Of all the hurts accumulated throughout life, family betrayal is the worst. When your own relatives turn against you, it’s almost unbearable.

When I was a child, I was abused. When my parents found out, many years later, they turned a blind eye to my pain. Why? because of something stupid. What makes it worse is they are dead now, and I may never really understand how they could have done this. When your family turns their back on you, it’s like torment.

Why is family betrayal so hard to deal with?

There’s physical pain, which, in time, it heals. There’s the pain of mental illness and the pain of trauma, which is like neverending darkness. But when your own mother, father, or other family members betray you in your darkest hour, it’s a pain that’s hard to describe. But I will try, I will attempt to share a few reasons why this pain is the worst.

1. Close relationships

Families are supposed to be tight-knit and loyal to each other. Unlike the average Joe on the street, a sister is supposed to be there for you. Your brother is supposed to be trustworthy. Your mother and father are supposed to stand in the gap for you and fight.

When this doesn’t happen in your family for some reason, the betrayal is deep. If you cannot trust your family, you probably feel like you cannot trust many others either.

2. It’s so confusing

Let’s say your husband cheated, and you chose to forgive him, but then he did it again. He has proven that his infidelity is not a mistake, rather a choice.

This is confusing because you are supposed to be closer to each other than any other member of your household. Your partner has betrayed you, regardless of a commitment. Betrayal breaks this bond and leaves you wondering why you didn’t see it coming. It leaves you confused.

3. It’s demeaning

I once told a family member that it hurt more thinking I was stupid than what they did to me. Basically, when a cousin or brother, for instance, deceives or lies to you, they assume you will believe. They give you no credit for being able to see through the thin veneer of falsehood.

Family members know each other pretty well, and they know when they are being betrayed. It hurts immeasurably for a loved one to think you are stupid enough to allow this hurt.

How can you cope with family betrayal?

So, they tricked you. They fooled, lied, and left you to pick up the pieces of your tainted relationship. So, what can you do now? Well, there are a few ways you can cope with this in a healthy manner. The hurt doesn’t go away, but your life must go on.

1. Forgiveness

Yes, I said it. You must forgive them. Now, this doesn’t mean you cannot remember and still try to work through your feelings about the incident. This is especially true if the one who betrayed you is no longer living.

You’ve probably heard the old saying about forgiveness being more for your own benefit than for theirs, and this is true. Not forgiving the ones who’ve caused you pain will cultivate bitterness in your life.

2. Distance

As for those who are still among the living, after forgiveness comes distance. Some of those people who betrayed you must be loved from afar. You cannot submerge yourself in a close relationship with someone you cannot trust. Care about them, yes, but try to limit time spent with them for your own well-being.

3. No revenge

Remember, forgiveness is number one, right. This means you cannot try and avenge yourself after what they’ve done to you. I know you want to, but it’s simply unhealthy.

By being vengeful, you are lowering yourself to their level. You cannot get revenge without feeling regret for your actions afterward, and I don’t care how tough you think you are. This is your family I’m talking about.

4. Analyze the betrayal

If you can stand to think of what happened to you, face your family member. They may deny or avoid the questions but do it anyway. In short, I can tell you this: You are not the problem, they are. Family members who betray are dealing with something inside themselves, not really a problem with you.

As for me, my parents didn’t report my abuse because they didn’t want to cause problems with the man who abused me or disturb his family. Now, knowing that made me even angrier, but at least I know they were cowards and dysfunctional people, even though I loved them.

5. Emotional control

When I was betrayed, I wasn’t as emotional as I have been in the last few months. I don’t think I ever come to terms with my parent’s looks of apathy. I couldn’t read their minds, but it sure seemed like my trauma was considered and then quickly pushed behind them.

For the past months, I’ve grieved over those things until finally taking back control over my emotions. Eventually, no matter how long it takes, you have to control yourself. You have to understand that it isn’t your fault that they failed you, whatever the case may be.

6. Cope according to status

You will have to cope with the hurt according to how close you are to the family member. While it may not be as hard to deal with a conniving cousin, it can be devastating to deal with a pathologically lying wife.

You can forgive all of them, but some may not be as easy to get away from as others. Deal accordingly, and this will help you understand how to draw boundaries from now on. Yes, you can draw boundaries with your spouse. In other words, learn who you can trust.

7. Talk to someone

It’s best that you don’t hold all this inside. I’ve tried to keep my pain a secret, but you see, I’ve told you all. I’ve also told a few of my close family and friends about the trauma and the betrayal. You see, family betrayal is not something you need to deal with on your own. Other people can help you hash out the details and understand what to do.

Finally letting go

That’s it. You have to finally learn to let go of what happened to you, even if you were hurt and then hurt again. It doesn’t matter how many times life sears you with pain, you have to release the unforgiveness right there in your chest and let the love come back.

Family betrayal, as you see, is traumatic in its own right, so always remember to take care of yourself during and after the conflicts. Healing may take a while, but it’s always worth it.

After all, I’ve harbored these feelings for decades. Don’t do this to yourself. I want better for you.


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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Daphne

    Admiring the courage I know it required for you to write this.
    Wishing you the best healing.



  3. Laray

    Thank you for sharing such an intimate experience. My daughter and I were betrayed by her father and his family after the passing of our son. Others also disappointed me when they did not acknowledge my son’s passing. It has taken me four years to let go of my anger, bitterness would be a better word. Now I am working on forgiveness.

