Within a month after our father’s funeral my sister contacted me by email. Apparently her last conversation with our father compelled her to make amends & she didn’t feel the funeral was an appropriate time or place. She didn’t want to discuss the history that lead to our estrangement, but simply asked that I forgive her as she had forgiven me. For me it wasn’t as simple as pretending nothing happened. Besides, I felt it was unrealistic & unhealthy to expect anyone estranged for 2-1/2 years to magically be healed. I wanted to understand her reasons for severing our relationship as well as my contribution. Also, I wanted her to understand how her insensitive & inconsiderate Facebook post carried the message of our father’s death to me.
Although we never dealt with her Facebook post, her emails left me feeling empty & even more distant from her than before. Failing to realize how hurtful her actions were to me, she acted like it was simply a misunderstanding compounded by others meddling in our affairs & issued an all-purpose apology in an attempt to minimize our estrangement. The more we exchange emails, the more I realized she was collecting evidence to shift the blame towards me. My words & actions had & were being twisted to conceal, justify & absolve her. Wearing her righteousness like a badge of honor, she made subtle comments about being cold & bitter; not hashing out the past; holding onto grudges; & carrying pettiness in your heart; all directed towards me. She puffed herself up like a peacock & gave a good speech about forgiveness, but seemed completely incapable of the give & take of true communication. On moral high ground, her blanket apology was laced with judgment & criticism. She was invested in the righteousness of her conviction & didn’t want to be challenged or inconvenienced by what I thought or felt.
While I realized our emails dredged up past hurts & misunderstanding, it cleared the air for me in many ways. Sometimes wounds require lancing to let the poison out before the healing can begin. When I realized that she was dictating the terms of our reconciliation, I retorted that responding to her latest email was like deciding whether to cut the blue, red or green wire to defuse a bomb. This definitely ruffled her feathers. Hiding behind her smoke screen, she left the ball in my court, stating that she had delivered her apology, refused to discuss the past, forgave me & that I knew how to contact her. Clemency could be gained by following the part she mapped out for me, which required playing by her rules & taking her feelings into account but totally dismisses mine. Apparently she feels that I’ve accrued a debt to her where the only acceptable form of repayment is relinquishing my rights.
Needless to say there was no Hallmark moment ending our estrangement. No matter how I look at what transpired, I can find things that I could have handled better. Neither one of us is completely innocent, so no moral grandstanding on my part is necessary. Forgiving someone is easy, but being able to trust them again is a totally different story. I’m not willing to lie down & display a “Welcome” sign where my spine is located, especially after what transpired between us. Although a day doesn’t go by where I don’t think of my sister or pray for her well-being, I know freeing myself from an unhealthy relationship with her is necessary for now. Our estrangement is not about being bitter or unforgiving, it’s about self-preservation.