Are you a mother with no current relationship with your own mother?

As part of my doctoral training, I am researching the experiences of adult daughters who do not have an ongoing relationship with their mother, which may or may not be through their own choice, and who have since become mothers themselves.

I am therefore looking for mothers (over age 18 year) who have been estranged from their mother (biological) for at least 2 years to participate in my research. This will involve taking part in an interview of approximately 1 hour, held in a quiet and neutral place near to where you live. 

If you may be interested in being part of this project, please feel free to call or email me to have an initial informal discussion. More information about this project is available by clicking here.

Mobile:  +33 6 49 24 90 85

Email:  sarah.barcham@metanoia.ac.uk

The Pain of Family Estrangement

“There must be room in love for hate.” — Mary Peacock

Definitions of estrangement vary, but at its most basic, estrangement can be understood as the breakdown of a relationship between family members. 

The experience of family estrangement is deeply personal, complex and unique, and there can often be a sense of secrecy and shame surrounding the experience. Individuals estranged from one or more family members, tend to feel the need to hide their situation from others, particularly in case of close family relationships such as parent-child estrangement.

Estrangement can be an intensely stigmatising process, with adult-children being condemned for estranging an ageing parent and similarly, a parent may be harshly judged for ostracising a child. Hence, disclosing their estrangement from members of their family is something that people usually go to great lengths to avoid.

However, the secrecy and silence surrounding the intense hurt of estrangement means there is a lack of support for those experiencing it, particularly within immediate social and wider support networks. Research indicates that family estrangement may not be such a rare occurrence as we might think and of course, estrangement is difficult to quantify since it tends to be such an isolating experience with individuals concealing or minimising their experience to others. 

Estrangement between a parent and a child can be seen as particularly acute, given the uniqueness of this relationship, and the parent-child bond is often socially perceived as permanent and therefore unbreakable. The relationship between a mother and child is arguably one of the most emotionally charged and therefore the most wounding when it breaks down.

Notwithstanding the reasons leading up to a family estrangement, there is an inevitable experience of loss. Often, the losses are multiple and may be felt at different levels by those that are estranged, and arguably the loss is more difficult to reconcile when the one that has been lost is still there. These losses can also extend across the generations involving siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and grandchildren. This loss has been referred to as ‘disenfranchised grief’ – a loss that cannot be openly mourned or acknowledged (Doka, 1989). This can leave the grieving person feeling inhibited from seeking and receiving support.

However alone someone might feel, seeking support from close friends where possible, or from an experienced psychotherapist who is independent from your circumstances, can offer a way to make sense of your experience and move forward.

References:

Doka, K.J. (1989) Disenfranchised grief. Jossey-Bass.

Expat Relationships : Keeping Your Relationship Healthy

“We are never so vulnerable as when we love.” — Sigmund Freud

Moving overseas is both exciting and anxiety provoking.

A move abroad at any time of life presents a considerable adjustment, with new surroundings to navigate, building friendships, perhaps another language to learn, finding out about cultural differences – the list goes on!

Couples and families move for many different reasons – career, lifestyle or something else entirely. However prepared you may or may not have felt, things can feel extremely challenging at times. It is during significant periods of change that we find intimate relationships tend to come under increased pressure. With our in-built need for security, stability and connection with others, these needs become amplified during periods of change.

Expat relationships

When partners have trouble responding lovingly and sensitively to one another during periods of increased pressure and changes in circumstances, feelings of disconnection can mount and couples can feel increasingly misunderstood and unsteady in their relationship. If this continues, over time, relationship problems can escalate – sometimes to the point where things feel lost or hopeless.

You have made a major life change and it is understandable things have impacted on your relationship – that is difficult for anyone. Big changes make us all feel vulnerable on some level and everyone responds to this differently. Some things that can help are to give yourself time, and to try to be understanding with yourself, and one another, about the challenges you have been experiencing.

Patience and consistency are key too – it can take some time to re-build your connection with one another. Relationships require energy, nurturing and patience to flourish – even more so during the most challenging and demanding periods, but of course, this is often when there are less internal resources available for one another.

Remind yourselves of all the good things about your partner – you might have lost sight of these recently! This is especially important if you find yourself in a negative and blaming pattern with one another. To get back into seeing one another more positively and warmly, try to remember what you love about your partner – what each person brings to the relationship and to value one another. Try to put your energy into seeing these special qualities in action and noticing them.

Or it may be that the time has come where you feel you need some support to help you get things back on track together. This is where some couples therapy can be of help, particularly when communication has become increasingly challenging. It can be difficult to take this step – some might feel they are admitting defeat. However, retrieving a relationship becomes harder the longer things go on unresolved.