Support Groups for adult children with estranged families?
November 5, 2013 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Is there such a thing? I tried searching some, but I dunno, maybe I'm not searching right because I didn't find anything.

Years ago I cut off all contact with all family members. And I mean ALL contact with ALL of them. I even had to get a lawyer involved and had my father sent a Cease & Desist. My only regret has been not doing it sooner. It actually started by me estranging the main emotional abuser which was my father. But the estrangement then grew to all members of my blood relatives when it became clear that none of them were ever going to accept the fact that I was never going to see or speak to my father again. I wasted a good deal of my 20's trying to be civil and trying to compromise towards people who refused to do the same for me. Finally I had to ask myself whether I was willing to spend my 30's and 40's this way too and the answer was a resounding NO.

Though life in general has been happier and better without them, I have found that there were lots of people who did not understand my decision and judged me for it. Such as people who come from supportive families and the concept of there being a bad parent in existence is something they have trouble comprehending despite what they see on the news every day. And then there are people who continue to be abused by their families, but haven't seen the light yet and think it's their own fault.- these too will judge you for not having contact with your family. At one point a "friend" of mine took it upon himself to try to initiate a family reunion without my consent or knowledge because he claimed "no one should disown their parents." This betrayal was so traumatic for me I never really recovered from it and I fell into a severe depression. This was someone I was a good friend to for 5 years and he betrays me and our friendship and instead took the side of people he had never even met! My friendship with him was severed and I had to move and erase my tracks from my family all over again. From that point forward I decided I was done with being judged for my decision and having to explain myself to people who were bound not to understand. I began to just tell everyone who asked that my parents were dead and that I was an only child. I feel bad about lying to people sometimes, but now that my parents are "dead" at least I'm no longer judged as "bad child" by people who barely know me and I don't have to worry about anyone betraying my whereabouts to my family again. However it would be nice to know a group of people who went through something similar where I can be honest without fear of rejection, judgement or sabotage. Do such groups exist?
posted by manderin to Human Relations (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Try emailing these guys: Stand Alone. They may not be able to set you up with a local group, as they're UK based and brand new, but they may have some advice.

You could also try a more 'general' support group.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:40 AM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think you will find a ton of people who relate in 12-step groups - Codependents Anonymous might be a really good fit based on the info you mentioned. LOTS of people in those groups have had to distance themselves from toxic family members.

If you go to a meeting and you don't feel comfortable with the people, try a different meeting. At some point I was going to different meetings every single day, both from really needing to connect, and from still looking for a good fit, until I found a meeting or two that I went to regularly.

I'm sorry that you're in such a sucky situation. Good for you for taking steps to take care of yourself. Best of luck.
posted by vignettist at 9:14 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might want to try adult children of alcoholics, a 12-step program. It is for people from all types of family dysfunction and not just alcoholics.
posted by wildflower at 10:48 AM on November 5, 2013

There are too few resources for adult survivors of child abuse and neglect. I would like to see more organizations working to change that, but for now I thought you might find some comfort from this thread about chosen family group in denver-- you could potentially make something like this or google chosen family in your city (I don't know your city). I've read a lot about the concept and it's a movement a lot of people resonate with but my googling isn't working good today, might be something you can explore.

You're not alone, chosen family was a big thing a friend of mine who was a foster alumni celebrated and it's something a lot of people from dysfunctional or just "not good fit" families but who really want the family experience gravitate toward.

If you're religious going to a church might help you get this experience, I kind of wish atheists/agnostics were more big on the creation of family/community experience since I am one, but I have found the UU church pretty decent.

Support groups about suffering might help, but sometimes we're really just looking for people who we relate to, who know about suffering, but mostly just want to be good friends in a family level of closeness sort of way. It's tricky building these relationships because you need to work on your own issues and not burden people with kind of intense needs they can't really fill--- THAT is what you can get a therapist to help with if nothing else to help carry some of that burden that will overwhelm your friends and push them away.
posted by xarnop at 2:45 PM on November 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry your friend did that to you! You made a tough choice but one that was right for you. A true friend would support your choices not second guess them. I am in a similar situation to yours so I will be checking back here often, hoping for good resources. I'm sorry I can't offer any answers myself.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:55 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I looked into some of your suggestions. Stand Alone seems like an interesting organization, but they never responded. Perhaps they don't know of any groups in the US. I suppose a general support group might work as the chosen family group idea doesn't seem to be near me. Maybe I will try that UU church as well.
posted by manderin at 6:20 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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