Should I let my family back in?

Life got better after I cut my family off, but I feel lost.

Help! You broke with your family for a reason, says our elder. Take time to heal before you reconnect.

Dear EWC

My family and I recently had a falling out. I spent most of my 27 years trying to be there for them. Helping my mother with my sibling, taking her to her doctor’s appointments, leaving work early so I can pick everyone up from school, or helping my sister with my niece free of charge while she traveled through Italy. I was always there. Now… I’m just lost. I’m 27 years old and the only friends I have are my siblings, and now I don’t even have them. I recently cut them off and found a job that makes me happy and am in a happy relationship, but I feel like not having them is outweighing all the good. But I also feel like all the good things in my life can be attributed to not having them in my life. I don’t know. I’m in desperate need of sage advice.

Folk replies

You cut off your family for a reason. Since this was a pretty drastic thing to do, I’m guessing that you didn’t do it lightly, and that whatever your reason was, it was a very good one. I’m sure, in other words, that deciding to go no contact was a difficult thing for you to do, but you decided to do anyway because at the time you felt it was necessary. So, the question I have for you is this: Has anything changed? If you get back with your family, will the same dynamics that caused you to cut them off in the first place still be there? Will you and they fall back into the same old patterns of behaviors, the same expectations and demands that drove you to break away to begin with? If so, are these behaviors likely to drive you away again? Or has your family changed? Do they miss you as much as you miss them? Have they signaled to you that they would be willing to work on the issues that caused the breach? I think answering these questions for yourself honestly, will help you to decide if the feelings of loss and grief you are having are easier or harder to bear than the bad feelings that caused you to end relations with your family when you did.

You miss your siblings. I get that. It feels lonely without them in your life. They are the people you grew up with, after all, and you feel you belong with them. At the same time though, you feel relief; without them, your life is your own. You have a good job now that you like, and you are in a healthy relationship with someone you care about who cares about you. The break with your family was recent, so it’s possible that if you allow yourself more time, you will make new friends who share your values, respect your choices, and appreciate your efforts. When this happens, you might not miss your siblings so much.

Sometimes the best decisions for us are the hardest ones to stick to. Whenever we feel sad and lonely, we just want the feeling to go away. This means that even though you know in your head that reaching out to your family may put all the good things you have in your life now at risk, you are tempted to do it anyway. The good news though is that if you do not give in to your feelings of loss and grief, they will eventually pass. And the empty space they leave behind will be filled by feelings of dignity and self-respect.

That said, cutting off your family permanently should only be a last resort. If you think there’s a chance of getting your family to respect your boundaries, you should definitely seize it and try to reestablish ties with them. But I suggest you approach them from a position of strength. This means taking the time and space and separation you need to heal and become the healthy, happy, independent person that you deserve to be before getting in touch with them again. If you contact them before you are completely healed from the hurt they caused you, old wounds will be reopened and you are likely to wind up being hurt all over again.
I hope this helps. I am always here if you’d like to talk more about this. Please write back if you can to let me know what you decide to do and how you are coping. I will be thinking of you.

Letter #: 450775
Category: Family

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