As most of you know before my current role as a speaker and coach I was a Marriage & Family Therapist, I had the privilege of watching individuals, couples, and families take the skills we discussed and turn around unresolved conflicts in their lives.
During this week leading up to Mother’s Day, I remember one woman in particular, Jane. Despite her 80 some years of age, Jane made efforts to work through years of rifts and misunderstandings with her children. Her sole intention of coming to therapy was to take responsibility for ways she had interacted with her children as a Mom that unintentionally had emotionally hurt them.
Over the course of several months, Jane wrote letters to each of her six children. In the letters she expressed what they meant to her and appreciation of their strengths. She also acknowledged her own fault in problems they faced as a family over the years. The letters served as an entry for Jane and her adult children to talk about things from the past, to hear one another’s perspectives of events from long ago that had never been discussed.
The uncomfortableness of admitting fault
Jane acknowledged how different it was for her to step into new feelings associated with admitting fault. She said “there is some kind of dignity in holding a grudge. Some of the feuds have been going on for twenty years and I can’t remember why they started. I guess sometimes we take pride in holding a grudge. It is unfamiliar to not hold onto ways I have been wronged”.
Despite her uncomfortableness with admitting fault and the steps she literally had to climb to come to my office to work through unresolved issues with her children, she persevered.
Understanding the cracks in the family foundation
Each of Jane’s children told her how much her letters meant to them. Some of her children who lived in the area were able to attend sessions with her that allowed her to discuss the impact of the letters. Through tears and heartfelt conversation, they began to understand each other’s perspectives that led to cracks in the family foundation of anger, hurt, and cut-offs. Jane resumed a relationship with one of her children that she had been estranged from.
Making wrongs right
We can all learn much from Jane. One, that despite age, it is never too late to mend relationships. We all want to know that we matter, especially from our parents. For Jane’s children to receive a hand written letter in her handwriting will be something tangible they can refer back to. The power of her words “I was wrong, will you forgive me, I love you” backed with actions of remorse is priceless. She reminds us that despite choices made in the past, we can make wrongs right.
Whatever your relationship with your Mother, would you consider the legacy you want to leave when it comes to resolving conflict for the next generation?
In your personal life, work relationships, and community at large, make the Conscious Choice to initiate reconciliation by admitting fault