Estranged Family Members – Can’t Be a Bad as The Family Stone Movie
As we grow older, we become more cognizant of the fact that the world is a lonely place, and all we can do is hold on to our nearest and dearest as tightly as we can. But life has a funny way of sometimes creating a painful distance between you and those closest to you. It’s fairly common for many of retirement age to be estranged from their children and grandchildren, from their siblings, from close friends. But if there’s one thing that contributes to good health in old age, it’s having a close-knit family and circle of friends. If you’ve become estranged from your family, here are a few ways to reconnect. The Family Stone – how strong is yours?
- Reach out several times. Not just once.
The main reason that so many familial relationships deteriorate over the years can often be traced to simple lack of communication and stubbornness. Perhaps you feel that you’ve been wronged by a family member, or vice versa. The other thinks you should make the effort, whereas your reality dictates that they should make the effort. This situation can often lead to a communication deadlock that can last for years. Instead, offer an olive branch and make the effort yourself. Let go of whatever it is that’s holding you back. And try not just once, but several times until your family member comes around.
- Forgive and ask for forgiveness.
Whatever it is that’s holding you back from being close with your loved ones, it’s likely that both parties were in the wrong. If your son or daughter no longer talks to you out of shame after some argument, go out of your way to forgive them. Don’t just forgive them in your heart, but forgive them with words. On the flip side, if it’s you that’s caused the schism with your family members (even if it’s a misunderstanding), admit to your transgressions and ask for forgiveness.
- Confront the issues.
Asking for forgiveness is a good start, but it won’t go extremely far in your pursuit to mend broken relationships. You and your family have become estranged from each other for a reason or set of reasons. You cannot forgive each other and then proceed to ignore the elephant in the room. No matter how painful it is, talk about what went wrong. Don’t argue; discuss. Talk about how you felt, and explain that actions are often perceived in different ways by different people. Whatever you do, talk through all your problems.
- Once you’ve resolved problems, follow through.
Reuniting, talking, forgiving all have strong roles to play when mending family relationships. But it doesn’t end there. After being estranged for so long, it’s so easy to slip back into old habits. The reason you’re seeking reconciliation is to have a strong relationship. And strong relationships are tended to with patience, care, and communication consistently. At the very least, call your loved ones once or twice a week. Remember birthdays. Show your love.
Editor’s Note: Do you have personal stories of family estrangement and subsequent reconciliation? How did you get through it? In my work as healthcare marketing consultant and aging expert, I often encounter families who have been torn apart because of caregiving issues for mom and dad. Sly and the Family Stone had the right idea when they sang It’s A Family Affair.