Many of us hear about, read about and – unfortunately – experience the regrettable situation of having an older relative or friend who lives out their final years without making peace with someone who was once an important part of their lives.
Although John Lennon was commenting on the U.S. government when he uttered the phrase “time wounds all heals,” it could also be an apt characterization of how seniors feel about the broken relationships in their own lives. Many seniors truly do live up to their reputations for being stubborn.
Generally, there’s a key issue that caused the breach, whether it’s money, a long-held disagreement or just a difference of opinion on the issues of the day (politics seems to be a lightning rod currently).
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Perhaps the mist unfortunate aspect of a broken relationship is the negative effect it has on others. Quarrels and long-standing disagreements affect the adults in a family, but can also effect tweens, teens, and of course, other seniors.
If you are the brave person who is considering an attempt at fixing a broken family relationship, keep in mind there is no guarantee that there is a magical solution. Trying to force a reconciliation that’s just not in the cards may make the quarrel worse, and even strain other relationships in your family, so try to be understanding as you decide to bring up topics that may be painful or aggravating to a senior.
Working out reconciliation may work better if you begin with the non-senior in the family who is harboring a grudge. Point out that a deep feeling of regret may be all that’s ultimately left of the conflict once the senior dies. Most people surely operate under the belief that bridges can always be repaired given enough time. Show someone that a senior might not have much time left to make that repair.
It can also be helpful to illustrate to seniors that at the end of the day, they very possibly have more in common (specifically, a history) with the person they are fighting with, than they have in dispute. The issue that caused the separation in the first place may be forgotten, or the people fighting may realize that it’s just not worth it to continue the feud.
There are no easy solutions to conflict with a senior. Every situation has it’s own unique set of conditions and circumstances. But regret is one of the most difficulty feelings to live with, and even if the parties involved don’t decide to make amends, you can at least live with yourself knowing you tried to help the people you love.
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