BACK TO THE RECONCILIATION SEMINAR – GETTING STARTED   19 comments

Thanks to Victoria and Sheryl for their comments – my jumping off point for today. Victoria expressed the hope that people would share more stories. I am so hopeful that her wish will be met that I’ll start this brief entry by sharing a story of my own. As for Sheryl’s comment about avoiding accusations, I will add one more thing by way of my own story. Don’t start off by accusing oneself.

My story? I’ll change it a little bit to protect the innocent – including me. Our relationship had been a long one, and our current rift was deep. So deep that she threatened to go away mad. In my “wisdom” I arranged for us to meet and talk in neutral territory – a quiet booth in a restaurant that had just enough noise to cover our conversation for privacy’s sake and public enough to discourage voice-raising. “So, what are we supposed to do?” she said. “Well,” I responded (in my mistaken “wisdom”), “let’s just start talking about it. For example, I’ll admit that I was always somewhat jealous of you.”

“Oh,” she responded. “That explains it,” as she reached for the menu preparing to order. End of conversation. Well, sort of. I found other ways to keep it going, but it was in no way a successful reconciliation.

The lesson? Maybe you can tell me. I do realize that by “confessing” I had, from her point of view, reached the end of the conversation as soon as it started. So, Sheryl, the recommendation — don’t start out being accusatory – even if it’s directed toward oneself.

Now (in my “wisdom”) I realize that the opening step has to be a simple appeal to a reason for working at reconciliation. For example, opening with, “I really miss you.” Or maybe, “Could we get together to talk about what happened?” or possibly, “I’m really unhappy with this bad feeling between us. Could we get together over coffee and talk about it?”

To tell the truth, I like “I really miss you,” or a variant. It’s an opener, not a closer. And it doesn’t involve too many words. Too many words spoil the possibilities. For example, proposing to talk about “what happened,” could evoke the response, “What do you mean, ‘what happened?'” and you are suddenly on the defensive.

So, what do you say? Are you willing to give Victoria and me some examples of how you started the process of reconciliation? Or of how someone else started it with you?

 

 

19 responses to “BACK TO THE RECONCILIATION SEMINAR – GETTING STARTED

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  1. I remember a wonderful suggestion you had, Mona, when one doesn’t quite know what happened and/or how to mend a rift, in this case when one doesn’t know what the cause is but one knows the other person is clearly blaming YOU. It picks up on “I miss you.” Tell that person that you understand that you have upset them, done something that has pained them, and that the relationship is so important that you want to understand and to make amends. The other person has to be willing, and I was unsuccessful with a former friend because she would not tell me what had happened (and I genuinely had zero idea). But I think it is a great approach.

  2. Hi Mona,
    I have debated back and forth of sharing my own un-reconciled life story. It involves my estranged sister ( five years my junior) and subsequently my two dear, sweet nieces, one is 36 now, married with a child and the other has just turned 18. My parents raised us to forgive, no matter what the harm, foul or error, that love always was the trump card (pardon use of that word these days) with family. Family and faith were always the pillars, even to the most of extreme crisis in family dysfunction. It was dysfunctional but it was always based in love–my Father had plenty reason to tell my Mother goodbye but he didn’t have a disloyal or mean bone in his body. And, I guess as human nature goes, I know that learned traits only go so far with some siblings.
    Now that I have set the stage, that may give you the foundation as to my total bewilderment as to my sister’s refusal to reconcile with me.

    When my parents became sick, first my Dad, tehn halfway through my Dad’s continuing decline my Mother just became unmanageable due to dementia. By this time he was on Oxygen and spending many stays at the VA hospital. My Mother was a huge obstacle, she insisted he was fine and he should not stay in the hospital–she even threw fits and would physically become combative with anyone who tried to disagree with her. (Why should she all of a sudden acquiesce when she’s ruled the roost ( even to harmful abuses) since the day they got married?) Plus with dementia now mingled into the mix of severe anxiety, depression and then called Manic-depressive behaviours that only abusive verbal,emotional and physical responses were her reactions, well, you get the picture.

    My sister Gail and I ( we have a Brother Kristopher too) always said years ago in our vast ages of immature adult thinking that we would never have mercy on our Mother if she ever needed to be taken care of. Unfortunately, I realized that could never be the answer.

