Healing a family rift

Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, seems to generate as many headlines about her family feud as she does for her charity work or fashion statements. While it’s probably super annoying for her and the Royal Family, it’s nice to know that even one of the most famous women in the world is not immune to problems within their own family. In fact, one in five families in the UK are affected by some kind of rift – if you’re one of those, how do you go about mending your broken family?

Try to see it from their point of view
If you’ve fallen out with a family member, it can sometimes be difficult to remember exactly why it happened. You’ve been stuck with your point of view for so long, that it’s hard to see what they must be feeling. Step back and take an impartial look at the argument or incident and do your best to understand it from their point of view. You still might not think that they’re right, but you might begin to appreciate why the rift began.

Ask yourself…
Do you want to be right or to mend bridges? Sometimes you need to decide whether you want to stick to your guns or just accept that this is one thing you’ll never agree on. If you can do the latter, and let any hate or resentment go, you’ll be able to make those first steps. Talking of which…

Be the bigger person
If you want to be reunited with your family, then you need to make the first move. Yes, it’s hard, but you if you can make the first move and offer an olive branch, you may well get a better, more positive response from them.  

Make the first contact less personal
Face-to-face meetings can often be really stressful, especially if you’ve been estranged for a long time. A handwritten note, while still personal, removes any emotional involvement. You’re able to say what you need to say without any aggression or upset coming straight back at you and it allows the recipient to have time to think about how it makes them feel.

Find a mediator
Sometimes, you do need a third person to help out with healing situations. This is where a mediator comes in. It could be a counsellor, or it could be an impartial friend. Just having someone removed from the situation and neutral can help you both work through your feelings. Relate offers family counselling or you can contact Mind for further help.

Create boundaries
If you do re-establish contact, it’s best to take things slowly. Perhaps arrange a coffee for half an hour and then work up to longer meet-ups as you go. Remember, things will be tense for quite a while and they may never go back to the way they were, but keeping the lines of communication open, should ensure you’re able to move on from the rift.

But what if it doesn’t work?

StandAlone, a charity that supports people who are estranged from their families, found that over half of the people they surveyed said relationship breakdowns were common in their families. Not all those feuds will get sorted out, so it’s possible you’ll have to live with the estrangement. If you’re struggling with it, it may be worth talking to a therapist.

Self-care is also important. Regular exercise such as swimming, running or yoga can help alleviate stress and help you process the feelings that you’re going through. Sign up to a meditation app like Calm or Headspace to help you gain control of your emotions. Keeping a journal may also help you process your emotions.

Finally, make sure you surround yourself with people who do care about you. Yes, blood may be thicker than water, but family can be found in all sorts of places – you don’t have to be related to someone to care about them.

Have you managed to heal a family rift? What worked for you? Comment below

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