  4. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

    Thank you, Daphne. I have many ghosts, but not like the ones you may think.

  5. caley

    Thank you for sharing your story. That was immensely brave and I admire your courage ❤. My mother was sexually abused by her father and two brothers leaving her emotionally unavailable and distant with me. She neglected me and allowed my grandfather to have access to me as she worked. He abused me from a very young age so all the affection I know is through sex. My family are narcissists who live in victimhood and cast me as a blacksheep because I have struggled throughout my life, attracting toxic abusive partners who would also rape me. I had no idea I was being raped until a couple of years ago. How sad is that? I completely forgot what happened to me as a child because I thought that was love. This trauma has destroyed my mind in thus destroying my body. I have a relationship with my sister however it isn’t as close as I’d like,she is a narcissist too as was I until life broke me. Thank God for bringing me back from my dark nights of my soul in the plenty. I’m just starting to turn my light on and open my heart space for myself and surrender my sufferings into the divine. I am starting to forgive and let go. This is liberation! Thank you for your sage words in the plenty. May you be safe, healthy and abundant. Many blessings to you friend 🙏 💛 ✌

  6. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

    Thank you, Caley.

    I want you to know that you are not alone in the things you felt. For many years, as a small child, I also thought my abuser was like a sort of boyfriend. It was odd the way my mind was working then. I felt love at first, but over time as I grew, I started feeling dirty. I realized some point between the age of 4 and 10 that what was happening to me was not love. It was abuse. So, I fought him and hid from him until I graduated and moved away. My parents were never home, leaving me with my grandmother, and when they found out about my abuse, they turned aside from it, saying it would cause division in the family if it was known. So, I carry a burden, I have unhealthy relationships with men, and I struggle to keep my head above the water in general. Life is so difficult, almost unbearable at times, but isn’t it good to know that there are others who’ve fought every day of their lives too. I cried last night, a good hard cry, and I remember one statement I mad through the tears.

    “I’ve had to fight my whole life” “I had to fight for everything”

    Maybe that is you, or maybe that’s how you feel when it breaks you into tears. It does feel like we’ve been in war all this time, doesn’t it.

    Sending love and hugs your way. Be blessed and safe.

  7. Don

    I have a different type of hurt from my son betrayed me
    When I told him his wife is not wanting a child in ten yrs of marriage then he needs to move on and maybe consider finding another woman that deserves him more and not as selfish
    So he told his father in law what I said and now he moved in with his wife’s family and pays no attention to his mom or me any more that’s how I am betrayed

  8. Ge

    With respect to your story and advice I’m bothered with your focus on ‘for-giving’.
    Do you actually know the meaning of ‘for-giving’?
    In the Bible and most other religions (and in common justice) for-giving is only given to those who have confessed their sins, payed a price of their sins and made a fow (in deeds) to redeem themselves.
    That’s why it’s called ‘for-given’. It’s not unconditional at all.
    It’s just impossible to forgive betrayal without redemption of the betrayer. It’s an illusion. Whishfull thinking.
    And there is no need to at all when redemption doesn’t come.
    Leave them carrying their own weigth of sins instead of for-give them without serious redemption.
    That way you will only let them off the hook and persist in their behaviour.
    It’s their cross of sins they have to carry and mostly they are quite aware of their sins.
    Let them carry the burden of their own misdeeds.
    It’s not your job to ‘for-give’ them. Judges also not ‘for-give’ offenders/criminals but punish them and send them for rehabilation.
    You are not a Judge, or Jezus or God.
    It’s not in your ability/knowledge/might to for-give an obvious betrayer.

    In my view the worst thing that you can do, is to ‘for-give’ the betrayer before any serious redemption has taken place in word and action (over a long time).

    Far better is to ‘for-give’ yourself for not having seen the betrayal coming and not having acted (in hindsight) when the (covert) abusive signs were allready there. You probably just didn’t know she/he was this way or people like this even did exist.
    A very hard lesson in live. They do exist as you now know.

    Leave the ‘for-giving’ to ‘God’ and in the meantime leave them carrying their cross. Most of them know their sins very well.
    Never, ever for-give them without real redemption (and not only in words but long-term actions).
    You won’t help them at all and yourself neighter if you ‘for-give’ them without clear conditions.
    Stand strong and don’t give in to the temptation of premature (or ever) ‘for-giving’. It’s not up to you.

    IMO the ‘for-giving’ argument is mostly a sign of ‘weakness’ born out of the urge to somehow get control over what happened. To take the higher moral ground by ‘for-giving’.
    It’s a last resort of dealing with severe betrayal/abuse. In a way this is ridiqulous.
    We don’t need to ‘for-give’ our abusers/betrayers. Leave that to ‘God’. We only need to get them out of our lives and focus on our selves again.

  9. Jessica

    Thank you for sharing this. I needed to read this to remind myself of the journey I started 3yrs ago with Forgiveness towards my family member. I don’t care to speak with them on the level I once has, they are 100% clueless on the impact they’ve made. Since I have a history of childhood trauma, from family members, through therapy I’m learning just how vulnerable I am…..which I hate to admit. So I am guarding myself moving forward and always evaluating my boundaries. Thank you again.

  10. Rod Camera

    I was abused by a family member when I was a kid and adult. I’ve never directly confronted her, but have given hints in the past to her. She’s very old now, and I guess comfortable in her denial? I have forgiven her, however, if a situation brings back a memory, I may temporarily lose that and have feelings of betrayal.

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