The holidays are centered around being together with family—sharing time and a meal together. Because it is the family day of the year, when there are estranged family members involved, you tend to feel the hurt and the loss more acutely. Similarly, when there is family for whom you have tremendous anger and hostility, coming together for the holiday can be excruciatingly stressful.Many family members in this country have had some sort of falling out where they no longer have contact. Many siblings have become estranged, adult children no longer speak to their parents; even ex’s can be completely emotionally separate, despite having children in common.
Siblings are a unique and wonderful relationship. They are your peers, yet your family, and they really get where you come from. But siblings can have a total falling out over care choices for aging parents, fighting over a parent’s will, siding after a parents divorce, or even a slow drift apart after a lack of a bond forming when they grew up. I have seen numerous instances where siblings have not spoken for many years.
Adult children can also have a rupture in their relationship with their parents. They cannot negotiate the changes that occur when the child grows up, and now have different view points from their parent. Sometimes the terms of a divorce are so horrible that former spouses cannot find any kind of relationship, despite having children together. It is true that some relationships are so totally destructive to one or both parties that it is better not to have one at all. However, many more people have split for reasons that could be worked on and bettered if they would let themselves realize how much the relationship matters to them.
Sadly, I have seen many people who, in retrospect, have woken up to realize that they have lost out on an important person in their life and now most of their life has gone by. Don’t let this be you. Siblings, parents, and even ex’s with whom you have shared significant time with or children are valuable and enriching parts of your life. Whether it is something specific you have argued over and become estranged, or whether you have simply drifted apart, there is no better time than the present to work towards reconciliation.
1. It is NEVER too late.
Many people stop themselves from trying to either reconcile or make the relationship a better one because they feel it has been so long that there is no hope, or no point, or not worth it. This could not be more untrue. Often it only takes reaching out to the other to “break the ice” and you will be moving toward a relationship. No matter how many years have gone by, there is always room to find your way back.
2. Make the first move. Often anger and pride get in the way of taking the first step. Somebody has to take the first step or nothing ever happens. You would be shocked how often just making the first call or writing the first letter is responded to with, “Oh, I am really glad you called. I have been thinking about you too.” Of course at some point it must be a two way street, and if the other person won’t allow you back in, then it won’t work. It usually has more to do with starting a process then not being able to complete one.
3. Take responsibility for your part. It always takes two to tango and somewhere in what happened, you own part of it. Rather than being defensive or accusatory, own up. This will pave the way for hurt to be overcome and progress forward.
4. Keep the door open. Sometimes the other person may not be able to respond right away to your olive branch. This does not mean that they will never be able to. They may just need to mull over your gesture for a little while and then respond. So if they don’t immediately, try not to get angry and chew them out. Tell them you understand they have to think about it and you are there if they can talk later. If you leave the door open, they may come through later.
5. Discuss stressful issue BEFORE the holiday. If the problem is more that something has been brewing between you, do not leave it until the big day where tension is already high and you will likely blow up on the day and ruin it for everyone. Meet before and discuss the tough issue so it will have at least been discussed and you may be able to put it aside for the holiday and enjoy what you can of each other.