A, Alienation between two members of a family creates heartbreak, tension and un happinessfor every one. Often family alienation occurs around special occasions, especially around "rites of passage" such as weddings and funerals. These are emotion packed occasions. Alienation is a detouring of the emotions, almost like a short circuit. It protects the persons involved from overwhelming emotions just as a circuit breaker stops an overload of electricity from doing damage.
In your father's and sister's case, they probably both had overwhelming feelings about no longer being intimately involved as father and daughter. It’s interesting that there is long lasting alienation going on in your father's family. This type of “cut off” often runs in families. There may have been alienation in his family going back for many generations. The circumstances of the alienation in previous generations may even be similar as each generation learns from the previous one and tries to resolve the same emotional difficulties in familiar ways.
Often family alienation can be resolved if one person will make the attempt to do so. The person reaching out may have to do so more than once, however, in order to break through the emotional barrier set up by months or years of hurt and angry silence. When a family estrangement has continued for a long period of time, counseling may be necessary in order to resolve it. The hard work of family therapy can stop the repetition of bitter divisions carried on from one generation to another.
Here’s what you can do: Enlist the rest of the family to convince your Dad and your sister to make up. Perhaps the family member closest to each one can talk individually with each of them or you can hold a family meeting with each one. Give the two injured parties time to express their feelings. Listen without arguing. When they have finished, ask them to listen to you. Then tell them how you feel about the alienation, how it is affecting you. Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements (which sound blaming) – such as the one you used “I’m sad and upset and wish my family wasn’t divided.”
Find out what they want from the other person in order to reconcile and then share this to the other person. Let each one know of any softening on the part of the other. Remind them that Christmas is about love and therefore a great time to forgive. Tell them forgiveness does not mean the other person hasn’t hurt them. Forgiveness means letting go of my desire to hurt the other person for hurting me.
Readers: Is there someone you need to forgive and reconcile with this Christmas? Don’t let pride or stubbornness keep you from forgiveness and love.
“Be kind to each other. Tenderhearted forgiving one another, just as God through Christ Jesus has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32