Morning Meditation in Panera Bread

Support Groups: Part II (Online Support Groups)

Support Groups for those coping with a family estrangement. Part I

A mother in pain over not having had any contact with her recently estranged son joined an online support group. She talked about her feelings and how grateful she was to find the group and how rare it is for a grown child to estrange themselves from their parents. I tried to say that I thought that the situation wasn't rare but she would have none of that. She insisted that it was rare. As I thought about it more, I realized that she is right. Relatively speaking, it is rare. Not unheard of certainly but if you ask one hundred parents with grown kids if this has happened to them, you will find few, if any, who will say yes. Not that I have tried this. I haven't.

After thinking and talking about family estrangements for fourteen years, I realize that my perception of it not being rare is influenced by the fact that I have sought out others who are going through similar experiences. I look for stories about family estrangement regularly. I read about it. I write about it. To me it doesn't seem rare. But in terms of what MOST people experience, it is uncommon, possibly rare. I don't know what the statistics on it are. I've never heard of a study on it and I don't know how a good scientific study could be done where there would be accurate results. But I concede to the opinion of that newly estranged parent that it is rare. Most people do not experience this.

So when estranged parents or grown children want to talk about what they are going through, their resources are limited. Discussion groups don't get set up often for conditions that occur to a only a few and which people are often unwilling to talk about and which most people, including many therapists, have not experienced and have a hard time understanding.

People can go to therapists and talk one on one but the therapist's training and experience might not have equipped them to be much help, especially over the long haul of a long term estrangement. A therapist might try to help someone accept the situation but acceptance usually comes much later in estrangement. People often want to talk about many other things such as the many intense feelings that come up and may go on for years  before they get to the stage of acceptance. Few therapists are trained in how to help them through that whole process.

If there is a specific issue involved in the circumstances of the estrangement, there are support groups on those issues that meet in many communities across the country. Groups such as Al anon which is a great twelve step group for anyone who has been in a relationship with a person who has had a drinking problem. Organizations such as NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which has national, state and local resources for members.

There is a support group in Texas that was begun in recent years by parents to help each other. The name of that group is Healing Estranged Relationships (H.E.R.) They are hoping to broaden their reach to other areas. If you visit their website, there is contact information there. They are helpful and interested in giving out information on starting a group anywhere in the country. Starting new groups would be up to other parents who are interested sufficiently in having a group in their own area. Currently they have regular meetings in Dallas.

The opportunities to talk specifically about family estrangement are not plentiful which is why some people discuss their estrangement online in public and private forums. This may change in the future as support groups such as H.E.R. are created in new cities.

In my next post I will discuss a number of points about online support groups including the types available and their positive and negative points.



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