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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Family Issues - Part 1 of 2

Dear Bro Jo, 

I've looked through your blog, but I can't seem to find a situation similar to my own.

Maybe I've overlooked something, and in that case, I'm sorry for taking up your time.

Like many other youth, I come from a crazy family.

My dad's first marriage ended badly. He met my mom not long after. I have four half-siblings, though up until the last few years I've never really made a distinction between siblings and half-siblings, from his first marriage.

I came along a few years after my mom and dad were married (temple marriage, everything was great, etc.).

Then, when I was eight, my dad passed away.

Up until that time, I'd been relatively close with all of my siblings except one. My oldest sister quite literally hates me, but that's not so much the point of this letter.

After my dad died, I hardly ever saw that part of my family again.

Considering that my brother's family had lived just down the road for most of my life up to that point, this was a big change in a time when my world had already been tossed upside down.

Presently, my brother's family lives around forty minutes away.

We never call.

We hardly ever see each other (once in the past six years).

I haven't seen his kids, my two nephews and two nieces, in a year (and that was only because of a mutual friend's funeral).

They were my best friends growing up.

It's been weird.

Of course, the two half-sisters who aren't openly hostile toward me and my mom are a part of this as well. My middle sister attends the same ward, so we see each other on at least a weekly basis. She sits right behind us in church, but she never speaks to us... at all...

My youngest sister and I have the best relationship out of the bunch, but she lives a few hours away. 

She's around seventeen years older than I am (I'm seventeen, by the way; just to give you an idea of the overall age gap). We do keep up with each other fairly well on social media, but that's about it. 

My main concerns are with my brother and my middle sister.

For a while now, I've been trying to figure out why things are the way they are. I shouldn't feel this way, but there is a jealousy factor involved.

I look at other families, families that have been through almost the same trials as mine, that are super close and happy.

I'm not going to lie; I don't understand why it's so hard for my family to accept that what happened really happened, but I can understand that maybe they aren't fully comfortable with acting as a family, and I could live with that.

I'd just like to be friendly; to speak when we see each other; to be comfortable around each other instead of walking on egg shells.

I'd like to know why my sister practically sits with us in sacrament meeting when she doesn't even speak to us. I'd like to know why my brother waited to walk up and say hi at that funeral last year until he realized that I knew he was there.. 

I want to know what they think I, or my mom, did wrong.

Even if it meant agreeing to avoid each other whenever possible, I'd like to have some answers: closure, I guess.

The bottom line in all of this is that I know my dad wouldn't like what his family has come to.

During the last months of his life, he was losing his short term memory. Consequently, he relived those parts of his life around the divorce over and over again.

As young as I was, I didn't notice. Now that I'm older, and I've learned more about my dad and his past, I can see how things have ended up the way they are, and I'll admit to holding some animosity of my own.

However, I'm trying to let that go.

I've prayed about this. I've read my scriptures over and over. I feel the spirit as I do so, but recently, I've come to the conclusion that this will never cease to trouble me until I do something about it.

The Lord has told us to study things out in our minds and, after we've done so, to ask if the conclusion we've come to is right.

My main problem is that I can't figure out what to do about this. I know it's probably a long shot, but I'd really appreciate some additional insight or advice.


- Alienated Brother

Dear Brother,

"Closure" is kind of like getting answers to our prayers . . . we get answers, but it's not always what we want to hear.

If you can accept that, it sounds to me like you're ready to have some adult conversations.

The key, I think, will be to keep your composure and do your best to be as open and understanding as you can. That's how you'll help the people you're talking to feel more relaxed and less confronted, and that will provide you with more information.

And more valuable information.

No one likes to be confronted. And when they deep down know that they're being . . . weenies . . . they like it even less.

So go into these conversations as if you're seeking advice or help, not as if you're accusing them of something.

And a key to keep in mind is to not use the word "you"; that's the Instantly Make People Put Up a Wall and Get Defensive Word.

(If you click on "communication" on the blog page, you'll see several posts where I've talked about that.)

You might want to start with your step sister. Make the moment happen. Rather than turn on her in Church, go over to her house.

(Technology or not, Communication happens best when in person; don't even think about IM or Texting this stuff.)

Start by apologizing for dropping by.

(If she's anything like Sister Jo, she's very busy and drop-bys through off her busy schedule, and you want to be on a positive note as much as possible.)

Then ask for her help.

Tell her the truth, but put it back on yourself.

Rather than say "how come you ignore me at Church", say "I feel bad that there's a distance between us; I'd like to apologize for whatever I've done wrong; what can I do to fix this?"

Be Sincere.

And then Be Quiet.

We don't know how she'll react.

She may be hostile; she may be open; she may tell you to take a hike.

Whichever she chooses, you will have given it your best shot.

Anything less than the two of you making up or coming to some kind of understanding, and that will be all you can do.

But even if things don't work out the way you hope, at least you'll know.

And work your way through the rest of your siblings in the same manner.

One on one, and one at a time.

Always humble, always kind, always doing your best to be understanding.

If they ask why you're making the effort, again tell them the truth: you're hoping to mend whatever is wrong because you'd like them to be in your life.

However this goes, I think you're about to learn some very important things.

Good luck, God bless, and let me know how it all goes, will ya?

- Bro Jo

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