Navigating “No-Contact”: When Estrangement from Your Mother is the Healthiest Choice
The decision to go no-contact with a family member is a deeply personal one.
For some of us, healing the Mother Wound is possible while staying connected to your mother. In this scenario the healing actually creates a new, deeper connection between mother and daughter, which is a beautiful thing to witness. I’ve seen it happen and it’s truly inspiring.
But for some of us, it’s impossible to heal ourselves and remain in connection with our mothers.
It’s still considered taboo to be estranged from one’s family; especially to be estranged from one’s mother. Sometimes the distance can be brief and short-term. For others, the estrangement can be permanent. It takes enormous strength and fortitude to follow through with this.
What can lead to estrangement?
There are so many reasons why people make this choice. But a core theme leading to estrangement is realizing that your mother’s dysfunctional behavior has demanded an enormous cost to your mental/emotional well-being and you’re simply no longer willing to pay that cost.
I believe that this isn’t something chosen in a flippant, cavalier way, but rather it is often a choice made after years of trying every other possible avenue to preserve the connection and see it evolve to a higher level. At a certain point, you may reach a crossroads where the cost is too much, and you have to make a choice.
It may be the hardest thing you ever do in your entire life. And it may be the single most empowering thing as well.
Families are complicated systems. When one person stops playing their usual role in the family, the system will usually experience some degree of disequilibrium or chaos. Conflict can serve to transform the system to a higher level, if the family members are willing and open to grow and learn. Unfortunately, sometimes, in an attempt to resist change, the family attacks the person who is wanting to grow. That person has the choice to stay and suffer the toxicity or to heal and leave the unhealthy system. The choice to terminate contact is often made when it’s clear that it’s impossible to heal while remaining in that family system.
Daughters often play the roles of family mediator, scapegoat, keeper of secrets, or emotional caretaker, etc. If a daughter on a path of growth and wishes to evolve beyond her typical role in the family, (perhaps by being more empowered, having firmer boundaries, being less tolerant of poor treatment, etc.) the degree of chaos that ensues is indicative of how dysfunctional the family system is as a whole.
If the family members are each relatively healthy, stable and open, the family may be able to find a new equilibrium without much chaos. However, if the family members are deeply wounded or traumatized themselves, a daughter’s evolution can be perceived as deeply threatening to the family system. This chaos can be deeply unsettling and extremely hard to navigate. Support is essential.
In an unconscious attempt to maintain equilibrium and resist change, family members may launch attacks against the daughter. A common and virulent form of backlash is “Pathologizing” the daughter: Seeing the conflict as a result of some form of pathology in the daughter. The message is, “Your unwillingness to continue in the family system in your established role indicates that there is something deeply wrong with you.” This shame-based narrative abdicates the mother and other family members from honestly examining their own behavior and taking responsibility. The daughter’s level of mental stability, her sexual activity, her past mistakes, everything about her may be openly questioned, that is, except the role of the mother in the conflict.
It’s amazing how vehemently people resist looking at their stuff and the lengths they will go to remain in denial of it, including ostracizing their own child. This is actually an unconscious attempt to resist change by projecting all the conflict or “badness” onto the person initiating transformation of the family system. Ultimately, this is not personal at all. This is what happens when people who have not been dealing with their inner life become confronted with their disowned pain through a catalyzing event, like a woman in the family growing beyond the predominant dynamics that have kept the family in a stable state for generations.
We can’t save our mothers. We can’t save our families. We can only save ourselves.
You don’t need your mother (or other family members) to understand you in order to fully heal.
A heartbreaking thing that happens is realizing that your mother/family are simply unable or unwilling to understand you. No matter how much you explain or how many attempts to convince them of where you’re coming from, it goes nowhere. It’s like you’re speaking two different languages. They may be unconsciously invested in NOT understanding you, because it poses too much of a threat to their deeply held beliefs and values. Understanding you may cause a seismic shift to the very foundation upon which they’ve built their identities and worldview. It’s a painful thing to realize and yet it helps to create a singularity of spirit within you. It becomes clear that your own understanding of yourself must be enough. Your validation of yourself becomes primary. You realize you can be OK even if others do not understand you.
