better since I stopped contact. I’ve never been that close to the rest of my family, but given the fact that recently I completely crashed after the violent relationship I had with my ex, I hadn’t much any other choice than to rely on them for a few things, and I have to say I did expect support and care. All I found was the impression I was a ghost evolving in a place where my presence isn’t desired. By my nationality, by my career choices, even by certain of my opinions that frankly I don’t go imposing around, I just came to the realization that I represent all that they detest and they made me know it not by being overtly aggressive about it, but by constant passive aggression or just ignoring me in certain contexts. So I’m slowly walking away. It’s hard though. I really hoped for support while they ain’t supported shit. I sustained myself until my 28, and the first time I don’t do great, no one’s here, no one cares but feels annoyingly obliged. The passive aggression is really hard to come around because in paper, nothing is wrong, but you have this constant feeling of being alien and repelled. It’s very subtle yet it’s there and it’s painful. It’s painful to leave my young cousin behind whom I love and I see her suffering from the same problems I had, and this just because she’s very lively, not even because of the nationality issue. They just treat women like amusing objects in this family, it’s very disheartening.

But it’s possible to elect another family. I have a few friends who were in similar situations and understand. Often I gave the impression I was "too much," but it was because I was so depleted of a sense of belonging that I looked for it in weird settings, such as friendships. Some people like it, other people do feel offended by it. Over the years you start to discern who really stands by your side. I have 4 friends and a half, of which 2 very strong. It’s already good enough for me.

There are days I pester with this situation and I am angry and depressed with it. Especially when I see functioning families. Other days, I feel quite joyful to try to find my own way through this. But that it’s hard and painful, it is.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
I'm glad you reconciled with your mom @ruborcoraxxx . I'm sorry for what you've been through. 😢

I think you are right to avoid the negative or where you aren't welcome. I think -who knows?- even one sister of mine told the other on her deathbed she had always been jealous of her and thought she had it so easy. ( 😲 O.M.G.). Who knows why people act as they do?

One thing in their favour is if they helped, and didn't throw it in your face. Something to work off of there.

But it’s possible to elect another family. I have a few friends who were in similar situations and understand. Often I gave the impression I was "too much," but it was because I was so depleted of a sense of belonging that I looked for it in weird settings, such as friendships. Some people like it, other people do feel offended by it. Over the years you start to discern who really stands by your side. I have 4 friends and a half, of which 2 very strong. It’s already good enough for me.
I would have thought so, too. Oddly, someone abusive said to me, you will see for yourself eventually, that ^^ won't be so. And, they were right. But I am 25 years older than you, sorry I lived long enough to see that truth, tbh. I was happier in my heart thinking that was possible. Hopefully however it will be for you. I've met a couple of people who said were it not for 1 or 2 good friends... Rarely (also) have I ever heard people say that about most family, except about their spouses or on rare occasion about one or 2 of their kids.

In the meantime, hope you can give yourself some gentle care, Hugs to you. Better times ahead, xox. 🤗
 

Muttly

MyPTSD Pro
I forget how many years it's been since I disconnected. (yay, dissociation). Probably about 10 years? My abusive father is getting old and I think about reaching out before he dies. But with my family it seems to be all or nothing. If I reach out to him the rest of the family will start back in. And I have also been stalked by them, as well as threats and verbal abuse. I need to be strong enough to deal with that before I reach out. And honestly, I'm not sure what I would accomplish.

I miss having family though. It's been worse this year, because of covid and my health issues. But I also have a family of choice and they are amazing people who have shown me that you can care about people and not abuse each other. And there's been so many good times and good memories with them. And life has been much more stable for me outside the tornado. When I miss family I remind myself of that. That inside the tornado is painful, turbulent and I lose my feeling of agency.

I'm sorry you are struggling with this
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
Following this because I’m going to enter in a phase of… perhaps not complete cut, but severe distancing.

When I was 15, I cut contact with my mom on whom I was deeply disappointed after having spent 7 years under my stepdad’s constant emotional abuse. She went back to Lat Am, I remained in Europe. So that was quite a giant distance. After talking back and forth several times, it still was problematic until I was 24. Almost a decade. But as @Survivor3 mentioned, eventually people do change. My mom surely did, and I’m very happy that I can speak to her again in a supporting and sustained way. Unfortunately the Atlantic still sits in the middle.

I am cutting contact with my father since early December. Now the rest of the family is pressuring me to come back in contact, but I just don’t see why. I’m much better since I stopped contact. I’ve never been that close to the rest of my family, but given the fact that recently I completely crashed after the violent relationship I had with my ex, I hadn’t much any other choice than to rely on them for a few things, and I have to say I did expect support and care. All I found was the impression I was a ghost evolving in a place where my presence isn’t desired. By my nationality, by my career choices, even by certain of my opinions that frankly I don’t go imposing around, I just came to the realization that I represent all that they detest and they made me know it not by being overtly aggressive about it, but by constant passive aggression or just ignoring me in certain contexts. So I’m slowly walking away. It’s hard though. I really hoped for support while they ain’t supported shit. I sustained myself until my 28, and the first time I don’t do great, no one’s here, no one cares but feels annoyingly obliged. The passive aggression is really hard to come around because in paper, nothing is wrong, but you have this constant feeling of being alien and repelled. It’s very subtle yet it’s there and it’s painful. It’s painful to leave my young cousin behind whom I love and I see her suffering from the same problems I had, and this just because she’s very lively, not even because of the nationality issue. They just treat women like amusing objects in this family, it’s very disheartening.

