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Training Helps Families End Estrangements


Vicki Rohring reconnected with her children 34 years after being told they had died. While Rohring’s story is unique, the instance of former loved ones becoming estranged is not. Marriage education classes include skills to help men and women of any age decide if ending estrangement is a welcome decision.

“Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”

~ Virginia Satir

For 34 years, Vicki Rohring thought her children were dead. This week, she spoke with Today Show host Matt Lauer about the phone call she received this summer from a woman claiming to be searching for a friend’s long-lost mother. Hours later, Rohring was on the phone with Scott Black, 39, the son she’d last known as a five year old.

“I will never lose my children again. Never. Never,” Rohring, now 63, told Lauer.

Helping End Estrangement
Helping End Estrangement

While Rohring’s story is unique, the instance of former loved ones – children and parents, siblings, once dear friends and others – becoming estranged and cut off from each other for years or decades is not. Many drift apart, others declare irreconcilable differences, and others deliberately choose to withdraw from a once cherished relationship. While there are many stories of discoveries and decisions that lead to reconnection, far more will likely never find – or choose – a path to reconciliation.

Estrangement – or as some refer to it, “family divorce” – is not always the result of events that were completely out of our control. Parents, like children, siblings and friends at any stage of life, make mistakes. Yet often the perspective of life’s passing years and lessons brings greater understanding, acceptance, and maturity along with new choices and opportunities. In these moments, reconciliation becomes possible.

Helping End Estrangement
Helping End Estrangement

Many who find themselves struggling emotionally over estranged relationships have found valuable exercises in the PAIRS relationship and marriage education classes, and by applying the helpful exercises they have been able to choose the path that best fits their personal wishes, hopes and dreams.

Whether journaling through “Letting Go of Grudges,” confiding with “Talking Tips,” or releasing pent-up feelings of anger, fear or sadness through “Emptying the Emotional Jug,” each exercise brings greater clarity to empower men and women of any age to consciously decide if reaching out – or responding to the invitation of another – is a welcome decision.

“There are many practical exercises to help people reconnect, forgive, and move forward,” said Seth Eisenberg, a national relationship and marriage education trainer, cautioning that all the tools require “good will and a decision” that two people want the relationship to win.

Gary Chapman’s “Five Languages of Apology” has also provided guidance for those searching for a way to make amends for wronging another.

As you consider your options, the advice of well known self-help writer Wayne Dyer will be helpful when it comes to the issue of who is to blame. “All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him [or her], it will not change you.”