After you go no contact, your life may begin to improve in many areas. I’ve seen chronic illnesses clear up, neurotic fears vanish and life-long patterns dissolve. In fact, sometimes the challenge then becomes enduring the pleasure of your own life. With each new level of increased prosperity, increased intimacy, joy, freedom, you are reminded that your family is not there to share it with you. It’s particularly at these horizons where we may experience the turbulence of grief. There’s nothing to do but feel the grief that comes with that and allow yourself to move forward.
The grief doesn’t mean you’ve made the wrong choice. It’s actually a sign of health and healing.
Keep yourself grounded in the new paradigm that gave you the strength to leave the toxic connection. If you don’t, you could get pulled back through guilt or shame. It’s so important to get lots of support and give yourself time and space to process all the emotions that come with this choice. Ground yourself in exactly why you’re doing this and use it as an opportunity to birth you into a new paradigm in your life.
Estrangement as launch pad to Empowerment
You may discover something deeply profound that many people never do: You realize that you can survive your mother’s rejection of you. This can birth a level of freedom and determination within you that may initiate quantum leaps in your life. It can spur a fierce commitment to truth and carve out a radical integrity that extends to other areas of your life. It stokes a fire of truth within you that has always been there, but now it can blaze fully. You feel your own source within.
Grief, grief and more grief gives way to… FREEDOM
Grief may arise every time you go to a new, higher level that my mother/family have never been. It may feel like a bone-deep grief, almost tribal or ancestral, a grief of having to go forward without them. And it gets easier and easier with time. I find the more we lovingly allow ourselves to grieve, the more space is created for magic, beauty and joy in our lives. There is something deeply sacred about the grief that comes from making this choice. It can serve as an opportunity to deeply connect to your truth and to embodying it at the deepest level. We must make meaning from this loss and use it to enhance our lives in new ways. That’s the key to long-term healing.
Your integrity becomes the solid foundation for the rest of your life.
“You cannot get poor enough to help poor people thrive or get sick enough to help sick people get well. You can only uplift from a position of strength and clarity and alignment.” ~Abraham
It’s OK to walk away from toxic people in your life, including toxic people in your family.
Healing inter-generational wounds can be a lonely path. But with the space created, soulful connections will come into your life. Our attachment needs are the most powerful need we have as humans. To face this level of estrangement is to confront the depth of your pain, of your humanity, and to claim the full the value of your own life. Our greatest fear is that we will be alone. But the aloneness that we fear already happened in the trauma of our families. I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone and you will find your soul family in time, people who are capable of seeing and valuing you for who you are.
Estranged daughters are spiritual warriors
In a world where women are predominantly expected to stay silent, to cater to the needs of others and where the darker side of mothers is not acknowledged, the experience of estrangement can be an initiation into a new level of awareness that many people never get the opportunity to experience. A space is cleared to allow your light to shine at full radiance. What will you do with this light blazing within you?
Estranged daughters are finding each other, creating a new mother line; a connection of authenticity, realness and truth in each other that supports the arising consciousness in all. I’ve seen instant camaraderie between women who have walked this path. There’s more of us out there than many people realize. You’re not alone!
You have to do what is right for you. Trust yourself.
Estrangement doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love your family. It doesn’t mean you’re not grateful for the good things they gave you. It just means you need space to live your own life the way you want to live it. Women who feel no choice but to go no-contact with their dysfunctional mothers create the break because it’s the only way to send the powerful message that: “Mother, your life is your own responsibility as my life is mine. I refuse to be sacrificed on the altar of your pain. I refuse to be a casualty of your war. Even if you are incapable of understanding me, I must go my own way. I must choose to truly live.”
Healing the Mother Wound is the Process of Being Initiated into your own Sovereignty as a Woman
Our patriarchal culture fosters a dysfunctional enmeshment between mothers and daughters. Our culture does not offer women a ritual for the natural developmental step of separating from their mothers and being initiated into their own lives. (This doesn’t exist for men either.) Healing the Mother Wound is the process that provides that necessary initiation, whether you are still in contact with your mother or not. My dream is that someday in the future, the Mother Wound will be very rare as more women detox from the patriarchal messages of “less than” and both mothers and daughters feel permission to own their full power and potential, connected in the heart while being free, separate individuals. The daughter’s individuality won’t pose a threat to the mother, because she’ll have love and appreciation for her herself as much as for her daughter.
As you heal the Mother Wound, you create a new world for yourself, for the women of the future and for the earth itself.
Art credit: “Under Syrian Skies” by Suhair Sibai,