It’s tough for families right now. Lockdown has enforced physical distance for the wider family unit. Tragically, some loved ones are having to deal with illness alone. People are even having to attend family funerals by video conference. The emotional scars of the corona crisis will run deep for years to come.
But there are many positives in all of this. The crisis has given us all an opportunity to reflect on what is truly important to us. For most of us, family relationships feature highly. We are all suddenly connecting with our family more often, even if virtually. I think we would all agree that whilst it is no substitute for a hug, it’s better than the rushed text message conversation that so many of us have slipped into in our busy lives. This lockdown gives us an opportunity for personal growth and to upgrade the quality of our relationships.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, the corona crisis has caused us to contemplate our own mortality. Will instructions have rocketed. In the UK, we find it hard to talk about death and plan for it because it brings a sense of fear and anxiety. For many, the concept of “mortality legacy awareness” can help. That is the need to leave something behind after we have gone, which can help us all to feel more positive about our eventual demise. Whether we leave a creative or financial legacy, it can help those who remain to cope with their loss.
The 80 year study by Harvard researchers on: “What makes a good life?”, found that the quality of our relationships has a powerful influence on our health and longevity. As the director of the research project, Robert Waldinger, said: “those all too common family feuds take a terrible toll on the people who hold the grudges”.
One thing is certain – leaving behind a legacy of broken relationships and conflict makes coping with loss more difficult for grieving families. Reflecting on these issues is one thing; acting on them is quite another. There is no better time than now to not only reflect on the state of your relationships, but also to act to mend your broken family relationships, however hard that may be.
As an inheritance disputes lawyer and mediator, I have seen more family feuds than I care to count. Sadly, most of the families involved never reconcile. They resolve their dispute and move on with their separate lives.
If you are reading this and it resonates with you, what if you could change that now by addressing the tension in your family relationships before it is too late? Many people will claim that the situation is “irreconcilable”. How often is that truly what everyone in the family really wants deep down? If time was spent unpicking the outward façade, one would invariably find that it was there as a protective wall. It’s easier to shut the pain out by allowing estrangement. Pretending to live without the problem can feel less painful than addressing it and trying to treat it.
The Government is reminding us of the importance of taking exercise during the lockdown to look after our health and wellbeing. Taking steps to improve the quality of our relationships is a form of self-care, which is as important as taking physical care of our bodies. Sometimes just talking about it will help. Sometimes needs will go deeper and therapeutic support will be required to unlock the emotional blockages that have built the wall. Treating the root cause of any tension, will provide a sense of clarity and perspective.
There is no perfect family. All families argue and we all make mistakes. But the biggest mistake of all is to allow family ties to be severed irrevocably when you could have done something about it. However hard it may be to change direction and walk down the path towards reconciliation, you will not regret trying. It takes time and courage. You have the time – you just need to dig deep to find the courage which is within you.
If this article has stirred something in you or made you think of someone you know who would benefit from talking to a family conflict coach, I offer free initial consultations by telephone or Zoom. My purpose is to help families to reconcile before it is too late. Please contact me if I can help you.
Julia Burns | Private Client Mediator & Family Conflict Coach