A new kind of hope for fractured relationships


Families can be extremely complicated. Especially when their is a death.

I knew of a family a few years ago that was quite fractured. Yet, when the patriarch of the family was dying, his family came to his side. They took turns sitting at his bedside for six long days and nights. But no one was there when he breathed his last breath. All the family had gone home for a short while to rest and recoup.

“Frank” died alone.

I have a close friend who was Hospice nurse for years.  She made the statement once that “people die the way they live”.

I don’t think that’s true at all and my years as a hospital chaplain have born that out. “Frank” had disconnected with his family years ago. His third marriage made sure of that. He had children by the first two marriages and was unfaithful to the second wife (my friend’s mother). He wasn’t there for his children except to provide for them financially.

“Frank” was quite a character, funny and charming but a little too so. The kind of person you can enjoy for only a short whille but they become very tiresome after that. And, of course, once you became privy to his hurtful behavior, funny and charming didn’t cut it anymore. He had deeply hurt every member of his family.

And yet……..

His children were there for him.

Why do families react the way they do, especially splintered ones?

It’s really not complicated.

We are always hoping the relationship will be restored.

We are always hoping the person will come to their senses and offer a sincere apology.

And the closer our loved one gets to death, the more we hope.

We grieve even the most unhealthy relationships. We’re still clinging to the idea that our loved one will suddenly say and do all the things they failed to say and do while they were able to. We think that somehow they’re going to rally those last few days and in one glorious “hollywood movie” moment, everything will change. They will sincerely apologize and all will be forgiven.

When death finally slams the door shut on any reconciliation, we are devastated.

Tears are therapeutic when they’re authentic. And authentic tears can be tears of remorse, of things lost, or tears of anger. As long as we know what that they are, they are healing.

When hope is gone, we are faced with what we are going to do with our memories.

How are we going to reconcile it all?

How are we going to face knowing we will never have the opportunity to make it right?

Thank goodness my friend had some alone time with his father and was able to say what he needed to say in the hopes that there was enough consciousness left for the words to be heard.

Hurting people cling to hope much like a drowning person clings to a life raft. There’s a verse in Proverbs 13:12 that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”.  Hope is all we have at times and when that hope is gone, reality sets in.

We cling to the fact that maybe we had it all wrong and that brings us some cofort.

Maybe the love we sought was there all the time. Maybe our loved one, because of their own past, was incapable of letting us know. Knowing that doesn’t take away the pain, of course, but it diminishes it.

If you’ve recently lost someone whether in death or simply because the relationship died, and you are wishing things had been different, cling to a new kind of hope. A hope that says we can leave behind a better legacy. A hope that says what we felt or didn’t feel doesn’t have to define us now.

Changing the present is a good antidote for the past.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

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