“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.