Holidays can be a difficult time. Many of us have unresolved issues with our families. We may feel that we are not fully seen or understood. We may feel blamed or treated unfairly.
Let’s look at this family situation. Julie has unresolved issues with her father, Bob and her mother, Grace. Julie has at times felt unsupported and betrayed by both of them. Julie’s husband Xavier has at times been verbally critical of Julie’s parents. Both of Julie’s parents feel uneasy around Xavier. They are however going to be having Julie and her husband and 2 children with them for Thanksgiving. Bob and Grace would feel better if Xavier would acknowledge his critical behavior and apologize for upsetting them. If you were to talk to Xavier however, he would have a different story. He would explain that he was trying to get Bob and Grace to see how they hurt Julie.
Sometimes a person wishes for, or may even demand, an apology from another family member. It is not unreasonable to want an apology from whoever has acted aggressively toward oneself. The tricky thing is that when an apology is requested that there is also a need that the underlying motivations for the ‘bad action’ be understood and seen so that the apologizing person does not continue to feel invisible and instead, his or her own grievances are allowed to be seen. In this way, the underlying story from which the action sprung is understood. Few things occur in a vacuum.
Unfortunately, often there is a lot of old pain between family members that is not resolved, has not been adequately talked about, understood, reconciled and gently put away. The closed doors to these places are not airtight. They cannot hold back that which needs to eventually be aired and sorted.
Each person has a story and their own limitations. It is important to validate these stories because they contain both pain and meaning. It is necessary to hold an attitude of true heartfelt curiosity and a desire to understand the pain underlying our actions. There is no way for a true mending or healing without that. Our stories have important information for each of us and help lead the way to healing.
In a simple sense, once a person has been violated by a specific person, they have a right to say no to potential future violations. Sometimes one must detach from the offender because that person cannot see what they are doing and continues to act in ways that are hurtful. However, again that is the simple view. There are often complexities that need to be included.
I once had a cat named Sassy. She wasn’t my favorite cat. She had adopted me, and I simply could not make her go back to the neighbor from where she had come. She had a limp from another previous owners abuse. She would sometimes pee on the floor. I would get mad at her. It was an ongoing battle. When Sassy died, I realized how much I loved her. I remembered how she would sit and stare at a cloverleaf as if she was meditating. I remembered how she would try to groom my hair if I were lying on the floor in a yoga pose. I remembered how happy she was when I would pick her up and carry her, how her body rumbled in a purr. We often love those we struggle with more deeply than we know and don’t realize it until they are gone.
I am looking at Thanksgiving as an opportunity for healing. For each of us, healing means something different. For me, peace, harmony, and forgiveness are what I most desire, as well as growth, clarity and the felt sense of appreciation.
My hope is that we all are able to move from blame to understanding, that we can find a way to appreciate our connections with an open heart. Thanksgiving is about people coming together in the spirit of appreciation and thanks.
Feel your thanks for this person’s presence in your life, even if it is difficult. And find the giving of an open heart.
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