It's always very hard to approach a family member following a dispute, though if the situation is permitted to get worse by extended absence, this makes that first approach even harder. Whatever happens within a family to cause such a rift takes a lot of courage to get over. Blame is thrown at certain family members, and the situation made worse simply because ignorance of the current situation may exaggerate the actual results of the dispute. Not knowing the consequences places family members who have stayed away in an extremely difficult situation, making their first approach very precarious. This guide is written to help families to get back together on a reasonable footing after distancing themselves following a family dispute.
It's all about the approach taken. Often people think that a phone call is sufficient. It may not be, and in fact can fuel the dispute even further. Examine the reasons for the dispute and try to work out the angle taken by other family members. A family is a unit of people who have been brought up together, and whose bonds cannot be broken by something as petty as a dispute, but what many fail to realize is that just because all members have similar roots, they may not have similar views.
Families are made up of individuals. This is where is becomes fuzzy. Each individual has their own reasons for taking the side that they have chosen in the dispute and their reasons may be valid ones. Look at the whole situation and how it affected everyone. Try and see the situation from different angles. Why was a sister so opposed to something that was said? Why did a brother create a situation within the family which was so difficult for everyone? People don't cause waves unnecessarily, and often the rift is caused by them having equal beliefs that what they said was right.
The best approach is one which takes into account other people's feelings. Often disputes arise because of someone in the family doing or saying something they later regret. With the passage of time they realize that it's too late to take back words said in haste, or words which they actually believed to be right at the time. However, regret goes two ways. Just as you may regret the distance between family members, they may equally feel that their family is falling apart. Sit down and write a letter, and introduce an element of humility. If you do not feel that you are sorry for what has been said or done, you don't need to say that you are sorry.
What you can do is state that you are sorry the situation got so out of hand. That is true, and blames no one. Remember that people within the family unit may be stuck in their ways. By taking a humble approach, you are much more likely to overcome that which makes family members estranged. Be nostalgic if you want to be. Remember within the letter times when the family was closer. Endear them to those memories which go beyond the dispute and which stand out as positive things, to try and balance out bad feelings. Tell them that you miss the closeness of the family, and would love to try again.
The problem is that people hold on to bad feelings, and bringing these up in a letter, years after the fact, shows that it hasn't been forgiven or forgotten. By skirting the issue, you open yourself up to a dialog and this just could be the dialog needed to help those family members accept you back into the fold. Don't overdo it. Be humble, and be friendly, and put nothing in the letter which indicates that you hold a grudge.
Show them who you are
Send some recent photos of your life, opening up possible things to talk about. They may see that you have changed and embrace that change. Sharing a little of who you are is terribly important. They may still view you as the person who caused the rift, and even if you don't see it that way, put the past behind you, and move toward a better reunion by showing that you have grown up and moved on in life, and that you want to share your good fortune with people that matter to you.
Give them the means to contact you
If the distance between you and the family has been extended, they are probably a little shy about telephoning. Give them the encouragement they need to get over that barrier. If your number has changed, let them know the new number.
Take the initiative
If you are worried and waiting for a reply and nothing comes, your letter will have prepared them to receive a phone call. Try and choose a moment when you know them to be relaxed. Telephoning late at night isn't acceptable, as it's selfish and takes no account of their feelings, health or well-being. Phone at a time which gives you and them an equal footing on which to discuss things.
By taking the initiative, you show a willingness to compromise. It is this willingness that helps mend the family bonds. You may still feel they were in the wrong, but in the overall order of things which happen in a lifetime, too many regrets are caused by people who are too stubborn to admit they may be wrong. Swallowing a little pride goes a long way. Imagine how you would feel to receive news that someone in the family had died. The problem is that leaving things too late to mend isn't a healthy option, and those who do are often riddled with guilt about all the things they should have said but never did.
Having learned by the experience that being away from the family doesn't actually stop them from being family, try to avoid distancing yourself from those people you love. People within a family unit as all individuals. Older people who are stuck into negative ways won't change overnight. Don't expect people who are disapproving to suddenly see the light and become approving and encouraging. The way to look at it is to accept the differences in personality as part of the huge tapestry which makes human beings diverse. If a member of the family lacks tact, it isn't your problem. It's clearly their own problem. Once you accept that their lack of tact is a handicap to their social skills, you begin to see things differently, and in the case of disputes arising can write off the dispute as unreasonable, without holding grudges, knowing that nothing you do or say will change their stubborn attitude, and that it is part of who they are.
What you can do is accept them regardless. Leopards don't change their spots. If you do things to please others and get no recognition, learn that you don't need family recognition, but that you need to be happy with who you are and what you achieve yourself. Every individual is an island, and shouldn't rely upon other family member's approval. Even in the case of one sibling being treated better than another, that sibling who is the favorite may not wish to play that role. It isn't their fault they are in that position, but the fault of people who play the game of favorites.
The family unit will always be the family unit. Brothers and sisters grow up and change. You may not like who they become, but the ties of family are still there whether you like it or not. Life is very short, and the regrets caused by not getting back in touch with the family may provoke instances where it's too late to go back, as family members die. Once you accept who they are and move beyond the petty instances which cause conflict, a family unit is a great support structure. Even if you don't see eye to eye with them, they are not like friends. Friendships come and go, and can leave you behind. Family is always going to be family. They say that blood is thicker than water, and it's true. By taking the first steps toward healing, you open up the possibility of moving on with that support frame of family and background learning to accept who you are, while equally expecting you to support and to love in return even those whose opinions differ from your own.