    Let me preface this all by stating some dysfunctional realities of the system that was in place. My MOther was more of a child than a woman or Mother. My Dad took care of everyone, as a young family and continued with my Mother even up into their older years when he was so sick. Mother had a severe phobia about not being left alone anywhere, ever. As she got older she started not wanting to leave the home, and Dad would call on me to run errands for him, do groceries, mail bills, all that stuff because of years now of him enabling her. He was more codependent
    on her than she was afflicted. At the same time, my sister would lean on him to bail her out of every financial bind, responsibility, and obligation. Gail did not realize that she had learned to follow our Mother’s traits. As much as she would refute it to my face.

    All this while I was the only caretaker for my parents while Gail was the user—and she would never help me to help them, despite refusing to keep a job, despite Robb and I financially helping her out also until Robb realized what was going on and the gig was up on the money flow from us, some 5000 dollars later. Gail bankrupted my parents before Dad got seriously ill, and then continued to inflict more and more guilt when my Dad would tell her, “Gail I simply do not have the money.” Then he would call me to help her out. As you can imagine that created troubles between Robb and I and well, off and running. Feeling responsible and feeling guilt ran rampant in my family, because my Mother was the biggest manipulator of guilt of all time. We learned it well. However, my sister never seemed to catch onto the receiving end, it was always the dishing out, so well learned from Mother.

    Despite the Love/hate relationship I had with my Mother, first and foremostly, I never doubted her love for us all, despite never knowing who she was going to be from one minute to the next. I believe my own experiences with severe anxiety and depression in my young adult into middle age years gave me the insight and compassion my sister did not possess for her Mother.

    So, since day one of my Dad’s 10 year illness and ultimate death, with my Mothers intro into dementia, taking care of Dad’s hospital visits, dealing with a crazy woman there on that front, trying to deal with my ridiculously un-feeling and over demanding boss at work despite having a FMLA him riding me like I was some school punk skipping school everytime Dad needed to go to the VA in an ambulance, or dr appts, ( Mom not wanting to go with but demanding him not going and that I should take him there but then come back and take care of her and stay with her days on end) all the while I feverishly trying to get help from the county to get caretakers to come, meals on wheels, all that while under the hot button of a jerk for a boss at work…then having to remove my Mother from her home and place her into geriatric evaluation only after ONE Doctor would step up to the plate and help me to do this by calling the Regions emergency Doctor to tell him to keep my Mom there on a 72 hour hold and get her into psych eval and not let her come back home again for the 4th time! The hospital psychiatrists I spent hours with every time Mom was admitted for pancreatitis ( as if everything else wasn’t bad enough,) she had that on top of it all. Everytime I had to gather my siblings for these meeting s with the hospital psychiatrist, they always wound up allowing her to come back home, to further abuse my Father when he was so sick.

    Dad would go to the VA he would need to rehab at a nearby Care center, which meant he would not be home with her. Mother demanded that I stay with her for days and nights. I would call on Gail, to help–so I could go to work, I pleaded, tried to make deals, stay during the day, I’ll come overnite–No way she would not budge. She lived one mile away from them and did not work. She would not. Even after my Mother took the car ( she did not drive) and tried to go find the care center and drove the wrong way down the freeway stopped by cops, thank GOD she didn’t cause any fatalities…after all of that she never came to the hospital, never helped me with one thing…I called on her over and over, trying to keep everything all balanced I felt like I was on a tightrope balancing an elephant on my nose, with never a safety net. Robb could only do so much. Every break in my work day was filled with making appts, setting things up, dealing with Doctors, social workers, care centers, county workers.

    The kind doctor who understood what was going on the day( one of many)I took my Mother to an urgent care helped me get her into the process.
    By this time I was a ragged, nervous wreck, had already spent two nights at St Francis regional for what I thought was a heart attack ( an emotional/mental and nervous collapse that occurred at work about a month before I was finally able to place my Mother in a care center).

    My Mother was evaluated way up north at Unity where she spent 8 weeks also with pancreatitis, while my Dad got worse and worse doing the bouncing from the VA to rehab, repeating.

    I can’t even tell you how hard it wa to deal with my Mother after we moved her into the care center. She was relentless with me, I lived, ate, drank and breathed my Mothers wrath and anger. Again, all through this Gail was of no assistance, not even when I asked her to go to the grocery store just one day to get some snacks for our Mother- who had asked me to do this- often and weekly–and take them to the nursing home for her. I simply had had enough. Gail flatly refused once again, ( by now she was starting not to answer my phone calls most of the time) and I just lost it.
    I had -had it with her and I lost my temper, flew into a verbal, emotional rage and screamed at her.

