Forgiveness – Healing a Painful Family Rift
- Forgiving relative.
- Healing painful family rift.
- General forgiveness strategies.
Ask the Author: Question & Response
We have a serious rift within our family that we are at a loss to know how to heal. My son and daughter-in-law have totally rebuffed us and it is painful. This is the third time and has gone on the longest (3 years). They have 2 children whom we are never allowed to see or even speak to on the phone. He is in the army and we have found out they now live in Germany. Whenever we send the children money at Christmas and birthdays, the checks are cashed and no letter or phone call of thank you are given.
It appears that our daughter-in-law cannot forgive us for not wanting them to get engaged (they were 15 and 17 years old) at the time, and later were not for them getting married at 17 and 19 years old, because we thought they were too young and he was away for long periods of time in the army. We wanted them to wait a couple of years before doing so. She cannot let those events go and is frankly unsociable with us. Our son tried to keep in contact, but has given up since the children were born.
We would like a relationship with them, but they do not answer our phone calls or letters. They neither send Christmas or birthday cards to any of our family members. He has completely cut himself off from us all.
Should we take the hint and let them go or is there another approach we can adopt? This is the most painful experience so far in our lives.
Thank you for hearing us out. Kind regards,
– A. and D., England
Please understand that the answer below is in no way meant to judge you. I will simply be inviting you to awaken to another way of thinking.
Simply open your mind to the following: Regardless of how educated, intelligent and wise you think you may be, whatever tools you have been taught and learned to use, whatever actions and reactions you believe are the right ones – all of them have failed you. If you continue to do and support tools, ideas, actions and reactions that have failed you in the past, then I promise you that you will invite and attract failure in the future. And when it comes to dealing with your family, your son and grandchildren, failure is not, nor must ever be, an acceptable answer.
I will thus be bringing to the forefront ideas, concepts and suggestions that may not be pleasant for your ego to read or digest. Yet, if and when this happens, remember that it is because of the ego’s advice that you find yourself in the situation you are in today. So I will be inviting you to do the opposite of what has not worked for you.
1. Stop playing the victim. They don’t answer letters. They don’t answer phone calls. They don’t send Christmas or birthday cards. They don’t call to say thank you. Come on, rise above their immature actions. We are talking about your son, a military man in a time of war, there is no more time to waste here!
Take responsibility for your actions. You are supposed to be the authority figures here. You have the most life experience. If a child and parent get into a heated argument, who should be more able to deal with the situation in an adult and mature manner? You need to stop playing the victim and start playing the lead. You must stand up and be the hero of this journey. It is now well past time that you take a good look in the mirror and say: “Enough is enough. I will not continue to support what is not working for me!”
When you play the victim, you give your power away. You place yourself in a spot where you convince yourself that others are making you feel a certain way, and that others are responsible for how you feel and behave. It is not their actions that make you feel a certain way; it is your reaction to their actions. You have the final say as to what you choose to experience, support and carry with you. Stand up, take your power back.
2. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. This is the third time? If you would have taken this seriously the first time around, then there wouldn’t have been a second time and neither would there have been a third time. Take responsibility for your destiny. For your destiny is simply a result of what you do now.
Take what is being said in this reply very seriously. Take time to discuss with your spouse each and every point. Take notes on everything that is and isn’t working for you. Take notes on what happened before, your past behavior, actions and reactions, figure out what truly worked and what didn’t. If a response, action or reaction brought more peace of mind and joy to your life and the lives of others – then it was working. If your response, action or reaction brought more anxiety, stress, conflict and feelings of regret – then it did not work for you.
People don’t take enough time to truly figure out what responses, actions and reactions are and aren’t working for them in their lives. Gift yourself the time; for if you do, you will also be gifting your grandchildren with more balanced, loving, supportive and caring grandparents. You will create a stronger base for them. You will model this behavior, and your grandchildren’s behavior will become extensions of yours.
3. Would you rather be right or happy? How has trying to be right worked for you? How is it working for you now? Is being right worth not seeing your son or grandchildren? Have you not sacrificed enough to the control gods in your mind? Has not the time away from your son and grandchildren been enough of a sacrifice for you to get that the way you’re behaving, acting and reacting is inadequate, insufficient and unproductive?
