Dealing with Family Rejection

In an ideal context, family is supposed to make us feel loved, wanted and secured, however, certain obstacles may cause a rift that can be hard to overcome.

Compiled by: Anele Siswana

There are a number of factors that can potentially contribute to family rejection but more often they may include, sexual orientation (when one comes out and disclose their sexuality), divorce of parents, death of a parent and subsequent remarrying, discovery of familial infidelity, drug addiction etc.

The popular Telenovela, The Queen (Mzansi Magic), had a recent plot that saw Brutus (Themba Ndaba) rejecting his son (Bhekumuzi) after discovering that he is gay. Not only did he disown him as his son but he went as far as pointing a gun at him and threaten to kill him.

Rejection is a common phenomenon that is very difficult to accept and comprehend when one experiences it. It causes psychological distress and emotional pain because it is coupled with feelings of exclusion and feeling unaccepted.


This may be TV but there are many who have found themselves in this precise predicament and unfortunately others are still estranged from their families because of it.

Some tweeted and gave the show thumbs up for highlighting the pain that comes with rejection:

Vibranium for my Soul‏ @netmorris_:Thanks to @FERGUSON_FILMS for highlighting the traumatic experiences gay people go through, (some not as “lucky” as Bheki), as well as the confusion & heartbreak that comes with being a homophobic parent. #TheQueenMzansi

N H L A N H L A R A D E B E@Karabelo_NR
 : Dad just called me to talk about what’s happening with Brutus scene. You know we were once there, and we already laughing about it. #TheQueenMzansi

Clinical Psychologist, Anele Siswana, further educates us about rejection and how to overcome it.

What is rejection?
Psychologically rejection can be defined as any form of pushing someone or something away. It can stem from the experience of alienation by one’s family of origin, a friend, or a romantic partner, and the resulting emotions can often be painful.

Rejection is a common phenomenon that is very difficult to accept and comprehend when one experiences it. It causes psychological distress and emotional pain because it is coupled with feelings of exclusion and feeling unaccepted which create a sense of being dislocated.

This is by far one of the most excruciating experiences that can be associated with feeling alone and loneliness.

Family rejection:
In the context of a family system, parental rejection may consist of abuseabandonment, neglect, or the withholding of love and affection. These behaviours are all likely to cause emotional harm and lead to one feeling more rejected.

In families, children may experience rejection and abandonment because of unresolved problems between parents. In most cases, when parents have differences children somehow become involved and find themselves in a situation where they have to choose between the parents.

The rejection may also be felt as a result of a parent’s lack of involvement in the child’s life or by not showing interest in their well-being.

Divorce followed by the subsequent re-marriage with a new partner can cause tensions and problems. The new spouse might not be accepting of the existing children and that itself can be classified as rejection.

Furthermore, when two family sides (paternal or maternal side) are both rejecting that may result in the child being stuck and experiencing strained relationships. This form of rejection is likely to affect an individual throughout life, and it may have serious consequences, for example parental rejection in childhood may lead to difficult attachments and distorted view around the quality of relationships.

This kind of rejection creates psychological distress and may potentially affect children in many ways. This does not only relate to children, it goes as a far as to adults, to emphasise that rejection and abandonment is very difficult to deal with especially when one does not have support around them.

Dealing with rejection:
It is important to understand that every problem has a number of solutions and ways of negotiating possibilities. There are better and healthier ways to respond to abandonment and feelings of rejection, individual therapy can assist one to negotiate understand and accept factors around their experience of rejection.

It may assist with ways of coping with distorted and unhealthy responses, that can modify one’s emotional pain and rebuild their self-esteem.

Therapy will also assist with ways of enhancing feelings of self-worth after rejection, and that affirms aspects of one’s self-esteem in knowing that one is valuable. It is also important to reach out and utilise one’s support networks such as friends and other close people.

In the African context, family is not only by blood, extended families and families we develop outside of our blood, related linage, is also important to have as a source of support to close that gap.

It is excruciating to note that rejection destabilises the need for belonging, it leaves people feeling unsettled and socially excluded. Thus, we need to remind ourselves that we are appreciated and loved so we can feel more connected and grounded. Friendships and other social spaces are often good sources of support and provide a safe environment.

Anele Siswana (Clinical Psychologist) – Director at Indigo Wellness and Consulting Services
Ubuntu Family Health Centre (Anele)  – 010 0486361 / 0813026909

To seek professional help contact SADAG (The South African Group and Anxiety) on: 0800 567 567

24hr Helpline: 0800 12 13 14
SMS 31393 (and they will call you back)

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