Mending Torn Relationships

  •  Many years ago, I took a class about how people relate to each other. Our teacher challenged us to take the lead in mending torn relationships. She said to find a way in your heart to reconnect. Find a way to let go of resentments, judgments, and words said, or not said, and reach out to this person. Be the first to knock and begin to open the door between both of you. It can be as simple as saying to them, “I’ve been thinking of you, how are you? Respectively listen to their response, however it may be. Be gentle and take it slow.

As a chaplain, I am often with many family members as their loved one is dying. At times, estranged daughters or sons show up at the hospital. Some of them have not talked to their mother or father for ten, twenty, or thirty years. I have seen whatever angst was between them and their dying parent evaporate for the moment, often replaced by weeping and words of regret. Other times they are just numb. My thoughts are how did their years of anger, resentment, and estrangement serve them? How would their life be different if they would have held out an olive branch year’s before? I often foster verbalization and emotional expression for healing and understanding to begin. 

It takes two people to make a relationship. All your best efforts to mend a broken relationship may end up in vain. I have seen that when one person changes it affects others around them. I let go of blaming my father for my shortcomings at the time I was dealing with a big loss in my life, a divorce. I invited him to have dinner so we could have some father and son alone time. My brother joined us at times. For two years, we meet on Tuesdays for dinner and fellowship. I heard stories of his life that helped me put some of the pieces together of what I had heard growing up. He had gone through a difficult childhood, his mother died when he was twelve, served in the Army during WWII, had polio in the early 1950’s, his marriage, raising children, working, and so much more. He shared his heartache and joys.  

Looking back, I could have distanced myself from my father and continued to blame him for things that were my responsibility to own and deal with. Our relationship grew from our dinners together. I learned to accept my father for who he was, not for who I thought he should be. Later in his life he developed Alzheimer’s. On the day he died, he taught me one final lesson; how to die in peace surrounded by his family he loved.

© David Tillman, 2018, all rights reserved

Custer State Park, South Dakota