But it’s possible to elect another family. I have a few friends who were in similar situations and understand. Often I gave the impression I was "too much," but it was because I was so depleted of a sense of belonging that I looked for it in weird settings, such as friendships. Some people like it, other people do feel offended by it. Over the years you start to discern who really stands by your side. I have 4 friends and a half, of which 2 very strong. It’s already good enough for me.

There are days I pester with this situation and I am angry and depressed with it. Especially when I see functioning families. Other days, I feel quite joyful to try to find my own way through this. But that it’s hard and painful, it is.
@ruborcoraxxx I totally relate to the "find another family"....people who are what you expect out of human beings....respectul, kind, communicative, welcoming, caring, and who walk their talk and treat others as they want to be treated. These are the kind of people who you can trust.....and over time, becoming an "adopted" family member is a real feel good. I think that having boundaries with my friend between my "dysfunctional family issues" is super important. Family shit-because it's so dysfunctional, is dealt with in therapy. I don't involve my best friend anymore than is necessary in my old family crap-and try not to talk negatively about them because I don't want to set her up in a "helper/pseudotherapist role".......which then changes the power balance to I'm not okay, and she becomes Ms Fix-it. So boundaries between crazy family when you have a good friend who works as a guidance counselor, is important to a healthy relationship. I want friends who get together to have fun. You can't have fun and dog your family at the same time....that's a downer.......and it can get to be old news for the friend. So when I have issues with my family......even though I'm no contact....(but they occasionally find a way to irritate me), then I deal with those issues solely with my therapist and not those I rely on for friendship and support.

I have been able to resolve my feelings about the ex and bro, but not as much the daughter-that will take more time, I think. I miss her so much, and hurt for her that she's where she is......and is being manipulated......it's a mother thing. But she's an adult.....and capable of making her own decisions, and cleaning up her own messes she creates with her own choices.

Finally, what you said is so true. When you get away from the dysfunctional behavior, and you are not around people who treat you like a no-one, then you can become someone.....who you were meant to be.......someone special, with special talents. You have no one to take away the remote, no one's expectations daily, no one to tell you what you are doing wrong or criticize you, or tell you how to believe or live your life. At first, when I moved I felt alone and a strong part of me wanted to belong.........and felt so alone without them.......but quickly I learned to hear "quiet". When I thought about my drama-ridden home being quiet.....it was never quiet.....someone was always saying something negative. But in my own home, I can hear quiet.....and it feels safe because it is quiet and there is no criticism (maybe from the cats when their pan wasn't clean) but I really was able to break out of the mold when I got to the point that I was alone and could hear the sound of quiet. I'm no longer the black sheep in my home. Life is much better living in solitude....Back there with the dysfunctionals, I'd never have attempted taking down glass tiles off the backsplash.......I wasn't good enough, or skilled enough, women didn't do that.....and if a woman tried her effort would be crap and met with ridicule. It's happening in my kitchen now, that glass tile is coming off the wall.....and I'm gaining more new skills and confidence in trying new things and fixing things as a result. So the point, good can come out of a bad experience......and being on your own, can help you gain self-confidence, create boundaries to keep you and your relationships feeling safe, and also you have space to find your value system that you want to live by.
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
I forget how many years it's been since I disconnected. (yay, dissociation). Probably about 10 years? My abusive father is getting old and I think about reaching out before he dies. But with my family it seems to be all or nothing. If I reach out to him the rest of the family will start back in. And I have also been stalked by them, as well as threats and verbal abuse. I need to be strong enough to deal with that before I reach out. And honestly, I'm not sure what I would accomplish.

I miss having family though. It's been worse this year, because of covid and my health issues. But I also have a family of choice and they are amazing people who have shown me that you can care about people and not abuse each other. And there's been so many good times and good memories with them. And life has been much more stable for me outside the tornado. When I miss family I remind myself of that. That inside the tornado is painful, turbulent and I lose my feeling of agency.

I'm sorry you are struggling with this
My disfunctional family is an all or nothing.....kinda cult-like family. You are a part of the family....or you are not part of the family-very simply. Follow the rules, we can keep you around to poke fun at you, or don't follow the rules and you really aren't accepted as a good family member and you no longer belong.......and when you leave, it's a disowning....in my case anyway, with creepy check up on me shit....photographs, drive by, etc.

Oh, and my therapist used the tornado example.....yes, I'm definately on the outside of the tornado, and that's where I plan to stay.
 

Muttly

MyPTSD Pro
Your family sounds a lot like mine. It's why the no contact is so needed on my side. Because if I start again, they all start. And you can't have a relationship with just one person. They all get involved. It's so crazy making. And as far as creepy stuff. After I went no contact, my brother went so far as to call work and ask to speak to my manager.
 
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