Yesterday on the radio, as I was driving home from the office, I heard a story on estrangement. Estrangements were the focus, because, I suppose, it’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States, and this holiday is generally one during which family members get together for feasting, TV watching, and (sometimes) arguing. Sadly, many families are broken by various issues, some of which they cannot mend.
My family has been such a group, divided by strife, misunderstanding, the occasional outsider who has used influence to control and separate. I used to think that estrangement was a healthy thing, that I needed to become a different person than the girl I once was in order to be fully adult–and fully human. That may have seemed true at the time, but estrangement of family is also a profound loss, of people who have known me since I was born–and of people I brought into the world.
For many reasons, most of which I will choose to keep private, those estrangements are becoming a thing of the past. The healing process can be painful, and it requires soul-searching, including the capacity to admit wrong-doing or wrong thinking. It does not mean that one must re-enter hurtful relationships, nor does it require that one pretend that one has not been wronged. To do so can open a person up to more manipulation, control, and/or violence. This obviously cannot be tolerated, even as forgiveness is offered for the past.
This week, as I count my own blessings, I am compelled to put family at the top. I have a great life, in many ways. My house is small, but it is my own hermitage, and I am comfortable here. I have a job, and I am able to pay my bills. These are all blessings, to be sure, but they do not compare to having a supportive, loving husband, a set of five good sisters, and two daughters whom I love. Not to be overlooked are my four grandchildren, who are constant wonders to me as they grow and become themselves.
I won’t leave out my dog, Gypsy, who reminds me every day to get outside and to stop and smell the chipmunks!
So this Thanksgiving, I encourage anyone who is estranged from a family member who is loved and missed to reach out, even in the least way. You never can tell what hurt is waiting to be healed–and how much that other person may miss you, as much as you miss them.