    She turned me off, as though I was a light switch. Gail had been getting mail for Dad and spending time with him now that Mom was not here anymore, still trying to get money from him. She never came to the VA though, ever. After Dad died almost a year after i moved Mom into the care center, The VA mailed out his death benefit check. Unknowing to anyone else despite the arrangements Gail agreed to follow thru on –she had intercepted it, and banked it into her savings account. Two months after Dad’s funeral the funeral home nicely called me to tell me that they still had not received the check from Gail that she so earnestly promised she would send them. That was his burial money. After I had to do detective work to find out where, when the VA mailed it, I finally caught up with Gail. only having $6,500 left of the $12,000 benefit in cash in her purse.

    Ever since I made her give me the remaining cash that afternoon (just finding her was ridiculous, and her lying to me on the phone when I would call those weeks beforehand asking her if that check had been mailed to the funeral home) She has never answered my calls of apologies, of how I forgive her and How I am so sorry I lost my temper several times, I was not nice those times…but I was in a place in my life where I felt like I was one breath away from insanity those 10 long years in all.
    Gail never went to see my Mother in the entire 7 years she was in a care home. I was the sole visitor, caretaker, daughter, child to give her love.

    I have tried so many times, She has blocked my phone number and does not answer any emails I have now stopped sending.
    My Brother probably visited my Mother maybe 4 times in that time. He and I get along but he certainly was of not help or support.

    I’m not left with the poor me syndrome. I’m left in complete wonder as to how my Dad did it all those years with my Mother.

    So that is my terribly long and sordid story of Non-reconciliation. After My Mother passed in September of ’17 the next year was of a long hard healing and rebirth into enjoyment of life once again for me.
    I just wish it could be for my ties or lack of ties to my sister and nieces.

    Thanks for reading.
    Ellie

    • Wow, Ellie! Wow!.And I know you as so stable, peaceful, and kind. Thanks so much for sharing this. It’s a wonderful forgiveness story — the kind that recognizes the one who forgives is the one who gains. But do you know how you did it? Can you verbalize it? I do know that your current job is a blessing, and Robb is amazing, but can you verbalize for Victoria how you accomplished it? Even if you can’t, it’s so good for others to know there are situations where reconciliation just can’t happen because it takes 2 (at least.)

  3. PS: My sister did not come to my Mother’s funeral. SHe repeatedly called the funeral home to ask what the whereabouts of my Mother’s wedding rings were, if she had been buried with them or what. The funeral home called me to tell me they did not tell her being I was the sole funeral arrangement maker at the time. I have never emailed Gail to tell her they are in my possession, I am still incredulous.

    • p.s., I hope Gail doesn’t read my blog. You don’t need any more hassle

    • Very wonderful to hear that you are healing after going through these very difficult circumstances with some difficult family members! I’m sure you would have experienced caretaker burnout and neglected your own needs and happiness for a very long time. I hope that you continue to heal and enjoy your life. You deserve that!

  4. It is wonderful to see some sharing! It takes great courage to do so! I have been struggling with so much dysfunction and abandonement in my family. It is more than difficult to even try to open up about each situation. Thanks to those that can. It is a type of healing that I cannot even explain! I know that I will come to a true and complete forgiveness but I don’t know how to remove the brokenness in my heart and soul. I read a quote (not sure who to credit) that rings true for me. ‘Your mess can become your message’. I have been pondering that one! What, exactly should I turn this mess into when I know it will only be me doing the reconciling? And what, exactly, is my message? I can only reconcile my heart, accept what I cannot change, keep loving, keep moving, keep on keepin’ on!

    • I love that, “Your mess can become our message.” I hope this seminar can proceed with more helpful input from others.For now it seems like the best help being offered is also helpful help — the stories of other’s frustration. Sometimes it seems that something like forgiveness is easy for others, leaving us to feel guilty and frustrated cause we have trouble “doing” it. The truth is, forgiveness is really hard to accomplish. In the meantime, I hate to be sounding like a salesman, but I do think my “Forgiving One Page at a Time” could be helpful. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Forgiving+one+page+at+a+time. An opportunity for a private, guided struggle. If you do choose to get it and work with it, I’m sure people would like to hear what helped and what didn’t, and how.

