Estranged Loved Ones – Taking Steps to Reconnect

Estranged Loved Ones – Taking Steps to Reconnect

There are so many ways to become estranged from a loved one. At its worst, the reasons can involve abuse and neglect, but there are many other explanations, from mental illness and addiction, to choice of partner, sexual orientation, and religious or political views. However it happens, being estranged from friends and family certainly isn’t the way we are meant to live. Which is why, at some stage, we may well want to rekindle the lost relationship. If we have the desire, how can we begin to put it into action? Perhaps the first place to start, is with ourselves.

The desire to end an estrangement is a big step, and it pays to take time, often in conjunction with a professional, to reflect on this decision. What is the motivation for taking the step, and what, realistically, do you hope to achieve through it? Is it your desire to regain the close bond you once held, or can you be satisfied with a more casual relationship, but at least one that exists? If you are attempting to reconnect with a family member, will you be content with a one-to-one relationship, or do you want to draw them into the extended family again? By thinking in advance about expectations, and being realistic about them, you will put less stress on yourself, and on the person you want to reconnect with.

If you do decide to pursue reconnection, make sure you have a support network in place. This can include family, friends, and even a counsellor. By letting them know, in advance, of your plans, they will be able to make time to be with you. You will also need to have, in the wings, self-care strategies to deal with the stress which may arise through rekindling a relationship. Visit your GP for advice, and establish (if you don’t already have them) good sleep, exercise and eating routines.

After you have your self-care plans in place, take time to consider the ramifications of contacting an estranged loved one. Acknowledge that a relationship is not something you can control, and if your estranged loved one doesn’t wish to rekindle a connection, you cannot force them to. If they do wish to reconnect, but behaviours (yours or theirs) have not changed, is it possible you will be left in a worse place than you were before?

Building relationships takes time, and in many ways, rekindling a connection with a loved one can feel like beginning all over again. To expect the relationship will return to what it once was, may be setting yourself up for disappointment, so be realistic about what you hope to achieve, and the time frame in which it can be accomplished. Take things slowly. If you know where your loved one is living, or have a digital contact address, writing to them can be a good first option. A letter or message will give them time to consider your intentions so they, too, can be part of the reconciliation process rather than it being one-sided. If your loved one isn’t a person who engages through writing, is a personal visit the best route to take? If so, is it safe to engage with them in this way, and how can you arrange a visit so you both feel as comfortable with each other as possible?

If it seems your estranged loved one does wish to engage, consider (from your own perspective – because you cannot control theirs) the basis on which you want your relationship to begin again. Do you want to address past issues, or to forgive and forget? Either way, communicating this to your loved one, in the context of a potentially precarious relationship, may require skills you need to acquire. Consider visiting a counsellor to help gain insights into how to approach your loved one with compassion and kindness. Learn how to listen without making judgement, or having the need to protect your own ego. After all, no matter who or what has caused the estrangement, it is you who has decided to rebuild it.

Rebuilding relationships with estranged loved ones isn’t always possible, but if we want to try, our best chance of success lies in careful preparation.