Not long ago, estrangements between family members, for all the anguish they can cause, could mean a fairly clean break. People would cut off contact, never to be heard from again unless they reconciled.
But in a social network world, estrangement is being redefined, with new complications. Relatives can get vivid glimpses of one another’s lives through Facebook updates, Twitter feeds and Instagram pictures of a grandchild or a wedding rehearsal dinner. And those glimpses are often painful reminders of what they have lost.
“I frequently hear, ”˜I heard from somebody else who read it on Facebook that my son just got married,’ or, ”˜My daughter just had a child, and I didn’t even know she was pregnant,’ ” said Joshua Coleman, a psychologist in the Bay Area who wrote a book about estrangement, “When Parents Hurt.”
“There are things that parents assume all their lives they’d be there for, then they hear in a very public third-hand way about it, and it adds a layer of hurt and humiliation,” he said.