Dilemma: estranged from family

Katharine Whitehorn / 26 January 2016

Agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn hears from a reader who has become estranged from her family and is feeling isolated.

Dilemma: isolated from family

After my son was born I had postnatal depression, and after a sinus operation and a horrific burglary I had a complete breakdown.

When my children were still young my husband had two heart attacks and had to give up his job in an office and work from home.

He later became very depressed, and after a heart bypass very difficult and abusive towards me.

During this dreadful time I received no support from my daughter or my son and his wife; my husband died five years ago.

My son was an officer in Afghanistan, although he has now returned. He was very good at keeping in touch by email but none of the family spoke to me during that time, including my daughter, who has changed her telephone number, though I helped with their children when it suited them.

I am not in the habit of sitting round being sorry for myself – I go on cruises – but I cannot sleep and have a dreadful rash which I believe is caused by stress.

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

You have obviously had enough trouble for about half a dozen people – and there are at least half a dozen people involved.

I don't think you should struggle on alone, and I doubt if any help I can give you would be enough.

But Relate, which used only to advise on marriages, then couples, now deals with not only singles but family therapy, and I seriously suggest you get in touch with them.

You or they might be able to persuade at least some of your family to talk to them, to find out what has really gone wrong between you all.

Read our tips for activities to keep you social.

Our readers say...

We also asked our Facebook followers for their advice...

"If you're able try to do some volunteer work. I walk dogs for the Cinnamon Trust and also train Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. I meet lots of lovely lovely people, some have become very good friends."

"Do what I did and say to hell with them all, I haven't spoken/ seen my two youngest or my grandchildren for nearly four years, yes it's hard and yes it hurts but I refuse to let them destroy my life or sanity."

"Families can drive us insane - feeling like this it's best to seek out a counsellor who will help you through this tough period in life."

"I saw my doctor, who was incredibly helpful and put me in touch with talking therapies, the gentleman I saw listened and set me tasks to help me cope that was last year, I got through most of it but one issue can't be resolved and although it's sad I have come to terms with it and know I have to let go."

" I always listen when someone talks to me . I'll smile and say hello ..I've had tales of sadness and joy and I listen no matter how silly or even stupid they might sound... Oh I do end up frazzled sometimes...I must have one of those faces that says I'll listen."

" I work in a surgery and a few lonely ladies have rung up for various reasons and all they want is someone to talk to so I let them carry on and hope that I have helped in some way! I think that we should have a phone club set up with people manning the phones and keeping in touch, doesn't matter what they talk about."

"Nobody really knows what goes on with families and its easy to give wrong advice. Find someone else to talk to, friend or professional, and take your time on deciding your response."

"Well surround yourself with good, kind people - it may not be your family!"

"Buy yourself a little dog and you will always have a friend."

"Spend the inheritance on a fantastic holiday... and don't send them any postcards!"

"Join a group, make new friends, your family should be ashamed of themselves."

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