Grieving the Loss of Family Relationships

I just finished an eight week series at my church on Restoring Broken Relationships. I ended it on Sunday talking about when things don’t work. That is, what do you do when you TRY to restore broken relationships but the other person doesn’t cooperate? This often happens in families. It’s about grieving the loss of family relationships.

Grieving the loss of family relationships

Grieving the loss of family relationships

I interviewed a member of my church who has wrestled with this. At first he was depressed about his lack of connection to his own family. But after much thought and prayer he came up with a plan to help move him forward. His talk opened up the eyes to many in my congregation. You might want to listen to it yourself (click the link above). Here are the key points.

Grieving the Loss of Family Relationships

  • In the early days the siblings connected to each other through their parents, the family farm and their church. They were one big happy family and assumed they always would be.
  • As children grew up and moved away they no longer had the farm or church to hold them together but holidays with mom and dad and fond memories kept them together.
  • As mom and dad started to fail this brought the siblings even closer together as they shared the same purpose of helping their parents.
  • When mom and dad passed away things changed. The siblings no longer had time for each other.  My interviewee sensed a profound loss. Not wanting to be passive he sought to create opportunities for his siblings to come together. But most chose to ignore these opportunities.
  • This brought disillusionment. How could this happen? Aren’t we family? Aren’t we all Christians?
  • After reflecting on this he saw that the three things that kept his siblings together no longer existed (parents, farm, church). It should have been no surprise.  He needed to accept this “new normal”, grieve it and come up with a new plan of action.
  • He developed personal “rules of engagement”, a plan for how he would communicate with his siblings without putting pressure on them to respond. This is what he came up with:
  1. Extend courtesy. Keep an open mind and be kind.
  2. Expect nothing, but also close nothing. Burn no bridges.
  3. Participate when invited (wedding, graduation).
  4. Send birthday and Christmas cards with no strings attached; simple, kind, caring.
  5. I will call if I have a tragedy with no guilt implied (that don’t have to drop everything and come).
  6. I will pray about my attitude and theirs (so we don’t close off from each other).
  7. Respect their desire for privacy or space. (Just because we’re family doesn’t mean we have to be together).
  8. Things can change, they can change, I can change. This is a season. Maybe some day we will be close again.

Many of us never see what this man saw. We live confused and depressed that we are not close as a family. And we nag/pressure our family to be what we want them to be. Not helpful.

What struck me in this interview was how easily we disconnect from people when we have no common purpose. It made me realize that if I want to have rich relationships with friends or family I need to plan for it and not assume it will happen naturally.

Question: Have you experienced grieving the loss of family relationships in this way? How have you handled it? 

Learn more about how to forgive in my book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.

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4 thoughts on “Grieving the Loss of Family Relationships

  1. Sherrie Curry

    I am in the midst of this situation at present and for the last couple of years. One day my mother announced that holidays would not be celebrated and she didnt want to hear about it. The holidays were an important time for me and some of my siblings as we could get together, share a meal and some memories of holidays gone by. My mother is a very stubborn, self proclaimed leader of the family so any please went on deaf ears. My way of dealing with this is to continue celebrating the important times. I send cards, call and send well wishes. I live in God and remember what it most important to me to leave as my legacy to my son, grandkids, and siblings. I find that when I allow the pain of being turned away and left out of the family in, I have nothing to give and feel like she is winning. I know it is not a contest but for those of you who are in this situation, I hope you know what I am saying. You may not change anything but the worst thing I can do is to not try.

    1. F. Remy Diederich

      Thanks for sharing this. I hope you and your siblings can create new traditions to hold the family together. Without those traditions it’s easy to drift…one year, two. Two becomes ten and you realize one day that you have nothing in common with your own family members. It’s easy to take for granted so you have to be proactive.

      ________________________________
      From: Disqus
      To: remydiederich@yahoo.com
      Sent: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 8:03 AM
      Subject: [readingremy] Re: Grieving the Loss of Family Relationships

  2. cheryl

    I have experienced this and have found t very difficult to come to terms with. Since my mum died 5 years ago i have had very little contact or help from my family. My brother and dad dont seem to want to know. My brother has been very aggressive at times towards me and my sister. He accuses us of taking things from their house. We dont think that he is well but he hasnt got any help. My sister and i dont always get along and sometimes i dont feel welcome. She doesnt go anywhere and i only see her cause i call at her house. Ive just had to accept the situation though i am angry and disappointed with them and feel that they dont care about me or my family. There is four grandkids who have no family get togethers. I feel sorry for them but theres only so much i can do. The effort is all on my part. I just have to look after my own family but it is lonely and hard work when youre doing it all by yourself. My mum was a good help to me.

    1. F. Remy Diederich

      Families so often fall short of our desires, don’t they? It’s a huge loss and grieving is natural. But you are right…you have to accept the situation and move on without them. I wish there was a “fix” for this but you can’t control them. Thanks for sharing your situation.

      ________________________________
      From: Disqus
      To: remydiederich@yahoo.com
      Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:39 AM
      Subject: [readingremy] Re: Grieving the Loss of Family Relationships

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