How Estrangement Can Echo Through Generations
The costs and consequences of multi-generational estrangement.
Long-standing cutoffs often may be modeled and replicated in families, generation after generation.
When someone is shunned—even by a stranger, even only briefly—the same area of the brain that registers physical pain is activated.
Young people crave the sense of belonging a functioning family provides and, without it, they may turn to dangerous alternatives.
A revealing story of how estrangement ripples through generations comes from Marjorie Watson, 64, of Bangor, Maine.
To her regret, Marjorie has little contact with several family members, while her husband hasn’t spoken to his sister and brother‐in‐law in more than 16 years. She discovered how that affected her children recently, when her adult son sat down on a train next to an oddly familiar-looking man.
As Marjorie relates:
Discreetly, he used his iPhone to take a photo of his seatmate. Then he sent the photo and this text to me: “Mom, is this Uncle Michael?” I looked at the picture and, even though I hadn’t seen him in years, I was sure it was him. But my son didn’t introduce himself. It made me sad that my son couldn’t even recognize his uncle on a train.