No one asks to be estranged. No one looks out to be estranged. No child grows up thinking "When I grow up, I want no contact with my mum/dad/Auntie Sarah/brother." No parent puts their child to bed and, staring at their sleeping form, fondly thinks "Look at my little bear. Someday he won't be speaking to me!"
Families splinter and part.
And when it happens, inevitably those who have parted are made to feel like pariahs.
It's hard to raise your own kids and, when confronted with their school projects have to explain why a family tree is cleaved at a major limb junction. What do you say about the missing family? You can't say "We don't talk" as we work on a message of working through problems. You can't say "We all cut each other off" as that could make them feel like they could be cut off.
It's worse when others hear of the estrangement. One of my in-laws once sniffed - upon hearing for the first time of the fracture of my family - "Well, I hope you're not planning on passing that along!" You know, as though estrangement was akin to a note declaring an audit or syphilis. It's not as though my not talking to some family is contagious. It doesn't affect everyone with whom I come in contact.
And people assume there's something wrong with you. If you break off from family then there's something inside of you that's rotten or rancid. If you don't talk to your family then you are a pariah or - worse - you lack the Forgiveness Gene. Family does not turn its back on family. Family is there forever.
Or maybe it used to be. In the days when family pulled together to keep the farm going, to keep the family going, to keep the odds going. Maybe when you had nowhere else to go, accepting it all is what you did.
It's never a great feeling, this. It's never a great choice. But it happens. And when it does, it comes without a backup plan, without a story, and without the desire to explain that sometimes things break and sometimes, it's not so black and white as to why.