The older we are the more we realize how important family relationships are to us. Unfortunately, during our adulthood we become so busy with our career and family responsibilities that we often neglect our family of origin – our brothers and sisters and others that we grew up with. As we move into our senior years, we begin reflecting on the past, how we grew up, people that we were close to, and we begin wondering where they are and what they are now doing in their lives.
If you have lost touch with your childhood family, that is fairly easy to remedy. You probably have their most current address and phone number even if you only use them to send holiday greetings or call in case of an emergency.
However, if you have lost touch with family members because of past arguments or resentments, you may now have second thoughts about cutting them off and have a growing desire to repair the breech. If that is the case, reaching out to bury the hatchet and rebuilding the bridges to your siblings will bring much healing to your family before it is too late.
Rebuilding family relationships
If you have drifted away because of busyness and neglect, start writing, texting, or calling on a fairly regular basis depending on what works for each of you. Try to get together in person and have a healthy discussion. Let your sibling know you are sorry that you have drifted away and tell them your feelings about wanting to connect more often. They may have the same feelings and will be glad you reached out. Decide what works best for both of you:
- weekly or biweekly contact by phone, email, or Twitter
- planned get-togethers with both families involved such as on occasional holidays
- texting when something interesting happens, including sending a picture or short video so that you can both enjoy the moments
- plan a visit to one-another’s home in order to get caught up
- join each other on FaceBook and other social media sites to keep up with what is going on in their lives. You can share pictures and let one another know what is going on without intruding on their busy daily life
Rebuilding broken relationships
If your relationship is fractured due to bad feelings and harsh words, and you have not seen each other in years, rebuilding the broken relationship is going to take more effort on your part, and theirs. If you don’t exchange greetings even during the holidays it will take some amount of courage for you to reach out to reconnect with your family before it’s too late.
But there is something about the golden years that makes you want to put past resentments and broken relationships behind you and make things right again, and your sibling may feel the same way. They may have wanted to reconnect with you but didn’t know how. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started:
Send a written greeting. If you have an address for your siblings, that is a great start. Perhaps the best way to ease into rekindling those relationships is with a greeting card. 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 you wish to rebuild bridges with. If you are aware of his or her birthday or important dates in their life, a card to recognize that event will be a good start.
Give them a little time. That 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.
When to follow up. 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 favorite 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.
When to let go of emotions. If you are wondering when the right time is to let go of the emotional release of all those resentments, just 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 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 a ton of weight fall off your shoulders 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.