Allow your son and daughter-in-law the freedom to fall. Allow them the freedom to make mistakes. Allow them the freedom to raise their kids in the way they see fit. Allow them the freedom to be who they are. Allow them these freedoms, and you will find your relationship with them freeing. You will be freed from the need to control, freed from the need to be right, and you will be freed from judgment, pain and resentment.
4. The less insane person in any argument takes control of it by being quiet. Is a disagreement worth the price of not seeing your son or grandchildren? How has arguing and telling them what to do worked for you? If your son or daughter-in-law want to argue with you – don’t. Simply be quiet. What argument has ever been resolved by anger? Is any argument worth the price of your grandchildren’s hugs? Is getting your point across no matter what, worth the price of seeing your grandchildren’s smiles as you spoil them with gift after gift?
Stop judging their behavior. How far has judging their behavior taken you? How much longer will you kneel down and worship at the alter of judgment? Is judging their behavior worth so much to you that you would sacrifice your connection to your grandchildren on this alter?
5. Either work to resolve the situation, or don’t; but stop making half-hearted efforts. Save the money you’re using on phone calls, cards and checks you’re sending and use that money for detectives and plane tickets. Step one, if you can’t find out where they live, then get a detective. Step two, once you find out where they live, fly over there and respectfully knock on their door. Step three, ask them for 5 minutes of their time. Even if your daughter in-law answers the door, tell her you’re there to apologize and ask her for 5 minutes of her time.
6. Ask for forgiveness for all the times you disagreed and/or argued with them. List on a piece of paper all those events and ask for forgiveness for all of them. Pride is not useful here, unless you’d rather have pride over your grandchildren. Do not ask them to do the same. If they don’t believe that they need to offer forgiveness then that’s fine. The whole point is that you are coming there for forgiveness. You are the adults. You have the life experience. You are the ones who are supposed to be mature. Apologize for all the times you hurt them and their feelings. Tell them how much you love them and their grandchildren. Tell them how much it would mean to you to get another chance to be in their lives.
7. Stop making them the bad guys. You’re accomplishing nothing by this. How much have you accomplished by making your daughter-in-law the bad one here? How much love and acceptance from your son have you received by blaming her for the situation. Your son is defending his wife, and he has every right to do so. If you want your son and grandchildren back in your life then you need to be civil, respectful, supportive and kind to your daughter-in-law, and then your son will return these actions back to you.
8. Work on developing conflict resolution skills. You have gone through this three times and most probably many more. You need to look in the mirror, understand and accept that your skills are lacking. Peaceful conflict resolution is a skill just like any other, the more you study and focus on it – the better you become at it. Read books, go to seminars, and find better, kinder and gentler ways of communicating.
Work on loving and respecting yourself more. As you do, you will find that your love and respect for others also increases. Work on judging yourself less, and as you do you will find yourself judging others less. Work on strengthening your self-esteem, and you will find other people’s actions affecting you less. Work on bringing peace of mind and joy to others, and you will increase the time you spend in a peaceful and joyful state.
9. Work on rebuilding their trust. Stop telling them what to do with their lives. Stop telling them what to do with their children’s lives. If your son and daughter-in-law believe their children should be raised a certain way and you disagree, keep those thoughts to yourself. Support your son and daughter-in-law, and all their decisions, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. In the future, once the trust is rebuilt, they may well come to you for advice. If and when that happens, you are then free to offer your advice, but do not become attached to them following your advice.
10. Bring prayer, meditation and God into this issue and relationship. Do not be afraid to ask God for assistance. Each and every time you start to feel negative toward your son or daughter-in-law, stop yourself; for where has this behavior taken you before? Instead, close your eyes. Invite God to join you, and visualize Him holding all of you in His loving arms. Feel and see His love surround you in a white light. Feel His arms around all of you. Know this – what you feel about your brother and sister will first have to flow through you. You, like it or not, take the brunt of all your thoughts and feelings toward others. Thus look with love, forgiveness and understanding toward your brother and sister. If at first you have a hard time doing so, then invite God to do so for you. Invite Him to take your hand while he is doing so. Then ask Him to help you feel and see your brother and sister as He does.
Be the hero of your journey. Take the first steps and know that you shall not do so alone.
I will pray for you and your family.
This question and response can be found in the book - There is Another Way: Overcoming Real World Challenges. If you enjoyed this Q&A, you'll really enjoy the book which is filled with inspiration and effective strategies for overcoming life's challenges. The book is due to come out this March. Click here to sign up for our newsletter so that you can be notified when it is ready. Thanks.