…you haven’t spoken to your brother or sister in years? There was a conflict over something that you may not even clearly remember, and that ultimately led to a complete breakdown in communication. Perhaps tensions built over a period of time, and it finally reached a point that you could no longer stand it. You and your sibling quietly parted ways. The phone calls ceased. The visits with each other became nonexistent. And before you know it, decades have gone by without as much as a Christmas card exchanged.
I am speaking from experience. My oldest sister experienced significant conflict with our mother. In fact, when our mother passed away, this particular sister chose not to attend to her funeral service. I allowed the strife between them to impact my relationship with this sister. We never argued. There were no harsh words between us. She did nothing that was offensive toward me. The distance just grew. I was busy with young children, so that became an excuse to allow the relational distance to widen over time. My children grew up and left home. Two of them graduated from college and began their professional lives. None of those milestones were shared with Kerry.
And then it happened. In 2015, I received a Facebook friend request from the sister in question. My middle sister, Kim, did as well. I was quite shocked. And Kim was too! Neither one of us had heard a peep out of Kerry in years. But Kerry reached out to both of us. We began sharing pictures, exchanging email, and acting like normal siblings. And then later that year, Kerry made the trek to Texas from New York to see us. I did a lot of listening that week. I learned things about my family that I did not know until that point. Family secrets that had been buried for years came to the surface. It was not easy to hear such things, but I was I still thankful. They were things I needed to hear in order to gain better perspective.
Our relationship as siblings was relatively short-lived. Kerry died unexpectedly on October 21st, 2017. It still feels unreal to me. But as I continue to experience sibling grief, there are a few things I have learned along the way that are worth sharing. Here they are:
· Choose to be the Initiator: Choose to initiate reconciliation. Don’t wait for your brother or sister to reach out to you. YOU make the first move. No excuses. If I had reached out to Kerry years ago, we would not have missed out on so much. Choose to initiate.
· Be receptive: If your sibling reaches out to you, don’t hesitate to reciprocate. Don’t hold the past over their head. Choose to be open. Respond to any and all overtures. Throw your foolish pride on the ground and stomp it out.
· Forgive: Your sibling deeply hurt you back in the day. There were harsh words. There were mistakes made. There were calls that should have been returned. There were bad attitudes. And the list goes on…. Choose to forgive. Let the past go.
· Capture the Day: Life is short. And life is not always predictable. When we put Kerry back on the plane to New York, we had no idea that we would never see her again. Capture the day. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
Are you conflicted with a sibling? I am full aware that past abuse, criminal activity, and other serious issues can certainly make it impossible to experience complete reconciliation. But is that the case in your situation? Choose to be honest with yourself. What can you do today to make things better? Let go of your pride. Choose to be an initiator. I am so thankful that Kerry took the high road and made the effort to reconnect with us. We treasure what little time we had with her.