Filling the gap when a parent is gone

Filling the gap when a parent is gone (Susan Gary, Getty Images/Fototrove)

Thinking about reconnecting?

Psychotherapist Jeanne Safer, author of "Cain's Legacy: Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of Rage, Shame, Secrecy and Regret," offers a few steps toward reconnecting with a sibling:

+ After parents are dead, "people need to work through sibling relationships within themselves — whether they ever talk to the siblings again or not."

+ "Why do I want to do this? Is it for mom and dad? Is this because maybe I feel like there's something to this person? Is this for my children or their children?"

+ "Try to look at their family, their childhood experience, where it all comes from, through the sibling's eyes. How does my sibling see our family and me? Who is this person, independent of my relationship with them? Who are they as a friend, parent, spouse, professional?"

+ "Realize this person probably has a lot of resentment about stuff you don't even know about and in different ways than you think."

+ "Don't email. I recommend a handwritten letter or a phone call to say, 'I'd like us to talk about some of things that might have gone wrong when we were kids so we can have a better relationship now that mom and dad are gone.' Direct. Straightforward. And you have to be willing for your sibling to say no."

+ If they say 'yes,' listen and hear what they're saying.

— J.H.

Family traditions:

Are your family's traditions worth nurturing?

"If you love your family and the traditions are meaningful to you, then by all means, go to some length to keep it together," says psychotherapist Jeanne Safer.

But Safer says it's also important to ask yourself: " 'Do I want this tradition? Does it make sense? When I have (a holiday) with my extended family a happy occasion for me?' As adults we have an opportunity to not be totally controlled by guilt and by what we're supposed to do or what other people told us to do."

"I don't necessarily believe that traditions, just because we inherit them like any other cultural or physical possession, should be taken without being metabolized, sorted through, figured out, digested emotionally.

"Most people, if they have a choice, they want to do something with a sibling and often it's very gratifying."

— J.H.