Whether it's a friend or family member, you don't owe anybody an apology for taking care of YOU. Make peace with your decision.

I've been sitting on this for a while. At first, I was ashamed of it, mainly because people told me that I should be. But I'm not anymore, and I want to make sure that, if you're going through the same thing, you don't feel ashamed.

My family has always been very close-knit. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we'd fight to the point of estrangement. After my grandparents both passed, it seemed to start a power struggle. There's a million other things that have happened that aren't worthy of sharing, but regardless, things have been slowly falling apart for the last few years.

Pat and I have lived in Washington, Wisconsin, and now Michigan. We've moved for our careers, and we're very happy here in Michigan. To each his own; some people are happy to stay where they are, others are happy to move around. Neither is right or wrong. There's a lot of passive-aggressiveness towards us, as though we've tried to break up the family by moving.

We've always come back to visit, multiple times throughout the year. Sometimes once a month. Hardly anybody, other than my parents, ever comes to visit us. That's just a fact we've grown to accept: it's OUR job to visit. In the last few years, visits back to Milwaukee have been more stressful than they're worth. I've come home crying, stressed out, even deactivated my Facebook account after last Christmas.

Finally, yesterday, the s*** hit the fan. One of my family members took a picture of our son and used it in a Facebook post to shame us for not visiting more often. ON HIS BIRTHDAY. I sat in my car in the JC Penney parking lot and cried. I haven't talked to said family member in weeks, mainly because I feel like the relationship was toxic. They took an opportunity to get under my skin, using my son.

It's not fun. It's not easy. But sometimes, it's necessary.

A lot of people say that family is blood, and nothing should ever come between that. For the first time in my life, however, I disagree. I've never been able to understand how some people can be estranged from family, but now, I get it. Don't ever let anybody tell you who to keep in your life. Don't ever apologize for taking care of YOU.

I've read a lot of blogs and websites about this; I've constantly felt (and have been made to feel) that I'm doing something wrong by removing family from my life. Quite the contrary, actually. Here are some blogs that I've found to be helpful, and have almost mirrored my experiences with family:

10 Things To Remember About Toxic Family Members

8 Reasons We May Need To Cut Ties With Family Members To Be Healthy

How To Cut Toxic People Out Of Your Life

Obviously, my situation isn't necessarily as serious as some of the suggestions in those posts. Some cases are extreme, some are not. Either way, TAKE CARE OF  YOURSELF. Don't allow others to tell you how to feel.

Trust me, I've been a doormat my entire life. I live to please. I do everything I can for everybody else, and people have learned to take advantage of that. They seem surprised that I'm now pushing back. But you know what? I'm 34 years old. I'm a wife, a mother of an autistic child, a full-time employee. I know who I am, and I know what's good for me. And if a relationship isn't good for me, I'm an adult and I'm capable of saying NO, regardless of who it is.

In short, do what's best for YOU. Don't feel ashamed if you've had to cut family members out of your life. It's actually brought me closer to OTHER family members, which, for me, is the most positive outcome. Maybe, someday, we'll reconcile. But for now, I have to do what's best for me. That's not selfish, that's responsible.

And don't forget: FRIENDS ARE THE FAMILY WE CHOOSE FOR OURSELVES.