Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Reader’s Comments and an Update about Sibling Reconciliation

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Several readers commented about the sister who was making a decision about whether to reconcile with a brother from whom she had been estranged for many years.

Their comments generally fell into one of three categories: (1) Yes, reconcile; (2) No, do not reconcile; (3) Maybe reconcile, if certain conditions are met.

Yes, reconcile.

“Pounding sand is no fun. I would urge reconciliation because that is what her mom would want. This is a much better way to accept the fact that you should not repeat history. Life is too short to dwell with anger. I would forgive my brother and hug him.”


“If I were this sister, I would definitely reconcile with my brother. Doing so would let me be the good person that I am always praying to be. I am a big believer in ‘turn the other cheek,’ especially when it is family. When I meet my maker, I would want Him to tell me that I did the right thing regarding my brother.”


“I hope this lady forgives her brother and reestablishes a relationship. He is her brother after all, and there are no stronger bonds than that of family, no matter what. Their mother would want them to get along. Maybe he’s changed and feels that his behavior after their mother died was not right. There’s only one way for the sister to find out, and that is by spending time with him.”


No, do not reconcile.

“That first sentence struck me immediately: Why wasn’t the brother reaching out himself? And it doesn’t seem that there is much of anything in the past to build on. I say, ‘Good riddance.’”


“I quote from your column: ‘But even though they [sibling relationships] are commonly treated as sacrosanct — that is, many think they must be preserved at all costs — I need to say that there are times when sibling estrangement is warranted, and there is no need to feel guilty about not wanting siblings in one’s life.’

I went through a situation with my brother where I tried in many ways over a long period of time to be a good and caring sister when he was dealing with some difficulties, and he kept throwing me under the bus, always taking and always wanting more. We are currently estranged. No guilt here!”


“Ten years ago, I terminated my relationship with my older brother when he hoodwinked my husband and me into a business deal that he knew would result in his making out and our losing out. At the time he laughed at us and said it wasn’t his fault that we were such big suckers for trusting him.

I had nothing to do with him until he recently called me, claiming he was dying (he wasn’t), and said he wanted to make his peace with me, and I agreed. He also wanted me to bring my husband and our two daughters, whom he hadn’t seen in 10 years (my husband and the 16-year-old declined, my 14-year-old came with me).

When the three of us met, he went on a hateful yelling rampage, using horrible profanity about how I was a this and that and how I had gotten so much out of life, how I was always our parents’ favorite. All this in front of my daughter! I grabbed my daughter and left him still ranting. I will never see or speak to him again.

The lesson for me was that there are some terrible people who shouldn’t be in your life, even if they are related.”


Maybe reconcile, if certain conditions are met.

“I’m writing because this sibling article made me think about my own brother and sister, to whom I do speak, but not that often, for various reasons. I have had that same list of yours in my brain for many ears, especially regarding my sister, that is,

  1. Reasons to reconnect with my brother/sister.
  2. Reasons not to reconnect with my brother/sister.

There is never an easy answer.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that made me pause, again without an answer. I always seem to try with her and really don’t get much back. Clearly, she and I don’t see our relationship the same way, certainly never have; such is life.”


“I know a young man who lost his younger brother under horrific conditions. He is friends with two brothers who are estranged from a third brother. Having lost his brother, the young man I know has strong feelings about why they should rekindle their relationship with their brother; he has tried talking to them.”


“[The sister] is not the bad guy if chooses not to engage. I felt it was strange that Naomi was the one who reached out. If the sister does decide to be open to the possibility of a reconciliation, she could tell Naomi she’s interested in hearing directly from Earl, and then wait and see if he does anything. But then again, the anticipation might be stressful. We were taught in the past to repair relationships at all cost, especially family, above all else … Many today are creating their own families because there are too many problems with their biological families …”


Update from the sister who was contemplating a reconciliation with her brother

The best thing about the three options you gave me was pointing out that I had options. I had been feeling so trapped and fearful of being harshly judged that I was in this cycle of, “Well, if I do this, Person A is going to condemn me. If I do that, then Person B is going to applaud me.” On and on it went, and I was making myself crazy.

You helped me realize that I would remain upset as long as I was trying to find a solution that would satisfy everyone. I was finally able to get to the point where I put everyone else aside and asked myself, “What is best for me?” The answer to that question became clear when I wrote out my responses to the two questions you posed: Reasons to connect with my brother; Reasons not to connect with my brother.

I made my decision, and I am at peace with it. I found a card that was blank on the inside. On the outside it said, “Wishing you well” against an abstract background of soft colors. I handwrote a note saying that I would not be reconnecting and that I hoped his days are filled with comfort and peace, and I signed it with my first name. I resisted the temptation to get into any other explanations.

You helped me realize that there is no one right response to a situation like mine. It depends on the circumstances and the people involved. I made a decision that was right for me; someone else may have made a different decision. It helps that my husband and daughters fully support my decision. I feel like a hundred-pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.

Email queries to [email protected]

Dr. Rancourt’s most recent book is,

It’s All About Relationships: New Ways to Make Them Healthy and Fulfilling, at Home and at Work

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