The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reconciliation – Taking the Leap – Part one

Since I began this blog last December, I have posted numerous topics concerning healing from abuse, estrangement, and how forgiveness and premature forgiveness played a role in my process.

As some of you may know, after a fourteen year estrangement from my entire family of origin, we have reconciled.

As painful as my estrangement was, I used the time to grow in ways that would not have been possible while having relationships with my family members. My greatest emotional growth occurred as a result of my separation from my mother. Estrangement gave me the opportunity to heal from my abuse, to learn to set and maintain clear, respectful boundaries, and forced me to develop my own sense of self, separate from my family. Yet, I never stopped missing my family. There was a void in my life; a hole in my heart where my family should be. I mourned the good I had with my brothers and what could have been with my mother.

No matter what, I loved my family. It took a lot for me to get to the point where I accepted estrangement. I didn’t like it – but I accepted it.

Our family reconciliation began with an e-mail with my brother Randy. Past experience told me to be wary of contact from my family and I wasn’t sure what to expect in the contents of his letter.

The following words are rearranged excerpts from Heal and Forgive II:

Randy opened with a simple, yet delightful youthful memory and continued with a few questions about my daughters and me. He also sent me a link to his family photo album. Suddenly, I found myself viewing pictures from the lives of family members I hadn’t seen for fourteen years. Randy had an eleven-year-old daughter and six-year-old twin sons. The photo album included pictures of the rest of my family. From a distance, I caught up on the lives of family members I had either never met or no longer knew.

Randy’s e-mail stirred up many overwhelming emotions. Slowly working through my feelings, I tried to process all the information available via the photo images. The snapshots evoked feelings in me ranging from hurt, sadness, confusion, anger, curiosity, warmth, jealousy, love, and many more.

I wasn’t sure how to feel or how to respond. Three years into the estrangement from my entire family of origin, my Grandmother rebuffed my attempts at reconciliation. Eight years into family exile, I had opened myself up with hope when my brother Brandon contacted me, only to feel rejected all over again. I was finally at a place where I accepted estrangement. Now what?

I didn’t know what this contact with Randy meant, nor did I know if his contact signaled a desire for reconciliation. Since I felt extremely frightened and vulnerable, I consulted with a few trusted friends and with my estrangement support groups. They helped to “shore me up.”

My yearning to stay on a healthy course caused me to question the wisdom of my simultaneous desire to consider a relationship with my brother. I loved Randy and I believed he loved me too; however, in the past, love was not enough.

Many questions surfaced. Am I strong enough to handle the possibility of another rejection? Will I get hurt again? Why has Randy e-mailed me? Does he want to reconcile or is he just playing around? Can Randy have a relationship with me independent from Mom? Can he accept me for myself? Would he still blame me? Had Randy experienced emotional growth as well?

I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my safety in order to have a relationship with anyone.

Taking the risk of another rejection concerned me. I decided to reply to Randy’s e-mail by simply thanking him for the pictures and his kind thoughts. I also briefly outlined what my daughters were doing with their lives and attached a few recent pictures.

Another month passed before hearing from Randy again. Randy’s second e-mail was lengthier than his first and every bit as genuine. He skillfully tested the waters by weaving together good memories from the past, information about the present, and curiosity about my daughters and me.

The next few months were filled with guarded optimism, tension, and confusion.

It was important to take “baby steps” – to proceed gradually in order to rebuild trust. We started fresh, without rehashing the past. We shared good memories and caught up on our lives. After a few e-mails and a couple of phone calls over a period of about five months, we had our first brief meeting in person.

It was wonderful!

Copyright © 2008 Nancy Richards. All Rights Reserved.

2 comments:

Tamara said...

Nancy,

I am so happy for you that you were able to reunite with your family. It gives me hope that...maybe someday. I can't imagine the courage it must have taken.

Just today I was trying to explain to someone the empty place I have inside where my parents should be. As my parents age they seem to be getting more angry, not less. It breaks my heart for them, my brother, my sister and myself. I am lucky though - the split with my parents brought me closer to my brother and sister.

Once we began comparing notes and realized that my mother had been lying to each of us about the others to turn us against each other, we really formed a bond.

Best of luck to you and your family. I am anxiously waiting on the new book to come out. Guess you never know what the future might bring. In the meantime I will work on getting as strong and healthy as possible so that if I have the chance to reunite I can make a wise decision and protect myself as need be.

Take care,
Tamara

healandforgive said...

Thank you Tamara,

I'm so glad that you and your brother and sister are close. It is good to be able to hold onto a bond with your history and your family of origin.

I know of that "empty place" that you speak of - it's like the amputation of a limb - something that is supposed to be there.

So true, we never know what the future holds. I'm glad you are working at becoming as healthy as possible. With or without reconciliation - healing is key.

All my best,
Nancy