27 Years of Silence and Estrangement

“I understood the life around me better, not from love, which everybody acknowledges to be a great teacher, but from estrangement, to which nobody has attributed the power of reinforcing insight.” – Nirad C. Chaudhuri

When I was a child in Ukraine, I watched a TV program called “Find Me”. This program covered stories about family members who lost touch with each other due to various life circumstances, usually followed by their reunions. When I watched those reunions, I was always overwhelmed with emotions. I felt so excited about their future together. Also, I felt happy for myself, as if reassuring myself that those things can never happen to my family. To my surprise, it actually turned out to be the case with me and multiple members of my family. The only difference was that my reunions with ‘lost’ relatives were not translated on TV.

I was 12 when my parents got divorced in a quiet and hostile way. Then my mother got a full custody of my younger brother and me and the door to all of my relatives on my paternal side was closed. These relatives were my father, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Uncle, Aunt, and cousin. After divorce I never visited them in Russia, with an exception of my father who lived in Ukraine. It was a sudden and very painful cut of my family done like a scissors.

Now, let me fast-forward those 27 years of complete silence. Last October I felt a strong urge to re-open my past and restore my lost relationships. My Grandma was a main person of interest I hoped to find alive and well. She was alive and she still is! I have been deeply affected now by my conversations with my Grandma. I have had to work with my mixed feelings. I have had tons of new discoveries about my childhood, my family history and dynamics, and even my own identity. My Grandmother turned out to be a missing puzzle piece in my life that I have been looking for and it feels like no time has passed since I met her back then. She took care of me full-time when I was 2 weeks old and until 2 years old. I feel complete now. I also found the answers to why my mother and I frequently had tense relationships and why our communications were often a struggle.

In my first conversation with her, my Grandma said she thought she was going to die without hearing from me and seeing me ever again. It was hard to hear that. However, it could be likely the case if I had not contacted her before she died. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I reached out to her years ago. I remember that at that time I felt confused and conflicted about the events of the past. I felt awkward and unprepared to deal with old wounds, grief, and loss after being apart for so long. I did not have the courage to do it. So, I am a big believer that everything happens when it is supposed to happen.

What do we do if there is an estranged person we seriously contemplate reconnecting with? Perhaps, it might be worth it to take another look at our situation, assess where we are and give it a try. We might want to make sure we are in a good place ourselves. We might consider getting support and guidance from a therapist or a coach. We might want to search for forgiveness for ourselves and for these others. We might not want to have grudges and expectations. We might want to be prepared for any positive as well as negative outcome of our attempts. When we are ready and equipped, we might just pick up the phone or knock on their front door and then see what happens.

Olga’s New Old Family Members

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