How to cope with estrangement

Graphic shows a young person with ginger hair wearing a pink top and glasses. They are surrounded by four people with dark hair, wearing green who are all turned away from them.

This guide to estrangement was written by a Service Associate who supports young people with a huge range of different issues on The Mix’s helpline.

What is estrangement? 

Estrangement is a physical or/and emotional distancing between yourself and others who you had previous relationships with, such as family members. This could be your choice, or it could come about because of a choice made by your friends or family. It may feel like an isolating time if you are estranged, or you are thinking of taking steps to becoming estranged. Whatever your situation may be, I want you to know that you are not alone.

It may feel physically and mentally draining, especially if it’s ongoing, or you are constantly reminded of it. You do not have to go through this alone. Support is there if that is something you would like, and you are deserving of support.  

What may be the reasons of becoming estranged?

Every individual’s situation is unique and different, but some of the areas that may lead to a person being estranged from their family include:

  • Abuse and neglect.
  • Contrast of values, such as mental health stigma in families.
  • Lack of acceptance due to characteristics such as gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and personality differences. 

You may feel scared and overwhelmed if you are experiencing physical or/and emotional distancing and are worried about the future. That’s ok as it can feel like a difficult and life-changing time.

Remember that it’s perfectly ok to be who you are and to live your life and make decisions that make you happy.  

What support can I get if I think I may become estranged or am estranged? 

There are services in the UK that provide support for people who are estranged, or are concerned about their situation. The charity Stand Alone is there to help people feel less isolated by running support groups for people who are estranged from family. This may help you feel connected to a community, feel less isolated and connect with other people’s experiences in a safe space.

Stand Alone has also published online advice guides to support people who are experiencing estrangement, as well as supporting students at university with areas like student finance. Students may face difficulty with money due to missing financial information from parents and you can find help with this here. 

If you are in education and are experiencing a difficult time at home, it’s ok to reach out to talk to someone, which can help to release thoughts, feelings and emotions that may be building up internally. There may be support services like wellbeing centres at your school or uni, if you do want to talk to someone about how things are going. There are also helpline services if you would prefer talking to someone in a more anonymous way.

The Mix’s support services are a good option if you do want a space to explore your situation, as well as your feelings around it. You can share as much or as little as you would like; the space is about you and what you’re comfortable with. 

How can I look after my physical and mental health? 

Talking can be part of self-care when we have a safe, non-judgmental space to talk about things that you may not have shared with anyone before, or perhaps have shared with others and have had mixed responses that have impacted how you feel.

Counselling may be a helpful way of opening up about difficult situations, thoughts and feelings with someone who you see weekly and develop comfort and trust with. I understand that it may feel difficult to take a step to reach out for counselling, and there is no pressure to do this if you are unsure or not ready to. It’s about identifying what works for you and charities like Childline and The Mix are there to help you explore this if that is something that feels right for you. 

For physical and mental health, having a healthy balanced diet and regular activities can have a positive impact on our wellbeing. This can be any self-care that’s already part of your routine, or something you have been meaning to try, for example; going for a walk, being creative or connecting with others.

If you are 18+ then Meetup is a good way of meeting other people with similar interests and hobbies. If you’re under 18, you may find local group support on Home – Youth Access.

If you are concerned about your immediate safety 

You may be unsure about what you would like to do next, and that’s ok, as it can feel like an overwhelming time. It may help to think about what might support you to feel happier in your situation and the things that are within your control.

If you feel trapped in a situation where you are unsafe and in immediate danger, you can call 999 to get support from the emergency services and be taken to a place of safety. 

Housing and concerns about being homeless 

It can feel scary to think about a current housing situation that may cause discomfort and an impact on your wellbeing, as well as the uncertainty about the future.

If you’re a student and feel like you’re at risk of homelessness while living with family, then reach out to Stand Alone and your university/college so they are able to assess your situation and help you with your next steps to living in a safe space.

If you’re not a student and are living with family who have threatened to make you homeless, or you feel that homelessness is the only option for you, try to make a plan for your next steps and focus on what is within your control:

  • Contacting your local council for information on housing and financial entitlements could be an option.  
  • If you’re 18+, housing websites like SpareRoom have a list of available housing and rooms available.
  • Homeless Link is a charity that provides information on housing and accommodation for people who are homeless or have concerns about being homeless. 
  • If you are LGBTQIA+ then The Albert Kennedy Trust provides support for 16-25 year olds who are living in hostile living situations, by helping them stay safe if they are in a crisis, accessing specialist support and finding emergency accommodation.

If you would like any support with searching for housing services, or anything else, please do not hesitate in getting in touch with The Mix helpline by phone, online or email. Thank you for taking the time to read the article and I wish you all the best with your next steps.

Next Steps

  • Crisis helps single homeless people, aiming to break the cycle of homelessness.
  • Shelter offers advice on all housing issues. Get advice here or by calling their housing helpline 0808 800 4444. If you're in Scotland, use http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/
  • The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBT people aged 16-25-years-old who are homeless or living in a hostile environment. AKT has offices in London (call on 020 7831 6562), Manchester (0161 228 3308) and Newcastle (0191 281 0099).
  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 06-Jun-2022

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