“They haven’t spoken to each other in years.”
I wish I would have kept track of how many times I’ve heard those words since I became a mediator. Most frequently, the parties involved are siblings, and no two stories are ever the same. There is always a self-righteous undertone. “She’s the one who needs to apologize, not me” is what we say when we are standing up for our principles. And time passes without reconnecting.
The circumstances leading up to the estrangement can be like the slow drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet, or like the gushing of a broken water line. And let’s not forget that each person involved has his or her own version of the truth. Regardless of the cause, it’s generally a sad situation when people who used to be close no longer feel the same way about each other. Hurt, resentment, anger, betrayal, and rejection are some of the strong feelings which may lead up to an estrangement. The passage of time can either lower the intensity or strengthen it. There are no hard and fast rules here. The common thread is that there are no common threads. Yet pretty much every person I know can share a story about the estrangement of someone from someone else.
So, what can bring these feuding, non-speaking people back together? Unfortunately, often it’s a shared tragedy, such as the death of a parent. Or fortunately, it can also be a shared joy, such as a family wedding or a new baby. But what if neither major family event is on the horizon? What if you simply miss the relationship you used to have and want it back?
First, as with all expectations, it’s probably a good idea to take a realistic approach. There is no way to turn back the clock and simply pick up where you left off. Circumstances change and people evolve. Once you’ve acknowledged that things will never be exactly as they used to be and you’re 100% committed to moving forward, it’s time to think about how to take that first step.
I highly recommend you ditch the entire concept of being right. You know you’re right. You’re not going to gain any ground by trying to convince your estranged sister that she was wrong. Let it go. Instead, try to focus on what YOU can do to make amends. I would start by sending an email with the words “sincere apology below” as the subject. And in the body of the email, do sincerely apologize — maybe not for what you said or did, but for your role in the estrangement. Have I mentioned the word “sincere?” Truthfully and with compassion, acknowledge your sister’s feelings of anger, hurt, resentment, whatever. You don’t have to agree with them, but by simply acknowledging them, you are validating her right to feel what she feels.
If you don’t get a response, feel free to try once more. If she is unmovable, then accept it. At least you made the effort. On the other hand, if she does respond and you need a little bit of help to get over the awkward hump, call me.
This one hits home with me. My brothers are both older than I. My oldest by 5 years. He left for the military when I was just 12 years old so to be honest, I really do not even know him. My other brother left the home when I was 14. Needless to say I am not 50 and really do not know my brothers. I do not know my nieces and nephews either. Geographic distance of residence has always kept us apart and not being plugged into each others life. I feel like my whole family just moved on and because I was the young one, I got left behind. To this day, I still feel like that. My parents and two brothers live near each other and see each other often but because I live somewhere else, I do not have a connection at all and the only time connections happen is when I make the calls. Since I do not really know my brothers, I just never call them. It is sad and this blog has now placed it in my heart to maybe send both of my brothers an email and let them know what their sister is doing. Tell them about my children, my grand children and my business. However, the fear of being rejected after putting myself out there like that has kept me waiting for that funeral that you mentioned. SAD I KNOW! Thanks for getting my mind thinking that waiting for the funeral is not really a good action plan!
This subject hits home. My mother never ever liked me since I was a small child but I got along so as not to rock the boat. My youngest sister was forbidden to have a relationship with me or my children because she was my mother’ companion. My mother made her choose. My younger sister (middle child) and I were quite close. So close, in fact, that we married brothers and had four children in two years. We raised those kids together for the first ten years of their lives. Unfortunately, family gatherings were either missing my family or missing my mother and youngest sister. It was usually the latter. My mother was mentally ill and when she panicked, looking for someone to blame, I was the scapegoat that everyone used because she hated me anyway. Why not, they told me. When my mother developed terminal cancer, she made one phone call to me in ten years that was full of hate, rage, and anger. She told me or rather yelled at me how I ruined her entire life and so on. Unbeknownst to me; my sisters conspired behind my back to get my mother to change her will to write me out. When she died 15 months after that phone call, I thought our family could be whole again. That was wishful thinking. My sisters took a mourning trip without me, planned a funeral I wasn’t invited to and didn’t give me a copy of the will until four months after she died. When I read the change, I was in shock and asked what happened. Both sisters said “we can’t speak ill of the dead and we are not going to talk about it.” It just got awkward after that especially when I wanted some things of my dads and childhood photos and I was told no. Anything that had my name on it was destroyed. I moved to Vegas two years after her death and didn’t communicate with my sisters for over 10 years. I learned to forgive them and my mother over time. I tried to reach out to them a few years back and they were still the same, treating me like I was less of a person. I decided I didn’t need that negativity and toxicity in my life so I’ve moved on. It has been very important to me that my nephews and my four children remain close which they are to this day. That is my success story that arose out of the family nightmare.