Knowing when and how to make contact: If you choose to make contact with the person you’re estranged from and you have done as much of your own inner work as you can, you have a number of ways to move forward, but premature contact may be unwise. However, mistakes that occur with premature contact may also be good teaching experiences.
These mistakes help you to be clear about what you really want to do and what is wise for you to do. My therapist asked a good question as a guideline: “Who are you making this contact for, yourself of the other person?” Let prayer undergird anything you do and provide a way to listen for the best way to make contact. Several ways to make contact are possible, depending on your comfort level and the willingness of the other person.
One is to write a letter of amends (the essay on forgiveness as a process contains an illustration of this) which you either send or simply write for its own sake. This works best when you write it as a vehicle for your own amends and not as a way to get the other person to make amends.
Another approach is to do a ritual of forgiveness that you do not tell the other person about but that will have an affect on the relationship because it releases something in you. Some people reconcile in the presence of therapists, one for each member of the conflict, representing that person but having everyone’s interests at heart. Others meet alone with the person they are estranged from, although this can be risky if either party is not healed enough to be responsible for his or her own feelings.
Still other people do something special for the person, or give something special, to show that their heart is open. A genuine act of love with no expectations in return is powerful for the giver and the receiver. But again, this works best when people do it for themselves and for its own sake, not with the expectation of a response. Sometimes it takes years before an act of grace is acknowledged, and it may even heighten the friction in the short run.
Once you make the first step, a waiting time occurs, and this is when you have to release the other person. If there is to be any contact, it will come in time and within a process. You have done what you could and that is enough. Just keep reminding yourself that you have done what you could. Reconciliation is wonderful when it happens, but it is not an all-or-nothing experience. People often find only a hint of reconciliation, or find nonverbal reconciliation. A reconciliation event may last a few minutes or an hour, and then the relationship may resume with much, but not all, of its previous dynamic.
If any kind of mutual reconciliation has occurred, both of you will know that something is different. Some relationships do ultimately heal, and they are transformed in the process. Any level of reconciliation is sheer grace. And sometimes reconciliation means that you acknowledge what happened, make some kind of amends and have no further contact with the other person. This too can be a deeply healing experience.
So reconciliation is complex, but just being on the journey of reconciliation is so vital to our emotional and spiritual health that any level of change adds to our lives.