According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friday, August 22, 2014

Estrangement: Living Alone Without Family

Shaheen Hasmat hasn't spoken to her family for six years Photo: KATE PETERS

It's rarely discussed, but 27 per cent of people will be estranged from family at some point.
Here, Shaheen Hashmat, 31, who's cut off all contact with her parents, tells her story -
and says the stigma of estrangement is one of society's last major taboos.

Estrangement: 'I haven't spoken to my family for 6 years'

By Shaheen Hashmat
7:00AM BST 22 Aug 2014

Our families are supposed to be the ones who love us the most, who will take care of us and support us through difficult times. But what happens when they treat you so badly that you have to walk away?

Estrangement is not a subject that’s spoken about often, but it affects 27 per cent of people - who cut contact with at least one member of their family at some point in their lives. More than 8,000 adults in the UK are estranged from their loved ones at this very moment. The word ‘estrangement’ actually originated from the French 'estranger' and then Latin 'extraneare', meaning ‘to treat as a stranger’, or ‘not belonging to the family’.

For me, this is the perfect description of a situation that can leave those affected in a profound state of isolation and has a deeply negative impact on mental health and wellbeing.

When I was twelve years old, I was helped to escape the threat of forced marriage and honour abuse. I'd seen it happen to other members of my family and suffered various abuses myself, although I was made to feel like the 'attitude problem' was mine. The local police force and social services helped me get away, but that wasn't the end of my ordeal.

For thirteen years afterwards I struggled to overcome great confusion and emotional turmoil in an effort to maintain some semblance of a relationship with my parents. In this I was unsuccessful: the abuse continued, in less extreme forms that prolonged the psychological damage that had already been wrought.

I had a huge panic attack

When I was twenty-five years old, I finally realised that things were never going to change. I simply could not have a relationship with people who so consistently trampled on my boundaries. Since then, my mother has attempted to contact me only once. When I recognised the number she was calling from, I had a huge panic attack, from which it took me two days to recover. It’s been six years since I exchanged a word with either of my parents. The impact of legal and local authority involvement in my escape tore the family apart, and over the years I stopped speaking to all my relatives, except for one sibling with who I exchange a rare text, or phone call.

Shaheen Hashmat

Of all the psychological issues associated with escaping from honour abuse, I believe that estrangement poses the most serious challenge to recovery. Since there is usually more than one perpetrator, it’s not just the devastating loss of close family ties that victims have to deal with - they often become estranged from their entire community as well. It’s also likely that they have been raised in an isolated, highly restricted environment at home.

So they often have to learn how to socialise in a culture that feels completely unfamiliar to them, in order to form new friendships with other people. Without the close-knit support network that so many take for granted, it’s impossible to survive. It can be hard enough to lose just one family member. To lose so many made me feel like a ghost.

Estranged people tend to withdraw

Stand Alone is a UK-based charity, founded in 2012 by CEO Becca Bland, who has herself been affected by estrangement. Bland agrees that the experience can often leave people very vulnerable.

"Because of the stigma surrounding estrangement, people tend to withdraw. They feel scared about properly interacting with others and revealing their situation. Abuse survivors and others who have been rejected may have problems trusting others. For students who are estranged there is the added problem of needing to find somewhere to live when the end of term comes. Many spend the summer months sofa surfing, but there are others who run a real risk of homelessness.

Compounding the pain of estrangement itself is the strong stigma associated with it. There is deep judgement towards those who, for any number of valid reasons, have chosen to cut contact with family. I’ve lived in London for ten years now, but my Scottish accent is still strong. It’s natural for new people I meet to ask questions.

My heart often sinks when, upon hearing that I’m not in contact with my parents, they say, ‘but they’re your parents! How can you just not talk to them?’ Or, ‘you’ll regret it before long – they won’t be around forever you know’.

We need to accept estrangement

Stand Alone

There is no consideration of what those parents are sometimes capable of doing to their children. And the stigma doesn’t stop with well-meaning strangers. An old boyfriend of mine was told by his father that he could do better than being with someone from a “broken home”. When new partners, or their families, discover that they can’t meet my family, there is a definite sense of mistrust - as though estrangement indicates ungratefulness, or an inability on my part to do the work it takes to commit to a relationship. Bland says: “There is a strong pressure to reconcile, when in fact what’s needed is acceptance of the reality of estrangement and provision of support to help people deal with the impact of this on their wellbeing.”

Stand Alone provides a range of services for those who are affected by estrangement, from regular therapeutic meetings in a group setting, adult foster care for those aged between 18 and 30 years, and practical support for students experiencing issues with finance and accommodation (as detailed in a 2008 NUS report).

Their work is unique. What's more, I’m glad to finally hear it said, publicly, that “there are always times when it’s right to walk away”.

I’ve come to realise that, despite the pain of estrangement, I have greater freedom than most to explore and create my own identity, and to enjoy the autonomy previously denied to me. The friends I have now are the family I wish I had. Even through the worst of times, they have loved and supported me unconditionally. I’m also able to offer support to others who have been through similar experiences. Although I still encounter stigma on occasion, I can be confident that my partner will love and respect me for the person I am, rather than judging me by the absence of family I left behind.

Stand Alone

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