Here at Wessex Scene, we’ve teamed up with the SUSU Advice Centre to talk about the kind of guidance and help that is available to you. This will be a monthly series that aims to cover the things that matter most to you as students. For example, information about your courses, housing, and finances, among other areas. Of course, if there is a topic in particular you would like some more information on, just comment below so we can cater this series to you.
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In The Advice Centre we support a number of students who are considered by Student Finance to be ‘estranged’ and I thought it might be helpful in this month’s article to discuss what estrangement is and how you can seek support.
Sometimes families become so dysfunctional that a family member decides that they can’t stay connected any longer to a specific person in the family or, in some cases, the entire family. Typically people who estrange themselves from family tend to be over the age of 18 years, because that is the point when they begin to reach adulthood and have more independence and this is also when we will typically see students requiring support with estrangement.
Estrangements from family are one of the most psychologically painful experiences anyone could experience. It almost goes without saying that estranging yourself from family is absolutely counter-intuitive: Who, after all, would think to terminate a relationship with someone who raised you? Sadly, the answer is that it’s typically only people who have been neglected, abused or exploited in some way.
If you are estranged from your family or they have decided to distance or disown you, it’s important to be aware of your needs. It’s likely that you’ll feel a collection of emotions towards the distance between yourself and your family: on the bad days you may end up feeling painfully lonely, but on the good days there may be a feeling of overwhelming peace and freedom.
If you have become estranged from your family, it’s important to remember that this can be a vulnerable place to be. Making the decision to become estranged from your family may alleviate some of the instant emotional pain, and students we support often say that they feel relieved when they first distance themselves from their dysfunctional family dynamic. However, many people in our community find that estrangement is everyday work and can cause them to endlessly think about their situation, even if they do feel an initial sense of relief.
It’s important not to fall into isolation and make sure you keep yourself active and operating as part of the wider community. If you feel your closest friends and romantic partners are capable of understanding, it’s advisable to let them know that you aren’t in touch with your family member or wider family network. Although it won’t be true in every case, people are capable of being remarkably understanding about family estrangement, and it’s much more common than people realise. 1 in 5 UK families experience an estrangement and so there is the same chance that they could have experienced this in their own family.
If you’re struggling with your estrangement, we would advise seeking support from enabling services, which will be able to support you and help you to process the difficult feelings. With estrangement comes many practical issues too such as ‘Who will be my guarantor for private rented?’ or ‘How do I apply for Student Finance?’ This is where The Advice Centre can help. We have worked with estranged students for many years and have direct contact with the independence team at Student Finance so we will do all we can to support you through this tremendously difficult time.
You can contact us by phoning 02380 59 2085, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting us in Building 40 (above The Stag’s).