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I create research and support for people impacted by family estrangement

I believe in the transformative power of life’s painful situations, and the profound growth they can facilitate. After surviving abusive dynamics in my childhood, I became estranged from my parents in my early twenties. I put down the boundary after a failed process of trying to resolve the situation with the support of a counsellor. It was a move that I made to protect my health and wellbeing. Although this has been a sad and painful outcome, I have found much freedom, strength and growth in my journey.

I turned my hard luck into a calling to help others to feel less alone and less abnormal. There are literally millions of us out there who have this cut off experience of family but so few talk about it for fear of judgement or more exclusion. I believe too that so much of our family pain is the result of inter-generational trauma.

When I was in my late twenties, I wrote about this shame that I felt with my situation in the national press. I then went on to found the only non-for-profit that works on family estrangement, called Stand Alone.

Moving on from family estrangement 

I met and heard from so many people who felt they were alone with having a challenging family and I felt it was my calling to bring people together to create more awareness of the prevalence and impact it had. This led me to start creating support where people could meet others and talk openly about estrangement and what it was like to live with it.

It also gave me the opportunity to work with researchers at Cambridge University to develop knowledge around the issue that was so desperately lacking. I have conducted research on many different areas of family estrangement which has been published in high-ranking academic journals as well as in the mainstream press and media worldwide.

These publications include research on the prevalence of estrangement, sibling estrangement, experiences of seeking counselling support with family estrangement, and the financial and material challenges of being estranged from family and lacking family capital.

I believe research has to have an impact. My media work, campaigning and research have contributed to pioneering public policy changes in the UK for some of society's most vulnerable young adults who have no family support. I now sit as an advisor for Scottish Government on the matter and help shape future policy for a number of UK governmental agencies.

It all started with writing and speaking and I have continued to use my voice to create awareness and dialogue in society. I am an experienced keynote speaker and media expert on the topic of family estrangement.

I have appeared on BBC Breakfast, BBC Victoria Derbyshire, TVO Canada, BBC Radio 4, CBC Canada. I have written articles and been featured in interviews in The Guardian, The Independent, BBC, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, Refinery 29, The Telegraph, The Atlantic and The New York Times. You can read my articles here

For this body of work (and the millions of pounds that I fundraised to do it) I was awarded an honorary doctorate by University of Brighton in 2018. You can watch my acceptance speech below on this page.

In recent years, I have been working as a transformative coach and mentor for those who are seeking more personal private support with their family estrangement. It's work I really love. In summer 2023, I will launch a video education course for people needing my experience and wisdom on family estrangement, but who can't meet the costs of ongoing coaching.

I also recently founded Standing Together, a unique training platform for helping professionals across the world to train at a low cost to become more open and skilful in working with family estrangement.

It's a topic I feel strongly about, given many people struggle to find support that isn't open and non-judgemental and often encourages one particular outcome. The programme is based on my academic research around the experiences of people accessing support with this issue, and also my own years of experience in private coaching practice.

The full set of continuing education courses and personal video courses will launch here Summer 2023.

Over the last decade, my work has helped millions of people globally to feel less alone, heal and move on from family estrangement.

Dr Becca Bland receiving her honorary doctorate from University of Brighton

Why did I do it?
So often society suggests that those who are biologically related to us will bring us closeness, protection, pleasure and unconditional love. I know that isn’t always the case and family just isn't so simple. I had the gift to be able to articulate that and the courage and support to keep on saying it.
The stigma that exists around not having contact with a key family member can make us retreat into silence and inauthenticity. At least I felt it was something I had to hide to be accepted.
So often the media portray that family estrangement is a flippant response to a one-off argument or tiff. Yet, these are decisions which are sad, painful and laboured over and are caused by abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, mental health struggles, divorce and re-marriage, forced marriage, HBV, LGBT+ and trans rejection. All of which could be termed a form of familial trauma, which is not survived easily. It's not easy to talk about the darkest parts of family life, but to create a different future, I believe we must bring these shadows into the light.
Many people battle guilt, shame and fear after they make the decision that the relationship just isn’t working and is destructive to their life. Or on the other side, battle shame and helplessness for being rejected.
During the early years of estrangement, I felt the red-hot anger, the resentment, the shame and the self-judgement. I felt the burning injustice and the complete and utter sadness of my family situation. I avoided the intensity of my feelings by working, drinking and exercising relentlessly. Like any addiction, it only hid a huge emptiness and grief that I was afraid to feel.
In recent years, I found the strength to feel all the grief. I have also found forgiveness, peace and the strength to live a more authentic and fearless life. I recognised the pattern my past gave me and I turned away from it. Although I should say that in present tense, as I believe to change our beliefs about ourselves is everyday work.
As you read this, you might feel that growing from estrangement is impossible but I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. I had the help of some wonderful humans who facilitated me to see that a life beyond shame, fear and avoidance was possible. I am proud of who I am today because of my estrangement, and the gifts it has given me.
I’m here to pass that hope on to you.
So much of the key to growth is self-love, and learning to choose the right people to love. We can only truly receive love and respect from others when we open up our hearts and love ourselves.  

When I am not writing, doing yoga or coaching, you can find me diving into nature. Nothing makes me more grounded and grateful than the unconditional acceptance I find in being by the sea or walking in the city.
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