Virus Motivates Mending Family Rifts

It’s Mother’s Day during a pandemic when many families are separated not only by distance but as a result of stay-at-home orders.  Whether you have a mother living, are a mom or are missing the love of a mother figure, it’s a day of reflection.  Some are feeling the absence of their children or parent and these strange circumstances have many people reevaluating what is most important.  It may even motivate adults to begin mending relationships that have been damaged through the years. Is it advisable to forge ahead and reconcile now with estranged family or friends? 

As people grow older, it is not uncommon for one to become distanced from a family member or once-close friend; life has a way of throwing circumstances at us that can lead to estrangement.  But one of the keys to aging well is to have a strong network of friends and family to support one another in times of need.  Although by no means does this community need to be blood relatives, there are times when someone with a shared background or upbringing can offer comfort and understanding.  

Aside from an abusive relationship, which is another subject entirely, many family members find themselves not communicating for long periods of time; not because of the initial incident but because of stubbornness.  If this is the case, it’s not too late to either ask for forgiveness or to reach out with an olive branch and discuss the issue without anger or accusations.  

Reconciling with a family member or close friend takes patience, love and consistent effort over time.  A crisis, such as the COVID-19 virus, can be the impetus people may need to start the reconciliation process but it will only be successful if both parties make an effort and set up healthy boundaries.  That might include avoiding political or religious discussions if they have led to a rift in the past.  

When elderly dying adults were asked by a palliative care nurse what was their biggest regret, among the top 5 was the regret of not staying in touch with friends, not having had the courage to express their feelings and not having lived a life true to themselves.  As the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, people are forced to face their own mortality, especially older adults.  At the end of the day, it’s relationships that people will value above all else. 

Learn more about family estrangement and reconciliation in a recent Psychology Today blog post by Karl Pillemer Ph.D.  His book Fault Lines:  Fractured Families and How to Mend Them is due out September 08 2020.