I went home after a big family dinner reeling a little bit inside. Several things had happened that day while visiting with my parents and brothers and sisters that had left me unsettled. Did I even know my siblings? Have I just taken for granted that we’re related all these years, and not actually invested time in their lives?
I felt disappointed in myself – as if the wind had been knocked out of me. And then I tried to move on, and cover up the feeling. I tried to make excuses for myself to mitigate the feelings of guilt. But deep down I knew I had failed, and needed to change.
Maybe you’re in a similar situation, where you have neglected a relationship with your brother or sister. Or maybe you are actively estranged from one of your siblings because of something painful that happened recently or years ago. Either way, here are a few ideas on how to strengthen and build those relationships back up, or attempt to start repairing them.
Ask God for the grace to love your sibling better. Ask for the intercession of his or her patron saint. Ask your guardian angel for help to know what to do and say and how to do and say it. Ask for the grace to meet your sibling where he is at, and for the patience to know that nothing will change overnight.
Relationships take time to build. This is not a time to worry about yourself and your feelings — it’s a time to work on loving him or her, and making up for your previous failures to love.
Break the ice
Be the first one to reach out. That might be via text, snail mail letter, or phone call. You might just text to say hi, or you might reach out to set up an in-person lunch date. It might seem right to start off by owning your past mistakes in the relationship, and explaining that you would like a chance to do better and try again. If that’s the case, be sincere and clear in your apology, but don’t dwell on it for too long. Acknowledge how you want to be better, and then put the focus back on your sibling and get to know them.
Or, it might seem better to ease into building back the relationship without a big apology moment, and save that for a little while later. Consider which avenue is better, then start moving down the road you choose.
Reach out consistently
After initially breaking the ice, consistency is key. Be it once a week or once a month, check in somehow. Try to have a real conversation regularly. It may feel like pulling teeth at first, but your persistence should help eventually. Make sure you are listening to them also. Notice how they communicate with people they are close to. Do they email a lot and hate talking on the phone? Try doing an activity together if you are close enough to be in person. What is something they like doing? Can you ask them to teach you and/or do it with you? Reach out in a way that is convenient or comfortable for them, once you have figured out what that is.
Offer up your pain for them
What little annoyances happen to you throughout your day? Can you offer that pain to Jesus for your sibling? If you are not used to doing this, or are not sure what that looks like, check out this article. Whether or not your sibling seems to be responding to your attempts at loving them, you can know that you are at least doing your best to love them spiritually behind the scenes.
St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, twins and sibling saints, pray for us!