How to deal with family rejection

Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you


How to deal with family rejection

4 minute read

Q. Seven years ago, my niece died. Her daughter went to live with her father and his girlfriend but it didn’t work out so, for three years, she lived with me and my husband and we did a lot for her.

Two years ago, my great-niece got a boyfriend and moved out. Now, we don’t see her, she’s had a baby and is back with the people who didn’t want to know her. We’ve never been invited over. Am I being unreasonable for feeling upset? Should I let her go? Name supplied

A. Is it possible to find some space between feeling upset and deciding to let her go? It’s been a tumultuous seven years for everyone – grief, house moves, shifts in loyalty and now a new baby. It might take time before you and your great-niece get this all in perspective. In the meantime, she will be getting daily reminders of what her own mother did for her, and she can’t ask her for help.

Could you bring yourself to take the initiative, perhaps like this: ‘I’m passing your way, could I pop in for 15 minutes? I’d love to say hello.’

I’m not asking you to ignore your feelings of hurt, but find a way to deal with them separately. I wonder if there is something going on about being a mother or not being a mother that is making this particularly painful for you. It may be helpful to write some of that down, talk to a trusted friend or seek counselling.

The title of aunt can be acquired by blood ties or given to acknowledge a relationship that has grown over time. You have earned it both ways.

You have leeway to decide what that means. In the words of existential psychotherapist Irvin Yalom – how could you construct a regret-free life for yourself? Alternatively, how does a great-aunt act if she also wants to be a fairy godmother?

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Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

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