  5. Thanks, Victoria. I hope it’s helpful. Wish you were here, but I look forward to hearing if and how it helps.

  6. Mona, Victoria-

    It has taken quite some time to be able to share and describe my story to anyone without feeling upset, sad, guilty, angry, resentful….
    I was emotionally devastated. I felt that I would never attain happiness in my life ever again, after growing up seeing my Mother abuse my father emotionally and physically as a young adult I sought therapy and suffered with as I mentioned earlier, anxiety and depression. I saw my Father as a martyr and yet a hero. A martyr because he went through a hell no one can imagine to keep his family together and taken care of in the only and best way he knew how–he carried the role of both he and our Mother, and because of our Mother’s Borderline personality disorder, he lost his only Brother and his Brother’s family due to the alienation and rude effects my Mother caused for him in that area. My Father was treated completely opposite of the love and compassion he afforded to my Mother.
    My Father was always the one to suffer the most due to my Mother’s untreated mental disorders and illnesses and he endured what I surmise that 99.9% of any man would not ever tolerate. I believe that was due to his strong faith in God, his wonderful upbringing and the fact that he had such a gift of compassion and love. Because of this my feelings towards my Father was a combination of love and a fierce loyalty to the point of feeling like I had to protect him and try to give him as much support as possible. This coupled with me being the oldest of three drove it home.

    But— back to the emotional–during and after his sickness and death, I had this boulder of guilt that I thought I had to carry with me everywhere I went, and it was always there in every facet of my life, thought processes, happiness and self worth. I drank too much for almost 5 years starting right after my Father died. Not so much that it affected my job but it most certainly affected other things and yes, it was self medication.
    How I ever managed to quit smoking six months after Dad died, I will never now and can only accept it as a gift of strength from my Father from the grave. Smoking was one big cause of his death and he only told me once in a heart to heart some days before his death “honey, quit smoking if you can..’ For the last six months I smoked, every time I lit up I can swear I heard his voice say it over to me.

    In answer to your question, Mona; How did I forgive and how do I renew and forgive everyday?
    After much thought knowing I would have to heal or the alternative would be very undesirable and and prayer asking for strength to find that stepping stone up—I realized the answer was in myself–or better said– straight from my Dad. I asked myself, What is more powerful than Love and Compassion? How did Dad make it all those years, thru all the turmoil and hell he sustained? What kept him going?
    Love and compassion. Faith, Love and compassion. The greatest of these is Love. I knew the answer before I knew it as I read at my Father’s funeral. I Corinthians chapter 13.

    If I was to be able to have the strength to hold my commitment and promise to my Husband, to take care of my Mother, to be able to live without guilt and shame, to at least try to figure out a way to attempt to reconcile with my sister ( still trying) I simply HAD to love and give compassion. How cold I possibly do this? I did not have the strength to even stop drinking at the time.

    Then the realization hit me–If I did NOT do or even try to do this, EVERYTHING MY DAD worked so hard at (and in a way in my mind emulated Job) would all be in vain–all those years, of blood, sweat and tears (literally) would be lost forever.
    By God I was not going to let that happen. Love and compassion is his legacy.

    More later–I gotta get ready for work.

    Ellie

    • The most beautiful thing about this, Ellie, is the devotion to your father and his legacy. How powerful it is to feel him acting through you –giving you the strength you need. The thread that ties the generations of love together is so vital and so often unrecognized. If someone else were to take a lesson from this, it would be to search for that person of strength in one’s own life and invite him or her in. The tie feels tangible to me. And how important too was your decision that you had to heal. It’s so easy for us to yield to despair (lack of hope) in the belief that we don’t have the power. But you actively sought it and found it, for you in faith, love, and compassion. And just think what “compassion” means — feeling with. Funny thing, in one sense the answer lies within, and yet it requires going outside oneself to connect.I hope your wonderful willingness to share your process here will be a help to others, not only in reading this blog, but in helping me when I do presentations or seminars on reconciliation.

      • That is my hope. The main reason I shared. It was also a confirmation of being able to tell my story without starting to feel those same emotions boiling up inside me and take over like they did before.
        Thanks for offering your kind support and listening to my very long story here. It is highly validating. I must say at this point that my Husband went above and beyond during those years….it wasn’t one but easy for him either. But he carried on helping to carry me over some pretty rough road.

        Victoria, thanks for your kind words as well.

      • Ellie, I am so impressed with your staying power. Knowing what you do and have been doing, and seeing you on a regular basis, I would never have known the pain that was going on inside. It takes a strong person to keep on going while still acknowledging the pain. Good work! And thanks for sharing here.

  7. Mona- I like your suggestion to just open the conversation with “I really miss you.” This shows a desire for things to change without saying anything that might lead either person to become defensive.

    Based on the number of very thoughtful comments, this post obviously is addressing some very important things. Thank you!

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