Royce Shook

1 year ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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Rebuilding Bridges

Family is important.  Sadly it’s easy to get completely absorbed with taking care of your immediate family of your spouse and kids and dealing with issues of career, homeownership, finances and all of the other worries of life that so often we lose touch with old friends and sometimes family.  The outcome is that many of us reach retirement and then do an inventory of our life, we realize that our relationship with old friends and or family including, brothers or sisters, cousins is not what we want or need it to be now.

There are many reasons, some good, some bad that cause us to lose contact with family and friends. One of those reasons could be is that you married, had kids got busy and forgot to stay in touch. Another reason could be that there was a dispute or a perceived, or actual insult that was not resolved and as the years went by it became harder and harder to resolve the issue.  If the latter is the case, it’s easy to feel remorse and a desire to “bury the hatchet” and rebuild those bridges.

Easier said than done, I am lucky my family is close (within three hours) and I can see them when I need to, (not now of course, due to COVID). I know in my family my grandmother and her sisters did not speak for over 45 years and only made up when one of them was dying. It is sad not to have family close, but how to go about making things right with your siblings? If you don’t exchange greetings even at the holidays and if you have not seen each other in years, this effort to reconnect with family before it’s too late is going to take courage to put past resentments and broken relationships behind you and make things right again.

Here are some ideas, first, if you are lucky enough to have a relationship with a spouse of the sibling reach out and try to connect. One of my younger brothers believed that when we were young I had treated him badly so over the years, I understand, he became more distant to me, and I was not aware of any issues. One day his wife phoned me and told me of his concerns. I was shocked as I did not believe I had treated him any worse or better than I had my other brother. I was smart enough to listen to her story. She also told me that he did not know she was talking to me. So, the next time I talked to my brother, I brought up stories of our youth and I also talked about how much I respected what he had done with his life. I also talked about how over those years I may have been harder on him than I should have been. I also talked about love and forgiveness and we parted on better terms, in the past few years then we were prior to my understanding and apologizing for my poor treatment of him in our youth.

If you have don't want to start a conversation right away, and you have an address, or email or a phone number of your siblings, that is a great start.  Perhaps the best way to “ease into” rekindling those relationships is with an email or a greeting card. I did not ease into the reconciliation because we already had a fair relationship and we could talk, but many do not have even that.  Just buy a nice card with a pleasant or funny greeting message in it and write one or two lines in there when you send one to the sibling with whom you wish to reconnect. 

That or email card will come “out of the blue” to your sibling so the next step is to give it some time for that gesture to be absorbed.  Make sure the card has your current mailing address, your phone number and email address somewhere on it.  Your sibling may not have that information handy and you want to make it easy for them to respond to your gesture of reconciliation.

If your sibling writes, emails or calls and it seems your gesture was well received, you are off on the right foot.  Now you can kick it up a notch with another card but this time with a personal letter enclosed with more verbiage about life and what is going on with you.  This is also a great place to retell some favourite story from childhood such as when the dog pulled over the Christmas tree or when dad did that church skit in drag to get your sibling remembering the good times when you were kids and thinking of anecdotes from your childhood to remind you of.

You may wonder when the time will be right for the “big apology” and the emotional release of all those resentments.  Well, keep building that bridge.  You cannot cross a bridge until it is built.  Keep that correspondence going and kick it to the next level with a once a month phone call.  Again, keep those calls light, social, funny and warm.   Catch up with each other and send your love through your sibling to their spouse and children.  This extends the act of reconciliation to your sibling’s family who can be a powerful force to help the process along.

Finally, arrange a visit.  And it will be during that visit, after some nice times together, some hugs and laughter with his or her spouse and kids and maybe a couple of glasses of wine that you and your brother or sister can bring up the hurt feelings and put those resentments to rest once and for all.  You will feel 30 pounds lighter when you are no longer carrying those hard feelings.  And by going into your retirement years with your relationships restored and bridges rebuilt, you are going a long way toward guaranteeing yourself a happy and peaceful life in your golden years. Don't wait until a family member you loved once is dying to try to make amends by then it could be too late. Time can just slip away.

Rebuilding Bridges

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