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January 28, 2022

How to Restore an Estranged Family Relationship

My heart has been heavy with so many people in my life- friends and clients alike who feel distance and estrangement in their relationships.

Something has happened, whether it was a clear breach or a slow distancing. Moms who feel hopeless about being able to connect with their children- sisters estranged.

It may take longer than you want and the waiting can feel like forever, but I have seen prodigal children returned, I have seen sibling relationships restored. I have seen children re-connect with estranged parents.

Often, a client will tell me, I don’t think we will ever talk again. I think our relationship is too far gone.

What I know is that if you honestly pursue, almost any relationship can be restored.

if you honestly pursue, almost any relationship can be restored What’s going on is that there is a mountain of pain between you two because of whatever happened- whether real or imagined. Both of you have been hurt and it’s hard for you to let the hurt go.

So, as I’m speaking today- think about that relationship that feels like it’s slowly slipping from your grasp, that you may have little hope for, maybe one that you’ve already seen severed. If you want it, it’s possible to restore it. But it will take effort, humbleness and a bunch of patience.

If you know that’s what you’re up for, here’s what you need to do:

1. Ask yourself why you want to restore the relationship.

Is this person otherwise healthy for you? There are some relationships that you may miss, that hurt to no longer have in your life, but aren’t actually healthy for you. Restoring a relationship with a toxic parent, sibling or grandparent even, is not always in your best interest and can be you perpetuating your co-dependency issues.

Restoring a relationship with a minor child is not really an option in my professional opinion. It’s your duty. When it comes to parenting, the relationship between parent and child is 100% the responsibility of a parent. It changes when they become an adult, but It is our job to show our children how to do relationships. Our children do hurt us sometimes- especially teenagers, but our job is to be there for them in some way shape or form- even if they are not in our home. This may take therapy, it may take a third person, but it needs to happen.

I also think that parents should always seek to reconcile with adult children, but certainly there are cases where that is unhealthy as well. Regardless of what it is- you must be honest with yourself that the relationship is worth saving.

Remember, this person won’t change, so you’ve got to ask the hard questions of yourself. Is this the person you want to be in relationship with or do you want a relationship with the fantasy of who you want this person to be? If it’s the fantasy, then you may need to change course and work on either accepting them for who they are or grieving the loss of the relationship, first.

If you know that the relationship is worth pursuing, then:

2. Own your side.

If you think you have done nothing wrong, think again. All relationships take two people. If you were truly a victim and they were the perpetrator, then you may need to think again about whether restoring the relationship is a healthy choice for you. Otherwise, figure out what your part was.

3. Go to the person- make a phone call, write a letter or send a voicemail. DO NOT TEXT THEM.

Too many things get misconstrued with a text message. And it’s way too easy to ignore and not respond to, creating another small tear in the relationship. Make your wish to restore the relationship known. Identify what you did wrong and apologize. This doesn’t mean that they did nothing wrong.

4. Do not expect to be greeted with open arms. There’s hurt there.

People feel they need to protect themselves when they’ve been hurt. Acknowledge that. Understand that. Give them grace.
I have had clients in my practice who are trying to restore a relationship, and they say “This isn’t going to work. They will never speak to me again. I have lost them.” I sit with them for sometimes months or a year or two and I tell them, “Stay consistent. You are building up trust. I know it’s hard to feel rejected time and again. They will come back.”

How do we keep faith when we feel that God isn’t showing up in our family relationships?

You may have prayed and prayed and asked God for restoration and you feel like he’s just not showing up for you. Your child is as angry as ever. Your sister is ignoring your attempts.

Sometimes going through difficult times, strengthens our belief in God and sometimes it makes us struggle with unbelief. You may feel like God doesn’t see you, he doesn’t care about your deepest desires and wants, but he does. He made the structure of relationships and he is there, even when we can’t see him, even when it seems like we’re struggling alone.

Sometimes going through difficult times, strengthens our belief in God and sometimes it makes us struggle with unbelief.God desires us to be happy, but he mostly desires us to be healthy, spiritually and humanly and that doesn’t always happen without some pain.

If you need a little push or encouragement today and you’re feeling a bit weary, I’m here to give that to you. Don’t give up. The Bible says do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest- if we do not give up.

This does not mean that we are doormats, friends. This means we stay consistent. There is a difference between pursuing a relationship with health and allowing someone to abuse you. You need to have boundaries. You need to go about and live your life while you pursue a broken relationship. You need to have outside supportive relationships and do not allow this broken one to consume your life.

If you are looking for this relationship to validate you, give you some exoneration or release your guilt, Stop. That’s a do-it-yourself job. You have already been forgiven. You’ve got to do your own work because no relationship can give that to you. That’s too heavy a burden on an already precarious place.

I’m going to repeat it again. You have been forgiven. You are valid and worthy. You can release any guilt involved, my friend.

Know that if the mend never occurs, you will be okay because you have forgiven this person, you have forgiven yourself and you have created a healthy life separate from this relationship. You have done all you can to restore it.

God is the ultimate psychologist. He knows how our brains are wired. He is not confused about how this all works. He is not concerned with your timeline, though and that’s why it may feel like he doesn’t care sometimes. He’s got a bigger picture going on. He is always there and present when you can’t see him working.

If you stay steady, if you are consistent, not pushy, but present; They will move. It may take years because sometimes we have to prove ourselves to someone. Sometimes they need to get over their anger, but if you stay, they will come. You’ve got this!

  1. Linda says:

    Very good! We will keep trying and praying!

  2. Carol Rose says:

    Your interview on the Family Struggles Summit today was amazing. SO helpful. I have been estranged from my adult daughter for over 7 years and I had truly lost hope. I feel a bit of a glimmer of hope again thanks to you. Carol (Calgary Alberta Canada 🙂

  3. Daquisha says:

    I just wanted to say that I respect my son dad new relationship though him and I broken up when my son was 6 months old. I do wish that we can Co-Parent in healthy ways. It was lies, manipulation, infidelity for me then. But I’ve learned that I’ll never get a apology for the years and time’s he put me through so much pain and the mistress he ended up became pregnant and then he and her eventually got married. I was hurt due to the fact I knew him longer than she did. But we grew apart. We had been together ever since high school ages 14-25 years old. We were both born from the same city everything. I had to fend for myself and raised our son on my own though he had caused me even more pain did something I would never thought he would have done. But it’s hard to trust and though I find myself trusting people it shows me time after time not to. I have over the years wising up and being very cautious with people especially bringing into my life and as well into my child life. I just hate how my son dad has verbally abused me for years and doesn’t respect me and have taught our son to disrespect , lie, manipulate me. I’ve prayed too for my son dad to change. But he won’t. I don’t want to be back with my son dad I’ve even mentioned this to his wife and his mother-in-law. I just simply want for us to ALL get along so his first born that shares his name of course is a jr. and for his stepdaughter and other children he has with her to see three adults getting along.

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