Ten Ways to Make Peace During Family Celebrations
Being estranged from people in our families can make holidays and family gatherings events we dread, rather than times of joy and celebration. For instance:
- You’re not speaking to your mother—or your child—and Mother’s Day is right around the corner
- You’ve been avoiding your father for months and you’re expected to show up for dinner on Father’s Day
- Your sister is getting married and you’re going to have to sit with your older brother whom you haven’t spoken to in years
- You’re dreading Thanksgiving at your sister’s house because of your loud-mouthed brother-in-law
- You want to enjoy yourself at your daughter’s wedding despite the fact that your ex-husband will be there
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, here are 10 ways to make things easier:
1. Acknowledge the things about the other person that you once loved and genuinely miss. All of us have good and bad qualities. Focus on the parts of the other person you can still appreciate and enjoy.
2. Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. When we see things through the other person’s eyes, rather than our own, understanding and communication increase dramatically.
3. Don’t let pride get in your way. Wanting to be “right” and needing to blame the other person are two of the biggest obstacles to reconciliation.
4. Know where to draw the line. If you know you won’t allow yourself to be treated badly, it’s easier to open the door to reconciliation.
5. Be willing to take the first step. It doesn’t matter whose “turn” it is. If you want to make peace with someone, find the courage to reach out and begin the healing process.
6. Fear doesn’t have to stop you. Risk and reconciliation go hand in hand. Even if you’re scared and shaking, you can still pick up the phone. Whether or not the other person steps up to the plate, you’ll be a better person for having attempted reconciliation.
7. Focus on what you have in common. Rather than focusing on the past, concentrate on what you can share now: spending time with grandchildren, going to a sporting event, participating in a hobby you both enjoy.
8. Be realistic, but stay open for a miracle. Expecting someone to have a personality change inevitably leads to disappointment. Figure out what you need in the relationship at a minimum, and go for that.
9. Think about the kind of person you want to be. Do you want to be someone who carries a grudge over the course of a lifetime? Or do you want to learn to let go of past hurts?
10. To err is human, to forgive, divine. All of us are imperfect. Accepting our own shortcomings—and those of others—opens the door to healing and reconciliation.
Drawn from I Thought We’d Never Speak Again: The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation by Laura Davis (HarperCollins, April, 2002). © Laura Davis, 2002. This article may be distributed or reproduced as long as you include the author, the copyright and the sentence, “Laura Davis is the author of I Thought We’d Never Speak Again: The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation. You can visit her website: http://www.LauraDavis.net