How to Reconnect with an Estranged Family Member
Most people have experienced or are currently dealing with an estranged family member in some way, shape, or form.
Ranging from silent wars to incredible outbursts of anger, there are so many ways you can find yourself in this situation.
Regardless of how it happened or how serious it is, a time may come when you eventually find yourself wanting to heal the emotional scars, move forward, and leave the past where it lies.
With the holidays coming up, we thought it would be fitting to send you some tips and tricks on how to reconnect with an estranged family member, starting with a list of what not to do…
What Not to Do
Don’t Show Up Unannounced
First thing’s first - it’s never a good idea to randomly show up to give or ask for forgiveness.
This will jolt the person into a spiral of stress and may have the exact opposite of the intended outcome.
Don’t Expect Immediate Resolution
Whether you’re forgiving or looking to be forgiven, give the person time, especially if this rift has been happening over many months or years.
Although you may want tearful hugs of love at the end, it may not happen - and that’s okay.
Don’t Be Sarcastic or Make Unnecessary Jokes
This depends on the person’s sense of humor, but generally speaking, it’s a good idea to keep things from the heart. Maintaining a respectful yet serious composure will convey a message of sincerity.
It’s okay to laugh at their jokes, and be sure to control yourself if they get sarcastic. It may be a coping mechanism for them.
Don’t Rush Things
In addition to not expecting an immediate resolution, also don’t expect an immediate response or a meet-up date anytime soon.
The person may need time to emotionally prepare for responding to your text, email, or call, and even more time to actually meet up. Be patient.
Don’t Do It Over the Phone
It’s natural to set up the reconciliation process over the phone or email, but when it comes down to it, meet in person if your safety is not in jeopardy
Body language is 55% of communication, and what’s said without physical context can be taken in the wrong way.
There’s also that unmistakable energetic and emotional connection from looking somebody in the eyes and saying, “I’m sorry”, or “I forgive you.”
What You Should Do
Work on Yourself First
If you’re considering reconnecting with an estranged family member, first do some inner work. There’s an old Sanskrit saying that goes something like, “Whatever you see in somebody else, you’re also seeing in yourself.”
If this wisdom applies to your situation, understand that you may have to be the bigger person and develop the patience and humility to accept the responsibility that goes with it.
Conversely, if this wisdom does not apply to your situation, develop the patience and confidence to go into the situation prepared.
Really Think About It
Before you reach out to the person in question, think about if you really want to mend the relationship for a week or so. Sleep on it, talk to your spouse or those who are familiar with the situation yet neutral, and come back to it.
If you believe things won’t change, it may be best to leave it.
If you believe you or the person can change, then move forward.
If this person has a history of violence, prioritize safety.
If they reached out to your for forgiveness or you reached out to them to forgive, always be prepared to exit safely and come accompanied by one or multiple neutral parties.
Prepare For Rejection
If you’re going into this situation apologetic, prepare to be rejected. If you wronged this person, your main priority should be forgiveness, not acceptance.
At the same time, understand that immediate rejection does not mean permanent rejection. If you’ve said your peace with love and respect, the person may come around down the line.
On the flip side, if you want to proactively forgive somebody, also prepare for rejection. This person may want to leave the person they used to be in the past or simply may be too ashamed to look you in the eye.
If this is the case, say your peace and let them be. They may come around, too.
Plan What You’ll Say
It’s very important that you don’t read from a script - it comes off as vapid and emotionless.
With that said, it’s a good idea to write down your thoughts on the situation and rehearse what you’re going to say so you get everything out.
Don’t try to memorize what you wrote down word-for-word, but instead remember what you want to say and speak from the heart. Be vulnerable without displaying weakness, and the other party will reciprocate.
Consider a Neutral Mediator
If things tend to get fired up between the two of you, consider bringing in a neutral mediator.
This person should not be your spouse as their views will be slanted towards yourself, but rather somebody who loves you both, has no opinion on the matter, and wants the best for both of you.
Last not not least, the most important part of reconnecting with an estranged family member is to listen!
Don’t interrupt them no matter what is said, listen without judgment, and don’t wait to speak.
Truly listen to their words and let them say their peace. They will eventually run out of steam and will feel heard, which ultimately will make them feel appreciated by you and more open to mending the relationship.
At the end of the day, reading this blog post is not the one-all-be-all.
You have to look deep into yourself to see if this is really something you want to do that’s best for you and your loved ones and proceed as you see fit.
Sending love and acceptance to you and your family this holiday season,