Rebuilding Bridges

Family is important. Sadly in the busy world of your adult life, 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, home ownership, finances and all of the other worries of life that so often we lose touch with those we grew up with. The outcome is that a lot of senior citizens reach their retirement years and when they do inventory of their life, they realize that their relationship with their brothers or sisters has gone cold.

If the only reason that you have lost touch with your first family before you got married and have kids is busyness and inattention, that isn’t so worrisome. But you may have lost touch with family due to resentments or a genuine effort to cut them off in the heat of some slight or insult that may have occurred before you reached your senior years. If that’s the case, it’s easy to feel remorse and a desire to “bury the hatchet” and rebuild those bridges to your siblings that you have lost touch with.

But how to go about making things right with your siblings, particularly if they are far away geographically? 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 some courage. 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.

If you have an address and phone number of 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.

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.

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.

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 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.


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