It’s not uncommon to be estranged from a family member or someone you care deeply about. It happens in more families than you might think. Brothers and sisters can become estranged, as well as parents and children. These estrangements can occur over disagreements from lifestyle choices, sibling rivalries, religious differences, jealousies, financial issues, alcohol and drug problems, caring for sick and aging parents and other matters that affect families. Estrangements can be incredibly painful to live through, yet people often do not speak about them out of shame and embarrassment.
If you are thinking about getting back in touch with someone you have been estranged from, you should know that following some guidelines can make it easier. Most experts advise to take things slowly. It usually takes time for people to forgive and let someone back into their life. Speaking to a qualified therapist or mental health counselor can help you understand why a rift occurred, the family dynamics involved, and how you can best deal with the situation.
Some key tips on reconciling:
- Go slowly. Understand that reconciliation can be a long, slow process.
- Meet for short periods of time at first so both of you can process everything you are going through.
- Don’t make the mistake of rehashing the past, it’s usually better to apologize and move forward.
- Don’t get discouraged. If a reconciliation doesn’t work now, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.
- Try using email or social media if a face-to-face encounter or phone call seems too difficult at first. Writing a letter can also be a good first step.
- Remember that freeing yourself from bitterness and resentment is always worthwhile, even if the reconciliation doesn’t work out.
Reconciliation can be wonderful when it happens, but in some families, it simply may not be possible. If you have been deeply hurt by someone, and that person continues to be destructive and cause you pain and anguish, it may be better to not to have them in your life. It’s always important to be aware of protecting your psychological and physical well-being before reconciling with an estranged family member.
It’s helpful to remember that no human being is perfect. It’s hard to go through life and be a parent, child, sibling or spouse without making a few big mistakes along the way. If you can find it in your heart to forgive others for their mistakes, chances are, they can find it in their heart to forgive yours. So if reconciling with an estranged family member is important to you, by all means don’t be afraid to give it a try.
About Leslie Bourne, PhD
Dr. Leslie Bourne almost became a lawyer instead of a doctor. “I went to Cornell University as an undergraduate because they had a good law school there. However, I took a great course in psychology in my junior year and decided that’s what really interested me. So I decided to change course and go into the field of psychology.”
In her work as a behavioral psychologist, Dr. Bourne always respects the patient and tries to...View profile View posts by this doctor